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Battle of Veridian III
USS Enterprise-D evades the Duras sisters' Bird-of-Prey.jpg

The D12-class Bird-of-Prey in combat with the Enterprise

The D12-class Bird-of-Prey in combat with the Enterprise
Date: 2371
Location: Veridian
Result: Pyrrhic Federation victory
Belligerents
United Federation of Planets House of Duras
Notable commanders
Commander William T. Riker Lursa
B'Etor
Strength
USS Enterprise D12-class Klingon Bird-of-Prey
Casualties and losses
USS Enterprise
Minimal casualties (crew rescued)
Klingon Bird-of-Prey
All hands lost

The Battle of Veridian III was a confrontation between the USS Enterprise-D, which was then the Federation flagship, and a renegade D12-class Klingon Bird-of-Prey. The conflict took place in very close proximity to Veridian III, in 2371.

The Bird-of-Prey's involvement in the engagement was in revenge for previous affairs with the Federation. Although the Enterprise would have easily outmatched the Bird-of-Prey under normal circumstances, the crew of the Klingon ship exploited a key weakness in the Enterprise's defenses and was thereby able to inflict severe damage on the opposing starship. The Enterprise eventually managed to defeat the Bird-of-Prey but the Enterprise's victory was a Pyrrhic one, as its battle damage resulted in the additional loss of the ship soon thereafter.

Prelude

After the House of Duras fell from power at the end of the Klingon Civil War of 236768, the Duras sisters, Lursa and B'Etor, sought incessantly to regain supremacy and take control of the Klingon Empire. (TNG: "Redemption", "Redemption II", "Firstborn") To this end, they forged an alliance with Dr. Tolian Soran in 2371.

On an inspection of the Amargosa observatory by Lieutenant Commanders Data and La Forge, Dr. Soran assaulted La Forge and captured him, transporting them to the Duras sisters' ship. The craft set a course for the Veridian system while Soran removed and analyzed La Forge's VISOR. The Enterprise subsequently pursued and intercepted the Bird-of-Prey. Although Soran ordered the destruction of the Enterprise, B'Etor pointed out that their ship was completely outgunned by the Galaxy-class starship. Soran decided to return La Forge's VISOR to him, after performing some modifications to the device, which gave Lursa and B'Etor a live video feed from La Forge's point-of-view.

Since it was vital that Captain Picard try to negotiate with Soran, he agreed to exchange himself for La Forge, on the condition that he could speak to Soran – who was now on the surface of Veridian III – first, and in person. The Duras sisters accepted this proposal and returned La Forge to the Enterprise while Picard was transported to Veridian III.

When La Forge returned to engineering, the video feed from his VISOR gave the Duras sisters exactly what they had been looking for. A freeze-frame revealed that the Enterprise's shields were operating on a frequency modulation of 257.4 megahertz. Preparing for the Bird-of-Prey to attack the Enterprise, B'Etor directed that the frequency of the Klingon ship's photon torpedoes be adjusted to match, then delightedly moved a scope into place. (Star Trek Generations)

The battle

USS Enterprise-D fires on Duras sisters b-o-p

The Enterprise returns fire on the renegade Bird-of-Prey

The engagement commenced when the Klingon Bird-of-Prey fired a couple of consecutively deployed torpedoes at the Enterprise. These projectiles easily penetrated the Starfleet vessel's shields, impacting on the flagship's secondary hull. As the Enterprise started to rotate starboard, the ship returned fire using phasers, but the resultant impact had no effect on the Klingon ship, being stopped by the Bird-of-Prey's shields.

Duras sisters b-o-p and Enterprise-D, Generations

The Bird-of-Prey fires disruptors at the Enterprise

The Klingons retaliated by firing a disruptor blast at the Enterprise. This caused an explosion at one of the starboard stations, which sent an officer who had been manning the station flying to the deck and showered debris over the conn officer, severely injuring both members of personnel. Counselor Troi took the conn officer's place and brought the Enterprise out of orbit, but the ship was suffering a hull breach on decks thirty-one through thirty-five.

The Enterprise slowly backed off from its attacker, completing its rotation away from the Bird-of-Prey. Even so, the Klingon vessel persisted with its onslaught, as the Enterprise's wounded crew members were being carried off the ship's bridge. Though two pairs of disruptor shots fired from the Bird-of-Prey missed their target of the Enterprise's hull, a third struck the ship's port warp nacelle.

Amid the fracas, Commander Riker asked recently promoted Lieutenant Commander Worf about the Bird-of-Prey and its weaknesses. Worf was able to identify the ship as a D12-class Bird-of-Prey, explaining it had been retired from service due to defective plasma coils. Without seeing how the defect could be used to their advantage, Worf pointed out that the coils formed part of the ship's cloaking device. As La Forge worked on repairs to the ship in engineering where another eruption knocked another crewman down, Data informed Riker that if a low-level ionic pulse were to be targeted at the Bird-of-Prey's plasma coils, it might reset the coil and engage the cloaking device. The shields would meanwhile drop, leaving the ship vulnerable for just a few seconds. Data, in full support of the plan, began work on the pulse.

Aboard the Bird-of-Prey, an officer reported to B'Etor that their ship's shields were continuing to hold. B'Etor responded by ordering the crew to fire at will.

The original edit of Star Trek Generations included eight seconds of additional footage in this scene. The ultimately deleted clip featured one of the Klingon officers reporting minor damage to one of the Bird-of-Prey's warp nacelles. [1]

After Riker instructed Worf to ready a spread of photon torpedoes that would target the Klingon craft's primary reactor, the Bird-of-Prey fired at least three more pairs of disruptor bolts. The first two passed straight through the Enterprise's shields without hitting the ship. Thus, only the last volley had any effect, striking the Enterprise's starboard nacelle.

Data was just about to set off the ionic pulse when the Enterprise's bridge received its biggest blow yet; a blast which consumed the aft stations in smoke and debris also thrust an officer across the room's wooden handrail, sending him tumbling over the command stations before he landed on the deck. Despite the disruption, Data finally managed to activate the pulse.

The section of the battle involving an officer being propelled across the bridge was only achievable due to the lessened control that Paramount had on a feature film compared to the television series. This was because no risk of damage to the command chair was permitted by Paramount during production on the series. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (Special Edition) DVD/Blu-ray) The effect was done by launching the actor from a pad which threw him over the handrail. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)
Enterprise fires torpedo

The Enterprise deploys a critical photon torpedo

Savoring almost imminent victory, the Duras sisters (with B'Etor still operating her scope) ordered their crew to target the Enterprise's bridge with full disruptors. Instead, the Bird-of-Prey's shields dropped and its cloak began to engage, much to the surprise of the Klingons. The Enterprise then fired a single torpedo that hit home on the Bird-of-Prey, completely destroying it. (Star Trek Generations)

Portraying the instants before the demise of Lursa and B'Etor challenged the respective actresses who played those roles, Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh. Observed Walsh, "The scene required that we make an emotional connection in that last second when we become aware that this is the end [....] Although Lursa and B'Etor are warriors and they accept their death with dignity, because that is the Klingon way, their closeness and their feeling of loss had to be portrayed in just the right manner." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 104, p. 51) March felt that, as performed by herself and Walsh, the final moment clearly made some impact but was missing an impression of genuine affection between the Duras sisters. She offered, "I know the scene went well, but I still don't feel they allowed us to suitably express our sisterly concern for each other in that final moment." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 104, pp. 51 & 52) For this footage, one shot of each actress was filmed on-set by Cinematographer John A. Alonzo, using a snap zoom. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)
In the first edit of Generations, a visual effect shot from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (also reused in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) mistakenly showed the Bird-of-Prey decloaking at the point when the ship was established as cloaking. A similarly recycled shot in the film's final version, this one taken from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, shows the Bird-of-Prey erupting. [2] According to Director David Carson, however, the destruction of the Klingon ship was filmed anew for Generations, an activity which gathered many curious spectators. "I remember referencing people to the rhythm of that," Carson said of the explosion, "because it goes, 'Boom, boom, ba-bam,' and I often tell people when they're making explosions to look at that piece of footage, because there's something about it that is different from just a 'boom.'" (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)

Aftermath

The outcome of the battle, immediately afterwards, brought a sense of joy to the bridge of the Enterprise. An officer standing behind the wooden handrail made a fist with his left hand then victoriously pummeled the air with it. Apparently without noticing this action, Data did likewise, excitedly exclaiming, "Yes!"

In the film, these celebrations conclude the battle sequence. Manny Coto, who worked on the third and fourth seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise, commented it was "a great ending," noting that the film goes "from a really big roller-coaster action sequence to a belly laugh." (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)

Even though the Enterprise had destroyed the Klingon vessel, damage caused by the Bird-of-Prey led to an imminent warp core breach aboard the Enterprise. On Riker's instruction, a saucer separation was therefore carried out, with all personnel evacuated to the saucer section. The warp core detonated sooner than expected, though, leading the saucer section to crash-land on the surface of Veridian III. The ship was subsequently deemed non-salvageable and declared destroyed, but casualties were light. The remaining crew was recovered by the USS Farragut as well as two other starships, shortly thereafter. (Star Trek Generations)

The deaths of Lursa and B'Etor reduced the House of Duras to just one effective member, Toral. He later attempted to gain control of the Klingon Empire by claiming the Sword of Kahless. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")

Background information

Conception

Early in the development of Star Trek Generations, the screenplay's writers – Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga – intended for the Battle of Veridian III to have a different outcome than it does in the film's final version. A couple of drafts of the film's script established that Riker and other surviving crew members from the Enterprise, following the crash-landing of the ship's saucer section on Veridian III, discovered that Lursa and B'Etor as well as some officers from their Bird-of-Prey had not only survived but had also crash-landed on the same planet; the two separate crews were therefore marooned there. The Klingons at first attacked the Starfleet officers but both crews eventually managed to put aside their differences enough to collaborate on finding a way off the planet. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (Special Edition) DVD/Blu-ray)

B'Etor actress Gwynyth Walsh once implied that she believed the reasoning why this story continuation was removed was that the writers had a massive variety of characters they had to service in Generations, including the entire collection of main characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Captain Kirk. (Star Trek Monthly issue 36, p. 38) Furthermore, Lursa actress Barbara March mused that the sexy appearance of the Duras sisters may have contributed to their downfall, admitting, "That might have been a continual problem, I think, on that kind of show [....] We didn't really seem to kick that much butt, and I think they decided it was just time to kill us off. I don't think that the writers, who did generic kind of villainnesses, understood what it was like to be a Klingon female." [3]

Visualization

Industrial Light & Magic was assigned to create the visual effects footage used in depicting the Battle of Veridian III. The sequence challenged ILM to devise a strategy of representing the conflict with a bare minimum of shots and no budget for pyrotechnic elements. (Cinefex, No. 61, p. 74) The final moments of the altercation were storyboarded in pencil by Bill George, during planning discussion with John Knoll. Knoll created computer-generated storyboards showing the start of the action. (The Art of Star Trek, pp. 284 & 285)

Photon torpedoes incorporated into the final version of the clash were additionally rendered by John Knoll, taking inspiration from photon torpedo effects work in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Phasers and disruptors in the encounter were done by Don Butler. Although the deflector shields in the sequence retained an oval shape from Star Trek: The Next Generation, considerable thought and experimentation went into how detailing of the shields would look, as the majority of the shots were to be close-ups of the ships in combat and would therefore clearly show the shields in detail. In views of the Bird-of-Prey distantly firing on the Enterprise in the foreground, the Klingon ship initially seemed to subtract from the effect of the Enterprise's shields flaring, so the Bird-of-Prey was changed to look smaller in those shots. (Cinefex, No. 61, p. 74)

The live-action footage from the battle involved stunts coordinated by Bud Davis. Strikes to the ships were filmed with the commonly-used method of having the actors and camera shake. Never having worked on a Star Trek film before, Davis initially doubted that this routine would be effective, though was convinced otherwise as the movie's production progressed. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)

Like many of the effect visuals in Generations, virtually all the views of the battle were omitted from the first work edit of the film but were inserted into the movie for its second cut, which was exhibited as a test preview. The first assembly of the film's live-action footage from the sequence also involved not only slightly more footage than in the movie's second work print and the theatrical cut, which were much the same as one another, but also several alternate takes. The cut footage establishing damage to one of the Bird-of-Prey's nacelles was in only the first edit of the film, as was the inconsistent visual effect shot of the ship decloaking. The only visual effects footage found in all three edits of the confrontation were the views of the decisive photon torpedo firstly being fired from the Enterprise and then streaking towards the Bird-of-Prey, as well as the recycled footage of the Klingon ship exploding. [4] Of how the sequence was edited, David Carson stated, "We developed the Klingon battle into this huge, noisy battle." (The Making of the Trek Films, p. 163)

Reception

There were shocked reactions, even from members of the production crew, to the revelation that the battle results in the deaths of Lursa and B'Etor. "When we filmed it for the first time," related Barbara March, "everyone on the set started crying out 'No, no, no, you can't kill off the Duras sisters!' Obviously that plot twist was a surprise to a lot of people." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 104, p. 52) Some Star Trek fans were outraged that the fighting ends with the Duras sisters being killed off. In fact, some fans were more dissatisfied with this conclusion to the fray than their unhappiness at Kirk dying. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (Special Edition) DVD/Blu-ray) One of these disappointed fans was Manny Coto. In hindsight, he related about the Duras sisters, "I was sorry to see them die, I thought it would have been nice to keep them going." (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray) At one stage, Barbara March sympathized with the fans' complaints by lamenting the elimination of her character as well as that of B'Etor, though March also conceded, "I think it was inevitable that we had to die. Villainess sex goddesses must die – that's the truth!" [5]

Production staffers such as Brannon Braga and Rick Berman were proud of the battle sequence. While editing the movie, Berman commented, "To my delight, the battle and demise of the Klingon vessel is an incredible action-adventure sequence." Berman also cited it as one of several parts of the film that surprised him by how good (in his opinion) they turned out. (Star Trek Generations (novel), hardback ed., p. 278) Brannon Braga once remarked that the skirmish was "cool." He proceeded to state, "I really enjoyed the space battle, and it came at a point in the film when there had been no action since the opening. Maybe a little too long, so finally we get excited. This is good old-fashioned Star Trek." In addition, Braga described the presentment of the Bird-of-Prey's annihilation as "great stuff" and Ronald D. Moore referred to the same finalé as "pretty cool." (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (Special Edition) DVD/Blu-ray) In agreement, David Carson called the explosion "terrific." Other parts of the battle he cited as highlights include the shot of Riker ordering the detonation, which pans from Worf at the tactical station to Riker, and the two final views of Lursa and B'Etor, utilizing John Alonzo's snap zoom. (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)

Even though Manny Coto was regretful about the demise of the Duras sisters, he highly approved of the battle that precedes it. Coto described the stunt work of "people flying over the bridge" as "very well done," adding, "I don't think I'd ever seen [that] before in a Star Trek movie [....] It's terrific stuff." He also called the shot of the Bird-of-Prey's elimination "a great explosion." (audio commentary, Star Trek Generations (2010) DVD/Blu-ray)

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