The USS Excelsior has been a fan favorite since its debut on the big screen in 1984’s Star Trek offering, “The Search for Spock.” Bigger, sleeker, and more powerful looking than the Enterprise, the Excelsior promised to be the next “big thing” for Starfleet. So it was with no small amount of humor that the Excelsior’s first mission ended in a sputtering stop (physics doesn’t count on screen!) just outside the Spacedock doors, engines winding down in a coughing fit like a 1940’s Ford that just didn’t get enough fuel in the mix. Despite this less than auspicious beginning, the Excelsior persisted, reappearing in Star Trek IV briefly and then slightly redesigned and featured strongly in Star Trek VI before becoming one of the staple ships in TNG episodes. It made sense; the studio model was beautiful, nice and detailed, and the part that makes producers’ little hearts go pitter-patter, it was FREE. Win-win.
Starcrafts has provided us with a beautiful 1/1400 scale resin model of the re-designed Excelsior for many years now. The ST-VI era version that is available to us is highly detailed and perfectly sized. But some of us wished for that original Great Experiment. The original ship had certain details that were changed for later films, for better or for worse, and a vocal minority clamored for YEARS to have those details represented in model form. Finally, in 2017, original Excelsior fans got their wish in a big way, with a release of a plastic 1/1000 scale NX-2000 Excelsior from Round2, followed shortly after by Starcrafts’ release of the NX in solid resin 1/1400 scale. Naturally I did what any model hoarder would do: I got both. What follows is a review of the Starcrafts resin 1/1400 scale kit and their remarkable full panel decals that can be used alongside.
The NX-2000 kit is identical in parts number and layout to their earlier NCC-2000 kit. You get 6 resin parts in a sturdy cardboard box, along with a nice 2-sheet painting instruction sheet and simple decals that allow you to build the Excelsior, the Repulse, or the Hood. The included decal sheet is basic, but it allows you to build a fair representation of any ship and it includes the call names, Starfleet pennants, RCS thruster warning zones, and phaser banks. It also includes a nice decal representing the deflector dish that I may or may not use, depending on how confident I’m feeling about my airbrushing abilities when I get to that point. It’s also worth noting that the two other names you’re given as options, Repulse and Hood, are in fact correct to this particular version of the ship — both were featured on screen in TNG episodes BEFORE the studio model was modified with the smaller bridge and weird tiny impulse domes, etc.
While Starcrafts models have advanced in complexity and relative difficulty of assembly (I’m looking at my Valdore as I type this!) in recent years, the NX-2000 hearkens back to the days when his kit credo was ‘make it easy enough for an 8 year old to build without directions.’ The kit is very simple to build, meaning the skills you get to challenge with this model will be your finishing prowess: painting, decal application, and display opportunities.
So let’s get right to it. What are the key differences between this version of the Excelsior and earlier offerings? Well, to be honest, there are only THREE. The NX-2000 had a larger, more robust-looking bridge on it. It also had a single large Impulse Deflection Crystal back by the impulse engines that was similar to and drew parallels from the Enterprise. And finally the NX version of the Excelsior had a large semicircular dome back by the rear shuttlebay area. This always struck me as some sort of large observational area, possibly an improved crew lounge for viewing out across the ship and into the vastness of space, but your mileage may vary. In any event, it differs greatly from the angular blockhouse feature that was present back there in later movies and earlier models.
These three differences seem minor, but taken together, they give you a very different look to a venerable old classic model. And for some of us, this represents the Excelsior as it SHOULD BE. What can I say. I’m old. And stubborn. Now get off my lawn.
Since much of this model is identical to the Starcrafts NCC-2000 model that’s been around for years, there’s very little that I could discuss here that hasn’t been mentioned about a thousand times already. Starcrafts kit may be smaller than the plastic offering by Round2, but there are remarkable detail differences that make the resin kit stand out. Most importantly, the resin kit has nicely engraved panel lines and windows scribed into the hull. This has been a point of confusion to me for years and years; how AMT/Ertl could have done their raised panel lines so poorly in the original plastic offering, and why Round2 decided to go with a smooth, featureless hull instead of adding windows or any grids at all!
Starcrafts also has a much more accurate cargo bay area for their kit, although I give Round2 full credit and grateful props for working to improve this area from the horrible abomination that was first given to us with the Ertl kit. For this resin kit, you should paint this area before you put the lower cover plate on the model. It would be wise to prime the model, paint the cargo bay area, then glue in the cover plate, mask the opening to the cargo bay, and paint your hull base coat.
Which brings me to a nit-pick about this resin model that I simply have to point out so you’re aware. The resin casting is about as excellent as you would expect from a Starcrafts kit – very clean, well-molded, with no flash and only one or two minor subsurface bubbles. But that lower cargo bay cover plate is a tough cookie to assemble, and it has been with each Excelsior model I’ve gotten. (For the record, I have four, including his Enterprise-B model.) The part has some very thin edges, including a razorlike leading edge which is often chipped, and a paper-thin resin edge on the bottom back of the curve that is super easy to crack. So go slowly, and cautiously. Furthermore, this part is very often very slightly warped when you first get it. It will seem too wide, and won’t fit perfectly tab-in-hole- to the bottom of the secondary hull as you want it to.
This is a relatively simple fix, but requires some patience and concentration. First, I recommend removing the front tab from the secondary hull. Leave the two tabs on the plate that are near the back. Then, using tweezers, dip the cover plate in boiling hot water for a few seconds to get it pliable. Have your tap running cold water while you do this. When the part is easy to bend, take it out and use the back tabs to get it to the proper curve against the secondary hull. Use those grid lines to help you line up the part. The leading edge will PROBABLY still not line up but don’t worry about that yet. When the back edges line up with the curve of the hull, and most of the panel lines look even across the parts, plunge the model under running cold water while holding those two parts in place. This will firm up the resin and “fix” the part in the correct curve. From here on out, it’s just a simple matter of sanding, filling with putty, and rescribing any lines you may lose during the assembly process.
So enough of all that. Let’s talk about THOSE DECALS THO!
Starcrafts has been more than flirting with the idea of “wallpaper decals” since the idea of mainstream kits with full panel decals was introduced with Round2 a few years ago. Starcrafts got on board with the trend when they released their D’kyr class vulcan ringship, and then with the Ares class model. Since then, they have gone back and released wallpaper decals for a NUMBER of their ships, including the Titan, the Akira, the Norway, and all of the JJ-prise era ships such as the Kelvin, the JJPrise herself, etc. Even the little Klingon D-4 got the wallpaper treatment. I was happy to see the Excelsior get a set of extensive aztec panel decals, and the set I was provided includes all the wallpaper decals you would need to build either the NX-2000 or the NCC-2000 versions.
As you can see, these are a far cry from my home-brew aztecs I made for my original Excelsior so many years ago. The level of detail and subtle color variation in these is incredible. I’ve tested some of these already with NCC decals I won’t be using, and the decal film is a nice moderate thickness that seems to lay down extremely well.
All in all, I give this a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’d give it 5 out of 5 if it wasn’t for that darned lower plate, but holy cow, those decals really make this kit something special. I’m going to have a ton of fun revisiting this model and building it new and clean.