In a battered Oklahoma City warehouse sits a jaw-dropping exact copy of a starship bridge Capt. James T. Kirk would be proud to command.
The computer screens blink with information, the captain's chair looks ready to order phaser fire and the bright orange doors open onto the elevator that might take one out throughout the fictional USS Ajax.
On a recent rainy day, sound and light technicians and builders Scott Johnson and Richard Wells and Hillsgate, Vt.-based Jim Bray were putting finishing touches on the bridge. Later this month, the web series of the adventures of the “Starship Ajax” will begin shooting.
Bray, the producer and director of the project, was in town a few more days before returning home.
He's coming back in a few weeks with his wife and children to film “Starship Ajax.”
One volunteer was outside the bridge area working with a power saw. That area is the future site of engineering, sick bay, a hallway, transporter room and shuttle bays for the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Three years ago, the set was left for dead in an Austin barn after serving as the bridge of the USS Exeter, hub of a fan-based “Star Trek” film series made in and around the Texas capitol. When production ceased in 2009, the entire set was scrapped and left to the elements.
In 2010, Oklahoma City area “Star Trek” fan John Hughes heard about the set.
“I was online one night, looking at different “Star Trek” series, and I found ‘Starship Exeter,'” Hughes said in an interview at a recent script read-through.
“I thought nothing could be more fun than making the best ‘Star Trek' fan movie ever. I thought if you gathered a group of “Trek” fans together and we did everything ourselves, we could do a really great thing.”
Coincidentally, a friend of his knew the bridge was in Austin.
Hughes didn't know if the sets were being used or if someone else had a claim on them but decided to call and ask Jimm Johnson, the man who had the bridge.
Hughes was told the bridge had been promised to some men who had yet to come pick it up. Jimm Johnson said he'd wait two more weeks and if they hadn't come, the bridge would go to Hughes.
The day he was set to leave Oklahoma City, Jimm Johnson called. The men had shown up with a long-bed trailer and a check for $2,000, ready to leave with the bridge.
Amazingly, Jimm Johnson told them no, sent them away and called Hughes to tell him to come get his bridge, no charge.
“It took two big U-Haul trucks and packing them was like a big ‘Tetris' game,” Hughes said. “He sent carpet, chairs, all kinds of things with the bridge.”
Sadly, it was a wreck.
Bray became involved when he learned about the Exeter's move on a message board.
A one-time scenic designer in Florida for Universal Studios, Disney and the Smithsonian, he was the man to see about an accurate rebuild. He flew to Oklahoma City in 2011 for his first look at the bridge. One look, he was in.
“It was in sad shape,” Bray said. “It had water damage. The wood was warped. It was only three-quarters there, and we had to tear it down to the frame and rebuild it. It was beyond repair.”
Scott Johnson and Wells answered an ad from Hughes on Craigslist right after he got the bridge. The jobs give them an open schedule.
Hughes first took his treasure to an El Reno warehouse where the project stalled. Money ran low and Hughes and friends realized they needed a lot more space to build their dreams.
“We had a week left and we were trying to find a place to simply store the bridge,” Hughes said.
Other friends were searching for period furniture for series props when one found a couch on Craigslist. The couch belonged to a gentleman who ran estate sales and had a big warehouse.
“I remember calling him and asking if he had room for a starship bridge in his warehouse,” Hughes said. “He said, ‘Come on out.'
“We were so close to finishing the build in El Reno, but we tore the bridge back down and moved it.”
That was a year ago.
Today, the set — the same size as the one on the much more famous “USS Enterprise” — looks great.
Test scenes have been shot, uniforms are being made and scripts are scattered among the actors and crew.
After this series is shot, the men hope to open the bridge to the public for meetings and activities. They already have been contacted by the Make a Wish Foundation for a visit.
“We hope that other groups will use this set for other projects,” Wells said.