The ship featured on “Star Trek: Prodigy” looks like the logical next step for starship design. The U.S.S. Protostar is sharp and pointy, almost like a spear. Recently, Heavy took a look at why this newest ship design is so sharp-looking.
Since then, we’ve had a chance to talk to an actual starship design expert — Ben Robinson. Many Trek fans are familiar with Robinson. He’s written many books covering starship design — bow to stern — including the famous Star Trek Shipyards series. He even collaborated with journalist Ian Spelling on the recent “Star Trek: The Original Series – A Celebration,” which takes fans into new territory with newly unearthed photos, sketches, and stories.
Ben Robinson on Ship Design
We asked Robinson why these newer ships are shaped like daggers and not like saucers, as initially conceived by Matt Jefferies, the designer of the original U.S.S. Enterprise.
“One thing is that the scripts always call for things to look very aerodynamic,” said Robinson. “The script for ‘Voyager’… the original concept is that it looked like a bullet. It was meant to look fast and bullet-like. And that, inevitably, makes you come up with something more pointy. And pointy is a bit more aggressive.”
“I was lucky enough to get to talk with [Jefferies] about designing the original Enterprise,” said Robinson. “He was very much trying to get away from the conventions. But what he came up with, the idea of the saucer and the nacelles is so incredibly versatile! You look at how many ships have been designed around those basic principles — it’s still recognizably a ‘Star Trek’ ship.”
Robinson said that another reason why the ships are longer and more ‘pointy’ is because of the way people consume video. When “The Original Series” aired, television screens were basically square. Now, they are rectangular, and ships like the “Discovery” and “Protostar” can be seen from different and newer angles.
Perhaps the best illustration of this phenomenon is when “The Next Generation” transitioned from TV to the movies. Gone was Andrew Probert’s Enterprise-D, which fit nicely into a square screen. It was replaced with the Enterprise-E, which was more sleek and streamlined.
Thanks to its arrowhead ‘saucer section,’ the U.S.S. Protostar looks very fast. And at the end of the fifth episode of “Prodigy,” fans learned that it doesn’t just “look” fast. It is fast, thanks to a secret drive, which popped out of the engineering hull. This new engine is powered by a real star, or as writer Sam Stone calls it, a “stellar engine.” This further speed boost allowed the Protostar to escape the grasp of a giant ship that was in close pursuit.
In the real world of deep space, a protostar is a star that is still in development and among the many stellar objects which NASA watches. In fact, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently revealed images of a “protostar within the reflection nebula IC 2631.” NASA said that “once the protostar collects enough material, nuclear fusion will begin.”
But in the “Star Trek Universe,” this is certainly not the first time the shows have dealt with this sort of energy. In fact, one episode of “Voyager” featured a living being of energy, which came from a protostar.
Heroes and Demons
In an episode of “Voyager,” which some say has a plot which “isn’t particularly inventive,” Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew encounter a new kind of life form, which kidnaps Tuvok (Tim Russ), Chakotay (Robert Beltran), and Harry Kim (Garrett Wang). This being held the three hostage until Janeway realized that she was holding one of the energy being’s kin as well. This being was beamed onto the ship by B’ELanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) from … a protostar.
This part of the story is overshadowed by the Doctor’s interactions in a Beowulf holodeck simulation. But it could be a clue to what is really powering the U.S.S. Protostar.
Who is Zero?
Zero gives us few details about its origin. We know even less about why the evil Diviner (John Noble) wants to capture Zero.
Fans know that Zero is not being entirely truthful with Dal (Brett Gray) and the rest of the Protostar crew. According to Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” the Medusan race is well-known for its navigation abilities. On “Prodigy,” Zero acts like it does not know where it is going or how to go anywhere.
Will Zero Will Free an Energy Life Form on ‘Prodigy?’
It could be that Zero is involved with the Protostar because there are living beings inside the “stellar engine,” which is precisely what Janeway had to learn in “Heroes and Demons.” It would also be a nice twist for the show — to have Holo-Janeway remember that her human counterpart experienced something like this once.
Perhaps at the end of Season One (or later), Dal and the others will have to set the energy beings free… which could mean the end of their mighty ship. But it would be very much like the decision Janeway made back in the 24th Century.