My Promise as a Writer

I promise to entertain you to the best my twisted little mind can manage. I will take you from the light, and into darkness. I might even let you see the sunrise at the end of the journey, but that I can't promise. My stories will sweep the hair from you brow, leave your stomach in knots, and suck the air from your lungs. But no matter how far we descend, I will offer you a fragment of hope to cling to. I will treat you to dark fantasy, science fiction, horror, and anything that falls into the strange and disturbing. Will we re-emerge into the light? Well, that is the point of taking the journey. I hope you will join me on these adventures.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


7. Voyager boasts ship design brought to you by the production team for Battlefield Earth. That's right! I have no problem comparing the quality of Star Trek: Voyager to Battlefield Earth. After arguing the differences, what it all comes down to is a rotten apple has the same problem as a rotten orange. In the instance of Battlefield Earth, the design team tried too hard to create something we had never seen before on the screen (does not matter if it was based on the book or not), and came up with designs that fail to inspire awe. In Voyager, the problem is the basic root to all the issues of the series--blatant laziness.

Sure, ship design could have been worse. The Original Series with its budget and technological constraints relied upon flashy lights to represent starships on more than one occasion. This light show bled into the first seasons of The Next Generation, but thankfully was abandoned well before Deep Space Nine aired. I must also acknowledge, like with creature design, ship design is a difficult conceptual beast. The best designs incorporate something familiar (saucer section as flying saucer, and engineering section with warp nacelles as space shuttle launch thrusters), tweak it, and present the audience with something it has never seen before, at least in the form seen on screen. Seeing something familiar draws us in while making the design pleasing on some level, even if we don't understand why. Granted, creating something completely foreign can work, but this is a rarity. As with characters, we need to connect with the machinery, and if it does not grab the eye we, reject it. The most frequent response Voyager pulled from me was: "What a lame design!" More often, I simply averted my eyes, dreaming of the long gone day of TOS with its alien vessel light shows, or even TNG's use of the same ships episode after episode (sometimes flying upside down or backwards to give the false appearance of a new ship). Voyager's problem was in attempting to give us something never before seen in Star Trek while refusing to acknowledge one of the most important tenants of design: Familiarity! People crave familiarity--that's why everything looks the same! After all the years of experience behind the design team, I would have expected fewer poopy ships in Voyager's seven year run.

I will cover only a few of the ships for the sake of some form of brevity.

U. S. S. Voyager: From the years of Kirk to the unveiling of the U. S. S. Defiant in Deep Space Nine, Federation ships were bulky. Until then, U. S. S. Reliant was the only ship with a bulging saucer section that was not attached to an engineering section by a thin neck. There is something aesthetically pleasing about the awkward appearance of these ships, but I can understand the desire for a change after thirty years of Star Trek. For some reason, the production design team on Voyager thought the change needed was to trade bulky for stubby. The saucer section is not a saucer, but more like an egg set on a thick neck worthy of a linebacker. The rationalization for Voyager's stubby appearance was the result of a defensive design against the Borg, and this makes sense. This concept was carried over to Jean Luc Picard's Enterprise E, a fine looking ship though it is the second most hated Enterprise with Archer's NX-01 taking the lead. What makes Enterprise E work is the sleek look created by long lines. Janeway's ship began with a great idea, and ended in lousy execution. The failure reaches a lofty pinnacle of crap when looking at the saucer section from below. This view inspires me to think of the ass end of a squid. Ship design should never cause someone to think of any creature's butt. (I suspect I would be making simian jokes if they had decided to go with two saucer sections.)

My problems with Voyager's appearance does not conclude with the saucer section. There is no true need for the warp engines to realign themselves when the ship engages warp speed. I am sure there is an explanation, but I missed it (chances are that is explained in Reason 9.) Whatever the explanation happens to be, it is nothing but technobabble, which translates to unnecessary. (Technobabble: a long standing tradition in Star Trek of speaking technical nonsense with the purpose of making the episodes sound smart. . . ) In all honesty and fairness, I hated the saucer separation of Enterprise D. I suspect some of the women and men among the production crew agree since you never see the Galaxy Class vessels involved in The Dominion War separate the saucer while engaged in battle. A reason existed for the separation. In the Federation's lack of wisdom, they included whole families on a science vessel performing double duty as a warship. The saucer separation was designed to provide escape for noncombatants (you know, children!) Though it does not make sense to put families on a warship, it does make sense to get civilians the hell out of a combat zone. I could grudgingly accept the saucer separation though I loath it (and the reason why it was necessary) with a passion. The realigning of Voyager's warp engines is nothing more than a ploy to give the ship a functioning visual uniqueness, a method to differentiate it from the other ships. Unfortunately, it did not work nearly as well as it did with Picard's Enterprise D (keep that saucer section in place!) and Sisko's U. S. S. Defiant.

I required two full seasons of The Next Generation to warm up to Picard's Enterprise, another admission sure to earn scorn. After seven seasons of Voyager, well I was ecstatic to be performing a Google search to remind myself of the ship's design. This was two days after watching the final episode.

Kazon Ships:
What we see here is the result when you start with a Mon Calamari Cruiser as the base design, add some wings, and give it a goatee. Kazon ships are what I imagine ancient Egyptians constructed if they shifted the focus from building pyramids to space travel. The only missing detail are hieroglyphs of cats. Oh wait! The bow does resemble Anubis. I guess dogs are better than cats? I really hate seeing faces worked into starship designs. To make matters worse, the Kazon ships are not the only time Star Trek has stolen from Star Wars, and that I find terribly sad. (Just because George Lucas . . . borrowed . . . from Gene Roddenberry does not make it okay.) The details surrounding the rock-headed Kazon are painful to contemplate. it is now time to forget about them--until the next all inclusive Star Trek marathon. . .

The Delta Flier: How I imagine the inspiration for the design behind Tom Paris' go cart shuttle craft project is like this: A frustrated artist has been submitting excellent ideas for months on end, all to be rejected with the same statement, "It looks Federation, but it looks too Federation. Call me when you get it right, and we'll do lunch, K?" The poor woman is sitting in her cubical, staring at her computer screen, and nothing is coming. She has already submitted fifty excellent concept designs. So she stares, and stares, and stares. This goes on for a week, a month, longer. The project started in the summer, and now there is a Santa Claus on every street corner, selling maps to the homes of Hollywood stars. Slowly, she is going insane. The twentieth of December rolls around, she has not done her Christmas shopping, is hating herself, her job, and her life. Self mutilation sounds like an excellent idea. So she grabs a pencil, sticks it under her pinky nail, and lifts to feel the exquisite pain as the nail separates from the flesh. Ignoring the blood, she stares at the nail, laughs hysterically, and sketches her detached pinky nail with a pair of warp nacelles.

The following day she gets a call from Rick Berman. "Hey! Love the Delta Flier sketch. I'll send a car for you, and we can talk about it over lunch. By the way, did you spill a strawberry smoothy while you were working?"

The design blunders continue with nearly every episode, including stealing from previous series like Deep Space Nine. I am nearly certain I saw Breen ships with a tan finish appearing in Voyager's sixth season, and continuing to make appearances through season seven. I was unable to dredge up an image, and am forced to refuse claiming this is true with any amount of certainty. I provided a link below under Related Links to highlight some of the ships appearing in Voyager. I admit, some are interesting, but for the most part we are treated to garbage. There are a few ships obviously designed around insects . . . That has never worked out well before. In fact, the only time it did work was a few years later when Joss Whedon attempted to give the world Firefly. Rick Berman, you are no Joss Whedon!

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)
Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)
Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 8
Reason 9
Reason 10
Reason 11

Related Links:
Ships of Star Trek: Voyager

Author Links:
Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Kindle
Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Nook
J. M. Tresaugue Books


  1. I never notice the ships or the technology. My husband is always, "oh wow, new ship" and I'm like - yeah yeah, silver, shiny, whatevs.

    Though what did interest me about Voyager was that to me it signified a shift in the Federation to a much more militaristic vessel and sensibility. And I think I've said before here that I felt Voyager's real point of interest as opposed to the other series is that it scrutinises and critiques the Federation in a "vacuum" - what do their rules and values mean in a Federationless (corner of the) universe?

  2. Penni! You never fail to post the best comments (and sometimes only comments)! I did like the idea of Star Trek ships moving in a more militaristic design. It is pretty much necessary since Federation ships are warships masquerading as science vessels. I also like how the franchise worked it in: Sisko gets the U.S.S Defiant, Picard gets his Enterprise-D, and Janeway gets to what amounts to a frigate. All this new machinery comes about as a direct result of Dominion and Borg threats, and the Federation is pushed to the limits to defend its sector of space. But there is no point in rehashing why I didn't like the look of her stubby ship. Your response to new ships, however, is classic, and a much better response to my over analyzing of fictitious ship design.

    The comment you are referring to is in Reason 2 Part 1. A well written argument worthy of repeating. So here it is again for those who do not want to hunt through the comments:

    "I think TNG is really Picard's story. It's the Federation as it is played out in the heart, mind and experiences of one man over the course of his entire life, and I think all the other characters shed further light on Picard's arc and his choices. I think Voyager is more disparate because it is ultimately problematising the Federation, questioning all its core principles, its history, its dominance, so the series enters the hearts and minds of Federation drop outs, dissidents, faithfuls, enemies, and couldn't-care-lesses in a Federation black hole where the name doesn't mean anything except within the hull of one ship. Seven of Nine appears for all these conflicts to play out in a singular body and so Voyager becomes her story, as the series tests all its new ideas about the Federation on someone who represents all the above categories."

    1. Penni's comment above is a brilliant one...but I'm not sure it's Seven of Nine's story. To be frank, she doesn't have a personality. She's a drone--a complete blank slate. She doesn't have those objections to the Federation that the rest of the crew would.

      Voyager was trying to tell this story, but they muddled the issue by trying to ask more than one over-arching question. The first one is, "How does the Federation present itself to a part of space that knows nothing else about it?" (basically, How does the Federation idea come across to an audience that's never heard of it?) and the second question is for the Old Guard--"How do the ideals of the Federation stand up when there's no pan-galactic government like the Federation around to back those ideals up?"

    2. Athena, Doesn't Penni come up with some great counter arguments?

      The questions posed hold the potential for great Star Trek viewing. Seems like by the time Voyager came around the production team was on autopilot.

      An aspect of Enterprise I enjoyed came in season three. Archer and crew were on their own version of an isolated voyage. At one point, Archer was faced with making a decision, and he made the wrong choice. You could understand why he took that course, but you also had no choice but to lose respect for him (like when Adama arrested Roslin in the first season of BSG.)

      To explore Voyager and her crew struggling to live up to Federation ideals we need not only success stories, but utter failures. We need the crew to fail in a mission due to Federation ideals, and we need to see them abandon those very same notions for either the right or wrong reason. Instead, Voyager played it safe. The greatest risk, if my memory is accurate, was when Paris manipulated the Prime Directive so he could offer aid to a Delta Quadrant alien. He received a slap on the wrist. Still, is that a valid argument? Picard received a slap on the wrist when he disobeyed orders to wipe out the Borg with a virus. Worf received the same slap when he saved Dax in preference to completing a vital mission.(Wow! Federation punishments are like being scolded by a friendly grandparent figure--'You know, you really shouldn't do that . . .')

      So I suppose the preceding paragraph is nothing more than an admission I like things grittier when one ship is out on it's own, doing all it can do to survive. The thrust of Voyager is exploration, and they did an admirable job of that. There was room for both, which would have made the series harder to ignore. It would have been the right move since television (with the exception of game shows and reality T.V.) was becoming something greater, more sophisticated, than we had seen before. There was no room for Star Trek to play it safe with Voyager.

  3. I'm sorry but the reason for Voyager's "Variable Geometry Nacelles" - Oh, its called that by the way was established in TNG Episode "Force of Nature" - Season 7. You would know that if you were as big a fan as you claim to be. These nacelles were designed during a period when all Federation ships Warp Engines were DAMAGING subspace in some way. So the Engineering Corp came up with a way to limit the problem (Which was corrected in the Sovereign Class without the use of Variable Geometry). If you cannot understand this, you have no place calling yourself a "Trek fan".