Truth or Myth – To Refit, Or Not To Refit, that is the REAL question

She’s been a ship of the line and the pride of Starfleet. Part Of The most iconic starship lineage in Star Trek History, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701.

But in this episode we take a look at Starfleet’s decision to refit the TOS ship to become the ship we see in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and ask ourselves, does this make sense?

In the late 1970’s the decision was made to make either a new Star Trek series or a Star Trek Movie.  After flip-flopping back and forth, and with the success of Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was greenlit and given the go ahead.  The problem though was how to update the iconic series to fit on the big screen and make it look believable.

Due to the nature of cinema, high definition to be precise, the original enterprise design just wouldn’t cut it.  So after more flip-flopping and redesigning, the idea of simply creating a visually similar, yet updated, enterprise came to be.

(CBS/Paramount) U.S.S. Enterprise 1701 & U.S.S. Enterprise 1701 Refit

After watching the original series as a child and not knowing about the fact that there were even movies the first time I popped in the motion picture I was blown away.  The sense of awe and evocation of emotion this design invokes is just amazing.  But years later, though it’s still one of my favourite designs, I have to ask myself would they really do that?  And how much of the original ship was left after the refit?

Starfleet is an exploration and militaristic organization no matter what they want you to believe.  The uses of ranks in its self-proves that to be true.  So would a militaristic organization really expend the effort to completely redesign and refit the original enterprise?

Of course, they would.  It wasn’t just any ship…  It was a ship, the first of only 12 originally constructed, to make it back from its 5-year mission.  Not only that, I’m sure the Enterprise made a name for itself in the public eye.  5 years and the ship had saved planets, ships, people, the entire galaxy so many times that the ship and her crew would be legends all over the federation.  And that would probably make her Starfleet’s Poster Child for why Humanity should continue venturing out into the unknown.

Think about it…  In the past 15 years Starfleet of that Era had been through an awful, not least of which was the war with the Klingon Empire that almost caused the collapse and subjugation of the entire federation with the Klingon Empire right on Earth’s doorstep.  The federation had also been threatened by Space dwelling lifeforms, it’s own technology, doomsday machines, Powerful Energy beings and superhumans, both genetically engineered and transformed by natural space phenomenon.  Add to that, of the original 12 constitution class starships constructed at least 5 were lost, destroyed or completely wrecked. So when the Enterprise was the first Constitution Class to make it back having successfully completed it mission Starfleet would want to make her the example of human exploration.  A Purely political decision, but one that I would have made too.

(CBS/Paramount) The Refit Constitution-Class cargo bay as seen in TMP

The problem with the redesign of the ship is so implausible it almost borders on ridiculous.  To understand this we have to look at how this refit would have actually been done. First, the entire ships inside would have to be removed. Why?  That’s simple. Not only would you need access to the ships superstructure, wiring and innards, so to speak, but you’d need to bring in new walls to create new layouts.Not only that but you’d have to remove ALL the ships outer panels in order to Weld, whatever the 23rd centuries version of that is, new bulkheads on to make the iconic shape of the refit enterprise from the motion picture.

So then what do we have, a ship with no insides and no outsides.  Basically a wireframe in space.

Technology seems to have made some leaps during Kirks 5 year mission including a vertical warp core and impulse engine redesign with whats referred to as an impulse crystal which all needed to be installed.  They developed the forcefields on the shuttlebay door which meant no decompression any longer, so a huge portion of the secondary hull was just an open area divided amongst the shuttlebay and cargo areas.

That in itself may have explained the reason for the corridor redesign, making it more compressed and allowing larger areas of actual usable space.  Such as crew quarters, science labs and recreation areas.  And that makes sense.

But EVERYTHING is redesigned on this ship.  So, in the end, the actually usable bits of the Original Enterprise would have been so minor that it probably would have been not only faster, but more cost conscientious for a completely new ship to be constructed.  And I believe that after the Enterprise no other original constitution class starship was refit.  That they would merely decommission the original ship and replace her with a newly constructed one.

(CBS/Paramount) The NCC 1701 Refit in drydock

It was the magic of her name and her crew that allowed this to happen.  And that’s ok I can accept that.  And officially in canon, there has been no other ship in Starfleet History that has received this type of upgrade.  Sure we’ve seen tech changes within Starfleet ship, such as the difference in the look of the bridge between Star Trek’s 4, 5 and 6.  But a major refit?  Not a chance.

Of course, we know it was merely a plot device in order to recapture the Star Trek fan base.  They want everyone to know this is Kirk’s ship, it’s just better and they needed an explanation for all the changes and the one they gave works.  And you completely accept that explanation as not only plausible but most likely.

But whatever your stance is on this issue one thing is for sure, this ship design is not only breathtaking but inspiring, and without her, we wouldn’t be able to have  Star Trek 50 years after it’s conception.  This was really the turning point for the franchise.  The point that cemented Trek into the future as a never-ending fluidic set of stories that everyone can enjoy.

And because of that, the human adventure DOES continue…

Watch Episode 2