Thread: The Excelsior
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 985
# 35
10-31-2012, 01:38 PM
Originally Posted by shockwave85 View Post
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.
Excellent analysis and explanation!

There is standard design that makes the Federation ship look like a Federation ship, mainly because of the design history, as explained above, but once you start veering off from that it starts to look less like a Fed ship.

If all ships looked like a Defiant, just different sizes, it just would not look right. The Defiant is a small, tight little ship and looks great, but you still need the saucer, hull and nacelle design to look like the standard Fed ship.

The modern ship designers recognize some of the shortcomings of the earlier designs, like the skinny neck attaching the saucer to the hull, and have resulted in even sleeker looking designs, but still hold to the standard design of saucer, hull and nacelle components.

Personally, I am researching what my end-game cruiser will be. I currently run my Engy with a AE (Prometheus) that I thoroughly enjoy but I need a better cruiser than my Star Cruiser - now that I know better, I want a cruiser with more Tac consoles. Sometimes I just want to tank and would like a good cruiser that I can do STFs with. I love the practical look of the Excelsior-Retrofit with the Adv Transwarp but I see better use of the Regent with the 180 degree torps and universal BOff slot... and more modern looks. I'm torn between them.