Posted by: movieotaku | May 11, 2007

Ships Always Have the Same Orientation When They Meet

The Starship Enterprise slows to one quarter impulse as it meets a new alien race. The alien ship pulls closer and after hundreds of light years, has the same orientation as the Enterprise.Why? Solar systems scattered throughout the galaxy will have a random orientation, and most ships will align their orientation to the last solar system they came from. In fact, there is no reason what so ever for them to stay that way in flight (for example, to navigate), yet somehow, they always meet right side “up”.

Now there is a simple explaination for this: the other ship choses to match orientation with the other, but have you ever seen Captain Kirk or Picard give the order, “Match orientation, ensign.” No, I didn’t think so.

I wonder if there’s a galactic treaty everyone signed declaring which way is “up” for all races. I’m sure the Organians were behind it.



  1. you must not understand their navigation systems.

    They are all oriented to the milky way galaxy.

    it’s “up” is up.

    their nav systems use a 3 dimensional coordinate system. the 0 of all axes is the center of the galaxy.

    This is why the orientation is always the same.

  2. The »up«-vector defined as collinear to the galaxy’s »rotation axis« would still have two possible orientations, in opposite directions. One’s up would be the other’s down.

  3. That still doesn’t follow the possibilities of alien thinking. Perhaps they view the galaxy as a vertical wheel rather than a horizontal one, as we do? Then they would have the tops or bottoms of tier ships facing the core. Even weirder things are possible.

    There’s still no reason for the ship to align themselves to any arbitrary standard. Sensors, scanners, and weapons should be able to point in whatever direction the Captain wishes without realigning the ship. And realigning the ship would cause unnecessary burning of fuel to maintain alignment.

  4. An example. Think of an average communications satellite in geostationary orbit. Which side is the top? According to Star Trek convention, it should be the side facing the North. However the real convention makes the top the side facing away from the Earth, as if it was a plane flying round the Earth.

  5. This is why the Enterprise-E’s attack on the Klingon vessel in the finale of TNG was so cool – they actually attacked from below rather than going head-to-head as in every other freaking episode.

  6. Old thread, but just have to add that this subject is something that bugged me about Star Trek 2. When Kirk is fighting Kahn in the nebula, spock points out his “2 dimensional” thinking. Kirk then “sinks” the ship by 10,000 Km, lets Kahn pass “overhead”, then rises back up behind him to take the final shots. Why???? Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just pitch the Big E 90 degrees from below for the shot??? Hmmmm.

  7. “When Kirk is fighting Kahn in the nebula”

    That’s one that annoys me about scfi approach to nebulas, that they make it basically look like fog. If you were in a nebula, you wouldn’t be able to see it (except maybe as a faint haze many many miles in the distance – many)

  8. When you look at a Klingon ship how can you be certain the thing isn’t upside down? We may simply be assuming the orientation when the show never says one way or another.

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