A Question of Hull Thickness

I received a comment and question in last night’s post about some of the warp nacelle flux chiller grill work I have been modeling. In that post I mentioned I was hopefully going to be talking with Richard Taylor about the design and building of the warp nacelles, and asked if other modelers/Trekkers had some questions for Mr. Taylor when I talk to him next week.

Ralph Busch posted on that thread that he saw a diagram that Star Trek: The Motion Picture production artist and designer Andrew Probert did while doing design work at Astra Image that showed the curve on the upper half of the primary hill disk to be a radius of 4 feet. And that implied that the thickness of the main saucer (or primary hull) was more than 20 feet thick which Mr. Probert used when sketching out the placement and design concept sketches for the Recreation Deck scene in the film.


Early Rec. Deck concept design by Andrew Probert.

This prompted me to go back and look at the sketches he was referring to which I had (like many other Trekkers) found awhile back online.

While I don’t believe there was ever any “official” dimension stated in any of the images of Richard Taylor’s production design orthographic drawings, Mr. Probert’s Rec. Deck concept art does indeed list the saucer thickness along the outer rim of the saucer section to be 20 feet in height.

Notoriously the actual built sets for the crew scene that took place there was 24 feet tall based on some of the statements about the actual set construction. So it would not actually fit inside the “real” Enterprise given the stated scale of the filming model.


Comparison overlay of Richard Taylor and David Kimble’s Enterprise drawings (click to enlarge).

That said, David Kimble‘s illustrations for the “official blueprints” published by Pocket Books in the Untied States, (sometimes under the Wallaby Books imprint as well) seem to be have been based on Taylor’s production drawings for building the miniature. They pretty much match when digitally overlaid and scaled to each other. Aside from some very minor differences in the nacelle lines, particularly around the Bussard collector scoops… as well as some very minor differences in the warp grill vent positions on the main body of the nacelle (and other such minor difference which might be due to the unknown image distortion of the Taylor drawings), the only major difference in them appears to be the bridge and B/C deck superstructure which were actually built for the filming model and used for lighting tests early on. Which for the purposes of the saucer thickness, makes them effectively the same.

As an aside that bridge superstructure was altered from Taylor’s original design before final delivery of the model to Doug Trumbull‘s effects company Entertainment Effects Group (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner fame)  for filming after Robert Abel & Associates was “fired” from the production and the visual effects were moved and split between EEG and John Dykstra‘s (of the original Star Wars fame) effects company Apogee.

Over the July Fourth weekend while FX filming had begun, there was an air conditioning leak in the studio which dripped water onto the top of the model and caused the bridge to badly warp (not the faster-than-light engine kind of warp mind you)  because it was, like the original television series model back in the 1960s, made of wood. So it had to be refabricated and replaced over the course of a 36 hour marathon to fix the surge and re-paint that part of the model. This was discussed in Paul Olsen‘s book about building and painting the Enterprise. But I digress.


Study drawing of the saucer rim height. (click to enlarge)

As can be seen in the work-up I did this evening, the derived “20 foot” version of a cross-section of the saucer rim makes it approximately 15.591 inches (a few inches over a foot) thicker than what is illustrated in the Kimble “official” blueprints.

The thickness of the saucer is derived from scaling the Kimble blueprints to get the saucer dimensions to match the stated dimension of the saucer width of 146.3 meters, then getting as close as possible to matching the thickness as illustrated when measuring it in Adobe Illustrator.

Now does that 4 foot edge radius of the saucer rim hold up the actual filming miniature at the scale it was built at? Something I would love to find out.

Anyways, it was an interesting exercise, and while I don’t hold a huge amount of hope for it, I will ask Mr. Taylor Ralph’s question if he has any details on dimensions for the filming model, or was it kinda loose and based on what looked good?

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