BLUEPRINTS: Star Trek: “Excelsior”

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As we talked about last time, there’s a lot of fanfic blueprints out there, some of them painstakingly accurate, some painfully inaccurate, some of ships that never existed in any franchise, and those that take a lot of liberties with the subject matter. The interesting thing about the ‘liberty-taking’ ones is that sometimes they represent an improvement over the source material.

Case in point, today’s set of ‘prints: a modified version of the Excelsior, which has been gussied up slightly into a form that makes more sense, making a more polished reasonable version of the ship. (Assuming any Starfleet ship makes logical sense, which they don’t.)

This is a fairly standard set of ‘Trek ‘Prints: five sheets, blue ink on white paper, three vertical folds, and one unseemly fold (I almost said ‘unseemly seam’) located horizontally about a third of the way from the top, so it’ll fit into the envelope. Each sheet is about 29 inches wide by about a foot tall. 12.5 inches if you want to get picky. There’s five sheets.

Sheet 1 is a really nice side view that captures the sweeping lines of the vessel. Sheet 2 is a plan view, or ’outboard top view’ Sheets 3 and 4 are bottom, front, and back views. All of these are standard axial drawings, with no perspectives, angles, or ’beauty shots.’ As with most blueprints, these are supposed to look as ’in universe’ as possible. If Geordi or Scotty were looking at paper prints (As in Star Trek VI: The Title That Sounds Good But Makes No Sense), these are supposed to be exactly the kind of thing they’re looking at.

The eye-popper here is sheet 5, an “Inboard Profile Cutaway,” which is to an internal side view that shows the decks and some internal detail of the ship itself. Since there have never been any official internal plans for an Excelsior class ship, these are as authoritative as anything else, and while they’re obviously derivative of the style of plans that have been a staple since Franz Joseph’s Tech Manual, it still looks pretty neat. There’s no internal detail for the warp engines, however.

The changes from the actual model are not sweeping. Externally she’s exactly the same, with only minor changes for the most part:

1) Minor changes to the outside of the bridge
2) There’s a section of the lower aft ‘secondary hull’ that has traditionally been open to space, and you can see machinery or exposed tanks or whatever inside it. In these ‘prints that’s been closed up and paneled over, and an auxiliary landing bay has been added. (As an aside: This never made much sense in the movies, and I'm assuming it was to get across the idea that the Excelsior was a prototype)
3) the upper hull of the secondary hull has had a few vertical docking tubes added to it, and a couple cargo elevators, like the middle-of-the-deck deck elevators you’d find on a World War II aircraft carriers (But not a side-deck deck elevator)
4) “Megaphaser Emplacements” have been added to the bend in the support pylons for the engines. (Sigh)
5) Most substantially: There has always been a long streamlined structure between the two engine supports on the upper hull of the secondary section. This seems really extraneous, and I suspect it was there to anchor the engines on to the theatrical model - the thing is very long and ungainly to work with - it’s not amazingly noticeable, but it’s ungainly itself and appears to serve no in-universe function. It has been removed, and replaced by a much larger, much more sensible structure: an new hangar bay.

This is unlike any hangar we’ve ever seen in the show, though it’s derivative of the movie-era ones. It’s a huge enclosed space that fits the curve of the stern. At its widest, it’s two hundred feet across, tapering down to a mere eighty or eighty-five feet. The whole bay is four hundred and sixty feet long, and about fifty feet tall along its entire length. If that sounds clunky, or ugly, it’s not. In profile, it’s a bit like the quarterdeck of a sailing ship, offsetting the HUGE saucer section on this bad boy.

It has three - count ’em - three sets of clam shell hangar bay doors, one in the aft, two in the front, situated diagonally, one opening to the forward right, another to the forward left. The idea is that, like a modern aircraft carrier, this thing can be landing and launching vessels simultaneously. The deck plans show this is all interconnected, with no internal walls breaking up the flow inside.

The only part of this whole thing that I don’t prefer to the source model would be the “Megaphasers.” These clearly never existed inside the Trekaverse, and they ruin the lines of the ship, tiny, ugly, stubby little wings sticking out from the engine supports. Yuck.

Whatever category of ship the Excelsior originally was - I forget and I’m too lazy to look it up - these plans say it was re-designated as a “Space Control Ship,” meaning, essentially, a dedicated flagship with enhanced communications and data-gathering capability, analogous to the “Command Ship” concept the Navy’s been fiddling with for a couple decades now. But if that’s the case, then why all the weapons? Why the massive Aircraft Carrier flight deck? Command Ships have barely-if-any weapons, they’re small, stay in the center of the fleet, and are protected by the other ships.

Either the authors didn’t know what a “Command Ship” was, or (more likely) Trek simply will not allow the existence of any actual, effective, cool-looking warships. If it’s got teeth, Trek don’t want it. Thus, “Control Ship” might be euphemistic for “Ship that goes out and takes over - or commands - a big hunk o’ space.”

My only caveat on the prints themselves was the absence of a measurement guide on every page. This is easily circumvented since al the sheets are to the same scale, but it’s annoying none the less. A note states that this is the “Terranglo Second Edition.” Get it? “Terranglo?” Terran-Anglo? Earth-English? I don’t know why they bothered to mention the language at all, since everyone in the Federation speaks English anyway. (Yes they do, Trekies, yes they do. Picard makes an English-specific phonetic joke at one point) If you’ve got to mention language, however, they probably should have just said “English,” since their made up portmanteau sounds like some kind of orange. Or maybe a floor wax (“Terranglo Floor Polish, proud sponsors of the 2012 Olympics…”)

The credits at the bottom of every sheet say that these plans were drawn by Todd Guenther, “Approved” by Donovan G. Bosch, and that Jason Genser was the “Compositor,” whatever that is. They were composed by something unofficial with the very official-sounding name of “Star Fleet Deparment Of Graphic Design,” 49 Stima Avenue, Carteret, New Jersey, 07008-9998. They’re distributed by “Star Station Aurora,” PO Box 4990, Holyoke, Massachusetts, 01041-4990

I can’t find a copyright date (Can you even copyright fanfic drawings based on someone else’s copywritten intellectual property?), so I have no idea when these were done, but I’ve had my set for about eighteen years, so it’s at least early-90s. It might date to the very-late-eighties, those super-hyper-mega-kill-o-matic phasers look awfully Starfleet Battles to me, but if I had to guess, I’d say it rolled out in 1990. I base that on nothing whatsoever.

If you have more information about these plans, are a member of “Starbase Aurora,” or perhaps even assisted in the making of ‘em, we’re always interested to know more. Drop us a line at three@republibot.com

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