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Franz Joseph's Starships and Roddenberry's Rules of Starship Design
by Greg Tyler
September 17, 2005

Sometime just prior to or during the production of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek fans became aware of what are known as Roddenberry's Rules of Starship Design. As listed here at Bernd Schneider's Ex Astris Scientia web site, the rules are as follows:

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. As Andrew Probert explained in this web site's 2005 interview, "Gene specified to me, in fact, that starship warp engines operate in pairs... because they're codependent.... So in the same breath he negated [Franz Joseph's] three-engined dreadnoughts along with the single-engined destroyers [and scouts], on the edict simply that, to achieve warp drive, you had to have codependent warp engine pairs."

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. As Andrew Probert explained in this web site's 2005 interview, "As far as the line-of-sight requirement, that was my edict, that, in order to be codependent, the warp engines had to see each other, totally. I'm talking about the power combs, not necessarily the Bussard collectors but the bulk of those combs have an energy path between them." This would seem to negate Franz Joseph's transport/tug design -- at least when it's towing transport pods, which are positioned between the warp nacelles.

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. As Probert explained, "That's probably something that I came up with, simply to allow for clearer access to free hydrogen that those collectors have to... collect."

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" was a design preference expressed to Probert after he initially positioned the Enterprise-D's bridge at the center of the primary hull. The TNG production staff apparently preferred that the bridge remain atop the primary hull, in order to provide a sense of scale.

It has been speculated that "Roddenberry's Rules" were created specifically to invalidate the starship designs of Franz Joseph. In fact, only one of the rules is known to have been created by Gene Roddenberry -- that starship warp nacelles must exist in pairs. Even if Roddenberry did establish all of the rules himself, it is possible that Franz Joseph's ship designs do not violate the rules -- at least not the spirit of the rules within the Star Trek universe.

The simplest approach for evaluating Franz Joseph's starship designs is to find "canon" examples of starships that violate each of Roddenberry's Rules. If it is acceptable that "canon" designs might violate some of Roddenberry's Rules, then it should be acceptable that Franz Joseph's designs might violate them as well.

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. The three-nacelled version of the Enterprise-D from TNG's "All Good Things" violates this rule. The Niagara-class starship, seen as wreckage in TNG's "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II," also has three warp nacelles. Another violator of this "rule" is the Klingon Bird of Prey, whose entire warp propulsion system is internalized. Since little about the interior of that ship is known, it is possible that the ship has the functional equivalent of a single nacelle. On the other hand, the ship might have the functional equivalent of a pair of warp nacelles -- twin sets of warp coils. The two nacelle-equivalent components are housed within a single structure, the main hull of the ship. It is not much of a leap in logic to assume that the Bird of Prey's nacelle-equivalent components could instead be placed within a single outboard structure -- i.e., a nacelle -- rather than within the main hull of the ship. The Freedom-class starship, seen as wreckage in TNG's "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II," very clearly has a single warp nacelle.

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. One violator of this rule is the Nebula-class starship, whose nacelle "power combs" are largely obstructed by the ship's engineering hull. The Oberth's nacelles are largely obstructed by the ship's primary hull. The Defiant and the Starfleet scout ship of Star Trek: Insurrection each have two integrated warp nacelles that are fully obstructed by the main hull. Other ships violate this rule as well, including the Romulan scout ship from TNG's "The Defector."

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. The Intrepid-class starship's warp nacelles -- and Bussard collectors -- are largely obscured from the front when the nacelles are in "warp configuration." The Bussard collectors of the Ambassador-class starship are roughly 40% obscured from the front. To a lesser extent, the Excelsior and New Orleans classes have nacelles that are partially obscured from the front.

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" is a design preference, and not a rule as such.

Franz Joseph's starship designs would seem to be no less valid than the "canon" designs that violate Roddenberry's Rules. One could argue, however, that citing examples of accepted violators does not render Roddenberry's Rules entirely moot. To that end, each rule will be treated as if it has no "canon" violators, and each of Franz Joseph's starship designs will be evaluated against the rules in an attempt to rationalize how the design does not necessarily violate the spirit of the rules within the Star Trek universe.

Hermes "Scout"

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. The Hermes-class ship has a single warp nacelle, which would seem to violate this rule. On the other hand, perhaps the interior of the nacelle has the functional equivalent of a pair of nacelles -- twin sets of warp coils arranged side-by-side. The ship's deflector shield system might also help with related tasks such as reducing the ship's inertial mass. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Emissary," space station Deep Space 9's inertial mass was reduced using the station's deflector shield system. The Hermes sensor/deflector dish is mounted beneath the primary hull on a strut. Perhaps this configuration allows the navigational deflector to further enhance the ship's warp field generation and control capabilities.

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. If the Hermes's single nacelle contains the functional equivalent of twin nacelles, then each nacelle-equivalent module would presumably have full line of sight with its counterpart inside the shared nacelle structure.

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. The single nacelle is fully visible from the front -- except for the obscuration of the sensor/deflector dish. Perhaps the strut-mounted sensor/deflector dish is specially designed to deflect interstellar matter around the ship while providing "holes" in the deflection fields to permit interstellar hydrogen to be collected by the single warp nacelle behind the dish.

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" is a design preference, and not a rule as such. Nonetheless, the Hermes' bridge is located at the top center of the primary hull.

Saladin "Destroyer"

Except for different weapon emplacements, the Saladin's design is identical to the Hermes, so the Saladin need not be treated separately.

Ptolemy "Transport/Tug"

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. The Ptolemy-class ship has twin warp nacelles, so the design does not violate this rule.

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. When the Ptolemy is not towing any transport pods, the ship's nacelles have full line of sight with each other. When the Ptolemy is towing one or more transport pods, the frontmost pod almost completely obscures the line of sight between the nacelles. Like the Hermes, the Ptolemy's sensor/deflector dish is mounted on a strut that extends from the bottom of the primary hull so that the dish is in front of any transport pod. Just as the Hermes' strut-mounted dish might enhance the warp field generation and control capabilities of that ship, the Ptolemy's strut-mounted dish might perform the same function when the ship is towing transport pods.

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. The Ptolemy's warp nacelles are always fully visible from the front, so the design does not violate this rule.

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" is a design preference, and not a rule as such. Nonetheless, the Ptolemy' bridge is located at the top center of the primary hull.

Federation "Dreadnought"

The Federation-class starship has three warp nacelles. Two of the nacelles are connected as twins to the engineering hull, similar in configuration to the Constitution class. The third nacelle is connected to the aft upper surface of the primary hull. Assuming that the Federation's primary hull is detachable, the primary hull with its single nacelle greatly resembles the Hermes-class design, flipped upside-down. The dreadnought is evaluated against Roddenberry's Rules in three ways -- the primary hull alone, the engineering hull alone, and the standard combined-hull configuration.

Federation "Dreadnought" -- Primary Hull

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. The primary hull has a single warp nacelle, which would seem to violate this rule. On the other hand, like the Hermes, perhaps the interior of the nacelle has the functional equivalent of a pair of nacelles -- twin sets of warp coils arranged side-by-side. The ship's deflector shield system might also help perform related tasks such as reducing the ship's inertial mass.

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. As with the Hermes, if the primary hull's single nacelle contains the functional equivalent of twin nacelles, then each nacelle-equivalent module would presumably have full line of sight with its counterpart inside the shared nacelle structure.

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. The single nacelle is about 90% visible from the front, so the design is likely not in violation with the spirit of this rule -- to allow the Bussard collectors to efficiently collect interstellar hydrogen.

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" is a design preference, and not a rule as such.

Federation "Dreadnought" -- Engineering Hull

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. The engineering hull has twin warp nacelles, so the design does not violate this rule.

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. The engineering hull's nacelles have full line of sight with each other, so the design does not violate this rule.

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. The engineering hull's warp nacelles are always fully visible from the front, so the design does not violate this rule.

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" is a design preference, and not a rule as such.

Combined-Hull Configuration

  1. Warp nacelles must be in pairs. If the primary hull's single nacelle houses the functional equivalent of two paired nacelles, then the combined-hull configuration of the ship has the functional equivalent of four warp nacelles. There is effectively an upper pair of "nacelles" -- the twin nacelle-equivalent modules within the primary hull's single nacelle, and a lower pair -- the twin nacelles of the engineering hull.

  2. Warp nacelles must have at least 50% line of sight of each other across the hull. The upper pair of nacelle-equivalent modules has full line of sight with each other inside the single nacelle structure, and the engineering hull's nacelles have full line of sight with each other, so the design does not violate this rule.

  3. Both warp nacelles must be fully visible from the front. As previously discussed, the primary hull's single nacelle does not violate the spirit of this rule, and the engineering hull's nacelles are fully visible from the front, so they do not violate this rule either.

  4. The bridge must be located at the top center of the primary hull. This "rule" is a design preference, and not a rule as such.

Franz Joseph's starship designs would seem to be no more in violation of Roddenberry's Rules of Starship Design than any "canon" ship, and any violations can be rationalized with a bit of imagination -- the same type of imagination that makes faster-than-light space travel possible in any science-fiction setting.



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