From the first time I saw it, the Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica has remained a highlight of design to me and is possibly my second favourite space craft of all time. There is very little I can add in words that can't be felt just by viewing the craft itself. It's just a masterpiece.

The bulk of the design credit goes to Ralph MaQuarrie, the production illustrator for many films.

In fact his initial Viper concepts ended up becoming the Thunder Fighter for the Buck Rogers series following Galactica. (Another great but rare Revell model that I will never own and a possible future scratchbuilding project).

The Viper, as most of Galactica's models, were designed, crafted and built by many of the same people that worked on the first Star Wars film with John Dykstra heading production and fx and Grant McCune, as on Star Wars, being head of the model shop.

Utilising what they had learned from the former, and with a much greater freedom (now that Dykstra had producing power) and without studio interference, and being allowed to design the shots themselves, the Galactica fx crew let rip and created some of the most astounding dogfight and ariel sequences ever committed to film.

Laser bolts would now explode at a certain range rather than just veering off into infinity if they missed their target, fighters would take off from launch tubes at mach berzillion and engage the enemy, and instead of just a light show, when a Viper hit thrusters, it roared out a plumage of jet streak the size of a dragons breath.

I'm not saying their work was flawless by any means, but it was fresh and exciting. Personally, I think it was the best team ever brought together for a project and I find it a little elegiac that this crew would go their separate ways after their work was completed on this project, especially after all they had accomplished together. The majority would return to Lucasfilm and become ILM, the second group would remain at the same facility and from MCA-57 renamed themselves as Apogee, and a third group became Universal Heartland and took over Galactica's effects and went on to work on pretty much every tv series that came after.

Revell released the kit sometime in 1978. Needless to say, I never found one to have. But I always dreamed about it.

In 1997 the kit was re-issued and finally sometime between there and now, I could make it happen. After two decades of dreaming about it, the news was good. I was not disappointed. Coming in at about 1/32 scale, it's absolutely gorgeous and can find nothing much to criticise about the detailing and replication.

The kit consists of 19 pieces and sizes up at 11" long. The detailing is great with enough stuff happening on the surface to keep any hardware loving fighter fan delighted. More importantly, the detailing is very believable, looking like panes of sheet metal, rather than say the gappier constructs that appear on an X-Wing kits detailing from the same period. In some respects, I notice a lot of techniques on this model that exist later on in the starship pantheon on another vehicle, Empires Snow-Speeder. Both kits have triangular bolt details, and the snowspeeder does bare a very slight resemblance to the Thunder fighter, and all three have a better engineering structure. Through this, you can acknowledge an evolution in the model makers ideas, and even the ones that would not work on the Star Wars sequel clearly still had an influence on the final look of the ships from that period.

One thing to note. The original release of this model included a missile that fit in the nose (which is why there is a hole in there) and you would attach it to a rubber band and fire it out. Due to modern child safety laws, the missile is no longer included (or the rubber band either).

The instruction sheet is clear and easy to follow and the decal sheet is okay, but due to the nature of the markings and the style the decals have been cut, they may tend to come off with handling of the model so I would recommend a good sealer.

Sadly, it ain't totally perfect and I do have two gripes which are:-

No landing gear, but there is a suitable display stand included, not your standard type, but an odd crustacean looking tripod that is very nice and secure. I'm sure it is based on some colonial symbol but I don't recognise it.

But, My one BIG complaint though is the cockpit. There is none, no pilot and therefore the canopy is encased for decal applications of black slides for the glass.

This will not do...

I decided to open up my canopy. Rather than attempt to build a new one, I used the kits canopy and decided to drill around the glass, and then cut it out with an exacto blade. If you try this, be very careful, if you screw it up, it's not like you can just go to the shop and buy another one sadly...
I did have one mishap, the strain and pressure from cutting snapped the left hand brace of my canopy. I used a toothpick to make a new brace. Hey, it worked...

Pilots are hard to come by. What I ended up finding are standard military figure kits (they range from 1/32-1/35 scale), but suit the model fine. I reworked the figure with Miliput to make the helmet and it looked okay. I didn't build a control panel or any frontal compartments, all I built was a standard chair out of cardboard and put the pilot in, and it worked out.

Painting is up to you how far you want to go. Like all those late 70's ships, the Viper has some cool colour co-ordination. The initial prototype model had blue markings. The pilot episode refers to both -Blue Squadron- and -Silver Spar Squadron-. But we are never treated to anything different visually. Therefore, overall colour is white. The markings are orange which seems crazy but it works and looks really cool against the white. Then the trim and engines are a dark grey.

Note on Lighting:

Although I did not add lighting, some people may choose to. On the whole, and in flight, the only lighting from the Viper comes from the engines. But, the Viper has more lights when it's landing gear is down.

There are two lights visible in the front leg cutout, one on either side of eachother, and as a curiosity, I noticed that it also has a light on the lower part of its tail fin, just above the cockpit. I have never noticed this on the miniatures, but it appears on the full scale prop used on the series, especially the sequence in the pilot episode where Starbuck emerges from his emergency landing right after the first big battle. But I darn't attempt any of this on my model, as it's the only one I have and such limitations make me fearful to experiment, and I'd rather make separate editions, one in flight, one with landing gear, one with holes and dents and severe battle damage and so on.

I really love this kit. I'd love to be able to obtain a couple more. I think its such a pity that they have to remain out of production every twenty years until another Star Wars anniversary induces manufacturers to re-release Space: 1999, Trek and Galactica kits et-al. But with the new series going strong and Revell set to release their own editions of the classic Star Wars trilogy kits this September, maybe, just maybe we could be in for a treat and some re-releases may just come closer than you think. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for looking.

Note: Viper paintings scanned from the Futura book Battlestar Galactica by Glen A Larson and Robert Thurston.

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Added Dec 20 '13



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