First off, a big Thank You to Corinne for filling in for me last week with one of her wonderful Star Trek: The Next Generation live tweets. If you aren’t following her on Twitter, you’re missing out!
Now for your regularly scheduled Trek…
And the word “trek” is quite fitting considering this week’s topic. Without boring you with the exact dictionary definition, a trek is a journey or trip. Star Trek, is, for the most part, about a ship’s journey through space, and for most of those journeys the ship in question has been the USS Enterprise.
The Enterprise is the conveyance of choice in four out of the six Star Trek television series and in all 12 feature films (Although, it admittedly isn’t in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home very much). Over the course of those series and movies, we’ve had five different looks for the USS Enterprise (and more than counting brief appearances by the Enterprise-B, C, and J), but the original version from the original Star Trek series was designed by the show’s art director, Matt Jefferies (The Jefferies tubes running throughout Federation starships to provide access to internal systems are named after him). That ship with its saucer section, lower engineering hull, and two warp nacelles, set the design philosophy for the franchise for the next 50 years.
The in-universe specifications for the various versions of the Enterprise aren’t as interesting to me as the ship itself. As much as the bar set on Cheers or the living room on The Big Bang Theory, the bridge of the Enterprise is the “home” where we most often see our characters. It and other often seen ship locations, such as the transporter room, sickbay, and even the corridors, are a familiar environment for us as viewers to return to episode after episode. This is true for the ship’s exterior. Often a shot of the Enterprise traveling through space or orbiting a planet is the way episodes begin or return from a commercial break. This is where our “home” is now.
That feeling of home is harder to create within the confines of a two hour movie, but I do feel that the recent JJ Abrams films have not even made the attempt. Look at the “reveal” shot of the Enterprise from Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film in comparison with the reveal in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture directed by Robert Wise. With apologies for the poor quality clip from the 2009 film, the difference is huge. Abrams spends about 30 seconds giving really only one good look at the ship while Wise spends four minutes lovingly caressing the vessel with his camera in what is basically a glorious piece of starship porn. What Wise and other directors (including Leonard Nimoy) understood and Abrams did not is that the Enterprise is more than a space ship, more than a way to get from here to there, and even more than a home. The Enterprise is practically a character herself.
I will leave you with the words of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who spoke about the original Enterprise during a “Starship Smackdown” panel at Comicon in 2012. Listen to these words of wisdom.
He absolutely right.
Although, if I’m honest, I actually like the version from Star Trek 1-VI better. Just watch that clip from Star Trek: The Motion Picture again.
That is a damn beautiful ship.
- Alan Decker
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