August 20, 2011

U.S.S. Jefferson Randolph Smith: Soapy Smith and Star Trek.

(Click image to enlarge)

You might be surprised to hear me say that Soapy Smith will he remembered well into the 23rd century. The year 2268 to be exact, but you'd have to be a big Trekie fan to know that.

I won't admit being a Trekie, although I did watch all the TV Star Trek episodes and films. In 1987 Star Trek author, John M. Ford, published the book, How Much For Just the Planet? Contained in the book is a Federation Starship, christened the U.S.S. Jefferson Randolph Smith (NCC-29402) searching for dilithium, the imaginary mineral that powers the warp drives on Starships. I found excerpts from the book on-line but could not find any artwork for the Starship, so took it upon himself to make a conceptual rendition of the vessel (see above). It's my first attempt at space art. Using what information I had found from the book I scouted around for another ship to work with. I found a nice one (Norway Class) at Star Trek Using Paint Shop Pro I invented what I imagine a mineral explorer vessel might look like in the year 2268. I had fun making it, but it was hard fitting the long name of the ship somewhere.

How do we know it is named after our Jefferson Randolph Smith? From other ship names in the book, like the U.S.S. Dawson City it would appear that John Ford did a little mining history research. Obviously the author had a since of humor.

Following are excerpts from, How Much For Just the Planets?

U.S.S. Jefferson Randolph Smith NCC-29402)
Sulek-class Federation Starship
Captain, Tatyana Troftmov

Year 2268

Not far away, silent in silent deep space, Federation resource exploratory vessel Jefferson Randolph Smith cruised at Warp Factor Four, her sensor net spread wide in search of Dilithium, that rare and refractory mineral that powers the warp drive, indeed the Federation itself...but more about dilithium a little later. Just now, aboard Smith, the captain was also having one of those days.

But then, thought Captain Tatyana Troflmov, as she sipped her blue orange juice, it always seemed to be one of those days.

The rest of Smith's officers were at the restroom table with Captain Trotimov. The first officer, a Withiki named Tellihu, had his broad, red-feathered wings draped over the back of his chair, he read a freshly printed newsfax with his left hand and ate a mushroom omelet with his right. Tellihu had had eggs for breakfast every morning of Smith's mission, four hundred and sixty-six days so far, and it still seemed to Captain Trofimov vaguely like cannibalism.

Science Officer T'Vau had finished her soya salad and was looking at a chess set. Not playing with it, not touching the pieces, just looking. T'Vau's hair was dangling over one pointed ear, and there were vinegar-and-oil spots on her uniform blouse. For a Vulcan, the Captain thought, T'Vau was really a slob.

The three of them were all the officers aboard Jefferson Randolph Smith, and also all the crew, just as this compartment was not only the mushroom but the common room and the recreation room. Smith NCC-29402, Sulek-class) was a ship of the Resources Division, Exploration Command, designed to seek out -- no, not what you're thinking -- seek out minerals, especially dilithillm, at the lowest possible cost.

It was actually not such a small ship, really quite roomy given its crew of three. And Starfleet Psychological Division had been very aware that a crew of only three for a mission of twenty to twenty-eight months must be carefully chosen for compatibility.
PsyComm recommended that a special battery of crew-relations tests be designed.

The test designers were hard at work and expected to deliver a preliminary report no later than six months from now. Until then -- well, somebody had to bring in the dilithium.

Captain Trofimov came from Reynaud II, a thinly populated planet on the Cygnus-Carina Fringe, without much space trade. Trofimov had decided very young that she was not only going to enlist in Starfleet and get off Reynaud II, she was going to get every millimeter as far off Reynaud II as Starfleet went. Exploration Command seemed like just the thing. The recruiter showed her trishots of the big mining ships, like Dawson City, and the planetformers, like Robert Moses, vessels bigger than starships, bigger than stargazes, and Trofimov knew that her destiny was sealed.

Only too right, she thought.

Tellihu finished his omelet, stood up, and said something to the wall in the whistling Withiki language. Pleep, the wall said, then Fling. Tellihu took out what looked to Trofimov like an ice cream cone filled with birdseed and went out of the room nibbling it, dipping his wings to clear the doorway.

He does it deliberately, the captain thought. He'd eat worms if he thought he could get away with it.

She looked at T'Vau. The science officer picked a kelp strand out of her salad bowl and chewed on it idly, still watching the chess set. Finally she reached out, picked up a pawn, turned it over in her fingers, then put it back on its original square.

Trofimov finished her juice without looking at it, and left T'Vau to her, uh, game. As she went into the corridor she thought, I'll bet it's never like this for starship captains....

1889: Soap gang member, “Mysterious Dan” Leery is arrested but released the following day when the police officer “forgot” why he had arrested Leery.

Jeff Smith



  1. Very nice article! Your rendition is a very cool ship design, but there is one I've seen that's a bit more like what I imagined it to look like, by artist VektorVisual. Compact, stubby, but boasts warp engines and a deflector / sensor dish. It was shown with landing gear, but the Sulek-Class was stated - I think by Klingon engineer Askade - that it had landing capabilities but needed a larger ship to get back to space.

    Off-topic but somewhat on since it involves the Smith's crew:
    I imagine that Captain Tatyana Trofimov could have been played by Sigourney Weaver as a blonde as she was in Galaxy Quest as Gwen DiMarco.
    Tellihu: John Hallam from Flash Gordon (1980), Vultan's right-hand man Luro.
    T'Vau: Not sure who'd play her but I bet she'd be stunningly beautiful but sloppy.
    Smith's computer's voice: Patton Oswalt.

    Here's the VektorVisual version's URL

    1. Thank you very much for your comment, Ken! I had looked all over for a portrayal of the Jefferson Randolph Smith before deciding to give it a try myself.

      With all the references to the Klondike gold rush of 1896-1898 (Dawson, etc.) it seem obvious that author John Ford had probably took a cruise up to Alaska, where he caught the fever. I am thrilled that he did!

    2. Ken, if you are so inclined, you are welcome to post my version from 2011 on the thread at All I ask is that you link to this article. Thanks again! This was fun!


Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith