February 11, 2012
While this post is only loosely Japan-related, I feel the need to write it anyway. You see, as a young nerdling, I practically lived on the starship Enterprise. Specifically, the one from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Galaxy-class, Starfleet registry NCC-1701-D. I watched the show daily, I read the technical manual cover to cover, I knew this ship top to bottom, stem to stern. I have, therefore, been lusting after a good model of the thing for about 20 years now. For various reasons, I missed out on the Art Asylum version. When I heard Japanese model company Aoshima was going to produce an even more high end version, I determined I would not miss out again. Despite the expense, I jumped on it, and was not disappointed…
The Enterprise is presented in 1/2000 scale, making it approximately 1 foot long. Sculpting detail is beyond expectations, with sculpted windows, details on the escape pods, even the ribbing on the phaser strips. Some have commented that the curvature of the neck where it meets the saucer is smoother than presented in the technical manual drawings or the studio model, though I think this is a later retcon that may have been in the CGI version of the ship. The Art Asylum version is the same way, so I guess that is how it is now. The whole model is made out of relatively few pieces, which grants it some structural stability, but it is still very much a model and not a toy. Care should be taken when handling it.
Though it appears mostly gray in photos, the color actually has a slight blue-green tint to it, especially in the “Aztecing”. Unlike most mass produced Star Trek ships, the Aztecing is fully painted on all surfaces of the ship, and looks amazing. Additional painted details include the yellow RCS thruster quads, mustard colored transporter emitters, cargo bay doors, and more. Only two decals are required, the RCS thruster quads on the forward part of the stardrive section (just to either side of the main deflector). I’m not sure why these two were not painted on like the others. Name, registry and other fleet markings are all nicely printed on.
Minor assembly is required in the form of various screw caps that need to be installed around the model. The ones on the saucer take the form of some of the escape pods, making them almost undetectable once installed. In other places, Aoshima did the best they could to integrate them with existing features. While not as invisible as the saucer lifeboats, they are about as unobtrusive as they can be. One particular one comprising part of the cargo door on the bottom of the stardrive section was very loose on mine and required glue to keep it in place. Otherwise, all the screw covers hold themselves firmly in place.
Additional Photo: Stardrive section battery cover and power switch
Batteries also need to be installed in both the saucer and stardrive (allowing them to be lit individually). The battery covers are the most obvious blemishes in the model’s appearance, but I don’t see what more could be done. It’s a sacrifice we had to make in order to have the lighting. One really clever bit is the power button for the saucer, which is actually the port side cargo door (opposite the battery cover). Like the escape pod screw covers, you’d miss it if you didn’t know to look for it.
Additional Photo: Separation plane detail
Of course, the big feature anybody looks for in any toy or model of a Galaxy-class starship is saucer separation. Older toys would use some kind of mechanical locking mechanism or pegs, but this was unsightly and possibly prone to breaking. The Art Asylum sculpt introduced the idea of using magnets, which is not only more attractive, but easier to use and impossible to break. Unfortunately, the areas hidden when the ship is docked seem to be the one area Aoshima skimped on. The separation plane on both the saucer and stardrive side has less detail than the Art Asylum version. The docking magnets are also visible on the surface, the one on the stardrive conspicuously taking the place of the battle bridge. While not so bad it ruins the model, the lack of effort in this area just sticks out as odd considering the incredible level of care taken everywhere else.
Now onto the coup de gras, the real feature that will send you scrambling to purchase this bad boy — the lighting. It’s amazing. It almost brings me to tears. Individual windows have been cut out, allowing the light from inside to shine through. The amount of realism added just by that is incredible, and they are everywhere. Saucer, stardrive, even the neck has lit windows. The obvious (*cough* Art Asylum Enterprise-E) inclusions are of course the warp nacelles and main deflector. Impulse engines are also lit both on the saucer and stardrive. Again showing their insane obsession with detail, Aoshima includes alternate caps to black out the saucer impulse engines as they are not used when the ship is docked. All the lights are bright, and visible even in a well lit room. Not included are sound effects as found on Art Asylum ships, but I always found that to be obnoxious anyway. As you can see, there are no problems with light bleed through the plastic, though close inspection reveals a bit of leakage around seams. The only thing I think is missing lighting that should have it is the bridge, though that would have required installation of a clear cap since they couldn’t simply cut it out. Still, I’d have liked to have seen it done. I also have a minor quibble in that the saucer deflector (the four square lights toward the front) should be white, not orange. Not sure where they got the orange from.
Additional accessories included are an out of scale model of the shuttlepod El-Baz, a removable captain’s yacht, and a nice display stand. While I would have preferred one of the Type-6 warp shuttles introduced later in the series, that’s just personal preference. The El-Baz has lots of nice sculpting and paint detail to match its mothership, and is a great little bonus. On the opposite end of the detail spectrum is the captain’s yacht, which has no detail whatsoever on its dorsal side. While the yacht was never used (or even mentioned) on screen, drawings of it were presented in the TNG Technical Manual, so it would’ve been nice to see it more fleshed out. Still, considering no other model to my knowledge has ever bothered to include it at all, it’s still a neat feature. As for the stand, it is capable of displaying the Enterprise either docked or separated, and features a cool reproduction of the ship’s dedication plaque.
Finally, my miscellaneous gripes. I mentioned seams when talking about the lighting, and there are some little gaps that become visible when the lighting is on. These should have been tightened up, or at least sealed during assembly. The biggest seam issue has to due with loss of detail due to the way it’s put together. The top and bottom halves of the saucer are joined right at the outermost edge. I had trouble photographing this, but it produces not just an obvious and unsightly seam, but also precludes the possibility of any of the details that should be around that edge. Mostly this is just lateral sensor arrays, and it probably takes an uber-Trek-nerd like me to notice they’re gone, but this is a damn expensive model. The Art Asylum version managed to solve this, why not Aoshima? Similar seams exist around the edge of the stardrive, likewise eliminating detail there. I mentioned about the bridge not being lit, which is kind of understandable, but the observation lounge on deck 2 aft should have been lit. That’s a major location which many fans know how to locate, so it should have been lit. They lit Picard’s quarters on deck 3 forward though, so win some lose some.
Overall, this is a great model. I’m really reduced to nitpicking to find things wrong with it. Yes, the seams kind of suck considering the cost, and those two stickers are kind of BS, but this is still the most amazing representation of this ship ever mass produced. While it is priced out of the range of most casual fans, it is a great feather in the cap of any hard core Trekkie’s collection. I’m certainly glad to have scratched this 20 year old itch.