Friday 3 April 2020

The Starships of Star Trek Picard

Star Trek Picard expanded the fleet of the Star Trek universe with quite a wide variety of ships, including a heroic Borg Cube, giant space flowers, and an impressive expansion of Romulan starship design. I thought it would be fun to have a look back through all the ships featured; so continue below starships fans:

Picard is the only Trek TV series apart from DS9 not to have its primary setting aboard a Starfleet starship with the very familiar saucer and nacelles silhouette. Instead we got La Sirena, Cristóbal Rios' Kaplan F17 Speed Freighter.

It's not entirely clear what each part of this ship is, as it has large pontoons on either side, with smaller nacelles attached on the outside of each of those. But one of the coolest things about this smaller scale setting than most starships we've known before, is that the sets could be built as a single continuous location, spread across two floors, so we do have a good idea of the internal layout of at least the central area of the ship just from seeing the characters move around the single space in the show. That set includes a window at the front of the set allowing the external visual effects and internal on-set photography to seamlessly merge several times in the series.

The ship features a striking red and white paint scheme that seems to have been inspired by the "Frankenstein"guitar of Eddie Van Halen. That colouration looked especially splendid when the ship was bathed in natural light after crash-landing on Coppelius:

Here are some space beauty shots:

The other unexpected hero ship of the show was the Borg Cube, aka "The Artifact".

First Contact Borg ship concept art
This Cube has distinctive features compared to previous Borg Cubes we've seen. Most notably it has large chunks missing; a degree of damage that sadly wasn't covered in one of the series' many flashbacks, but I'm most curious about, as the damage to the Cube was seemingly cause by Ramdha's madness, at least as far as was ever explained!

The Cube also features numerous distinctive trenches across its hull, reminiscent of some of John Eaves concept designs for Borg ships for First Contact. The design language of the final First Contact Cube, particularly the distinctive diagonal paneling, is closely followed in both the exterior hull design of this Cube, and many of the internal views we get to see too. I don't think we ever got to see every side of the Cube, but those we did showed the trenches and extent of damage were quite varied on the different sides (UPDATE: The ever observate Jörg Hillebrand has identified that in fact all six sides do appear at some point!)

The reactivation of the Cube in Broken Pieces featured a particularly cool moment where a swarm of repair drones got to work on the hull; these appeared to be both carrying out physical repairs, and forming into replacement hull sections themselves; a really nice interpretation of the familiar idea of Borg ships regenerating after being damaged.

When we last saw the Borg Cube it was crashed on Coppelius. Presumably having made a fairly soft landing, as it doesn't seem to have disturbed the surroundings too much! I was quite surprised it didn't relaunch, or maybe launch the Sphere that seems to be visible on one side, a la First Contact, to come to the rescue a second time above Coppelius. Quite the visual tease that particular bit of design!

One more unusual hero ship we barely got to know was Seven of Nine's Fenris Ranger fighter. We got but the briefest glimpses as it zipped around over Vashti in Absolute Candor, before being blown up. This ship seems to have an asymmetrical design, which is pretty rare in Trek.

With the Romulans being one of the major focuses of the series we were treated to multiple new ships. Romulans post-supernova seem to have dialed back their grandeur somewhat, with no giant warbird of previous 24th century encounters seen, but instead several smaller designs.

The first we see is my favourite of the bunch, a small W-shaped wing ship that flies into the Borg Cube in an indulgent lens-scrapping shot. Several of these ships are seen flying around and inside the Cube throughout the series.

A different Romulan design shows up in Absolute Candor, and becomes the main ship design used by the Romulans throughout the rest of the series. At first I thought the production had switched out one design for the other, but the earlier W-wing does get a few more appearances later on too, just less prominently.

This design is distinguished by it's much more silvery finish, and unusual cutout section at the rear, giving is a rather kite-like look. It also looks particularly bird like from many angles, and features, very subtly, a bird's wing marking on the underside of the wings, just like the classic TOS Romulan Bird of Prey.

While resembling Birds of Prey, the large fleet of these ships is referred to as Warbirds in the show. But the two terms have never been well defined, and often used interchangeably in Trek history.

Leading that fleet is Oh's capital ship, another winged design, this time featuring prominent protrusions coming out of the wings either side of the main body of the ship.

A much smaller ship is the Snakehead, which we are introduced to in Nepenthe when Narek uses one to follow the La Sirena. Many more of these are seen later among the Romulan fleet above Coppelius.

Another Romulan design makes an appearance is several episodes, a small work bee type ship which are seen in great abundance working around the Borg Cube. They always move very fast though so they're quite hard to get a good look at!

The original TOS Bird or Prey
One final Romulan ship is a very nostalgic indulgence, a classic TOS style Bird of Prey! While the ship has had some upgrades after a century or more in service it remains very recognisably the original design, complete with giant bird painted on it's underside (alas we only get the briefest glimpses of that side though). Alterations include glowing green back edges to the wings, and a slightly different looking impulse engine at the read. Looks pretty damn sweet, and had got to be part of a particularly good space battle too!

Here's the underside, sadly not seen very clearly. The inevitable Eaglemoss model should give us a good reveal!

The Romulans aren't the only major power to expand their fleet in Picard, we also got some new Starfleet ships.

Arriving just in time, Captain Riker's fleet of near identical ships is of unknown class, but we know his is the USS Zheng He (named for a Chinese admiral and explorer).

These appear to be based on an older John Eaves design originally made for the first unrealised version of Star Trek Online, more than a decade ago. A similar design, the Avenger class, is in the version of STO that did get released; although I'm sure a new Picard-accurate version will be along soon enough too!

While the massive fleet appears at first glance to be identical (more variety next time Starfleet shows up please!), there are at least two variants in the mix, distinguished by their nacelles: Some have more boxy nacelles that slope outwards, have glowing bussard collectors on either side, and a long warp coil glow on either side of the top edge of the nacelle.

The other version has more round nacelles that slope inwards, with the bussard glow on the top and bottom of the outer side, and much shorter visible warp coils which only glow on the inner side.

Both variations seems to also come in either a slightly more red or yellow bussard colouring. Can you spot any other variants?

The fronts of the ships are quite unusual, with what could be the entrance to a large shuttle bay at the front of the saucer, and below where we'd more normally see a deflector dish, there is instead an array of four lights (multiple smaller deflectors?).

We don't get many Starfleet designs in Picard, but when they do, they seem to have to come in huge numbers. The other fleet we saw was that being built for the Romulan evacuation; the numerous Wallenberg ships seen in the Mars flashback in Maps and Legends. The ships are named for Raoul Wallenberg, a humanitarian who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.

Ptolemy class, as seen on the cover of Vanguard: Declassified
The function of these ships is reminiscent of Franz Joseph's Ptolemy class tug, from the old Star Fleet Technical Manual; of course with the sharper lines of 24th century design. We see numerous ships of the class, some with trains of cargo modules (presumably habitats for Romulan refugees), others not yet loaded up.

It's a pretty cool and unique design which speaks of utility; being mostly engines and cargo, and a much more streamlined saucer.

We do sort of see one other new Starfleet starship design, the USS Ibn Majid.

Named for an Arabic explore, Ahmad ibn Mājid, we only see an emblem representing this shop; Rios' old posting.

At first glance I thought it was a Sovereign class, but it doesn't quite fit. It's quite close to John Eaves design for the USS Emmett Till, the would-be command of Ezri Dax in an imagined new season of DS9 from the What We Left Behind documentary.

Several classic Starfleet ships do also appear in the show in one way or another. The USS Enterprise-D gets no less than three appearances! First as a dream, then also a hologram, and model in Picard's archives.

Also seen in the Picard archive are his other old ships, the USS Enterprise-E, USS Stargazer, and captain's yacht Cousteau, all as models.

And there's also a hologram of the USS Enterprise seen in the Starfleet Command atrium, before morphing into the D. This is of course the Enterprise as we've come to know it from Discovery:

Several smaller Starfleet ships also appear. There are these quite distinctive diamond shape fighters the synths used to attack Mars:

One shot of the attack shows a massive space station, presumably part of the Utopia Planitia shipyards:

There's also a new shuttlecraft seen on Mars. Quite a lot are seen landed near a base, and more can be seen flying among the Wallenberg class ships.

Debut of the shuttle in Ships of the Line 2011
This design appears to be the screen debut of one of John Eaves' shuttle designs, which first entered the world of Trek in a Ships of the Line calendar image in 2011.

These shuttles were only seen in this Mars sequence, and curiously not used in the numerous other instances we saw shuttles in the series. Instead the Discovery shuttle design is seen widely used throughout the 24th century, including explicitly as civilian use, such as a taxi.

Another small-craft is scene in a few Earth scenes. In fact most of the wide shots of Earth cities show streams of flying traffic, but most are little more than dots in the distance.

Freecloud also has a sky full of fast moving dots. But there is one ship we get a slightly better look at, in fact several of the same sort of ship fly overhead in the establishing shot of the city. The ship is distinguished by the four glowing pods (two on either side), which may or may not be engines given it also has a red glow to the rear (hat-tip to Jörg for spotting them after this article was first published):

To round off, there are some more esoteric ships or nearly-ships. The Mars defense satellites used in the synth attack for instance:

Picard's vine watering drones. In fact quite a lot of drones are seen throughout Picard, in almost all public spaces, and aboard the Borg Cube, small drones are buzzing about all over the place. This is the only really large one though (unless those travel pods are driverless of course):

And finally, the most exotic "ship" of the series, the giant self defense space Orchids of Coppelius. I will be quite delighted is Eaglemoss get round to doing these as models!

That's everything I spotted in the series. Did any other ships catch your eye?

Eaglemoss are working on a Picard series in their Starships Collection range, so we can expect models of many of these to arrive from next year. I'm most looking forward to the Romulan ships myself.


Fox said...

I spent the whole show waiting for a new starfleet capital ship to appear, and when it finally did... it's so ugly.

Tuskin said...

That shuttle design on mars appears to go back even further than 2011, it appears first as unused concept art for ST09

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