Friday, April 4, 2014

B is for "better"?

The USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-B, is first seen at the beginning of the film Star Trek: Generations in 1994. It is supposed to be launched in 2293 AD, and its first captain was John Harriman.

The design of the Enteprise B goes back to Star Trek: The Search for Spock, however. Director Leonard Nimoy discussed the script extensively with writer-producer Harve Bennett, wanting "big emotions" on screen. The script was finished in a lightning-fast six weeks, and Bennett came up with the idea of a massive new starship -- the USS Excelsior.

With the script finished so fast, and with no major changes to costumes, props, or the Enterprise model, there was a good deal of money in the budget for the Excelsior. George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was commissioned to do the effects and model work, and ILM came into the process very eary (due to the early script completion). ILM wanted a sleeker, more modern ship than the now-25-year-old Enterprise design.

ILM created an initial design which it presented to Paramount. However, one of the art directors on the film asked for another design just to have something to judge it by. ILM model maker William George came up with a design that, he said, would be the USS Enterprise if designed by the Japanese. Amazingly, Nimoy picked George's design for the Excelsior. The Excelsior is much, much larger than the Enterprise-A, and much longer.

According to Paramount, the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-B, is supposed to be an upgraded Excelsior-class ship. (The numbering now makes no sense. New classes of ships get new numbering schemes, not NCC and certainly not 1701.) The rationale for being an "upgraded" class of starship is because the Enterprise-B suffers extensive damage during its encounter with the Nexus energy ribbon. Production designer Herman Zimmerman designed flared out the engineering hull of the existing Excelsior model. This allowed these additions to be damaged for the film without harming the underlying model.

Below is a side view.

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