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For some reason, I have it in my head that in the early concept phases of Star Trek (what's now known as the original series), the idea was that the saucer section would detach and land on planets. This was later deemed to be too expensive to film, and so the transporters and shuttlecrafts were introduced to the scripts instead.

I like this idea because it gives some reason why the Enterprise is shaped the way it is: it was originally intended by Gene Roddenberry and the model's designer to be a flying saucer for planetary travel, coupled to a warp drive and engineering section that stays in orbit. The idea is that the saucer section and its landing gear were retconned as emergency features once the idea of regular saucer landings had been nixed.

The question is, is this story actually true? That is, is there any evidence, from interviews, memoirs etc., that regular saucer separations and landings were ever part of the plan for the series?

(Note: I'm not asking about in-universe information from technical manuals, scripts, or even the series bible, since those would all have been written after this idea went out the window - I'm asking instead for out-of-universe information about the early development of the series, before any scripts were ever written.)

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  • may also be of interest - the bridge as a mini-saucer in fan blueprints trekbbs.com/threads/… Mar 12 at 2:50
  • In fact you may be remembering this thread (or the material it references) - note post 34 trekbbs.com/threads/… Mar 12 at 2:53
  • @lucasbachmann (did you mean to post the same link twice?) I haven't seen that before, but it's useful, thanks! It's too bad the links are all dead. But from the quotes it seems an early series bible(?) referred to the saucer being able to detach for "solar system exploration" but not landing - which could be a holdover from an earlier idea that it was meant to land, but it's not very conclusive.
    – N. Virgo
    Mar 12 at 20:29
  • May be also of interest, the Jeffries precursor designs link below. Note: Roddenberry said no rockets, smoke etc. Jeffries was trying to stay away from ufo saucers - and none of these designs seem modular. forgottentrek.com/the-original-series/… I think it is entirely reasonable to speculate there was an early brief point where the ship would detach from the bulky warp drive for local landing/exploring (Forbidden Planet style) based on a draft TOS bible. But it was surely quickly dropped, if it ever existed, when serious designing started. Mar 12 at 22:02
  • @lucasbachmann that's all fair enough - it does seem like the ship wasn't modular for most of the design process. I guess I'm just asking whether that brief period of time did exist, in which the saucer was meant to detach and land, before the idea was dropped; and if so, whether that idea had any influence on the final model design. I might never have been considered at all, but then again it might have been.
    – N. Virgo
    Mar 13 at 8:30

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I have found information on Memory Alpha that it was planned for the saucer section to be detachable. I have not found anything about them planning to land it on planets.

https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Saucer_separation

While on-screen only a nacelle separation was mentioned in "The Apple" and "The Savage Curtain", a saucer separation was also described as a possibility in the writer's guide for Star Trek: The Original Series, The Star Trek Guide (third revision, page 15 of the supplement). In the guide, the saucer-like section is described to be "in fact a completely self-sustaining unit which can detach itself from the galaxy drive units and operate on atomic impulse power for short range solar system exploration." leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Star_Trek/1_Original_Series/Star_Trek_TOS_Writer's_Guide.pdf

And

Saucer separation was planned as a regular feature during the early days of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Several story lines, including a B-plot for "When The Bough Breaks", were to use saucer separation. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 50)) However, budget limitations at the time did not allow for extensive footage of the separated components to be shot and for the battle bridge set to be rebuilt. It was also felt that separation slowed the progress of the story. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (2nd ed., p. 431)) Unfortunately, this meant that the Enterprise was sent into a number of dangerous situations with saucer separation never being mentioned as an option.

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    The Star Fleet Battles wargame had saucer sections only detaching as an emergency measure when the rest of the ship was being destroyed. Given the wargame dates from 1979 and took its background from TOS and the Animated Series only, strongly suggests that it was never intended back then for the pieces to be put back together again. (If it had been allowable then it would definitely have been included in the rules and one or more scenarios where the objective would have been to launch and reunite the sections before/as enemy forces arrived.) Mar 11 at 20:45
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    So, possibly to land, but in emergencies - and not to take off again. Mar 11 at 21:41
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    quoting a trebbbs post referencing that same pdf - in an early draft "This "saucer" is approximately twenty stories thick at its widest spot, containing also primary ship's departments, living accommodations, recreational facilities, laboratories, and is in fact a completely self-sustaining unit which can detach itself from the galaxy drive units and operate on atomic impulse power for short-range solar system exploration.​" from trekbbs.com/threads/… Mar 12 at 3:02

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