Sunday, 31 July 2016

Some Kind of New Starship

Seen Star Trek Beyond? Bet those last few minutes left you wanting another look - well here Chris Groves takes a closer glance at NCC-1701-A

Any Star Trek fan (that has not been marooned on Ceti Alpha V) will be aware of the controversy surrounding the design of the Enterprise in the Kelvin timeline movies.

In 2009 JJ Abrams introduced us to a Beautiful ship but one that was (in mass terms) some FIVE times larger than the ship we had become accustomed to in The Original Series, The Animated Series and the original cast movies Star Trek I-VI.

The USS Enterprise was always supposed to be around the 300 meter long mark, (Gene presented, after all this was an ‘Alternate’ timeline and therefore historical rules would be different. Roddenberry himself demanded that the ship be more or less exactly 1000 feet) but we accepted (to a degree) the behemoth of a vessel that nu-

Then in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, JJ summarily had the ship destroyed in the battle with the even more gigantic USS Vengeance (Least said about THAT ship the better) so here we are in 2016 and most of us by now have seen Star Trek Beyond.

A brand new Enterprise is introduced, sleeker lines, leaner nacelles and thinner saucer section, but STILL stupendously huge (most of the size it seems being made up of unexplained massive empty spaces where crew often go flying around in terror when the ship is attacked?)

Of course we needn’t worry about this ship anyway, since within 40 minutes of the new movie’s running time, it too is destroyed utterly beyond repair (see what I did there).

But there is hope… the end of the movie we witness the construction of the USS Enterprise-A, and from the limited screen time and reveals there is hope that this new, new Enterprise is smaller and more akin to the classic ship we all love so dearly.

(Spoilers Ahead)

As the crew (and Jaylah) look on, we see a wonderfully filmed ‘Time-lapse’ effect of the new vessel being constructed at Starbase Yorktown. In fact there's a note right at the beginning of the film that the only ship more advanced than the Enterprise is being constructed at the massive station - this has to be that vessel.

The first thing that is noticeable is that on the main engineering section there are fewer and more tightly contained decks, approximately 9-10 decks (almost exactly correct to the prime Enterprise design) which is a lot less than the original JJ version.

Looking to the saucer, the underside module at the centre seems a lot more prominent and well lit but aside from that there's not a great deal different in these first images. What does blare out at you is the size of the registry on the underside of the hull. It's big. really, really big.

Then there is the gap between the neck of the ship and the forward deflector array, again it is fitted back so that the deflector protrudes but the fit is much more in alignment with the movie deflector of the Constitution refit with a much smaller amount of secondary hull extending forward from the neck. That similarity to the Prime line even goes down to the panels carrying the Starfleet pennant along the sides of the hull which extend forward beyond the hull curve to the edges of the deflector.

Also in this section we see a classic forward twin torpedo launcher and the design matches the same type we saw in the Prime ship (see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for example –lots of close ups of these launchers). It's a larger unit but still has that curve around the neck which combines both universe designs. 

Above the neck there is a curious yet wonderful looking huge triangular join section (where the saucer section will be fitted presumably). What is exciting about this is that is resembles the cobra battle head of the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation; a nod to a more well designed saucer separation functionality in this new Constitution class and maybe a "learning" from the experience at Altamid. Does this mean that the new "A" is more military than the one it succeeds?

Around that, the neck isn't a lot different to the JJ/Beyond design, remaining very narrow but much broader front to back than that of the Prime universe alternative.

There are many features like this that imply that not only is the new ship smaller and closer to prime universe commonality, but that it has also been designed to be tougher, more capable and clever in conception than the previous vessels.  Just look at the underside of the engineering hull for example. While the saucer is virtually the same, the bottom of the secondary hull has a much more pronounced curve that starts more towards the front of that section than its apparently larger predecessor. That style is very similar to the "later" Ambassador Class and to a degree the Excelsior Class than Constitution.

As for engines, the impulse block to the back of the saucer is markedly smaller than the JJ original which could be a direct indicator that the ship is indeed smaller than the original. The nacelles are substantial, and they are angled out further from front view than before, they still have curves, but not to the degree of the reboot ships.

A particular design change I personally love there are the thicker, almost more armoured nacelle bases, with flare out joins that make them see far stronger than before - you can see some of the developments that, again, might have been added following the Swarm attack in Beyond.Take a good look there too because those pylons seem to attach to the nacelles right behind the bussard collectors. Is there much of the secondary hull that isn't attached to these new pylons?

In fact at the pylon tops there's a glorious ‘cranked arrow’ effect with a broad wing-like addition that almost adds a aircraft like suggestion. We don't get a brilliant look at those nacelles however but comparing them to the JJ-original, they do seem a lot less complicated, more streamlined and more "tubular" if you will however the collectors still emanate that blue hue rather than the red from The Original Series or The Next Generation for instance.

As I said earlier, the pictures are not perfect and the scene was all of 30 seconds, but this new USS Enterprise could be third time lucky and may indeed be a classic starship we can really BELIEVE in.

Note the cobra head and torpedo tubes

Looking on - the A under construction at Yorktown
What do you think to the update and the new "A"?

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