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Forgotten Starships: "Canon" References to Star Trek Spacecraft Designed by Franz Joseph
by Greg Tyler
February 15, 2003
Updated December 30, 2005

Introduction

At a time when nearly every visual detail that's barely distinguishable in a Star Trek episode or feature film is declared "canon," that is a "real" element of the fictional Star Trek universe, it is somewhat surprising that many fans do not take into consideration the existence of a number of starship classes that appear, or certainly seem to appear, in the first three Star Trek feature films.

In the 1970s, retired design engineer Franz Joseph Schnaubelt wrote some of that decade's most renowned Star Trek publications: the Star Trek Blueprints, a set of drawings that detailed for the first time every nook and cranny of the famed Constitution class of starships seen in the Star Trek television series, and the Star Fleet Technical Manual, which provided fans' first glimpse to a fictional universe based on the Star Trek world as seen in the television series, but expanded to include elements never depicted or conceived for the show.

Among these elements were a number of designs for starships that had configurations that differed from that of the Enterprise and her sister ships, all Constitution-class vessels. These starship classes served different functions in Star Fleet, apparently based on the ships' sizes, armaments, and other capabilities. The starship classes that Franz Joseph mentioned in the Star Fleet Technical Manual include:

Today most fans consider the only "true" elements of the Star Trek fictional universe are those that are explicitly seen or heard in a live-action Star Trek television episode or feature film. References from sources such as licensed books and the animated television series are generally treated in much the same way as Star Wars fans treat the so-called "Expanded Universe" publications. Both the Star Trek Blueprints and the Star Fleet Technical Manual fall into this category, so many fans choose to disregard material from these publications as "really" existing in the Star Trek fictional universe.

(As an aside, the idea of fictional elements "really" existing in a fictional universe amuses me.)

What is interesting to note about the starships featured in Franz Joseph's publications is that nearly all, and possibly all, of them are visually represented in the early Star Trek feature films. The following images from various Star Trek films feature illustrations from Franz Joseph's Star Trek Technical Manual. Note that many illustrations from both the Star Trek Blueprints and the Star Fleet Technical Manual (SFTM) may be found in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.

Class I Heavy Cruiser (Constitution-Class Starships)

Figure 1 Frame from a shot in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock -- Note the bridge display screen circled in yellow.
Figures 2, 3, 4 Enlargements of the display screen from different frames of the shot from Figure 1. Although these images are of extremely low detail due to the limited resolution of the DVD format, appear to be from page TO:01:04:10 of the Star Fleet Technical Manual.
Figure 5 Frame from another shot in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. The illustration is clearly from page TO:01:04:10 of the Star Fleet Technical Manual. (The "SECURITY ALERT" message blinks in this and other shots, and it is not from the SFTM.) Note that much of the detail of the image is not fully visible in this image. This could be due to the limited resolution of the real-world monitor used to display the graphic on the bridge set, or perhaps the limited resolution of the image when it was first digitized from the book.

Class I Destroyer (Destroyer-Class Starships)

Figure 6 Frame from a shot in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- Note the bridge display screen circled in yellow.
Figures 7, 8 Enlargements of the display screen from different frames of the shot from Figure 6. Although these images are of extremely low detail due to the limited resolution of the DVD format, it is fairly evident that Figures 6 and 7 are from page TO:01:04:12 of the Star Fleet Technical Manual.

Class I Scout (Hermes-Class Starships)

Figures 9, 10 Enlargements of the display screen from different frames of the shot from Figure 6. Although these images are of extremely low detail due to the limited resolution of the DVD format, it is fairly evident that Figures 9 and 10 are from page TO:01:04:14 of the Star Fleet Technical Manual.

Class I Transport/Tug (Ptolemy-Class Starships)

Figure 11 Enlargement of the display screen from a different frame of the shot from Figure 6. Although this image is of extremely low detail due to the limited resolution of the DVD format, it is fairly evident that Figure 11 is from page TO:01:04:16 of the Star Fleet Technical Manual.

Class I Dreadnought (Federation-Class Starships)

Figures 12, 13 Frames from a shot in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock -- Note the bridge display screen circled in yellow.
Figures 14, 15 Cropped enlargements of Figures 12 and 13, respectively. Both illustrations are from TO:01:04:00 of the Star Fleet Technical Manual; specifically, Figure 14 shows the top half of the illustration, and Figure 15 shows the bottom half of the illustration.

Figure 14 represents the only known, possible visual representation of the Federation-class dreadnought. Item A in Figure 14 corresponds to the tail end of text that, in the Star Fleet Technical Manual, reads "DREADNOUGHT CLASS". Item B in Figure 14 corresponds to a block of text that, in the Star Fleet Technical Manual, reads "MODEL: MK X, PROP: IMPULSE POWER, 3 SPACE/WARP UNITS, D.W.T: 285,000". Item C in Figure 14 corresponds to text that, in the Star Fleet Technical Manual, reads "UNDER CONSTRUCTION".

Item D in Figure 14 corresponds to what, in the Star Fleet Technical Manual, isthe location of an outline of the port profile of the Federation-class dreadnought on page TO:01:04:00. Although the outline of the dreadnought isn't clearly distinguishable in this image, it does appear that something occupies that space. It seems unlikely that the people who compiled the bridge display graphics for Star Trek III would modify this image and no others, so it appears that at least the outline of the dreadnought made an appearance in Star Trek III.

Conclusion

Are Franz Joseph's starship designs part of the Star Trek "canon?" It seems to me that, if Starfleet registry numbers and other information that appears only on display screens in various Trek shows and films are to be taken as gospel, then Franz Joseph's images deserve some consideration as well. During the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry supposedly issued some "rules of starship design" that prohibited Federation Starfleet ships from having odd numbers of warp engine nacelles. On the other hand, he is also reported to have declared Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and events from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to not be part of the Star Trek canon, and yet those films are generally considered "official" by both Paramount Pictures Corporation and the fan community. Moreover, several Star Trek television series and feature films have been produced since Roddenberry's death, and all are generally considered part of the canon.

To be frank, this author considers the notion of an official canon with respect to a fictitious universe to be somewhat absurd. Of course, the reader is free to disagree. Nonetheless, one must acknowledge that at least three, and likely four, additional starship designs might have "really" been in service at least as of the time of the Genesis Incident as seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.

December 30, 2005 Update: For a very similar article on this topic, see the December 20, 2005 Ex Astris Scientia article named "Spotting the Ships from the Star Fleet Technical Manual."



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