Oh boy. This one is might hurt some feelings, but if there is any one thing that is the epitome of this series, The Excelsior would be it. It probably got the least amount of screen time than anything else I’ll talk about in this blog post series, but that brief time was significant. A possible changing of the guard was implied when the old Constitution class Enterprise limped into space dock, battle-scarred and haggard. To add insult to injury, the heir-apparent to the Starfleet throne waits in the wings. You could almost pick up on the new starship smell, even in the vacuum of space dock.
A sad end to an icon is foreshadowed.
The first sight of the Excelsior is held in reverence by most of the bridge crew. Sulu might of even got turned on when mentioning the trans-warp drive. Even James T. Kirk was given pause, almost as if to be thinking: “What if…What if…”
You just knew that these two were meant to tangle before the film’s run time was up and it was going to be EPIC, right?
.If that wasn’t enough, Starfleet made the decision to decommission the Enterprise and reassign her crew before it was even moored back at space dock. Despite Kirk’s best efforts to convince Fleet Admiral Morrow that the ship still has life left in her, the admiral states “The Enterprise is twenty-years old. We feel her time is done.” (Or something close to that, anyway.)
***Just for clarification, because I know trekkers will probably call me out on it. The “Twenty-year old” Enterprise is a continuity error, to the best of my knowledge. If one wants to be technical, twenty years prior was when Kirk took command for his five year mission according to the timeline I’ve seen. Christopher Pike and Robert King both commanded the ship for five year missions – each. But I digress***
To keep in line with his career history of disobeying orders as it suited him, Admiral Kirk and the gang hatch a perfectly executed plan to steal the ship and go back to Genesis. I say ‘perfectly executed’ because so far as I can tell, the were able to plan and prep this plan to not only steal the ship, but bust Bones out of the Starfleet brig, in about seventeen minutes, it seemed.
But he’s James T. Kirk, and that’s how he rolls.
Lucky for them, Kirk had foreshadowed the need for the ship to be fully automated and had Scotty get to work on that project while they were still on their way back from Genesis.
Fast forward to the getaway.
After brief, inspiring exchange between Kirk and the getaway gang, they power up the Enterprise and make a break for the Space Dock doors. This, of course, makes Docking Control collectively crap itself and the call a red alert.
huh…always on the move, I guess.
Captain Styles gets the call from the Excelsior bridge.
First, we already know this guy is a pompous ass after his brief exchange with Scotty as he was leaving the ship. “I’m looking forward to breaking some of the Enterprise speed records.” He carried a swaggar stick, for crying out loud. Then he had the audacity to question the yellow alert. “How can we have a yellow alert in space dock?” He says, passively while buffing his fricken finger nails.
He’s told what’s going on and then he takes action…while still carrying the swaggar stick (geesh).
Here’s where the tension really starts to build.
On the Enterprise (which is making the slowest starship escape on record, IMO), Chekov intercepts communications and announces to all the very last thing they wanted to hear: “Sir, Excelsior powering up with orders to pursue.”
After struggling to override the space dock doors, the Enterprise makes it to open space with the Excelsior is hot pursuit (well, its the slowest pursuit for the lowest getaway.)
Captain Styles, ever the confident starship captain, lets us know the best chance for the Enterprise to escape isn’t good enough compared to the shiny new Excelsior by reminding us that if “If he tries to get away with warp drive, he’s really in for a shock.”
Queue the requisite threat from the Captain of the shiny new ship to the Admiral on the decades old rust bucket: “Kirk. You do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.”
Without out a second thought, Kirk gives the order for warp speed and the Enterprise is off and gives the Excelsior the proverbial finger in its subspace wake.
Oh hell no, he didn’t! It’s on like Donkey Kong now, right? Captain Styles is through pussy-footin’ around. Time to show the galaxy that there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is: Excelsior.
“Prepare for warp speed. Stand by transwarp drive.”
The music score ramps up the tension even further with heavy percussion. This has to be bad ass because the bridge crew has to secure themselves in their stations, right?
A very young Miguel Ferrer, at the helm, announces the transwarp drive is his command.
It’s time! This is the confrontation we’ve been waiting for up to this point. Time to show us what thirty years of technological advancement in starship design has come up with. The Enterprise, as great as she was, stands NO chance! Hell, we even heard the Enterprise was going to be destroyed before the movie even came out. THIS HAS TO BE IT!
With a look of steely determination, Styles issues the command: Execute.
We hear the heavy rumble of state of the art trans warp drive rising up to what is sure to be an earth shattering crescendo. Then…
It’s an FTL failure the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.
The new pride of starfleet falters like Tim Couch did for the Cleveland Browns. So sad.
And all it took stop the biggest, baddest, starship ever built was Scotty pulling some fuses or chips or something out of the Trans warp computer drive. That’s it. No epic computer hack. Nothing fancy. My four-year old grandson could have done it.
Then the Excelsior disappears until the last two minutes of Star Trek IV, and we don’t see it again until Star Trek VI. In which, it (again) faltered and was left adrift in space dock.
I’m serious, the incident with the Enterprise was such an overpowering embarrassment, this ship sat in space dock for two MORE years (according to the memory-alpha site) until Star Trek IV, then had to undergo a major refit before being put into service after another year or two.
They tried to redeem it, in Star Trek VI, by giving Sulu his command of his starship-crush, but by that time it was too late.
Goodbye, Excelsior. Your disappointment won’t be missed.
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Till next time…