Crazy Eddie wrote:
That would fit, IF Enterprise was being used as a training vessel in TUC. If it was being used as a technology testbed or something similar, then the analytic equipment would have been the prototype for the gear that was later fitted on the Excelsior.
Starfleet just had a thing for gaseous anomalies at the time. Excelsior's just got back from an expedition in the Beta Quadrant, maybe the Enterprise was doing a similar job in the Alpha Quadrant?
That's kinda my point: What, at this time in its career IS the Enterprise's job in the Alpha Quadrant? The last time we see Kirk and Spock doing their ACTUAL JOBS (and not responding to some kind of bizarre unexpected emergency), they're teaching students at Starfleet academy using the Enterprise as a training ship.
Tempting as it is to think the Enterprise was an actual active-duty starship in TFF and TUC, the fact of the matter is both times we see the Enterprise-A it's being launched DIRECTLY from Spacedock, and even in TUC, we find Kirk unpacking a bag and moving back into his quarters on the ship. In TFF, as soon as their hostage mission is over, Kirk, Spock and McCoy go right the hell back into the woods and go camping again. Even as late as TUC, he doesn't LIVE on the Enterprise; for whatever reason he's spending most of his time in San Francisco and Enterprise is spending most of its time in Spacedock.
These are reasons why I believe the Enterprise-A was never a front-line vessel and was simply a replacement for the original Enterprise, which had already been relegated to training duty. Kirk only got command of the refit Enterprise in the first place by leveraging his experience against the V'ger crisis, and once the crisis is over, he doesn't have an excuse except that Decker's missing and the ship needs a shakedown. After that... did Starfleet even let him KEEP it? Probably not, since a couple of years later McCoy is telling Kirk "Get back your command! Get it back before you really
grow old!" He obviously didn't loose his command voluntarily, so Starfleet DIDN'T let him keep it.
Interestingly, I've been told there are indications that in the 24th century Starfleet keeps a Constitution-class starship "USS Republic" in service as a training vessel; something about the Connies makes them great teaching tools for cadets, maybe?
I don't see why everything has to be testbeds and prototypes.
If not, then the marathon mechanical/computer failures in TFF become unbelievably hard to explain.
The overall point is that IMO the movie era is being confused with the TOS era on the assumption that the basic mission of the Enterprise is unchanged between the two. This is far from the case; by TMP, Kirk is a flag officer going through what is essentially a complicated midlife crisis, trying to recapture his glory days at the expense of a younger officer who was supposed to replace him. By TWOK, he's already getting close to the end of his career. There isn't another five year mission in the cards for him; it's more like "five years until pension." IF the Enterprise had another five year mission after the refit -- and this is far from certain in the end -- Starfleet wouldn't have assigned its Chief of Operations to command it.