NCC-1701: Reconciling Its TOS & DIS Configurations

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by FalTorPan, Jul 10, 2021.

  1. FalTorPan

    FalTorPan Vice Admiral Admiral

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    For a casual Star Trek viewer, the fact that the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 looks so radically different in Star Trek: Discovery (and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the Star Trek: Picard premiere) than it does in the original series (and the animated series and its limited TNG/DS9/ENT appearances) is no big thing.

    To a Trek Tech aficionado, it can be a head-scratcher at best.

    Assuming we can't just ignore these discrepancies, and we take the visuals as literally as can be done with TV shows and movies... how do we rationalize the discrepancies?
    • Until the Short Treks "Q&A" came along, we might assume that -- somehow -- Starfleet saw some logic in refitting the Enterprise from its TOS "The Cage" configuration to the very different DIS/SNW/PIC configuration... and then to the TOS "Where No Man Has Gone Before" configuration, which is very similar to its TOS "The Cage" configuration.
    • Since Short Treks "Q&A", in which Spock and Number One meet for the first time, it now seems that -- somehow -- Starfleet saw some logic in refitting the Enterprise from its DIS/SNW/PIC configuration to the very different TOS "The Cage" configuration, then back to its DIS/SNW/PIC configuration, then to its TOS "Where No Man Has Gone Before" configuration.
    Yes, I should probably go with MST3K's "Repeat to yourself, 'It's just a show. I should really just relax,'" but this the Enterprise -- the same starship that we have spent decades looking over in excruciating detail.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    In TOS, there are scenes where the Enterprise changes from its pilot configuration in one shot to its series configuration in the very next continuous shot, and then back again. Obviously it isn't really changing in-story; we're just seeing different artistic interpretations of the hypothetical starship. It's the broad strokes that matter, the things that are common to both versions, rather than the differences in precise detail.

    Roddenberry liked to suggest (e.g. in his author's foreword for the ST:TMP novelization) that Star Trek was just a dramatic "re-enactment" of the Enterprise's "real" adventures -- perhaps influenced by how he got his start in TV by writing up police cases into story treatments for Dragnet to do as dramatic recreations. (It's notable that both Dragnet and Star Trek are framed by narration in the form of an official report on the incident being depicted.) When the Klingons were redesigned for TMP, he asked fans to accept that they'd always looked that way and the TOS version was just an inaccurate approximation. I'm sure he would've said the same about the ship and the technology, that a redesign reflecting more advanced filmmaking technologies was closer to the underlying reality.

    I see it like recasting. Anson Mount and Jeffrey Hunter look and sound different, but we suspend disbelief and accept the pretense that they're the same person in-story despite the difference in depiction. We can make the same assumption about the ship and the technology. A change in how a story is told is not the same as a change within the story.

    Now, in broad strokes, I have no trouble believing that the ship was refitted between DSC season 2 and TOS as a whole, though the in-universe differences are probably subtler than the different artistic interpretations would suggest. I don't worry so much about "Q&A" and "The Cage," because that's a case where production considerations dictate the design; most Short Treks episodes are designed to take advantage of standing sets, costumes, FX shots, etc. from Discovery in order to save money on production, so of course "Q&A" would use the DSC version of the Enterprise sets and costumes instead of going to the trouble to recreate the "Cage" versions. So I don't take that too literally. It's just actors on a stage performing a play, and the stage they happened to use was the one already built for Discovery.
     
  3. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's one of those "it's just a television show" things. They've rebooted the 23rd century of Trek. Le-Matya is a giant spider monster not a cat; Colt has gone from human to spiky alien; Pike is older and much more like his Kelvinverse counterpart than the character from "The Cage"; Section 31 operates in the open and have a fleet of black, USS Vengeance-like ships; everything looks different from planets to ships to alien races; the tech is much more advanced on the USS Shenzhou, with TNG/VOY-level atmospheric forcefields which explicitly weren't in TOS...

    You can try and justify it by saying "Colt was only named in the credits, it doesn't count!" or "It's only Le Matya in the script and concept art, not named on screen!" but... that was the intent of the people who make the show. And they're only going to keep making these choices, and you'll only ever be bending further and further backwards to try to force it to fit. So why give yourself the headache? Something vaguely like TOS happened around Discovery (and Strange New Worlds), but the details are obviously quite different. The TOS part of the continuity has been swapped out, and in forthcoming Treks, even stuff like Picard which directly follows on from TNG you now see Disco's 1701 and not the classic version.

    And I say that as a fan of Discovery. Pretty sure they did some market research at some point and some fans said they'd only subscribe if it was "prime universe" so they've made it prime universe... while changing prime universe to whatever they want it to be.
    [​IMG]
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  4. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Could it be believable that the Enterprise underwent a massive refit due to the war with the Klingons?
    For whatever reason, it was refit with more reliable technology before WNMHGB?
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, they've just updated how they depict it. Continuity in fiction has never had to be absolute; changing details does not mean it's a different continuity. Was it a "reboot" when TOS changed Vulcanians to Vulcans and UESPA to Starfleet, or when Trill got a completely different appearance and lost their inability to go through transporters? Of course not. It was just a tweak. So drop the hyperbole, please.


    That's unlikely. It's just the way the core franchise has always been done, with everything being treated as a continuation no matter how much the visual and continuity details are changed. And let's not forget that the movies, TNG, DS9, etc. introduced major changes that purist fans screamed about just as much as today's fans scream about Discovery and Picard. Every series has changed it to whatever they wanted it to be, because that's what fiction is. It's just that over time, we rationalize the inconsistencies to ourselves and convince ourselves that they fit, so we fool ourselves into thinking the new inconsistencies are bigger.

    Kelvin was licensed to Paramount Pictures while it was a separate company, and subcontracted out to Bad Robot, who wanted to make it their own. But CBS doesn't have to make it their own; it already is. It always has been, since the company now called CBS Studios is essentially a direct continuation of the company that was originally called Desilu and then Paramount Television. So it's natural enough that they'd just continue doing it the way they've always done it. It's also natural enough that Bryan Fuller, who'd gotten his start writing and producing a Prime-universe show, would want to do a Prime-universe show.
     
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  6. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    There's a difference between tweaking one thing and tweaking everything. TOS and Discovery don't sync up beyond a coat of paint or some terminology.

    But as I said, it's just a television show. Changes don't have to be justified.
     
  7. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    To me, how the Enterprise appears in DIS is just how the ship appears in that series. Conversely, the same logic can be applied to how she appeared in other Trek shows, IMO. Unless CBS intends to do yet another remaster of TOS and insert this new iteration of NCC-1701 in every episode, the classic design will forever remain how she appeared there.

    While it might have been nice for some of us to have had visual continuity with the ship, we just don't have it. It was a creative call by the producers to update NCC-1701 for DIS (and now PIC). Reconciling inconsistencies in Trek was a favorite pastime of many Trekkers--including myself--but I think this one just has to be looked at as the differences of two different TV productions. They share a basic continuity rather than a wholly visual one.
     
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  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    You're mistaking surface for substance. If a cubist and an impressionist both paint the Eiffel Tower, their paintings will look very different, but they're still depicting the same subject.
     
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  9. Spaceship Jo

    Spaceship Jo Commander Red Shirt

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    Fair.

    But also, their aims are different. If both are striving for similar levels of realism, and one looks like smeared jello while the other looks like the Eiffel Tower, it's still fair to compare the two as not being the same not just superficially, but also substantially.

    If a cover band plays a show, the tickets won't cost an arm and a leg. The same songs, but inherently also not the same songs, and (to most people), not remotely of equal value, even if both are enjoyable.
     
  10. Dr. Kravaal

    Dr. Kravaal Vice Admiral Admiral

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    NX-01, the Discovery Enterprise and the refit flow from one to another very well. Increasingly it seems, the TOS Enterprise is the oddball…and that is what has folks steamed. In-universe, I’d say the TOS timeline is walled off in two ways…the JJ-verse Spock Prime found himself in…and the NX-Disco continuity that Voyager and the Suliban influenced events.

    One way or the other, there is no going back…
     
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  11. Spaceship Jo

    Spaceship Jo Commander Red Shirt

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    Speaking from what I've seen of people being steamed, it has nothing to do with Enterprise being the oddball. It has to do with a perception of disrespecting the legacy from which the current producers are milking their livelihoods. The TOS Enterprise is simultaneously TOO iconic to abandon, yet they also want nothing to do with it because it embarrasses them (because their imaginations for what makes "futuristic" is either lacking or they don't trust their audience). Sure, it's fun when a local theater wants to stage Hamlet with every character as a different era of soldier fighting an alien invasion of greek myths, but those won't end up as Shakespeare's legacy.

    Speaking for myself, the TOS Enterprise seeming to be the oddball isn't an issue or error or problem needing to be fixed. Progress doesn’t follow a preordained, straight path. The flow from NX to Discoprise to Refit is, if anything, too smooth, in terms of styling and geometry, though there is a distinct intentionality and coherence to the design of the NX and the Refit that the Discoprise lacks (by design).
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2021
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm regretting that choice of metaphor, though, because it's getting away from my real point. I'd rather go back to the point that these are actors on a stage putting on a play. Different productions may use completely different set and costume designs, but it's still the same play. Because fiction is not about what things look like -- it's about what happens. Story is events and characters, words and actions and emotions. Sets and props and visual designs are just the surface trappings of how the story is told. They are not the story itself.

    Continuity in narrative fiction is about how stories relate to each other in their shared history and events and characterizations, the way they reference and build on each other. That supersedes their differences in detail, because it's all make-believe anyway and you can just pretend two things are consistent even when they aren't (e.g. pretending that Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt are both Catwoman, or that Henry Frankenstein's lab way out in the mountains in the 1931 Frankenstein is the same continuous lab as the one in the outbuilding on the Castle Frankenstein grounds in Bride of Frankenstein and the one inside the castle itself in Son of Frankenstein).



    Well, that's a very sad misunderstanding of how artists think. Wanting to take a classic design and put a new spin on it is not about "disrespecting" it or being "embarrassed" by it -- just the opposite. The original design was itself a work of creativity, of artistic expression, and it drew on past references that meant something to Matt Jefferies and Pato Guzman and Gene Roddenberry, inspirations that they carried forward in their creation. Later artists putting their own spin on the iconic design are doing it out of love, because they want to do the same thing -- to use the original as an inspiration and engage in the same kind of creative, innovative process that produced it in the first place.

    Look at, say, Bruce Timm's DC Comics-based artwork from Batman: The Animated Series onward. Timm's art style is very influenced by both Jack Kirby and John Romita, Sr., but it's not a mere copy of either one (and the two are very different from one another). He homages what he loves about their work, but synthesizes it into a style of his own, and that's true tribute, not embarrassment or disrespect.

    Heck, there are fan artists here on this very forum and elsewhere who reinvent canonical ship designs as a creative exercise. Gabriel Koerner's Enterprise redesign is perhaps the most famous example. They don't do that because they're embarrassed by the original designs, but because they're inspired by them and want to play with the possibilities.

    If anything, mere imitation is more disrespectful, because it's co-opting a style that belongs to someone else. I think most artists would consider it a greater tribute to see someone reinvent their work in a fresh way than they would to see someone merely copy it.


    Shakespeare's legacy is the words, not the set design. They didn't even have set design when he wrote. They performed on a bare stage and trusted the audience to be able to imagine Elsinore and Agincourt and Prospero's isle. Your example is a straw man, because modernized productions of Hamlet like the 2009 David Tennant/Sir Patrick Stewart production do not change the story, only the set and costume design. They use the same words, the same sacrosanct dialogue, the same characters and events, with only the superficial trappings being changed. So it's still the same play, because story is about what happens, not what things look like.
     
  13. NCC-73515

    NCC-73515 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ...which is why the ships and shows have the same name...? XD
    Aren't we talking about television shows that we watch on screens?
     
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  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    What a story is about is one thing; how that story is presented is another. I don't get how people can accept Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis as the same person -- let alone Glenn Corbett and James Cromwell -- yet their heads explode at the idea of accepting two different designs of a set or a visual effect as the same thing.
     
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  15. Spaceship Jo

    Spaceship Jo Commander Red Shirt

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    That's a fundamental misunderstanding of the historicity of the production of Star Trek though. Hamlet isn't any one actor, but Spock, for better or worse, is. Because Star Trek isn't words on the page, or even words said on the stage. These are not actors inhabiting tropes, or making their own characterizations (Pike is, etc, but that's a different story), they are explicitly, so far as the audience is concerned, playing Leonard Nimoy's Spock, etc. It is a fully audio/visual legacy, arguably most ingrained in popular culture by a very specific image of a very specific ship.

    And that's why, so far as I see people perceive that disrespect. Again, not my feelings on the matter. I have heard Eaves talk about the process, and I have no doubt to his intent there. But the results look an awful lot like what you say, rather than what Eaves says, no matter the process to get there: it isn't reinvented in a fresh way, it looks like an inferior copy of co-opted style with some extra texture. As if someone redrew Winnie the Pooh with basically the same proportions, but ever so slightly more muscle, it's not a real reinvention, it is mere imitation, with a veneer of reinvention, or so it appears to a lot of folks.

    Ah, the artists, absolutely. But the perception comes from how it's treated by the producers, by the vivid public persona of Alex Kurtzman in particular, though certainly Bryan Fuller's image looms large in people's minds as a reason various aspects of Trek don't feel very much like Trek, which is of course a cyclical argument from Day One of any long running media experience.

    Because again, it isn't a play, it isn't the words. Star Trek is a particular framework of audio visual storytelling, in a very particular vision of a future. Visuals absolutely do matter in ways they never would with Shakespeare, especially in a franchise that has branded itself as One Big Thing in terms of highlighting the Prime Universe as integral to the sales pitch, etc.

    This is more of a side note, but as much as I love many people's reinterpretations of the Big E, it is worth reading some of their commentary on their projects. Yes, there is lots of love, but also, there is a lot of embarrassment among certain artists, as a great many see themselves as correcting errors, or making complex shapes that 'reflect a more "realistic" ship that we would have seen if budget allowed.' Playing with possibilities is certainly a motivation for a lot of folks, but "fixing" is a lot of people's motivation as well. I saw one this morning that said, and I'm copying this directly, "This is my corrected version of what the Enterprise should have looked like if the artists had any sense, or maybe if the producers didn't ruin their artwork" that was mostly about adjusting the pylons and moving the nacelles a bit, in this particular case.

    Point being, comparing to Batman's iterations would only be valid if Trek hadn't already had one contiguous universe (with some offshoots into mirror universes and Kelvinverses, but the bulk of the TV productions are under one banner, so to speak). If 20 episodes into Batman TAS, the art style just completely changed and the voices were different, and they never went back to the originals and then changed it again 30 episodes later, maybe that would compare, but that didn't happen, because it would be absurd.
     
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  16. Spaceship Jo

    Spaceship Jo Commander Red Shirt

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    FWIW, a lot of people don't accept them as the same characters, simply compartmentalizing them in their heads into different characters that happen to have the same names. Not saying that's the right way of doing things, but it's easy to do, as their characterizations are as different as their actors, and really only a tenuous connection to their previous incarnation matters or even makes any sense.
     
  17. UssGlenn

    UssGlenn Commodore Commodore

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    Funny you picked Batman TAS, because it famously completely changed its art style after 85 episodes, when it came back to match the style of Superman TAS, for the last 24 episodes.
     
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  18. Spaceship Jo

    Spaceship Jo Commander Red Shirt

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    It's also famously a completely different series after 85 episodes, like it's literally not Batman TAS anymore.

    But quibbling aside, you're right, I shouldn't use that as an example.

    Except that it's a great example! Because people were up in arms about the total change (even though it was a different series with a different name at that point). Because Batman TAS set up an audio visual aesthetic and tone that people loved, that was carefully considered and pretty much stands the test of time, and the change was... not that.

    I'm always in favor of creators trying new things. But theres flexibility and then there are breaking points. If it's totally different, call it a new thing. If it's stretching the boundaries within the arena, great!
     
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  19. Dr. Kravaal

    Dr. Kravaal Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, it doesn’t have to be Steve McQueen in Bullitt…but it needs to be a ‘68 Mustang GT…
     
  20. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The Eiffel Tower hasn't spent 50 years selling technical manuals, encyclopedias and whatnot detailing it's minutae in the way Star Trek has. Even your novels going into deep technical detail.

    Now the Eiffel tower is 450m tall, and all those fancy lights which make it look so amazing at night have been there since day one. Oh, and her architects are now androids. And it can protect holograms. And if anyone questions these changes, they're to be downplayed as much as possible because it's the same Eiffel Tower, just seen through different eyes.

    Ugh, I'm having "alternative facts" flashbacks. Hence, "it's only a television show"