Thread: The Excelsior
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Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,005
# 17
10-26-2012, 09:09 AM
Originally Posted by hereticknight085 View Post

Anyways, back on topic. I personally rather dislike the excelsior design. In completely honesty I dislike the design of most federation ships. I mean, seriously? A SAUCER??? I don't see ANY reason for that particular design. At all. To speak of. And having the nacelles out on pylons? Something that critical sticking out on those little spindly things (even on your vaunted galaxy those things were skinny as hell)?? It's like saying: Here's our primary power matrix unit, just shoot a few times and blow it off. Cuz you schelak the nacelles of a ship, suddenly their engines are crippled. In one fell swoop. Fed ships functionally speaking, terrible designs. Except for the Defiant. THAT little ship was excellently designed. Small, compact, no unnecessary crap on it. Actually now that I think about it, it's probably the only federation design that doesn't make me cringe when I think about functionality (course this is the same mind that cringes when he sees anything that doesn't have it's main command center buried deep inside the center of the ship behind layers of armor and decks... probably why covenant cruisers from halo are my fave design as functionality goes).
To understand Fed ship design, you have to go all the way back to Matt Jeffries in 1964 sketching out what a space ship would look like. Flying saucers were basically synonymous with space ships at the time, so they started with that. They also decided it seemed logical that these powerful faster-than-light engines would be in some way radioactive (nuclear fears also big in the 60's!), so they would have to be out away from the crew. So, Jeffries added three cylindrical projections attached by pylons to the saucer. Eventually, the upper two were moved from attaching to the saucer, to being attached to the lower cylinder, and there you have the basic layout of the Enterprise.

While canon would eventually seem to establish that the nacelles weren't harmful to the crew, as multiple times we'd see people working inside them, the design is what it is. All future designs, especially any slated to be named Enterprise have to pay homage. Alternate explanations are given in sources like the TNG tech manual that have the nacelles positioned for optimal warp field efficiency relative to the overall structure of the ship. This is also supported by the variable wings on the Intrepid-class, which while not obvious in the actual show, were supposed to adjust their position depending on speed and maneuvering requirements.

The Defiant is unique among capital ships, but not among small craft. While larger ships tend to have outboard nacelles, smaller craft like shuttles have them pulled in close or entirely internal. The Defiant's uniquely compact structure may be what allows its nacelles to pull in so close. This also seems to be true of low performance ships like freighters and transports, which almost never have visible nacelles (Tuffli).

So, yes, while having the nacelles away from the rest of the ship does make them somewhat vulnerable, it may be necessary to achieve the high performance design goals of a starship (at least with Fed technology, other species may vary). Also, generally you are protected by your shields. With Trek-era weaponry, when your shields go down, you're SOL anyway.

Also, Excelsior, possibly my favorite ship design. There are very few facts when it comes to aesthetics, it's pretty much 100% opinion.