How DOUG DREXLER was almost fired from STAR TREK for working on a FAN FILM for NEW VOYAGES!

It’s hard to introduce DOUG DREXLER…not because there’s nothing to say about him but because there’s way too much to say about him! He and I both grew up as Trekkies in New York City, but the main difference between us was that I shopped at The Federation Trading Post in midtown Manhattan and read the unauthorized U.S.S. Enterprise Officer’s Manual while Doug managed the store and wrote that book (among several others).

And then, of course, Doug went on to move out to Hollywood, win an Oscar for make-up for Dick Tracy, and then work pretty much continuously on Star Trek from the third season of TNG through the end of Enterprise (and later, on STAR TREK PICARD). I moved to L.A. and worked for the Star Trek licensing department from 1996-2003, but seriously, no comparison there…Doug wins hands down!

Doug began as a make-up artist on TNG (being nominated for two Emmy Awards along the way). He then became scenic artist and production illustrator on DS9, working under MIKE OKUDA on graphics but also designing props. Then, when Voyager and, later, Enterprise debuted, Doug went on to work on the digital VFX at Foundation Imaging. (Years later, Doug would become CGI VFX Supervisor on the Battlestar Galactica reboot, for which he won two “Outstanding Special Visual Effects” Emmy Awards plus three additional nominations.

Doug also contributed to the four TNG feature films and the remaster of the director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well as working on the Borg Invasion 4D ride at Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas (which I worked on, too, although again, Doug had a much more awesome Trek career than I ever did!)

And there’s one more thing that Doug and I have in common (aside from some of the people we know): we’ve both worked on Star Trek fan films!

It’s generally accepted that the “golden age” of Star Trek fan films was ushered in just after the turn of the millennium with series like STAR TREK: HIDDEN FRONTIER from ROB CAVES and STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES from JAMES CAWLEY. What is not so widely known is that Doug Drexler worked extensively on the first two episodes of the latter series…while still working professionally on Star Trek at Paramount! Operating under the pseudonym “MAX REM,” Doug did VFX, make-up, casting, editing, and served as executive producer on “Come What May.” Doug also was the cowriter (along with Star Trek scenic artist—and my friend—JIM VAN OVER, writing under the pen name “ERIC KORNGOLD”) on the second episode “In Harm’s Way.” Both fan films debuted in 2004 (before there even was such a thing as YouTube!). You can watch those two episodes below…

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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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