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This is something that's bothered since, well, literally since the 1960s. On the original Enterprise (NCC-1701) there are two long triangular regions marked on the bottom of the saucer section (circled in red in the picture below). I never saw anything documented about what these regions were, but it looks as if they could extend, like landing gear, to balance the ship if it had to land on a planet. Or they could be used for balance if the saucer section separated and landed independently.

Are these things some kind of landing gear? If not, is there any documentation about what they are?

enter image description here

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    They're bull horns for when Kirk rams into other ships. – Wikis Feb 21 '12 at 7:38
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    @Wikis: But then they'd stick out farther. – Tango Feb 21 '12 at 7:45
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    Yes, @SchroedingersCat, this is all I've thought about since the 1960s. It's been in my every waking thought. Actually, it's something I wondered about every time I saw a shot of the Big E that showed them. Obviously if it had bothered me that much, I would have bought the blueprints from Franz Joseph Designs and read every single book ever written about the ship and would have known it. – Tango Feb 21 '12 at 16:29
  • I didn't realize the saucer section could be separated on the original Enterprise. Where'd that come from? – Iszi Feb 22 '12 at 4:06
  • Kirk tells Scotty to do it if they have to in The Apple. – Tango Feb 22 '12 at 4:14
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Per Memory Alpha:

According to Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise, the original Enterprise had landing gear stored underneath the two triangle-shaped hatches on the ventral side of the saucer. A third leg popped out from the cavity where the secondary hull connected to the saucer. (Star Trek: The Magazine, August 2000).

Apparently this landing gear was designed for landing just the saucer section (in an emergency), not the entire ship.

enter image description here

The semi-canon [*] book, the USS Enterprise Officer's Manual (written by Geoffrey Mandel, senior Production Artist for various trek films and TV shows) offers this description of the emergency landing procedures for the Constitution-class saucer section:

enter image description here

[*] Appropriating Hypnosifl's comment:

Might be worth noting that although Gregory Mandel was a production artist for Trek, that was after he wrote the USS Enterprise Officer's Manual, which at the time (1980) was a fan creation since he wasn't affiliated with the show in any way. Unlike another popular fan creation, the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, I don't think Mandel's book was ever licensed by CBS/Paramount so it seems odd to call it "semi-canon", that'd be like calling Star Trek: Phase II semi-canon because it's popular and well-made.

  • So Tango was right, those triangles are a landing gear? Like what then, wheels, skis? – Wikis Feb 21 '12 at 9:47
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    @KeithThompson: I think the original could have done the separation, just not the reconnection. Like the saying goes, any car is a convertible, with the right power tools. – Zan Lynx Feb 23 '12 at 0:33
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    @Wikis - Not skis, legs. The ship makes a graceful landing using the "descent engines" and the legs stabilise the hull on landing (to stop it toppling). – Valorum Aug 30 '14 at 10:53
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    Might be worth noting that although Gregory Mandel was a production artist for Trek, that was after he wrote the USS Enterprise Officer's Manual, which at the time (1980) was a fan creation since he wasn't affiliated with the show in any way. Unlike another popular fan creation, the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, I don't think Mandel's book was ever licensed by CBS/Paramount so it seems odd to call it "semi-canon", that'd be like calling Star Trek: Phase II semi-canon because it's popular and well-made. – Hypnosifl Feb 15 '15 at 1:09
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    @Hypnosifl: I've clumsily incorporated your comment into my answer. – Keith Thompson Feb 15 '15 at 2:17
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I was able to find confirmation from a production designer, Andrew Probert (who helped design both the refit Enterprise from the films and the Enterprise-D), that the refit Enterprise was intended to have landing gear, although he himself is unsure whether it was the intent of the original Enterprise's designer, Matt Jefferies, that the triangles on the bottom of the first Enterprise were meant to be landing gear. In the box set of blueprints in Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints there's a booklet with a roundtable interview featuring several production designers, and on p. 8 Probert says:

The Enterprise saucer was always designed to separate from the Engineering section. I knew about this when I did Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And if you look at the bottom of Kirk's Enterprise, you'll notice two triangular items, which are two of the landing feet for the saucer. Regardless of whether it was Matt Jeffries's [sic] original intention or not, it's sort of the way that Trekdom or Star Trek lore has labeled those features. So taking my cue from that for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I placed four landing legs in the bottom of the Enterprise and created a very specific separation line on the dorsal.

There was also a set of officially-licensed blueprints for the first film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture Blueprints, which was based on the production designs of Andrew Probert and Lee Cole, and it labeled the landing pads as such (thumbnail images from the book can be seen on this page), so I think it can be considered pretty close to canonical that the refit Enterprise had landing pads.

5

Notwithstanding Mr Scott's Guide to the Enterprise the book The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E Whitfield quotes the original series guide for writers: "The Enterprise is not designed to land on a planet". I guess you can decide who is more reliable - a great (but fictional) engineer, or the author of the series.

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    The entire Enterprise may not be, but there is a reference to saucer separation in the series and it's talked about in The Making of Star Trek. I don't remember, but I think there's a reference that if it did land, it could never take off again. – Tango Feb 21 '12 at 17:05
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    In Making of Star Trek there is a discussion early on in the development cycle where Roddenberry abandoned the idea of landing on a planet. – SteveED Feb 22 '12 at 1:45
  • Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise was specifically about the refit version of the Enterprise from the first three films, not the version from the original series--it's possible that landing gear was added to the saucer section as part of the refit. – Hypnosifl Jun 27 '14 at 15:24
4

The Franz Joseph deckplans do not show landing gear, nor do Matt Jefferies' construction plans for the shooting models.

Mr. Scott's Guide matches several novels, but mention wasn't made in the film, nor on the shooting model's plans, nor in the Series "Bible," so it's at best questionable, and doesn't match other established fannon, let alone canon.

4

Yes, those triangles are two of the three landing 'legs', the third being stowed in the dorsal.

In the episode: "The Apple" Kirk tells Scotty to "Break out of there with the main section" meaning the ship's primary hull: the saucer.

  • Welcome to the site! We hope you stick around and register a user name. – Matt Gutting Jun 27 '14 at 13:11
  • I looked up the transcript at chakoteya.net/StarTrek/38.htm -- for reference, the exact line is "Tie every ounce of power the ship has into the impulse engines. Discard the warp drive nacelles if you have to, and crack out of there with the main section, but get that ship out of there!" There may be some ambiguity here, I wonder if it's possible the writer's idea was that the nacelles alone could be discarded, rather than separating the saucer and discarding everything below it. Did the original designs specify what was included in the "main section", or where impulse engines were? – Hypnosifl Jun 27 '14 at 19:24
0

Since Star Trek is based/influenced somewhat by Forbidden Planet and the saucer the C-57-D and in general looks etc I read in a copy of Starlog or some such years ago that the "Saucer" section was meant to land on Planets leaving the rest of the ship in orbit. This proved too costly to film every time so the production team came up with the idea of transporters and Shuttles. Which leaves the big plot holes you get sometimes about using transporters when the crew could use shuttle craft or vice versa.

Hope this helps.

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    I think you may be misquoting the article. – Valorum Feb 15 '15 at 0:49
  • Actually, I remember something similar in Star Trek Memories by Shatner. I think the answer doesn't really add that much, though. – FuzzyBoots Feb 15 '15 at 3:00
  • Some of what is said in this answer is in The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield. But the point that they decided to not land a large ship on a planet each week does not address the original question. This answer really doesn't add anything new. @Richard, is it possible it should just be converted to a comment or something? – Tango Feb 15 '15 at 7:16
  • Actually I think it does help. If the design was for the saucer section to land on a planet then surely it is a logical answer since if the section was to land then yes the areas in question would be landing gear, I thought it was so obvious that it wasn't worth the effort typing it all out. So...the saucer section is land-able ergo the areas in question are landing legs. Q.E.D – Mrs Tibbles The ships Cat Feb 15 '15 at 14:33
0

Another possibility would be that these are simply hatches used for the refueling and reloading of the ship (or even the direct transfert of people) when it's docked to a spaceport.

They could also be used for the secure attachment of the ship to the dock.

  • It's possible, but highly unlikely given that they're explicitly identified (see accepted answer above) – Valorum Feb 15 '15 at 9:38
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It was stated before that the saucer section on all versions could separate when in orbit. but the TOS thru the Enterprise C required a spacedock for reattachment. The D and E could de-mate and re-mate at will.

In the Novel "A Flag Full Of Stars" Scotty is on site to watch the newly refitted saucer section launch from the San Francisco Naval yards to earth orbit to be re-mated with the secondary hull. He stated that the saucer did in-fact take off from the ground to orbit under it's own power. This occurred prior to the events in "ST-TMP"

  • "stated before." By whom? As for the novel, novels aren't canon. – Tango Jan 24 '16 at 6:05
  • The Memory Alpha site and almost all Wiki sites. Novels and books are too certainly canon as they had to stay "between the lines" as far as the Star Trek timeline and events as approved by Gene Roddenberry back in the day – Scott A Bregi Jan 25 '16 at 10:28
  • I know, for a fact, that the production staff in ST:TNG did not care about what was going on in the books. (Source: Word of god - my agent, who got Ron Moore in the door there explained that issue to me and represented me while pitching to TNG.) So, while they had to stay between the lines, does not mean they were considered canon as well. – Tango Jan 26 '16 at 0:10
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Mrs. Tribbles, the ship's cat probably wrote the most correct answer. Star Trek was not thought out that far when the model of the Enterprise was built. The concept of the entire ship landing on a planet was never considered, but having the saucer section detach and land by itself was hardly more outlandish than the concept of transporters. Of course, screenshots of the ship on the surface of another planet every week would be impossibly expensive. Still, the basic model of the spaceship had to be built to match whatever the writers were going to do. If they wanted the saucer to pop off and land, the parts had to be there. As they wrote the idea out of the first pilot, and the detail for the landing struts didn't hurt anything, they stayed there. By the time the production crew got around to drawing blueprints for the Enterprise, the concept of landing gear was completely forgotten. In short, those triangles are a artifacts from a time when the production crew had no idea of how the characters were supposed to leave the ship every week.

  • 1
    Welcome to SFF:SE. This community appreciates and relies upon direct answers to questions. Answers should not be purely commentary. Your answer, while interesting, is partly a response to one answer (better left as a comment, once you have the ability to do so) and the rest of your answer is general commentary on the issues surrounding the question rather than an answer to the question itself. I suggest you browse the site and look for highly-voted answers to get a feeling for how the community works. :-) – Praxis Mar 7 '16 at 7:50

protected by Praxis Mar 7 '16 at 7:47

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