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By Elizabeth Howell
Calling all wannabe space captains: The starship Enterprise bridge from television's "Star Trek" may open to the public in the next year. After lying in a studio backyard for years, a display version of the bridge from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is slowly being refurbished by a group called New Starship.
Nothing's confirmed yet, but organizer Huston Huddleston said he is in talks with the San Diego Air & Space Museum to bring the bridge there in the middle of 2014. It will remain there for a year, the plan goes, before possibly hitting the road for other locations.
This exhibit, Huddleston said, would include not only the bridge, but re-creations of other iconic "Star Trek"ship locations such as the transporter room and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard's personal quarters. (The museum confirmed the talks to Space.com, but said plans are yet to be finalized.) [Video: Star Trek's Bridge Restored]
"We thought, to quote 'The Six Million Dollar Man,' we have the technology to make this into something that was seen on the TV show, but the technology wasn't there back then – touch-screen computers and interactivity," Huddleston said.
"We want to make it an educational piece to bring an entire classroom of kids on the bridge of the Enterprise and have them fly the ship."
Even if the exhibit doesn't end up in San Diego, Huddleston aims to have it in other museums — including a proposed science-fiction-focused museum in Hollywood he's involved with that he'd love to see open in 2016. However, considering the design is still not finished, he acknowledges the latter could be an ambitious aim.
From the scrap heap, back to Hollywood attention
According to Huddleston, the display bridge was completed after the film "Star Trek: Generations" went into theaters in 1994. The bridge that was used in the "Next Generation"show was "blown up" as a part of the storyline of the movie.
New Starship's acquired bridge is one of three that were made for "Star Trek: The Experience," a Las Vegas theme park that closed in 2008, according to media reports. This particular bridge was used for a tour, then returned to Paramount Studios in 2006.
Subsequently the bridge sat outside — unused — for about five years, Huddleston said. "It was when Paramount sold their rights to CBS," he said, referring to when CBS acquired Paramount Television around 2006. "It kind of fell between the cracks."
Huddleston, a writer, producer and director, found out about the abandoned bridge from a friend who was leaving Paramount in 2011.
With the set scheduled for the scrap heap, Huddleston said he negotiated to have the pieces temporarily shipped to his backyard, paying $7,000 in shipping costs to get it moved an hour south, from Anaheim to Sherman Oaks, Calif. [Original 'Star Trek' Galileo Shuttlecraft Restored (Photos)]
He next spent months contacting people he knew in show business, working to get support. His big breakthrough came after attending the Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention in August 2012, where he got the attention of "Battlestar: Galactica" writer Ronald D. Moore and Rod Roddenberry, the son of "Star Trek"creator Gene Roddenberry.
Next, cautiously, the group spoke with CBS officials with this idea, and gradually gained their support for the interactive exhibit, Huddleston said.
"It wasn’t a fan film, and it wasn’t just some geeky, nerdy, 'I’m going to turn my living room into the bridge of the Enterprise thing.' It was bigger than that," Huddleston said. "They understood it, and they understand the huge PR boost, the positive thing this is doing for the 'Star Trek' franchise."
From there, plans have been flying at warp speed. New Starship started a Kickstarter campaign in late 2012 aiming to raise $20,000 to assist with restoration. It received more than three times that goal – $68,611 – all going toward restoring various pieces and starting the museum.
Another $14,505 came from a separate IndieGoGo crowdsourced campaign that fell far short of its original $240,000 fundraising goal.
Everyone on the project is working as a volunteer, Huddleston said. New Starship's Kickstarter page also acknowledges sponsorship from collectibles site Entertainment Earth, and Abrams Books.
Fragile bridge pieces these days are scattered across the United States — the captain's chair is in South Dakota, for example — as volunteers work to restore it. The frame is safely in storage and will be worked on last; its fiberglass frame received less damage after being stored outside.
Huddleston, meanwhile, has a packed schedule of convention tours for the summer to make aspiring Starfleet cadets aware of the project. One of his planned stops is a NASA-affiliated event in Houston in August that could include astronauts and some Hollywood stars.
The bridge should be ready sometime next winter, at which point Huddleston and his backers plan a gala event at a Paramount sound stage in California that will even feature the wedding of two "Star Trek" fans on the bridge.
Updates on the project are available on its Kickstarter page.
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