In Star Trek (2009), Ambassador Spock's ship The Jellyfish has the distinctive feature of having the rings rotating around it constantly. What was the point of this (in-universe) - it's the first time that I've seen anything like that in Star Trek before, and it's not to increase speed (as it has a maximum of warp 8 according to Memory Alpha)?
In Abrams-verse canon
There is no official purpose to the spinning design of the tail section of the Jellyfish starship.
The Jellyfish was designed with trans-metaphasic shielding. A shielding capacity making it possible for the ship to survive moving into the main body of a star. This may explain why the tail section rotated to enhance and stabilize the expanded metaphasic shielding capacity which protected the warp engine of the starship.
In canon: From notes found on Memory Alpha
- The design was meant to be evocative of a natural form (i.e. a jellyfish)
- Vulcan starship designs tended to have circular engine designs.
- The Jellyfish fuses the circular design motif with the organic appearance.
The ship was not given a name in the film, but it was named as the Jellyfish in the script. Concept artist Ryan Church envisaged the ship as having a transparent exterior, based on the actual translucent appearance of a jellyfish.
Comic book artist Bryan Hitch contributed to the final shape of the ship, taking inspiration from a gyroscope. Church had another idea, of the ship being a cube of pure energy to emphasize its roots in Vulcan science, but J.J. Abrams felt the ship had to have "as much character as Leonard Nimoy had in his face".
Visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett stated that production designer Scott Chambliss envisaged the ship's exterior surface as "sophisticated technology married with organic things". "It might even be a technology Vulcans' 'grow', like a plant of high tensile steel."
Guyett also said the ship's warp signature was intended to evoke clean "green" energy, in contrast to the "burned dirty fuel" aesthetic of the Narada. (Star Trek - The Art of the Film) The triangular pilot's chair and circular view screen form the Vulcan IDIC symbol when viewed from the inside, behind the main cockpit area.
According to the prequel comic Star Trek: Countdown, issue number 3, the Jellyfish was a prototype vessel built to withstand unstable atmospheres. Its designer and original pilot was Geordi La Forge.
Information originally posted on the Star Trek Online main website indicated that the Jellyfish was equipped with trans-metaphasic shielding. The experimental spacecraft was launched from the Daystrom Institute and Starfleet was working with La Forge and the institute to determine if some of the ships systems could be adapted for Federation use.
Standard metaphasic shielding has been seen or mentioned in TNG: "Suspicions", "Descent, Part II" and in VOY: "Resistance".