As featured in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Federation starship USS Reliant was the vessel commandeered by the despotic Khan Noonien Singh, a late 20th century superhuman product of genetic engineering. Khan first appeared in an episode of the original Star Trek TV series, “Space Seed,” where he and his crew were discovered in cryogenic stasis while drifting through space aboard the SS Botany Bay. Revived by USS Enterprise’s crew, Khan and his followers were permanently exiled on a remote planet by Captain James T. Kirk after a failed attempt to seize Enterprise.
As with most twice-deposed despots, Khan had quite the axe to grind with Kirk. The Wrath of Khan follows the titular character as he seizes upon the opportunity to avenge his exile and reign havoc on the Federation with the newly-created Genesis Device. A favorite of many Trek fans, Wrath of Khan was a throwback to the classic TV series, and it is punctuated with eye-popping special effects, many featuring the hot-rod Miranda-class starship Reliant.
One of the eye-popping features on the big-screen Federation starships was the “Aztec” paint patterns on the exterior surfaces. These schemes provided a subtle, yet captivating, sense of visual interest absent on ships in the original TV series.
Polar Lights ups the ante for its brilliant 1/1000 scale USS Reliant kit with this set of superb aftermarket Aztec decals. The set provides two large sheets of exquisitely printed decals. The sheets also include alternate hull markings for six other Federation starships: Lantree, Saratoga, Brattain, Tian An Men, Majestic, and Nautilus. Based on our count during the application process, there are approximately 85 individual Aztec pattern decals.
Although Aztec decals were included in Polar Lights’ standard 1/1000 scale Enterprise Refit kit they depart from this strategy with the Reliant kit, offering the Aztecs as a separate product.
I was a bit miffed at this prospect at first thought, but it started to make sense to me after a bit of consideration. Understandably, many of Enterprise’s 160+ Aztec decals included in the kit probably never got applied, representing wasted cost to Polar Lights. Additionally, the Trek-modeling aftermarket universe offers alternate hull markings for released kits, and Aztec decals do sell as separate items for other Round 2 releases.
Moral dilemma resolved, Camden (my nine-year-old conscript providing cheap, indigenous labor for this build) and I were all-in for applying Reliant’s Aztec decal set. Camden is a veteran when it comes to applying Aztec decals, having previously applied roughly 75 similar decals on the Enterprise-E he built when he was eight.
Once Camden completed the assembly of the model, we took our cue from some information on the Polar Lights website and the Enterprise Refit kit’s instructions, and chose to paint Reliant pearlescent white in anticipation of the Aztec decal set, which were still pending release at the time of his build. The bare plastic was primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (White) then overcoated with Tamiya Pearl White—both out of the rattle can. Camden then used Tamiya, Vallejo Model Air, and Italeri acrylics to brush paint the metallic blue, black, and intermediate blue detail areas.
Once the decals arrived, Camden dove in head first and laid down the Aztecs and other markings following the sequence in the decal instructions. He employed the Microscale System to get the markings to settle down into the recessed detail and conform to some of the more pronounced raised detail. Spreading work out over about a half-dozen sessions ranging between 30 and 60 minutes each, Camden was able to apply the 85 aftermarket decals with no signs of twitching or nervous ticks…at least not yet anyway.
Once the Aztec decals were applied and fully set, about 15–20 kit decals (hull numbers, ship name, basic Federation markings, etc.) were overlaid without incident.
All said, the Aztec decals and other included markings settled down very well, although there were a few tricky spots during application. Decals 130 and 131, for the aft areas of the primary hull, were a tad long and required trimming, as did decals 140 and 14. In addition, the labels for decals 111 and 112 were transposed. Finally, the yellow markings over the thrusters on the primary hull presented a bit of a challenge to the young modeler and his coach. However, these little glitches were by no means “show stoppers.”
Conclusion and Recommendation
Thrilled at the prospect of building Reliant, Camden was not in the least disappointed with his final result. The addition of the Aztec decal set clearly placed his Reliant a notch above an out-of-the-box build with only basic decals applied. As a dad, an advanced modeler, and Trek fan, the aftermarket Aztecs are worth every cent. Yes, they cost almost as much as the kit, but I have purchased a set for my own Reliant build!
For all serious and experienced Star Trek and space/sci-fi modelers out there, this little Reliant and its Aztec decal set are both a “must have!”
Many thanks to Round 2 for the review samples and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity “to boldly go where no man has gone before” by sharing this review with you.