For Star Trek fans, the Enterprise is basically another member of the crew. The ship is an absolutely iconic design, and these fans have amazing memories of it taking the crew all across the galaxy as they “boldly go” where none have gone before. Because the ship feels like a member of the crew, most fans think they know and understand the ship quite well. Just as we know the various secrets of Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, and Dr. McCoy, we must understand the secrets of the Enterprise... right? As it turns out, we’re just getting started!
There were many secrets surrounding the Starship Enterprise well before we ever saw her on-screen. And even when the voyages had gotten underway, there were still amazing production and design secrets that only a special handful of people knew and as the franchise expanded to other shows and movies, those secrets expanded as well. Sometimes, the secrets have been right under our noses all along, like the frequent mentions of “Jefferies Tubes” throughout the ship. Other times, a secret has been right in front of us all along, like the many, many times that the sets of the ship got re-used later on. Wondering how you can access these secrets? Don’t worry, you won’t have to rewire a positronic brain or recreate everything on the holodeck. All you have to do is keep scrolling. So, grab your mouse, say “hello, computer,” and start reading about some of the Enterprise's most surprising secrets.
15 INSIDE JOB
Even the most casual fans of Star Trek know the name for the tubes that run throughout the ship. These are called “Jefferies Tubes” in the Original Series, and this practice continued into The Next Generation. But do you know who these tubes are named after?
They are named after Matt Jefferies, whose technical title on The Original Series was “art director.” However, this title hardly encompasses all of his work: Jefferies actually designed the entire look of the original Starship Enterprise. This was actually harder than it sounds, as he had to create something dynamic and unique back when science fiction was more popular on TV and in film than ever before.
14 GETTING SWOLL
Ever met a Trek fan who really hates the reboots? There are plenty of fans who want to talk your pointy ears off about the various changes that they didn’t like about these newer movies. One of the biggest changes, though, concerned something pretty fundamental: the size of the ship!
When we say that the rebooted Enterprise is bigger than the original design, “bigger” hardly does it justice. In fact, if you were comparing various ship sizes, the reboot ship is almost the size of Captain Picard’s Galaxy-class Enterprise that wouldn’t be built until nearly a hundred years later. That’s time travel for you!
13 RUSSIAN FRIENDSHIP
Another fact about the original Enterprise that even casual fans know by heart is the registry number: NCC 1701. The story behind the numbers is nothing special -- they were chosen to clearly stand out on the hull. However, the story behind “NCC” is wholesome and hopeful.
While “NCC” technically stands for “Naval Construction Contract” in the canon, the real reason Roddenberry used it is because Russian aircraft used “C’s” in their designations. Even during the height of the Cold War, Roddenberry hoped his show would be a symbol of America and Russian one day uniting (which is also why the character of Chekhov was later added to the series).
12 USS WORLDWIDE
While we’re talking about names and numbers, it’s worth talking about other special designations. For instance, Kirk and company rarely refer to the ship simply as Enterprise. Instead, they refer to it as the U.S.S. Enterprise, but have you ever wondered what that stands for?
The answer is simple. Here in the real world, U.S.S. means “United States Ship.” In the 23rd century, after Earth has united together, the term now means “United Space Ship.” Hence, it refers both to the purpose of the vessels (space exploration) and the unity that first brought humanity to the stars in the first place.
11 A LITTLE TOO “CLASSY”
Have you ever wanted to start a fight between Star Trek fans? You might think you have to do something like ask which captain is better or tell them Star Wars is cooler. However, the answer is much simpler: just ask them what class the first Enterprise was.
In the original show, the Enterprise and other vessels that looked like it were considered “Starship class.” Since that sounds pretty dang broad, the first technical manual (released in 1975) changed that to “Constitution class.” To this day, fans argue whether the technical manual retcon “counts” or we should go by the show (which even had this class in a plaque on the bridge).
10 THAT HOTEL AESTHETIC
Over the years, many fans have tried to describe the interior of the Enterprise. It’s a collection of wild colors and even wilder sets... what words could possibly sum it all up? As it turns out, Gene Roddenberry could sum it up in just three words: “Holiday Inn Style.”
The description makes sense, in its own special way. The ship functioned as much as the home of the crew as it did their vessel, so the design was meant to reflect the kind of “home away from home” vibe of a good hotel. And the franchise was consistent: years later, Picard’s ship managed to look even more like a Holiday Inn on the inside than Kirk’s did.
9 WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
It’s a rookie mistake to assume that the original Enterprise only had one look. In reality, the look has been tweaked for any number of reasons across a variety of shows and movies. What’s fascinating, as Spock might say, is how close we got to getting an entirely new design.
Star Trek did not have a clean jump from television to film. Roddenberry actually wanted to have a sequel TV series called Star Trek: Phase II. Matt Jefferies was still onboard at this point, and he had several creative ideas to modify the original design (such as changing the engines and sensor dish). The success of Star Wars sent Trek to film, but we still ended up getting a new design.
8 NEW MOVIE, NEW LOOK
On paper, the starship in the first three Trek movies was the same Enterprise from The Original Series. However, its look was changed pretty dramatically between TV and film. The look of the nacelles was changed, extra details were added, and the whole aesthetic got an art deco makeover.
Why all the changes? Within the Trek universe, the conceit is that the ship got retrofitted in-between Kirk’s five-year mission and the events of The Motion Picture. In reality, Roddenberry and crew needed a model with enough beauty and fine detail to look good when it was magnified onto a huge screen for film audiences.
7 WHEN “BIG” IS “TOO BIG”
When Trek made the leap from series to film, it was a bit of a double-edged sword (and no, we’re not just talking about how boring The Motion Picture is). A new Enterprise model was created for exterior ship shots. This model was eight feet long and a thing of total beauty... beauty that came at a price.
As it turns out, the eight-foot model was really difficult to physically move around for filming. In fact, it took eight of the crew and a forklift simply to get it into position! This may be one of the reasons why filmmakers weren’t too sad when the time came to blow the original ship up.
6 TAKING OUT THE FRUSTRATION
Like we said before, not everybody was in love with the new Enterprise model. One of the people who hated it the most was special effects supervisor Ken Ralston, who had to work with the model more than most people did. Fortunately, he would find a way to get his revenge.
As you already know, the Enterprise is destroyed on-screen in The Search for Spock to safeguard the ship’s secrets from Klingon invaders. Ralston, who hated the original model, didn’t get a chance to destroy it in real life. However, he got to destroy several new models and miniatures of the ship, and he reportedly loved every minute of it.
5 24TH CENTURY RECYCLING
Sometimes, casual fans forget that Star Trek has been around for over 50 years. What’s the secret to such success? One of the secrets is recycling: the franchise is pretty notorious for re-using old special effects shots in both TV and film. So, it’s not much of a surprise to learn that Enterprise sets were constantly being reused.
For instance, Kirk’s old quarters would eventually become Worf’s quarters, and The Motion Picture’s sickbay became The Next Generation’s sickbay. Also, the Engineering department from the first movie became Engineering in The Next Generation. If you have a good eye, there are countless set callbacks to earlier moments in the franchise.
4 IPHONE INSPIRATION
As we said before, the redesigned Enterprise of the reboot was very controversial. Many fans took exception to exterior changes, including the placement of the warp nacelles and the overall size. However, it was the inside of the ship that got the most attention.
The new bridge looks nothing like the old one. In fact, many fans noted that the place looked like one of Apple’s “genius bars.” It turns out that this is not a coincidence: designer Ryan Church was apparently quite inspired by his new iPhone (technology which still felt pretty new in 2009), and that Apple aesthetic bled over into the set design.
3 WARP CORE BEER BREACH
Another moment from the reboot movies that drives fans crazy is the idea of “transwarp beaming.” Previously, the shows established that to beam into a ship at warp, you had to get super close and match their exact speed. With “transwarp beaming,” though, Scotty and Kirk go from a planet to the Enterprise engineering room while the ship is moving.
When they arrive, there is a pretty insane sequence, including Scotty being caught inside a tank of liquid. Some fans wondered what the hell kind of engineering room this was. As it turns out, this was filmed inside a Budweiser plant, a move which saved the budget because they didn’t have to build a new set.
2 THE FORGOTTEN CAPTAIN
Can you name all the captains of the first Enterprise? Obviously, everyone knows about Captain James T. Kirk and his many adventures, and thanks to both the reboot films and Star Trek: Discovery, many fans now know about Captain Christopher Pike. But as Yoda might say “there is... another!”
The first captain was actually Robert April. If you haven’t heard of him, that’s because of behind the scenes drama: he only appeared on-screen in the cartoon, as both fans and creators debated whether The Animated Series was canon or not. Star Trek: Discovery put an end to this by listing Robert April’s name among a list of the most decorated captains.
1 TRUE GREATNESS TAKES TIME
While old school fans were skeptical when it first came out, Star Trek: The Next Generation quickly established itself as a worthy successor. One reason for this was the Enterprise-D design which is a wonderful combination of beauty and grace. It’s enough to make you wonder, “how long did it take them to design this?”
Technically, it took nearly a decade. This is because the general design was based on a painting Andrew Probert did for The Motion Picture. Probert wanted to do a bold new design, but Roddenberry and crew ended up simply updating Jefferies’ original design. But when the time came for a new design, they already had a great blueprint.