Oberth Class – the missing link between Enterprise and Reliant

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Robert Comsol, Aug 10, 2013.

  1. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    Last year I did an analysis and design study of two VFX models from ST III (The Search for Spock) which I felt had been vastly neglected, and which I considered to be long overdue: First the Earth Spacedock, next the Oberth Class.

    Both studies were written for a possible website publishing (including footnotes with quotes and annotations) but for a thread publication here at the BBS I omitted information most BBS participants are probably abundantly aware of and restructured the text to keep it shorter:


    Because of its ongoing appearances in TNG (most likely because of budget restrictions) there seems to be the widespread assumption that the design of the USS Grissom (or Oberth Class), introduced in the third Star Trek movie, should be a design of the late, but not the early 23rd, and most definitely not the late 22nd Century

    I dare to say that this is some sort of retcon bias which we shouldn’t consider as relevant. IMO, it’s only relevant, what the producers of ST III and/or the ILM model builders had in mind to be the backstory for the USS Grissom (and the Oberth Class) as far as we can tell and conclude from the available information. They designed, picked and put in on screen, so they should know best.

    What do we know?

    With all the major attention attracted by the (then) Klingon Bird of Prey and USS Excelsior in 1984, the press neglected further in-depth coverage of the USS Grissom and so did the subsequent literature.

    The August 1984 issue of Cinefex (page 43) merely classified it as a “scout class vehicle” (i.e. smaller ships compared to the “largest and most powerful man-made ships in space” according to The Making of Star Trek).

    The June 1987 compilation issue of Cinefantastique illustrated ILM’s originalsize comparison chart (later supplemented with TNG ships by Andrew Probert: http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/articles/excelsior/probert-sizechart.jpg). This chart specified a length of “395’ O.L.” (395 feet or 120 meters overall length) for the F.S.V. (Federation Survey Vessel) Grissom and the Oberth Class (but its correct size was only shown in the films, including Star Trek VII at the end).

    One thing that should really raise a couple of eyebrows is the study model of the Grissom (selected by the Star Trek III producers from different design proposals) that wore the name “VALIANT” (but no NCC registry number whatsoever!).

    This looks like a clue what the early 23rd Century “USS Valiant” of the ill-fated Earth mission to Eminiar VII (50 years prior to TOS) could or should have looked like, according to the ILM model makers and/or film producers.

    ILM had provided the VFX model of the Reliant but may have felt compelled to provide the (yet) missing design link between the Enterprise and the Reliant, possibly inspired by this original sketch of Matt Jefferies which had been available to everyone owning a copy of The Making of Star Trek.

    The film itself provides scarce information: USS Grissom has a warp and impulse drive, a transporter system, sophisticated surface sensors - and armament (otherwise Kirk wouldn’t be wondering if Grissom would open fire on the Enterprise upon its arrival at the Genesis planet).

    Neither does the Klingon “Shoot first and ask questions later” policy provide a clue. If the Klingons are familiar with the Oberth Class they just know as James Kirk that the Grissom has armament of some kind. Should it be a new design unknown to the Klingons they wouldn’t know what kind of armament it might have. Thus, to cripple the ship is the only way the Klingons can keep their tactical advantage either way and so their knowledge (new or old design) remains inconclusive.

    More revealing is the Klingons’ direct hit on the large bottom pod of the vessel, instantly causing the destruction of the ship and the death of its crew.

    Grissom’s Captain Esteban may have been on overcautious “by the book” Starfleet veteran, but he wasn’t insecure and hesitant like Captain Harriman of the Enterprise-B.

    On the contrary one may have expected Esteban to either orbit the Genesis planet with permanently active deflector shields or at least to activate these at the first sign of possible trouble. Of course, if your ship doesn’t have strong or any deflector shields because it is an older design, there is little the captain can do but pray (which Esteban did). The hydrodynamic streamline shape of the large pod and the sturdy round caps of the warp nacelles suggest a design that’s rather based on passive than active deflection (i.e. generated shields) of space particles and debris.

    Does Grissom’s registration (NCC-638) hint an older ship?

    While the details of the registry scheme for the whole of Star Trek seem inconclusive, early ships have a three-digit code (e.g. NCC-173 USS Essex), ships of the mid 23rd Century have a four-digit code and those of the 24th Century usually carry a five-digit-code.
    I say that this is how the average Star Trek viewer identifies a ship and its era and there’s no reason to assume that the producers of Star Trek III intended otherwise, IMO.

    • USS Oberth is NCC-602 (Star Trek VI, Operation Retrieve page four)
    • USS Copernicus is NCC-623 (Star Trek IV, renamed and renumbered Grissom model trapped inside Earth Spacedock)
    • USS Tsiolkovsky is NCC-640 (only the model, which could indicate dissent between the creators of the Grissom and the producers of TNG. Who knows better what era the Oberth Class belonged to?)
    It would appear that Epsilon Nine’s message to the “scout” USS Columbia (NCC-621) in Star Trek I should also indicate an Oberth Class vessel (at least it has a pair of warp engines ;)).
    And with two of the three fathers of rocket science honored (Oberth and Tsiolkovsky), it stands to reason that one (NCC-601?) bears the name Robert Goddard.

    According to Matt Jefferies (the creator of Kirk’s television Enterprise who stated that ”the "Enterprise" was the 17th major [starship] design of the Federation, and the first in the series: 17-01!") the Oberth Class would have been Starfleet’s 6th Starship Class (later downgraded to the Scout Class) and therefore an older one that predates the Enterprise and her sister ships.

    Stay tuned for Part II and for an inevitable in-depth design study of the configuration and surface details of the Oberth Class and more. Enjoy!

    ian128K likes this.
  2. Patrickivan

    Patrickivan Fleet Captain Newbie

    Jul 16, 2006
    I'm curious where you got the "late 22nd century" dates from? I can't recall anything stating that the Oberth type was around in the 2100's at all...

    The 2200's takes place in the 23rd century, so I'm assuming this is a typo on your end.

    That said, I take no issue with the Oberth type coming into being around the same time as the Original Connies, before the mid 23rd century (2250's). The numbering would be based on the contract so even if the Oberths where commissioned after the first Connies, the contract number for that range of vessels COULD have been lower than the 1700's. Then they jump up based on refit, or redesigns maybe? That would explain the higher numbers in the 24th century. New design based on an existing spaceframe, but a newer ship that required a newer contract number, and therefore the 5 digits.

    In fact, that even explains the odd Connie with the NCC lower than 17's. That one would be the first, and that one would have that original contract number. But then something happens with the design for the Constellation NCC-1017 that completely changes the contract number, bumping them up to the 17's... Just a recycled thought. Precedent is in past naval history where ships are so upgraded and changed inside, that the class changes. Completely different ships (and planes) that look like the original. But in no other way are the same. Hell, even frames are upgraded, leaving just an original looking skin.
  3. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    ...nor is there a reliable statement that it was not already around in the late 22nd or early 23rd Century. ;)

    We are entirely dealing with conjecture here and my point is that we should consider that the previous conjecture (mid or late 23rd Century) mustn't necessarily be the optimal one.

  4. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Random hipshots:

    Trying to fit the Oberth in the continuum of starships is in some ways fundamentally counterproductive. Forcing her into the role of a "missing link" means narrowing down Starfleet's selection of hardware to just starships, even when TPTB appear to be doing everything in their power to have the Oberth be something else altogether.

    Whether she really is a scout class vessel as of the 2280s is uncertain; Kirk isn't quite convinced that Chekov's observation of a "scout class vessel" should be explained by it being the Grissom, but rather just says, with doubt in his voice, that it "could be" that ship. Essentially, he seems to be saying (and hoping) that Chekov could have mistaken the Grissom for a scout class vessel.

    Weak shields shouldn't be considered an artifact of the ship being old. Rather, it should appear natural that some ship types and categories have weaker shields than others. The Grissom might even be such a "civilian" type of vessel that she isn't equipped with shields at all! (However, virtually all civilian ships ever witnessed have had some sort of shielding, even if it's useless in combat.)

    The direct hit at the bottom being fatal is nicely consistent with TNG "Hero Worship" where the ship is depicted with a warp core -looking feature right down there, and dialogue even associates this feature with "core" (although the writer probably intended computer core there, yet thankfully did not make the intent explicit). A safety measure from ye olden days when warp cores were unreliable? A utilitarian engineering solution typical of smaller vessels (The "Hero Worship" ship is depicted with decks consistent with the 120 m length...)? A means of placing the "noisy" device far away from sensors?

    Timo Saloniemi
  5. The_Beef

    The_Beef Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Apr 8, 2008
    I like the theory, and I've sometimes considered the possibility that, if we hadn't have seen the TOS Connie in its original glory in later TV appearances, the Oberth's surface texture and features might point to what the TOS Enterprise and other TOS-era ships really would have looked like. I do have a few questions, hopefully to be discussed in Part 2. . .

    Can you elaborate on this?

    Aside from putting the name "Valiant" on the model (and the low registry number), do we have any sources that suggest ILM was consciously trying to portray an older model?

    Do you believe this points at something unusual in the use of that pod, or is it just an indication that the ship was unshielded?
  6. Dukhat

    Dukhat Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 26, 2007
    Baltimore, MD
    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for writing this up. I did a similar essay about the Oberth class in Star Trek, and I will link it here once I make a slight fix to it.

    It is my personal opinion that the Oberth class debuted sometime after TMP.

    That's the thing, though: I don't think ILM had any "backstory" about the ship or it's design. They needed a science vessel, they made several study models, Nimoy picked the one he liked the best. I don't think it's any more complicated than that.

    I'm pretty sure that it was referred to as a "scout class" because that's how Kirk referred to it in dialogue in the film, and it had nothing to do with TMOST, IMHO.

    I'm not going to belabor too much about the ship's size, as most ships in Star Trek are quite inconsistent in this regard. However, I personally believe the ship is a bit larger than 120 meters.

    No offense, but that's complete supposition on your part. I really, REALLY doubt that ILM was thinking of some throwaway ship name from "A Taste of Armageddon." You're giving them far too much credit here. Unless you have some info about ILM that I'm not aware of?

    Honestly, I think that the Grissom's design was based more on one of the Excelsior study models (the flat one with two nacelles that strongly resemble the Grissom's nacelles). If Nimoy had picked that particular study model as the Excelsior's final design, then it would have been obvious that the Grissom would have been the Excelsior's contemporary. I don't think its design has anything whatsoever to do with a "missing link," since it doesn't resemble either the Enterprise or the Reliant at all.

    Esteban called for evasive action. That surely meant to at least raise shields. Obviously they simply didn't raise them in time before the BoP fired on them.

    Actually, the Copernicus's registry is 640. The 623 reg is a mistake. Okuda mentioned that when the model was filmed as the Tsiolkovsky, he didn't have time to relabel or re-reg the model from its last appearance in STIV.
    Again, what was actually on the model when it was filmed as the Tsiolkovsky is irrelevant. The ship's registry is 53911.

    But it's really not. The intention at the time of TMP was that those two scouts were supposed to be Hermes class per Franz Joseph. I personally see no reason to change that intention.

    I'm not familiar with the Goddard reference. Where is that from?

    But Matt Jefferies didn't work for ILM. It's my personal belief that ILM gave the Grissom such a low registry because she was a small ship, just like they gave the huge new Excelsior the "2000" reg, since in the '80's, the number 2000 was considered a "big" number. I truly believe that was the extent of ILM's logic on the matter.

    It probably seems like I'm nitpicking here. I'm sure you spent a great deal of time working on this. However, I really think you're giving ILM far too much credit and imposing the beliefs of other people who worked on Trek in the past into what ILM did. I just don't think they were as conscientious as you seem to think they were.
  7. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    @ Timo

    I do not understand your concern. While the Oberth Class might have been a Starship Class of the early 23rd Century it apparently no longer qualifies as such next to the new starships and has therefore been downgraded to belong to the Scout Class, where it mostly serves as a survey vessel beginning with ST III and in obvious accordance with the requirements of TPTB.

    In the aforementioned issue of Cinefex ST III visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston referred to the ship as the “scout-class vehicle the Grissom” designed by Nilo Rodis and/or Dave Carson. Nilo Rodis also made that size comparison chart (later enhanced by Andrew Probert) where it said next to the Grissom “Federation Survey Vessel” which seems perfectly compliant with a “Scout Class” vessel.

    @ The_Beef

    Unlike the Miranda Class the Oberth Class has a secondary hull but contrary to the Enterprise design, where the bow with the main sensor-deflector can have its blunt shape thanks to deflectors, the Oberth Class features a curved bow that doesn’t necessarily seem to require deflector protection and could just repel smaller objects on collision course mechanically (in other words: if you have navigational deflectors, your bow can be shaped anything you like, if you don’t, the bow should be shaped accordingly).

    No, I don’t have sources that explicitly suggest a deliberate intention of Rodis and Carson, but IMHO, there are just too many coincidences to write it off as simply accidental:

    • Of the thousands of names that could have been picked for the study model, the one they picked is the one of those spaceships that predate TOS and had never been featured onscreen. Remarkable!
    • The low registry NCC-638 (first time onscreen) suggests a conscious decision to show a vessel that was built much earlier than the Enterprise, which of course would apply to either one of the two Valiants. Alternately, they could have adopted Franz Joseph’s system but I don’t think that’s the case here. If it were they pushed his one-nacelled scout design over the cliff and should have rather gone for a prefix beginning with “7” or “8”
    • Ralston didn’t refer to “Grissom Class” but “Scout Class” which is the same (and accurate) terminology as “Starship Class” is for the Enterprise (and the “Destroyer Class” mentioned in The Making of Star Trek). This tells me that either Rodis or Carson did their homework or that one or both of them were probably Trekkers that knew what they were doing.
    • The Oberth Class has a unique design element that evolution-wise would place it perfectly between the starships Archon and Horizon and the TOS Enterprise. But to even come up with this design element, would have required knowledge about “A Piece of he Action” and some TOS preproduction intentions that definitely required reading The Making of Star Trek, IMHO (more about that in Part III).
    The pod apparently houses antimatter but whether the Grissom had shields or not is debatable, as Timo pointed out. While we probably all concur that the secondary hull contains matter-antimatter components, what we see in TNG doesn’t look like a classic example of “form follows function” but rather like a considerable amount of upgrades and refits that do not reflect the original arrangement.

    @ Dukhat

    I hope I addressed the ILM intention issue above. Why of the thousands of names available for a supposedly “new” design did they pick that “old” name (and long before the name-recycling craziness of the TNG era took over!)?

    You’re right, the nacelle caps of the Grissom are of the same make as those of Excelsior. Let’s see how much this is going to impact the remainder of my treatise yet to come.

    Okay, Copernicus’ registry is actually NCC-640 but that still supports the notion that the Oberth Class ships featured in the movies belong to the 6th Federation design series.
    Undoubtedly, Franz Joseph’s Revere and Columbia were the inspiration for the subspace chatter in TMP, but we never saw these onscreen.
    For me, the first authorities on such issues are the Enterprise designers Matt Jefferies and Andrew Probert. The prefix designates the (TOS) design series (Jefferies) and warp drive nacelles have to work in tandem (Probert), so in my world neither Revere or Columbia can possibly be one-nacelled ships and Columbia simply has to be an Oberth Class (according to Jefferies). Pegasus definitely appears to be Oberth Class in TNG. ;)

    Considering Oberth was German and Tsiolkovsky was Russian, I can’t imagine any good American to sit still and not demand that one Oberth Class vessel bears the name of America’s father of rocket science (and especially that these three are too often referred to as the 3 fathers of rocket science).
    Just to name a measly TNG shuttlecraft after this pioneer doesn’t seem to be appropriate.

    I think that was the "intermission", so here comes Part II:

    Doesn’t the Grissom design look unorthodox and out of line (and time)?

    There is a certain set of design guidelines for warp-worthy spaceships and even the ancient Daedalus Class (no matter how debatable or obsolete because of Enterprise NX-01 it may have become) sticks to these rules: Either the warp nacelles are first and foremost attached to the engineering hull of a spaceship or they are attached to an extended primary hull of a spaceship which contains engineering (e.g. Reliant, Stargazer, Voyager).

    The Oberth Class falls under neither of those two categories.

    While the ship appears to have an engineering hull shaped like a large pod, the two fins holding the pod don’t connect to the warp nacelles but to a slab (thicker than the fins) onto which the nacelles are attached just as the nearby primary hull (the slab is too small for an engineering section there, compare to Reliant).

    The purpose of the large pod?

    With no previous knowledge of warp drive, Jefferies first assumed the warp engines of the Enterprise to be dangerous (“extremely powerful”) and felt “they had to be designed away from the body” (during the original series it was established that the warp nacelles did contain antimatter and the corresponding reactors!).

    Supposedly, Matt Jefferies wasn’t fond of having an engineering room from which to control the engines and felt it could be done remote controlled from a panel on the (auxilary) bridge (which occasionally happened during the original series).

    Maybe the Oberth Class design reflects more than any other design what Matt Jefferies originally intended for his Enterprise...?

    At first glance the Grissom’s pod looks like it’s a payload being held by fins of what is basically a warp sled (the fins do not seem to have the space for a turbo lift). Irrespective what kind of payload we assume it’s holding, the pod looks rather massive and sturdy than lightweight and hollow. Thus, one may ask how this ship will next be able to move the payload from A to B. The stern of the bridge seems to house two cylindrical fusion reactors but it’s hard to believe they provide enough energy to impulse drive the mass of the ship anywhere, mind provide the incredible amount of energy the warp engines require to warp space (unless we assume the Oberth Class to be a 25th Century design that travelled back in time :hugegrin:).

    Obviously the matter-antimatter storage and reaction core have to be somewhere and the pod seems to be perfect place where to store this hazardous stuff with a safety distance to the crew quarters in the primary hull (which will simply detach in case of an imminent core breach and leave the entire warp sled behind, similar to the events featured in Star Trek VII).

    Is the pod too big to only contain matter-antimatter and its reaction core?

    The original early 23rd Century Enterprise under the command of Captain Pike and Captain Kirk’s had at least three matter-antimatter reactors (one in each of the warp nacelles, one in the engineering hull) which eventually evolved into a single matter-antimatter reactor (“warp core”) for the motion picture Enterprise and the federation vessels in the subsequent Star Trek television series.

    In terms of technical evolution we have ourselves experienced remarkable progress in the last decades, where items became more efficient and smaller, and there is no reason not to assume the aforementioned to be an appropriate analogy for the future and starships.

    A starship design (credibly) predating the TOS Enterprise would have probably featured even bulkier technology to contain antimatter and/or bring it into controlled reaction with normal matter to produce energy.
    And the Oberth Class obviously does have a pod-shaped engineering hull that would meet such expectations. Assuming it to be a new and late 23rd Century design would demand answers why the relation in terms of volume is so noticeably different between the pod and the primary hull.

    Undoubtedly, technological advances during the 23rd Century would have freed up space in the interior of the Oberth Class antimatter pod to allow the additional installation of sophisticated scientific and sensory equipment. But before imagining that we should know which purpose the giant pod served in the very first place.

    Do familiar exterior details indicate late 23rd Century design?

    Admittedly, Grissom features details supposedly characteristic of the late 23rd Century, in particular the grid lined “emergency flush intake” slots (according to Probert actually rather a valve than an intake) slots and the “emergency flush vent” surface panels seen on the motion picture Enterprise and ST II Reliant. But a closer look at the original 11’ VFX model of the TOS Enterprise reveals the starboard side of the engineering hull (ahead of the red Starfleet emblem stripes) to feature an almost identical, angular surface panel.

    Admittedly, the pylons of Grissom’s warp sled and the pod itself look rather streamlined in contrast to the rigid and rectangular (television) or triangular (movies) pylons holding the warp nacelles of the Enterprises. But so looked automotive designs from the earlier 1950’s compared to car designs of the 1970’s. Spaceships preceding the known ones mustn’t necessarily look ugly but ideally should be different and such is the obvious case with the Oberth Class.

    What appears to look like rectangular convective fins is very likely an essential part of Grissom’s warp engines. Although the early Baton Rouge Class isn’t strictly canon, it is semi-official because it appeared in the Marvel Comics and had been originally designed by no other than TNG’s ship designer Rick Sternbach for the 1979 Spaceflight Chronology (and accessible by the ILM model makers!). Here, the warp engines also have a convective fin arrangement at the end of the warp nacelles but it’s a circular one instead of Grissom’s rectangular one, suggesting a leap in evolution ahead of Grissom on the path to the television Enterprise design.

    The strong hint for a late 23rd Century design comes from the caps of the warp nacelles which are almost identical to the latest starship design, namely that of USS Excelsior also making her debut in ST III.
    Most assuredly this is not a unique design trademark of a transwarp engine (unless we assume the Grissom had transwarp capability). It can’t be a general and useful warp engine improvement / upgrade as no Constitution, Miranda, Soyuz or Constellation Class vessel will ever be seen with these caps. It could be a design feature from the construction era depicted in ST III, but it could also be a design feature unique to the Oberth Class that had a comeback with the Excelsior and proved successful for the particular performance of this class.

    In Part III I’d like to talk about the odd and unusual exterior details and the other issues which need to be addressed (e.g. longevity). Stay tuned.

    ian128K likes this.
  8. Dukhat

    Dukhat Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 26, 2007
    Baltimore, MD
    If ILM just had to use a former Trek reference when naming that model, don't you think they would have been more influenced by the use of the name in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," which was Star Trek's pilot episode and far more popular than "A Taste of Armageddon?"

    Honestly? I think they just pulled the name out of their ass because they thought it sounded cool. And anyway, it was just a study model. The idea that this little study was supposed to represent some other ship from a mediocre episode is stretching logic a bit, IMHO.

    See my last post for my take on why it was given that number.

    Again, this is a whole lot of supposition on your part. I'm not out-and-out saying you're wrong; I just think it's just highly unlikely.

    Again you're implying that ILM consciously knew about Jefferies' registry scheme and were following it to the letter, which yet again I find highly doubtful. But hey, if it works for you, great.

    Okay, if that's how things work in your world, again, great. And while I have the utmost respect for both Matt Jefferies and Andy Probert and the contributions they gave to Trek, I don't think everything needs to be as cut-and-dried as that. There is absolutely no problem with one-nacelled ships, as has been proven several times on screen already.

    You do realize that there are other Oberths with names that have nothing to do with science?
  9. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    That suggests that Starfleet doesn't build scout-class ships, it merely waits for older ships to "succumb" to that role. Not my idea of entertainment at all. Plus, it flies completely in the face of the TOS idea that starships would be a rare asset for Starfleet: if they never build anything but starships, surely every Ensign will automatically become a starship captain eventually, and Kirk has no special status.

    They seem to have misunderstood the dialogue of ST3, then.

    Not at all, considering how TOS starship names were chosen in the first place: the most cliched of historical (or pseudohistorical, as with the Defiant) naval names were picked. Valiant is a trivially obvious choice there.

    Or, more probably, a desire to show a vessel in all aspects "lesser" than the Enterprise.

    Except that there is no starship Archon design. Apart from obscure fan ones, of which the Goldsteins/Sternbach one would certainly take precedence over the Mastercom one.

    Well, it should, considering it is not a starship, and never was intended to be! Were it to look anything like the Enterprise or the Excelsior, it would be a failure.

    OTOH, the Oberth seems to ignore safety considerations, as the powerfully radiating warp engines are right next to the saucer...

    Timo Saloniemi
  10. Patrickivan

    Patrickivan Fleet Captain Newbie

    Jul 16, 2006
    Overall, I guess unless someone of authority prints material that makes something cannon, we will be able to interpret to our hearts are content. But even then, we all go nuts interpreting cannon. And the true definition of cannon is not what is seen on screen, but what is described by people of authority and ownership of material, yet we disregard that all the time here because of conflicting information.

    I would personally never have the secondary hull contain more than unmanned elaborate sensor equipment. Just like I'd never actually put the actual MARC in the secondary hull until TNG and would just consider early terms of warp cores being a term for a main unit that is conveying power from the warp nacelles to the main hull for conversion in use for the main ship power systems.
  11. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

    Mar 8, 2001
    Great Britain
    Apperance wise, it is possible the reason as to why it looks similar to the Miranda and Constitution Class ships despite the registry indicating a lauch prior to the constitution class is that it too under went a refit like the COnstution Class did between TOS and TMP.
  12. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    No, I think you are jumping to a premature conclusion, unless you can explain this quote from Kirk's log entry in "Return of the Archons": "trying to find some trace of the starship Archon that disappeared here a hundred years ago"

    The Archon was a starship. What happened to its class, once new starship designs were introduced? Was it scraped just to make place for the the sake of not stealing the thunder from the new and improved starship design (is that what Admiral Morrow was after in ST III?) or was it downgraded to a lower classification that would reflect its capability performance next to a superior and new starship design?

    Again, you are jumping to premature conclusions. Assuming that Archon and Horizon belong to the same class, there is one unique design feature we most definitely know about this ship from the episode's dialogue!

    Looks like it's the right time to publish the third and final part of my treatise which hopefully illustrates my proposal much better than the introduction parts thus far:

    Do odd and unusual exterior details indicate an early 23rd Century design?

    Where the Grissom radically deviates from known Star Trek designs (with the exception of the Vulcan long-range shuttlecraft in TMP) is
    a) its primary hull or saucer section and
    b) the style how the saucer section is attached to the warp sled.

    The saucer section has a unique dome-shaped structure with a flat bottom and looks rather bloated compared to other saucer sections of Federation ships. If there were an evolution step between the spherical primary hull of the ancient Daedalus Class and the flat saucer section of Kirk’s Enterprise, the Grissom’s saucer section would fit right in between.

    Given Grissom’s official overall length of 120 meters (scale shown in ST III, length figure of its creator/s and adopted / sanctioned by Andrew Probert), the illuminated windows of the saucer section obviously can’t be little more than tiny portholes which might have been normal for spaceships preceding spaceships of the later 23rd Century (including the Romulan Bird of Prey in the original series?) but seem to be no longer standard in the late 23rd and definitely not in the 24th Century.

    Another odd feature is the top of the saucer section which has an indentation area (sensor array?) with a dome in its center presumed to be the command bridge. A comparison to the detailed and official model of the USS Essex (ancient Daedalus Class) featured in a DS9 episode - reveals a rather identical indentation with a dome in its center. It appears to be a design element of early Federation spaceships as later ships do no longer have this feature (and could indicate that the Essex model maker also felt the Oberth Class to be an older design, hence he adopted the odd indentation at the top and Grissom’s unusual two-striped red hull pennant).

    A look at the Oberth Class VFX model from a lower angle reveals several oddities.

    First, below the bow part of the warp nacelles’ caps we have two spherical features which could indicate the matter-antimatter reactors the TOS Enterprise had, too (before the introduction of the “Engineering Core” in “That Which Survives” and its eventual substitution for the reactors in the nacelles).

    Second, the saucer section has a circular extension at its bottom (identical to the dome in the top center) which latches the saucer section like a knob into a corresponding opening of the upper warp sled. It appears we are not looking at a typical saucer section connection but rather at a saucer module.

    This impression is emphasized by three embayments (difficult to discern whether these are space doors, rectangular hardpoints to connect mission specific payloads or else) on the outer rim of the saucer of which two are actually facing the inner port and starboard warp nacelle. It seems these embayments will not come into use before the saucer module has detached from the warp sled and the embayments can have an unobstructed path of sight or flight.

    The snap ring of the warp sled suggests that saucer separation from the warp sled in case of loss of antimatter containment in the engineering hull or pod could be much easier than for the Enterprises of the 23rd Century. It could also indicate that worn-out (and contaminated?) engine parts aren’t simply replaced but rather that the whole warp sled is disposed of by sending it straight into the next sun or star with the saucer module being kept, reused and reattached to a new warp sled.

    Once the saucer module has been isolated from the rest of the ship, even the sceptics, which insist that the Oberth Class is a design of the late 23rd Century, cannot deny that it will strongly resemble - THIS... :eek:

    ...because the saucer module with its shape, the dome at the top and the knob at the bottom center plus the outer rim embayments will very much look like the Jupiter 2, the Robinson family’s flying Winnebago saucer from the “Lost in Space” TV show Star Trek was competing with in the late 1960’s!

    To some or many this looks somewhat archaic and outdated and I'd find it difficult to believe this could be a design to actually come from the late 23rd Century of Star Trek.

    Can we believe this to be a detachable saucer module with planet landing capability?

    That sounds a lot like the terrestrial flying saucer concepts featured in “Lost in Space” and “Forbidden Planet” (United Planets Cruiser C-57 D) / “The Twilight Zone” and an early draft for the Enterprise, but one needs to wonder how the United Federation actually conducted First Contact encounters in the 21st and early 23rd Century (according to TOS!).

    The answer comes straight from the humanoid inhabitants of Sigma Iotia II who wonder in “A Piece of the Action” whether Kirk and company do actually belong to the Federation or are merely local imposters. Obviously, prior to the prime directive of non-interference, First Contact required a physical proof from outer space - and the landing of some technologically advanced spacecraft would have certainly done an impressive job.

    And obviously it was quite impressive when the USS Horizon (or just its primary hull sphere) physically landed on Sigma Iotia II.

    This information is self-evident from the dialogue at the beginning of “A Piece of the Action” where Kirk tries to adjust certain expectations Bela Oxmyx must have had after the previous encounter with the Horizon: “The ship won’t land, but we'll transport several people down. Well, that's a little difficult for you to understand, too. I'll explain it in more detail when I see you.”

    Considering the Horizon got destroyed “shortly” after take-off (apparently not by the Iotians) could indicate that landing the ship (or the primary hull) on a planet and the later take-off was a hazardous maneuver that eventually resulted in the Horizon’s destruction, just like the sister ship USS Essex that got destroyed in a moon’s atmosphere (“Power Play”)!
    Such an ill-fated spacecraft design would have obviously called for a substantial design improvement and a detachable primary saucer hull or a non-spherical configuration of it might have been the answer illustrated by the Oberth Class design.

    In the particular case of the USS Valiant mentioned in “A Taste of Armageddon”, however advanced in design, it was apparently of no benefit as this Federation spacecraft was deliberately destroyed during the interplanetary conflict between Eminiar VII and Vendikar.
    It remains inconclusive whether the ship was destroyed because it did not have deflector screens like the Enterprise to withstand Eminiar VII’s planetary disruptor banks (Enterprise’s Lieutenant DePaul: “If those screens weren't up, we'd be totally disrupted by now.”) or whether it was destroyed during a critical reunion maneuver between the saucer hull with the warp sled.

    Another look at The Making of Star Trek reveals that saucer separation from the engineering hull was an early concept that was most definitely not limited to emergencies and ship evacuation scenarios!
    In addition to the early Enterprise pre-production sketch in this book, that resembles the Oberth Class, it really looks like the creator/s of the Grissom were heavily inspired and motivated to present to us a Star Trek vessel from an era prior to Pike and Kirk (“Valiant”).

    If the Oberth Class had come into service in the early 23rd Century, this ship design would be over 150 years old by the time of TNG!

    The same does apply in the future of Star Trek for the Miranda Class (Reliant and others) which has demonstrated a service record of close to 100 years and no end of its use has ever been officially established. The Oberth Class almost looks like the “turtle” of Star Trek ships, slow but capable to reach a high age.

    First, we know from real life experience that vehicles with a remarkable longevity do exist: Both the battleship USS Missouri and the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had been in service for over 50 years. The first Volkswagen Beetle was built in 1938 and by 2012 it’s still driving on streets (74+ years). The B-52 Stratofortress has been in the air since 1952 and after upgrades will continue to serve into the 2040s (90+ years). And the Austrian steam locomotive GKB 671 was built in 1860 but is still running today – that’s over 150 years.
    Our 20th Century building materials tend to wear out after a certain amount of time and therefore require an increased amount of maintenance which eventually becomes uneconomical. This will probably be different 300 years from now and hopefully with Green politics far superior to our current and lackluster efforts.

    Second, we cannot exclude the possibility that Oberth Class vessels utilized (not reusable) special alloys or components which may have become scarce by the mid 23rd Century and/or where extended exposure to space radiation has improved the corresponding alloys or components. Thus it could be more economical to refit the existing ship design on a regular basis rather than to forfeit outstanding properties or performances (apparently the same reasoning keeps the B-52 Stratofortress plane in our world in active service).

    An important argument in the longevity debate had been Starfleet’s intention to scrap Kirk’s Enterprise after only 20 years in service according to Admiral Morrow in Star Trek III (If Kirk and crew got a new Enterprise after the damages in “Where No One Has Gone Before” the Enterprise would be approx. 17 years of age and Admiral Morrow is just exaggerating).
    However, we learned from TNG’s episode “Starship Mine” that it is essential for a starship travelling often at high warp speeds to undergo a baryon sweep to keep harmful radiation from building up. Kirk’s Enterprise had way too often travelled at sometimes incredible warp speeds. Possibly, baryon sweep technology arrived too late to save most Constitution and Soyuz Class starships from being disposed of (due to radiation contamination at the end of the 23rd Century).
    Since the Oberth Class is widely assumed to be a rather slow vessel, it’s ships may have never had the need to undergo such baryon sweep.

    Third, while it had been the original intention in Star Trek III to present both USS Grissom and the Klingon Bird of Prey as smaller (scout class) vessels, the Klingon Bird of Prey gained noticeably in size in its TNG portrayal which could only be rationalized by assuming that the larger Bird of Preys in TNG belong to a different class than the original one from Star Trek III, yet look identical (because the VFX model is the same,of course).

    Curiously, this approach had never been suggested or discussed on behalf of the Grissom model making guest appearances in TNG, especially since technical diagrams and the severely fractured SS Vico model suggest a length of this ship in excess of 300 meters (http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/articles/oberth-size.htm).

    If the molehill of the Klingon Bird of Prey in the 23rd Century has been made into a mountain for the 24th Century, so to speak, I wonder why the same couldn’t be assumed for the Grissom in TNG.
    It seems a suitable candidate for a new class of ship might be NCC-19002 USS Yosemite because it happens to be the lowest five-digit registry number for the Grissom model in the TNG era.

    Summary and proposal

    Whether the Oberth Class is considered to be a Starfleet design of the late 23rd Century or instead the early one is factually a conjectural assumption amidst the absence of hard “facts” and eventually a question of individual preference.

    However, disregarding the possibility that the USS Valiant from “A Taste of Armageddon” was an Oberth Class vessel would deprive the Star Trek Universe of an interesting and historic design evolution link (Enterprise – Reliant), and the opportunity to visualize an early spaceship design predating Kirk’s television Enterprise - especially since the Oberth Class seems to have all the design features we might expect such an early Star Trek ship to have.

    Thanks for listening.

    ian128K likes this.
  13. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    I feel the nacelle caps are the only design element suggesting "new" while everything else is vastly different.

    I have no doubt that this is a function the pod eventually acquired but I'm firmly "entrenched" that in terms of volume requirements warp drive technology and/or antimatter containment will use up considerably more space than sensor equipment.

    Then I hope there's at least one discovery in my treatise / proposal you like. ;)

  14. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

    Feb 26, 2010
    I've thought the Oberth/Grissom's low NCC range would've been a contemporary of Commodore Decker's USS Constellation but rated as a destroyer-class. As they got older they would've slowly been downgraded to scouts. Here's my idea of what the TOS-version/pre-refit would've looked like:

  15. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    What do you mean, explain? There were starships back then, there are starships in every era, and there is absolutely no need to assume that old starships become scoutships and then eventually are downgraded to shuttlecraft.

    The Archon was duly retired, and new starship classes replaced it; simultaneously, an old surveyor type (say, the Daedalus class) was retired, and new surveyor classes replaced it. Scouts were retired and replaced; destroyers were retired and replaced; none had to serve in other roles a century later.

    (Perhaps a select few did, just as in the real world. But that'd be an exception rather than a rule, just as in the real world. The USN hasn't converted a warship into anything useful of "lesser" status, like, ever. Some "bulky" ships like escort carriers or amphibious landing ships have been fitted with command and communications gear, yes, but that's actually a step up in prestige... In contrast, it has proved impossible to refit the Perry frigates into law enforcement ships, just like it proved impossible to convert earlier DE or frigate classes into anything useful when their weapons systems got outdated even though their hulls still floated all right. And no cruiser ever became a destroyer!)

    Actually, they can't even comfortably be that, or else the Grissom would be three to four times larger than Kirk's own ship - an impossibility in the dramatic terms of the movie. Even the idea of a 300 meter Grissom would be a blow to the dramatic setup where the surveyor is easy prey for the Klingons but Kirk's ship is an impossibly powerful adversary.

    Well, it would seem rather silly for any of the saucers in the Trek universe to be anything but atmospheric-capable frisbees. We've seen one of them perform this function (ST:GEN), and backstage sources support this rationale for the saucers through and through. (The alternative, that of the saucer being "warp-dynamically" advantageous, is a bit silly, because the saucers are located in wildly varying parts of different starships, negating "geometry" concerns.)

    Routine landing and takeoff is a different matter altogether, and it doesn't really seem likely that the extremely tightly integrated Oberth saucer could really swim in and out of its "cradle" on a regular basis.

    We really haven't seen transporter-incapable starships or other Starfleet vessels in any of the shows. The Archon and the Horizon both may have been fully transporter-capable; it's only the historically ignorant Kirk who suggests that the latter might not have familiarized the Iotians with the concept of teleportation. Logically, it would be very difficult to accept a transporter-less Starfleet vessel after ENT has solidified the introduction date of personnel transporters for Earth vessels...

    On the other hand, saucer separation is by no means necessary for atmospheric maneuvering; Kirk's own ship demonstrated that in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" already. If the Oberth really needed to get down and dirty, she could hover a few meters off the ground and lower a ladder for the intrepid surveyors to disembark on!

    Now that I have no problem with. But only if we assume the Oberth never was a starship! Those live active lives and die young, often in the hands of adversary starships which keep evolving. Surveyors do not face an evolving threat, and could plausibly be useful even after thousands of years (assuming wear and tear doesn't get them - but building new ships out of old blueprints covers that one, especially in the replicator era where no spare part is too old to be affordably produced).

    Only if we assume that the ship would have a deck structure extending all the way to the outer rim of the saucer, though. And if those tiny dots of light aren't portholes (their placement would make little sense unless the saucer had a dozen decks!), they are probably sensor orifices of some sort, suggesting the outer rim is in fact a maze of sensor elements.

    Or, regarding the possibility would shrink the Star Trek universe by depriving us of a whole category of ships parallel to the starship lineage... ;)

    Timo Saloniemi
  16. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    Do you also know when the Archon was retired? For all we know this starship could have still been in service while new classes of starships had arrived and outdated this old starship. Would it still have classified as a "starship"?

    Commodore Mendez' remark about Pike's accident aboard an "old J-Class starship" still deserves further evaluation, IMHO.
    Almost seems he wanted to tell Dr. McCoy that this had been a starship once but was "old" (new classification "cadet vessel"?) which apparently is obvious because it had been downgraded to J-Class.

    Amidst the longevity of designs like the Miranda Class I feel that analogies to our current and rather short-lived navies will not really help us here.

    Very nice Tsiolkovsky allusion! But "extremely tightly integrated Oberth saucer"?!? The saucer rests flat on the warp sled and is apparently hold in place by the ventral knob and a couple of unseen clamps near the stern of the saucer module.

    Have you been drinking again too much from your bottle of GUT and Retcon Brandy?
    If there's anybody who may be "historically" ignorant it's not Kirk or the producers and writers of the original series (no fault or contradiction whatsoever here) but those that came later and didn't do proper treknological research and/or decided to ignore what had been suggested and established in "The Piece of the Action" (Kirk a capable car driver anyone? :rolleyes:).

    While the Daedalus Class may have had transporters or not, the First Contact protocols of that era may have called for a physical show of spaceship hardware, very much like the Vulcans did in ST VIII and I think this illustrates the issue almost too well.
    A show of transporter technology may have been acceptable upon Second Contact (provided it did even exist, then, according to the TOS creators).

    But whatever the case, the Horizon (or its primary sphere) did land on Sigma Iotia, that much is evident from the opening dialogue in the episode.

    I'd love to see this illustrated in a believable fashion. Maybe I should have been more precise in the treatise: The grim fate of both the Horizon and the Essex suggests that bringing your whole ship into the atmosphere of the new natives isn't necessarily the best way to start relations ("Hope you don't mind that little radioactive fallout because our antimatter confinement failed?").

    Anti-Gravity concerns notwithstanding, it's obviously more reasonable to land that part of your starship where there is less danger involved contaminating the natives with radioactivity...:rolleyes:

    There are plenty of fan proposals what those lesser ships could look like, so I don't really see the big loss you are trying to propagate.

    I think to have an idea what the ill-fated USS Valiant from the Eminiar VII expedition could have looked like plus the prospect of looking at the design link between Enterprise and Reliant is more, not less. YMMV, of course. ;)

  17. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Aug 26, 2003
    Hopefully long ago. We know the contemporary Daedalus class didn't serve for particularly long... Unless she existed long before ENT, that is, and somehow gained NX-style interstellar legs later on in her life.

    No doubt. Why should Starfleet not have more than one type of starship in service at any given time?

    Unless, of course, some really drastic development left all older types undeserving of this designation. But we haven't seen such giant leaps in what we have been shown of the Trek pseudohistory.


    So she's not a starship because the characters say she is? So she's to be considered "downgraded" because of...what exactly?

    Sorry, doesn't wash at all. And furthermore, has nothing to do with the idea that Starfleet would operate vessels other than starship, or with the fact that the very intent behind the Grissom was to show such a vessel.

    It's not as if he knows anything about the old Romulan War, for example. He thinks he knows something about 19th century United States, sure, but even that is a somewhat cliched take on it.

    As for the opening dialogue of "Piece of the Action", well, Kirk has been frustrated in his attempts to explain "time lag" and even "galaxy" to Okmyx. It's pretty natural that he'd begin baby-talking about transporters as well.

    If the ship can't be trusted not to blow up, interstellar relations is among the least concerns of the crew...

    Why, your attempt to evict the one canonical, onscreen example of such in the movies from existence!

    Are you going to categorically stamp out the fan vessels next or what?

    ...And even there we disagree. Trying to find links is tantamount to stamping out variety, whereas the Reliant was specifically designed to create variety.

    Timo Saloniemi
  18. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    I'm well aware of the discrepancies in size, as featured in TNG, but the vessel's creator Nilo Rodis designed it for a length of 120 meters because he also specified this size in his comparison chart (which then was authenticated by Andrew Probert).


    Is there really a good reason to "believe" that in Kirk's era the vessel exceeded an overall length of 395 feet?

    Yes, like the multi-talent Peter and the video game programmer Christian whose contributions to mankind will have outranked the accomplishments of Hermann, one of the three founding fathers (next to Tsiolkovsky and Goddard) of rocketry and astronautics, so Starfleet will name a class of vessels after Peter and Christian. :rofl:

    Sorry, I can't believe you are debating what is so obvious. You are certain you're not trying to find fault?

  19. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    What we see in ST III is the Federation Survey Vessel Grissom, which apparently may have a untold back story.

    So I can't see how extending an existence qualifies as evicting an existence. That's a contradiction. Maybe you should sleep things over, at least that's what I'm going to do now. ;)

  20. Dukhat

    Dukhat Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 26, 2007
    Baltimore, MD
    I wasn't debating the size of the Enterprise. I was saying that I think the Oberth is larger than 120 meters, and my belief has nothing to do with that chart. As has been shown on multiple occasions (especially with the Bird of Prey), scale can change on a whim in Star Trek.

    Sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about, so I'm going to assume you're just being facetious here unless you tell me otherwise.

    Since you didn't attribute any quotes from me for the above statement, for now I'm going to assume this is a blanket response about what I wrote about ILM. If so, then you and I have vastly different opinions about what constitutes "obvious." I'm sorry you don't like being challenged about your beliefs about the origin of the study model's name and ILM's motivations with STIII. But if you don't want criticism, then you shouldn't post things asking for people's opinions.