On Tuesday EW.com released a preview picture of the U.S.S. Enterprise from director J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek. (More can reportedly be seen as of today in the new trailer appearing in front of A Quantum of Solace.)

Here it is:

And I have to say…

…I’m really not all that impressed.

There are already many, many comments on the EW site and elsewhere, and they tend toward extremes—one camp of people accusing Abrams (and designer Ryan Church) of abusing their childhood memories and debasing the Trek mythos, another accusing the critics of being basement-dwelling geeks who need to get a life. Much of the discussion degenerates into disputes over the merits of the reboot in general, rather than over the design.

I have no particular problem with the idea of a Trek reboot. The original series is by far my favorite era of Trek, but obviously there’s no chance of a new project with the original cast. Besides, post-Roddenberry producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga pretty much exhausted (and abused) the franchise to the breaking point, and it was time for some new creative blood. I’ve enjoyed (some of) Abrams’ other work—most notably Lost, of which I’m a big fan—and Paramount could certainly have done worse than to give him the reigns. Abrams is apparently aiming to recapture the spirit of upbeat optimism that characterized classic Trek, in place of the uber-grittiness that tends to characterize most recent SF films (and even recent installments in the Trek franchise).

So my geek sensibilities are all abuzz, and I’ve been cautiously optimistic. I’m withholding judgment on the new cast, but I’ve enjoyed most of them in other roles. I’m a bit skeptical about the antiseptic Apple-store vibe of the reimagined bridge, but on the other hand I very much like the new uniforms—evocative of the originals in their basic look and color scheme, yet with more textured fabric and a different cut around the collars.

But this ship?…

…is just not the Enterprise.

I don’t mind the idea of a tweaked starship design in the abstract:  it’s just this particular design that’s problematic. The saucer section is fine—reminiscent more of the previous movie version than of the TV series, but okay nevertheless. I don’t even object to the somewhat bulbous look of the new nacelles (as first revealed in the “under construction” trailer months ago). But taken as a whole, the ship’s profile just looks off-balance. It’s front-heavy.

Two specific problems jump out vividly as the cause of this disproportionality.  The support strut for the saucer sweeps back past the middle of the engineering hull, losing the sense of forward momentum so evident in the original design; and (even worse) most of the engineering hull itself has been carved away, tapering to an end right where the nacelle struts begin, leaving one wondering where on earth the shuttle bay is supposed to be located.

One fan (going by the username “Spockboy”) has already Photoshopped a much-improved version, correcting those two features and resulting in a redesign that’s updated, yet still captures the ship’s classic proportions:

Unfortunately, that’s not the version we’ll be seeing onscreen next May 8th.

Trek’s design aethetic has always been a big part of the show’s appeal, and it seems to be missing here, or at least somewhat bungled. EW quotes Abrams himself as saying, “if you’re going to do the Enterprise, it better look like the Enterprise, because otherwise, what are you doing?” That’s an excellent question. Even veteran TNG-era Trek design guru Rick Sternbach has weighed in, prompting Church himself to leap to the new design’s defense with (some) explanations.

One commenter on EW’s site remarks that Church’s version may wind up being the “Bat-nipple-suit” of Enterprise designs. Let us hope at least that nothing else about Abrams’ Trek evokes the kind of damage Joel Schumacher did to the Batman franchise. Let’s hope the ship design is the worst thing about the film, and that the rest of it successfully captures the sense of awe that makes Star Trek so special.

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16 Responses to “The new Starship Enterprise”
  1. Ranes says:

    I was surprised on seeing this first. It is wonderful.
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  2. Eliza Doe says:

    I love the star trek movie and I love the great creativity of this movie. Thanks!

  3. Andrew says:

    Looks better to be honest …

  4. This whole debate really paled into insignificance after the film came out didn’t it? The film was great (unlike the majority of ST films before it) and that’s all that was important, really.

  5. I never even touched on the debate that arose after the movie opened, when the various designers and effects teams all had different numbers for the scale of the ship… and all were two to three times the roughly thousand-foot length of the original Enterprise.

    It was just sloppy all around. Fans have subsequently done careful measurement of screen shots, and determined that half-mile-long Enterprise more or less fits the scale of the cavernous hangar deck that was shown on screen… but certainly doesn’t fit the scale of the bridge or anything else about the saucer section (and let’s not even talk about the brewery-as-engine-room), much less the exterior shots of the ship under construction or at spacedock. Nor, of course, anything previously known about 23rd-century Starfleet technology.

    Not a huge deal, perhaps… especially to the casual/”mainstream” fan… but just one more way the movie was a disappointment.

  6. EnterpriseQV-101 says:

    Before I go on, I want to apologize for my typos in my last post, new keyboard….lol. Anyway…I totally agree with RAVI SWAMI. I never cared for the Next Gen ship designs. especially the Nebula Class. The Enterprise D was just a bad design overall, It was a Disney Cruise ship in space, and RAVI…..Oval Saucer??, I know, Geez. The ambassador Class wasn’t too bad though (ENTERPRISE C). Church’s ENTERPRISE was a bit over re-booted. I think the nacelles are too close together and that the Buzzard Collectors are on Viagra, a bit too bulbous. The saucer support pylon could have been shifted a bit more forward, although I like the way the Pylon looks. Am I knit-picking here?…..lol. Anyway…Supposedly, this ENTERPRISE is also over 2000 feet long now, over twice her original size, I’m cool with that, but that means that the ENTERPRISE “E” in Abrams’ universe will be a mile long…wow. I grew up with The Original series, and I own both DVD box sets, Original and Re-mastered, and TOS will always be the best. I personally loved ST-ENTERPRISE, seasons 1 and 4 anyway. Berman totally blew it with that whole Xindi debacle. He had a chance to really lay ground work and answer alot of questions and explain alot and he just simply screwed the pooch. Season 4 of ENTERPRISE was the best but came too late to save it. Those are the kinds of stories they should have done all along. My favs were the 3 part augment story with Brent Spiner as Dr. Auric Soong (Nunian Soong’s father), the 2 part Klingon plague (explaining human looking Klingons) and Ofcourse “In A Mirror Darkly” which was absolutely great. Let’s hope Abrams has a better grip on the ball than Berman had. BSG proves that a re-imagining can work and work well, and Abrams’ choice of going back to TOS, was the right way to go. Some say that you don’t fix something that isn’t broken, well Berman didn’t keep up with the maintenance, so ST needed some repair. Lets just have faith that Abrams will do right by the concept. Does anyone else miss the “Technobabble”? Alot of fans speak of staying with Canon, which I agree with to a point. Abrams has done that by creating a new timeline. I think that is a great way of respecting the Fans yet giving them a new flavor to taste. I have read all the rumours of possible storylines for future projects, and revisiting certain key stories, but some should be left alone. I do not believe that they should even consider re-exploring KHAN, Ricardo Montalban’s performance can never be topped, but if they have to try it………How about “The Rock” as Khan? any thoughts folks???…..lol. My favorite TOS episode was “The Doomsday Machine”. A movie with that basic story might prove to be interesting, think of the effects shots…….wow.

  7. EnterpriseQV-101 says:

    Well, just to start with, Linda………Lose the word of the day toilet paper, I think you used the word “mainstream” more times in 2 paragraphs, than I have heard in regular conversation my whole life……….lol. that said, Replacing old fans with new fans??? BIG MISTAKE!!!! The fanbase is what gave Star Trek it’s longevity, not to mention being one of Pramount’s major cash cows for 40 years. As Carl Urban so elequently put it…”When you run in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t leaveyoyr prize stallion in the stable”. I’m a 1st generation Trekker, so don’t get me started on how Rick Berman totally dropped the ball with the franchise, but you don’t just dismiss the loyalty of Millions of fans to be more “mainstream”. Last time I will use that word……PROMISE. I’m not near as disappointed with the ENTERPRISE exteriors as I am with the Interiors. The corridors are from the Blockade Runner in the openning scene of Star Wars Epis.IV. Filming in a Brewery for the engineering section???? WTF is that about? The Bridge…….well, it would have made a great Disco in the early 80’s, and those damn white light Flares in the camera were completely annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film very much, and believe it has tons of potential, and starting off with an entirely new time line allows for revisiting old stories and characters, example – Admiral archer’s Prize Beagle, I loved that line. back to the ENTERPRISE…..I liked the combination of Movie saucer with original, Secondary hull design….not so much, nad I plain hate the new nacelles. I’m guessing that she is an ENTERPRISE class ship, since she was brand new and no other ship in the armada destroyed by Nero had the same basic design. What happened to the Constitution??? Ok, I’ve rambled on enough.

  8. I see what you’re getting at, and I’m not intrinsically opposed to the idea of “mixing things up” (certainly nuBSG did so to spectacular effect, to name an obvious example), but it can easily spill over into “change for change’s sake,” trying to fix what isn’t broken (let’s note that the BSG source material was held in much lower regard than Trek to begin with).

    When it comes to speculating about the content and style of this movie’s story (not just its design aesthetics), I have a couple of other posts, here and here, that explore my thoughts in more detail. But to sum things up, I’ll just repeat a quote from Wil Wheaton that I used in one of them: “…why does anyone need to ‘reinvent’ Star Trek at all? There’s a good reason it managed to endure through four decades and several generations of Trekkies and casual viewers alike. I hope JJ Abrams groks that, because I really want to like this movie.”

  9. Linda says:

    Well, I was really refering to the series overall, and not just the ship design. I think that they are really mixing things up, and it is putting some of the hardcore fans off, which is what happens when you mix things up. And I think, by going for a more action-oriented mainstream feel (and I don’t mean the derogatory sense of “mainstream”, which= “lowest common demoninator.” I just mean something that appeals to people outside the traditional fanbase, which= mostly male/watch a lot sci-fi/employed in tech&science-related professions), that it is revitalizing the series by giving it a totally fresh angle, while also growing an appreciation for the series & the sci-fi genre in general for people that don’t usually watch that sort of stuff.

  10. Certainly personal tastes differ, so there’s room for debate about the new design… but Linda, what exactly makes you say that it has “more mainstream appeal”? I don’t follow you there. This ship can be criticized strictly from an aesthetic point of view, whether one is attached to original Trek or not.

    (For that matter, just for argument’s sake, why is “more mainstream” necessarily what Trek needs? Replacing old fans with new may be fine for Paramount bean-counters, but it doesn’t work out so well for, y’know, the actual fans.)

  11. Linda says:

    I think the design looks good. Clearly they’re turning off some of the more hardcore fans with this update, which has more mainstream appeal, but I think they’re just going to end up replacing them with other fans. Overall, I’m excited by the previews, which look good to me. I also think, contrary to a lot of outcry, that they’ve assembled an intriguing cast. And I trust Abrams- his work may not always be the most stellar stuff, but it always seems to be solid, fun action-oriented fare. He has the right touch for this.

  12. Star Trek Fan says:

    Slipshod. Amateurish. Horrible. Ugly. Not the Enterprise. Abrams failed at his own stated objective. Almost every fan-generated interpretation of an updated Enterprise NCC-1701 is superior to this garbage.

  13. ravi swami says:

    Churchs’ re-design takes into account the fact that if you remove the saucer section, you’re left with a pretty cool looking , but weird, spacecraft design – the fact that the “removeable” saucer was hardly ever removed in the series or in the films that followed suggests that the original design / designs would have resulted in something that just looked like something was missing – I always had a problem with this.

    Maybe they did’nt want too many comparisons to the C57D from Forbidden Planet in the original TV series- but then it was always inspired by that film anyway – I never liked the later TV re-designs – the Next Gen Enterprise looked like horrible bent plywood “G-Plan” furniture of the 70’s, inside AND out, and why the oval saucer section ?

    It’s true the original design had a “forward momentum” to it, as something sort of iconic that you only ever saw from a few selected angles – it created an impression, but a film needs more than just an impression – it usually needs something that looks like it could work, even if its based on some esoteric technology.

  14. Supernatural absurdities?

  15. michael says:

    So, you’re not concerned about Abrams royally fucking up Star Trek with his obsession with supernatural absurdities? I say be afraid. Be very afraid.

  16. I don’t know quite what to make of this myself. I’m not one of those who got enraged by Enterprise, not planning to become such either(unless it’s over that last episode ever aired, which the novel-writers working with Pocket Books have already given the answer it earned)…but this?

    Looks like a weird mishmash of previous ship class designs, and I think that Rick Sternbach’s suspicions as to the plot as mentioned in that trekmovie.com link you cited may yet have a useful bearing on this design’s future.

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