Polar Lights 1/1000 USS Enterprise Refit
KIT #:  PL-820
PRICE: $22.95 MSRP
DECALS: One option


 (ST Movies, the Early Years)

The early 1970s saw a limited amount of SF on TV and the movies.  There were a few good movies mixed with a lot of very bad TV (Space 1999, Logan’s Run (TV Series) and Planet of the Apes (TV Series) among them) a situation which did not start to change till Star Wars appeared in 1977.  During the early 70s, Paramount noticed that the Star Trek reruns were very popular in syndication and felt that the show had some potential to make more money.  Gene Roddenberry proposed a Star Trek 2 show based on the further adventures of Kirk and crew (minus Leonard Nimoy who was in his “I am NOT Spock” phase and refused to put on the ears.)


One of the things that was done was a redesign of the series iconic starship.  Star Trek TOS’ USS Enterprise was designed in the tail end of the plastic fantastic era, where everything was angular and/or saucer shaped and clean.  In the proposed 2nd Star Trek series, the USS Enterprise was redesigned for a 1970’s sensibility.  Gone were the perpendicular struts, cylindrical warp engines, the exposed sensor dish and the grey paint.  In were the more “aerodynamic”/angular struts, more warped warp engines and sadly for Star Trek modelers, that damned Aztec Paint Scheme. 


The 2nd Star Trek series was cancelled due to the fact that at the time no major TV network would pick the show up and that syndication of non network shows was in its infancy, but the producers ended up using the sets and models in the expensive (for the time) and not as big a blockbuster as expected Star Trek:  The (slow) Motion Picture.


The cost of the movie freaked the studio execs out because the box office was not as good as expected.  Why should they have been surprised?  It had a recycled plot (lifted from the episode “Nomad”), spent way way way too long lingering on SFX shots that added little to the plot and lacked drama/conflict.  There is a reason why the first movie is mocked to this day as Star Trek:  The Boring Picture.


On a personal note, I am magically drawn to this movie when it plays on TV despite of everything (yeah, I don’t get it either.)  It is timeless as the middle of the movie still bores me in the same way as an adult as it did when I saw it the first time as a kid.


AMT produced a kit of refit Enterprise in 1/535 scale for ST:TMP.  It was considered the best of the refit versions as it was smooth with raised panel lines unlike the later versions which had trenches for recessed panel lines.


The Wrath of Khan

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold?  [Pause]  It is very cold in spaaaaaccce!”


It is allegedly a Sicilian quote (someone has told me that it comes from Afghanistan) , but it stuck.


In an attempt to revive the franchise, Paramount kicked Gene Roddenberry to the side and brought in a non-Trek producer and director to rev up the action.  In a review of the episodes, they realized that Space Seed would be the best option to provide continuity with the show.


Wrath of Khan made the movie universe safe for Star Trek movies with enough scene chewing by Richardo Montolban and William Shatner, a plot of psychotic obsessed revenge and starship battles.


The Wrath of Khan recycled many of the shots and models from the 1st movie to save money, but added space combat (huzzah!), drama (huzzah!) and the death of Spock (no huzzahs.)  It turned out to be one of the best, if not the best of the Star Trek movies.


With regards to the plastic models, AMT produced several recessed panel versions with a wood grain like plastic of the Refit Enterprise.  All versions (including the TMP version) were rather inaccurate, suffered awful fit, and suffered from warp nacelle droop due to the way the parts were designed plus the weakness of the plastic.  In what some might consider long after the fact, AMT released a model of the USS Reliant in 1995.


The 1/350 version of the Refit Enterprise kit is an amazing kit, but many modelers don’t have the space to put a 3 foot by 2 foot by 1 1/2 foot model anywhere (I don’t, which is why it is still sitting in the box with the lighting kit I bought for it.)  However, 1/1000 is a much more manageable size.


Like the original 1/1000 Polar Lights Enterprise, the “old” new Enterprise kit is a snap together kit consisting of 27 white plastic parts, nine clear parts and one plastic base and one metal rod.  The parts are almost flash free and contain fine (if not way over scale) details.


The instructions and decal placement sheet does a very good job of identifying the parts/decals and explaining their placement.


It also includes a decal sheet for the dreaded Aztec Pattern which has become the “standard” for all Star Trek starships and (to my own annoyance) on other non-Trek series ships.  Yes, it looks cool, but it can be a pain to reproduce in the smaller scales.


One thing that is much better than the original 1/1000 kits is that the stand is much more stable and sturdier with the wide base and metal rod.


First thing I did was assemble the sensor array so that I could spray the inside with Tamiya Clear blue from the Spray Can.  It did not go well as the paint did not stick to the plastic and it pooled making the color uneven.  Eventually, I sprayed the inside silver and then hand painted the exterior of the sensor dish with Vallejo Clear Blue which worked much better.


Next I assembled the rest of the Enterprise’s Secondary hull.  The parts went well together, but there were some noticeable gaps between the parts that needed to be dealt with.  Like the earlier Polar Lights 1/1000 USS Enterprise (Original) one had to assemble the nacelles to the struts before gluing them on to the secondary hull.  I give Polar Lights kudos for dealing with the problem areas that caused grief to anyone building the original 1/1000 USS Enterprise as they are mostly non existent in this kit.  However I left off some parts (clear parts and Bussard Collectors) as they weren’t needed till final assembly.


There are noticeable gaps on the leading/trailing edges of the struts, the nacelles, the sides of the secondary hull and between the neck pieces.  A bit of CA glue, some Vallejo plastic putty and various grades of sand paper fixed that problem.


Next I worked on the primary hull (saucer.)  I attached the impulse crystal to the topside of the hull and then added some tinfoil stuck there with foil adhesive on the inside.  The engineering on the parts was well done as the parts were molded so that the gap between the two saucer halves was actually part of the lip.  Unfortunately, there were some gaps that needed to be sanded/filled, but not as bad as I remembered the original USS Enterprise to be.


After some final touchups on the fill/sanding to do, I was ready for painting.



My choice for the base color was Tamiya Pearl White from the Spray Can.  In order to do that I masked off certain areas and sprayed on Tamiya White Fine Primer from the Spray Can as Pearl White does not cover well (found out on a test shot.)  The Tamiya cans have good control, but no means as good as an airbrush so I found myself sanding with various grades of micromesh pads to remove imperfections and smooth everything out.


Once I got everything done to my satisfaction then I sprayed on the Pearl White.  It was about this time that the weather got muggy and what turned into a simple topcoat became a miserable cycle of applying paint, waiting for it to dry, notice the many bubbles and imperfections caused by humid weather, curse, curse again, break out the micromesh sanding cloths to smooth it out and start again.


Eventually I got it where I could tolerate the result.


Next off I had to mask off certain areas on the nacelle and spray on duck egg blue as per instructions.  There were areas of underside of the primary hull that needed to be painted light green so I masked them off and used Tamiya Sky.


Lastly, I masked off the outer nacelle grids and painted them flat black as per instructions.



Polar Lights provides decals to represent the damned Aztec Pattern which is probably necessary for this particular scale as 1/1000 is too small for decent masks.  It would seem to be an easy task, right?  Ha.  I spent the next three frustrating months on and off decaling the Enterprise.


I was reminded why I dislike using decals for big surfaces, complex curves and to cover raised details.  If I had a brain then I would have cut up some of the decals into smaller sections like those for the nacelle struts because they didn’t exactly line up detail wise.  Also, I had issues getting the decals to line up just so like the markings for the bridge section where I was furious that the decals decided to move a bit during the drying process after I spent a good 20 minutes trying to line them up just so.  At several points I had to remind myself that this was supposed to be therapy, not the cause of therapy.


I used up a lot of SolvaSet and MicroSet to get these decals down.  I didn’t care about silvering except in obvious cases.  Oh yeah, some of the decals were very stubborn, adding another reason for me to grit my teeth and wonder why I wasn’t crazy enough to make paint masks instead.


Someone observed that building a model shouldn’t be a character test.  He’s right, but I know after this one, I think I’m closer to Khan Noonian Singh character wise thanks to my near obsession to finish this kit.  It seems only a Star Trek model will make me insane enough to actually want to finish it rather than punt it aside or use it for target practice.


Weathering and Final Coat

No weathering done.  Looking back, it might have helped cover up some of my decal booboos.  As for the final coat, the pieces were coated with several layers of Future so as to seal in the decals and not make my many decal booboos obvious.  Finally a top coat of Xtracrylic Satin was used to tone everything down.


The bussard collectors were sprayed copper while the clear parts were painted clear blue on the outside and flat black on the inside (that’s what the instructions said and at that point I just wanted the model done so I wasn’t going to spend a few hours looking to verify the color.)  These parts were added without too much issue.


There was some fine detail painting required (mostly grays) as per instructions.  In a “it seemed like a good idea at the time” was to add the clear pieces during construction and paint them clear blue later final painting.   I forgot about this till the end when I had to sloppily paint them clear blue as I could not lay down tape to mask these sections off in fear of tearing the decals off.


I slid the secondary hull into the primary hull and then put it on the stand.  It was then I realized that I screwed up the alignment of the neck as the Enterprise looked like it was warped.  I had to add a shim of 20 thou plastic card to get the saucer to align with the engines and secondary hull.  The Enterprise looks like it has been Vulcan neck pinched and there wasn’t much I could do about it.


This was a fitting end to a rather frustrating build.



Assembly wise, this kit is an amazing upgrade over the older TOS USS Enterprise Polar Lights Kit despite my issue with the neck.  There is nothing that will stop anyone from putting together a nicely done model of the USS Enterprise from the movies, but thanks to the decals it is not an easy kit to build and will requite a serene view on life, lots of Lithium and high degree of patience especially if you want to build a really good model which I was unable to do.


I must admit that I am not happy with the result of the build which is less common for me these days.  I think I could have and should have done better with this kit.  On the other hand, I have to consider this one as practice for the 1/350 one that is sitting in a box waiting for my somewhat incompetent hands to assemble.



Dan Lee

September 2010

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