The Smithsonian Team Restoring the USS Enterprise Miniature From Star Trek: The Original Series

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In April of this past year, artisans at the the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy facility set to work on restoring this miniature of the USS Enterprise that got used as a prop in Star Trek: The Original Series. Specifically, the team wanted to restore the ship so that it looked as close as possible to its appearance in the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” which aired in August of 1967.

This miniature, which was donated to the Smithsonian in 1974, appeared in all 79 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, although it wasn’t the only model that got used by the creative team at that time. (The model in the video above is the eleven footer; there was also a three-foot model.) Why restore this model to its appearance during the “Tribbles” episode? Because that’s when the ship received its “last known modification,” meaning this is the closest to the canonically “correct” version of the ship, at least as far as The Original Series is concerned.

This short video, which doesn’t include any actual spoken words but does include a beautiful Star Trek theme soundtrack and some of the sounds of the gentle buffering and detailing done to the miniature, displays the entire process of physical restoration that lasted from April 11-23, 2016. The team returns the ship to its former glory, from its exterior paint job, to the detailed numbers and letters on its surface, to the rotating colorful lights of the engines.

Although the actual detailing work on the ship only took place in the latter half of one month, the team spent a full year beforehand researching the plans for restoring the model. As seen in the video, the artists used photographs and screen-caps from The Original Series to decide exactly how the ship should appear in its final version. It’s all painstakingly detailed, and watching it come together feels strangely relaxing. I mean, I’m sure the process of planning the restoration wasn’t relaxing, but the video makes for such a satisfying watch; everything comes together so perfectly, and there’s not a single mistake to be found. (I guess they must have left out all the bloopers where they accidentally dropped stuff on the floor?)

In the final shot of the video, you can see the USS Enterprise model on display at the at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. It looks particularly cool when seen in darkness, so you can see the effect of all the lights in the engines and inside the windows. Well worth all the time put into it!

(via William George on Vimeo)

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Maddy Myers
Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).