TOS Enterprise in The Apple: "Discard the Warp Drive Nacelles!"

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Redshirt214, Apr 8, 2021.

  1. Redshirt214

    Redshirt214 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    So, I was thinking of this line last night, and pondering the mechanics of it. I think we can safely assume that Kirk means here that what we think of as engine nacelles, atop their straight pylons, can be discarded in an emergency. Since this is well before Warp Cores are a thing, the Warp Drive in all it's explosiveness is assumed to live there, and presumably is meant to be a big bulky thing (like transistors!). Kirk thinks that ditching the nacelles, a last ditch maneuver, might reduce the ships mass and help them break out of orbit.

    My question is simple, then: if we were to have seen Scotty execute that maneuver on screen, what would it have looked like? Would the nacelles have been ditched, leaving the pylons they rest on bare? Or would the pylons themselves go with the engines?

    Personally, I think for the sake of ascetics you would have to separate the pylons along with the engines. A starship without nacelles is going to look weird either way, but less so without two now-useless pylons jutting out. I can also see where having the pylons contain separation engines to get the nacelles away from the ship would be a good idea, since they are meant in this era to be extra explodey (As Jeffries said, he didn't know what the engines did other than they were very powerful, and he reckoned that meant dangerous and possibly not a good idea to have within or near habitable sections of the ship). I'd be interested to hear what other people think, though!
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The whole exchange reeks of the possibility of it not meaning quite what is being said.

    This is the same Kirk who fires and then rehires Scotty over this issue. When the engineer says nothing reasonable can be added to what he's doing, perhaps we should accept that Kirk suggests an utterly unreasonable thing, just to get Scotty's imagination working?

    Adding power to impulse doesn't sound unreasonable. But perhaps "dropping the warp nacelles" is not actually helpful according to conventional wisdom, and is more comparable to "stepping out and pushing".

    Yet I'm all for taking Kirk seriously here. Warp coils are supposed to be heavy, in backstage literature at least. If Kirk just wants the ship saved from crashing, and will worry about getting home later, then dumping the coils seems reasonable. The resulting torso of a starship would probably not be particularly functional, so I feel the pylons might remain jutting out of the secondary hull. Intriguingly, the TOS model has assorted red lines at various locations, perhaps marking hatches or cut lines, and there's a line going around the upper stem of a pylon where it meets the nacelle...

    That the engines should be distant from the saucer doesn't sound reasonable: the pylons do their damnedest to bring the nacelles right next to the saucer! But the pylons nicely facilitate jettison. And perhaps the early variants of that ship design had more reasonably sized, short and broad pylons, and for some reason an engine refit required an engine repositioning? Swapping of nacelles does appear to be a thing for Starfleet, even if only implicitly.

    Does separating of nacelles already result in only the "main section" remaining, or would this be the result of some additional maneuver? Grammatically, it's the former. But Kirk might not get his grammar quite right in this situation. Perhaps the saucer is the "main section" and would be further severed at the neck, as with certain other starship designs? There's no real telling.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  3. Redshirt214

    Redshirt214 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Now that you mention it, there are those red lines next where pylon meets nacelle, isn't there... I could totally see that being a separation line, as we presently understand it. As you say, Kirk is suggesting off the wall solutions to the present problem, so presumably the idea of jettisoning nacelles when the warp drive is perfectly fine is not standard practice, versus cutting them loose if they are about to go boom. Which even then, may be a more theoretical than actual capability.

    If the object is not to crash the ship on the planet, then a true saucer separation might not actually be a good idea anyways. Given the fan theory of the saucer & neck of the TOS E separating to form a lifeboat which can land on a planet, it seems to me that a saucer separation would be a choice Kirk would want to avoid in this case. He'd rather the ship get away from Val (otherwise landing the saucer on the planet & calling for help would be the better option, arguably). Better to leave the habitable parts in one piece, with the extra fuel, supplies, & shuttles housed in the secondary hull if you can, and ditch the heaviest part of the ship to get away at sublight.

    Amusingly, Scotty says routing more power to the impulse engines is just as dangerous as all the crazy stuff Kirk is spitballing him!
     
  4. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The usual interpretation seems to focus on the word section, which in the writers’ guide is used for the saucer section and the engineering section, so “main section” would be the former here, even though I can easily imagine just the nacelles being dropped.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The word "and" there is the significant one, since the main section getaway appears to be defined as the thing that results from the nacelle discarding. "Or" would semantically separate the two maneuvers, and allow for main section breakaway to be achieved by some other means, such as cutting the neck. And leaving it at a mere comma would essentially allow for the latter interpretation, too.

    The word "section" is all across the map in all the shows, but the concept of "saucer section" does appear in TNG eventually. Since that show introduces saucer separation as a supposed big deal, it would be tempting to say Kirk couldn't do that, and further that Kirk had no "saucer section" in his manuals since no mention of it was made. But that's hardly definitive.

    It's just a bit odd we never saw a good nacelle jettison. Kirk had to do a lot of work to achieve that for the Reliant in ST2, and none took place in ST3 despite even greater effort! Oh, well, "Skin of Evil" had a shuttle do an extremely clean separation at least.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. Redshirt214

    Redshirt214 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    One interpretation might be thus: because the nacelles were assumed to be the main power source of the ship, perhaps the jettisoning of them leaves the secondary hull without power? Hence the need to discard it, and get away in the saucer? The impulse reactors are after all in the main hull of the ship and thus would be able to provide power even without the nacelles attached. I think Jeffries intent was also to have most habitable space be in the saucer section\primary hull, so if most of the secondary hull is devoted to engineering spaces dedicated to the warp drive, there'd be no need to retain it if you were throwing away the warp engines. The only reason I can think for retaining it would be keeping the shuttle bay, so that you could send out shuttles to try and find another ship to help, or if the saucer can land in emergencies to scout for planets to land on. But I suppose theoretically you could just launch the shuttles pre-evacuation, and with the Vaal situation I presume that'd be useless because they'd all be drained of energy in a heartbeat.

    I agree with your interpretation of Kirk's orders, it does seem like getting away in the "main section" is the result of jettisoning the warp drive nacelles. I really need to review the writers guide. Of course, it seems like the writers of Trek, TOS and TNG flavor, honored the writers guide more in the breach, especially when it came to the treknology.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
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  7. dupersuper

    dupersuper Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Maybe he meant disregard...
     
  8. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    The fact that "Primary Hull" has always been synonymous with "Saucer Section" makes me think that Star Fleet ships are just flying saucers with extra parts.

    --Alex
     
  9. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yes, and if the Enterprise hadn’t self-destructed only to be succeeded by the Enterprise-A, in TVH we could’ve seen a saucer separation away from detection and an invisible flying saucer landing (the cloak having been available per Kimble’s TMP blueprints).
     
  10. Mytran

    Mytran Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In terms of what the writers thought would have been mean by Kirk's "discard the warp drive nacelles", we can look at the earlier drafts of That Which Survives for clues, courtesy of Alchemist:
    https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/what-the-heck-that-makes-no-sense.297138/

    Here's how the Revised Story Outline for "Survival" (August 8, 1968) describes the situation:
    The matter-antimatter control is inoperative; it has been inexplicably and totally destroyed. Scott can fix it, if he begins now... but he might not have enough time. The area where he must work is tight and cramped -- room for just one man. Scott scrambles in and gets to work. The uncontrolled matter-antimatter mixture that provides warp power is almost out of control and will explode in ten minutes -- more or less. At this point, it's impossible to tell -- and just one man can do the job: Scott. Kirk clears the entire "disposable" warp nacelle area, moving all personnel into the saucer section. If they must jettison the nacelles, it is understood by both Scott and Kirk that Scott might not have the time to get out before the thing blows.​

    Separating the saucer from the engineering section is nothing new - it was part of the original series treatise, back when the secondary hull and nacelles formed the "stardrive section" to allow the saucer to carry out the actual internal solar system exploration.

    With this in mind I think it's pretty clear in The Apple that Kirk wanted Scott to split the saucer section off from the rest and get the heck out of there!
    So yes, "saucer section" = "main section" IMO

    Scott's comment that separating the ship is "almost as dangerous" as messing with all the power conduits and rewiring is an interesting one as well - it suggests that saucer separation is not something to be undertaken lightly and in anything less than calm conditions (certainly not what was happening in The Apple) is a highly risky manoeuvre, definitely not standard procedure! :eek: