Writing about my new Polar Lights 32-inch Enterprise model reminded me of an on-going debate in Enterprise circles.
Should the primary hull have radiating lines on the top and bottom? The Enterprise is usually depicted with these grid lines, meant to represent the plates used in the ship’s construction, but the original models — both the three- and the 11-foot versions — had none.
Take a look at these early publicity shots with the three-foot model. No grid of lines.
Similarly, no lines were visible when the 11-foot model was first delivered or in this early production photo.
However, the hero model now on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum certainly has lines on her primary hull.
And screen-accurate replicas from both Master Replicas and Polar Lights include these, as on my new model.
These lines were added to the 11-foot model some time after its construction, according to the guy who built the three-foot version and supervised the construction of the hero ship.
That model maker was Richard C. Datin. His son, N. Datin McDonald, includes many of his father’s notes and recollections in his book The Enterprise NCC 1701 and the Model Maker. From that book, about the 11-foot Enterprise:
There was a discussion prior to the April 1996 remodel about the aging and the grid lines, and somewhere along the way the Enterprise did take on a weathered look, together with an indication that the surface of the ship’s primary hull was composed of panels as represented by faint lines drawn on the hull when my father delivered it. He seems to think it was accomplished by the art department personnel prior to the “Tribbles” episode. “It never showed any weathering whenever I repaired it or remodeled it, and the grid lines did not appear on the original Matt Jefferies drawings, but they do appear on subsequent ‘original’ drawings that have been published in the past.”
Later in the book, Datin is quoted again:
“The original model was smooth and didn’t show any lines or marks except for the lettering and numbers. The Smithsonian had scribed lines to indicate panels, changing the character of the whole model.”
Discussing both models, Datin also said:
“The painted surface of the models, as delivered for both pilots and the first and second seasons, was as plain and dull as requested… For the third season, the Enterprise took on an aura of age, an effect created by a studio artist. And at some point near the end of its run, someone rendered the grid to simulate a paneled surface.”
Modern model companies have taken the later weathered look with the grid lines to be the “real” appearance of the ship, and that position is as valid as any other. Or you can take the look Datin created as authoritative, considering he built the models for Matt Jefferies. Either is just as “real” — and we see both on screen.
I’ll give Datin the last word on this, and then you can decide for yourself:
“To describe the current appearance of the ship as ‘original’ is inappropriate. Perhaps ‘original’ to convey that the basic design stems from the original series, but not original in the sense this is how it appeared when the series began in 1966.”