In Progress Scifi Star Trek

Monogram Star Trek Voyager Maquis Ship: Sitting At The Kids Table

I don’t know how it is in the rest of the United States, let alone the world, but in the Southern US, just about every family holiday gathering has something in common. It’s not the food, or the deserts, or even that uncle who makes passing gas a hobby. While all of those things are quite common, that’s not the focus of my ramble today.

The focus of the meal would be the large, traditional table, nicely covered in cloth linen, with the best dishes spread out. Decorative centerpieces would be arranged, with the various dishes of food spaced out, all in easy reach of the table’s diners. The nicest plates and silverware would rule the day. As it came time to eat, the turkey, or ham, or whatever, would be brought out to oohs and ahhs. Someone would say “Daddy, say grace over our food”. As everyone bowed, one of the adults would turn to the other side of the room. “You kids settle down… granddaddy is about to pray.” Of course, you know who they’d be addressing.

The “Kid’s Table”

Off to one side, some sort of temporary, wobbly, fold out table would be set up. Various folding chairs, footstools, and piles of books would be the seating. Instead of the best plates and silverware, it was paper plates and plastic forks.

Welcome to the kids table.

For the younger kids, it seems like quite the honor. A table all to themselves. No adults eyes prying about… they were too busy over at the other table, hearing about Aunt Sally’s latest foot infection, or how Uncle Jim Bob got sloshed at the VFW, started a fight with a State Trooper, and was now at home on house arrest, waiting for Cousin Gertrude to bring him a plate of food.

But for the older kids… those poor souls that were too old to find the adventure of an all-exclusive table less than exhilarating, but not quite old enough to warrant making space at the “big people table”, it was not a pretty site.

Spilled drinks, whining siblings and cousins, mad dashes over to the main table to try and fill your plate, only to be told “you’ve had enough!” All the while being reminded to “set a good example”, or “don’t put your brother in a headlock!” It was a cross between Charlie Brown and professional wrestling at times.

When the day came I was finally old enough to be given a place at the “big table”, I was quite happy. All the food was within reach, and there was plenty of it. The conversation was lively and fun, and the number of headlocks remarkably low. Every now and again I’d peek over at my little brother, still banished to the kids table, and when I caught his eye, I’d smile that sly grin only siblings share, the one that says “I got something you don’t got…” He’d glare back at me, at which point I’d reach over, grab a hot biscuit and slather it with butter, then gnaw into it –  never breaking eye contact. Good times.

That’s what the holidays are for, right? Family fun! 😉

More Scifi Wanderings

Over the last year, I’ve really been exploring science fiction models, after over a decade of aircraft only builds. It’s been a fun experience to say the least. It started with building Gunpla, then branched into Warhammer, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and others.

However, I’d not really looked into Star Trek. While I suppose you could call me a casual fan, I’m not nuts about it. I’ve seen every episode of the original series, Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager. And while I enjoyed them all, I can’t say my knowledge goes beyond general familiarization with characters and basic situations.

And the ships themselves, while cool onscreen, have not pulled me from a modeling perspective. So many of the “big name” craft seem so clean, and are such large scale, I’ve not really been interested. Where Star Wars seems to revel in dirty and grimy fighters, my general perception of Star Trek is of large, squeaky clean capital ships. 

But I did want to build something from that universe. So I began looking around at various shuttles and smaller craft, which held more interest for me. In that search, I ran across one I’d forgotten about. And it had a look and size that grabbed me a bit.

In Star Trek Voyager, there had been a faction called the Maquis, who were rebelling against some group of people that apparently had large shellfish mounted on their foreheads, and were related to Kim Kardashian and her bunch in some way . In the first episode of Voyager, the gallant Federation ship, called Voyager, which was captained by Katharine Hepburn, chased them into some quantum rip in the space/time flux capacitor… or something like that. And in doing so, they were flung into a galaxy far, far away… but not a long time ago.

Eventually they decided to join forces to get back to Earth, and in some plot twist lost to my memory, the Maquis ship was blown up.

Like I said… casual fan… 🙂

For my modeling purposes, all that translated into me finding a cheap model on Ebay that looked kind of cool, and had more of the lumpy bumpy Star Wars look than the smooth sleek Star Trek look. So one click of the “Buy Now” button, and it was on the way to me.

Assembling The STV: Maquis Ship

When I first examined the kit parts, I was impressed by all the detail that was cast in. For a 20+ year old model, it was quite busy. The largest bits of plastic were two very large hull pieces, upper and lower. Those two parts there represented about 75% of the models surface area.

A quick test fit gave me concerns, though. While the two parts fit together generally, they lacked precision. I’ve always tried to make a distinction in my written assessments of kits between the two. While a kit that fits generally well may not have gaps, a lack of precision means the parts on either half don’t line up very well. That was exactly the case with this model.

I’d deliberately purchased one of the original boxings of the kit, hoping that “fresher” molds would mean a chance of better fit. But the dry fitting showed that the kit may not have started out in stellar fashion.

Of immediate note was the amount of “lip” on the mating edges of the parts. By “lip” I am referring to some models having a tendency for mating surfaces that should be flat instead having a bit of a “flare” right at the edge. It’s not flash, really, but rather a slight angle that only appears when mated with its other half. Sanding along the edges of both part brings things back into alignment… but when the model is roughly 14 inches by 14 inches, that is a lot of sanding.

Another observation was that detail that should have lined up between the top and bottom halves didn’t. And it wasn’t a case of sections being misaligned. One raised bit of detail may have mated fine with its other half, yet a bit of detail further down the hull would have a slight offset between the upper and lower parts. In a few cases, one half had sections that were wider than its mate on the other half. 

Working On The Warts

Most of the areas had a simple fix – sanding. Lots and lots of sanding. I started by working on the mating of the two parts, figuring if those aligned properly, then it would be easier to focus on adjusting what was left. Eventually I got the upper and lower halves to come to a form of acceptable fit, though still far from perfect. When I reached the point of “that’s all I can do”, I headed into brute force territory – loads of glue and really big clamps.

With that assembled, the rest was mostly adding smaller detail parts. All around the perimeter of the ship were small sections that can best be described as “radiator pipes”, based on their appearance. The hull had cutouts to accept these, and the parts were shaped to fit. Sort of. Kind of. 

Each part was far too small to fully fill the gaps around the edges once placed on the hull. Some were off by mere fractions, others by much greater distance. Bits of excess plastic had to be trimmed away here and there. A few of the “radiator” parts were thicker than others, resulting in them standing far proud of the ship’s edge. In those cases, I sanded the backing down to get a better fit.

I worked my way around, adding parts, sanding down and fitting things as best I could… within reason. 🙂 Eventually I had it all glued on. I then began the process of filling all those cracks and gaps with Mr. Surfacer 500.

My goal in the process was not to fully fill and smooth over every gap. Given the tight working spaces, and sheer number of places that needed work, such a course would have been impractical for my purposes. Instead, I simply wanted to load up all the gaps, smooth them over a bit with cotton buds soaked in alcohol, and avoid any “see through” areas on the model’s exterior. Panel washes, weathering, and chipping would help diminish the look of those blemishes. And because of the size of the model, I hoped the eventual buyer would be more interested in the overall picture than getting down to a narrow focus on every tiny detail.

Accepting Good Enough

Eventually I reached a point of simply deciding that it was all acceptable as-is. I could have spent a lot more time working on it, of course. But the trade-off visually just would not have been worth it. I’ve always felt that with any model, there’s a point of diminishing returns, beyond which I simply exit the highway of fun, and get off onto the side road of frustration. I have to eventually realize that it’s a plastic toy- let it go.

Once I made the decision to avoid Exit Frustration, and instead keep driving down Highway Fun, I moved the model into my spraying area for priming. The Maquis Ship was given a coat of Badger’s Stynylrez Black Primer. With all the various surfaces and angles, coupled with the chunk of plastic that makes up the model, it took quite a while, even through my .5 Badger Patriot. And it took a lot of primer too – about one and a half color cups full.

Next I went with the basic gray coat. Looking at photos from the series only helped a little. While it seemed to be an overall gray, various shots seemed to range from a very light gray all the way to neutral gray. One shot even looked slightly greenish. An executive decision was made – the Maquis Ship would be Tamiya XF-66 Flat Light Gray. This decision was arrived at through a complicated process. (Basically it was the closest light gray within reach… 🙂 )

The whole thing was thus painted, and then increasing amounts of white were added to the mix to lighten in down, adding some highlighting, with the basic goal of giving some surface variation. In the end, it looked like a goofball sprayed some gray paint on a model. 😉

Spoiled By The Big Table

The trouble with eating at the big table is it gets into your system. The availability of the best food, refills of sweet tea, and first dibs on desert becomes something you expect. If suddenly a new guest arrives, and your chair is required… back to the kid’s table you go. Which kinda stinks.

As I’ve delved into scifi scale modeling subject matter, it’s been very easy to see that aside from a few excellent examples, most kit selection for the genre is “kid’s table”. The fit isn’t good, alignment isn’t good, parts are not as well cast. It’s not just this Maquis ship, either. I’ve built a few others, and examined even more, and I can’t help but draw the conclusion.

I suppose part of the cause is that most western companies focus on “traditional” military modeling, and it almost seems as if the scifi genre is left with “that’s good enough for you.” Truly kid’s table stuff. And a few discussions with friends who are long time scifi modelers seem to confirm this. There’s almost an attitude of “we’re just happy to get anything”. 

Of course, there are “big table” examples too. Bandai is the standout. Virtually every scale model they do is some form of scifi, and the kits are arguably the best on the planet. Full stop. Period. And they make gobs of money at it. Others, such as Wave and Hasegawa, also provide good examples. And I’m sure there are others.

The perplexing thing to me seems to be that scifi – especially Gunpla – appears to be where the future growth is. Younger people drawn to modeling seem to go there first. Older guys are starting to discover the freedom the genre offers from the IPMS-USA mentality about FS color chips and whether that mud was correct for Normandy in 1944. Traditional companies are making money right now… but as their market dies off, will they take up the scifi cause – and maybe start serving modelers at the “big table”? Please?

The kids table can be fun for a while, but once you get a chunk of hot buttered biscuit from the big table, going back just doesn’t seem as fun.

But that’s big picture stuff, I suppose.

Right now, there’s a whole load of detail painting to go on this Maquis ship! 

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