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This is quite obvious if, like me, you've played the Star Trek MMO where the game designers were inspired by the motion of the ships in the movies. I think it's most noticeable when the Bird of Prey in Star Trek III attacks the Enterprise.

Is there a canon explanation for why the ships in Star Trek bank when turning?

Edit: Please only give in canon answers, there are any number of debatable non canon reasons but that's not what I'm asking for

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The answers here may apply to this as well: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7408/… –  Xantec Feb 18 '13 at 20:08
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Aren't the technologies completely different between Star Wars and Star Trek? Probably another question there... –  user11154 Feb 18 '13 at 22:44
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Star Trek has its own section on TVTropes's SpaceIsAnOcean. So, tradition? –  Izkata Feb 19 '13 at 0:26
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Star fleet captains are trained to impress less advanced species by banking. Similar to the Corbomite maneuver. –  Mark Rogers Feb 19 '13 at 4:33
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Gene Roddenberry was a B-17E pilot with 80 successful missions. Here's a 'banking' image of such a plane. He wrote TV shows later, and didn't plan for scrutiny. I don't have the balls/rep to answer this one with a 'No, dude. Accept'. –  Solemnity Feb 19 '13 at 6:31
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5 Answers

There are a number of scenes from TOS where the Enterprise does not bank in order to turn, so its usage is inconsistent throughout the TV series.

One theory I've heard, though it seems more conjecture than based in anything from the ST universe, indicated that banking the ship for a turn would decrease the power required by the inertial dampeners and artificial gravity in order to keep the crew unaffected by the turn. In other words, in a banked turn, much more of the inertial force is along the vertical axis, which would keep it in line with the gravity plating in the ship's decks, requiring less effort from inertial dampeners.

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Is this theory a fan theory or a canon explanation? –  Junuxx Feb 22 '13 at 15:32
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up vote 11 down vote accepted

I'm going to be bold and say that there isn't a canon explanation for the slight banking effect you see on screen. However I'd quite happy to be proved wrong because it would be nice to have a solid answer that fits what we see.

To backup my assertion and to assuage @DVK's concerns - I have seen every movie (several times), every episode of every TV series, played the same MMO the OP has, played a number of other Star Trek games, and read a selection of the books. I cannot recall, and I have a good memory, ever seeing any explanation for banking.

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@DVK if no in-world confirmation can be found, the only conclusion you can draw is based on the fact that such confirmation doesn't exist. Don't fall into the conspiracy theorist's trap that anything that anything that doesn't get discredited in your approved list of sources by definition is confirmed as true. –  jwenting Feb 21 '13 at 8:51
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@DVK true, but you can't show a link to a website certifying you searched dilligently and got no results :) And of course someone could always argue that if only you'd searched more you might have found something. –  jwenting Feb 21 '13 at 15:05
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@DVK Use kinder wording in your comments please. –  Keen Feb 22 '13 at 15:50
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@DVK Here you go. I was specifically referring to the terms 'shred of evidence', 'zero details', and 'mere guess'. There are gentler ways of phrasing your concerns, in the future please do so. –  Keen Feb 22 '13 at 16:10
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@DVK Next time, phrase your concerns more gently. Right here. –  Keen Feb 22 '13 at 16:41
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I would say it's simply an artifact of old thinking from the The Original Series. People know planes and banking was just something that is expected. Also it's hard to represent motion in space so banking helps represent that. The only in universe explanation I could think of is for tactical purposes. Since every race seems to have nimble maneuvering thrusters it would be a tactical disadvantage not to have them.

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If we interpret "canon" as anything on-screen - imagery, dialog, etc. - then by that metric, no explanation is given. There is no dialog in any of the series about how ships maneuver beyond the occasional mention of thrusters. There are no effects shots showing thrusters or other mechanisms causing the vessel to bank as it turns. In fact, apart from a shot in TMP where they light up the impulse engine and the ship accelerates, there aren't any effects shots showing any relationship between engines and the ship's movement.

If we extend the definition of "canon" to include any production notes, writer's guides, etc., then...I don't know, I don't have access to any of those things. But if there is a canonical, in-universe explanation, that's where it would be.

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I think you are all thinking of it wrong... there wont be a "canon" explanation... you need to think of it like bsg reimagined. when they did the original test shows they made the space fight scenes devoid of sound, and albeit realistic it did not go over well with the crowd. They expected to hear the guns and space craft.

so while thinking of that remember that the enterprise is a SHIP and people expect ships to bank and roll slightly when turning. Even boats do this, its called squat.

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This answer seems like a pure speculation without a shred of evidence. This may very well be the truth, but as you provided zero details for why you think there isn't a canon explanation, it seems like a mere guess. See this meta discussion for what a good "plot hole" answers should contain. –  DVK Feb 22 '13 at 14:33
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