My friends, the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE has come home…to ROD RODDENBERRY!

Back in November, I reported on the discovery of the original  33-inch model of the U.S.S. Enterprise (known affectionately as the “3-foot” model) that was used in the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” plus a handful of later episodes. The larger 11-foot model that was built for the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” now sits in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., recently restored to its former greatness and more.

The 3-foot model, which sat on GENE RODDENBERRY’s desk during the 1970s, was loaned out (at Paramount’s “request”) to Robert Abel & Associates in early 1978 for use in constructing a model of the refit Enterprise for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The 3-foot model was never returned to Gene, and the fate of the model remained a mystery until October of 2023 when what looked like the missing item suddenly showed up for auction on eBay.

Fans moved quickly to inform Gene’s son, ROD RODDENBERRY, and the auction for the item was promptly taken down from eBay. In the ensuing months, the item was moved to Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills for authentication. The team of experts who inspected the model included included Star Trek Oscar winning visual effects artist, designer, sculptor, illustrator, and a makeup artist DOUG DREXLER, Star Trek scenic art legends and Trek Encyclopedia writers MIKE and DENISE OKUDA, technical consultant GARY KERR, and visual effects supervisor/production illustrator DAREN DOCHTERMAN (who does the most accurate and uncanny Gene Roddenberry impression ever!) They verified that, yes, this is the long-lost first-ever model of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Doug Drexler along with Mike and Denise Okuda pose with the 3-foot model at Heritage Auctions (photo supplied by Doug Drexler).

Rod had reportedly made a deal with the folks who found the model and initially tried to auction it. While the details of that arrangement have not been made public, Rod told the Associated Press, “I felt it important to reward that and show appreciation for that.”

Apparently, there was once a rumor that the original model had not been loaned out and never returned but instead that a four-year-old Rod Roddenberry had accidentally destroyed the model by throwing it into the family pool! “Finally I’m vindicated after all these years,” Rod told the A.P. with a laugh.

The model was officially presented to Rod last Saturday by Heritage Auctions‘ Executive Vice President JOE MADDALENA at their Beverly Hills location. “It’s priceless,” Maddalena told the A.P. “It could sell for any amount, and I wouldn’t be surprised because of what it is. It is truly a cultural icon.”

Left to right: L-R Daren Dochterman. Gary Kerr, Mike Okuda, Denise Okuda, Doug Drexler, Jules Urbach, Rod Roddenberry, Gene Kozicki, John Goodson, and Brian Chanes.

Rod told the A.P. of his plans 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.” While a permanent display location has not yet been announced, fans are looking forward to being able to view and study this invaluable piece of Star Trek history.

The following detailed photos of the model were shared publicly by Heritage Auctions, Doug Drexler, Gary Kerr, and others online…

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