Spirit of the Enterprise

I’ve been watching the run of Star Trek: Enterprise for the last little bit, as I didn’t really watch it when it originally aired. Last night I watched “Vox Sola” (season 1, episode 22), and there was a scene that smacked me in the face: the tactical officer invents force field technology.

Seriously, the guy whose training involves how to shoot things with various personal and ship weapons invents technology critical to the future Federation. Not even the chief engineer (who was in peril at the time), but this guy.

The situation is set up to create some faux-drama: Reed, the aforementioned tac officer, says that there are some experimental force field schematics in the Enterprise database, but no one’s been able to get them to work. And he’s been eager to “take a crack at it” (to paraphrase). In what’s likely a couple hours of fictional time, he creates a working prototype that’s able to hold a threat in the cargo bay from attacking more crewmen.

So, he, having primary expertise elsewhere, has done what dedicated scientists back on Earth couldn’t do, and he did that in short time and under the pressure of saving lives?

At first, I rolled my eyes at the writing. And then I had another thought:

The Enterprise’s spirit is that of inspired technological innovation. And that’s why it’s a tactical officer can invent critical new technology.

After all, look at other things invented on the Enterprise over the decades. Now, you’d think that maybe “exploration” or something else would be the vessel’s spirit, but I find it interesting if the spirit isn’t totally in sync with the crew’s mission.

So, let’s imagine that vessels have spirits (or, if you will, schiffgeists) that have their own agenda and affect crews in different ways. The Enterprise has the Innovation schiffgeist. Perhaps the Defiant has the Survivalist schiifgeist. Suddenly, there’s a new and fascinating angle to the “lone space vessels doing their thing” genre.

What other schiffgeists are out there? What affects do they have on their chew?

– Ryan


15 Responses to Spirit of the Enterprise

  1. Arcane Springboard says:

    The USS Intrepid is evil. It intentionally gets its crew to die. Or maybe it just didn’t like Vulcans.

  2. GeekyLyndsay says:

    Battlestar Galactica: Tenacity.

    Sci fi crews are as a rule tenacious, but not anyone from any ship could climb inside a living enemy organism, fly it to the home ship through space in enemy territory, and manage to NOT GET SHOT DOWN. Starbuck embodies the whole spirit of Galactica when she flies a Cylon raider within the Galatica’s range and waggles its wings.

  3. Bartoneus says:

    A fantastic thought! If you’re unfamiliar with the Mass Effect video games / world, (minor spoiler warning) the world features Reapers that are basically large space ship creatures that can “indoctrinate” people that spend time near them / that are aboard them. This idea reminded me strongly of that element and is an interesting parallel between sci-fi universes I hadn’t considered yet.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Man, I love me some Mass Effect! :D And yeah, I could see that as the extreme version of what I bring up here.

      – Ryan

  4. Ryan Macklin says:

    Mentioned by Nick Garcia on the G+ thread:

    I think that idea could apply to Stargate Universe. Not coincidentally, I think that Destiny’s schiffgeist would be destiny. It’s a bit more abstract than the ones mentioned for Trek, but I think it fits.

    The Millenium Falcon might have the schiffgeist of risk.

    There’s more geekery on that thread.

  5. There seems to be some interesting design space that could occur here in the W40K verse with the concept of a Machine Spirit.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I’m not familiar. Could you explain more?

      – Ryan

    • Ezra says:

      In the future galaxy of Warhammer 40K, all machines (such as spacecraft) in the Imperium of Man are maintained by techpriests. Techpriests believe these machines are inhabited by machine spirits. Happy spirits function well; angry spirits get you killed. Maintenance rituals keep the spirits happy. (For further details, you might consult this summary on Wikia.)

  6. What exactly is a schiffgeist? I presume it means ship’s soul, but google doesn’t find it and I don’t see any german references to that word.

    There is a latin or greek phrase for a place that has a spirit — genius loci. The word for ship is navum, so maybe it is a genius navi? I also find it interesting that another word for boat is ratis, and a euphemism for poet is also ratis, so clearly they thought of poets as being like ships.

    — Christopher Allen

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I made up the word, based on “vessel spirit” and playing off of zeitgeist. :) Of course, you could call it whatever you want. I’m sure there’s also a Chinese word that would be appropriate, but my schooling clearly leans toward German.

      That said, if this were a campaign setting where the idea of this was known, the term would be very telling — mine might show a different insight into the culture that discovered it than your classical phrased term than some Chinese term than some English term. (But then we get into a “what’s in the name” discussion, which is not what’s interesting to me about this idea.)

      – Ryan

  7. Ezra says:

    This schiffgeist seems to me to be mechanically very close, even closer than the Fate Fractal usually means, to a setting or campaign aspect on the ship. It’s tagged and compelled not only where the ship is relevant as a tool, but anywhere around the ship, to do anything in the theme of the schiffgeist.

  8. Anders Smith says:

    An interesting thought about the Normandy – Joker seems to embody that ship’s spirit of perseverance far more than EDI, for all that EDI is part of the ship physically.

    Perhaps that’s part of the attraction between the two?

  9. Lenny Balsera says:

    Just as a cool detail to add to this, in the U.S. Navy’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the namesake of a vessel is normally given as a part of the article about that ship.

    This is true even when the vessel is named for an idea and not a person or location of note.

    The namesake of the Enterprise? “Boldness, energy, and invention in practical affairs.”

    Fuck yeah.

  10. 3Jane says:

    This got me thinking about Firefly. Family? (You’d think risk, but that’s just a pretext for threatening the relationships).

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      On the G+ thread, I postulated that Serenity’s is “loving, near-parental hardship”, so I think we’re on a similar vibe.

      – Ryan