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This is one of those things that "Enterprise" has forced a big rethink on, so far as this site is concerned. Even by Star Trek standards the makers of the show have now got an incredible amount of mileage out of this model, having used one version or another of it over some 35 years of real time, or 226 years of the show's timeline!
It strains credibility, to put it mildly, that a single class of vessel could remain in service for over two and a quarter centuries, even with refits - imagine trying to retrofit a wooden sailing ship of the 1770s with surface to air missiles and turbine driven propellor engines! But we're now stuck with it.
In all fairness, the appearance of the ship on the Enterprise episode "Unexpected", which added over a century to its known service life, appears to be a result of time and budget constraints rather than apathy towards continuity on the part of Berman and/or Braga. A new Klingon battlecruiser model was apparently being made for the show, and will appear in future Enterprise episodes. Presumably this could not be ready in time for use on "Unexpected". As usual, this article will examine the evidence and try to propose a reasonably common sense explanation for it all.
The Original Series
The TOS battlecruiser design was first seen in the episode "Elaan of Troyius". The ship was even less like the standard "flying saucer" ships of the period than the Enterprise itself. It also made excellent sense as a warship, with the big engineering hull and compact forward section contrasting well with the Enterprise's big saucer section to accommodate all the science labs and comfortable crew quarters. This image shows the model used during TOS :
Deep Space Nine
Although a Klingon battlecruiser was mentioned but never seen during the Original series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles", we get a second chance at this ship in the Deep Space Nine sequel to that episode, "Trials and Tribble-ations". In this episode the DS9 crew travel back in time and play a part in Kirk's mission, albeit a covert one. The makers created new models of the Enterprise, Space Station K7 and the Klingon battlecruiser for this episode. When the Klingon ship approaches, Major Kira specifically identifies it as a D7 class battlecruiser. This is what we see on screen :
Alas, Voyager then mucked things up with the episode "Prophecy". In this episode Voyager encounters a Klingon ship which has been wandering the galaxy since setting off from their home space "over a century" ago. The ship is described specifically as a D7 class, a class which was retired "decades ago". This is the ship we see :
As mentioned in the introduction section, in the Enterprise episode "Unexpected" we see an early Klingon battlecruiser :
The Motion Picture
The first Star Trek movie presented us with a new version of the battlecruiser :
Star Trek : The Undiscovered Country
Another version of the battlecruiser was seen in the sixth Star Trek movie. "Kronos One" (my Klingon isn't up to the original spelling) carried Chancellor Gorkon to a peace meeting on Earth, apparently serving as a Klingon version of "Air Force One", the American President's personal 747 airliner. The ship had the same hull detailing as the TMP ship, although the colour was somewhat lighter, but different nacelles :
Deep Space Nine
In "The Way of the Warrior", DS9 came under attack from a Klingon fleet which included many battlecruisers. We get one good close up of these ships :
It is certain that the earliest known version of the D7 entered service in or before 2151 and remained in service until at least 2276. This version was also in service in 2375, so it is possible that Paris was mistaken about their retirement, giving them an active service life of over 224 years. More likely is that they were retired sometime around 2276 and then brought back into service for the Dominion war.
It is certain that the vessel seen in "Trials and Tribble-ations" was also a D7. We can only speculate as to when this variant entered service - for all we know it could pre-date the Enterprise version of the ship by centuries! My preference is to keep the service life of any ship to below a century, so I presume the Enterprise version to be the first D7 class battlecruiser, with the TOS version as a variant of it.
It is also quite possible that the K'T'Inga class is a further variant of the D7, although non-canon sources indicate that this is not the case. My own preference is to accommodate the novels by calling this a new class, albeit obviously sharing a good deal of the design.
This gives us two distinct classes of Klingon battlecruiser, each with two variants :
|D7||Original||Seen in "Unexpected" (ENT). Entered service sometime before 2151, was still in service until approximately 2277. At least one ship was in existence until "Prophecy" in 2377. Identified by simple glowing lines on the nacelles and a detailed hull surface.|
|D7||Variant||Seen in "Elaan of Troyius" (TOS) and several other TOS episodes. Was known to be in service during 2367; no other dates are available. This can be assumed to be the same vessel as seen in "Trials and Tribble-ations" (DS9), since detailing on the latter ship's hull is in an area never seen in the former ship. Identified by clean hull and no glow on the nacelles.|
|K'T'Inga||Original||Seen in TMP, this vessel was introduced by 2171 at the latest. They were in service at least until 2364, although they may not have been considered front line combat units by then. They can be identified by a detailed hull surface, lacking the 'feather' pattern of the TOS D7 class, and no glow on the nacelles.|
|K'T'Inga||Variant||Seen in "Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country", "The Way of the Warrior" (DS9) and other DS9 episodes, this ship is a variant of the standard K'T'Inga. In service by 2293, they continued to be operational until at least 2375. As of the DS9 era the forward torpedo launcher on these ships has been replaced with a beam weapon. They can be identified by a detailed hull and glowing nacelles. On close inspection this glowing area is of a complex shape.|
Separated in time... but only by 74 years.
The Wright Flyer from 1908 could never pass for an F-117 from 1982. There are so many differences between these two aircraft that they could hardly be listed. They are also worlds apart in terms of performance; the F-117 is dozens of times faster than the Flyer, or even its more practical successors. And the F-117 is not a great performer by modern standards, there are many aircraft that are several times faster, larger, longer ranged, etc. Imagine a comparison with Concorde, or even the space shuttle...
Better... HMS Victory, and the USS Barry.
The Victory is the world's oldest commissioned warship, dating from the late 1700s. The Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Barry was launched in 1987, over two hundred years later. There are some similarities; the hull shape of both ships is vaguely similar because both are designed to travel in the same medium and both have somewhat similar masts, though those masts serve a very different purpose on each ship. Both also fire what could be termed "projectile weapons". The Barry's 5" Cannon and CIWS work on the same basic principle as the Victory's cannon did and even surface to air missiles are projectile weapons, though of a more advanced sort.
That's more like it!
The American submarine Turtle, from 1775, compared to the USS Seawolf from 1997. Even though this still doesn't quite match the 224 year plus span of the D7, the differences between the two designs could hardly be more obvious. Both ships have propellors and a rudder, but that's about it.
Spot the difference...
Obviously, the D7 hasn't changed much over the years. However, when you look at the real world examples listed above it becomes apparent that Federation designs haven't actually evolved all that much either!
In Star Trek, we have seen the same basic design of ship in service from TOS through to the end of Voyager. If you compare Kirk's Enterprise to Picard's Enterprise-E, they are both extremely similar designs. Both have an engineering hull, with a saucer attached at the same place, both have the warp drive in nacelles which are at the end of struts. Those struts attach to the engineering hull and nacelle in much the same place; in both they slope upwards. The nacelles both have glowing bussard collectors at the front. The Saucer section has a bridge, which is in the same place on both ships. The Navigational deflector is in the same place on both ships.
Perhaps more troubling, the technology underneath the hulls are almost exactly the same. Both the E and the E-E use matter/antimatter power generation. Both are armed with phaser weapons. Both are armed with photon torpedoes. Both have shields for defence. Both use the transporter for getting from place to place, with both transporters apparently having all but identical performance characteristics.
I could go on, but I trust the point is made. To some extent we can argue this problem away. The Victory's hull is similar to the Barry's because they both travel in the same medium. The E and the E-E both travel via subspace, and so you could expect that their hulls would be somewhat similar. But this brings up the question of why both ships use the same drive system - after all, we have gone from sail to paddle wheels to propellers in the space of a couple of hundred years or so. But on the other hand, prior to the switch to paddles and propellers sail ruled the seas for some thousands of years. Compared to that, a few centuries of warp drive is nothing.
The similarity in weapons could also be explained away. Yes, both ships use phasers - but a phaser array as seen on the E-E is potentially as different from the (apparently) simple cannon of Kirk's Enterprise as the Barry's 5-inch gun is from the Victory's muzzle loaders. Torpedoes are slightly better - although the E-E does carry photons, it also carries the more advanced quantum torpedo. It's not clear just what kind of advance the quantum torpedo represents, though - they seem to pack roughly the same punch as photons and to travel roughly as fast and as far. In fact the only "advance" they do seem to offer is that they are a different colour! But we can always assume that they are better at penetrating shields or some-such.
So there is nothing inherently impossible about the relatively small change in technology between Kirk and Picard. Nevertheless, should any future incarnation of Trek ever be set in the post-Voyager era, it would be nice to see some real revolutionary changes in design and capability. Introducing some advanced drive technology could offer the opportunity of significantly changing the overall hull layout. We've seen that standard Starfleet ships can travel in both transwarp and slipstream without significant modification, at least for the short term, but a ship built to include one of these from the outset could offer a significantly different hull design. Weapons could get away from the whole "fire a beam/ball of light at the enemy", perhaps by equipping a future ship with remote controlled drone weapon platforms.
Probably this won't happen. The design of ships in Trek is prompted far more by what looks "cool" than what makes sense from a technical point of view, and the fictional Enterprise has become such an icon that it's unlikely any Trek show will stray too far from it. Besides, if Enterprise is a success - which it probably will be - then the producers might never return to the post-Voyager timeline. It's a sad thought, but maybe the Enterprise-F and her successors will only live in the mind of obsessive techno-fans like me...
|Yellow text = Canon source||Green text = Backstage source||Cyan text = Novel||White text = DITL speculation|
|Copyright Graham Kennedy||Page views : 40,433||Last updated : 1 Jan 1970|