With all sorts of Star Trek merchandise just around the corner, it is fun to look back at what the old series looked like, especially one of their most important parts: the Enterprise. Designers for the show came up with many different versions of the iconic ships, each one recognizably of the same lineage. However, some designs are better than others. Here is my listing of the Enterprise designs in order from worst to best.
This is with out a doubt the ugliest version of the Enterprise. It only showed up in a few of the movies, but other ships of the class appeared all throughout the Next Generation era of Star Trek. From certain angles the ship looks alright, especially when viewed from the side, but when seen from the front the Enterprise-B looks bulky and lacks the grace of the other models. The biggest problem is the deflector dish, which seems comically small for such a big ship, and the connection between the engineering hull and the secondary hull has a blocky look that never reaches the elegance of the other models. It may have been the workforce of the Federation fleet, but this class of ships will never win a beauty contest.
It’s almost unfair to include the J in this list, since it was only briefly glimpsed in a time travelling episode of Enterprise. From what audiences saw of the ship, it took part in the classic federation design, but just made slightly more futuristic looking. That is all well and good, but it does not really look interesting enough to get high on this list. Maybe in the new series will we see the J in action.
Featured in the excellent episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, show designers made the C look like a cross between the older Federation ships and the newer Galaxy-class like the Entperise-D. They succeeded in their goal, and the C looks like an early version of the Galaxy-class. However, that does mean that the C always looked like an odd duck, with its over-sized nacelles but small secondary hull. From the side it looked fine, but from most other angles it was oddly disproportionate. Only seeing it for one episode never gave the audience a chance to fall in love with the design.
In the universe this is the earliest of the Enterprise designs to explore the final frontier. It’s a fine design, but never quite captures the magic or thrill of the other lead ships from the other Star Trek shows. The one thing that makes the NX-01 really great is the interior, which does look like a ship that is technologically inferior to the NCC-1701 and gives a sense of early technology. However, from the outside, the NX-01 just kind of exists. There really isn’t much to say about it.
The ship that started it all, probably the most easily identifiable spaceship design in the television and movie history. Papers have been written on what makes the original Enterprise design so iconic just from an aesthetic standpoint, whether it be the proportions or the clean lines. The original version was great, but gets knocked down a little bit due to the bulkiness of the nacelles and the awkward deflector dish, both of which were fixed on future designs of the ship.
An update on the original design, J.J. Abram’s Enterprise is different enough to make it a unique ship, and it is a beautiful one. The design team made an effort to make the Enterprise look fast and sleek, borrowing design elements from classic cars to give the sense of power. It is a beautiful ship, with its swooping lines and understated elegance. Out of all the things in the new Star Trek movies, the redesigned Enterprise is one element that consistently works.
This one has a special place in my heart, since it is the lead ship from my favorite series. When the designers came up with the Enterprise-D, they had the unenviable task of coming up with a ship design that paid homage to the original Enterprise while still doing its own thing. This ship perfectly hits the balance. It has the same lines and structure as the original but visually displays the power and technology of the Federation that was missing in the Kirk era. It is a beautiful and elegant ship, and dominates whatever scene it is in. Watching it crash in Generations was painful.
As much as I love the Enterprise-D, its successor ship takes the win for best ship of the TNG era. It took the same elegance of the Enterprise-D combined with a sleakness that was missing from the earlier ship. The lines on the ship are beautiful, and it looks great every time it is on the screen. The TNG movies may have flaws, but the Enterprise-E was not one of them. If I were a starship captain, this is what I would want to fly.
This is my favorite Enterprise. It is a perfect design. Instead of trying to re-invent the ship, the model makers of the Star Trek movies just updated the classic design, and created a true work of art. This version of the Enterprise perfectly shows what makes the ship so iconic, while avoiding the goofy features of the TV show version. It is just wonderful.