Location: The fine line between continuity and fanwank.
Re: Excelsior Technical Manual - Revived!
Okay, Chapter 9 again:
Chapter Nine - End of the Line
By 2347, the conflict with the Cardassians seemed to be coming to a breaking point. Cardassia had come to suspect the Federation's colonization efforts along their borders. While the Federation's motives were largely peaceful, the Cardassians believed that the colonies were attempting to secure the Cardassians' planetary claims for the Federation. Bad intelligence on the Cardassians' part indicated that a secret base had been established by Starfleet on Setlik III for the purpose of a strike deep into Cardassian territory. However, no such base existed. Nonetheless, the Cardassians dispatched a strike force to the planet to destroy the base. In the initial assault, over 100 civilians were killed. The colony's distress calls were soon received by Starfleet ships in the area, and the U.S.S. Rutledge was first on the scene. Her away teams were instrumental in saving the lives of the remaining Setlik colonists, and with the arrival of another half-dozen Starfleet ships soon after, the Cardassians were driven off.
The events of the following weeks were the first of what historians commonly refer to as the Federation-Cardassian Border Wars. The Border Wars were not one prolonged campaign, but instead a series of isolated battles and skirmishes fought between 2347 and 2370. While there were, during some parts of the Border Wars, open declarations by the Cardassians, they never descended into full-scale war. Nonetheless, both Starfleet and the Cardassian Central Command feared that this would be the result, and spread across the entire quadrant. Due to this, and combined with mixed feelings about producing more Ambassador class ships, between 2345 and 2350 Starfleet began fast-paced continual production on Excelsior-class ships that lasted for five full years before ending, ultimately replacing every heavy cruiser it had previously decommissioned as part of the Klingon concessions. After running out the cycle to construct sufficient 'spare parts' to repair the members of the class, Starfleet discontinued further production on the class as scheduled. As a result, many Excelsior-class ships that remained in service into the second half of the 24th century had registry numbers in the NCC-40000 range. The full-scale war predicted by Starfleet would ultimately not occur until the Dominion War of the 2370s.
In 2357, another milestone in Starfleet shipbuilding was achieved: the launch of the U.S.S. Galaxy. Though the Ambassador class had only augmented the Excelsior class and her contemporaries, the Galaxy class was expressly meant to supplant most of their primary exploratory roles. Galaxy class ships were the largest, most ambitious ships ever launched. The longevity of the Excelsior class inspired Starfleet engineers to design the Galaxy class with a 100 year service career in mind. Their amenities were impressive by any standard, and they possessed the longest range and most varied capabilities of any Starfleet ship ever constructed. With the launch of these and other new ships over the next decade, Excelsior class ships would begin to take a back-seat in some key mission roles. A few remained deployed on long range exploratory missions, such as the illustrious U.S.S. Repulse, one of the first Excelsiors commissioned in the 2290s. Most of the others would be assigned exploratory, research, and patrol duties inside the boundaries of Federation space.
Still, the last Excelsior class ship had not been launched. In 2357, even as Galaxy left drydock, design work began on a refit for the Excelsior class designed to prolong their service lifetime. A combination of new components and older components kept in fleet yards for repairs on Excelsior class ships were used to build and launch the U.S.S. Melbourne. The ship had originally been ordered as a Nebula-class ship, but the registry was re-purposed for naming of the new Excelsior prototype. The Melbourne would become the pattern for all refits on the Excelsior class through the 2360s, but would herself be lost at the Battle of Wolf 359 to the Borg in 2367. Also in 2357, the U.S.S. Excelsior herself underwent a refit to Melbourne specifications and, due to her age and historic status, would no longer be assigned long range missions outside the safety of the Federation sphere.
First contact with the Borg by the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, in 2366 was another event that would radically change the climate of Starfleet shipbuilding. When the Enterprise was flung into the path of a Borg cube by the being known as Q, Starfleet discovered that it was completely unprepared for a threat that, before this encounter, it didn't even know existed. The Borg were completely incompatible with the Federation mindset; they were a foe that was for all intents and purposes a force of nature with which there could be no hope of negotiation or coexistence, only survival. Although Starfleet began a program to prepare the fleet to defeat the Borg threat, including the development of several starship classes specifically for that task, Starfleet was unprepared when the Borg did attack in 2367. Starfleet's loss of a task force of ships (including four older Excelsiors, plus the state of the art Melbourne) at the Battle of Wolf 359 that year later drove home the point. Indeed, the Borg were only defeated by a series of fortunate coincidences. The success of the Galaxy class clearly demonstrated the efficacy of building starships that could serve the dual roles of explorer and battleship, and Starfleet began an urgent program to upgrade the tactical abilities of the entire fleet. Among the goals of this program was a directive to investigate the upgradeability of the tactical systems of existing ships, as well as the development of new, more combat-oriented starships. As final refits were completed on the members of the aging Excelsior class, Starfleet began investigating options for upgrading their tactical capabilities.
Discovery of the Bajoran wormhole to the Gamma Qudrant and subsequent contact with the Dominion renewed Starfleet's urgent need for tactical upgrades to the fleet. In 2371, the U.S.S. Lakota, NCC-42769, put into drydock to be upgraded with experimental tactical systems developed originally to combat the Borg threat, including quantum torpedoes and ablative hull armor. Lakota was one of the ships originally produced during the 2345-2350 continual production of the Excelsior class, and was of the same variant type as the Enterprise-B. When the refit was complete one year later, Lakota was conscripted into an attempted Starfleet coup, and was ordered to intercept the U.S.S. Defiant before she could reach Earth. The ensuing battle was illustrative of the success of Lakota's refit. While the ship performed admirably against the Defiant (a ship built almost exclusively for combat), she ultimately lost. In the aftermath, Starfleet decided it was simpler to only give Excelsior class ships minimal upgrades while producing newer, more well-armed ships such as those of the Defiant class. Still, Excelsior class ships would be instrumental in the coming war with the Dominion.
Not long after, a 133 year old Hikaru Sulu died in his residence in San Francisco on Earth of complications resulting from a recent illness. In his honor, the Excelsior was pulled from deep space service and reassigned to the contingent of ships permanently stationed in the Sol System to guard Earth. Sulu was given a full state funeral with honors, and the Federation observed a day of mourning for his death. It is ironic that the death of Sulu would ensure the life of Excelsior; prior to Sulu's death the ship remained stationed along Cardassian space, and would likely have fallen victim to one of the early aggressive Dominion offensives after the onset of the Dominion War in late 2373.
And does anyone have an opinion on my Melbourne
Now, as most of you probably know, there were actually in the real world two Melbourne
s - one was a Nebula
class study model that sported two extra smaller warp nacelles where other Nebula
s have pods (for a total of four) and was glimpsed briefly as a wreck in 'Best of Both Worlds.' Later, when the Battle of Wolf 359 was restaged for 'Emissary,' they used the Excelsior
model, relabelled with the higher registry number originally appropriate of the Nebula
class ship - which was quite visible on the Excelsior
class model when the ship's saucer was destroyed by the Borg cube.
Now, I've obviously retconned the Excelsior
into a refit prototype for the entire class, explaining the weirdly high number - a notion I'm quite happy with. However, I dislike ignoring the Nebula
class ship - particularly after reading on Memory Alpha
that is was suggested in a TNG short story that both ships were named Melbourne
and were present at Wolf 359 - the Nebula
being an under-construction replacement for the Excelsior,
launched early to meet the Borg, and that it was the Nebula
class ship offered to Riker.
I'm contemplating stating that the Excelsior
was a 'kitbash' never intended for long-term use, much like the Enterprise-
A was stated to have been retired 'early' for similar reasons. What does everyone think of all of this? (I also have a short appendix dedicated to the Melbourne
in the technical section, review of which prompted me to be at this crossroads.)
Even just a yay/nay would be helpful. I just can't decide.
"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross; but it's not for the timid." - Q