The case of the missing Enterprise deflector dish

By: Peter Greenwood     Posted: October 19, 2016, 1:35PM

When Paramount donated the original filming model of Star Trek's Enterprise to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum back in the 1970s, the iconic starship was a little worse for wear. Its first line of defence when in warp drive — the deflector dish — was nowhere to be found.

At some point, the deflector dish had broken off. You may not have known the name of this little spaceship detail, but certainly you'd recognize it. It's the round satellite dish thingee mounted to the front of the tubular lower portion of the hull, as seen above. This important design feature was a center point of the ship. So a replica was crafted for the Smithsonian display.

However, it was not 100% true to the original, and was lacking one significant, if hidden feature of the screen version. Until now.

The original deflector dish had the secret capability to pivot and aim its needle. We never saw this ability on the show, but Enterprise designer Matt Jefferies was a stickler for detail and function.

Apart from the main shields, which protected the valiant crew from all sorts of alien menace, the deflector dish was a practical invention for faster-than-light travel. It prevented space junk from breaching the hull of the ship at deadly warp speeds.

When the Smithsonian's recent 50th anniversary restoration of the Enterprise took place, historians and artists researched the deflection dish for the first time in detail in order to create a true copy. The center of the dish, which most of the fans thought was merely a straight spike of sorts, turned out to be rather fascinating.

Here is the technical drawing by Trek expert Garry Kerr, who was part of the key restoration team for the Enterprise. At last, we can see just how much detail was present in this key line of defence for the Starfleet starship. Also note, in green, the changes made to the dish between the first pilot episode and production.

Additionally, the dish itself, once thought to be smooth, was not so at all. The new 50th Anniversary model kit sold by Round 2 Corp. carries this detail, as do many other new products, thanks in no small part to a group of dedicated professionals who brought back the minutiae that were supposedly lost to time. 

Neither the Romulans nor the Klingons could take down the pride of the Federation — nor can a small asteroid now. Once more, the deflector is front and center on the amazing miniature from the fertile imagination of Matt Jefferies.      

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