Klingon D-7 Battlecruiser Color Theory 101

Posted: February 6, 2009

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By E. James Small.

Many people have been confused about the color scheme of the Klingon Battlecruiser. The new release from Round 2 gives the perfect opportunity to explain as best I can why the models you have seen in various locations are shown as they are.

The history of the color scheme of the ship is actually quite interesting. One first has to understand why certain people think it looks as it does, and what the original studio model looked like and why. If you watch the show, the ship appears to be grey on screen. In fact, the model built and filmed was never really just grey. It was actually a striking purple-blue and light green. The ship was never weathered when filmed either!

Here is the story, as I understand it.

There were two models of the ship built by the original AMT (which stands for Aluminum Metal Toys), the company that also produced the original kit back in the 1960's. By no coincidence, AMT was selling the Enterprise kit at the time and wanted to produce an adversary kit to go with it. They decided on a Klingon ship which had not yet made an on-screen appearance. They collaborated with Matt Jefferies to design the ship. AMT then hand made two models based on the design. Both of them were exactly twice the size of the original AMT produced consumer kit. Gene Roddenberry reportedly chose the colors himself.

The first of these original models was given to the production crew to film for scenes showing the new vessel on the show. That's the one you see on screen in the original series. The second one was kept by AMT and pantographed for the plastic kit to be sold in the hobby market. That's why, today, this kit remains one of the most accurate sci-fi kits ever produced. However, for some reason unknown, the copy AMT kept had slightly different detailing on the side panels at the very back of the warp engines. Other than that, the two models were essentially identical, even the paint job. But for the kit, they added two small pipes on each side of the neck base that was not seen on either of the two originals. Another thing that most people don't know is that the "grilles" on the leading edges of the wings were not included on the original model. AMT added them to their kit. That area is actually supposed to be recessed but left blank, devoid of the “grid” detail.

Years later, the second AMT copy was given to Roddenberry who kept it for many years. Recently, it was auctioned off. When last seen in public a few years ago, it retained its original paint job.

The original filming model went into storage for a while before being re-painted. The paint work was changed somewhat. There are some pictures floating around the Internet of that model with the incorrect paint work, although it is somewhat close to the original. Later, the ship surfaced again and was repainted an overall grey, which is how it remains today. The grey color is technically incorrect, but many people still think of it that way.

So, because of this, Round 2 and I collaborated to decide what colors to paint their buildup of their 1/1000 scale version of the D-7 to be sure people would recognize it, regardless of how it was perceived. We felt that if it were painted correctly, as per the original, too many people would think we were nuts with such wacko colors! If it were painted grey, those who DO know the correct color scheme would argue that we didn't know what we were talking about and wonder why the instructions would tell you to paint it those crazy purple and green colors! We came up with a compromise, which was to paint it using the original colors but subdue them heavily. Our approach was to paint the ship a more overall grey while maintaining a hint of original purple and green. That way, everyone should be able to relate to it. I also weathered it to make the model more appealing, even though the originals were not weathered. Given that the model is relatively featureless by today’s standards, we figured we should weather it to give it more interest and appeal. I used a combination of various Tamiya acrylics to paint the model.

I recommend Tamiya Acrylics to paint models when you’re not sure about colors. The reason is if you screw up the paint job you can wash all the paint off with alcohol (Methyl Hydrate or Rubbing Alcohol) even when it's dry. This also makes Tamiya Acrylics a great choice for the novice modeler. Alcohol can also be used to thin the paints too, if you airbrush it on. Also, if you use these paints you do not need to prime the model.

Shown are pictures of the Klingon D-7 Battlecruiser snap kit as built for the box artwork, as well as some pictures of the original AMT 1960’s kit painted to look like the original filming model (click each photo to view a larger image).

Have fun painting your model! This very accurate representation of the original great Klingon Battlecruiser will look great no matter which color scheme you choose!


E. James Small
Excellence In Model Building

All photography by E. James Small

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