Guest Blog: Rescuing The Enterprise-D Bridge Replica
My name is Huston Huddleston. I am the madman behind rescuing the Paramount-built Star Trek: The Next Generation U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D bridge replica from destruction, and attempting to restore it and turn it into a non-profit educational museum. This is a project by fans/for fans, and will be available to anyone who wants to visit, take photos, watch movies, make fan films, have meetings, even get married on the bridge! And admission will be free of charge, with donations given to keep the lights on. Plus, we’ll be doing fundraising for Make-A-Wish and Habitat for Humanity.
Some of the Star Trek alums who have given us support are Ronald D. Moore, Herman Zimmerman, Michael Okuda, Andrew Probert, David Gerrold, Naren Shankar, as well as Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, Garrett Wang, John de Lancie and nearly the entire Next Generation cast, including Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Denise Crosby and Wil Wheaton (minus Sir Patrick Stewart, whom we still haven’t met). We’ve also got the support of the one and only Mr. William Shatner. Other supporters include Felicia Day, Kevin Sorbo, Adrianne Curry, Kate Micucci and The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker.
We’re in the final 10 days of raising funds to make this a reality through Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com/projects/newstarship/star-trek-enterprise-bridge-restoration), and we’ve received many items from Entertainment Earth and Abrams Books. So far, we’ve raised $25,000-plus, and if we can make it to $40,000, we’ll be able to accomplish much more.
Before this took over my life, I was primarily a comedy writer who grew up in Hollywood. My late father, Floyd Huddleston, was an Oscar-nominated Disney composer, and my mother, Nancy Adams, a singer and vocal arranger for Neil Diamond and Frank Sinatra.
Roughly three years ago, I was working at a building that also contained Paramount employees. They knew I was a Trekkie/Trekker, so I’d bug them to see what they were working on. One day they said they were leaving the company and I selfishly said, “Darn, now I’ll never get to turn my living room into the bridge of the Enterprise,” and one of them said “Be careful what you wish for…”
He took me to a warehouse that had 90% of a replica Next Generation Enterprise-D bridge laying outside, with litter, bird poop and cigarette butts strewn across it. It had been out in the sun and rain for five years. Luckily, it was made mostly of fiberglas and metal, so it wasn’t completely destroyed. I looked through it, and also discovered pieces from an Original Series bridge, as well as a few LCARS computer panels I literally pulled from the dumpster. My mind raced as I tried figuring what I could do with the bridge if I got it. I’m not wealthy, and I couldn’t afford to pay for a restoration, nor a place to store it.
I later discovered ours was not the TV screen-used bridge set; it had been created for display by Paramount, under the supervision of Herman Zimmerman and Michael Okuda, after the original filming set was destroyed for the film Star Trek Generations. Ours was one of two replicas made more durably for a traveling exhibition, and thank God it was, or it certainly wouldn’t have survived sitting outside for 5 years! The ceiling to the bridge is huge, heavy and intricate, and every part was there, including the center section which, by itself, weighs half a ton and cost $50,000 to make! The entire set cost over $600,000 in 1990s prices.
Many months passed as I tried, unsuccessfully, to partner with someone who was wealthy enough to store this mammoth set, or even move it, all while keeping in touch with the warehouse staff. In November 2011, I received a call from the warehouse manager saying “If you want this, we need to work something out, because it’s gonna be gone the first week of December.” It was a fire hazard, and they were going to rip it apart and use it for scrap metal. On December 1st, I called him and said, “I want it but I can’t afford it.” After a pause he said, “Look, it’s gonna take two trips of a large moving van to get it there, plus 3 of my guys. If you pay the expenses of a few grand, it’s yours.” Two days later, they shipped everything to my house, in my backyard, living room and garage. The next few weeks were spent sorting through everything, re-situating and moving pieces to other locations, as my backyard wasn’t exactly the ideal location. Now that I’d acquired this “Rich Man’s Toy” my next thought was “What the hell am I going to do with it?!”
I spent nearly a year contacting heavyweights in show biz, to no avail. Some of the comments I received were “ It’s old news,” “stale,” “The Vegas bridge closed, what makes you think you’ll do better?” and my favorite comment: “No one cares about Star Trek anymore.”
This August, I went to the Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, determined to get this worked out. Several auction companies had approached me about selling the main pieces, and destroying the rest, which I really didn’t want to do.
I first mentioned my set to Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, and when he saw the photos of my damaged bridge, he was amazed, as was Ronald D. Moore. Ron said this was a major piece of history and should be protected, and then told me about the pieces of the original bridge that HE owned. The next morning, I woke up on the couch of the local fan group USS Las Vegas (I couldn’t afford a hotel room) and screamed “I’M GOING TO RESTORE THE BRIDGE!”
Since I knew I couldn’t make a profit from the set, I immediately formed a non-profit organization, Newstarship.com. I started a Facebook Fan page called “Enterprise Restoration” to see if I would get any interest from fans. Within a day, Syfy’s BLASTR did an article, followed by Engadget, Ars Technica, Geekosystem, TrekToday, Treknews, Mythbusters’ Tested and even KCBS Radio. By the end of the month, we had 2,000 followers and 500,000 hits to our website. Retailers began emailing me, asking how they could help and what they could donate.
My greatest fear was what CBS/Paramount was going to think of our plans. I didn’t know who to contact and here I was with pieces of a set from a multi-billion dollar franchise. To my total astonishment, two representatives of CBS Consumer Products called me and were not only helpful, but supportive of our efforts. Being the son of a Disney composer, I can tell you that is rare indeed.
Our restoration is being headed by Brian Uiga and Rusty Harrell. Rusty is the prop genius presently restoring our Captain’s Chair, and Brian is known for restoring the Doctor Who TARDIS and Herbie the Love Bug, as well as his replica Batmobile, Knight Rider’s KITT and the Back to the Future DeLorean. We’re also being mentored by several of the original designers including: Herman Zimmerman, Michael Okuda, Doug Drexler and Andrew Probert. We intend to make our Bridge the most authentic Enterprise-D bridge that’s ever been seen, even more so than the Las Vegas Experience. Not just in detail, but technology to match what was seen on the TV series. I cannot stress how grateful we are to have these original designers willing to give their time to make this bridge live again.
We are presently taking our restored chairs from the bridge to various conventions. We just left Wizard World Austin, TX, and New Orleans, LA, and by early 2013 we will have the captain’s chair, Troi's and Riker’s chairs, as well as Worf’s horseshoe tactical station, in beautiful working condition for Gallifrey One for Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, and then Emerald City ,WA and Megacon Orlando, FL. Our goal is to have the entire bridge completed by fall of 2013.
For news and updates, as well as new items on our Kickstarter, you can visit our website: www.newstarship.com
Our Twitter account: https://twitter.com/thenewstarship
And our page that started it all: https://www.facebook.com/EnterpriseRestoration
Yes, this has taken over ALL our lives, and we’re struggling to get through these few months, but we think it will all be worth it. We’ve met so many wonderful people, made so many friends and we’ve learned more about Star Trek than we ever thought we would. The existence of this bridge set means so much to people, more than even we imagined, and we honestly believe the magic of having this available goes beyond being a “Star Trek fan.” If a group of children, knowing nothing of Star Trek, can step aboard our Starship Enterprise and feel transported to another planet, there’s no telling how enriched and inspired they can be and how much it could affect their lives. That is our reason for doing this, and we sincerely hope that Gene and Majel, “The Great Bird of the Galaxy” and “First Lady of Star Trek” are looking down at what we’re trying to do and smiling.
Founder of New Starship Enterprise Museum