So, what the hell -- let's dive right into the deep end of mediocre, over-merchandised pop culture, and talk about Star Trek.
One of my earliest LiveJournal entries was a critique of the excreable television maladaptation of Birds of Prey, cast in the form of dissecting what had gone wrong with the pilot and suggesting how it could have been done more effectively. I ended by promising that my next entry in the How They Should Have Done It category would, in fact, be the Star Trek prequel series then entering its second season.
I've kept that promise...in that I haven't done any other installments of that particular heading in the intervening half-decade. Enterprise -- pardon me, Star Trek: Enterprise -- has been off the air for two years, now. Yesterday, however, the discovery of an interesting Trek proposal that never came to pass and the conversation it prompted brought those long-simmering thoughts up to the front burner once more.
Part 1: TECHNOLOGY
The single biggest change I would make in the setting is that NX-01 would be the first Warp 5-capable starship.
No, not the first Human Warp 5 ship... the very first one, in this part of the galaxy, anyway.
The Vulcans never broke Warp 3. They had very good, solid, consistent, logical theories as to way it was impossible to break Warp 3.
Then they started collaborating with the humans, who'd go off on wild tangents, and talk about interpretations of quantum mechanics that the Vulcans never seriously contemplated because they weren't "logical".
Humans couldn't have done it without the vast quantities of data that the Vulcans had gathered during their years (centuries?) of warp flight. Vulcans couldn't have done it without the nonlinear thinking and eccentric interpretations of that data that Humans brought to the table. This was something that was only possible when two different races, with different cultures and different psychologies, sat down and collaborated.
And the nature of the Human/Vulcan First Contact, and the humanitarian (vulcanitarian?) aid mission that followed, meant that this was the first time two races had really done that. Contacts between already-established warp cultures were too loaded with suspicion and vested interests to reach that kind of synergistic collaboration.
(Did I mention that I wouldn't have made Vulcans assholes?)
With that established, I certainly wouldn't have given them tech that worked JUST LIKE TNG TECH with "quaint" names. "Phase pistols"? "Polarize the hull plating?" Please. The whole idea of a prequel was because the familiar stuff was too familiar.
They should have taken more cues from the few references that TOS made to the early days of starflight -- bits that popped up in "The Cage" and in "Balance of Terror".
Space battles would largely be fought with missiles, mostly thermonuclear, some antimatter. Instead of "polarized hull plates" that act exactly like deflector shields, the primary defenses would be point defense lasers. That's not just for the NX-01 -- "Balance of Terror" made it clear that the Romulans were armed in the same way, and there's no reason to assume the other local races would be any more advanced. If they were, why didn't they intervene in the Earth/Romulan war decisively?
It would be a very different kind of space combat than the familiar Star Trek long-range ray-gun fighting, and one that would show off the advances made in SFX since the '60s.
It's hard to justify not giving them "plasma shields" as radiation protection, since those are under development in our time; those might dissipate some of the force of directed energy weapons, as well. That gets a little too close to Classic Trek's magic deflectors, but I could live with it -- especially if they were a lot more ablative than later generations.
Maybe, just Maybe, they might have some kind of Directed Energy Cannon -- but it would labor under Wave Motion Gun restraints. Hard to aim, slow to fire, you have to channel all the power of the ship into it. You know the drill. But that starts getting away from "Reasonable Precursor TrekTech" and into "Not Really Trek At All".
Given the established rationales for later TrekTech, you need some kind of navigational deflector to keep stuff from running into you at multiples of c -- but we could explicitly state that the way it works is by focusing the warp bubble generated by the engines into a beam of some sort. (That would have the handy side-effect of explaining how, centuries later, Voyager could use the Navigational Deflector to pull all kinds of souped-up-warp-drive tricks.) Alternatively, the Point Defense System could use those Deflector Beams instead of or in addition to lasers.
In our next installment: THE RIGHT STUFF.