It’s not the sort of anniversary that a lot of people would notice or care about, and even within the vast Star Trek fandom it’s likely something only a segment of people would even recognize let alone take time to observe. However, for that special subset of fans for whom models in general and Star Trek models in particular are something they enjoy? Yeah, 2022 is something of a milestone, all right.
I guess I’m one of those people, at least to a degree.
While I can under no circumstances call myself a particularly skilled or accomplished model hobbyist, I’ve assembled my share of models. Most of these efforts were undertaken during my youth, of course, but I’ve also gone through phases as an adult where the challenge of building a model enticed me to spend more than a few late nights tinkering with this or that. As a kid in the mid to late 1970s, I built things like the Batmobile, the Eagle transport from Space: 1999, figure models from The Six Million Dollar Man or Planet of the Apes, Star Wars X-wings and TIE fighters, and — yes — several Star Trek models.
Particular favorites from the final frontier included the “Exploration Set,” the Enterprise bridge diorama, and the Spock (with snakes) model. Though I never successfully completed the latter, I did build the version of that kit retooled to tie into the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the three-headed snake removed and Spock’s uniform now made to resemble his ensemble from the film rather than the original TV series. Yeah, it didn’t really hit home the way the original version did.
And, of course, there was the Enterprise itself.
As a kid, I can remember building the bridge model twice. Same with the Exploration Set (both sets became casualties of playing outside…damn those things were fragile), but the Enterprise? Probably a half-dozen times, and then a couple more later on.
That Enterprise model was created by a Michigan-based company, Aluminum Model Toys or “AMT.” It was created and first released in June of 1967, just a couple of months after the last new episode of Star Trek‘s first season aired on NBC. It’s been around pretty much since then. As years passed, AMT’s Star Trek line expanded beyond the original series to include models from the feature films and spin-off television series. Along the way, the Enterprise model was released and re-released who-really-knows-for-sure how many times over. It was even updated (addressing some long-standing structural and accuracy issues) and released to pretty decent fanfare in 2016 as part of commemorating the original TV series’ 50th anniversary, and was re-issued yet again just last year in time to celebrate the original series’ 55th birthday.
And now, 2022 marks the model’s own version of that latter milestone.
Author and one-time NASA chief historian Glen E. Swanson wrote a wonderful article about the original AMT Enterprise model for a 2021 issue of Michigan History magazine. I heard about the magazine and Mr. Swanson’s article through the Facebook/Star Trek grapevine and it was enough for me to purchase a physical copy from the MH website.
To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the model as well as AMT’s enduring connection to Star Trek, Mr. Swanson penned a series of new essays, drawing inspiration from his original article. In addition hosting these on a site he maintains, Liftoffworks.com, the essays are also being shared on the CultTVman, the absolutely off-the-charts awesome website devoted to all things science fiction and monster models. Seriously, if you are at all interested in this topic, you need to bookmark this site. The sheer width and breadth of essays, build walk-throughs, reviews, and other information about models old and new is – in my mind, at least – unmatched. Plus, I don’t mind saying they’ve managed to separate me from more than a bit of my money over the years. You can read all of Mr. Swanson’s Enterprise essays by following this link:
Like a lot of people, building this particular model fired my imagination as a young kid. It fueled an interest in the original series that went beyond just watching those reruns every day after school. Having my very own Enterprise — along with those super groovy Mego action figures — drove me to create my own adventures for Kirk and the gang. It’s not at all a stretch for me to draw a line from those childhood imaginings to the Star Trek stories I now get to write as an adult.
I don’t know about anyone else, but reading all this stuff and seeing the pictures of different people building and enjoying their models makes me want to break out the tools, glue, and paints and see what sort of trouble I can cause.