Real-life Scotty says Trek 2 trailer's underwater scene is impossible

Contributed by
Jan 14, 2013, 2:52 PM EST

You know that epic shot in the new trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness that shows the Enterprise emerging from a body of water? Forget it. An engineer says that it just can't happen.

We all know that Star Trek, even despite the infamous technobabble of shows like The Next Generation, has never been scientifically accurate. But the show(s) did try to be as plausible as possible. And Gene Roddenberry himself posited from the very beginning that the Enterprise was never meant to travel through a planet's atmosphere or land on its surface.

Yet in 2009's J.J. Abrams-directed reboot, we saw the ship being assembled on Earth, even though it was long described as being constructed in orbit. And now in the new Star Trek Into Darkness trailer, not only has the ship entered a planet's atmosphere, but it has been hidden underwater!

The reason for this is that the ship has to remain undetected since it's on an alien planet and the Prime Directive must be enforced. Even so, were both the shuttlecraft and the transporters not working that day?

But okay, let's say there's some plot contrivance about why the ship has to land and submerge instead of having an away team beam down. How is this possible?

It's not, and Badass Digest invited Raymond Wagner, a research engineer who works in the space industry—sort of a real-life Scotty, if you like—to tell us why:

Like most spacecraft, the Enterprise is designed to keep between one and several atmospheres of pressure in, while the ship itself is exposed to the vacuum of space. This is a very different job than keeping out the pressure from tons of sea water over your head. (2) It just strains credibility to the breaking point to ask us to believe that those poor Starfleet engineers were told to take flying under water into account in their ship designs. How often can that even need to happen during your average mission? Spoiler alert: like, never. Or hardly ever. You just wouldn't build that sort of thing into your space ship's requirements. I suppose you could technobabble your way out of any criticism like this with structural integrity fields and blah, blah, blah, but come on—that's the sort of thing that eventually killed the TNG-era run of Trek. If we're already at that point two movies into the reboot, we're in real trouble.

He adds:

For every 33 feet you descend in the sea, the pressure over your head increases by 1 atmosphere. So, if something as big as the Enterprise is really hiding under water like all those extended trailer descriptions indicate, it's probably going to want to go deep to be stealthy. And it won't take much depth to generate some crazy pressures!

Some are already defending the shot, suggesting that we don't even know the composition of the liquid in the scene (since it's on an alien planet)—but we have to admit that Wagner's case against it makes sense to us.

Have Abrams and his screenwriting cohorts—Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof—gone too far this time? Is sacrificing long-held Star Trek tenets about the construction of the Enterprise—along with some basic engineering principles—worth one cool-looking visual?

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker