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The Enterprise-D was capable of saucer separation.

Was this true of any other Enterprises, e.g. the original?

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  • 38
    Al least, this is true for all LEGO version.
    – DavRob60
    Aug 25, 2011 at 12:12
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    I'm pretty sure, but have no proof, that the saucer was separate-able for all the Enterprises from 1701 though 1701-E, although -D was the only one that could separate and re-connect at will (the rest used explosive bolts to detach the saucer, requiring the use of a spacedock to reconnect them).
    – Xantec
    Aug 25, 2011 at 12:55
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    As I mentioned in my answer here, the saucer of the refit Enterprise from ST:TMP was intended to have landing gear by the production designers, which wouldn't make sense unless it could separate. The production designer quoted, Andrew Probert, noted there was a fan theory that some marks on the original 1701 were meant to be landing gear, but didn't know if this was actually the intention of the original designer Matt Jeffries.
    – Hypnosifl
    Dec 30, 2014 at 21:51

6 Answers 6

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Memory Alpha indicates that saucer separation was a capability of Constitution-class starships, but only as "a last-resort option".

There are two TOS episodes I know of where jettisoning the nacelles is mentioned: "The Apple" (cited in a comment from OghmaOsiris) and "The Savage Curtain".

From "The Apple" (script):

KIRK: Then use your imagination. 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!

From "The Savage Curtain" (script):

KIRK: Scotty, inform Starfleet Command. Disengage nacelles, Jettison if possible. Mr. Spock, assist them. Advise and analyze.

Also, I don't know if it is considered canon, but the first volume of Star Trek: The Manga has the ship separate into two sections. However, they can't rejoin on their own:

"Captain's log, stardate 3378.7. Science Officer Spock reporting: The Enterprise is making its way to a rendezvous with technicians from Starbase 13, where the two sections of the ship will be rejoined."

enter image description here

Finally, I've heard that this capability has also be mentioned in works like The Making of Star Trek, the Star Fleet Technical Manual, and Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise. However, I'm unable to confirm this with specific quotes, references, or technical schematics.

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    In addition "The Making of Star Trek" includes quotes from the original series writers manual that make it clear the saucer can detach. Aug 25, 2011 at 19:30
  • @DJClayworth: I've come across mentions of that as well, but can't confirm it. Do you have the book?
    – gnovice
    Aug 25, 2011 at 20:11
  • Not any more, I'm afraid. It's still in print, though: amazon.ca/Making-Star-Trek-Stephen-Whitfield/dp/0345340191/… Aug 31, 2011 at 15:44
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    @DJClayworth - I picked up a used copy of the book, at the beginning of Ch. 2 it says "Designed to operate separately from the rest of the ship, the saucer therefore contains all elements necessary for independent operation". This isn't clearly delineated as a quote from the writer's manual, but since this section contains a lot of detailed info about the Enterprise design that doesn't seem to come from the show, and since it was written in cooperation with Gene Roddenberry and the author apparently interviewed a lot of the production staff, I'm sure he got the info from someone on staff.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 10, 2015 at 20:22
  • Fascinating. I always thought that feature was introduced with the Galaxy-class vessels.
    – Omegacron
    Mar 26, 2015 at 15:01
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In a recent IDW Star Trek comic I, Enterprise PtII, we learn that not only can the saucer section of the (Kelvin) Enterprise be separated but that it can also be reattached if the separation sequence hasn't yet been completed.

enter image description here

We actually see this in Star Trek: Beyond

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  • Doesn't the text imply that it can be reattached after complete saucer separation? Mar 26, 2015 at 5:45
  • @Wikis - We don't see that happening.
    – Valorum
    May 14, 2015 at 23:11
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Yes. In one of the TOS episodes ("The Apple"), Kirk tells Scotty to "detach the saucer section if you have to" in order to escape the danger.

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  • Can you provide a reference? I can't find it in the script Aug 25, 2011 at 13:01
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    The actual line from that episode was: "KIRK: Then use your imagination. 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!" Aug 25, 2011 at 13:35
  • I get the feeling that wasn't meant as a "standard" space procedure. Maybe in drydock for maintenance, but not in actual "field operation". Then again, that would be Kirk... The whole thing is also based on the notion that weight matters in space...
    – MPelletier
    Aug 25, 2011 at 15:44
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    @MPelletier: Well, mass matters in space, and less of it means you can get higher acceleration.
    – gnovice
    Aug 25, 2011 at 16:21
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    I had, growing up, a set of technical schematics for the original Enterprise 1701. I don't know who made the product but it was essentially a set of blueprints for the ship, detailing out all the rooms and sections. It called out in those schematics that the saucer section was detachable, but that it was intended primarily as a "life boat" in the event of a core breach. I also recall a novel that occurred just prior to the first movie that talked about the saucer section being removed and flown to the surface to make the refit of that section easier.
    – BBlake
    Aug 25, 2011 at 16:44
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In Star Trek: Star Ships Collections, 1st issue, it says:

The Constitution-class USS Enterprise (NCC-1701), commanded by Captains Kirk and Pike, could also separate the saucer section from the rest of the ship, though the idea was that this would only be used to save the crew when the ship was in danger of being destroyed

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  • For the record, this magazine is decidedly not an official source of info for the Star Trek universe, albeit the information you're quoting is actually quite correct, having been cribbed almost verbatim from the "Star Trek Technical Manual".
    – Valorum
    Dec 30, 2014 at 22:09
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Actually, in the new Star Trek: Beyond movie that just came out, the saucer was separated right before the ship actually got destroyed and crashed to the planet.

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    This appears to be covered by Valorum's answer, but you could still add a video of the saucer separation to make this post better. Apr 27, 2017 at 19:22
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My speculation as to Trek tech began when I was 15 or so--43 years ago. The dialogue from "The Apple" has already been quoted, and The Making of 'Star Trek' cited, to wit: "Designed to operate separately from the rest of the ship, the saucer therefore contains all elements necessary for independent operation."

The latter would imply Kirk's ship's saucer to have been routine-detachable (like Picard's); the latter would imply otherwise. Using ONLY "episode data" -- and ignoring that presented in "Making" ONLY when it violates such -- AND taking into account ALL episode data, my personal belief is that while Kirk's saucer may not have been in fact "routine detachable," it was...nearly so, and by design, intended to have been so.

To clarify the latter (and to speculate that Constitution class ships alone, for some reason, lacked the 'routine' feature), one must bear in mind Scott's description of a ship Enterprise discovered when in the "pocket universe" entered via the Delta Triangle. To quote from "The Time Trap"--

"Captain, there's the old Bonaventure. She was the first ship to have warp drive installed. She vanished without a trace on her third voyage." (I could near-quote the line from memory, but copied it from source here).

I won't debate those who consider the Animation not to be "canon." Same cast, same Producer, many of the same writers... As to Bonaventure herself, she looked like this:

Bonaventure

and was clearly so-drawn so that viewers of old (in some cases small, and on occasion still black-and-white) TVs could know WHICH ship Scott was talking about. She looked, in short, much like the Enterprise.

My point being: per his FIRST appearance, Zefram Cochrane did not "invent" the Warp Drive--he discovered the "space warp." THIS principle, applied to impulse propulsion (NOT a hydrogen-fusion system; can that make a ship go backwards?), permitted application of faster-than-light speed. LATER, the Warp Drive was "installed" "aboard" Bonaventure by means of the addition of an underslung engineering hull and its twin Warp nacelles.

Yes, starships have routine-detachable saucers: hyperlight-impulse-driven saucers. Most saucers can land (Kirk's had what looked like triangular landing pads on the saucer's underside; David Kimble's cutaway of the Motion Picture refit showed its square pads, and TMP's blueprint set labeled them as such. Picard's saucer crashed due the nearby explosion's EMP (which if shielded against it would have weathered intact).

That impulse IS hyperlight is "proven" by dialogue and action in the 1960s Trek, several of the films, and various Next Generation episodes. How fast is maximum impulse? We know per E's arrival at Regula prior its victims' rigor mortis when denied it five hours out, and per Geordi's "Aye, sir, full impulse" (or maybe it's "Aye sir, warp six"--I'm lazy; go check the transcripts) in the teaser of "Conspiracy."

IF undamaged, starship saucers can hit Warp Six, land and take off repeatedly, and otherwise "operate separately." Could the original Connies' saucers do that? Dialogue in "The Apple" would seem to imply otherwise, but I wonder...

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  • So were the other waivers capable of separating? You’ve gone on quite a long ramble, and while interesting is not entirely relevant to the question, I suggest you edit your post to make the answer clear and relevant.
    – Edlothiad
    Dec 6, 2017 at 6:10

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