The reveal of the USS Enterprise as led by Captain Pike was a big twist in the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery. The inclusion of the ship has led to a lot of fan debate. While we can’t settle any of those debates today, certainly not before we see what they’re planing to do with the Enterprise in season two, we can do what Trekkies do best, which is to analyze the new “Disco” design of the most famous ship in the Star Trek franchise.
The new tweaks to the classic design are certainly interesting, and contain a variety of influences, primarily of course the final version of the classic Enterprise model that was used for The Original Series. There are also details from the pilot version as seen in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and the later refit version first seen in The Motion Picture. Also in the mix of influences are the NX-class from Star Trek: Enterprise, and yes, a dash of the Kelvin-universe USS Enterprise as well.
The original Enterprise(s)
For those who may be unaware, the filming model for The Original Series’ USS Enterprise looked somewhat different in the first pilot “The Cage.” It was updated again for the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and was then more dramatically re-worked a third time when the show was picked up for series.
The season finale of Discovery takes place in 2257, which sets it in between the two pilots, with the “The Cage” set in 2254 and the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” set in 2265. The two pilot versions of the Enterprise are fairly similar. One of the easiest differences to spot between the pilot and series versions is the look of the nacelle caps (Bussard Collectors in TNG-era parlance). In the pilots they were a simple reddish-brown and had a spike protruding, matching the spike in the deflector dish. Speaking of the deflector dish, it was quite a bit larger than it would be in the final series version. There were some other differences too; the back of the warp nacelles initially had minimal detail in “The Cage,” and later in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” had a simple grille that looked like vents, rather than the funky and futuristic-looking balls they would have in the series. The bridge modules were also different; in both pilots they were taller. Various hull markings were changed between each pilot and the series as well.
Comparing originals to Discovery’s Enterprise
Let’s start with two of the most obvious attributes of the pilot versions. The nacelle caps are not spiked. Realistically I didn’t expect them to keep this feature of the pilot model, it was done for simplicity’s sake in 1964 and certainly isn’t the iconic look we all know. What’s more, in Discovery they need as many light sources as they can get, since they render the space scenes pretty dark. The nacelles’ spinning lights are less colorful than the TOS version, but they are overall similar to it.
Moving down to the deflector dish, the Discovery team chose to go with the smaller, more detailed, version seen throughout the series. It would have been nice if they’d used the larger version, but again, the iconic design is the series filming model, which they’ve stayed pretty true to in this area of the ship.
While we’re observing the bow of the ship, the saucer is pretty similar to the classic Enterprise. It does have a steeper taper on the edge, making it somewhat unique to this interpretation, but is otherwise pretty close, including the same long triangular markings on the underside.
Swinging around to the stern of the ship, let’s look at the engines. In “Where No Man Has Gone Before” there was simple vent grating at the back of the warp nacelles. This one was a nice surprise — in the back of the nacelles of the Discovery version we find a glowing grid of vent holes.
This last detail is more obscure: only in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” do the impulse engines have multiple nozzles in the back. While not exactly the same, you can see the Discovery impulse engines have three segments on each side.
Details that connect to the past and future
One nice bit of design that ties this version of the USS Enterprise to what came before are the nacelles. These seem to be heavily influenced by the design seen in the NX-class of Star Trek: Enterprise. The glowing blue on the inside flank of the nacelle, the more obvious “clamps” around the nacelle caps, and even the thicker pylons that hold up the nacelles, all echo the NX-01.
Refit and ready to “Disco”
Of course the other influence that is readily apparent is the (future) refit of the Constitution-class. The lines of the bottom and aft of the engineering section on up to the shuttle bay are very similar to the refit. Likewise the nacelle pylons come out of the hull in much the same manner as they do in the refit. The refit also introduced a number of extra spot lights to better show the hull texture and the Starfleet identification markings in the darkness of space. These same kind of floodlights are present in the Discovery version.
One change that affects the lines of the ship is the new neck. While somewhat reminiscent of the refit, it appears to be a little bit shorter and about 50% wider, making it look a bit stubby and less graceful than either the original or refit Enterprise. We’ve seen this kind of stubby and wide design before, but it comes from an alternate universe. Thankfully this general design idea is all that’s taken from the Kelvin-universe.
Let’s get this one out of the way: Yes this Enterprise has a window on the bridge, like all Starfleet starships in Discovery. The top of the saucer is similar to the original series version, but the bridge module is even flatter and wider than the classic series version. It seems like this was done to make a wider bridge which would accommodate that window.
So far we’ve seen how the Discovery USS Enterprise melds influences from the rest of the franchise, but there are two totally unique oddities with this new design. For reasons I can’t fathom, there is a slit with rounded corners in the nacelle pylons. This seems to be pure “Discoization,” and people online are already calling this detail “the potato peeler.” No other ship we’ve seen in Discovery has this kind of cutout in the pylon. Even more unusual is the extended platform for the shuttlebay; we’ve never seen a shuttle craft actually need an extra landing strip before, and it gives the design an awkward “lower lip.”
What do you think of the USS Enterprise redesign for Star Trek: Discovery? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on the Space Channel and is available on Netflix everywhere else.
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