Where Do I Find the Dolphins?

Enterprise-D Cetacean Ops concept art
Cetacean Ops concept art for Star Trek: Online by Andrew Probert

Cetacean Ops is a facility on the Enterprise-D which, though referred to only twice — in the episodes “The Perfect Mate” and “Yesterday’s Enterprise” — has spoken to the imagination of fans ever since Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda included it in their Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual (1991) as containing dolphins.

It is stated in the Manual that guidance and navigation research is conducted by a cetacean crew of twelve Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus gilli), who are supervised by two Takaya’s Whales (Orcinus orca takayai).

Enterprise-D Cetacean Ops deck plan
Cetacean Ops are on Deck 13 according to Rick Sternbach’s Star Trek: The Next Generation U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints (1996)

The “Takaya’s Whale” is not a real species; the name is a homage to the fictional character Noriko Takaya in the Japanese animated series Aim For The Top! Gunbuster in which “espers and electronic-brained [bottlenose] dolphins” navigate a spaceship.

According to Sternbach, the area was never shown on screen “since the expense would have been prohibitive, but we did convince the writers to have Geordi [LaForge] ask a visiting official if they ever saw the dolphins.”

The facility was his idea from the start. “I’m convinced,” he writes in the Manual, “that, even if they’re not intelligent enough to pilot a starship, they can still teach us a few things about other lifeforms.”

From October through December 2005, Andrew Probert, who designed the Enterprise-D, worked with Perpetual Entertainment to imagine previously unseen interiors of a Galaxy-class starship for Star Trek Online. The project went in a different direction, but Probert’s designs still give us a glimpse of what could have been.

Sources for this story include: Andrew Probert, “Perpetual Entertainment,” Probert Designs; Rick Sternbach, Star Trek: The Next Generation U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints (1996); and Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda, Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual (1991)

15 comments

  1. “navigation research is conducted by a cetacean crew of twelve Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus gilli), who are supervised by two Takaya’s Whales (Orcinus orca takayai)”

    I can’t get the image of them putting on dolphin shaped uniforms and commbadges every morning out of my head…

  2. I have always wondered if the “Alien” Whales would have had some connection to the Alien Probe. Maybe contact was made sometime between Kirk and Picard.

    1. Maybe LD or DIS can make a reference to whatever happened after the alien whale probe left at the end of ST4. Did the Feds ever make contact with the probe’s senders afterwards…

    1. I started sketching and painting dolphins in spacesuits in 1974; Brin’s Uplift writings came maybe six years later. We had some fun discussions about it all long ago.

      1. And it’s now a confirmed concept on other ships in Lower Decks (and the reason I’m reading this)! Love it! 😀

  3. I am so obsessed with Cetacean Ops. I even made a TNG rash guard and participated in the Trainer-for-the-Day program at Marineland of Florida. Not to mention the fan fics, and the articles for my Star Trek club newsletters…

    1. That is awesome!! I’m not sure I even knew about it until Lower Decks. Also, I’m glad this comment thread is still going! 🙂

  4. What about the Xindi whale species? Seems there should be some connection could be made after the Xindi became allies.

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