Did Kirk captain any ship before Enterprise?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by RB_Kandy, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm surprised anyone would think that Enterprise was probably Kirk's first command, or that anyone would prefer to think that. I think the main driver there is probably this thing Utopianvista writes:
    That's it. Fans have affection for a certain configuration of things, and don't want to see anything different. Kirk belongs in command of the Enterprise! And nowhere else.

    One thing that I always loved about the TOS world, and by contrast hated about the recent movie (Star Trek 90210), is the emphasis on professionalism. Spock and McCoy and Sulu and Uhura and Scotty, and Kirk, have long running careers as officers, that have put them into their current positions. They have resumes. They have experience. This is well exemplified by the record of citations read-out in Court Martial.

    It's definitely not like the movie where wonderboy Chris Pine can be captain on his first day, just because he might have some latent talent in that direction. You have to convert latent talent to proven ability, by discharging progressively greater responsibilities. Just the way the universe has always worked.

    To me, that notion of "careerism" or "professionalism" really made the world of Star Trek come alive for me, feel like a real place, an attainable place. A future I'd like to live in. It was an important part of making the seting believable.

    A show like Star Trek, which is asking for more suspension of disbelief that most shows do, constantly pushing science fiction concepts at its audience, has to be more scrupulous than other shows in making sure its common, familiar elements make intuitive sense. You have to drive some stakes in the ground for your audience, to help them accept radical change in other directions. One example would be how a career progression works.
    (And remember that World War 2 was in living memory for Star Trek's audience. As far in the past to them as George H. W. Bush's presidency is to us now. Naval officers were a visible segment of society.)
    (Also remember that Roddenberry described Kirk as a Horatio Hornblower of the stars. Hornblower commanded different vessels during his career; a different one in each novel, I think.)

    To me, the notion that Kirk was a brand-new commander when he took over the Enterprise, even if it's not in explicit disagreement with any piece of dialogue or anything we see onscreen, it sort of contradicts the whole spirit of early season 1, the whole feel, the whole milieu. Of course Kirk commanded some smaller vessel, maybe a "destroyer class" ship, before assuming command of the Enterprise. Obviously he did. Any other scenario seems complicated and silly. And more importantly, any other scenario wrecks part of what they tried to achieve in season 1: the "ordinariness" of a future where man travels between the stars and handles wonders with routine aplomb.

    This might be a vague concept, but to me the idea misplaces the specialness. It re-locates the specialness into Kirk & Spock etc. Kirk is the only one who can be captain of the Enterprise; Spock is the only one who can be XO; the Enterprise has to be the very best ship in the fleet; etc. In the first season, the specialness was located more in that envisioned future, and in Starfleet. Kirk was pretty special, sure; but he was presented as one of a special breed, the starship captain. Maybe the most special captain, but more of a first among equals rather than a destined wonderboy. Later episodes, and god knows the movies, lost this feel. (And maybe I haven't done a good job of describing it to begin with.)

    (It's also obvious to me that the writer's guide would be a real good source for evidence on the background universe and character backstories, that did not make it onscreen. If it was promulgated by the series creators, and understood as true by all the writers who had episodes made, then it's probably "true" until and unless contradicted by new canon.)

    A good series of fiction to look into, to get a different idea of how a captain progresses in his career, is Patrick O'Brian's magnificent Aubrey/Maturin books. Those books are a good recommendation no matter what; but in this contact, I think anyone who has read & loved those books, or of course anyone who knows the ways of the Navy, would have automatically assumed that Kirk had at least one other command prior to Enterprise, and that he distinguished himself in that command.
     
  2. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    I wholeheartedly agree (e.g. "Constitution Class", turboshaft system of TOS Enterprise, "Mark IX" etc. - a friend from Australia who is into RL vessels pointed out that there has never been one navy ship with a "Mark" designation. It's only used for equipment).

    Again, according to The Making of Star Trek, the original term for a ship like the Enterprise prior to "The Cage" was "cruiser class" (in accordance with Jefferies original 17th cruiser design). And the Enterprise - according to Gene Roddenberry himself - was to be a "heavy cruiser".

    When the series took shape they did change this to "starship class" (in HD the bridge plaque is readable, so you can't just dismiss this, IMHO). It's pretty obvious in TOS that this is the designation for a capital ship as everyone in TOS is keen serving on a "starship" and according to the 'Drunken Scotsman Nomenclature' in "Relics" and Scotty (TNG) he has served on "a freighter, a cruiser and a starship".

    Eventually, cruiser became a type. The viewscreen display in "The Enterprise Incident" (illustrated in The Making of Star Trek, buy this book!) labels the Enterprise as a "space cruiser" (in contrast to the Klingon "Battlecruiser").

    There seems to be a difference between "space" and "star".
    Kirk refers to Republic (NCC-1371) as a "United Star Ship" in "Court-Martial" though Pike already refered to the Enterprise in "The Cage" as a "United Space Ship".
    IMHO, that reflects the original state of the early UFP (just a few star systems) in contrast to the later state which covered vast regions of "space".
    Hence "star cruiser" would refer to an older type of cruiser while "space cruiser" is a term for a modern type (like the "Starship" Enterprise).
    By the 24th Century it would seem "star cruiser" is a term applied as a colloquialism for any old kind of ship (Kolrami about the Constellation Class USS Hathaway in "Peak Performance").

    I should add that I'm unable to find fault with the inscription of "James R. Kirk" on the tombstone in the second pilot.

    As far as I recall having it read somewhere, the "R" was an abbreviation for "Rice", a derrogatory nickname for Kirk during his days at the academy.
    Not only did Mitchell want to highlight Kirk's short career as captain of the Enterprise (started at stardate 1277) but also have an extra bit of evil fun of burying Kirk with his nickname.

    Bob
     
  3. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    It also says the ship was built in San Fransisco:ack:
     
  4. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    Although I agree there is no reason to believe the original Enterprise 1701 was Starfleet's flagship, the term flagship does not just apply to ships carrying flag officers, even if that's where it originated.

    In fact this site has a quote from someone from the US Navy describing the actual USS Enterprise as the flagship of the Navy.

     
  5. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    We can't tell the difference between generic and specific, because we only follow the adventures of one type of starship in ENT, and only see minor differences between the two vessels called "starship" in STXI (namely, the Kelvin and the Enterprise). There's nothing to establish the lack of non-starships in these eras.

    Nor is there any pressing reason to abandon the idea of starship as a specific designator. Star Trek is famous for its use of fantastic terminology that has got nothing to do with the real world, and that is exactly as it should be. They have transporters which are not generic means of transport but a very specific technology. Who are we to say that their starships absolutely must be a generic means of star travel?

    All that is sort of moot anyway because TOS makes it amply clear that starships stand apart from other types of vessel in Starfleet service. It's even a massive plot point in "Court Martial".

    Naval battles have been fought with ships called battleships. That's in no way different from using "starship" in a specific way, despite the fact that all ships sailing between stars could be called that theoretically, and all ships engaging in fighting could be justly called battleships.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Why not? The series wasn't meant to be seen in HD. To find a detail in HD that was not visible in the original is somewhat akin, IMHO, to going back to the original film negatives and finding lightstands in the area outside the 4:3 framing area of the original shot and claiming they were on the bridge.
     
  7. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That's a quote from someone who signed the petition to name one of the Ford class carriers Enterprise. Not from someone in the Navy, who would know better.
     
  8. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    CoveTom, I don't understand your reasoning at all. Are you saying that a set element that was created and stuck up on a wall has no more importance than a cameraman who pulled back too far in Errand of Mercy and showed the wood support on the bridge floor just because HD wasn't around then?


    Well, I guess I should be thankful that I can now see that hunk of wood in all its HD glory. :)
     
  9. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Indeed, luck of the draw seems to be all it's down to; I'm not criticising anyone for omitting it. I just find it a curious little factoid that this particular piece of information never turned up onscreen - look at the various many snippets of information about his career or past loves that were mentioned in various episodes or in the likes of TWOK, TFF and GEN. We know the name of Picard's first command, Sisko's previous ships etc.

    It's almost the sort of 'fact' that I'd have expected to be mentioned in TAS and then to be adapted as canon, the way that Kirks' middle name was.
     
  10. CoveTom

    CoveTom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There are lots of things that are created and put in scenes that aren't really meant to be seen and that we don't assign any credibility to. Are we to believe that there is really a shop on DS9's Promenade named "Tom Servo's Used Robots" because that actually does appear in the shop directory signage? Are we to believe that there really is a hamster somehow involved in powering the Enterprise-D because one is included in the master systems display in engineering?
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's not about ranking absolute importance. It's about remembering that this isn't documentary evidence of some real universe that we have to "prove" something about, but a work of fiction created by many hands over the decades, with a lot of different ideas and decisions shaping it that have sometimes been contradicted by later decisions or were just flawed ideas to begin with. So some bits of dialogue or set decoration may be contradicted later on, while others won't be. It's a case-by-case matter, judging each element in the context of how it fits within the whole.

    The thing about fiction is that it's all pretend anyway, so it isn't some heinous crime to pretend that parts of it weren't exactly what they seemed. Look at any long-running fictional series, especially one with multiple creators, and you'll see that details from earlier works get ignored, reinterpreted, retconned, or renounced all the time. So the very nature of "evidence" in fiction can't be treated as equivalent to real-world evidence. What you see onscreen doesn't "prove" what's true in the underlying reality, because there isn't one. It just shows you what the creators of that particular piece of fiction chose to portray in their interpretation of the imaginary world they were building. And later creators can choose to modify or disregard that interpretation, and so can audiences.
     
  12. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    Let's see. During TOS "starship" is used in context with the capital ships of the federation, Enterprise is one of these and the dedication plaque on its bridge - adding a sense of realism - says so too. Though we know it's there and know what's printed on it, we shouldn't take it too literally because we couldn't see it in 4:3 standard definition?

    And that odd thing about "San Francisco". Happens to be Starfleet headquarters and probably hints the Number One Starfleet ship building facility in orbit - above San Francisco. Which makes a little more sense to put it in orbit there than on the opposite site our planet.

    Bob

    P.S.
    Here is one that should end any "it was only meant for 4:3 SD" reasoning. Rewatching the original episodes I found it most interesting that the small print next to the doors changed on a weekly basis. One week Season One's briefing room is "Personnel Director", the next one it's "Astrographics", next one is "Briefing Room 2" and so on. I find it rather amazing how much attention they paid to details most people couldn't even read, then.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^You shouldn't take any of it too literally because it's fiction. Everything about it is subject to revision or reinterpretation.
     
  14. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    It's not that big of a stretch, given all the other more outlandish things that happens in Trek. A young command division officer distinguishes himself as a leader multiple times on various missions as he moves quickly up the chain of command. Upon reaching command rank, Starfleet gives him the Enterprise. For all we know, a senior admiral of his acquaintance may have recommended him or even wrote the orders for him to take command.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  15. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    There is no reason to believe the original USS Enterprise was Starfleet's flagship considering hints that suggest this position had already been taken by the USS Lexington:
    a) it's commanded by Commodore Robert Wesley (and not just a captain like Kirk or Tracey)
    b) the bridge command chair is noticably higher than on Enterprise, Exeter or Defiant
    c) the Lexington's "flower" insignia is worn by most Starfleet personnel that does not serve on a specific starship.

    Bob
     
  16. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    Well, this forum and its participants speaks volumes that this isn't just about a "TV show". From a writer's point of view "everything about it is subject to revision or reinterpretation" could be a convenient excuse for not doing accurate research which, IMHO, is the cause of many contradictions in the fictional universe of Star Trek and to a much lesser degree because of changed premises of the original producers / creators.

    The only excuse for me would be a darn good story. One of the best Star Trek stories I ever read was Peter David's Q-Squared. It wasn't great because of his accurate research but that helped a lot to really make it credible and enjoyable.

    Bob
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    "Accurate research?" You're talking about it as though this were real history. Like I said, even if you know the "facts" of a work of fiction, you're still allowed to change them if it serves your purposes, because they're not real in the first place.

    I'm a damn good researcher, for your information. If you'd read my Trek novels, you'd see how many incredibly obscure bits of Trek trivia I'm able to unearth, incorporate, and reconcile in my novels. But I'm also rational enough to know the difference between fact and fiction. The latter allows poetic license. It's ignorant and insulting to assume that every continuity variation is the result of sloppiness or carelessness. Sometimes you know all the details but recognize that some of them just didn't work very well, and since it is a work of fiction you can make a conscious choice to reinterpret or disregard them.

    After all, you learn from experience. Hopefully your later works will be better than your earlier ones, and you'll have a better sense of what works and what doesn't. So being too slavishly faithful to the details of your early work can be self-defeating.

    Of course I'm not saying you should be careless. Continuity is worthwhile. But it's not an end in itself, just a means to the end of telling a good story. So if telling a better story means ignoring or retconning something you did earlier, then you'd be a damn fool not to do it.
     
  18. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    Interesting theory.
     
  19. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    That implies that, absent any solid evidence, something "outlandish" is equally as likely as any other possibility. I disagree, and would say that authorial intent (TMoST), internal reference (WNMHGB), historical precedents, the prestige and status of Enterprise's class ("Court Martial," "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," "Bread and Circuses"), and the obvious desire of Starfleet to have its best officers commanding its smaller vessels as well as large all combine to make a stronger case for Kirk having commanded a ship before Enterprise than not.

    Yes, Starfleet may have reverted to personnel practices that were already discredited in the 1700s, but it doesn't seem likely.

    Certainly the flagship of that task force or cruiser group or whatever you prefer. But I don't see how that extends to a flagship for the whole of Starfleet. Shirley that would involve a higher-ranking officer than a commodore, and the best evidence indicates that Starfleet's top officer is based in San Francisco, not aboard a starship somewhere.

    Justin
     
  20. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Nope. It just implies that there are far more incredible things that happens in Trek that nobody even blinks at.
    I don't think any of that rules out the possibility, though. Sure, it's open to interpretation, but more than one way of looking at it is really my point.
    I'm not talking about something done solely out of a personal friendship, but rather a situation where an admiral who is familiar and/or impressed with the service record of a specific officer and assigns him or her command of a vessel (I think that's what happened when Admiral Satie assigned Picard command of the Enterprise-D).
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012