By Michael J. Dentzer - images & text © 2000
I've wanted a model of the USS Discovery from the film 2001:A Space Odyssey even before I saw the film, when I read A.C. Clarke's novelization way back in the early seventies, and there were a few photos of the ship from the movie tucked into the middle pages.
Image: From the backside
Image: The bottom of the pressure sphere has a few surface flaws
Image: EVA pod
Image: The three spine pieces
Image: Antenna mount, front
Image: Antenna mount, rear
Image: Antenna dishes
^ Fuel pod parts
Image: Detail view
Image: Detailing on the reactor module
Image: Another view
Thirty years later, I discovered the Internet, and more specifically Starship Modeler and other sites devoted to Science Fiction modeling. Through them I found an array of model companies that sold non-mainstream kits, including models of the Discovery. Now the question was, "Which one do I get?" The first one I came across, and the one I eventually purchased, was the offering from Lunar Models. A first, the price tag of $125 seemed a bit too steep, and I had no idea what a "resin" kit was. So I waited and looked around at two others I became aware of. The one from Planet X looked good at first, but after reading a couple of reviews on it I decided to pass. Then there is the version by Comet Miniatures, which after reading Pat Sklenar's preview on this site I knew I would pass on also. So I was left with the only other kit currently available, and from several reviews and buildups I've seen, the one from Lunar was the way to go. So, I finally bit the bullet and ordered one through Modeler's Vault, which sold them at a lower price, a "mere" $106. (it's no longer available at that price - now it's $127). They immediately emailed a confirmation of my order and said it would be shipped in 2 - 4 weeks. Four weeks later, it arrived. Excellent service, MV!THE PARTS: GENERAL OVERVIEW
Lunar Models USS Discovery is a mixed bag of parts that run the resin gamut of horrible to excellent. The kit comes in a sturdy clamshell cardboard box. Inside, the main parts were all individually bubble-wrapped, and the smaller parts contained in zip-lock bags, and man, what a lot of parts! - 90 in all. Most of the major parts thankfully fall into the categories of the fair to excellent range, and only a few will have to be either completely reworked or discarded altogether. I'll begin with......THE GOOD......
Actually I should say the EXCELLENT..... is the reactor module. This is an exquisitely cast hunk of creamy white resin with not a bubble or pit anywhere! And the seams? What seams? Well, they are detectible, but just barely, with a tiny bit of flash. The joint where the cast parts come together is perfectly aligned, and only a couple of minutes of filing and sanding is necessary to clean them up and make them disappear. The detail is outstanding, and there's plenty of it. All the panel lines, raised panels and piping is crisp and sharp. Very well executed.
Also in the excellent range are the 62 fuel pods that run the length of the connecting spine. All are as finely cast and detailed as the reactor module, with not a dud in the lot. The only areas that will need cleanup are the undersides where they'll connect to the spine, but even that will be just a matter of a few passes of the file.
Rounding out the good range are:
Had the rest of the parts been produced with the above standards, this kit would be worth every penny, and maybe twice as much, but sadly, this is not the case.
The three hexagonal cone-shaped engines are not as sharply detailed or well cast, and suffer from visible seams, bubbles and pitting, and will need quite a bit of work to bring them up to the standards set by the above already mentioned parts. The exhaust ports will also need some proper bell nozzles, as what are present are small, thin rings. They are, however, workable and generally accurate.
The antennae mount suffers from a rather bad seam on the base, and will need replacing. The upper section is OK, with some flash to clean up, but the arm mounts for the two smaller dishes are missing detail on the ends and will require a bit of surgery, as will the small dishes themselves. While these are fine in the main part, the central rods are off center and crooked. But removing them won't be a problem as they're not supposed to be there. The film model has these represented as having disk-shaped receivers mounted at the center of small crossbars that span and quarter the diameter of the dishes.
The pressure sphere seems to be from an older casting, and it is showing its age. Though properly detailed, the detail is soft, and the surface suffers from orange peal and minor pitting, and will require a bit of filler and sanding, and some defining work on some of the panel lines and similar areas. It's also not spherical, but slightly oval in shape, and will need to be softened in hot water to get it into proper form. The good news is that it is hollow cast, so it can be lighted, and the center pod door is cast in a way that it can be easily removed to allow view of the pod, and pod bay, if you want to build one. Overall, what detail is there is nice and seems reasonably accurate, though soft.
The instruction sheets could also be improved. They include two sheets, one of general instruction for working with resin, and the second a two-sided sheet of 8 assembly steps with rudimentary diagrams. Better illustrations on the fuel pod assembly would be helpful in arranging of the four sizes of the pod sections.THE UGLY......
This category is occupied by the central spine connecting assembly. A truly horrible mess that just validates my intention to rebuild the whole assembly from scratch. Aside from the huge gaps, misaligned seams, and poor detail, the thin brass rod and tubing that they're cast around would not be adequate to support the heavy reactor and command modules at either end without bowing, as is somewhat evident in all the buildups I've seen, including the photo on the kit's boxtop. So this will be replaced by a single 1cm thick iron rod and styrene detailing pieces.
The stand. There is no stand. Although the insructions show a suggestion, you'll have to build your own.
THE BOTTOM LINE......
So do I think this kit was worth the $106? Yes, but only barely. Until a better version comes along, this is the best that's out there. While the majority of the parts are exceptional, there is no reason why the problems with the less than above average parts should be there at all. I'll probably feel differently after I've built it and fixed everything, and if I had it to buy over again seeing it firsthand for what it is, yes, I would. Besides, I like a challenge!LINKS
This page copyright © 2000 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 20 October 2000.