Friday, April 4, 2014

E is for "a little extra" -- extra ch-ch-ch-changes, that is!

During 2378 to 2379, the Enterprise-E apparently underwent a major refit which replaced her warp nacelles. The new nacelles were longer and more sharply swept-back. A number of new photon torpedo tubes were added fore and aft, and the bridge improved.

Immediately after its short shake-down cruise, the refitted ship was sent to Romulus for peace talks. It turned out that a human-Romulan hybrid named Shinzon had already executed a successful coup d'etat on Romulus, and the peace overture was fake. With Shinzon intent on destroying all life on Earth, the Enterprise-E had to confront Shinzon's ultra-powerful ship, the Scimitar. It largely failed, and Commander Deanna Troi used the heavily damaged ship to ram the Scimitar -- destroying the Romulan vessel. (These are the events of Star Trek: Nemesis.)

A deleted scene in the film, restored on the DVD release, showed the ship being towed back to Earth and being repaired rather than salvaged for parts.

I'll just make a trivia note here: Be wary of fan art. In all the Enteprise designs in all the movies, pylons extend up and outward from the lower engineering hull. The warp nacelles are placed at the end of the pylons (usually with the pylon attached mid-nacelle). In the movies, these pylons are ALWAYS straight. Much fan art makes them curved. Watch, too, for swept-backs. In the movies, the pylons are swept back somewhat. Much fan art sweeps them back a LOT. I think the two errors creep into fan art because the software being used finds its easy to create a curve rather than a straight line, and easier to model pylons and nacelles that are farther away and distinct from the hull. Remember the rule of thumb in design, folks: A little goes a long way!

There are other Enterprises seen in TV series and movies, but these are alternative timeline versions which may or may not exist.

I never understood why series and movie designers felt the need to stick with the "disk and nacelle" design for Starfleet vessels. I understand that the engines supposedly generate radiation and need to be kept away from the hull. OK. But why this obsession with disks???? It seems awfully limiting, from a design perspective (both aesthetically and engineering).

It's not really that often that the movies or series have big battle scenes where differentiation is needed. Usually, it's one-on-one (or three-on-one), and more often than not the enemy ship is readily apparent through the viewscreen or because of the placement of the ships ("three bad guys surrounding one good guy -- us, our ship which shows up in every episode every week").

Generally, military uniforms exist to differentiate "us" from "them" in battle, as a morale-builder, and to create elan. Retaining them aboard starships functions the same way.

But in a world of space battles, it should be fairly easy to know "us" from "them". Most planets would have several designs, but no real hodge-podge. This isn't Mad Max, after all. We have budgetary considerations, and some designs do not offer what "we" want (like shuttlecraft, or a scientific sensor array, or more speed, or...). In the Star Trek universe, the Romulans and Klingons use the "bird of prey" motif for painting their ships. Certain alien species (the Tholians, for example) would design ships differently due to their species needs. (See the Xindi designs for a sample.)

It just seems not to make much sense. Even from an aesthetic viewpoint, you'd think fans would like to see far more variation in ship design. They certainly create it in online games and in fan art.

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