Aloha to you all! The Manta's Shadow is a little feature I throw in every once in a while to examine the impact of the manta ray on science, art, culture and other areas not directly associated with SCUBA diving or marine biology.
Whether you're a science-fiction fan or not, one has to acknowledge that the Star Trek franchise was one of the greater cultural influences of the later 20th century. Phrases like "beam me up Scotty", "He's dead, Jim", and "Live long and prosper" have worked their way into the popular lexicon. The starship Enterprise as well as the Vulcan, Mr. Spock, are iconic and immediately recognizable to people the world over. Even science-fact owes much to the TV/movie phenomenon. After all, today's cellphones are almost replicas of the communicators used in the 1960's series.
But the creators of Star Trek owe a certain debt of inspiration to the manta ray. When the original series was being developed long ago (in a galaxy not very far away), designer Matt Jefferies was searching for a special look for the starships of Kirk's antagonists, the Klingons.
To quote Wikipedia (article: Klingon starships, D7-class): The vessel was designed by Matt Jefferies to be distinctive and quickly recognized by viewers. As Jefferies wanted the D7-class to appear "threatening, even vicious", the design was modeled on a manta ray in both shape and color".
Now it can be argued that the ship doesn't look much like a manta ray at first blush except for the "wings". But, if you take away the forward section, you get more of a manta ray suggestion. Wings and a big, gaping mouth. Perhaps the original idea for the ship was what we see as the rear section. Later in the "creative process" somebody may have decided to stick a head and a neck on it. Otherwise,without those additions it would look a lot like a Romulan Bird-of-Prey. Pretty geeky of me, eh?
Obviously, mantas aren't "threatening, even vicious" but it's a common misconception and you can't fault TV sci-fi folk of the 60's for not knowing any better.
So now you know how the manta ray played a role in a major entertainment enterprise (HA!) and you are infinitely better off for having read this!
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