Thread: The Excelsior
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Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 420
# 18
10-26-2012, 09:46 AM
It should be noted that the original designs had most of the engine equipment isolated to the nacelles, whereas the movies moved much of this into the interior of the ship.

In TOS, the Engineering Section was actually at the front of the impulse engines on the primary hull (that is the impulse drive behind the grillwork in Engineering), and about the only part of the matter-antimatter reactor system that was inside the hull was the dilithium matrix (probably due to the need to manually work on that part on a regular basis). Indeed, there was at least one episode where the Enterprise was almost forced to jettison the warp nacelles to prevent the destruction of the ship from a runaway matter-antimatter reaction.

When the movies came along, the designers brought the Engineering section to the upper part of the Secondary hull, and put almost everything but the actual warp field generation equipment inside the ship. While it no doubt was more for eye-candy ("ooooo....plasma tubes!") than actual reason, it did possibly offer better access for repairs and maintenance. However, as seen quite often in TNG, the perils of putting your warp core -inside- the hull of your ship are pretty obvious (who in their right mind puts the matter-antimatter core -right in the middle of your Engineering control spaces where your crew is standing-???).

All that aside, it can be surmised that placing the warp field generators away from the hull of your ship is a good idea when you will be generating high-power warp fields, as anything that can warp space will probably do nasty things to the hull of your ship. In the case of some ships (Defiant) the need to protect the warp coils from damage takes priority over the danger of exposure to the warp field by crew and ship, and it can be assumed the drives on such ships are very closely monitored and have special shielding to help drop the risks. Even so, it's almost always obvious that the warp engines are still isolated from the hull, even if they are directly in contact with it.

Of course, civilian ships don't need high-powered drives, and alien cultures don't necessarily have the same consideration for safety that the Federation (read: Terran) engineers do. So, not all ships in existance use nacelles, or of such size.

As far as the saucer goes, it's worth noting that a saucer shape is a good natural shape for atmospheric flight, while also offering optimal design for internal organization. It's not unreasonable that a part of the ship meant to be the primary inhabited part of the ship and an emergency lifeboat for the entire crew might end up a saucer. Certainly, it's a very good combat shape that optimizes firing arcs while minimizing target profile to incoming shots from the equatorial direction.

All in all, in my opinion, the classic Constitution-type design is actually one of the better thought-out ship hulls in Sci-Fi for what it was designed to do.

Last edited by danqueller; 10-26-2012 at 09:49 AM.