Myths and Misconceptions

As work progresses (slowly!) on my Production Enterprise, I thought I’d take some time to point out some of the more common misconceptions floating around out there about the specific detailing of the three versions of the original 11-footer. While much of the following information is contained elsewhere in my blog, this post is designed to provide a quick and easy reference source.

As has been noted before, the Starship Enterprise has inspired countless artistic interpretations–from model kits to comic book art to detailed recreations used in official STAR TREK productions. While no one of them is “wrong”, per se, those who want the ultimate in accuracy have often been detoured in their quests by erroneous observations that have been passed along over the years.

In more recent times, much new information has come out about the original Enterprise, yet some of the old myths still remain–after all, it’s difficult to fully update everyone, everywhere when some new piece of information comes out.

Again, I’d like to reiterate that anyone’s own personal interpretation of the fictional starship is fine and dandy–and should be encouraged, not nitpicked to death. My personal interest, however, is in replicating the specific details of the original model as it was during the 1960s, with a dash of idealization thrown in (in terms of that unfinished portside). That’s what we’re here for!


The 11-foot model was painted white/silver, and/or with a glossy finish. This is incorrect. From day one, the model was painted with the medium gray-green color (as identified by Richard Datin some years back)  that we’ve come to know. And it always had a matte finish (except, apparently, for the connecting dorsal–in the first pilot, it appears to have been a glossy, reflective blue color).

* The model was clean and unweathered. This has proven to be quite false– reference materials show that the model was substantially weathered, in a manner somewhat different from the final, production version.

* The nacelle domes were copper, and maybe even the same color as the sensor/deflector dish. In fact, a wide variety of references show the domes to be a dark red-brown color, distinctly different from the dish.

* The dorsal and/or “linear accerator” were hull-colored. As has been noted in detail elsewhere, these areas appear to have been a light blue-ish color–possibly a glossier, brighter, almost metallic color than the shade seen in the second pilot.

* The nacelle domes’ spikes were silver, and the sensor dish’s antenna was either copper or gold–perhaps even the same color as the dish itself. Based on the available materials, it appears that the nacelle dome spikes were gold/brass, and the sensor dish’s antenna was silver.


* The 11-foot model was painted white/silver, and/or with a glossy finish. As with the first pilot version, this is incorrect. While sections of the model appear to have been repainted for the second pilot (thus eliminating much of the weathering), the same matte, gray-green color was used, just as it was on the production version.

* The bridge dome had one illuminated “window” in front, and one red-outlined yellow rectangle on either side. While the Polar Lights model kit comes with decals to represent these “markings”, reference materials show that the “markings” appear to have been light panels just like the one on the front of the dome. The 1/350 kit from Round 2 depicts these areas as yellow markings, without the red outlines. Reference materials are scarce for this detail, and I believe that it’s still very possible that the rectangles were illuminated cutouts.

* The colors of the nacelle dome spikes changed for the second pilot from gold to silver (or vice versa). As noted, the spikes appear to have been gold/brass, and stayed that way for both pilots. In fact, most of the detailing and color scheme remained the same for both pilots. The major changes were the addition of the lighting effects, extra markings, and a few small greeblies.

* The dorsal and/or “linear accerator” were hull-colored. As in the first pilot, these areas appear to have been a light blue-ish color, although it seems to have been toned down a bit for this version, possibly just with clear matte spraypaint–or a misting of the base gray-green color–, as opposed to a full repaint.


* The model was painted white/silver/blue/green. This is a classic misconception–the color of the Enterprise has inspired countless debates! But the 11-footer was painted the same gray-green that it had been for the pilots.

* The model had no gridlines. False–the saucer had a grid pattern lightly drawn on with a pencil.

* The secondary hull and nacelles had gridlines. Not true–only the saucer had the grid. The secondary hull didn’t, although some have interpreted the faint separation lines between the wood and metal nacelle components as “gridlines”. And it should be noted that the 1991 restoration of the model added gridlines to the secondary hull and nacelles.

* The model had an “aztec” panel pattern. While some more recent iterations of the original Enterprise and/or her sister ships have featured this design element (a staple of TREK ships ever since 1979’s STAR TREK- THE MOTION PICTURE), the original featured a smooth, even gray-green paint job, with subtle weathering applied on top of it.

* Some of the windows on the model glowed amber and/or green instead of white. Several recent versions–including the Master Replicas model–feaure colored windows in some areas on the dorsal and secondary hull. This is, in fact, accurate–several windows were tinted green or amber, and even had mesh detailing placed behind them.

* The intercoolers/reactor loops on the engine nacelles were painted a medium gray, not the base hull color. This is a fairly common myth, and even the “Trials and Tribble-ations” recreation of the original model featured it. New analysis has recently revealed that the intercoolers and reactor loops were, in fact, two-toned. The ribbed, center portions of each intercooler/loop were hull-colored, while the curved edged at fore/aft were a very light gray. Also, the textured screens on the four intercoolers were hull-colored, instead of gray or black (as they are commonly assumed to be).

* There was a round, illuminated port on the bow of the upper saucer, just forward of the “rust ring”. This particular detail has proved vexing to many. New analysis from expert Gary Kerr has determined that a clear lens was indeed there on the model, presumably as an access port for the internal lighting (much like the rectangular panels that were also on the upper saucer).

However, due to some weathering streaks that were added over it, and because of poor internal light distribution, this disc appears to have been only dimly illuminated, if at all. Regardless, many modern iterations of the Enterprise (like the post-NASM 11-footer, and the “Trials and Tribble-ations” and Master Replicas models) have featured a brightly-lit disc, while others have eliminated it altogether.

* The middle window in the cluster of three portholes on the bow saucer edge was bigger than the other two. This has proven to be correct. Note that, in the second pilot, this center “window” was a blinking navigation bulb.

* The impulse engine housing featured three small “mounting” holes. While there are three holes on the restored model as it currently stands, during the series, there appear to have only been the two rectangular vents and one painted black “window” in-between them.

* The ring at the forward end of the secondary hull (surrounding the deflector dish housing/rings, and intersecting the boxy deflector “forks”) was copper colored and/or the same color as the deflector dish and rings. This appears to be the result of a simple optical illusion, and it appears on almost every modern recreation of the model. But the ring does indeed appear to have been hull-colored.

* The deflector/sensor dish and the rings behind it were both the same copper-gold color. While this was true in the two pilots, for the series, the dish appears to have been repainted a lighter color than the rings, in addition to being reduced in diameter. Or, the reprinted dish was likely left unweathered, giving it a brighter appearance than it had possessed in the pilots.

* The four rectangular vents on each nacelle pylon were a copper-ish color. This is only correct for the three-foot model, and the AMT model kit used to represent the U.S.S. Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine”.

* The leading edge of the dorsal was either gray or green. References indicate that this area was indeed a green-gray color, although, if it was blue, then the stripe was likely a remnant of the original pilot-era color scheme.

* The illuminated dome above the bridge was replaced and/or changed height during the series. In fact, the dome appears to have stayed the same height throughout the series’ run, although it did get changed during the NASM years.

* The nacelle domes glowed red, and the “fan blades” radiated from the center of each dome. It appears the the frosted outer domes were clear, with multi-colored lights (primarily orange) contained within. And the fan blades/vanes stopped just short of the center of each rotating inner dome, with a tiny screw in the center of each. The early NASM restorations added blinking on-off red domes, although the 1991 version featured a recreation of the original effect.

* The upper saucer’s running lights blinked red and green, while the lower saucer’s lights blinked white. Not entirely correct–in early first season episodes, the lower saucer lights were also red and green, but they appear to have been changed to white at some point in the mid-first season.

* The spheres on the rear end of each engine nacelle were glossy white and/or illuminated. In fact, the spheres were the same gray-green color as the rest of the hull (and not illuminated), but, due to the optical illusion created by the darker endcap sections (which separated the spheres from rest of the engines), they appear to be lighter.


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