Thursday, March 30

AMT Polar Lights ‘Star Trek’ Galileo Shuttle Model Kit Reveals Its Innermost Self –

Star Trek Galileo Shuttle With Interior 1:32 Scale Model

Manufacturer: Round 2 / AMT Polar Lights
Price: $75
Grade: A+

More than a flying box

I will proudly admit I have a thing for shuttlecrafts and have had one ever since I first saw Star Trek’s original Galileo, probably in a rerun sometime in 1970. The shuttle’s design history is interesting: Star Trek’s art director Matt Jefferies came up with a couple of quite curvilinear, aircraft-influenced shuttle concepts that quickly proved too expensive and difficult to construct using the materials and budget available to the series. The show had also struck a lucrative deal with AMT to market a model kit of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and in exchange for the rights to produce the kit (which went on to become arguably the best-selling plastic model kit of all time), AMT agreed to build both a “full-size” Galileo set piece that actors could interact with and a miniature for the show’s visual effects sequences.

Illustration of TOS shuttle from 1975’s Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Josef

The resulting spaceship has always been an underrated design, dismissed by many as looking like a butter dish or just a box with warp engines. In fact, its design lineage is sophisticated—it was built by Gene Winfield (a famed automobile designer who made the “Piranha” custom car for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series and later many of the street vehicles in Blade Runner) based on drawings by Thomas Kellogg, who designed the beautiful 1962 Studebaker Avanti, which shares some design aspects with the Galileo. Kellogg’s original design lacked the distinctive warp nacelles (which are depicted as “boosters” in the seminal episode “The Galileo Seven” that introduced the ship) and featured a clear canopy that extended from the front to about halfway over the roof of the craft. Winfield worked with Jefferies to incorporate the nacelles and pylons which linked the shuttlecraft to the familiar design aspects of its mothership, the Enterprise.

The Galileo from TOS’ “The Galileo Seven”

The “full-size” Galileo mockup is 22 feet long, which matches Kirk’s description of a “24-foot shuttlecraft” in “The Galileo Seven.” (The Galileo wasn’t yet constructed during filming of the earlier “The Enemy Within,” which is why no one suggests they rescue Sulu and his freezing landing party with a shuttlecraft, leading to countless fan objections to this apparent oversight.)

Inside the Galileo from TOS’ “The Galileo Seven”

Winfield’s and Kellogg’s design features actually make the ship look a little bigger through the use of forced perspective—the inset roof slopes slightly downward while the sidewalls extend backward almost as stabilizing fins, giving the ship an impressive, convincingly futuristic look, especially from the rear, which is full of interesting details from opening panels and landing gear (borrowed from a real aircraft) to the distinctive, window-like impulse deck. No less a figure than Zefram Cochrane himself in “Metamorphosis” describes the Galileo as “a beauty,”—“simple and clean”—which more or less defines 1960s Trek’s design aesthetic.

Inside the Galileo from TOS’ “Metamorphosis”

AMT getting it right… five decades later

Ironically, while AMT produced both the full-size and miniature Galileos for the series, when the company put out their own model kit of the shuttlecraft in 1975, they drastically simplified the ship for a wildly inaccurate 1/25 scale model that really was more or less a butter tub with a very simple interior and the ship’s coolest elements, mainly the rear section, all but ignored—making an accurate Galileo a longtime bucket list entry for Trek modelers.

It took 35 years for that to be checked off, but Round2 released a beautiful 1/32 Galileo model in late 2020, based on extensive research by Gary Kerr. There’s abundant research to be had, as the “full size” Galileo exterior mockup used on the series has been sitting around for years in various backyards, warehouses, and parking lots, finally restored and put on display at the Houston Space Center museum for several years and now on its way for installation at James Cawley’s official Star Trek Tour exhibit in Ticonderoga, New York.

2020 AMT Polar Lights Galileo model exterior

Round2’s model kit flawlessly reproduced the sleek lines of the Galileo exterior, but a lot of fans complained about the kit lacking an interior—after all, if you have the model, the interior is very clearly visible either through the three clear front windows or the side exit door, which has an option to be built open or closed. Prior to the release of the kit, there was ample discussion about whether the model would include an interior, the issues being a) the ultimate cost of the kit and how that might affect potential sales, and b) the fact that the TV show’s interior set didn’t really match up with the exterior. While shots of actors exiting the full-size mockup clearly show them crouching to get out of the craft, the interior set has plenty of headroom for the actors to stand. Gary Kerr and others noted that for the interior set to fit inside the Galileo the shuttlecraft would need to be about 30 feet long, not 21. While this discrepancy has long created a field day for nitpickers, it was quite common for big vehicle mockups for TV shows like the Galileo, Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2, and Land of the Giants’ Spindrift to be constructed at three-quarters scale, large enough to feel convincing next to the actors but small enough to be affordable and practical for television production.

2020 AMT Polar Lights Galileo model exterior

AMT takes you inside

Kerr worked overtime to fit the Galileo interior to its exterior, even adding a hidden toilet in the rear utility chamber seen in “The Galileo Seven.” Ultimately, the 2020 version of the kit lacked the interior, but that’s been rectified now with the release of the shuttlecraft model with the interior included, as well as a separate kit with just the interior—so if you happened to buy the Galileo kit alone and haven’t gotten around to building it yet, you’re in luck.

Packaging for the new AMT Polar Lights Galileo model kit “now featuring full interior”

The complete kit includes a whopping 160 parts, including interior walls and floor that allow the whole thing to be assembled as a separate unit that can then be slid into the partially assembled exterior. (The floor even includes the little open piping bay where Scotty drains the phasers in “The Galileo Seven.”)

That’s a lot of parts for new shuttle model kit with interior

Given the fact that most people look at the Galileo as overly simple, the level of detail is very impressive and includes the little sidewall computers the crew is seen operating in the episode, all the forward instrumentation from the little throttle levers Spock operates in close-up in “The Immunity Syndrome” to the spherical scanner viewers Kirk and Spock look through to examine the approaching Companion in “Metamorphosis.”

Clear parts for instruments and computers

The rear cabin wall includes a separate sliding door piece that’s loose enough to operate by tilting the ship from side to side, and the kit includes the distinctive fuel or oxygen tanks and instruments in the rear chamber, as well as the seven bucket seats which can be pretty easily made to swivel and can be adjusted to lean forwards or backwards, necessary to fit the two forward “pilot” figures up against the control console.

It’s a toilet, Spock.

A few years ago, Round2 updated the original AMT 1/32 Enterprise bridge model to improve its pumpkin-headed figures with an idea toward supplying a future Galileo kit with the characters from “The Galileo Seven,” which included Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Yeoman Mears, scientist Boma and the doomed yellowshirts, Latimer and Gaetano. While these were definite improvements over the original bridge figures, I’m both happy and frustrated to say that Round2 decided to do a brand-new set of figures for the Galileo interior.

Heads, you win

These are greatly improved from the bridge figures and the likenesses of the actors are terrific in a way that’s not quite clear from the simply painted figures shown in the box art—an experienced figure painter could really make these look just like the actors. My quibble is with the characters shown, although they make sense from a marketing standpoint and for potential use in the Enterprise bridge set. Rather than reproducing the characters from “The Galileo Seven,” the new kit puts the whole bridge crew on the Galileo—Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura. That kind of begs the question of who’s minding the Enterprise while they’re all off on the shuttlecraft trip, but it does get the builder very nice figures of these characters. The male bodies are all the same, but each male figure has two sets of arms (resting or pointing) which allows for some variety in posing. (Unfortunately, Uhura is only capable of adjusting her communications earpiece.)

New heads with shuttle kit painted, compared to older AMT Bridge set heads

On my build, I actually swapped out Uhura’s head for the bridge kit’s Yeoman Mears, borrowed one of the male bridge heads for Latimer, and did some minor mods on Kirk and Sulu to make Boma and Gaetano to get the “Galileo Seven” characters. One really nice feature that comes with the extensive decal set is a set of Starfleet badges and rank braids for the figures, which eliminates a very fussy, microscopic painting challenge.

Swapping some heads

The decals also include artwork for the sidewall computers and forward cockpit instrumentation, although if you’re going to light the kit, you may want to wait to see if aftermarket photoetch will be made available as I doubt the decals will block any instrumentation light effectively enough. (All the instrument panels and computers are molded in clear so you could paint them black and mask or scrape the paint away to achieve instrument lighting.)

Lots of options with the decals

The one negative of this kit is the posing of whatever figures you choose to pilot the shuttle—the “pointing” arms are presumably intended to give the look of pressing control buttons but the two pilot seats are not positioned far enough forward for the figures’ hands to actually reach the instruments, which gives the effect of the characters saying “Wow, look at those instruments!”

Hey, look at those instruments everyone

It’s a bit of a quibble since the problem would not be visible looking through the forward windows or the side door, although both the exterior and interior feature removable ceilings that give a very clear look inside. Worst-case scenario, modelers could modify figures to lean forward and reach the instruments.

The interior is ready for final exterior build

The photos here actually represent an unfinished build. With the interior now completed, I’m waiting to figure out some possibilities for lighting the model before I complete it with the exterior. (The completed “Einstein” shuttle exterior shots above are of the original 2020 AMT Polar Lights Galileo kit which didn’t include the interior). But it’s going to take a few months to get the custom components I need to make my second shuttle, now with the new interior, so I thought I would share the completed interior along with my previous exterior build.

You can see the interior through the front window

Perfect project for experienced Trek modelers… and those trying to learn

In the end, this is a remarkable kit with abundant possibilities for dioramas (see the video below for an excellent example). The AMT Polar Lights Galileo Shuttle with Interior 1:32 Scale Model is priced at $75 and is available at hobby stores and online at Amazon for $71. If you want to buy just the interior, that is available for $34 directly from Round2.

While Round2/AMT has offered some Trek kits as snap-together builds, the Galileo is intended for more experienced modelers and will require model glue and tools (an X-Acto knife and/or metal clippers for cutting parts off the frame “trees,” sanding files etc.) as well as paint to complete the model. As shown, the box art includes very helpful photographs and a detailed breakdown of paint colors (the inside of the shuttle is surprisingly colorful) and decals include alternate markings to make either the Galileo, Galileo II (remember the original shuttle is destroyed at the end of “The Galileo Seven”), Columbus and Einstein.

Back of the box for new AMT Polar Lights Galileo model with interior

Great for dioramas

At 1/32 scale the Galileo kit is in scale with lots of other model kits and accessories, giving abundant possibilities for dioramas—it’s obviously in scale with the original AMT Enterprise bridge kit, and modeler Lou Dalmaso used the separate interior model to create the look of the 1966 Desilu shooting set (below) with overhead stage lighting and camera equipment around it, a brilliant idea. You could do something similar and build in-scale lighting and camera equipment around the bridge kit with the shuttle interior next to it to give an even bigger impression of the original soundstage setup.

Next up from Round 2

The next Star Trek model kit from Round 2 is a reissue of their K-7 Space Station at 1/7600 scale, measuring 15 inches wide. Due out sometime this month, the kit is priced at $36.

And not to promote other model companies, but the Galileo’s common 1/32 scale means that you can potentially position it alongside other 1/32 science fiction spacecraft and vehicle models from shows like Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. With the superbly designed “update” of the shuttlecraft seen on Strange New Worlds, I’m hoping AMT eventually gets around to a nice 1/32 scale kit of that subject as a companion piece to the Galileo.

Next up from Round 2

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