Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Little has been revealed about the upcoming CBS Star Trek show that will debut in January. At long last we've finally been given something concrete. Revealed at Comic-Con 2016 by Executive Producer Bryan Fuller, below is a glimpse of the show's featured ship. Take a look and we'll talk.

Here's my take.

First off, the title is in keeping with the last three Trek shows which were named after their ships (or station). "Discovery" is also in keeping with Star Trek's Mission Statement: "explore strange new worlds..." and all that. So it works on many levels.

The ship we see features a design that was created way back in the late 70's by designer Ralph McQuarrie of Star Wars fame. McQuarrie was hired in 1977 to design a new Enterprise for a Trek film that never got off the ground called "Planet of the Titans". Small cardboard study models were made of two of his designs and these models made very brief and very minor appearances in later Star Trek productions, but no detailed models for featured use were ever made so this makes the first-ever use of this design in any significant way.

Concept models of McQuarrie's designs

Renderings of McQuarrie's take on a new Enterprise
Keep in mind that at the time of their creation, no other Enterprise had been designed. These were a decade before Next Gen and 2 years before The Motion Picture.

McQuarrie's spacedock design is clearly seen in the new footage

Even if you don't know McQuarrie or his work on Star Wars, you can definitely see the influence of such things as the huge Star Destroyers – designed by McQuarrie for George Lucas – at work here. And while I've always found these to be interesting approaches, I have always thought the proportions were not very elegant. The huge triangular secondary hull dwarfs the saucer. The engines seem too insignificant.

In short, this design is butt ugly, in this fan's opinion. So I think it's unfortunate that they went to this particular well for a ship design to be featured heavily in a new production. It's my opinion that no featured ship should be blatantly unsophisticated. This seems to be just that.

Here's stills that show how they interpreted McQuarrie's design into a finished form:

There are some significant differences. The basic proportions of the saucer to the secondary hull are changed to create a larger overall saucer size which I think is a good thing. The engine size has been upped as well.

But the overall take-away for me is that this seems to be an intentionally crude ship design. The cages over the engine domes are almost steam-punkish. The engines lack any real sense of grace, at least from the limited angles we are given. And when combined with the music, this ship has an almost Klingon feel to it, mostly because of the triangular hull's forward-thrusting engines.

I'm not crazy about it but CBS has stated that this is a concept piece so hopefully it will be finessed (improved) a bit. A lot. A whole lot.

As for what the trailer actually tells us about the show, we actually get a few hints with some detective work.

First off, there's the aforementioned crudeness to the design. Is it meant to evoke an early era of Starfleet design, ie: before The Original Series? Perhaps.

Then there's the ship's number, 1031. That puts it well ahead of the Enterprise's 1701 registry number, again pointing to a pre-TOS setting. The ship's name features the "USS" designation which was not used in Star Trek: Enterprise, a show that was set a century before TOS. So, if we put it all together, the clues point to this being set between Enterprise and TOS. Exactly when is anybody's guess at this point. So I'll do just that and guess that it is squarely between the two eras so as not to crowd one or the other in its story-telling.

Fuller reiterated that the show (which will be abbreviating DSC) would not be episodic in nature, but would be structured “like a novel,” telling stories “chapter by chapter” across episodes. He also stated that it would take place in the Prime Universe, ie: NOT in the JJ Abrams film universe. Hallelujah!

As for the quality of the show, that is totally unknowable at this point. We'll have to hope that with people like the great Nick Meyer and Bryan Fuller on board that it will be a voyage worth taking.

Let's hope!




  1. I agree this design is really bad although not as bad as McQuarrie's original illustration. I love Ralph but not his best work

    1. Agreed! The guy did amazing work for Lucas but this was not his finest moment. Still, an interesting take, if not well-realized. Thanks for reading!