A Chat With R&D: The Delta Flyer
A Chat With R&D: The Delta Flyer
By An Irishman In Space
Nikki: The Delta Flyer. Out of all of the canon tech this small craft has a lot of unique situations surrounding it's development. It was conceived of and designed and built by the crew of the Starship Voyager, because when you're really bored and like a bazillion miles from home and the captain tells you that if you ask "Are we there yet?" one more time, she'll push you out the airlock, well, then you have to find something to do. So hey, lets make a ship!
Tom Paris, being a pilot, and having a lot to do with the development of the Flyer, added some of his love of Earth history and the controls are based on ancient 20th century aircraft, which for many pilots who use this craft would lend a much appreciated sense of nostalgia for the good old days when men were men and belched a lot.
Colm: Maybe that was a special addition to the second Delta Flyer the Voyager crew built – belch-powered phasers. Which stands to reason, really, because they seemed to do a lot different with this not-so-little ship. New weapons, new shields – "unimatrix" seems to be the preferred word of Voyager’s writing staff – fancy warp engines that, quite honestly, were much too streamlined for a Federation shuttlecraft or runabout, a unique shape and, in its second incarnation, what I like to call "refitted KITT impulse engines". Strange ship.
Nikki: Unimatrix on the Flyer, not to be confused with the Borg Unimatrix. It's just coincidental, honest! One idea might be that this Unimatrix shielding is run by one shield generator instead of a number of them at several points but everything is speculation really. "KITT" impulse? Ooh, you mean the groovie looking pop up ones that glow?
Colm: The very ones. Actually, now that I think about it, they were probably installed on the original Delta Flyer as well, seeing as how both ships had the panels. Very gizmo-esque, but so was a lot of Voyager. To be honest, I'm not sure if anyone knows what advances the Delta Flyer really incorporates. I can’t imagine that "tetraburnium alloys" or "parametallic plating" lend the ship greater protection than ablative armour would. What's the advantage of photonic missiles over torpedoes? Why use retractable warp nacelles? Why build the thing at all when they could’ve constructed a runabout without having to design an entirely new ship from scratch?
Nikki: Aw, because it goes fast and looks cool?
Colm: That's really about it, yes. As many people have pointed out, it was also a very good hint as to how starships acquire their shuttles and so forth, i.e. via onboard construction. This makes perfect sense given the Defiant-like Types 10 and 18 and how many shuttles Voyager lost during its seven year run.
Nikki: It's not a good episode unless something explodes before the credits, afterall. What kind of strain on resources does it take to replicate and construct a ship like that onboard a starship? I guess the only time a starship would have need of building their own replacement craft would be when they suffer losses on deepspace missions or if they are a long ways from home, otherwise they could just be replenished when they park at a starbase.
Colm: That seems quite likely, especially given the fact that there were a lot of common shuttlecraft and runabout designs until Voyager came along. It would even be my first preference as an explanation, but the onboard construction makes sense when we’re presented with seven years of exploding shuttles. As to the strain on a ship’s resources, that’s a difficult one to judge. Without referring to manpower and the like, it probably comes down to replicator stores and how much mass is required. The Delta Flyer, due to its size, would place much more of a strain on a resource-poor starship.
Vessels closer to home wouldn’t face the same limitations, of course, so it could be the case that, despite the relative availability of starbases, starships within the Federation could be producing more homegrown designs than Voyager ever did. Theoretically speaking, of course.
Nikki: Beats building model cars for a hobby. I guess the challenge all those designs would meet would be acceptance by Starfleet for any further development. Elsewise they'd likely just be specific to the team who constructed them and never make it to the big leagues for continued research and refinement of the design.
Colm: Exactly. Plus, if you have one perfectly functional and well-designed shuttle sitting in your shuttlebay, why go to the bother of building something new? The only situations that would lead to such a course of action would need to be extraordinary, so much so that Starfleet wouldn’t have already provided an appropriate vessel to accomplish the task.
Nikki: So the Delta Flyer is basically a rare freak of nature, with a snappy new look?
Colm: Indeedily. A fairly pleasant-looking freak, of course, with the possible exception of that high rear end. A section of... something or other is exposed back there, with smaller similar elements close to its wings. I doubt that these are sensors or the like, as one image shows similar surfaces beneath its warp nacelle covering.
Nikki: The purpose of these needlessly exposed bits that have an eerie green glow is just to look Borg-like, because we can't just say it incorporates Borg technology without something glowing green or threatening to assimilate us. But, what Borg technology does it include, exactly?
Colm: A very good question. Going from memory, all I can think of is a reference to Borg-inspired weaponry, yet it uses phasers and photonic warheads. In the first episode it appeared in, its photonic missiles did glow green rather than orange when fired, but never since. So, we can say weaponry and, possibly, other tactical and sensory systems. Why any of this would require Borg hull plating – or what amounts to Borg hull plating – is beyond me.
So is its strange forward window. It has quite a very odd design that doesn’t seem to serve any purpose whatsoever.
Nikki: I'm glad you bring that up. I think its forward window is gawdawful in a design sense and in a practical sense. It's soooo flat and then segmented completely senselessly. The window partitions it uses are neither practical nor spiffy looking. Maybe the Borg like it, although I couldn't really see why.
But we still love and embrace the Delta Flyer because well, we can't help ourselves. It's like, the quintessential example of Star Trek going outside of it's own conventions just to make something that glows and gleams on the screen for our very viewing pleasure. So we're going to excuse it's faults until we can invent reasons to justify it's unaccounted for deviance.
Colm: Why doesn't anything ever glow bright pink?
Nikki: Charge the hot pink phaser bank!
Colm: Ready the pink torpedoes!
- OF's Delta Flyer Spec can be found Here
- Please Visit the OF R&D Site too! Area 51: Obsidian Fleet: Research and Development
- This Article was also printed under the Delta Flyer entry as a "talk" item in the OF Wiki Database! Be sure to go visit and contribute to the Fleet's Open Database Project!
- Special handy reference thanks to Daystrom Institute Technical Library