This Old Starship Kit


    In 1992, the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum opened a special exhibit celebrating 25 years of Star Trek. As part of that exhibit, the 11 foot filming model of the Enterprise was restored by Ed Miarecki of Sci-Fi Modeling Associates. Ed re-wired, re-lit and re-painted the big model and replaced incorrect or missing parts to get it to look as it did in the 1960s when the show's effects shots were filmed.

   Since I was also conducting a restoration of sorts on my own Enterprise, I wanted to update and improve the model by researching the newly restored original. In late 1992, I returned to Washington DC and a lot more photos were taken.

Photo from Air & Space Magazine


    Visible in these photos are the controversial "Deflector Grid" lines on the saucer and lower hull. These grid lines became a major source of discussion among Trekkies after the 1992 restoration.

   As can be seen in the images in chapter 2, these grid lines did not appear on the big model prior to this restoration. The entire surface appeared to be a uniform gray without any signs of weathering or variation in color.

   In the days of Standard Definition Television, even when viewing good prints of old Star Trek episodes, I've never been able to see any grid lines on the Enterprise. The surface of  the ship always appeared smooth and mostly featureless. 

   Most drawings that have been published including the AMT kit's own decal placement drawings show these grid lines on the saucer top and bottom. To confuse things even more, the AMT Enterprise kit always had those raised grid lines but on the saucer top only.

   The question remains whether  these lines were there while the big model was being filmed or if they had been added by a later handler of the Enterprise between the time the show ended production and when the model was acquired by the Smithsonian.

   Finally, after around 2008 or so, long after I completed the Ertl kit, pictures of the big model taken during the show's production began to circulate on the Internet. Some of the images were from black and white publicity stills which showed the model in great detail against a starry background. These images appeared in the books The Making of Star Trek and Famous Spaceships of Fact and Fantasy and prints were occasionally sold and traded at Star Trek conventions in the 1970s and '80s. One of them was taken from the front and below the model. A cropped version of the image appears on the right. Now we know. Let's move on.

   The depiction of the grid lines on the big model led to some lively discussions on internet forums and some unfair bashing of Ed Miarecki's restoration work.

    As for any real evidence, it was tough to come by in 1992. Until the internet became what it is today, resources were not as readily available. The best images published in print were usually screen shots photographed off of a TV screen or grainy black and white stills.

   Mr. Miarecki documented his work with many photos, one of which shows a finely drawn gridwork over the entire top surface of the saucer. For preservation purposes, that area had never been painted or altered by the Smithsonian since they had acquired the model in the early 1970s. There's also an image showing a small portion of the saucer's bottom where some paint appears to have worn away revealing a finely drawn gridwork, similar to the markings on the saucer's top but on an area less than a foot across and nowhere else. These and other photos taken during 1992 restoration can be seen on this page on the "Modelers Miniatures and Magic" website.

   In September 2014, the 11 foot filming model was removed from its most recent display in the Air and Space Museum's Gift Shop for yet another restoration to be completed in time for Star Trek's 50th anniversary and the model's 2016 inclusion in the museum's Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. The restoration complete, the Enterprise is now displayed alongside other such historical artifacts as Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia.

chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10