Redresses of Jaheel's Ship
by Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider
This article investigates the design history of Jaheel's ship from DS9: "Babel" and Neelix's Baxial. The latter is all CGI but was obviously inspired by the DS9 ship. It is not an article on re-uses in a narrow sense, because we can't tell for sure if any physical model was re-reused in any fashion. Yet, there are some interesting observations about the design that include three other science fiction series.
The design of Jaheel's ship appeared in only two roles, in four Star Trek episodes:
1. Jaheel's ship (miniature, DS9: "Babel")
2. Baxial (CG model, VOY: "The Chute")
3. Baxial (CG model, VOY: "Workforce I")
4. Baxial (CG model, VOY: "Homestead")
The origin: Buck Rogers
In two episodes of the series "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (1979-1981) we can see a small starship that is very similar to Jaheel's ship from DS9: "Babel". This model was constructed by Kenneth A. Larson.
Larson calls this ship the "Ranger" or "Ranger 3". However, this is also the name of the spaceship that Buck Rogers piloted in 1987 when he got frozen and ended up in the 25th century. Buck Rogers's actual ship, as it can be seen in the series, is very similar to NASA's Space Shuttle. At the time the series was produced, the first Space Shuttle prototype, the Enterprise, had finished its test flights, and the first spaceworthy Shuttle, the Columbia, was being prepared for launch. Ken Larson writes about the model on his website:
"Ken Larson built this model when the model crew first got the assignment to do the first season of the television program. Then the crew looked for a good use throughout most of the season. Finally, it was used in a throw-away shot toward the end of the season, just to use it before the end of the season, not yet knowing if there would be a second season."
Very likely the miniature that Ken Larson shows and describes was the original Ranger 3 design, before it was discarded in favor of the Space Shuttle-like model, which is more realistic for a ship launched in 1987.
The original Ranger design shows up in two episodes of the series. Ken Larson writes in an article on his website:
"A curious note, for this second episode, the Sinaloa landing bay had little photo cutouts of Ranger 3, a model also built on spec, that was not used in an action sequence until one of the last episodes."
In fact, three ships of this type are visible in a shuttle hangar of a space station in the episode "Vegas in Space". We can see that the ships are just cardboard cutouts.
In the episode "Buck's Duel to the Death" we can finally see the real model. Ken Larson notes:
"Early in the episode, several scorpion fighters were in a dog fight with Ranger III. The Ranger was built by Ken Larson. It was one of the models built on spec when the season began but one of David Jones's favorite designs and he kept waiting for the right opportunity to use it. As this was the next to last episode, opportunities to use it were running out."
In this episode Deputy Minister Neil takes this ship from the planet Katar to Earth, to ask Buck Rogers's help. He is pursued by four other ships (Scorpion fighters) at first. Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering manage to drive away the pursuers and the minister can land safely on Earth.
In one scene we can briefly see the cockpit of the Katarian ship aka the original Ranger model. We can see that it is a small single-seated vessel, similar to the Scorpion fighters or the ships of Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering, the Thunder fighters. For the cockpit of the Katarian ship the very same set as for the Thunder fighters was used. All three characters are in the same cockpit although the ship types are different. It is interesting to note that the cockpit window rather matches the Katarian ship than the frequently seen Thunder fighters.
In the course of the series the original Ranger model never shows up again.
Ken Larson's website also shows how the miniature was built, step by step, and how it ended up looking.
We can see in the first few shots that the two large wings and the fins on the bow are not a part of the main hull but were added later as the construction progressed. This is a hint that the model may have been reused for DS9, because Jaheel's ship neither has the wings nor the fins, which may have been easy to remove. Behind the pointed front portion Ken Larson's model has a narrow hull section, followed by a wide bulge, another narrow hull part and the wide aft section. The two narrow sections were later filled with some sort of pipes, as they can be seen on the screen caps from the series. These pipes are missing on the Star Trek ship. Like the wings and fins, it may have been easy to remove these additional parts. The cockpit sports three windows with characteristic irregular shapes. The scale of the cockpit windows is a clear sign that we are looking at a small vessel. The rear end is characterized by two engine nozzles that shine bright blue/white. Due to the effect that was inserted in post production the true shape of the nozzle is not recognizable in the screen caps. We can only see the star-shaped light of the engines.
Regarding the whereabouts of the model, Ken Larson tells us:
"Bad news for collectors, the original was reportedly destroyed."
Here, "destroyed" could mean that many years later the miniature was partially ripped apart to appear as Jaheel's ship in DS9: "Babel".
In this DS9 episode we can see Jaheel's ship, a starship that has many similarities with the Ranger 3 or the Katarian ship from Buck Rogers. (Jaheel is a Boslic but only in retroactive continuity. We will not refer to his ship as a Boslic design in this article although it is probably one.) Jaheel's ship shows up in three brief scenes. The physical model is not re-used in later Star Trek episodes. Rather than taking the Buck Rogers miniature itself and removing the wings and pipes as described above, a mold was created from the main body of Ken Larson's design and different details were attached to build Jaheel's ship.
Ken Larson worked on several Star Trek productions after the end Buck Rogers. Perhaps that is how the VFX people of Star Trek (such as Greg Jein or Dick Brownfield) got their hands on either the very model or the moulds. Ken Larson may have done them a favor when they urgently needed a model for the DS9 episode.
It is obvious that the DS9 ship was more than only "inspired" by Ken Larson's design. The two models are not just similar; essential parts are identical. The general shape of the hull is the same, considering that the Buck Rogers model has additional parts that are missing on Jaheel's ship. The angle of the front tip looks like it is the same. The two indentations on both sides are in the same places. The aft fin is nearly the same. No comparison is possible regarding the engines; they are much better recognizable in DS9 where they are red.
Most notably we can recognize the characteristic shapes of the three cockpit windows of the Buck Rogers ship on the Star Trek model when it is docked to the station. Jaheel's ship is a lot bigger and has a real bridge, so cockpit windows that occupy a large portion of the hull would make no sense. We can see that on Jaheel's ship that those windows were disguised as slightly recessed parts of the hull. They were covered with a gray, partially ribbed material. The central cockpit window was partially obscured with a bridge superstructure that includes two much smaller windows facing forward. This lets the Star Trek ship appear a lot bigger than in the other science fiction series. Yet, we can still make out the original outlines of all cockpit windows. The tapered shape with indentations is clearly the same on both ship models.
Cargo containers were inserted in the two indented portions of the hull in the place of the former pipes. This makes sense as Jaheel is described as a freighter captain. This way, the ship can easily pass as a freighter.
Summarizing, we are certain that Jaheel's ship is based on the one from Buck Rogers. All modifications (removal of the wings and fins, addition of cargo containers, obscuring of the cockpit windows) were done on purpose to let the model appear like a bigger ship, as required by the script of the episode "Babel".
The Fact Files depiction of Jaheel's ship
Jaheel's ship is depicted in the Star Trek Fact Files. We found a couple of mistakes in the images that become apparent after a closer look at the screen caps from "Babel" (at least, after a significant gamma increase).
We fixed the shape of the front tip, whose ventral surface is horizontal and not sloped in reality. It also has an indentation on the bottom.
We can see on the screen caps that there are cargo containers in the forward indentation of the main hull. But the aft indentation looks like it is an empty space. It is well possible and seems very likely that the ship may hold cargo in this place too but probably not at the time the ship shows up in "Babel" (although it would arguably look better). Our side view was fixed not to include the aft containers any more. We also changed the shapes of the containers that don't seem to have anything like clamps around them. And perhaps most notably, we moved them up, because they don't protrude from the bottom the way they do on the Fact Files drawings. The whole ship must be significantly flatter than in the Fact Files (and much flatter than the Baxial, whose CG model is apparently based on it). And there is yet one more significant change: It becomes clear in the pictures by Ken Larson of the ship under construction that it is not possible to see through underneath the two "arches", even before the pipes were added in this place. There is a (thin) central part running from fore to aft and all the way to the bottom of the ship. Speaking of the two "arches" we can make out rectangular sections with three vertical segments that protrude from the hull surface like "keystones". These parts are not reproduced in the Fact Files either.
Like the Buck Rogers model and unlike Neelix's Baxial, Jaheel's ship is largely symmetrical. We can see the port side for the most time, but briefly before the ship explodes we also get a glance of the starboard side, confirming the symmetry of the model. Overall, the Fact Files depictions show more similarities to Neelix's ship than can be actually found on Jaheel's ship. Another example is that on the port side of the aft end of the DS9 model (and, barely visible, on the starboard side too) we can make out some sort of disk- or donut-shaped structure with blue engine light. The four partially submerged tubes that can be found on the Fact Files depiction, are not on the model and are actually like on Neelix's Baxial. Also, the aft end is not cut off in a 90° angle as on the Fact Files image, but is sloped. The Baxial has this sloped aft end too, but features an additional engine block that holds the three cross-shaped engine nozzles.
Finally, in the Fact Files image the ship sports a red emblem on the front tip and on the sides of the aft end. These emblems can't be recognized on the screen caps. If they are really present, they have to be a lot smaller than on the reproduction.
A possible inspiration: UFO
There is a clear similarity of the modifications that were made to the design of Jaheel's ship to the computer-generated Baxial on one hand to the Russian Sovatek mobile rig in the UFO episode "The Responsibility Seat" on the other hand. The shortened front section with the small windows, the somewhat irregular angles and the asymmetry (the port side is enlarged) is similar on both designs.
So much for the brief excursus. The series UFO was filmed 10 years before Buck Rogers, 20 years before DS9 and 25 years before Neelix's ship was created for Voyager. Furthermore it is a British and not an American series, so it is very unlikely that the model from UFO may have served as more than an inspiration for the Baxial.
VOY: The Chute
Although the bridge of the ship briefly showed up as soon as in "Caretaker", it takes until the third-season episode "The Chute" that we can see Neelix's ship Baxial (as a CG model) from the outside. It is immediately obvious that the design shares many features with Jaheel's ship. The is especially true for the central section. The forward section, on the other hand, was completely remodeled. It is not pointed any longer but overall more angular. Both indentations of the main hull now hold some sort of cargo containers that look different than the ones in the forward gap of Jaheel's ship. They are not only taller but are also attached lower, making the Baxial appear much sturdier. Also, Neelix's ship is asymmetrical. It has a docking hatch on the port side that protrudes from the hull surface. This way it is possible for the ship to dock with the Akritirian space prison.
It is also noticeable that the dorsal side of the ship runs upward behind the wider central section, whereas the dorsal surface of the DS9 ship was all flat. One characteristic feature of Jaheel's ship, the large aft fin, was removed (and perhaps was never included to the CG model in the first place).
As already mentioned the ship now has three cross-shaped blue engine nozzles. Jaheel's ship and the one from Buck Rogers still had two nozzles. We can see, however, that a kind of engine section with a vertical aft surface was added to the otherwise sloped aft end of the ship. The original aft section with the sloped surface and the extension were linked with the already mentioned four pipes that were falsely included in the Fact Files schematics of Jaheel's ship. Finally, Neelix's ship sports some antennae protruding from the cockpit section.
It is clear that Neelix's ship has to be much smaller than Jaheel's. Not only because it supposedly fits into Voyager's shuttlebay but also owing to its structure, especially the relatively large cockpit windows. On the other hand, the bridge of the Baxial as visible in "The Chute" points to a somewhat bigger ship, larger than a shuttle.
VOY: Workforce I
More than four years later, we can see the Baxial for a second time in season 7. The take of the ship inside Voyager's shuttlebay allows to estimate its size. Although the ship design and the bridge set gives us the impression that it has to be somewhat bigger than a shuttle, it can't be longer than 15m to fit through the shuttlebay doors.
We can see the Baxial for the last time in VOY: "Homestead", one of the last episodes of season 7. This is the first time we can clearly see the port side with the simple docking hatch. For this last appearance some red position lights were added.
In this episode we can see the bridge of the vessel too. It becomes clear that the set is nearly the same as in "The Chute".
The recycling: Firefly
In the episode "War Stories" of Firefly the Baxial has a surprising appearance when it is docked to a space station. In the same scene we can also see some other starship designs that previously appeared on Star Trek Voyager. Zoic Studios was responsible for the CG effects of Firefly at the time. Several CG artists came to Zoic after the end of Voyager. Hence, it is likely that they brought the Voyager models with them and re-used them for vessels in Firefly. We can see that the angular docking hatch is still located on the port side of the Baxial design.
This table summarizes the two models and their appearances (the ones in Star Trek only):
|The model originally appeared in "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century". Wings and other parts were removed, or the DS9 model was built from a mould of the Buck Rogers ship. A bridge section and cargo containers were added to let the model appear bigger.
|VOY: "The Chute"
|This is a completely new CG model that is only inspired by the DS9 model. The front section is completely different, the rest only similar, with different proportions. The cockpit windows insinuate a small size of this vessel.
|VOY: "Workforce I"
Thanks to Ken Larson on whose website we found the decisive pictures of the Buck Rogers model and information on its history.