(Part 1 of this series on spaceship modeling can be found here.)
Last column I left off at the end of the 1980s. This period had been primarily devoted to Star Trek and Star Wars based models. Following this time period no other large science fiction themed movie or television show franchises had come into being. This did not mean though that mass market science fiction plastic model development stopped but that most of the new models introduced would be based on these two science fiction series.
Of course the Star Trek franchise continued to develop beginning with The Next Generation series in the later 1980s as well as the movie franchise as mentioned in the previous article. The first product of the ‘90s was the Enterprise- C by AMT from the Next Generation episode, Yesterday’s Enterprise. This was followed by another AMT kit, the Klingon V’orcha battle cruiser in 1991. With the final season of TNG showing on television in 1994 the next series in the franchise, Deep Space 9, started in 1993. From this television series AMT released a kit of the Federation Runabout in 1993. DS9 became a hit series and with the success AMT then released a 1/2500th scale model of the DS9 space station in 1994. AMT then reached back in time to the 1984 movie, The Search for Spock, to produce a model of the USS Excelsior. The release of the Star Trek: Generations movie in 1994 was followed by the AMT release of the Enterprise B from the movie.
In 1995 AMT once again traveled back in time, appropriate for Star Trek models, and produced a model of the USS Reliant which was commandeered by Kahn in the movie, “The Wrath of Kahn.” This was a rather unique configuration of a Star Trek Federation ship and was also a rather large model being produced in 1/535th scale. Some years later AMT would also release a standalone set of decals which completely cover the model in the starship “aztecing” patterns. I have built this kit after it was rereleased fairly recently and purchased and applied the decals which was a fairly significant and tedious job. It does greatly enhance the model and the completed spaceship has a proud place on my shelves as well as winning a couple of awards at contests.
AMT then returned to the past again to the 1984 movie, “The Search for Spock,” and released a kit of the Klingon B’Rel Bird of Prey. I remember this ship landing in a park in the following movie and was rather surprised they could do something like that and also that the ship seemed much smaller on the ground then in space. Of course not all science fiction has to make sense, even when extrapolated into the future. AMT continued with their line of Star Trek ships with the release of the Enterprise-B from the movie, Generations, in 1995. The new shows and movies continued to provide AMT with new products in their Star Trek fleet.
1995 also saw the premier of the next television Star Trek show, Voyager. This was an opportunity for another company, Revell/Monogram, to cash in the popularity of the series. So in 1995 Revell/Monogram released the USS Voyager in 1/677 scale. This kit would be followed in 1996 with a Kazon Raider and a Maquis Raider from the DS9 show. AMT introduced the USS Defiant from the Voyager series in 1996 as part of its long line of Star Trek ships.
1997 would finally see releases of spaceship models from sources other than Star Trek. The rehash of Lost in Space in the form of a movie, which I found to be rather pathetic even considering how the original TV show became so campy and off base from its start, found AMT releasing the newly imagined Jupiter 2 in a significantly different form than the original TV show’s saucer. Bringing back another ship from the ‘70s, Airfix released a kit of the Space 1999 Hawk fighter which was a modification of the classic Eagle transport from the show. 1998 also featured a new company, Polar Lights, and they released a very large scale Jupiter 2 from the original Lost in Space TV show. Polar Lights would continue to release other spaceship models over the coming years and is one the major kit companies still in business producing model kits that appeal the science fiction and horror fan. Finally in 1997 AMT would start releasing Star Wars models again with a kit of the Imperial Tie fighter followed in 1998 by a model of the Death Star. My hunches are that this was due to the imminent release of the prequel trilogy due to appear on the big screens in 1999.
AMT procured the rights to Lucas’s new trilogy of Star Wars movies and immediately began releasing models from the first movie in 1999 when the movie was released. They released a Naboo fighter, Anakin Pod Racer, Battle Droid, Droid fighters, and Trade Federation Tank kits in conjunction with The Phantom Menace that year. In 2000 they continued with five more kits from the movie, a Gungan sub, Republic Cruiser, Silth Infiltrator, Federation landing ship, and Federation Multi-troop Transport. That would fairly well complete model kits based on the first movie in the new trilogy.
2001, a seminal year in science fiction history, featured the first release of new kits from Polar Lights and Fine Molds, a Japanese company. Polar Lights introduced their second classic spaceship kit with the release of a large scale C57-D saucer from the classic ‘50s movie, Forbidden Planet. Because of its size it wasn’t the easiest kit to build or display but was definitely unique and classic. Fine Molds, whose name probably is the best description of the quality of their products, started their Star Wars line that year as well. They are well known for the extremely fine and detailed moldings in their kits and their Star Wars kits would reflect this. The first release from Fine Molds was a 1/72 scale X-Wing fighter in 2001 followed by a Jedi Starfighter model in 2002, both in 1/72 scale making them relatively small models.
These were fairly well the only kits produced at the turn of the millenium. In 2003 Bandai, a Japanese toy company, released three Star Trek kits. They were rather unique in being high quality snap models which basically came pre-painted. These included the USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Enterprise from the original TV show, and the Enterprise from First Contact. In 2004 Bandai re-released the refit Enterprise with different ships markings and also a new kit of the USS Voyager. These Bandai kits all featured lighting in the kit to add to the allure. I have never seen any of these and personally they don’t appeal as they are “pre-painted” but the reviews I have read are fairly positive. In 2003 Polar Lights released the first two in their new line of Star Trek kits, a smallish but very nice TOS Enterprise along with the Scorpion from the Star Trek Nemesis movie.
2005 was another relatively slow year for spaceship model introductions with only a couple of mass market kits being released. Polar Lights continued their Star Trek line with the release of the giant 1/350th scale Enterprise-A refit from the original Star Trek movie. Fine Molds released another in their excellent line of Star Wars models, a very large Millenium Falcon kit in 1/72nd scale. This kit was highly detailed in Fine Molds excellent rendering and featured over 900 parts. In 2006 Polar Lights released another large scale kit, the 1/350th scale Enterprise NX-01 from Star Trek: Enterprise. Another year would pass without any significant kit releases but in 2007 Fine Molds released a Star Wars Y-Wing kit. The only other kit released that year of a “spaceship” was a TARDIS kit from Dr. Who appropriately released by British company, Airfix.
Considering how few kits had been released in previous years 2008 became a bit of a watershed for new kits. Polar Lights continued to release Star Trek models introducing a classic Klingon D7 battle cruiser and an Enterprise NX-01 kit from the new Star Trek: Enterprise television show. These were both in a nice 1/1000 scale and while plain were quite good kits and renditions of the two ships. A new comer to model industry and to spaceship model products was Moebius Models out of Deland, Florida. They have become possibly the largest purveyor of geeky model products since they started production in 2006. Moebius released its first spaceship model from the original Lost in Space show with the space pod kit and also released the LIS chariot, not exactly a spaceship but spacey enough to qualify. The same year they released two more kits I will include here as well although they aren’t exactly spaceships but are definitely science fiction oriented. These were from another Irwin Allen television show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which I remember fondly watching when I was about 10 years old. Both kits were fairly large and were the Seaview submarine and the Flying Sub. I have both kits stashed away to build sometime in the future.
In 2009 another company which had been in business for a while started producing science fiction kits. This was Pegasus Hobbies from California and they have a developing line of science fiction kits in their product lineup. Their first products in their science fiction line were a classic War of the Worlds Martian War Machine, a NSEA Galaxy Quest movie Protector, and a hypothetical Area 51 UFO.
The kits mentioned in this part of my article were released from 1990 through 2009. Since then the number of spaceship model kits produced has expanded greatly and will be the subject of part 3. My articles on spaceship modeling have really been written about only the mass produced, styrene, injected molded line of kits. There is also a much smaller market in resin based models produced by small independent companies, typically individuals. These appeal to the true aficionado of the genre and generally are somewhat more costly to purchase due to the small and labor intensive production runs. There is a list maintained at the Fantastic-Plastic website that has a very detailed listing of all the spaceship and science fiction kits released over the years. ( http://www.fantastic-plastic.com/NewKitsList.htm ) Many are out of production these days but almost any ship you can think of has been available at one time or another. These will be the subject of a future article. So while you wait for part 3 I suggest you purchase and build at least one of these excellent models, the one that most appeals to your spaceship dreams.