Is there a need for a Helm Department?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by USS Excelsior, May 10, 2013.

  1. USS Excelsior

    USS Excelsior Commodore Commodore

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    It's probably a given that all officers can pilot a shuttle and handle the conn, and when the other Ensigns or Lieutenants are not stationed at the helm of the main bridge then what else are they doing?

    The Helm could be a branch of the Engineering department who would have a more intricate understanding of the thrusters and engines they're flying and able to deal with them when they're damaged in a crisis situation, and of course they'd have regular engineering jobs when they don't have shifts at the conn.

    And plus why are these Junior officers even in the command division....
     
  2. LobsterAfternoon

    LobsterAfternoon Commander Red Shirt

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    I'd suspect there's a difference between being able to competently pilot a shuttle and skillfully pilot a giant starship.

     
  3. Third Nacelle

    Third Nacelle Captain Captain

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    "Command division" doesn't necessarily mean they're in command of anyone. It means they're in line to eventually be in a command position as they rise through the ranks - an officer in Engineering or Sciences is not. Similar to "line officers" in the modern US Navy.
     
  4. Chaos Descending

    Chaos Descending Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Except that in the modern US Navy the Engineering officers are most certainly what Star Trek would call "Command Division" officers.
     
  5. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Trek was always a bit inconsistent with that. I always considered the command division as those in charge or directly answerable to those in charge.
     
  6. Gov Kodos

    Gov Kodos Admiral Admiral

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    I don't see why that would be the case at all. Every officer doesn't learn to pilot a ship today, I don't see starships being any different. There are plenty of jobs to be done that need to be done that won't need pilots training. From communications, to weapons, to moral and recreation, to sciences. Plenty of jobs that will occupy a career and have no need to learn to fly the ships.
     
  7. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    It's one of the differences between Starfleet and the modern US Navy.

    As far as the OP, every department needs dedicated specialists. I would gather that the helm department is a fairly small one that rotate various duty shifts, with some called upon to fly shuttles and any other auxiliary craft (such as those little construction/repair workbees seen during the TOS movies) when necessary, IMO.
     
  8. The Librarian

    The Librarian Commodore Commodore

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    Is it, though? Let's look at a couple of career tracks that we've seen.

    Geordi: Helmsman, chief engineer, captain (in a possible future)
    Worf: Helmsman/bridge lackey, chief of security, chief of ops (while Data was assumed dead), strategic operations / Defiant XO, would have eventually reached captain.

    They both go from red to gold to red, and Worf even takes over a technical department for a while. I don't think there's any reason to assume that department specialization is set in stone or in any way influences whether they'll reach a command position.
     
  9. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    ^ Exactly. Division and succession to command are apparently unconnected. Line officers can serve in divisions other than command; officers in other divisions can be closer to succeeding to command than officers in the command division. If the "command" division were called something else, say "control division," there might be less confusion on the issue.

    As far as the OP question, on a USN warship the Navigation Department is usually one of smallest departments, if not the smallest, with just a couple of officers and a number of enlisted quartermasters. Nonetheless, it is obviously a very important department with immense responsibilities. I would imagine it would be similar on a starship: You may not need them all the time, but when you do need them it would be good to have some specialists with a lot of experience moving big ships safely around. (Of course it could all be automated, but so could most of the functions aboard ship, and Trek has not gone that direction.)
     
  10. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I don't like what TNG did to the helm/nav. They just kept this musical-chairs going with different people there. I prefer having dedicated roles for helm and nav as in TOS.
     
  11. Third Nacelle

    Third Nacelle Captain Captain

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    ^ I agree to a certain extent, but it can't be manned by the same person 24 hours a day. I think they tried to keep a familiar face there with Wesley, and later Ro. After La Forge and Worf went gold, they just didn't have a main character for it.
     
  12. LobsterAfternoon

    LobsterAfternoon Commander Red Shirt

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    To be fair, I'd imagine with the advances in technology we've seen in Trek, many people, especially Starfleet personnel, would be able to fly a shuttle, at least decently. Given that space travel is common, it might be considered akin to driving. That wouldn't preclude still needing very skilled pilots for shuttlecraft missions/helming a larger starship.
     
  13. USS Excelsior

    USS Excelsior Commodore Commodore

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    The TOS movie era had helmsman that were in Operations colours. Kind of like Tactical being in Operations since they don't just fire the weapons they service them as well. So the movie era helmsman must have been part of the Engineering department when it comes to the Warp Drive and propulsion.
     
  14. WillsBabe

    WillsBabe Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I was watching TNG the other day for the first time in years and I had to ask myself if there is any need to helm or navigation. Surely the captain/first officer could just tell the computer where they want to go and when they want to arrive by, and the ship can steer itself.
     
  15. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    23rd Century we had Helm and Navigation. TOS dedicated these to Sulu and Chekov (after season 1)

    24th Century we had Con as in Flight Control and Ops as in Ship Operations. Con was both Helm and Navigation. On Voyager, these were dedicated to Paris and Kim.

    I, like you, thought for a long time that TNG and onward did "something" to this rhythm. Only recently did I realize all they did was move one of the main characters from in front of the Captain to behind him (or her). Well, TNG had more of a rotating helm officer with a dedicated Con (Data) and Tactical (Yar or Worf). This is because they had to use one of the main characters as Counselor.
     
  16. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I'm not actually talking about any of this at all, but rather just the issue of different terminology between Starfleet and today's navy.
     
  17. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's also likely it takes more than one person to handle navigation, and the officer at the helm has to communicate with a lot of people.

    Maybe the helm officer can fully control the ship himself in a pinch, but optimally it's handled by multiple people with different roles.
     
  18. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was just gonna post this same comment. TNG LCARS era has quite a bit of verbal ordering of the computer. I can easily see the captain's usual order "set course 213 mark 15, speed warp six" being given to the ship's computer for execution. LCARS systems seem advanced enough to handle such an order, although we've never really seen it replace the helmsman.

    Plus, there was early TNG Tech Manual info about the ship being advanced enough that one could pilot it with a PADD from any location. If it was that easy/advanced, it would again seem to diminish the role of helmsman--at least in TNG era.
     
  19. Kelthaz

    Kelthaz Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Of course there is. StarFleet needs a permanent position on the bridge for a red shirt to sit in order to protect the senior officers.
     
  20. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

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    The way I see it is:
    1. Captain gives command: "Go thata way."
    2. Helm/navigation chooses the best route to go that way (around space hazards, best warp paths, etc).
    3. Computer takes care of all the minute microsecond-level details so the ship doesn't tear itself apart when it hits a bump in space-time.
    4. Engineering crew makes sure the computer is doing its job re. not blowing up ship.

    In normal situations this is simple stuff; the computer could do it without the helmsman, but they are there to override the computer if it does something off, and to gain experience, etc. You usually see a senior member of the crew jump into the pilot seat in a time of crisis, as they would have more experience and skill in the above.

    Starfleet seems to have something against AI, and robots in particular. They don't even seem to have them to do routine maintenance, like clean the waste processors. I wonder if the Telarites had some sort of robot apocalypse in their history or something :D