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Old August 18 2013, 03:20 AM   #1
Praetor
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Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

For the purposes of this thread, I'm mostly going to be addressing the original ILM filming model. While Greg Jein did a fine job rebuilding it for Voyager, there are minor inconsistencies that are small enough to ignore. In other words, where the two differ, I"m going with ILM.

Let me also say that I tend to defer to creative/production intent whenever possible. That is, if the creator of a design or other Treknological thing says a certain thing works a certain way, I will assume they know what they are talking about - unless, of course filmed evidence directly contradicts them.

Now, those of you who remember me before my self-imposed exile will recall that I am a big Excelsior fan. I once began writing a tech manual before I lost interest, including creating this cross section:



I like most people went with the assumption that the Excelsior was the 467 meters long that the modelmakers and Mr. Probert had stated them to be. Note the comparison below.



However, on occasion, the actual relative scaling of the ship was dubious:



And if we examine the model herself, well, "By God, that's a big ship." But indeed, how big?



My reconsideration of the ship's size was partly fueled by my reading of an article in Geek Magazine. There, the interviewers discussed with ILM's Bill George (who appears to be the "father" of the Excelsior) the design and creation of the iconic Klingon bird-of-prey. Paraphrasing, George said that the director and producers picked the designs they liked, indicating one in particular as the direction to go, without formalizing the overall model plans. We have previously seen various Excelsior study models, including one that bears a strong resemblance to the finished product.

It is highly likely, in my opinion, that the "designing" and construction of the Excelsior model took place much as Bill described with the bird-of-prey: Nimoy and the rest selected the design they liked a most, and Bill and team took over from there. So, it is entirely likely that the detailing of the ship were not regulated by the 467 meter figure, and more simply just aimed to create a big ship.

Studying the ship in profile, I attempted to make the window rows into decks. (A fool's errand, I know.) I used a combination of methods, looking at several different images and attempting to graft onto a relatively "flat" side image of the ship deck lines. It is somewhat difficult to fully demonstrate the exact method, so bear with me.

Nonetheless, these were my results:


I also examined the secondary hull, as seen in TUC:


I ended up with this:


(Pardon the mess - I used a copy of my original cutaway to create it, hence the floating bulkheads.) I calculated 35 decks, adjusting for slightly taller engineering decks - partly as a conceit to Shane Johnson and partly because the saucer edge and secondary hull lights simply didn't seem to be spaced the same. I was struck by how this height actually seemed to match Doug Drexler's cross section of the Enterprise-B from "Generations."

And, compared to the D for fun:


Doesn't actually seem unreasonable next to the D. And honestly, this configuration seems to solve a lot of problems - such as the teeny tiny bridge dome. I'm not sure if this is the "real" size of the ship in the Trekverse, but I think it could work without being ridiculous. I am fairly convinced that this is about the size the model was built to be.

I'm conflicted, though by the knowledge that this flies in the face of production intent - and also, that there are clearly some instances (particularly on DS9 where the CGI model was used) where the ship was scaled to the official 467 meter size.

What do you think? Is a canonically bigger Excelsior possible? Have I drank the Flavor-Aid?
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Old August 18 2013, 10:44 AM   #2
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

I'm 100% convinced the Excelsior was detailed to be about twice her official size, not just by rows of windows but by their size too.

Here are LOTS of great pics of the Excelsior/Enterprise-B/Lakota model: http://www.modelermagic.com/?p=2932

Here are the pics I posted in the Oberth thread, about the bridge module and deck height failures at 1532ft/467m, using the Enterprise-B MSD as (an admittedly imperfect) reference. I chopped off the nacelle fins when scaling to the Excelsior's 467m size.

As you can see, the bridge module is very similar to what we'd see decades later see on Enterprise NX-01, with windows surrounding it indicating rooms or at the very least a service corridor. This bridge module was added to the model in STIV. There's also a TNG-style lounge at the rear. I used Strategic Design's 1701-A deck plans for reference, since the Excelsior/Enterprise-B bridge is a redress of the Enterprise-A's

Here we see the deck heights of a 1532ft/467m Excelsior compared to Leonard Nimoy's 6ft Spock. That's zero headroom, even with very thin decks.

From a thread about a year or so ago, I used the Enterprise-B MSD to determine the Excelsior's "true" size. I found that to have 8ft deck heights the Excelsior would need to be at least 622m/2060.6ft long. To fit the bridge module, larger even than that.
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Old August 18 2013, 01:32 PM   #3
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

Thank you sir. I was hoping you might join in this discussion.

I have yet to complete my computations for exact length now that I have it decked, but I suspect it'll be similar to yours.

The bridge module in itself is an interesting topic - if we compare the original TSFS version of the model to the TUC modifications, the plain silver dome on the original might simply suggest a recessed bridge, the silver being a sensor dome, and the rest being submerged below. However, the redesigned bridge module seems to try to make clear that the bridge is not recessed, as it closely resembles the refit-style module (despite being too narrow.)

It's almost as if ILM purposefully decided to make the ship seem even bigger for TUC - perhaps as a less-than-subtle finger to anyone who said it was "only" 467 meters long?
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Old August 18 2013, 04:05 PM   #4
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

I once worked out a size for the Excelsior at about 630 meters using similar analysis as King Daniel, but since I did it for a fanfic I mostly did it on paper and I have no idea what happened to it.

Either way, this seems to fit perfectly. With the odd shape of Excelsior's saucer, 620 to 640 meters seems almost perfect, especially when you consider that a large part of the saucer section must contain "machine space" inaccessible to humans, which would make the REST of the saucer a lot more spacious than it had been on previous ships.
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Old August 18 2013, 04:38 PM   #5
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

I appreciate the value given to ILM/George intent, but I can't help pointing out that there's a very specific piece of Starfleet, in-universe intent that we have to consider, even if to dismiss it as an outlier.

Namely, the Excelsior is capable of (just barely?) squeezing out of Spacedock Earth, a consideration that would probably have been foremost in the minds of the actual in-universe designers of the ship. Granted, Spacedock scaling is easily fudged one way or another thanks to the absence of truly identifiable "standard" detail, but we do get a very clear comparison shot of a Constitution-refit squeezing through the very same hole; this should count for something.

Alas, it seems to preclude Excelsiors much greater than 500 m in length, mainly due to height issues. Unless we assume the great ship tilted her bow up and stern down when emerging... And even that gives rather little margin.

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Old August 18 2013, 04:51 PM   #6
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

Timo wrote: View Post
Alas, it seems to preclude Excelsiors much greater than 500 m in length, mainly due to height issues. Unless we assume the great ship tilted her bow up and stern down when emerging... And even that gives rather little margin.
She may have simply turned diagonally to fit through the doors. It's a space ship, no reason it has to be oriented the same way all the time.

OTOH, we did see the Enterprise-D go through a set of doors on an identical starbase with similar clearance. We should consider the possibility that the doors on one side of the shroomdock might simply be larger as a matter of course than the doors on the other side and Excelsior caught up with Enterprise after quickly slipping out through the "big door" 90 degrees farther around.
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Old August 18 2013, 04:57 PM   #7
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

It's worth noting that in Generations, Demora puts the Kirk-killing deflector damage on deck 15 - almost as if the writer had a copy of the USS Excelsior Ingram Class Plans at hand.
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Old August 18 2013, 05:57 PM   #8
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

True enough. Then again, some of the higher-end estimates for size would allow for two sets of deck numbers, with the set starting at the top of the dorsal reaching Deck 15 right where Kirk sucked vacuum.

The idea of the great ship twisting and turning in order to exit the dock is the one the "Starfleet designers must have had ideas of their own" argument tries to avoid. As for using another door, the ship was parked between "piers" that delineate one-quarter of the interior, one associated with the door the Enterprise used. Again, wriggling around the pier to a different door is a possibility, but of the "against Starfleet intent" category...

Personally, I'd facilitate a larger Excelsior by pretending that the Enterprise was smaller when going through the door.

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Old August 18 2013, 07:24 PM   #9
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

Well, if there was a door big enough for the Enterprise-D, we can always pretend there was one big enough for the Excelsior, too. Surely Starfleet had other large ships.

Deck 15 was a problem the first time around. The way things worked out, Deck 13 was the topmost deck of the engineering hull (the long, flat one forming the hull's "back"), putting Deck 15 in the neighborhood that it should have been on the B... close enough but not exactly right. The Ingram Plans suspicion would actually solve the reason why it was Deck 15 pretty nicely... especially when there was a completely contradictory cutaway at the back of the set.

I make my engineering decks to number 17 in the revised scheme, with 18 decks in the neck and saucer. Now, I'm assuming the sauce decks to be the standard 3.77 meters... the ones in the engineering hull might be a full 4 meters.

Does anyone recall what Shane Johnson decided the height of the engineering decks in the refit Enterprise was? Before anyone starts lecturing me about going by his work, I would assert that in this he's probably right; I believe he utilized a partial cutaway drawing by Mr. Probert (and perhaps indeed received the gospel from him directly.) I will try to dig up the image I speak of. Additionally, for the Excelsior, it just seems to work out better this way. So no standard deck heights until the Ambassador generation, 'kay?
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Old August 18 2013, 08:53 PM   #10
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

Praetor wrote: View Post
Well, if there was a door big enough for the Enterprise-D, we can always pretend there was one big enough for the Excelsior, too.
Funny, when I visited the Paramount Studios back in 1988 Andrew Probert confronted me with the E-D / spacedock scaling issue and asked "Can you believe this [crap]?"

My reply was the same as yours and courteous as he is he politely replied "Maybe I can live with that". I took a look at his E-D schematic in front of Earth Spacedock and feel today that we definitely need a bigger Spacedock to make this work.

Praetor wrote: View Post
Does anyone recall what Shane Johnson decided the height of the engineering decks in the refit Enterprise was? I believe he utilized a partial cutaway drawing by Mr. Probert (and perhaps indeed received the gospel from him directly.)
You might want to get in touch with Andrew Probert. Back then I also brought up Shane Johnson and this was Mr. Probert's reaction: "Oh, Shane "

Looks to me like the guys at ILM solely focused how to make the spacedoors match the size of the Enterprise for entry and exit - and forgot to make it big enough for the Excelsior, too (maybe there was a bigger one elsewhere for Excelsior but she merely blasted the small space door wider Enemy Mine style to pursue Enterprise? )

Is there a possibility ILM deliberately "fixed" their mistake in the size comparison chart?

And what does a scale comparison of Excelsior's bridge, saucer rim and saucer ventral array with those features on the Enterprise suggest?

Regarding Excelsior's engineering hull windows I'd rather find these unreliable to use these as a means to conclude the actual size from.
Apparently these could be the infamous "lower decks" (lower deck ).
And though I detest the bunk bed BS featured in ST VI, I wouldn't exclude the possibility these might be tall rooms / decks.

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Old August 18 2013, 08:58 PM   #11
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

I can't work out the deck heights now, but here's a slightly butchered version of Johnson's cutaway, which I used in the Enterprise size thread over in XI+
CLICK!
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Old August 19 2013, 01:33 AM   #12
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

Timo wrote: View Post
The idea of the great ship twisting and turning in order to exit the dock is the one the "Starfleet designers must have had ideas of their own" argument tries to avoid. As for using another door, the ship was parked between "piers" that delineate one-quarter of the interior, one associated with the door the Enterprise used. Again, wriggling around the pier to a different door is a possibility, but of the "against Starfleet intent" category...
Excelsior was facing an entirely different direction than Enterprise was and doesn't seem to turn on the way out. I actually think each individual pier is probably associated with a particular door, with two ships on each side of the pier.

Personally, I'd facilitate a larger Excelsior by pretending that the Enterprise was smaller when going through the door.
That works too. Another example of "objects in space are smaller than they appear."
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Old August 19 2013, 06:18 AM   #13
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

FWIW, a while back I had re-created the TMP Enterprise cargo bay/shuttle decks in 3D and it doesn't fit a 305m ship. After rescaling the ship to 355m it fit.
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Old August 19 2013, 07:18 AM   #14
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

Robert Comsol wrote: View Post
And though I detest the bunk bed BS featured in ST VI, I wouldn't exclude the possibility these might be tall rooms / decks.
Voyager's "Flashback" also featured bunks on Excelsior.

Interesting thread!
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Old August 19 2013, 07:20 AM   #15
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Re: Scaling the Excelsior Filming Model

  1. I know Bill George personally. I can ask him about the intended size next time I see him.
  2. As I recall, Bill was tasked to build study models for the Excelsior from concepts by others, and when he finished early he was allowed to make his own concept model for consideration. That's the one Nimoy picked.
  3. That's a great theory about the doors, but it's undermined by the fact that we see the Excelsior pointed at the door the Enterprise enters and exits through. http://movies.trekcore.com/gallery/a...tsfshd0608.jpg
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