History of the 33 inch model of the Starship Enterprise
by David Shaw
First let me say "Welcome". If you are reading this, then either I've sent you the address of this page or someone I sent this address to has passed it along to you. This is generally not meant as a public page and a lot of the details noted below are still sketchy at best. This is more or less a snapshot of my understanding of this subject, an understanding which is evolving with each day I spend researching this topic.
While my main focus is on the lost 33 inch model of the Enterprise, the broader subject at hand is all three of the models which represented the Enterprise on screen during the three seasons of the original Star Trek series. So there is a lot of extra information presented.
- August 1964: A final overall configuration was picked, a color illustration was done and a study model was made by Matt Jefferies. The next few months would be spent working out the details of the ship. Here are some of his sketches during the intervening period and his accounting of events.
Matt Jefferies: "By the third time around he had two sheets of eight or ten drawings, plus a half dozen good-size renderings. One of them was the beginning of the design finally chosen and one that I liked very much... an upper, saucer-shaped hull, a cigar-shaped lower hull, and two engine pods. Before calling everyone in again, I did a little fast model building. I went down to the mill [woodworking shop], grabbed a couple of chunks of wood, and had the men turn out the saucer shape on a lathe. In about thirty-five to forty minutes I had a model. We hung it up on a piece of thread and called everyone in. Oddly enough, the original model was hung upside down as opposed to the way we use it now."
"Based on that model and the color renderings I had prepared for it, Roddenberry felt we were on the right track. We wound up shortening the main pylon strut and made a few other little changes and then sat down to to some scale drawings."
Click to enlarge
- Nov. 4, 1964 (Wednesday): Richard Datin agrees to build an approximate three foot long model based on an early set of plans which give a real world scale of 1":14.5' (if this had been the final drawings, this would have been the 540' version, but the proportions of this early drawing are actually different from the final plans). Below is a rough recreation of those original plans.
Click to enlarge (JPEG, 1.4 MB)
- Nov. 7, 1964 (Saturday): The final construction plans are finished. These plans include the scale reference of FULL SIZE & 3" = 1'-0" TO LARGE MINIATURE. As the one feature linking the scale of the model to the live action sets is the bridge, the overall size seems to have already been determined by this point. In fact because Jefferies didn't want windows or the like on the surface of the ship, the bridge was the primary feature that would be used to sell the size of the ship in the pilot. Below is a rough recreation of those original plans including windows (some of which were later added to the original drawings).
Click to enlarge (JPEG, 1.7 MB)
- Nov. 8, 1964 (Sunday) or Nov. 9, 1964 (Monday): Datin receives the final plans. The drawings are labeled November 7th and I'm assuming he got the drawings within 24 hours of their completion. Datin starts in on building the 33 inch model out of a kiln-dried sugar pine based on these plans.
- Nov. 15, 1964 (Sunday): A little more than a week later the 33 inch model is presented to Roddenberry for approval. I'd guess this is where the request for the addition of exterior windows takes place (which were not part of the original design). The windows seen on the few elements of the original drawings were added after the original completion date of those drawings. My understanding is that Roddenberry was constantly asking for more details.
- Nov. 27, 1964: Live action shooting is scheduled for the Transporter Room, Enterprise Passageway and Pike's Quarters.
- Nov. 30, 1964: Live action shooting is scheduled for the bridge. The bridge design and construction was supposed to have taken about 6 weeks, so would have most likely started in mid October. This day's schedule includes the crane shot of the bridge that will eventually be composited with the (as yet) unstarted 11 foot model.
- Dec. 1, 1964: Live action shooting is scheduled for the Bridge and Orion Courtyard.
- Dec. 8, 1964 (Tuesday): Construction is started on the 11 foot model.
- Dec. 14, 1964 (Monday): The 33 inch model is delivered to Roddenberry while The Cage was being filmed in Culver City (40Acres). This model is used for all effects shot in The Cage except the most important one (the zoom in on the bridge). Images of the model being delivered seem to be on the Rigel Fortress set, but filming was originally scheduled for December 8th for those shoots. Either this date should actually be the 8th or the shooting schedule met with delays. December of 1964 was rainier than normal for most parts of California, so the Rigel Fortress shoots might have been delayed.
- Dec. 24, 1964 (Thursday): Shooting of The Cage wraps, only one effects shot still outstanding.
- Dec. 29, 1964 (Tuesday): The 11 foot model (built by Datin, Mel Keys and Vern Sion) was delivered to the Howard A. Anderson studio. This version is unpowered and the windows are painted on the surface of the model... and even then the model was designed to be shot from the right side only.
- Jan. 23, 1965 (Saturday): After The Cage is already in the can and waiting for network approval of the new series, additional test shots of the 11 foot model are taken in it's original configuration.Jan. 30, 1965 (Saturday): Aspects of the ship's size (like it being 190,000 tons) were being distributed to the media in the descriptions of the new show.
- August-September 1965: The 11 foot model is modified to include inner lighting and more surface detail. It doesn't appear that the 33 inch model was modified at this time, but the only noticeable detail that would have been different between them was the rear of the nacelles, and the only shot of the 33 inch model in Where No Man Has Gone Before was of it exiting the energy barrier.
- April 1966: The 11 foot model is further altered for the now approved new series. Some of the previous changes needed to be unmade... the bridge had two large windows cut into it and to remove them the bridge was cut in two along the top edge of one of the windows. The top half was returned to the model and the bottom half discarded. The 33 inch model was also modified around this time to match the 11 foot model.
Memo on costs from Howard A. Anderson Co. (click image to enlarge):
Memo from Roddenberry discussing the alterations to the models (click images to enlarge):
- December 1966: Datin makes his final alteration to the 33 inch model, adding a microphone quick release to the model so that it could be displayed on a gooseneck mount and wooden base.
- Early 1967: The 33 inch model makes its last effects appearance in the first season episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (all later appearances were from the effects library, shot during the pilot episodes).
- Between Second and Third Season of Star Trek: The 33 inch model is damaged, most likely from a fall. Some repairs are made (poorly) and the hangar doors are lost.
- December 1968: The last time the 33 inch model was filmed for the original series was for the third season episode "Requiem for Methuselah". Because the 11 foot model wasn't filmed again after the second season, the 33 inch model has the distinction of being both the first and last model to go before the cameras during the production of the original series.
- End of Star Trek (1969): 33 inch model is put in storage.
- 1973: Roddenberry returns to Paramount to advise on Star Trek: The Animated Series. Paramount gives him control over most aspects of the project and Roddenberry reunites much of the creative team from the original series. He is given the 33 inch model around this time.
- 1978: Roddenberry loaned the 33 inch model to the team at Robert Abel and Associates who was working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the model wasn't returned. My understanding is that Roddenberry asked Bob Abel about the model shortly after the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but that Abel was unaware of it's whereabouts. Roddenberry had been asked a few times about the model and chose not to name Abel or his team as the last people to have custody of the model.
As both Roddenberry and Abel are no longer with us, this was as far as I had pursued the matter.
(Please note that an earlier version of this was written in August of 2010, a couple months before I had a conversation with Susan Sackett and a few other sources which cleared up many of the details.)
The 33 inch model was seen on screen in a number of episodes... strangely far more than is generally known by most fans. Here is a list of episodes where the model was seen (not counting it's appearance in the opening titles of every episode swooshing past the camera)...
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Tomorrow is Yesterday
The Deadly Years
By Any Other Name
The Enterprise Incident
Is There in Truth No Beauty?
Day of the Dove
That Which Survives
Requiem for Methuselah
For comparison, the 18 inch AMT model of the Enterprise was used in only The Trouble With Tribbles (as the Enterprise). The best study that I know of cataloging the effects shots of all the Enterprise models was compiled by William P. Thomas and can be found here.
The 33 inch model was the first to be filmed (December 1964) and the last to be filmed (December 1968). And unlike the 11 foot model, which was excised from the remastered release of the original series, the 33 inch model is still included (in Requiem for Methuselah).
A few years ago someone asked if there were any plans of the 33 inch model available (there are a number of fan produced plans for the 11 foot model that do a rather nice job of documenting it's details). The response was "no and there never will be as the model was lost years ago". That response made me take a closer look at the possibilities.
I had collected a number of nice images of the model, with some of the best being from when it was in publicity photos with the actors. I knew that if I could nail down a handful of dimensions, the rest could be generated from the images using geometry. And I figured that some of the key dimensions of the original plans would have translated nicely to the model even given the rush the builders were under to get her finished.
Fortunately someone had gotten a lot of those measurements, which I've collected together in this document...
From there I spent a little over a month in 2007 doing image studies and drawing up plans of the model and put them together in this set...
And upon further review I realized that I had enough information to reverse engineer a skeleton of Matt Jefferies original construction plans (a more fleshed out version is shown in the timeline section) ...
Even before I released my 33 inch plans to the public, I knew they were flawed. And I knew that the only way to find the flaws was to build a model (physical or CG) and compare it with my growing collection of images of the original (here, here and here). Between 2007 and 2010 I did just that, building 2 two-thirds scale versions (based on a two-thirds scale printing of my plans) which can be seen here and here. And as I had foreseen, I found lots of little errors and oversights which I corrected in my subsequent versions of those plans.
This is my current progress on the studio scale replica...
There are a number of great places for additional information on the general subject of Star Trek History, here are a few that I can recall off the top of my head...
StarTrekHistory.com The Cage Page
Original StarTrekHistory.com The Cage Page
Original StarTrekHistory.com Models & Bluescreen
Richard Datin's Home Page
Star Trek Prop Authority's blog: Robert justman's "The Cage" Shooting Schedule
The Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Blog