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Old August 11 2013, 04:24 PM   #12
Robert Comsol
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Location: USS Berlin
Re: Oberth Class the missing link between Enterprise and Reliant

Timo wrote: View Post
That suggests that Starfleet doesn't build scout-class ships, it merely waits for older ships to "succumb" to that role. Not my idea of entertainment at all. Plus, it flies completely in the face of the TOS idea that starships would be a rare asset for Starfleet: if they never build anything but starships, surely every Ensign will automatically become a starship captain eventually, and Kirk has no special status.
No, I think you are jumping to a premature conclusion, unless you can explain this quote from Kirk's log entry in "Return of the Archons": "trying to find some trace of the starship Archon that disappeared here a hundred years ago"

The Archon was a starship. What happened to its class, once new starship designs were introduced? Was it scraped just to make place for the the sake of not stealing the thunder from the new and improved starship design (is that what Admiral Morrow was after in ST III?) or was it downgraded to a lower classification that would reflect its capability performance next to a superior and new starship design?

Timo wrote: View Post
Except that there is no starship Archon design. Apart from obscure fan ones, of which the Goldsteins/Sternbach one would certainly take precedence over the Mastercom one.
Again, you are jumping to premature conclusions. Assuming that Archon and Horizon belong to the same class, there is one unique design feature we most definitely know about this ship from the episode's dialogue!

Looks like it's the right time to publish the third and final part of my treatise which hopefully illustrates my proposal much better than the introduction parts thus far:

Do odd and unusual exterior details indicate an early 23rd Century design?

Where the Grissom radically deviates from known Star Trek designs (with the exception of the Vulcan long-range shuttlecraft in TMP) is
a) its primary hull or saucer section and
b) the style how the saucer section is attached to the warp sled.

The saucer section has a unique dome-shaped structure with a flat bottom and looks rather bloated compared to other saucer sections of Federation ships. If there were an evolution step between the spherical primary hull of the ancient Daedalus Class and the flat saucer section of Kirk’s Enterprise, the Grissom’s saucer section would fit right in between.

Given Grissom’s official overall length of 120 meters (scale shown in ST III, length figure of its creator/s and adopted / sanctioned by Andrew Probert), the illuminated windows of the saucer section obviously can’t be little more than tiny portholes which might have been normal for spaceships preceding spaceships of the later 23rd Century (including the Romulan Bird of Prey in the original series?) but seem to be no longer standard in the late 23rd and definitely not in the 24th Century.

Another odd feature is the top of the saucer section which has an indentation area (sensor array?) with a dome in its center presumed to be the command bridge. A comparison to the detailed and official model of the USS Essex (ancient Daedalus Class) featured in a DS9 episode - reveals a rather identical indentation with a dome in its center. It appears to be a design element of early Federation spaceships as later ships do no longer have this feature (and could indicate that the Essex model maker also felt the Oberth Class to be an older design, hence he adopted the odd indentation at the top and Grissom’s unusual two-striped red hull pennant).

A look at the Oberth Class VFX model from a lower angle reveals several oddities.

First, below the bow part of the warp nacelles’ caps we have two spherical features which could indicate the matter-antimatter reactors the TOS Enterprise had, too (before the introduction of the “Engineering Core” in “That Which Survives” and its eventual substitution for the reactors in the nacelles).

Second, the saucer section has a circular extension at its bottom (identical to the dome in the top center) which latches the saucer section like a knob into a corresponding opening of the upper warp sled. It appears we are not looking at a typical saucer section connection but rather at a saucer module.

This impression is emphasized by three embayments (difficult to discern whether these are space doors, rectangular hardpoints to connect mission specific payloads or else) on the outer rim of the saucer of which two are actually facing the inner port and starboard warp nacelle. It seems these embayments will not come into use before the saucer module has detached from the warp sled and the embayments can have an unobstructed path of sight or flight.

The snap ring of the warp sled suggests that saucer separation from the warp sled in case of loss of antimatter containment in the engineering hull or pod could be much easier than for the Enterprises of the 23rd Century. It could also indicate that worn-out (and contaminated?) engine parts aren’t simply replaced but rather that the whole warp sled is disposed of by sending it straight into the next sun or star with the saucer module being kept, reused and reattached to a new warp sled.

Once the saucer module has been isolated from the rest of the ship, even the sceptics, which insist that the Oberth Class is a design of the late 23rd Century, cannot deny that it will strongly resemble - THIS...

...because the saucer module with its shape, the dome at the top and the knob at the bottom center plus the outer rim embayments will very much look like the Jupiter 2, the Robinson family’s flying Winnebago saucer from the “Lost in Space” TV show Star Trek was competing with in the late 1960’s!

To some or many this looks somewhat archaic and outdated and I'd find it difficult to believe this could be a design to actually come from the late 23rd Century of Star Trek.

Can we believe this to be a detachable saucer module with planet landing capability?

That sounds a lot like the terrestrial flying saucer concepts featured in “Lost in Space” and “Forbidden Planet” (United Planets Cruiser C-57 D) / “The Twilight Zone” and an early draft for the Enterprise, but one needs to wonder how the United Federation actually conducted First Contact encounters in the 21st and early 23rd Century (according to TOS!).

The answer comes straight from the humanoid inhabitants of Sigma Iotia II who wonder in “A Piece of the Action” whether Kirk and company do actually belong to the Federation or are merely local imposters. Obviously, prior to the prime directive of non-interference, First Contact required a physical proof from outer space - and the landing of some technologically advanced spacecraft would have certainly done an impressive job.

And obviously it was quite impressive when the USS Horizon (or just its primary hull sphere) physically landed on Sigma Iotia II.

This information is self-evident from the dialogue at the beginning of “A Piece of the Action” where Kirk tries to adjust certain expectations Bela Oxmyx must have had after the previous encounter with the Horizon: “The ship won’t land, but we'll transport several people down. Well, that's a little difficult for you to understand, too. I'll explain it in more detail when I see you.”

Considering the Horizon got destroyed “shortly” after take-off (apparently not by the Iotians) could indicate that landing the ship (or the primary hull) on a planet and the later take-off was a hazardous maneuver that eventually resulted in the Horizon’s destruction, just like the sister ship USS Essex that got destroyed in a moon’s atmosphere (“Power Play”)!
Such an ill-fated spacecraft design would have obviously called for a substantial design improvement and a detachable primary saucer hull or a non-spherical configuration of it might have been the answer illustrated by the Oberth Class design.

In the particular case of the USS Valiant mentioned in “A Taste of Armageddon”, however advanced in design, it was apparently of no benefit as this Federation spacecraft was deliberately destroyed during the interplanetary conflict between Eminiar VII and Vendikar.
It remains inconclusive whether the ship was destroyed because it did not have deflector screens like the Enterprise to withstand Eminiar VII’s planetary disruptor banks (Enterprise’s Lieutenant DePaul: “If those screens weren't up, we'd be totally disrupted by now.”) or whether it was destroyed during a critical reunion maneuver between the saucer hull with the warp sled.

Another look at The Making of Star Trek reveals that saucer separation from the engineering hull was an early concept that was most definitely not limited to emergencies and ship evacuation scenarios!
In addition to the early Enterprise pre-production sketch in this book, that resembles the Oberth Class, it really looks like the creator/s of the Grissom were heavily inspired and motivated to present to us a Star Trek vessel from an era prior to Pike and Kirk (“Valiant”).

If the Oberth Class had come into service in the early 23rd Century, this ship design would be over 150 years old by the time of TNG!

The same does apply in the future of Star Trek for the Miranda Class (Reliant and others) which has demonstrated a service record of close to 100 years and no end of its use has ever been officially established. The Oberth Class almost looks like the “turtle” of Star Trek ships, slow but capable to reach a high age.

First, we know from real life experience that vehicles with a remarkable longevity do exist: Both the battleship USS Missouri and the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had been in service for over 50 years. The first Volkswagen Beetle was built in 1938 and by 2012 it’s still driving on streets (74+ years). The B-52 Stratofortress has been in the air since 1952 and after upgrades will continue to serve into the 2040s (90+ years). And the Austrian steam locomotive GKB 671 was built in 1860 but is still running today – that’s over 150 years.
Our 20th Century building materials tend to wear out after a certain amount of time and therefore require an increased amount of maintenance which eventually becomes uneconomical. This will probably be different 300 years from now and hopefully with Green politics far superior to our current and lackluster efforts.

Second, we cannot exclude the possibility that Oberth Class vessels utilized (not reusable) special alloys or components which may have become scarce by the mid 23rd Century and/or where extended exposure to space radiation has improved the corresponding alloys or components. Thus it could be more economical to refit the existing ship design on a regular basis rather than to forfeit outstanding properties or performances (apparently the same reasoning keeps the B-52 Stratofortress plane in our world in active service).

An important argument in the longevity debate had been Starfleet’s intention to scrap Kirk’s Enterprise after only 20 years in service according to Admiral Morrow in Star Trek III (If Kirk and crew got a new Enterprise after the damages in “Where No One Has Gone Before” the Enterprise would be approx. 17 years of age and Admiral Morrow is just exaggerating).
However, we learned from TNG’s episode “Starship Mine” that it is essential for a starship travelling often at high warp speeds to undergo a baryon sweep to keep harmful radiation from building up. Kirk’s Enterprise had way too often travelled at sometimes incredible warp speeds. Possibly, baryon sweep technology arrived too late to save most Constitution and Soyuz Class starships from being disposed of (due to radiation contamination at the end of the 23rd Century).
Since the Oberth Class is widely assumed to be a rather slow vessel, it’s ships may have never had the need to undergo such baryon sweep.

Third, while it had been the original intention in Star Trek III to present both USS Grissom and the Klingon Bird of Prey as smaller (scout class) vessels, the Klingon Bird of Prey gained noticeably in size in its TNG portrayal which could only be rationalized by assuming that the larger Bird of Preys in TNG belong to a different class than the original one from Star Trek III, yet look identical (because the VFX model is the same,of course).

Curiously, this approach had never been suggested or discussed on behalf of the Grissom model making guest appearances in TNG, especially since technical diagrams and the severely fractured SS Vico model suggest a length of this ship in excess of 300 meters (

If the molehill of the Klingon Bird of Prey in the 23rd Century has been made into a mountain for the 24th Century, so to speak, I wonder why the same couldn’t be assumed for the Grissom in TNG.
It seems a suitable candidate for a new class of ship might be NCC-19002 USS Yosemite because it happens to be the lowest five-digit registry number for the Grissom model in the TNG era.

Summary and proposal

Whether the Oberth Class is considered to be a Starfleet design of the late 23rd Century or instead the early one is factually a conjectural assumption amidst the absence of hard “facts” and eventually a question of individual preference.

However, disregarding the possibility that the USS Valiant from “A Taste of Armageddon” was an Oberth Class vessel would deprive the Star Trek Universe of an interesting and historic design evolution link (Enterprise – Reliant), and the opportunity to visualize an early spaceship design predating Kirk’s television Enterprise - especially since the Oberth Class seems to have all the design features we might expect such an early Star Trek ship to have.

Thanks for listening.

"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth" Jean-Luc Picard
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
Albert Einstein
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