Sunday, April 01, 2007

USS Intrepid, and a little about Chris Claremont

If you had wondered over the past several weeks why posting here had been kind of light, here's one reason: I had finally gotten around to building one of my pet projects.

As you may remember from previous posts, I build model kits. Most of these are Star Trek kits, with a few Batmobiles thrown in just to keep things interesting. Because many of these kits are not entirely accurate, a pretty healthy aftermarket of corrective parts and decals now exists.

One of the most notoriously inaccurate kits is the AMT/Ertl version of the refit Enterprise from the Kirk movies. The kit aims to reproduce a mosaic pattern seen on the hull at certain angles and under certain lighting conditions. On the filming model, this effect was produced through subtle variations in the paint scheme. However, in the most common version of the model kit, a random -- and, needless to say, inaccurate -- pattern was cut into the plastic parts. (Good luck finding the original version, now called the "smoothie.") To obliterate this pattern takes (at least for me) a full tube of modeling putty, some sandpaper, and a lot of elbow grease. There are other problems with this kit, but that's the biggest.

Still, the model was used for reference by any number of Star Trek comics artists. This two-page spread from the hardcover Star Trek: Debt of Honor gives you an idea of the random pattern. (Please excuse my horrific scanner skills.)

Of course, it's also possible to just say you're not buliding the Enterprise, which is what I did with her sister ship Intrepid.

The original Constitution-class Intrepid was destroyed (offscreen) in "The Immunity Syndrome," but its successor appeared in the Diane Duane novel My Enemy, My Ally. There it was supposed to be a more advanced version of the Constitution class, which I took to mean that it was similar to the refit Enterprise of the movies. Its registry number, NCC-1730, comes from the venerable Star Fleet Technical Manual listing for the second Intrepid, and its paint scheme is meant to suggest an intermediate step between the grays of the Original Series and the cooler colors of the Motion Picture era.

There's also a travel pod:

I know I'm not the best modeler around, and up close you can see some pretty obvious flaws in construction and painting, but I'm pretty proud of the effort anyway. Aftermarket parts include a new bridge, phaser bumps (including two on the secondary hull above the shuttlebay), nacelle caps, photon torpedo tubes, navigational deflector, and the travel pod. The name and registry number decals were custom-ordered, and the other decals are all aftermarket. The kit came from eBay, and the parts and decals from Federation Models.

So what does this have to do with fan fiction? Well, take a closer look at that spread from Debt of Honor -- which, I don't mind pointing out, abbreviates to DOH. As you can see, it is a fine-looking book, and clearly a labor of love for all involved. However, it is written by Chris Claremont, who you may have heard can be a little verbose. These two pages give you an idea of how Claremont tries to ingratiate himself with fellow fans.

Here, his throwaway character (who may well be an in-joke; I don't know) has two purposes: to bring any newbies up to speed on the illustrious history of the Enterprise name, and to remind all the readers that every right-thinking person in Starfleet lurves the Enterprise unconditionally. Those goals aren't so bad, but getting them across through the yardmaster's Dear Diary-esque dictation is a little too precious. Not only does it make you wonder about the yardmaster's personal life, it tells you that Claremont has put a lot of thought into the role of memoranda in the 23rd Century. See, even the most boring paperwork (or whatever it would be called) can facilitate florid, romantic prose! The combination strikes me as a classic fanfiction-style device: go deep enough into the minutiae of the subject to let the reader know that you know how the tiniest things work; and infuse those minutiae with the passion you feel as a fan. I definitely don't mean to knock all of fanfic by implication, but this seemed pretty over-the-top.

Someday I'll have to do a full post on Debt of Honor, because most of it's a pretty fun read. Until then, enjoy Intrepid!


RAB said...

Wait, is that Claremont thing for real? Or have I been taken in by an April Fool's joke?

Because if that's real, I'd find myself wondering if Claremont even knew what a comic book was, let alone writing truckloads of them before this.

On the other hand, if it's a Claremont parody ever!

Tom Bondurant said...

Oh, it's real ... and it's spectacular. Not even on a month of April Fool's Days could I make it up.

Like I say, the Debt of Honor post is forthcoming.

RAB said...

I realized the book itself must actually exist -- what flummoxed me was the idea that those word balloons were authentic. So many of them...and so full...

In fact, I got so distracted by that, I failed to mention how cool the photos are. Trek-themed model kits were a big part of my childhood, and even though it's been years since I've built one (I still have an unassembled U.S.S. Voyager kit given to me by my girlfriend when the show was still on the air) I tend to "ooh" and "aah" over other people's models when I see them. So this was a treat. Envision me going "ooh" and "aah" at whatever intervals you think appropriate.

Tom Bondurant said...

Thanks for the kind words! If you ever want to build that Voyager kit, there are plenty of resources online; and if you want something a little more simple, look for the Polar Lights NCC-1701 kit, which is about $10-15 apiece. (Considering what the older kits go for on eBay, that's a bargain!) I've built three of 'em so far (Enterprise, Lexington, and Yorktown), and they all turned out fairly well.