Save the bridge! A behind the scenes look at the project to restore the Enterprise D bridge

“Imagine being a Star Wars fan driving past Lucasfilm, and seeing the Millennium Falcon in a dumpster.”

Would never happen, right? Well, it did. Only it wasn’t Star Wars, and it wasn’t that infamous Corellian freighter found in a trash heap, it was the bridge of the finest ship in the galaxy, the USS Enterprise-D. And the Star Trek fan that found it is named Huston Huddleston, and he’s currently working to restore the bridge set to its former glory.

I talked at length with Huston about how he was able to acquire the Bridge, the details of how he started his project to restore the set, how the project is going, and the support he has gotten from fans and Star Trek professionals alike.

“Sir… it’s the Enterprise!”

It all started on a day Huston will never forget. “I was working at a company with a man who worked at Paramount. During lunch breaks we would talk, he’d show me blueprints and photos from Star Trek and tell me upcoming plans. It was a lot of fun, because he knew he was a Trek fan. One day he told me he was leaving the company and I said ‘Oh darn, now I’ll never get turn my living room into the bridge of the Enterprise’ and he said ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Huh? What? He took me to this warehouse in Long Beach and the entire bridge of the Enterprise D was sitting outside.”

“It was in despicable condition. It had been sitting outside for 5 years, had been rained on, cigarette butts, cat poop… everything. I got over the initial shock and thought ‘OK, what can I do with this?’ Which is not the sanest thought but you had to go with it.”

Huston did some research and found out that it was authentic, just not a set that was actually used on the show. “When I called CBS about it (before I even bought it) I wanted to make sure it was legitimate. I found out this set was built by Paramount in the late 90s for display and touring (the original Enterprise-D set was destroyed during the filming of Generations) and then management at Paramount changed. People forget, and this was forgotten about. Nobody cared about it.”

“Then quite a few months of negotiations with the warehouse owners went by. Someone had not paid their bill and they were left with this set, but they didn’t own it. All this time I was trying to figure out what to do with it, where to store it, etc.”

“They (the warehouse owners) finally called at the end of 2011 and said ‘Look, we are throwing this away, if you don’t do something with it. We are taking it to a landfill; we are using the medal for scrap. We know you want it.’ I said I can’t afford to pay whatever you want it, and they said just pay for the shipping and it’ll be a deal.”

But it wasn’t that easy. “It was still in the thousands of dollars just to pay to move it. It was three guys, and a moving van and a half. When I talk to people, I have to explain to them that it’s not just the chairs… It’s EVERYTHING, the whole ceiling, the walls, the framework, the molding, all the huge computers and everything just like you see it on TV.”


A look at the just some of bridge set components. Image from Newstarship.com.

“You have to do something with this.”

Then… nothing much happened. “So a year passed and all the rich cats I knew were like ‘That’s nice’ and all the fans were like ‘Sure, you own the bridge. Right.’ I went to the Star Trek con in Vegas this past August and met with Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore and John DeLancie and told them what I had. The most excited person was Ron. He wanted to see pictures and he was like a kid in the candy store, a geeky teenager. He told me ‘You have to do something with this.’ I cannot understate how generous he was with his time.” (Ron Moore appears in the Kickstarter project video and also autographed several items that has been offered as rewards for donations.)

“So the next morning I had a ‘eureka’ moment and I decided I was going to do a Kickstarter and on that Sunday I posted a page on Facebook saying ‘I’m restoring the Bridge.’ Two days later SyFy Channel did a story on their Blastr site and it exploded. Mike Okuda (Production Designer for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Trek historian) then told me ‘You need to change this’ and gave me some advice on the site. People were assuming it was the original set, and I made the text more specific based on Mike’s suggestions.”


One of the two t-shirts that is being sold to help raise money for the bridge restoration. The shirt is also being given away as a reward on Kickstarter to anyone who pledges $20 or more.

The sudden media attention made Huston “kickstart” his efforts. “I had to rush to pull everything together, and in that first two weeks I was completely overwhelmed, didn’t know what I was doing. I’m a writer, but I’m a writer who doesn’t get interviewed a lot. And most of the articles didn’t even talk to me, they just copied other articles, and some of them were wrong, and the fans were like ‘you lied!’ No we didn’t lie, they never talked to us!”

“Luckily quite a few people came onboard to help me who were Star Trek fans, there were technical people who came forward… it took two different people to do the website (http://www.newstarship.com)… there was a brilliant guy who helped wrangle our Kickstarter page, David Raiklin, who also did the extremely successful Space Command fundraiser. My main guy, Brian Uiga, he’s doing most of the restoration and he’s also the one who helped restore the real TARDIS from the 1995 Doctor Who TV movie, in addition to a couple of the Herbie cars from the Love Bug and KITT from Knight Rider. I’ve surrounded myself with a bunch of pros. My biggest skill on this is as Producer, in coordinating people and making decisions. I think the biggest thing is I know what I want, which is the role of the Producer.”

Huston gives a lot of credit to both the fans and the people who has worked on the original show for their support and ideas. “This would not be what it has been without

all the fans and the pros, the real cast and crew. We have gotten great feedback from the fans, and great ideas. One example, we have T-shirts that we are selling to raise money that said “Captain I saved the Bridge” and this fan Otto Vondonk suggested we put ‘Shut up, Wesley!’ on the back, which was a brilliant idea! We have feedback on the designs for the isolinear chips we are going to be giving away as part of the Kickstarter. As Communistic as this sounds, this whole thing is by fans for fans.”


The blueprints of the bridge they will be using to restore the set. Image from Newstarship.com.

“Engage!”

One big concern Huston had once the restoration plans were set was how Paramount would respond to this project. “Dealing with CBS was very scary to me, even though they were very cool. The first time I contacted them about our plans I heard nothing back for over two weeks…. It was nerve wracking. They finally got back to me and they said, ‘Change this and this.’ and that was all. They have been great about all this. They have been very honest with me, as long as I’m not making money and as long as I’m not hurting the franchise.” Huston has formed a non-profit corporation to cover all the costs and legal obligations of the restoration effort.

Huston and crew are attending many different conventions over the next few months to promote and gather support for his project. “We are doing the conventions to show off the chairs, so people can sit in them and take pictures. We are selling shirts to help raise money. And the entire Next Gen cast is going to be at the Wizard World shows in Austin Texas and New Orleans. My first panic attack was when Sir Patrick Stewart’s people said ‘Sir Patrick wants to see pictures of the chair he will be sitting in’ – and it wasn’t ready yet!”


Two of the bridge chairs. Image from Newstarship.com.

Besides finishing the Captain’s chair for Sir Patrick, the next big restoration milestone is the restoration of Worf’s tactical station, which should be fixed by February. The most immediate focus, however, is on the current Kickstarter campaign. “We are asking for $20,000 and that is the bare minimum to keep the stuff housed. To be honest, it’ll be $100,000 to $200,000 to get it housed and fixed. This ain’t gonna be cheap. It cost $600,000 to build the original set in the 90s, and we’re trying to make it interactive. We’re doing a multimillion project for the cost of a storage bin.”

One of the most interesting things about the restoration is that planned interactive element. “We’re in the early days, we’re still trying to figure the tech out. The idea is if we have the person in the captain’s chair hit the red alert button it will change the lighting, change the screen, make the sounds. There are lots of computers. Troi and Riker’s computers are small, but the ones in the back behind Worf’s station are quite large, and Worf’s is curved which is quite tricky. Conn and Ops are also extremely large, and you can’t buy that kind of stuff at a Best Buy. We know we need those and we will also need speakers… a lot of speakers. We need a projector, lots of lighting, lots of effects, and some kind of networking station to get these things together…”

“Right now we are just trying to concentrate on the money getting out of debt for the initial thousands of dollars I’ve already put out. That’s our initial focus. Our next step is to then concentrate on the technology.”

Huston is planning to unveil the restored bridge in late 2013. “We will be taking parts of the set to the conventions for the next year, and then when we finally get everything together, we will do our grand unveiling in LA in a Hollywood soundstage, and all of those incentives that you will find on Kickstarter will be done… and we have to do all those back to back, because it’s such a massive structure it takes a day to put it together and a day to strike the set.”

“Make it so!”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I want to share this – which is why we’re opening it up to the public! I don’t want people to be jealous. I don’t want it to just be in my living room and I go ‘Tee Hee! It’s mine, all mine!’ If I were sitting there and hoarding all this, I would be the biggest jerk in the world. I want to make people happy and make this thing work. I’ve gotten these generous stories from people who went to the (now closed) Star Trek Experience in Vegas. One person talked about going to it with his father, who since passed away, and how they want his name on the Bridge in memory of him… It’s really touching. And I just got word from CBS that they have no problem with our performing weddings on the bridge, which is a huge thing, and will bring many people happiness, any sex, any religion, any alien species.”


An Isolinear chip with your name engraved on it can be placed on the bridge set as a Kickstarter reward.

“My ultimate vision is to continue to take as much of the set to conventions and then to find a permanent home for it… and we don’t know where yet. It’s going to take a lot of help and support from some city or private individual to do it right. We have gotten a couple of offers, so we’ll see.”

Support the Bridge Restoration project by donating to the Kickstarter. Huston is working on getting even more incentives and rewards for donations, so keep checking back! For pictures and even more details visit http://www.newstarship.com.

Joseph Dickerson is a writer, User Experience Architect (and Star Trek fan) focused on designing effective and innovative on-line and mobile applications. For more from Joseph visit josephdickerson.com or follow him on twitter: @josephdickerson.

 


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James Cannon - Runcorn Trekkie UK

The D Bridge always seemed like nothing really was happening. ie not many seats or stations. Preferred the Classic Bridge.

Why? It’s one of the least interesting bridges…in fact down right dull and boring. Might make a great smoking lounge.

So, it’s a knock-off built years after the series finished.
I commend your loyalty to the idea, but it’s not a true artifact of tv history… or the 24th century shipwright’s art.
The ramps aren’t really there, are they?

I’m glad they were able to BRIDGE this topic.

#1, #2 – But… it’s the Enterprise-D!! Home of the crew for 7 wonderful years on TNG. And yeah, other bridges have come and gone since TNG ended it’s run, but whenever I see this particular bridge, I get all nostalgic (since it was TNG that got me really hooked onto Star Trek).

go Huston!

Here’s my big geeky question…

Will the restoration be sticking to the “cheated” flat floor, or adding the ramps to make it more true to the original?

Ah, this is exciting. More history being preserved, just like the Galileo at http://galileorestoration.com/

They should set it up in London and leave it here – Patrick Stewart is British. If Kirk is a US household name, Picard is a UK household name.

Plus London is really the Capital of the world so makes sense.

Its A great idea and I wish them well.

As fun as it sounds (and it DOES sound fun), how much is it going to cost monthly to provide ongoing air conditioning and electricity to it? I mean, godspeed if he can keep it going, but I knew a family who paid over $600 a month just to keep their house cooled and powered…

The interactive feature seems overly ambitious to me, but it would be nice if the chairs and the room still existed somewhere.

As a side note, I wouldn’t mind seeing the modified “Generations” version. I thought the floor looked better in that one even though Worf really doesn’t need a chair.

Sorry, but why in all of these re-creations of the D bridge can’t they get the chairs to look right? The material, the width of the open space in the middle of the back… it stands out so much and I wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to re-create correctly.

My least favorite bridge of all Star Trek ships….looked like a glorified Circuit City large screen tv viewing room circa 1985. Good riddance! :-)

Great article!

I hope to sit on captain’s chair as soon as it is finished! :)

Chicago?? Yes!! We got screwed by not getting a shuttle so we are owed the Bridge. Owed, dammit!

interesting

(the real) Montreal_Paul

16. boborci

Hey Bob! What happens after the 3 picture deal is done? Will you & JJ & the gang stay on for further Trek movies or do you feel that someone else with be taking over and another reboot will happen… much like Nolan & Batman trilogy?

While this is a very interesting project, the fact that it is a set never used for a TV or movie production really blunts the excitement for me. I mean, power to the folks undertaking it, wish them well, but it just doesn’t resonate with me. By the same token, the Galileo project is *very* compelling specifically *because* it was the set/prop used in TOS nearly five decades ago. That’s cool.

Good luck to both projects.

boborci,

Pending the completion of the trilogy and any future plans of the franchise, any hope of getting the new Enterprise bridge set donated to a museum somewhere?

Thanks sir! looking forward to “Darkness”!

If they redo it as the bridge from Yesterday’s Enterprise, it might be interesting. But the whole project is kind of pointless. You not only have to restore the bridge, but you have to be able to maintain it long term. Otherwise the whole enterprise is just a waste of time and money.

Looks like poor 80’s furniture. The art direction for the TOS movies & TNG was really horrible. At least TOS looked like something fresh & futuristic. I wish the new movies would drop the all white apple look & just upgrade TOS look.

I like the charity and educational aspects to this project, but I think it’s a very ambitious undertaking. Once they get the money, it will cost even more in upkeep, housing, carting it around and electricity. Who will be responsible for those costs? I support the idea behind this, but I am not sure it’s practical unless museums like the EMP or Smithsonian get involved. However, it might be a hard sell since it’s NOT the original bridge. Star Trek The Experience sadly went under and they had way more going on then just the bridge to sit on. Best of luck though!

The only bridges that looked good to me were the original TOS with the jelly bean buttons, the understated TWOK re-redesign (with Spock to Kirk’s right where he belonged), and the submarine bridge of TUC. The rest are variations of the latter, a Ramada Inn lobby, and a Steve Jobs meets Liberace nightmare.

Still, I admire the dedication to TNG.
Good luck to all involved.

Wow, no crying on this article yet!

It’s almost a record..

Thanks for the article Joseph!

A very worthy adventure to be sure, us fans need to rally behind this. I know my wife and I will… although she does not know it yet.

Hopefully if they succeed with this and restore the bridge they’ll make it look ALOT closer to the on screen bridge. There’s a lot of the stuff about that first bridge image that’s just…well completely wrong. Still, a noble project. Perhaps they should try to take that bridge and modify it to the Generations bridge redux.

I never understood why, when they build “recreations” of original sets, they never really look like the original sets.

I mean, they have blueprints, 179 episodes, a movie and endless vaults full of pictures of the bridge. Surely they can make it look more like the actual bridge.

Hollywood Museum Artifact
When I was last visiting the LA area, in 2001, I remember touring a museum in Hollywood, not far down from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater, beneath a movie theater that has now since closed. In this museum were several artifacts from different tv shows that included not just set pieces, but costumes and props. I did take video of the tour and remember seeing the TNG bridge and the bar from Cheers, but am not sure where it is to review it at this time. When the tour guide explained that it the original set piece, I disagreed with him because I remember they destroyed it in the movie. Either that, or it was in quite disarray from all the pyrotechnics and fires set on it when they filmed the crash landing sequence. The tour guide vehemently denied it was a fake. He had to have been some young guy in his early 20s and clearly had little knowledge of Star Trek history, or at least read up on it for the tour. I do remember he loved being filmed as he smiled and gestured too much. In any case, my friend and I walked around this bridge and realized it could not be the original merely because the scale and size were all wrong. Worf’s console had a fake quality to it..I do not recall what kind of display console it had or any. I’m guessing this bridge set has to be the replica piece that was at the… Read more »

Good luck to all involved. Although the first thing I thought about while reading this article was the “Seinfeld” episode when Kramer finds the old set from “The Merv Griffin Show” in a dumpster, and rebuilds it in his living room. And, the original “TNG” bridge set was built in 1987, and not “the 90’s.”

Don’t forget the track marks on Riker’s chair.

17. montreal p

i truly dont know the answer to that. my gut is that it feels selfish to stick around after 3, but who knows. that decisin is years away.

@29 “Worf’s console had a fake quality to it.”

I don’t remember where I read it, but during the production of Wrath of Khan 30+ years ago, I read some little sci-fi blurb about a guy who knew someone who knew someone at Paramount, and got invited to an informal tour of the Enterprise sets back on old Stage 9. Now, why I remember this in particular I couldn’t tell ya, but I do…after touring the bridge set, the guy wrote something to the effect of “I couldn’t believe how fake everything looked. Plywood and plastic, badly painted,” I remember it being a testimony to the “faults” film, lighting, and effects hides :)

That said, never was a *huge* fan of the TMP bridge…always seemed waaay too big to me. Never truly seemed like a “next iteration” of the TOS bridge…

33..con’t

Just meant to finish off that comment by saying what few TV sets I’ve ever been able to visit have *always* looked very haphazard. Got to see Johnny Carson back when I was about 17, and I couldn’t believe how small the set was compared to how I imagined it on TV. Same thing went for a couple of game shows we attended (just as audience members); the sets were just tiny and flimsy looking in person relative to how your mind perceives them to be just watching them on TV…

How about a location (like Navy Pier in Chicago or the Adler Planetarium in Chicago) where the D-Bridge is erected and then joined by a mock up of TOS’s Bridge and finally JJA’s Enterprise Bridge? A suburban location might keep costs down, though.

No need to imagine. Lucas DID trash the life size Millennium Falcon seen inside the planet Hot rebel hangar.

What was George thinking? The ship belonged in a museum. To quote Indy.

33 & 34: With the right lighting and angles, I’ll bet the cheesiest sets look pretty good on film. That being said, the Bridge for The Experience looked awesome the first few years but in its final months, the wear was obvious. My wife and I brought our kids to The Experience its last summer and we renewed our vows on the Bridge. The people couldn’t have been nicer and we had the run of the Bridge as well as the Borg chamber. Up close, the wear and tear was evident and that’s when I saw that, I knew that the end was near for that monument to our favorite shows and movies. I still can’t believe that that was allowed to die with out relocating it. Truly a pity.

Isn’t there a promotion through Facebook to get 100,000 “likes” to a Star Trek page in order to release a Star Trek 12 trailer?

Boborci?

Someone needs to kickstart my memory here – didn’t this story pop up a few months back, and this bridge was a touring model of some sort?

@38. That was a fake site. Turned out there were a few of them on FB – I’d suggested on chat, for giggles, that we should start kicking out fake news releases to see if we could get anyone to bite on them…..for fun, of course.

Sorry, if it were the actual bridge I could get behind the idea, but trying to restore something that’s just a recreation, just seems kind of pointless. Seems like it would be better just to get the blueprints and make your own at that point. Especially considering that all of the recreations have looked like cheap knockoffs of the original.

33 – It’s true. I never saw the TNG soundstages in person, but I did have a chance to tour the Voyager sets and bridge once, and was struck by the same feeling – it’s painted wood and plastic. Looked and felt much “cheaper” than it appeared on screen. Of course, these were the days before HD, so set designers had a lot more latitude with materials. SD video was a lot more forgiving.

I always felt bad for whoever was manning the stations at the back of the TNG bridge…they’d have to stand up for their entire shift. How uncomfortable it must be to work for hours at a crotch-level console that you can’t even lean on for a second, lest you accidentally turn off life support to deck seven or something.

Okay- this SO reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer found the old ‘Mike Douglas Show’ set in some dumpsters outside a studio.

SPOILER ALERT*****

He dug them out, brought them home, set them up and then pretended to be doing a constantly running talk show in his living room. LOL!

#44

I believe it was the Merv Griffin set, not Mike Douglas.

I recall seeing the three chairs from the actual 1701-D bridge at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum about 8-10 years ago (at least they were billed as the real deal). It seemed plausible as it was the chairs and not much else. They also had the Engineering back wall (with the large Enterprise graphic) and several Trek costumes. The museum subsequently closed, but I don’t know what happened to that stuff. Some of the museum’s collection has turned up at auction, but to my knowledge, none of their Trek pieces. Does anyone know where they went?

Man, you guys are cold!
It’s the Enterprise D bridge from Paramount for cryin’ out loud.
Just because it wasn’t actually used in the show doesn’t diminish its value. I stand behind the restoration and applaud Huston’s determination and enthusiasm. Good luck- and keep fighting the good fight. All true fans are behind you, Huston!

Seems a little ambitious, but super rad if they can pull it off!

Oh man this is amazing. ‘Unbelievable Coolness Factor’ is an understatement! Despite being a student who is stereotypically poor as hell, I will donate to this. My desire to come to the united states has just risen exponentially! In a few years!

Best of luck Huston Huddleston, I hope that you succeed in your incredible endeavors.
A giant thumbs up from Australia! And to think, they were just going to throw it away…

Oh and ps why would anyone complain about this?

What more could you possibly want than a giant interactive D-bridge?! Hell, if they had the original set you would all probably complain that ‘its not a real spaceship why don’t they make something that can actually fly’.

Why don’t you haters actually DO something that is remotely as impressive as what our friend Huston is doing and THEN talk him down?!?

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