Redresses of the Orbital Office Complex
by Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider
The orbital office complex is the space station from where Kirk and Scotty start their tour of the newly refitted Enterprise in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". After the movie the miniature was redressed and showed up several more times. These are the appearances in chronological order:
1. Orbital office complex ("Star Trek: The Motion Picture")
2. Regula One ("Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan")
3. Research station Tango Sierra (TNG: "The Child")
4. Starbase 173 (TNG: "The Measure of a Man")
5. Research station Tanuga IV (TNG: "A Matter of Perspective")
6. Deep Space 5 (TNG: "Parallels")
7. Unnamed starbase (DS9: "Blaze of Glory")
8. Starbase 375 (DS9: "A Time to Stand", "Behind the Lines", "Favor the Bold")
9. Starbase 257 (DS9: "Valiant")
10. Omega Molecule research station (VOY: "The Omega Directive")
11. Sol system patrol station (LOW: "Grounded")
12. Europa Temporal Laboratory (LOW: "Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus")
The following analysis identifies three variants of the model and comments on the depictions published in the Star Trek Fact Files.
Orbital office complex
The orbital office complex is composed of four long brownish tubes occupying the upper two thirds of the station, a number of arms with smaller and larger round pods around the center (some of which seem to be still under construction) and a cone-shaped lower section. Each of the disks in the center part is clearly just one deck tall, as evidenced by the window sizes as well as by the shots of the undocking travel pod. This gives us a diameter of just around 200m across its wide side.
The orbital office complex is reproduced largely correctly in the Star Trek Fact Files. The drawing is obviously closely based on actual model photos, the only notable inaccuracy is that a ball-like structure at the very bottom of the station does not exist, so we removed it.
When the miniature was slated to appear in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" as the Regula One lab, it was turned upside down as the most obvious "alteration". In addition, the structure looking like an antenna dish at the bottom (former top) was removed, together with the clamps that were holding the big tubes and the antenna together. The now lower clamps are still present on the Fact Files depiction, however. While all four of the tubes of the orbital office complex are brown, two of them are beige on the Regula lab. The new top is adorned by an antenna spire. All of the smaller pods were removed from the outriggers on the wide side, leaving only the four largest ones and two smaller ones between the large pods on the narrow side of the station. One of the larger pods now holds what is obviously an observatory dome, possibly the one that was still under construction on the orbital office complex. Finally, there is a less obvious modification, which was not included in the Fact Files drawing. Rectangular structures looking like solar panels are affixed to all four sides of the conical top section of Regula One.
The Regula One model appears in TNG: "The Child", here as the science station Tango Sierra that may easily be of an identical or similar type as Regula One. All according shots from this episode are stock footage from "Star Trek II".
More stock footage of the miniature appears in TNG: "The Measure of a Man". Here, it represents a large starbase, and the glaring scaling error becomes obvious comparing the station's windows to those of the Enterprise-D that was inserted in the foreground. Here the upper dome of the station alone measures more than 1000m across.
In TNG: "A Matter of Perspective", we see a small Regula-type station as well. At least, it would make sense for Dr. Apgar's research station to be that small. This is the first TNG episode to use new shots of the model (or at least, shots that were not previously used in "Star Trek II").
Another appearance of the model in its Regula version is in TNG: "Parallels", albeit only on a display as Deep Space 5. Finally, we can see the miniature, for the last time with the tubes, in DS9: "Blaze of Glory". The unnamed starbase is the place where Eddington is imprisoned. But this is just stock footage of Regula One from "Star Trek II".
Many years later, an animated version of the Regula-type space station can be seen in LOW: "Grounded". A similar station also appears as the Europa Temporal Laboratory in the holographic scenario in LOW: "Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus", but here located on the surface of the moon and without the lower portion. This rendition has additional windows but overall looks rather coarse.
The model was modified for the second and last time to represent Starbase 375 in a number of DS9 episodes. The four tubes were removed, but once again nothing was done to support the definitely much larger size of the Starbase relative to the orbital office complex. There is one more change to miniature, however. On one side, the one with the observatory, the small pod was removed. The latter may have happened earlier, when the tubes were still present, but it is unmistakably visible only as late as on Starbase 375. As for the station's size, a 120m Defiant would give us a diameter of around 500m for the head section.
Note The "official" EAS rendition on the right has partitioned windows in order to make this variant of the station look bigger.
Starbase 257 (DS9: "Valiant") is identical to Starbase 375 - only stock footage was used. Finally, in VOY: "The Omega Directive" the station turns up on a computer screen as the secret Federation research outpost that was destroyed by the Omega Molecule, surprisingly yet again without the tubes - although the image is computer-generated and although this station may have been intended to be small.
The two versions called "Regula type" and "Starbase type" were not consistently used as small science stations and as huge starbases, respectively. But even if we accept that, it is hard to overlook the scaling error that arises from the way too large windows of the miniature. Still, there is no convenient way of ignoring that the large version exists as it could be seen several times in direct comparison with the Enterprise-D, the Defiant, a Jem'Hadar fighter and other ships.
Here is a table with all versions and appearances of the miniature at a glance:
|Station type||Episode||Name & function||Size||Configuration|
Orbital office complex
|"Star Trek I"||Orbital office complex||Small||Original look|
|"Star Trek II"||Regula One science station||Small||Turned around, some pods removed, detail changes|
|TNG: "The Child"||Research station Tango Sierra||Small|
|TNG: "The Measure of a Man"||Starbase 173||Big|
|TNG: "A Matter of Perspective"||Research station Tanuga IV||Small|
|TNG: "Parallels"||Deep Space 5||Unknown|
|DS9: "Blaze of Glory"||Unnamed starbase||Uncertain|
|LOW: "Grounded"||Patrol station||Uncertain||Animated, same configuration as Regula model|
|LOW: "Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus"||Europa Temporal Laboratory||Big||Animated, only rough resemblance to original|
|DS9: "A Time to Stand" etc.||Starbase 375||Big||No tubes, one small pod removed|
|DS9: "Valiant"||Starbase 257||Big|
|VOY: "The Omega Directive"||Omega Molecule research station||Uncertain|
The Design and Reuse of the Orbital Office Complex @ Forgotten Trek