Original ‘Star Trek’ Enterprise Model Resurfaces Decades After It Went Missing

The model used in the original series’ opening credits is now back with Eugene Roddenberry Jr., the son of the show’s creator

First ever model
The Enterprise model had been missing for decades when it reappeared in an eBay listing last fall. Heritage Auctions

Nearly 50 years after it went missing, the original model of the USS Starship Enterprise from the hit show “Star Trek” is finally voyaging home. The 33-inch model—the same one that appears in the opening credits of the original series—is now back with Eugene Roddenberry Jr., the son of the show’s creator.

“After five decades, I’m thrilled that someone happened upon this historic model of the USS Enterprise,” says Roddenberry, who goes by “Rod,” in a Heritage Auctions statement. “I remember how it used to adorn my dad’s desk.”

The tiny model has been missing since Roddenberry’s father, Gene Roddenberry (who died in 1991), lent it to the makers of 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first Star Trek feature film. Unfortunately, he never got it back. What happened to it at that point is unknown.

close up of the Enterprise
The original Enterprise model is made from solid wood. Heritage Auctions

Last fall, the spaceship popped up on eBay—with a starting bid of $1,000. The listing was titled “Rare Custom Star Trek USS Enterprise Spaceship by Richard Datin.” Datin, a model maker from the Howard Anderson special-effects company, built the original model out of solid wood. The New York Times’ Emily Schmall reports that the seller came across the item after discovering it in a storage unit. After receiving many inquiries about the item, the seller contacted Heritage Auctions.

“Once our team of experts concluded it was the real thing, we contacted Rod because we wanted to get the model back to where it belonged,” says Joe Maddalena, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions, in the statement. “We’re thrilled the Enterprise is finally in dry dock.”

The ship’s whereabouts after its disappearance remain a mystery; unfortunately, the missing years aren’t described in a captain’s log. The younger Roddenberry says there had even been rumors that he’d thrown it into a pool as a boy, per Jamie Stengle of the Associated Press (AP).

While the model would “easily” sell for over $1 million at auction, it’s a “priceless” piece of television history, Maddalena tells the AP.

Since Star Trek’s debut in 1966, the Enterprise has become an instantly recognizable image—and a pioneering design that inspired many other fictional spacecraft.

“We didn’t want the Enterprise to look like something currently planned for our space program,” said Walter Jefferies, the Star Trek art director who designed the fictional craft, in the 1968 book The Making of Star Trek, per the auction house. “We knew that by the time the show got on the air, this type of thing would be old hat. We had to go further than even the most advanced space scientists were thinking.”

Ariel view of the Enterprise Model
Roddenberry hopes the newly discovered model will find a home in a museum. Heritage Auctions

The younger Roddenberry rounded up a group of Star Trek production veterans to help authenticate and restore the model. One of them was Gary Kerr, a “Trek x-pert” who worked on the 2016 restoration of an 11-foot model of the Enterprise for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Kerr still had old photos of the model sitting on the elder Roddenberry’s desk.

“We spent at least an hour photographing it, inspecting the paint, inspecting the dirt, looking under the base, the patina on the stem, the grain in the wood,” Roddenberry tells the Times. “It was a unanimous ‘This is 100 percent the one.’”

While other models of the Enterprise exist, the newly discovered ship is the original. Looking ahead, Roddenberry wants to ensure that this one-of-a-kind artifact is accessible to the public.

“This is not going home to adorn my shelves,” he tells the AP. “This is going to get restored and we’re working on ways to get it out so the public can see it, and my hope is that it will land in a museum somewhere.”

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