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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Richard "Dick" Clyde Datin, Jr. (10 October 192924 January 2011; age 81) was the model maker who was called in by the Howard Anderson Company to construct the three-foot Enterprise model, designed by Matt Jefferies in 1964, and thereby becoming the very first studio model maker for the Star Trek franchise, though he, as sub-contractor, has never received official credit as such.

Pursuant the three-foot Enterprise studio model, other contributions Datin was called upon to make for the Star Trek: The Original Series were the:

Like his Star Trek model making collegues who came after him, most notably Greg Jein, Datin could frequently be found on the stages of Anderson and Film Effects of Hollywood during the first two seasons of The Original series, helping out with the handling of the models, thereby serving as an impromptu model rigger/operator, for which he was financially compensated however. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 133, p. 50; Star Trek: Lost Scenes, p. 27)

The Space Station K-7 was Datin's last contribution to the Star Trek franchise, but his signature contributions went unacknowledged for the next few decades, due to the fact that he was not officially credited.

Therefore almost forgotten as being the first model maker for Star Trek, Datin had a long uphill struggle to regain recognition as such, the Smithsonian Institution for example, flat-out refusing to believe his claim on the occasion of their 1992-1994 Star Trek Smithsonian Exhibit. To add insult to injury, for nearly two decades it was Don Loos who, not by his own doing, was credited for the build of the eleven-foot model, due to a misinterpretation of a remark Jim Dow had made in a 1979 interview, perpetuated by authors of several reference works ever since for the subsequent two decades, with the build of the three-foot model attributed to Matt Jefferies, this due to a remark former Original Series Art Director Rolland M. Brooks made in a 1987 interview for Cinefantastique magazine. Much of Datin's contemporary, yet fruitless, correspondence with parties concerned to substantiate his claim, has been reproduced in his posthumously published biography.

Yet, a 1996 article by Dan Fiebiger for an Original Series-themed issue of the same Cinefantastique magazine, began to change this state of affairs. Still, how unknown, even to former contemporary production staffers, his contributions were at the time of the publication of the Cinefantastique issue, was exemplified by a rather acid letter, an exasperated Datin sent in as response to another article in the same issue, "In my opinion you owe the readers of your magazine a sincere apology for including the highly fictionalized account of Roland Brook's [sic., and who was still maintaining his misconception] portrait how Matt Jefferies "spent more than four months building the model ship..." for STAR TREK [27:11/12:104]. His recollections of the miniatures, as transcribed by author Sue Uram, are so far from the truth it is utterly pathetic. I pray that your learned readers will be able to distinguish fact from fiction upon reading Mr. Brook's version and Dan Fiebinger's abridged but detailed account, despite the unutilized last minute corrections, regarding the U.S.S. Enterprise in the same issue." (Cinefantastique, Vol.28, #4/5, p.126) Even the otherwise highly knowledgeable former Desilu executive Herbert F. Solow refused to believe Datin when the latter wrote him a letter requesting a rectification in his 1996 reference book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. Co-author and former Original Series producer Robert Justman however did, and sent Datin a letter of apology, managing to get a partial rectification included in the first reprint edition as a footnote. (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker, p. 148)

It was however, specifically the assistance of Star Trek studio model aficionado William S. McCullars in particular, that has brought his work fully into the limelight. The highly detailed in-depth interviews McCullars did with Datin, published as a two-part article in Star Trek: Communicator issue 132 and issue 133 (2001), has provided insightful information into the art of model-making of the 1960s, due to Datin's meticulous record-keeping. McCullars recalled in 2011,

"I managed to track Richard down during the late '90s to discuss his Star Trek modelmaking. I have a lifelong interest in the studio spaceship models used in Star Trek. Richard agreed to interviews, which went on for about two years off and on. He was incredibly patient with me and kept such good records of his work, as well as having a good memory. I finally completed the article around late 2000 or early 2001, and it was published in Star Trek: Communicator magazine in a two-part article. (There is actually a third part to the article, which the Communicator asked me to write for their planned website that never materialized!) After that, the Smithsonian contacted me and asked for my help. I wrote the dedication plaque text and supplied the photo of Richard and the other Enterprise modelmakers for the eleven-foot Enterprise studio model display at the NASM. Richard visited the NASM five or six years ago and had great pride in the dedication plaque." [1]

He had already been unequivocally acknowledged for his contributions previously by his former boss, Howard A. Anderson, Jr., in the 1994 Star Trek-themed episode of the television documentary series Movie Magic, of which Datin was exceedingly proud, and in which he himself made a brief appearance. Stated Datin, "To be asked to be interviewed by the Movie Magic people surprise[d] me, especially when I viewed the show later and saw Howard Anderson Jr., when asked by the interviewer who built the Enterprise model he emphatically uttered my name without hesitation. And after all these years he remembered! That was marvelous. I did not realize what a following there is for TOS, NCC-1701, the Enterprise, it's incredible." (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker, p. 105)

McCullars' act of sending the photograph of Datin taking delivery of the 11-foot model with accompanying text to the National Air and Space Museum, thereby reversing their 1992 position by adding it as a plaque to the permanent display of the original studio model, finally gave Datin and the other builders of the model, the acknowledgment for their contributions, Datin himself had vainly tried to get for years.

For Datin however, his frustration with the museum was not yet at an end. Satisfied that credits were finally given where credits were due, he decided to donate his Enterprise holdings to the museum, including the only existing original construction plans for both models and the wooden nacelle domes, but soon found himself running afoul of museum bureaucracy and redtape. While purportedly interested, the museum demanded a long list of administrative chores to be performed by him in person before they could take possession of his holdings, mostly of a detailed descriptive nature as well as providing detailed proof of ownership and detailed provenance descriptions. Datin, a museum curator himself at the time, was aghast but offered to help museum staff out with the chores and for which he even traveled to Washington DC with his holdings at his own expense, not wanting to loose sight of his precious belongings instead of sending them by mail as demanded by the museum. Once arrived and waiting for a couple of days, he was not even met by a museum representative. Datin gave up and decided not to pursue the matter any longer, justifyingly deeming the matter a waste of time. (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker, Chapter 22, containing excerpts of the fruitless correspondence with the museum)

Career outside Star Trek

With young daughter Noël shortly before the Star Trek commission

Richard Datin was a 1950 Architectural and Structural Technology graduate of New York Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences of Brooklyn NY, and, becoming a professional model maker, has built scale models for various Hollywood studios and TV commercials beginning in 1950 for New York based commercial companies, before heading to Hollywood with his family in 1954, after he had found employment in the motion picture industry as such.

Shortly after his first employment, he decided in August 1955, to continue as an independant contractor building among others the models for the 1959 science fiction The Atomic Submarine and the short-lived 1959-1960 science fiction series Men Into Space (written for by Jerome Bixby and served by Matt Jefferies as set designer) – though uncredited as was customary to do so at the time for visual effects companies and staff alike. However, in February 1962 Datin decided to return into a tenured employee relationship at the model making company Swift-Chaplin Productions, a company that catered to the model needs of both commercial parties (which included Alka-Seltzer) and Hollywood motion picture productions. (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker pp. 16-27)

Increasingly gaining recognition as an accomplished model builder, he again reverted back to an independent contractor, operating his business from his own garage, and predominantly working for Hollywood, thanks to the contacts he had acquired while working for his previous employers. A notable contribution as such had been the sitcom series Petticoat Junction (1963-1970), on which Datin had worked in the 1965-1967 era, and which had concurrently been a partial reason for him to subcontract the build of the eleven-foot Enterprise model to Production Models Shop, as well as the main reason for him to decline a commission for a second three-foot model in the spring of 1966, as he could not deliver in the very short time allotted for the build. Nonetheless, Anderson Company awarded him with a commission for some additional model work on the 1967-1968 science fiction series The Invaders (featuring among others Susan Oliver, Sally Kellerman, Paul Carr, Barbara Luna, and Diana Muldaur), visual effects for which being provided by the company alongside those for The Original Series (being part of the reasons why Film Effects had to brought in as well for the Original Series visuals), and for which Datin again remained uncredited. (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker pp. 27, 52, & 94)

In 1979, Datin changed careers and became the founding curator of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, expanding upon his fascination for trains, several models of which he had already built for Petticoat Junction. During this time and after his retirement in 1989 he has also written several history books about his hometown of Reno, Nevada. In Reno, Datin became acquainted with Darleen Roddenberry, who was a Reno real estate agent at the time, and through her, he met her father Gene Roddenberry for a last time in 1981 at a social event, much to each other's astonishment, and seventeen years after he had met him for the first time, when he hand delivered the finished three-foot Enterprise model to him in person on 15 November 1964. (The Enterprise NCC 1701 and The Model Maker p. 104)

Richard Datin passed away on 24 January 2011 in Reno, Nevada, his hometown for decades, but was, upon his own request, interred in the family plot in Nauvoo, Illinois. [2] Datin was survived by five children by his first wife and his second wife Marguerite, herself mother of three. [3]

His daughter N. Datin McDonald, who as a child had helped out in Production Models Shop during the eleven-foot model construction by sweeping floors and sanding the wooden construction parts, published the below mentioned biography on her father in 2015, in which his work, including that for Star Trek, was dealt with in detail. For the work she built upon the writings and notes her father had left, and as such, the book is in part a posthumous autobiography as well.

Datin's fourth child, son Charles "Charlie" C. Datin, has actually Star Trek ties of his own, as he is the operator of "Cruise Treks", a company that organizes themed convention and/or conference cruises for science fiction fans, those of Star Trek in particular and after which his company is named in the first place, habitually accompanied by actors and behind-the-scenes staff as guests of honor. [4] Starting in 1992, these cruises are, as of 2018, still being organized, with many Star Trek alumni having attended over the years. [5]

Star Trek interviews

  • Movie Magic, Season 1, Episode 11: "Models and Miniatures – A Model of Perfection", 1994
  • "Special Visual Effects", Dan Fiebiger, Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, No. 11/12, 1996, pp. 64-75
  • "Enterprise '64, The real Builders of the Storied Starship", William S. McCullars, Star Trek: Communicator issue 132, 2001, pp. 48-55
  • "Enterprise '64, Part 2, Building a better Starship", William S. McCullars, Star Trek: Communicator issue 133, 2001, pp. 44-51

Further reading

External links