Variations of the Dominion Battlecruiser
by Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider
The Jem'Hadar battlecruiser is a large warship that repeatedly appeared during the Dominion War arc of DS9. Fans quickly found out that the first ships as seen in DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow" were unlike the variant we could look at more in detail in later episodes. The first variant is routinely nicknamed "V-type" because of its wing and nacelle arrangement that looks like an inverted "V" in a straight fore view. This article investigates whether a distinct V-type exists at all, how often it shows up and whether there are possibly more variations aside from the nacelle struts. Here is a list of all battlecruiser appearances in chronological order:
1. DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow"
2. DS9: "By Inferno's Light"
3. DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water"
4. DS9: "In the Cards"
5. DS9: "Call to Arms"
6. DS9: "A Time to Stand"
7. DS9: "Sons and Daughters"
8. DS9: "Behind the Lines"
9. DS9: "Favor the Bold"
10. DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels"
11. DS9: "Shadows and Symbols"
12. DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil"
13. DS9: "What You Leave Behind"
First of all, it is helpful to identify the chief characteristics of the two variants that will be dubbed "V-type" and "U-type" in the following. The discrepancies are most obvious looking at the two variants in a straight front or rear view. The wings (or nacelle struts) and nacelles of the V-type form a reversed "V", whereas it is rather a flattened "U" on the U-type. Actually, the U-type battlecruiser looks almost like a Klingon Vor'cha battlecruiser from this angle. The wings of the V-type run down in a considerably steeper angle. On both variants the nacelles are lined up to the ends of the nacelle pylons which is why they must appear taller in a side view of the V-type. There are some minor differences too, like the shape of the fork at the front tip as well as the shape of the underslung pod and the number of windows located there. Moreover, the V-type only seems to exist as computer-generated versions, while we are sure that the U-type could be seen as a physical model and later on as a CGI.
DS9: In Purgatory's Shadow
The battlecruiser appears in two key scenes. The first is inside a nebula where Garak and Worf in their runabout run into a fleet of battlecruisers. It is the first time on DS9 that we can see this ship type. The second scene shows how the battlecruiser fleet emerges from the Bajoran Wormhole, initially heading for DS9. It is understandable that in both scenes we are looking at CG versions of the ship. The light effects inside the nebula as well as the great number of ships with individual movements could be done much better with CGI than with physical models, whereas close shots showing too many details had to be avoided in this case. We are even dealing with two different CG models (or one model and a simplified version thereof) in this episode.
The CGI battlecruisers from the nebula scene are clearly of the V-type, as can be seen in an almost straight fore view. The ship type has two long pods on the top and the bottom of its main body, both with several greenish window rows. Directly adjacent to the warp nacelles there are large areas shining uniformly pink, just like many areas of the vessel's hull are lit in this color. Only two stripes on the upper nacelles (or weapon pods?) and on their struts are yellow or white. The two fork-like braces at the very forward end of the V-type battlecruiser are far apart, and this gap becomes still wider toward its aft end, forming some sort of tweezers. This variant will be referred to as V-type 1.
The battlecruisers appearing from the Bajoran Wormhole are of the V-type too. We may suppose that they were made using the very same CG model as the ships inside the nebula, but we think that actually a less detailed version (V-type 2) was used. This may have been necessary to reduce the processing time for the amassed ships. Quite obviously the lit window rows and any lighting on the top side of these ships is missing. The dorsal side is dull gray without visible hull panels. Aside from absent details there may be further dissimilarities. It seems that the gap in the fork, unlike it is the case with the V-type 1 CG model in the nebula, is not broadened in the direction of its aft end.
DS9: By Inferno's Light
This episode starts with stock footage from the ships in the wormhole from "In Purgatory' Shadow", so we see the V-type 2 once again. V-type 1 appears too, but in new shots. The widening fork is the same again. The top side is lit unlike on the less detailed V-type 2. We can clearly see the quite detailed underside of the model, the window rows and other extensive lighting. But there is one difference to the previous appearance of V-type 1: The pink areas are not just uniform now, but they all exhibit parallel bar patterns perpendicular to the nacelle struts. A modification may have been made to the fork whose tines are still shaped like tweezers, but the gap appears to be more detailed here. So we are obviously dealing with a slight variant of V-type 1 which we may want to call V-type 1a.
Still, it seems plausible that yet again the detailed model, namely V-type 1a, was only taken for the foreground ships for economic reasons, the rest being of the simplistic V-type 2. In any case the ships faintly seen in the background are of the V-type, as some of them can be seen head on.
DS9: Ties of Blood and Water
So far all models of the battlecruiser were arguably CGI. A detailed physical model is used for the first time in DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water" when a battlecruiser is shown in close shots approaching the station. Because of the lighting that looks realistic also in "normal space" as opposed to the diffuse pink nebula this is evidently a real miniature. The most obvious difference to the V-type CGIs seen so far is that the model is quite flat which becomes particularly clear in the ventral view. The nacelle struts and nacelles almost form a straight line, they are sloping down only slightly and they definitely don't form a "V". We will refer to this new version as "U-type".
A second dissimilarity lies in the pink illuminated areas. There is a kink in the largest pattern and it now consists of six instead of five stripes. The bars in the foremost pink area now have a 45° arrangement. Finally, the stripes directly bordering to the nacelles are now parallel to the nacelles instead of perpendicular. It is also worth mentioning that the windows on the physical U-type are smaller. Even though the ship is quite big, they can only be portholes at this tiny size. It also looks like the shape of the lower pod was changed, as it is not indented any more and perhaps wider too. Moreover, the paint scheme of the battlecruiser was modified. The "cheap" V-type 2 CGI appeared to be plain dark gray, the V-type 2a CGI was composed of panels in different shades of gray, but nothing more colorful was visible. In contrast, the physical model has some areas on the top and the bottom in a reddish color. The actual miniature is less colorful than the depiction in the Encyclopedia II and the DS9 Technical Manual suggests. On the other hand, the appearance on screen is primarily a matter of lighting, knowing that the Jem'Hadar attack ship miniature is painted in all sorts of blue and red, although it looks rather bluish gray on screen.
Once again the forked tip was subject to modifications (or rather, this time they do not quite reflect the look of the CG models). The inner surfaces of the two struts are now parallel, the gap is not widening. Also, the lower surface is sloping up near the very forward tip, while the upper surface is still horizontal.
DS9: In the Cards
It is remarkable that exclusively the physical model of the U-type is used for some time, at least for any ships that are clearly visible. A new scene was filmed for "In the Cards", in which we see the battlecruiser dock to a lower pylon of Deep Space 9. It is quite obviously the same U-type model we know from "Ties of Blood and Water".
DS9: Call to Arms
The aforementioned new scene from "In the Cards" was used in "Call to Arms" too. In addition, there are a number of takes showing the ship in motion, all using the physical model.
The background, on the other hand, may have been filled with the simple CG model of the V-type 2. They are obviously only sparsely lit, and no details are recognizable. The same applies to one ship which is somewhat closer to the camera, but just rushes through the screen while the Defiant is decloaking. A particular feature of this model is that the nacelle pylons are very thin where they run into the nacelles.
DS9: A Time to Stand
The episode just shows stock footage from "In the Cards" of the docked U-type battlecruiser (as an obvious sight during the Dominion occupation of Deep Space 9).
DS9: Sons and Daughters
A new scene using the physical model was shot. The miniature is docked to the upper pylon of the station.
DS9: Behind the Lines
This episode re-uses both takes of the of the docked ships, the one from "In the Cards" as well as the one from "Sons and Daughters".
DS9: Favor the Bold
It is not completely clear which version can be seen in the foreground on the viewscreen of the Defiant. But since they seem to be at least a little detailed we can suppose that it is the physical model (which would be its last appearance). But it could as well be a newly built detailed CG model of the U-type, while the background may once again be filled with the simple V-type 2. All this is just speculation.
DS9: Sacrifice of Angels
We can see the physical model in a new take at the beginning of the episode. The Galors in this scene are real miniatures too. This is why we deem it possible that the physical model still appeared in "Favor the Bold".
But more importantly, "Sacrifice of Angels" introduces a new CG model of the U-type, one that will be used up to the finale of DS9. The new CGI very closely resembles the physical model, not only pertaining to the arrangement of the nacelles in a flattened reversed U-shape. The forked tip, the illuminated areas and the hull color is so close to the physical model that it is not really feasible to distinguish them. But it must be a CGI because the whole battle in "Sacrifice of Angels" was computer-generated and it would have been impossible to show any physical model from all angles. The old CG version (V-type 1a) was probably deemed to be too little detailed. What's more, after several close views at the U-type physical model the difference may have become too palpable. This way the new CG model was a full success. Ironically, the CGI artists failed to produce an accurate model of the much more prominent Defiant whose nacelles are visibly not hanging low enough in the very same episode.
One difference between the U-type physical model and the U-type CGI is that the section between the two upper pods is not illuminated on the latter (if anything, we would expect this part to shine during flight, but not while the ship is docked to the station).
DS9: Shadows and Symbols
There are no new revelations about the battlecruisers, just that some of these ships (obviously the new U-type CGI) can be seen in the Monac Ship Yards. As opposed to the Galors in the same scene, the battlecruisers seem to be finished, so no specially reduced wireframe model was used.
DS9: The Changing Face of Evil
The U-type CGI of the Dominion battlecruiser can be seen alongside the new Breen vessels in new scenes.
DS9: What You Leave Behind
The U-type CGI appears in some battle scenes, but everything in open space showing this ship is just stock footage from "Sacrifice of Angels". Everything new focuses on the massive battleship. The only new shots of the battlecruiser take place in the orbit of Cardassia where we can see them together with space stations and vastly overscaled battleships.
The depictions of the battlecruiser in the Star Trek Encyclopedia and the DS9TM are overall correct, except that in the first book the ship was depicted upside down. They are not quite precise though, and the colorful painting doesn't match with the color scheme as it appears on screen. The Star Trek Fact Files show three views obviously directly derived from the CG model of the U-type battlecruiser. It is only strange how it could happen that the nacelles are ridiculously overscaled, and only in the side view. We have naturally fixed this blatant mistake in our new side views of the U-type and the V-type. The oversized nacelles from the DS9TM were even visible in an episode on a computer screen on Voyager, namely in VOY: "Drone", along with several other Star Trek ships. However, it would be a stretch to assume that this may be yet another variant.
Summarizing, we know of four versions of the Dominion battlecruiser, a less detailed (V-type 2) and a more detailed version (V-type 1) with V-shaped nacelle pylons, a physical model (U-type physical) with "flat" struts and a CG version (U-type CGI) closely following the lines of the physical model. We might include the modification made at one point to the better V-type CGI as version V-type 1a. However, with reference to the full-size battlecruiser, we can easily reduce them to just two variants, the V-type and the U-type.
Here is a table with the supposed appearances of the two variants:
|Supposed ship type||Episodes||Model||Stock footage from|
|DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow"||V-type 1 CGI||-|
|V-type 2 CGI||-|
|DS9: "By Inferno's Light"||V-type 2 CGI||DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow"|
|V-type 1a CGI||-|
|DS9: "Call to Arms"||V-type 2 CGI||-|
|DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water"||U-type phys.||-|
|DS9: "In the Cards"||U-type phys.||-|
|DS9: "Call to Arms"||U-type phys.||DS9: "In the Cards"|
|DS9: "A Time to Stand"||U-type phys.||DS9: "In the Cards"|
|DS9: "Sons and Daughters"||U-type phys.||-|
|DS9: "Behind the Lines"||U-type phys.||DS9: "In the Cards"
DS9: "Sons and Daughters"
|DS9: "Favor the Bold"||U-type phys.?||-|
|DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels"||U-type phys.||-|
|DS9: "Shadows and Symbols"||U-type CGI||-|
|DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil"||U-type CGI||-|
|DS9: "What You Leave Behind"||U-type CGI||DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels"