Thread: Enterprise Pic
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Old January 20 2008, 03:22 AM   #371
aridas sofia
Rear Admiral
Re: Enterprise Pic

In response to the ongoing discussion of welders and polymers, space warps and starship construction techniques, cinematic vision and scientific speculation, I feel compelled to weigh in. I'm reticent to do so because I so enjoy reading what the rest of you have to say -- even those of you that I vehemently disagree with. I may think you're daft, but daft can be fun.

Anyhow, the debate between Borgus and Cary -- two posters that I particularly enjoy and usually find enlightening -- and that came to involve a number of other well-informed posters, has my goat. And my goat don't like to be had. So, a few comments:

This thing is a teaser, shown a year from the planned release of the film. We're going to pick it apart for clues to how it will tread on all these years of stuff we find so enjoyable. Like I said, I enjoy reading what you are writing, but I don't feel in any way competent to comment on this group's work until I see more. That is, unless there is ample evidence of some discrepancy or nonsense that implies a certain lack of care or attention. What I see is a retro, deco-inspired redesign of the original Enterprise, presumably at the time of its original construction, in a form very different from the one we know. I for one have no problem with this, as long as it is in service of a good story, and an interesting artistic vision that is attentive to the same profound powers of speculation exhibited by the original. For me, that's Star Trek. Anything else is something else. So... people that know me and my writing and speculations know full well that I have for a long time said I thought the Enterprise at launch should look pretty different from its TOS self.

And have gone through a TMP-level refit sometime before TOS.

Some of you argue that the ship from TOS is too far removed from the lines of the original to be the same, and I have to laugh. The very foundation of the show is science and technology that involves understanding and manipulation of gravity at a very fine level of precision. It involves not just manipulation of this fundamental force for the comfort of the crew, but in service of propulsion. And not just to push a ship through normal space. Paired with an equally impressive command of antigravity to create and sustain space warps. Alone, the antigravity powers deflectors and force fields. In short, these people have from episode one shown remarkable command and understanding of the most fundamental force in the universe. A force that we and our materials science can not even say we understand in any way other than its apparent effects. Not its essential substance, not its origins, and not the full scope of its cosmological role. But there on the other extreme is Starfleet, building and refitting starships with all that understanding at its command.

But so what? It's just gravity. But then there's so much more. These people also have at their command matter-energy conversion technology at again such a fine level of precision that it can not only replicate a lump of metal or a piece of beef, but transport a living being. They commonly display an understanding of how to chart matter down to Planck levels of time and space.

And these people can't turn the TOS starship into the one from TMP in eighteen months? The unfathomable effects such command of a basic understanding of the processes undergirding this entire cosmos would have on material science alone is beyond our imaginations. Limited to metals and polymers and ceramics, so says Cary. Seriously? He generously adds "composites"? And then says it's unlikely there will be anything else. I ordinarily have high regard for his speculation, but here I believe him to be woefully shortsighted. What categories of substances we can create with such an incomplete understanding of the fundamental laws that govern our reality will undoubtedly change when that understanding is broadened to include a full understanding and technological control of gravity, antigravity and matter-energy conversion.

And broadened to the degree we see as commonplace in Star Trek? Magic. Simply magic to our eyes. We wouldn't begin to understand what is going on.

So... Abrams can't show it. Even Roddenberry often speculated in 1960s terms. When building a starship's basic components on the ground and trucking them into space, he was speaking in terms of NASA's near-future speculations. In terms his audience could comprehend, but still hold in awe. A starfaring civilization that doesn't mine its solar system for building materials and do the whole damn thing in space is such a contradiction in terms that it becomes fantasy. But fine, so much of Trek is fantasy that we have to give them their own language and concede them their vision. Though one would hope they would try to stay as far ahead of us as the original creators of the show were, and not fall further behind.

So... it's consistent to say this ship can look any way they want in 2245, and be largely built on Earth and trucked into space for final assembly per the GR story. And then be bent and twisted and beamed apart and replicated and reduced to basic elements and eventually reconstructed in the NASM-ensconced form we know around its original frame.

But not with guys using 1950s welding outfits and acetylene torches. Please.


Let's see extruders creating metal frame like grey goo toothpaste that instantly freezes into a glittering skeleton of incomprehensible beauty. Show me nanoscale builders that magically bring basic forms into view before our eyes -- apparently creating something out of nothing. People? How about 23rd century construction techs using carbon spinners, weaving ceramics into a hull like spiders weaving a web. Then let's see the welders -- plasma torches on robotic limbs sealing weird rainbow-hued panels into place on the hull. And transporter and replicator technology just to make the point that what's a pumpkin one minute can be a starship the next.

I will be the first to concede an artist his vision, and applaud when he thinks it out and does the work to get it to make sense within a story at least enough to suspend disbelief, but hopefully somewhat more. I like almost everything I see if this is the original Enterprise at launch, though I would dearly love to lay these old eyes on the original one more time, stretched in new and remarkable detail on a big screen. That's the nostalgic boy in me, and I wouldn't be here if he wasn't a pretty powerful force in my life. But reason prevails, and I concede the artist his vision.

I like almost everything. But I am conflicted. In this snippet -- this little tiny bit that these people have chosen to give us as a first taste of their Supreme filmmaking powers -- there is a lot of style. 1940s shipbuilders in a naval dock welding away on the carrier Enterprise, it could be. I like that, but it needn't be so damned literal. You can have lots and lots of style, and damn that's great. But make it work with a believable and magical vision of Things That May Come. Put your 1940s welder's goggles on your carbon-spinning techs. Have antigrav cranes that hint at a drydock at the old San Francisco Navy Yards in 1938, but just so happen to pop stuff out of thin air. Use the style to make the well-conceived tech all the more enticing and interesting.

All I can say is, coming from somebody that has spent a hell of a lot of his time thinking about this question...

That's what Jefferies would do. Do it with you own style, but don't abandon that practical, fundamental approach. I believe it defines in ways we can hardly imagine the look and longstanding appeal of the original Star Trek. Dump it with trepidation, for here there be dragons.
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