And so it ends…not with a bang but with an auction.
A decade ago, the amazing 360-degree bridge set constructed back in 2004 for the second episode of Starship Exeter was found decaying in a Texas barn. Moved to Oklahoma City, the bridge set was rebuilt and refurbished and made available for free (plus the cost of electricity) to a parade of fan films:
- Starship Valiant
- Starship Republic
- Dreadnought Dominion
- Starship Grissom
- Yorktown: A Time to Heal (still in post-production)
- The Red Shirt Diaries
- The Minard Saga (multiple episodes)
- Project Defiant
- The Federation Files’ “His Name Is Mudd” and “Walking Bear, Running Wolf”
- Adventures of the USS Parkview: “The Bunny Incident”
Some of these were filmed in Oklahoma at what was dubbed STARBASE STUDIOS and utilized additional sets that were constructed, like sickbay, the trasnporter room, and the briefing room. Other fan films were shot after the sets were moved to neighboring Arkansas when Starbase Studios lost their free rent deal in OKC.
But the move to Arkansas became problematic as ownership shifted around, frictions developed among owners, and even a lawsuit was filed. (If you want to learn more, just type “Starbase Studios” into my search bar on the upper right and climb down the blog reader’s rabbit hole.)
However, as time went on, time was also running out. The sets had been moved to a run-down former amusement park called Dogpatch in Marble Falls, AR. But that location was only available until this past December 31, 2018. After that, the sets had to either be removed and relocated or considered abandoned property.
Unfortunately, owners Glen Wolfe, Scott Johnson, and Glenn Miller couldn’t agree pretty much on anything…including where and how to move the sets. Eventually, time ran out. The owner of Dogpatch, Charles “Bud” Pelsor, and his partner decided to sell out and move away, leaving Dogpatch to its prior owner, who did not want a bunch of aging Star Trek sets cluttering up his properly. So this past weekend, “Bud” held an auction…
If Dan Reynolds of WARP 66 Studios (the producers of The Federation Files anthology fan series) hadn’t made the drive over to Dogpatch to check things out, I wouldn’t have even known about the auction at all (so thanks, Dan). He also supplied a couple of photos, although there isn’t much to really see.
Dan was there for 15 minutes checking it out, and he came back at the end, curious to see what had been purchased: “…all of the incidental things like extra bridge chairs, boxes of props and miscellaneous items, and even extra monitors and anything that was not attached to a set was being sold.”
As for the rest of the sets, Dan has no idea. But what’s left is, sadly, a fading echo of what it once was.
I mourn the loss of the sets formerly known as Starbase Studios (the name Starbase Studios is now an LLC run by Vance Major and Kent Edwards dedicated to helping facilitate fan films by connecting fan filmmakers to resources in the community).
But to paraphrase the titles of two TNG episodes, “All good things…” and “We’ll always have those fan films that were shot there.” It’s a bittersweet end as we say farewell to these TOS sets while also celebrating that other TOS sets still exist for fans to film on…including the newly renamed NEUTRAL ZONE sets in Kingsland, GA (previously used for Star Trek Continues and Starship Farragut). Those sets, by the way, are currently looking for donations from fans to help pay the monthly rent. You can sign up to support The Neutral Zone studio here.
Meanwhile, we can look back fondly on eight years of magic that happened in Oklahoma and Arkansas on these wonderful sets. They may now be gone, but their legacy lives on in dozens of great fan films that would never have been possible without Starbase Studios.