Star Trek: Ranking Every Iteration Of The USS Enterprise
The Star Trek universe is filled with a vast array of fantastic science fiction technology, from space bending warp cores to matter-creating replicators. But of course, one of the most important bits of kit are the spaceships that allow the Federation and the titular heroes of the shows to boldly go where no one had gone before. Without them, the Star Trek franchise itself couldn’t exist.
There are some fantastic alien spaceships originating from all across the galaxy, the spooky Klingon birds of prey being a prime example. But of course, none are more iconic than the Enterprise ships. Of all the iterations over the years, however, there are some that are better than others, so here is a list of the top variations (ignoring alternate timeline or reality versions).
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USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-J)
Starting off with what many fans consider to be the worst, this ugly ship looks more like an insect than it does a Starfleet spaceship. It was designed to look even more futuristic than the normal Enterprises, and features in Enterprise as part of their temporal accord, Cold War storyline. As its letter ‘J’ suggests, this is a far-future version from the 26th century. The intention was to make it look spindly and futuristic, but in reality it just feels squashed and stretched. Fans have said that it looks more like “a space pancake with nacelles” than a proper Star Trek spaceship.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-B)
This ship was an attempt to fill in the design gaps between The Original Series and The Next Generation, trying to meet somewhere in the middle between classic 1960s sci-fi vision and the sleeker, more modern aesthetic of Picard’s Enterprise. It’s seen the movie Generations and, likely because it didn’t get much screen time, the design is all over the place. It features tiny nacelle struts that make it look fairly stumpy, and has a chunky deflector dish. What annoyed fans more about this design, however, was not that it looked weird or out of place, but that it was a rip-off of another ship from the franchise: the USS Excelsior from the film The Search For Spock. They felt that the ship bearing the famous name should stand out more, or show some more individuality. But no, it ended up just being a lazy re-skin.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)
The Enterprise D would most likely be at the top of a lot of lists, just for how beloved the TNG show was (excluding season one). But arguably, the design of the ship was a bit odd. It has become iconic, there is no denying that, but most look at it with the rose-tinted glasses of loving the characters and storylines of the show. The ship is ridiculously huge, bulky, and seriously top-heavy. While being in space there is no need to balance everything out, it would have been nice to have seen some more elegant design choices. It is an awkward design that did a lot of cool things, like saucer separation, but never looked right.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-C)
This ship was potentially one of the most important ones of the franchise, or at least was part of a peace treaty that changed the Federation forever. This one is featured in the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” It is iconic for being a ship that sacrificed itself to save a Klingon outpost at a time when the Federation and Klingon empire were still at war. The design canceled out a lot of the odd, clunky vibes of the Enterprise B, and felt like a much more natural evolution between the old 60s ship and the modern TNG iteration. The only downside was that it was only shown off for one episode, then never seen again.
While there was a lot for fans to dislike about the Enterprise series (especially the series finale), the design of the ship is generally well received. It makes sense that, with the show being named after it, special attention would have been made to make it look not only appropriate for its time, but also aesthetically pleasing. This iteration provided a much grungier version of the iconic vessel. While very different from the newer version of the ship, as this one doesn’t have a lower saucer section, it still manages to be recognizably Star Trek. It’s easy to see that this is a prototype of the later versions of the vesse;. It was supposed to be experimental, in a time when all this space traveling, Federation-building malarkey was brand new.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A)
The A version from the prime timeline (not the Beyond version from the Abrams films) was TOS’s first refit from the iconic version found within the show, and made its first dramatic appearance in The Search For Spock. It’s a great-looking ship, but it became the subject of many jokes due to how often it malfunctioned or broke down. It was rushed (technically stolen) from a Starfleet space dock before it was properly finished. This said, it not only honored everything about the original design, but added to it, making subtle changes to make it really shine.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-E)
This iteration of the Enterprise first appeared in the Next Generation movies, and the design tried to spice things up. Everything is slimmed out from the original aesthetic. The design removes the connecting structure between the deflector dish and the much slimmer saucer, and extends out the length of the nacelles. It’s still the vague Enterprise shape, but gains a more premium, elegant sports car vibe, much more suited to the flashy aesthetic the films were trying to achieve. It remains familiar, just updated, doing exactly what was intended.
USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
Where else but at the top of the list should the famous Original Series ship go? It’s a beautifully designed vessel that started the entire franchise off. Its sharp angles and pleasing shapes completely blow the future designs out of the park, and while often referred to as simplistic or underwhelming, its legacy speaks for itself. The design is so good because it was designed with real world aeronautical science in mind, refining the appearance to make it not only look good, but also real realistic, and a logical step forward from the flying machines of the late 60s. Everything after this became somewhat messy, unnecessarily bogged down with sci-fi extras that looked cool, but often detracted from the design.
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