REVIEW: BLAKES 7 LIBERATOR from SFMuk Admin's blog

Introduction


The Liberator model was the hardest model kit I've ever gone out to find. Even on Ebay they're rarer than a steak with a heartbeat but they do appear every so often, usually half-assembled by a sweating monkey with the crudest of tools imaginable. This one was lurking in the basement of Comet Miniatures in London, the actual home of the kit where the man who handed it over to me was the very same one who was responsible for bringing this to us modellers, via the cost of a couple of houses that he apparently enjoys moaning about a very great deal.


The Model


This ship was designed in the innocent days of 1977 long before the painstaking nit-picking of Star Trek or people who try and fit the interior of the Millennium Falcon into the exterior. With this spacecraft even utterly basic details like the length of the ship are still wide open to debate.



The model has the historic distinction of being the first ever to have been modelled by computer controlled tooling and comes with photo-etched brass details so was quite ahead of its time. The kit is quite well thought out and has lots of symmetry to keep things nice and simple for moulding. Two main sprue-trees make up the main hull, base and stand and will leave you with a lot of spares because they've simply made two of everything.




The neutron blaster pods come on one of three sprues that also have the pylons and a host of tiny details. The basic repetition apparently helped to keep down the costs; not that you get that impression from the people who built it. They appear to hate the very sight of the thing after it lost them lots of money and caused a fair few problems with BBC licensing.


The three neutron cannon pods all have very sharp details and each has a connecting base to attach to the main hull. To my eye that looks a little over-done with huge amounts of raised random details but looks to be accurate to the studio model depending on the episode you watch.




The mould quality is excellent with no flash anywhere and surprisingly sharp details but then the tools didn't have time to deteriorate in the production run of only 5000 units. The world was smaller back then! There are a few areas where the plastic has dipped and slightly deformed the detail which is a bit of a shame as the overall quality is so good. You wouldn't be able to easily repair these parts due to the raised details that you'd lose if you filled them. The worst offender is the stand and that's just an optional extra anyway and I'd replace it with something more sturdy and attractive.




This was an early production kit supplied with later decals. The late decal sheet had lots of added details but it's a pet hate of mine to supply physical details with flat decals as the result is never as good as moulded parts. In this case it's explained quite reasonably by the fact that the studio model was made from a drain-pipe with stickers on for the effect of panelling. Knowing the budget of the BBC special effects department there is still some debate as to whether the drain pipe had actually been used prior to being the ship. What details there are on the model are excellent. The plastic has a slightly fuzzy texture on the outer surface and I assume this was intentional as it isn't repeated on the inner edges. There are tiny indented lines recessed around the hull and they're quite crisp. I'd like to have seen them edged in deeper as a good coat of primer is going to make them very hard to follow with a brush but you really can't describe them as soft. The depth appears to fit the scale of the ship quite well.


The model also comes with a set of photo-etched brass parts that are absolutely brilliant. The collector spikes are tiny needles and would probably need to be replaced with Evergreen rod so you can actually see them on the finished model. The other parts that make up the minor detailing for the spikes and connecting pylons are all very sharp if a little small and delicate to work with. The best part is the solar panels that go round the neck, each of those is a rectangular panel with perfect details. They even give you a spare one with a hole in it so you have a choice of displaying the model on a stand.




The instructions are very well put together but a little small and crowded. The front cover has a lot of advice about the basics, which you should already know if you're even thinking of attempting one of these. It has a nice little introduction about the back-story of the ship and a brief history of the shooting miniature. It explains how they obtained the EMA tubes that the studio model was built from to get the dimensions right. The scale is given as 1:5 but that is compared to the studio model and admits that the scale of the ship is largely unknown.


Inside is a double A4 sheet with three diagrams, one for the main hull, one for the pods and a final painting and decal guide. A lot of advice is given to help you out and the drawings are quite straight forward, anyone who has successfully tackled flat-pack furniture will have no problem and if you've dealt with an AMT snap kit then this will be simple enough.




The biggest problem with this kit is the power source at the rear. What should be a glowing green sphere is moulded straight in with the white styrene. They advise you to paint the ball green and then apply white decal stripes to get the effect. I imagine that would look appalling and would Dremel that out and find an appropriate sphere to put beneath it. Anything but following the instructions should work. The only other snag is that a lot of the parts have to fit a set distance from one another but have no guide for placement. Getting this absolutely right would take a little planning.


On Ebay these kits can command a high price but there are still a few out there and they can usually be got cheaper than an ERTL Enterprise E which is a pile of rubbish in comparison! For my money you get a realistic attempt at designing a believable space vessel realised in styrene by a team that had an impressive eye for detail. Apart from the sphere I can't see any serious drawbacks and nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of patience.


As to what scale the model is; while forking over a heap of cash to the man who built this kit in the first place I asked him. When he was mastering the model he was told that a Millispacial is 150. Depending on whom you talk to that could mean metres or feet but most likely feet as they were used repeatedly in the series and the metric system was largely ignored. Taking parts of the kit and knowing the ship was 750 units long and the finished model is about 200mm then in metres the ship is in 1:3713 scale, pretty close to the Romulan Warbird from the AMT Adversary set. If it's in feet then it's approximately 1:1114 which is a bit more believable for a ship with one deck and a crew of 6 plus a middle-class English computer with an annoying voice.


Conclusions


Altogether, I really like this kit. It's been made at a considerable loss to the manufacturer but they don't really care because they love the ship and will happily tell you so. What more can you ask? A clear power sphere perhaps and more moulded details? A complete reissue would be even better.


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By SFMuk Admin
Added Nov 22 '13

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