When Polar Lights released their much-anticipated large model of the 1/350 scale movie Enterprise kit back in 2005, the Sci-Fi modeling community raised their collective voices in joy over the accuracy, decent fit, and excellent molding quality of that particularly prodigious pile of plastic. We’d been waiting for a model of that caliber for many years, and it didn’t take long for most of us to start displaying finished kits of the real star of the movies in all her opalescent glory.
It also didn’t take long for many people to start looking for the Next Big Kit. People started wondering if this was the start of a large scale Star Trek renaissance. The Reliant, a long time favorite ship and a hero in her own right, consistently made the #1 or #2 slot in peoples’ wish list for the next big model to be produced. Sadly, those dreams had to be shelved, as Polar Lights morphed into Round2, and the direction of the company changed gears after their release of the TOS Enterprise kit. The wish of a large scale USS Reliant seemed to be an unreachable goal for most hobbyists.
Enter Don Shoko.
In 2013, Don started designing a conversion kit that would be capable of taking the Round2 Movie Enterprise and retrofitting her into a massive USS Reliant. After years of hard work, Don was ready in 2015 to finally start releasing kits to those of us who had hung on his every update post. And just recently, after hemming and hawing about it for over 2 years, I pulled the trigger and added one of these huge beasts to my kit stash. After a few weeks time (during which Don kept me informed with regular email updates) my model was delivered just after Christmas of 2017. Merry Christmas to ME.
The kit arrived well packed in a large box, filled to the rim with enough packing peanuts to choke a Denebian Slime Devil (I should know, experiments have been performed). Decals are expertly printed and provided by JTGraphics, and were packed in a separate priority envelope to help protect them. The model does not come with directions or templates for the aztec pattern, but Lou from Aztec Dummy is currently working on producing vinyl patterns for the hull pattern this year. I knew I was going to be getting into a serious project when I started pulling parts out.
Now, before I get into the meat of this review, let me pause for a moment to discuss something. This kit is, to be perfectly honest, for moderate to advanced resin modelers. This isn’t going to be an easy or quick build. There’s a lot to do to both the resin and the plastic Enterprise donor kit in order to turn this into a great looking model. I’m not trying to dissuade you from getting it; on the contrary, I would advise you get the kit now while it’s available and just keep it in your stash until you’re ready to tackle it. But for those of us who are reading this who have maybe one or two “easy” resin kits under your belt…..this will prove a challenge. Anyway, moving on.
The model comes in 31 opaque and clear resin parts, plus 2 sheets of decals. The main hull is huge and hollow cast for those who are brave enough to go in and light the kit up, as is the weapons pod. Brass rod has been cast into all the pylon support and rollbar resin parts, both to provide extra support and to facilitate lighting into the engines and the weapons pod.
Remember, this is a conversion kit, which means you are going to need the saucer and warp nacelles of a donor Enterprise model to complete this beautiful beast. Don designed his kit extremely well, and made sure that the parts of the Reliant that overlap from the Reliant hull onto the plastic parts are all thin plant-on pieces that seem to have the correct hull curvature.
For those of us who are REALLY adventurous, Don even went so far as to design interior parts for the two shuttle bays. While not seen on screen, his interpretation of the bays makes sense, and they’re even cast in clear resin so you can light up the bays and see your tiny 1/350 scale shuttles docked inside.
The weapons pod is also hollow cast and can be, with a bit of work, opened up to include lights for the torpedo tubes and markers. This is a satisfyingly large chunk of resin, and the detail for the equipment bays and torpedo tube launchers is simply beautiful. Note, though the slightly obvious resin seam on the top fore of the launcher. That’s going to take some work to remove – more on that later.
The bridge module for the Reliant is differently shaped than the Enterprise, and Don included the correct bridge in resin (you can also use the Enterprise bridge if you want). As you can see here, I’m going to have to sand this down a decent bit to get it flush and level, and I’ll need to chisel out those “windows” if I want light shining there.
Here’s a few detail shots of the main hull. The level of detail seen here is excellent. The shuttle bay equipment packs are all beautifully replicated and look spot on to the reference material. Some of the detail on the ship, however, is a little soft and may be better if you remove it and duplicate it with styrene strip. I’m looking specifically at the top of the B/C deck as I type this. While that detail is nice and correct, it might wind up looking sloppy under a coat of primer and base coat. Also some of the windows have resin divots in them and will need to be cleaned out, or of course drilled out if you intend to light it.
As if you needed more evidence of the fine detail this kit has. The megaphasers look great on the outer corners, and you get clear cast impulse domes and clear impulse engines to brighten your ship with. The two lower “scoops” (I have no idea what they’re supposed to be, other than neat-looking greeblies) are crisply replicated on the main hull, but as you can see here, there are some resin nurblies that will have to be removed with a steady hand and a dremel tool.
Which leads me to…..the not-so-pretty aspects of the kit.
There are some significant challenges to this kit, and since I try to be completely fair, I like to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are some mold related cleanup and repair issues involved in this model that you should be aware of.
The mold lines on some parts of this kit are very heavy, and will require some significant putty and sanding to rebuild them. As you can see here, the rear of the main hull has a wavy part line that actually indents in sections of the hull. I would have been more forgiving of this problem if that line followed the same path as the clear part you’ll be cutting to create those lit shuttle bays, but sadly it does not. You are going to have to do some hull repair back here whether you choose to add the open shuttle bays or not. Meanwhile, the rollbar assemblies have some strong seam lines that cut across the parts in what seems like an unusual area. I understand why this was done (so we could have that lovely hollow brass support!) but I feel like this maybe could have been cleaned up a bit more before being shipped out — and some of the detail on the inside of the megaphaser is going to be obliterated during cleanup and will need to be rebuilt.
Now, let’s talk about pour stubs! HOOO-BOY! This kit has some of the most impressive pour stubs I have ever seen! Leave the X-acto knife and sanding sticks in your tool box. You’re going to need a rotary tool with a drum sander and a cutoff wheel to get through this stuff. Even the pour stubs on the smaller flat pieces are somewhat heavy-handed. The good news, of course, is that while these pour stubs are kind of crazy, they also don’t take long to clean up when you have the right tool.
Some more pour-stub craziness, and a heavy mold line on the bottom of the weapons pod. This is just more to add to the cleanup time, and unlike that mold line on the rear of the main hull, doesn’t affect the detail of the parts themselves. FYI, no, the warp pylons do NOT need to have such a huge fin to go into the plastic. You can reduce this by half at least.
Now, I know this should just be a review thread, and I ought to be packing up the model and wrapping up the review now. But the kit just looked like so much fun, and I was itching to fix some of those mold issues after taking the photos, so I broke out my dremel and just started cleaning up that craziness. Before I knew it, I was merrily grinding away at the rollbar pylons and testing the fit into the weapons pod (fits GREAT by the way!)
Once those rollbars were done, I dove into the main hull. Grinding that huge pour stub down was definitely an exercise in dust control (I lost), but once I got her nice and smooth, I set my sights on the donor Enterprise kit. I tell ya what. The act of deliberately destroying a nearly $100 plastic kit was a little hair-raising. My advice to you when you reach this step is simple: Go slow. Don’t cut it all in one pass. Make a rough cut, then refine the cut a little at a time. Test fit OFTEN. and in the words of both Douglas Adams and now Elon Musk: DON’T PANIC.
Here she is with the plastic parts cleaned up and test-fit on the resin, with the resin rollbar in place. The result is impressive to say the least. Once you get to this point, any complaints about minor fit issues or mold lines tend to disappear. Why? Because you own one of the BIGGEST HONKIN’ RELIANTS EVER, that’s why. Yes, the DeBoer Hulls model is slightly larger, but it’s also much more expensive. The Don Shoko kit, while pricey at $330, is a lot easier to fit into most budgets with a little work and saving.
I’ve been thinking of how to “rate” this model the entire time I’ve been writing this. I tend to give a model a rating out of 5 stars based on my gut reactions to certain criteria. In this particular case, though, I don’t think it would be fair to average out the kit into one simple rating. So here’s how the kit breaks down in terms of individual issues:
- Accuracy: 5 Stars
- Detail: 4.5 Stars
- Fit: 3.5 Stars
- Mold Quality: 3 Stars
That averages out to 4 stars overall, but I wanted you to see how this breaks down. Once again, I don’t want you to think I’m saying it’s a bad kit. Believe me — if I review a crap kit, I’m gonna tell you it’s a crap kit. But don’t expect this to be a “shake the box and done” kind of model. This kit is going to require skills in areas you may not have ventured as a hobbyist yet, and it’s going to be challenging to complete. The detail on this model is beautiful, however, and it’s as screen-accurate as I can tell. It’s absolutely worth the outlay, and I know I’m going to have a blast building and detailing the kit. You can get a copy direct from Don at (get ready for it) www.donshoko.com. There, I know I surprised you.
Lastly, I’ll give you a bit of advice about kits like this. If you want this model, if you even think you might want this model but your skill isn’t ready for it……get it. Get it now, while it’s available. I’ve seen too many model kits come and go that I passed on because I could “get it later,” but when the time was right, the model was no longer in production. The Gunstar. The WARP models Galor/Keldon. The Leonov. The list goes on. This is one of those models that won’t be easy to get forever, and despite it’s few molding flaws, it’s one of the kits in my collection I’m happiest to have. I think you will be too.