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Submitted on
May 7, 2013


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My buddy Tom (Drell-7) is always good for firing up my inner Trek geek. Recently he got to reexamine the Klingon "Bird of Prey" that debuted in the third Star Trek movie. I always liked the appearance of the design, but the further we got from STIII, the less sense it made. By the time we got to TNG, the exact same ship came in various sizes – perfectly scaled. Sure, it's obvious it was done to reuse the model and add ship variety on a budget, but it just added to the ship's woes and carried it further afield from plausibility in context of Trek's engineering rationale and real-world science.

Star Trek Klingon Bird of Prey by LiquidSoulDesign

Of course even its debut wasn't without hitches. Naming this a "Bird of Prey" (previously in Trek referring only to a specific Romulan ship or hull décor) confused things and made it appear that the show's producers didn't know or care about the integrity of Trek lore. Then, to add insult to injury, they painted red wings on the ventral surface, again evoking Romulans, not Klingons. Wassup wid dat?!??!

Klingon bird of prey by MightyMoose

Anyway, after listening to Tom wax dissingly about the ship in a recent discussion, I decided to rethink the design and try to lend it a plausible rationale in the TOS era. So here's my thoughts (fellow geeks, sharpen your sabers and spin up your prop beanies!):

SIZE: There's only one size to the ship – the size we saw landed on Vulcan at the start of STIV… . That's about 55m, stem to stern. It's not inflatable, allowing you to blow more air in to make a bigger ship. You can NOT fit a pair of whales in here.

ENGINEERING: As we can see the ship does not feature any bussard collectors or intakes, but this does not preclude it from having warp capability. It just limits the range as it can not refuel from the interstellar medium, pointing to a mission which is dramatically different from most "starships". Thus it fits better as a "warp-capable system defense craft". It has limited warp capability - not enough for sustained travel - but enough to engage a warp driven opponent in a localized combat. It can do up to warp 4, though only for limited periods. The plus size is that it can accelerate to speed faster than nearly any other vessel in the Federation fleet.

The shields on the ship are limited and mostly just cover the forward and lower surfaces. This provides protection during attacks (retreat? what's a retreat? we don't need no steekin' aft shields!) as well as a projected aeroshell during operations within an atmosphere.

The habitable space on this ship is VERY limited, but given the scope of its duties (in-system defense), that's not a real problem. There is cramped bunk space, a small mess, head, torp room, bridge, and transporters. But the rest of the ship is mostly engineering as it needs to contain a lot in a small hull size. I figure a crew of eight.

The ship has powerful weapons for such a small craft, but then that's its function: to get into faction fast and give a bloody nose. If the ship needs to travel between star systems, it must do so in the presence of a tanker for refueling. I picture tankers designed to supply 4-6 of these at a time, so in that sense the ship can almost be thought of as a Klingon fighter.

COLOR: OK, just paint over that red underwing design. The panels themselves are Klingon looking enough… and this erases and visual erroneous connection between this ship and a Romulan design.

Klingon Bird-of-Prey Retro B'Rel Class wallpaper 3 by Drzu

So that's my take on the (ship formerly known as) the BoP: clipped wings, but sharp beak. OK… call me a Trek revisionist if you must, but the Trek canon after TMP just got increasingly hard to swallow (read: compromised by too many cooks and production necessities) for my tastes. But with such nice looking raw materials, it'd be a shame to just throw the baby out with the bath water. Better to dump the water and start fresh :D

OK, with that geekgasm done, let's look at pretty pictures from other talented DA "art forces". Click the thumbnails to be taken to a magical place...

Flying Over Snowy Mountains by arminarkkim The Wisp Returns by Colourbrand Lunar Dawn Patrol by dragonpyper MrT Rex by Loopydave ST - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Ptrope Blunder Woman by jollyjack The Fiddler : Destroy by Lucid-Grey speeder bike by taiyosagawa Shepard's Prayer by strib "Khan: Ruling in Hell" 2 by strib The Spirit by Lueb-Art :thumb364692282: Man of Steel by Hideyoshi Landing (January) by SSGlushakov Explorers by Drell-7 Exploring the Deep. by Chrisofedf
  • Listening to: Stressedafrican
  • Reading: Vanguard Star Trek series
  • Watching: SPRING!
  • Eating: Better
  • Drinking: Less
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Black-Knyght Featured By Owner May 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very nicely done! I really like this assessment.
Rob-Caswell Featured By Owner May 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
Have you read the books?
Colourbrand Featured By Owner May 13, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist

I thought I was the only one....

I love the Bird of Prey as a design. It has a clever characteristic of a raider, a striker, and an infiltraitor - better than the Sith Infiltraitor design. This ship say painted dark grey or black would be a nice thing to have in the Star Wars universe.

Alas, this is the bug bear to me with this ship; its not a trek vessel. Its grimy, its got greebles, moving parts, Uber guns, and worse, no nacelles.

Call me a luddite but trek ships should be smooth, nacelles, witn no mechanical traits - those belong to Star Wars.

As for the BoP being so, blame Len Nimoy and his writers on Trek 3. Originally the ship was going to be piloted by Romulans, but Len and Co said Klingons would be a better choice. The problem then emerged on the BoP's origin; so the original concept of it being Romulans became "Romulan Ship that he stole"; the idea then just fizzled out due to writer laziness.

As for the size, the DS9 tech manual states there were two classes of BoP - the B'rel and the larger K'Vort. The latter got featued in Yesterday's Enterprise and The Defector (where they were as big as the Galaxy class!)

I put it down to lazy F**ks.

Great blog - especially the links ;)
Ienkoron Featured By Owner May 12, 2013
I remember hearing somewhere that the BoP in STIII was meant to have been a Captured Romulan ship, but then it kinda got lumped into the Klingon Empire, so maybe it's a hold over from the earlier Romulan/Klingon tech-swap 15 or so years earlier....
GhostBirdofPrey Featured By Owner May 11, 2013
Oh lordy, not this discussion.
My two pet peeve discussions in the sci-fi community is the Battletech Unseen-Reseen debacle and what size(s) the Klingon Bird of Prey comes in.

This is what happens when they are running on a budget. While I don't mind them reusing stuff to save money (they reused LOTS of ship models and props), it does irk me when the executives just ignore inconsistencies thinking the viewership is stupid or some such. I can take the technobabble if it's consistent, but when they change their tune it can potentially interfere with the storytelling.

The giant BoPs seen a couple times on TNG are an aberration, really, most depictions put it around the same size as the Defiant, though internal volume is less.
As for your ideas. I have to ask about the warp drive issue. Warp 4 seems kind of slow, how can you expect to catch anything with that? Also, I think less size space for fuel tankage is going to be a larger consideration than lack of bussard ramjets. We can't even say it lacks a collection mechanism either; it manages to screen interstellar medium out without a deflector dish, so it could very well suck it in using a different mechanism as well.

Also: no aft shields? Maybe weaker ones, but it seems bad to have NONE, sure you expect to be shot in the front but being shot in the back or even having something explode behind you is a possibility (think main battle tank, front towards the enemy but, while thin, it still has some armor on the back). Similarly the upper surfaces might needs some protection.
Rob-Caswell Featured By Owner May 11, 2013  Professional General Artist
>>My two pet peeve discussions in the sci-fi community is the Battletech Unseen-Reseen debacle and what size(s) the Klingon Bird of Prey comes in.

Well this isn't THAT discussion. It's more my own statement of how I tried to salvage a cool vehicle from the hideous mess that commercially-driven Trek canon had made of it.

As for warp 4, doing 64 times light speed seems plenty for a point defense role. It's advantage is that it can hit warp marks faster than any other craft. So basically it kills in warp drag race, even if it tops out earlier. Sure, that's only an advantage of seconds, but sometimes that's all you need for an edge. If it maxe at warp five, that's 125 light speed. So that's covering the distance from Earth to Sun in about 4 seconds. Again, for point defense warp 4 works well... though warp 5 might be worth considering, even if it is a bit overkill for the role.

Re: shields. Yeah, maybe weaker ones. But no aft shields is just kinda fun from a crazy Klingon psychology POV. And if ya can't have fun with things, what's the point;)
Digital-Jedi Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The Romulans started using D7-Class Klingon ships in Kirk's era. The weren't always enemies. "The Enterprise Incident" established they were sharing tech at that time. We didn't see any animosity between the two until The Next Generation series, almost 85 years later. But that always made sense to me why they both had a Bird of Prey. Because of their previous, apparently very close, alliance.

Also, the Bird of Prey is supposed to have two classes, and a couple of different sizes. But both are supposedly around 130-160 meters. Where did you get 55?
Rob-Caswell Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Professional General Artist
>>Where did you get 55?

Scale analysis of the images we see in STVI with people walking out the boarding ramp. That puts it at 55-60m, unless the ramp suddenly makes one VERY tall ;)
Digital-Jedi Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Rob-Caswell Featured By Owner May 10, 2013  Professional General Artist
The 130-160m figure, best as I can recall, didn't come into play until the ship started making appearances in TNG. At that point the varying ship sizes became referenced in the writer's bible. So it's really a symptom of what I was talking about - how as the further away we get from the ship's debut appearance, the more muddled and fudged the facts about it become.
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