Long-lost model of the USS Enterprise returned to Roddenberry family

The first-ever model of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise NCC-1701 has been returned to the Roddenberry family, according to an ABC News report.

The three-foot model was used to shoot the pilot and credits scene for Star Trek’s original series in the 1960s and was used occasionally for shots throughout the series. (Typically, a larger, 11-foot model was used for shots after the pilot.) The model also sat on series creator Gene Roddenberry’s desk for several years.

It went missing in the late 1970s; historians and collectors believe it belonged to Roddenberry himself, that he lent it to a production house working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and that it was never returned. Its whereabouts were unknown until last fall, when a listing for a mysterious model of the Enterprise appeared on eBay.

Enthusiasts analyzed the pictures in the listing and came to believe it was the long-lost three-foot production model. They contacted the seller, who quickly took down the listing.

The eBay account that posted the item specialized in selling artifacts found in storage lockers that end up without an owner, either because of failure to pay or death.

The model was turned over to Texas-based Heritage Auctions. News spread that it had been discovered, and Gene Roddenberry’s son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, made public statements that he would like to see it returned to his family.

After that, there were months of silence, and its fate was unknown—until now. Heritage Auctions announced that it had given the model to Rod Roddenberry. Details of the exchange have not been shared, but Roddenberry said he did compensate Heritage in some way.

Heritage reached out directly to Roddenberry upon acquiring the object and reportedly decided to return it because it was “the right thing to do.” Roddenberry said that he “felt it important to reward that and show appreciation for that” but didn’t disclose a sum.

Roddenberry also revealed what he has planned for the model:

This is not going home to adorn my shelves. 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.

He runs a group called the Roddenberry Foundation that has scanned and digitized many relics from Star Trek’s ideation and production over the years, so it’s likely the Foundation will get a crack at the model, too.

Listing image by eBay


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