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Old August 10 2013, 08:24 PM   #6
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Re: Oberth Class – the missing link between Enterprise and Reliant

Hi Bob,

Thanks for writing this up. I did a similar essay about the Oberth class in Star Trek, and I will link it here once I make a slight fix to it.

Robert Comsol wrote: View Post
Because of its ongoing appearances in TNG (most likely because of budget restrictions) there seems to be the widespread assumption that the design of the USS Grissom (or Oberth Class), introduced in the third Star Trek movie, should be a design of the late, but not the early 23rd, and most definitely not the late 22nd Century.
It is my personal opinion that the Oberth class debuted sometime after TMP.

I dare to say that this is some sort of retcon bias which we shouldn’t consider as relevant. IMO, it’s only relevant, what the producers of ST III and/or the ILM model builders had in mind to be the backstory for the USS Grissom (and the Oberth Class) as far as we can tell and conclude from the available information. They designed, picked and put in on screen, so they should know best.
That's the thing, though: I don't think ILM had any "backstory" about the ship or it's design. They needed a science vessel, they made several study models, Nimoy picked the one he liked the best. I don't think it's any more complicated than that.

The August 1984 issue of Cinefex (page 43) merely classified it as a “scout class vehicle” (i.e. smaller ships compared to the “largest and most powerful man-made ships in space” according to The Making of Star Trek).
I'm pretty sure that it was referred to as a "scout class" because that's how Kirk referred to it in dialogue in the film, and it had nothing to do with TMOST, IMHO.

The June 1987 compilation issue of Cinefantastique illustrated ILM’s originalsize comparison chart (later supplemented with TNG ships by Andrew Probert: This chart specified a length of “395’ O.L.” (395 feet or 120 meters overall length) for the F.S.V. (Federation Survey Vessel) Grissom and the Oberth Class (but its correct size was only shown in the films, including Star Trek VII at the end).
I'm not going to belabor too much about the ship's size, as most ships in Star Trek are quite inconsistent in this regard. However, I personally believe the ship is a bit larger than 120 meters.

One thing that should really raise a couple of eyebrows is the study model of the Grissom (selected by the Star Trek III producers from different design proposals) that wore the name “VALIANT” (but no NCC registry number whatsoever!). This looks like a clue what the early 23rd Century “USS Valiant” of the ill-fated Earth mission to Eminiar VII (50 years prior to TOS) could or should have looked like, according to the ILM model makers and/or film producers.
No offense, but that's complete supposition on your part. I really, REALLY doubt that ILM was thinking of some throwaway ship name from "A Taste of Armageddon." You're giving them far too much credit here. Unless you have some info about ILM that I'm not aware of?

ILM had provided the VFX model of the Reliant but may have felt compelled to provide the (yet) missing design link between the Enterprise and the Reliant, possibly inspired by this original sketch of Matt Jefferies which had been available to everyone owning a copy of The Making of Star Trek.
Honestly, I think that the Grissom's design was based more on one of the Excelsior study models (the flat one with two nacelles that strongly resemble the Grissom's nacelles). If Nimoy had picked that particular study model as the Excelsior's final design, then it would have been obvious that the Grissom would have been the Excelsior's contemporary. I don't think its design has anything whatsoever to do with a "missing link," since it doesn't resemble either the Enterprise or the Reliant at all.

Of course, if your ship doesn’t have strong or any deflector shields because it is an older design, there is little the captain can do but pray (which Esteban did).
Esteban called for evasive action. That surely meant to at least raise shields. Obviously they simply didn't raise them in time before the BoP fired on them.

U.S.S. Copernicus is NCC-623 (Star Trek IV, renamed and renumbered Grissom model trapped inside Earth Spacedock)
Actually, the Copernicus's registry is 640. The 623 reg is a mistake. Okuda mentioned that when the model was filmed as the Tsiolkovsky, he didn't have time to relabel or re-reg the model from its last appearance in STIV.
U.S.S. Tsiolkovsky is 640...
Again, what was actually on the model when it was filmed as the Tsiolkovsky is irrelevant. The ship's registry is 53911.

It would appear that Epsilon Nine’s message to the “scout” USS Columbia (NCC-621) in Star Trek I should also indicate an Oberth Class vessel (at least it has a pair of warp engines ).
But it's really not. The intention at the time of TMP was that those two scouts were supposed to be Hermes class per Franz Joseph. I personally see no reason to change that intention.

And with two of the three fathers of rocket science honored (Oberth and Tsiolkovsky), it stands to reason that one (NCC-601?) bears the name Robert Goddard.
I'm not familiar with the Goddard reference. Where is that from?

According to Matt Jefferies (the creator of Kirk’s television Enterprise who stated that ”the "Enterprise" was the 17th major [starship] design of the Federation, and the first in the series: 17-01!") the Oberth Class would have been Starfleet’s 6th Starship Class (later downgraded to the Scout Class) and therefore an older one that predates the Enterprise and her sister ships.
But Matt Jefferies didn't work for ILM. It's my personal belief that ILM gave the Grissom such a low registry because she was a small ship, just like they gave the huge new Excelsior the "2000" reg, since in the '80's, the number 2000 was considered a "big" number. I truly believe that was the extent of ILM's logic on the matter.

It probably seems like I'm nitpicking here. I'm sure you spent a great deal of time working on this. However, I really think you're giving ILM far too much credit and imposing the beliefs of other people who worked on Trek in the past into what ILM did. I just don't think they were as conscientious as you seem to think they were.
“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”
– Benjamin Franklin
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