Meet the man warp-driving the 'Star Trek' bridge restoration

Superfan Huston Huddleston is guiding a mind-boggling restoration of the Enterprise bridge from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," taking it from trash to sci-fi treasure.

Huston Huddleston and Denise Crosby
Huston Huddleston poses with actress Denise Crosby, Tasha Yar from "The Next Generation." Huston Huddleston

Huston Huddleston is playing a seminal role in the "Star Trek" universe right now. It's OK if you don't recognize his name. He didn't appear in any of the television shows. He hasn't been on-screen or working behind the scenes of any of the movies. He is, however, captaining a massive project that, when finished, will be a source of delight to "Star Trek" fans everywhere. He's rebuilding the bridge of the Enterprise.

In late 2011, Huddleston was working above a Paramount office in Hollywood, confessing to a colleague that he would never be able to turn his living room into an Enterprise bridge. "Be careful what you wish for," his colleague said.

"He took me to a warehouse that had a Paramount-built Enterprise D Bridge from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," made in 1997 for display (after the original had been destroyed), that sat outside for five years and was about to be destroyed," Huddleston tells Crave.

Huddleston was faced with a rare find, a nearly extinct species. He could have walked away from the daunting pile of scrap, but instead he decided to save it. What that means is a full restoration, from the chairs to the ceiling, with the goal of turning the bridge into an interactive educational museum complete with touch-screen computers and a working front screen.

The New Starship Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded to fund and shepherd the restoration process. The fragile bits, including the chairs, computers, and tactical station, are the first pieces to undergo restoration. The chairs have already been making the rounds of sci-fi conventions for fans to sit in. Huddleston expects the whole restoration to be done by the end of the year.

The foundation has received support from fans (including nearly $69,000 through Kickstarter) and "Star Trek" celebrities alike. The "Next Generation" cast all signed a piece of rescued wall panel. Their willingness to stand behind the project has helped a great deal with bringing in interest and funding. "This is their legacy, they helped create it, and it made them icons," says Huddleston. "People who have helped us, like Bill Shatner and the cast of Next Gen -- there is no amount of money we could pay them for their time. It's a labor of love in the purest sense."

Jonathan Frakes
Jonathan Frakes, Commander Riker from "The Next Generation," signs a rescued panel of the Enterprise bridge. Huston Huddleston

Huddleston describes the restoration in terms of doing a several-million-dollar project on a shoestring. He's hoping corporations will be the next to step up financially. "The fans are behind us because we're doing something Paramount hasn't done since Gene Roddenberry was alive: educate people through 'Star Trek,' in a museum, as a nonprofit organization. I would think Apple, Microsoft, NASA, tons of companies would see the huge potential in that, and want to be a part of it."

What began as a pile of forgotten junk behind a Paramount warehouse has sparked a much greater journey. Huddleston hopes it will all culminate in the opening of a permanent, interactive, educational science-fiction museum by 2016. He has his eyes on a Hollywood location.

"If what we're planning is successful, visitors would want to make weekly trips to play with the robots, fly the Enterprise bridge, truly 'explore strange new worlds,' meet and learn from film legends in sci-fi, and so much more," says Huddleston. He hints that fans should keep an eye out for a big announcement about a New Starship Foundation music event in July involving the entire cast of "The Next Generation." Considering the cost of rebuilding a starship, the Enterprise bridge needs all the help it can get.

Gene Roddenberry was known as "The Great Bird of the Galaxy." Huddleston's work may some day earn him the nickname, "The Great Bird of the Bridge."

 

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