1978 – The Colonial Viper

Called the “Starhound” in the novelizations, but always the “Viper” on screen, the Colonial Viper was the most advanced fighter craft ever built by man. It was a nimble, effective fighter in space or in a planet’s atmosphere.

The Viper underwent numerous changes from its original concept to its final design.  Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept was so different from the final Viper that it was reused as the “Thunder Fighter”, the Earth Directorate Starfighter used in Glen Larson’s other space series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  The basic Viper design was represented both in Ralph McQuarrie artwork and concurrent paintings by Frank Frazetta.

Two versions of the full scale Viper mockup were built for filming.  The first, was the full scale complete version used for showing launch crews working around the fighter.  The second contained only the cockpit and upper details of the fighter.  This allowed two actors to be concurrently filmed without requiring two full scale fighters to be built.  The full scale mockup, built primarily of plywood, was built on operational wheels that allowed it to be rolled from one location to another with relative ease.  When it had to be taken over obstacles, it was lifted with a crane and set in place.

Full-Scale Viper Mockup (images hosted with permission by Phil Broad)

Surprisingly, the smallest and least detailed spaceship in the entire series was the one most often on the screen.  The Viper model was small (as evidenced by the foam the model is resting on).

Viper Studio Filming Model

Inspired by the studio models, CG artists are creating top quality computer generated versions of the Viper like the example below by artist Mike McAdams.

Mike McAdams CG Viper Comparison