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Polar Lights USS Discovery and USS Shenzhou

Review of the 1/2500 scale sci-fi Star Trek kits with easy snap-together assembly
With both AMT and Polar Lights in its stable, it seemed like Round 2 was the natural place to produce kits from the latest Star Trek TV series, Discovery. The company didn’t disappoint and has now produced kits of the USS Discovery and USS Shenzhou. At 1/2500 scale, they are smaller than many of Polar Lights’ Trek kits but match the Cadet Series which has expanded to include many of the franchise’s major vessels.

Molded in color and designed to snap, or more accurately push, together, these kits  feature low parts counts and will be easy for new modelers to build. The complicated surface patterns, often referred to as Aztecing, would be a challenge, but both kits include a full suite of decals that cover virtually every inch of the ships’ surfaces. Each also includes a three-part stand with a posable head.

USS Discovery consists of 26 mostly gold plastic parts. Clear parts supply the bridge glass, navigational deflector, Bussard collectors, and impulse engines; I painted the interior of these parts before installing them.

I built Discovery in four subassemblies: primary hull including the neck, engineering hull, and two nacelles. The fit of large sections, such as the double-disc primary hull fit together in such a way as to all but eliminate the seams. I filled the seam between the halves with a little superglue. The join between the neck halves is harder to fill, but it is mostly hidden by the discs.

The fit of most of the parts is good without glue, although I flowed in liquid cement for security. I had problems keeping the nacelle halves closed around the aft end of the long clear inserts for the warp coils, so I added more glue.

The Shenzhou consists of 15 silver plastic parts along with seven clear pieces for the bridge, navigation deflector, and impulse and warp engine components. Engineering is good here too, and I only used filler around the edge of the primary hull. For painting, I divided the ship into six subassemblies: primary hull; engineering hull, two pylons, and the two warp nacelles. The clear inserts for the warp engines are difficult to see once the nacelles are together and even harder to mask.

After masking the clear parts with tape and Microscale Liquid Mask, I airbrushed Discovery with Tamiya titanium gold lightened with a few drops of aluminum. Shenzhou was painted with Tamiya spray-can bare-metal silver, a good match for the plastic, but a little too light for the ship; I recommend Tamiya metallic gray as a better match. My only complaint about these kits is their color diagrams. They are comprehensive and show the vessel from six sides, but the details can be hard to see and the shading can make necessary painting difficult to discern. It’s especially noticeable on Discovery when trying to determine the transition between bronze and light gold on the neck.

The highlight of both kits is the decals. The small diagrams can make the locations of some markings vague, but the decals fit nearly perfectly and conform to the complex shapes with a little encouragement from Microscale decal solutions and the tip of a No.11 blade. I found only a couple of glitches: On Discovery, the outer upper disc decals ended up a little short so I had to touch up gaps with paint; and on Shenzhou, the windows on one of the underside decals are in the wrong place. Adding the decals was time-consuming, but less so than masking and painting these panels would have been. I sealed them with clear flat and pushed the parts together. Mounting them on the stands (which I painted flat black) had the little duo ready to take on the Klingons.

These are nice kits and the colorful markings make them stand out. The simple assembly and the fact that they can be finished with spray cans and hand-brushing make them good entry-level kits — just be prepared to spend three-quarters of the build applying decals.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the December 2019 issue.


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