A few months ago GWCers The Operator, ThotFullGuy, and DawnAZ flooded my Twitter stream with references to the Starship Enterprise. While it was clearly evident The Operator and ThotFullGuy were discussing the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 from the 2009 Star Trek reboot movie, DawnAZ wasn’t nearly as specific. In fact, I listed off 10 different Enterprises off the top of my head in a reply requesting her to specify. It turned out that the exact ship wasn’t relevant to her Enterprise reference, but the conversation reminded me how fondly I regard the many ships called Enterprise. For those that have served on board an Enterprise or watched the various Enterprise versions on the movie or television screens over the years the name Enterprise has a special reverence in our hearts. If you search the internet you will find many web pages devoted to these fine ships. By no means am I attempting to duplicate the many long hours of work it took to assemble those fine resources. Rather, what follows is simply a list of my favorite Enterprises and where I've run into them over the years. I think even the most die-hard Enterprise enthusiast might find a surprise or two. So enjoy the tour and as always, drop a comment below. I'd love to hear what you have to say on the subject.
[caption id="attachment_5505" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="CV-6 U.S.S. Enterprise (Image from the Naval History & Heritage Command http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-e/cv6.htm)"][/caption]
Surprisingly enough the first Enterprise I ran into might not have been from Star Trek. Instead it could have been the most decorated ship of WW-II and arguably the most successful naval ship in history, the U.S.S. Enterprise CV-6 also known as “The Big E.” I was introduced to CV-6 via the 1976 film “Midway” most likely some Saturday afternoon on television with Dad Shooter. Although the CV-6 was one of three Yorktown class ships which were the first US full scale aircraft carriers built from the keel-up to be an aircraft carrier, I was later dismayed to learn all of the ship shots in “Midway” were from the Essex class U.S.S. Lexington. I was further dismayed to learn that after efforts failed to create the CV-6 into a memorial, she was sold for scrapping in 1958. However, the CV-6 was the center of a phenomenal virtualization series on the History Channel in 2008 called Battle 360. Battle 360 follows “The Big E” through its unmatched WW-II campaign. I encourage anyone who is interested to check it out. And as an added bonus the main sponsor for Battle 360 was Enterprise Rental Car. The Enterprise Rental Car company was founded by one of the richest Americans and former F6F Hellcat pilot aboard CV-6, Jack Crawford Taylor.
[caption id="attachment_5509" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Shooter and the Original U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 Model at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in early 2010"][/caption]
Probably equally as fond to me as the CV-6 Enterprise was “the” U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701. “No bloody A, B, C, or D.” (Scotty, Star Trek: The Next Generation “Relics”). Dad Shooter and I would watch Star Trek reruns and the Rockford Files on Saturday afternoons on our black and white television when I was kindergarten age. The Original Series and the NCC-1701 Enterprise were probably a large part of why I’m a geek today. I’m an engineer after all and love boats and spaceships. While I can similarly point to Star Wars, the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Starblazers and Robotech, none of those franchises can come close to the total amount of content of Star Trek that I’ve viewed. I’ve watched every minute of Star Trek footage broadcast or released in theaters, and it’s all due to the NCC-1701 Enterprise. She always came through no matter what situation she was put in, had photon torpedoes and phasers, and ran on antimatter through dilithium crystals. She had sensors and shuttles and transporters and the largest big screen TV/viewscreen for about three decades. She traveled through time, fought Klingons and Romulans, and made the coolest ship sounds. The crew always pulled through for her. The NCC-1701 Enterprise was indeed a very admirable ship.
As I already mentioned Robotech is also another early heavy influence to my geekdom. If you've delved much into the Robotech extended universe you may have run across the book "The End of the Circle." Inside this attempt at a franchise finale the author throws a bone to the Star Trek universe and creates the Karbarran ship "N'Tirpriz" complete with a Captain named "Commander K'rrk." Unfortunately the crew in the Robotech universe meets an untimely demise, but the fact that the Star Trek and Robotech 'verses intersected is enough to make this one of my favorite Enterprises. Alas, I have never been able to find a graphic of what the Robotech N'Tirpriz looks like. If you have one please let me know. I'd be very anxious to see it! I realize this book might not have full Robotech canon support, but if you are a Robotech fan and are interested in a possible franchise story completion "The End of the Circle" is a must read.
[caption id="attachment_5539" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701D Suspended At the Las Vegas Hilton Trek Experience in 2004 (Photo posted with permission of Gary Burke as found on http://www.flickr.com/photos/klingon65/3186040258/ - Thank you Gary!)"][/caption]
In the fall of 1987 we were graced with the first new Star Trek television series shows in eighteen years. Star Trek The Next Generation blazed into our homes with a new crew, newer technology and an entirely new ship. Starfleet's newest flagship the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D was a much bigger ship full of tons of surprises and extras. This Galaxy class starship had a separable saucer section, holodecks, space enough for families to live comfortably, the spacious "Ten-Forward" lounge, it was chalked full of science labs and sensors, it had multiple shuttle bays and transporter rooms, and it boasted a Captain's Yacht. Fans of The Next Generation saw the ship on a regular basis until November of 1994 when the pesky Klingon Duras sisters did what no one else could do in 178 hours and seven years of adventures and finally destroyed the 1701-D. The 1701-D also stuck with me through 4 years of high school and three years of college. And even though it was sad to see her go, it is always exciting to see a new incarnation of the 1701 series.
[caption id="attachment_5535" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The Space Shuttle OV-101 Enterprise on Display at the National Air and Space Museum Steven Udvar-Hazy Center (Image from the National Air and Space Museum website http://nasm.si.edu/)"][/caption]
When the Apollo space program was winding down in the early 1970's America started down the road of a re-imagined space program. Wernher von Braun's space program vision is laid out in the movie "2001" and included some sort of reusable earth to space transportation system. As a first step to make von Braun's vision a reality in the post-Apollo era NASA was charted by President Nixon on January 5, 1972 to develop a reusable space shuttle system. The first full-sized space shuttle test article was originally slated to be named Constitution but a massive Star Trek letter campaign convinced the White House to change the name to Enterprise. So on September 17, 1976 OV-101 Enterprise was rolled out. After a successful test program OV-101 was originally designated to be retrofitted for space flight. However, radical structural design changes to the actual space flight worthy shuttles prevented the OV-101 from undergoing the modifications at least twice. The OV-101 completed her active service before September 6, 1981 and on that date began a series of trips including public relation stops in the 1983 and 1984 time frame. She was finally ferried to Washington Dulles Airport on November 18, 1985 and became property of the Smithsonian. In December 2003 the Smithsonian opened the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport and the OV-101 has been on display ever since.
The Star Trek Enterprise that I claim as my own is known to me as The Original Series movie version NCC--1701 and/or the NCC-1701-A. This version was actually two ships. The first ship was in the first, second and third Star Trek movies and was a refit of the Original Series Enterprise NCC-1701. The second ship was seen in the fourth, fifth and sixth Star Trek movies and was renamed from another vessel to U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A. Who can forget the close ups of the forward torpedo tubes spewing star-like red hot torpedoes towards an opposing ship or the hull reflecting the light waves off of the nebula in Star Trek II? The exterior scenes lighting up the hull in space dock were also incredible. Also the shot of the Enterprise-A when the crew is being transported to their replacement ship at the end of Star Trek IV was just a fantastic magical moment to me. These two ships took incredible poundings and still managed to complete any mission given to them by the crew, and in the case of Star Trek III sacrificed itself to allow the crew to continue their mission. And as the Enterprise-A flew into the sun at the end of the sixth Star Trek movie I felt as if I was waving a friend goodbye.
[caption id="attachment_5577" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The USS Enterprise CVAN-65 circa 1962 (Image from the Naval History & Heritage Command http://www.navy.mil/navydata/navy_legacy_hr.asp?id=23)"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_5575" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The Modern USS Enterprise CVN-65 (Photo From the Enterprise's Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/USS.Enterprise.CVN.65)"][/caption]
Soon I will be waving goodbye to another Enterprise. The United States Navy is getting ready to decommission her longest serving nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise CVN-65, in 2013. Commissioned on November 25, 1961 the CVN-65 is the only ship in her class. She boasts eight nuclear reactors, four rudders and her unusually shaped box like superstructure was designed for a state-of-the-art phased array radar. She hosted a Star Trek convention in 1994, and like any great actor she was replaced by her stunt double the USS Ranger CV-61 in Star Trek IV because the CVN-65 was at sea during filming. And just like her predecessor the Enterprise CV-6 it will be unlikely that the CVN-65 will be turned into a museum since removing her nuclear power plants during decommissioning will essentially gut her and disfigure her. While there is a move afoot to name the first Gerald Ford class aircraft carrier CVN-79 USS Enterprise, we will have to wait until at least 2018 to see if the Enterprise name graces her decks.
Forty-two years and eight months to the day after Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek aired on NBC the Star Trek universe "rebooted" with a part prequel-part alternate time line film. Whatever your personal feelings about the new Trek universe, the old and the new were forever linked by Leonard Nimoy's performance as "Spock Prime." In this version of the Star Trek universe we were allowed to peak into the construction of the reboot Enterprise on Earth in Iowa. This rebooted USS Enterprise NCC-1701 borrowed from the design of both the Original Series NCC-1701 and the movie version NCC-1701-A as well as some new added flares. The result of the blending of design styles is a part retro, part homage and part modern Enterprise version that is nice to see on the screen even if it isn't my favorite. And while I have my doubts on if this reboot Enterprise will see the same amount of screen time as the original, I am still looking forward to seeing her again on June 29, 2012. In the meantime, I will enjoy playing with my reboot Enterprise Hallmark Christmas Tree Ornament and my special edition Star Trek Enterprise DVD case.
[caption id="attachment_5592" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Twelve Gun Schooner USS Enterprise "The Lucky Enterprise" Defeats Tripolitan Corsair Tripoli in 1801 (Image from National Archives)"][/caption]
It is impossible to discuss ships with the name of Enterprise and not discuss any one of the dozens of sailing vessels with this historic name. In fact, it is because of those early wooden vessels that the name Enterprise was made famous to begin with. However, I have no intention whatsoever of discussing each and every naval sailing vessel named Enterprise. Although, if you are interested in sailing vessels with the name Enterprise and you are reading this post I highly recommend an article at STArchive titled "A History of Ships Named Enterprise" compiled by David Wells in 2001 or the more current work of Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr titled "Voyages of the Enterprise" at http://www.sandcastlevi.com/sea/enterprise/intro.html. For now, I do want to highlight one naval sailing Enterprise in particular. In 1799 a US Naval twelve gun schooner named USS Enterprise joined the fleet. This Enterprise had the nickname "Lucky Little Enterprise" and was forever engraved in US history with her involvement against Tripoli in the early 1800's. The Lucky Little Enterprise underwent several refits over her lifetime changing to a fourteen gun topsail schooner and eventually a brig rigged (two main sailing masts) ship. It was this Enterprise that was portrayed in the movie Star Trek: Generations, but just like the CVN-65 she was camera shy and had her modern stunt double Lady Washington play her onscreen. You may have also seen the Lady Washington as the HMS Interceptor in Pirates of the Caribbean. The schooner USS Enterprise of the early 1800's was in service until 1823 when she ran aground and was wrecked without casualties in the West Indies. And when I think of historical naval sailing Enterprise ships the Lucky Little Enterprise is the one that always comes to mind.
Speaking of history, one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation is "Yesterday's Enterprise." In this stand out season three episode, we are introduced to the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C and her Star Trek universe historical importance. "Yesterday's Enterprise" is easily one of my five favorite episodes in The Next Generation series. During a battle in which the Enterprise-C is outnumbered four to one, the 1701-C slips into a temporal anomaly that catapults the ship twenty-two years into the future. Once through the anomaly the 1701-C comes to rest bridge to bridge with the 1701-D in an alternate reality. I haven't been able to confirm it, but to the best of my memory this may be the only time in the Star Trek filmed universe that two separate classes of Enterprises shared the screen at the same time (in this case an Ambassador class 1701-C and a Galaxy class 1701-D). At the end of the episode the 1701-C is taken back to her normal time in history by her courageous crew in the face of certain death in order to restore the proper time line. It is also in this episode that Captain Jean-Luc Picard said the words "Let's make sure that history never forgets the name Enterprise." If you are a bit curious about what happened before and after the 1701-C came through the anomaly, check out the fan created YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdU-M40eGIo&feature=related by SpaceVideoFX. The video may not be Star Trek canon but it's cool as Khan!
[caption id="attachment_5642" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The Goodyear Blimp GZ-20 Enterprise N1A at Hanscom Field, MA in 1986 or 1987 (Scanned photograph courtesy of Marcus aka flickr flame http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcusflickrflame/)"][/caption]
As you may or may not know I currently reside in Ohio and I would be completely remiss if I did not even mention the Goodyear Blimps since Goodyear is headquartered a few hours' drive down the road from me. Believe it or not, there have been several airships named Enterprise in both the United States Armed Forces' service and in Goodyear's service over the years. The most recent airship named Enterprise was a Goodyear owned GZ-20 class blimp. The GZ-20 Enterprise was in service from 1979 to 1991 and among her thousands of passengers each year carried James Doohan, George Takei and Walter Koeing from the original Star Trek series. These types of aircraft are always surrounded by fantasy and wonder, and the Goodyear advertising blimps are an instant cultural icon when they are spotted. Marcus, who is credited with the photo of the GZ-20 Enterprise N1A above, actually had a chance to pilot the airship for about fifteen minutes and performed a slow steep dive down to a ball field. Marcus stated that it was a special memory for him and I am definitely jealous for his opportunity aboard the now dismantled vessel. Thank you for the use of your photo and the shared memories Marcus!
[caption id="attachment_5625" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The USS Enterprise NX-01 from the TV Series "Enterprise" (Image from the Special Features section on the Star Trek V DVD)"][/caption]
It's hard to believe its almost been six years since the last modern Star Trek episode aired on May 13, 2005. For seventeen years seven months and fifteen days Star Treks fans had a new episode to look forward to viewing. The last series to air was the prequel series "Enterprise" (The name changed to "Star Trek: Enterprise" in the third season). "Enterprise" had no Federation, no NCC-1701 registered ship and no Neutral Zone. However, "Enterprise" did have an Enterprise, the USS Enterprise NX-01. The NX-01 was bare-bones for the Trek universe with only two shuttles, a top speed of Warp 5 and a grappling hook instead of a tractor beam. In the NX-01's short service span she fought Klingons, wrestled with Romulans, wagged a major campaign against the Xindi and forged the initial relationships that directly led to the formation of the Federation. The NX-01 certainly had her share of cuts and bruises too, most notably taking major damage during the Xindi campaign. Until the Star Trek powers that be decide to make a series or movie surrounding the spaceliner USS Enterprise XCV-330, the NX-01 will be the earliest Enterprise in the Trek time line known to Star Trek fans. And as far as space travel goes, the NX-01 is probably most closely aligned to early exploratory sailing ships than any other registered Enterprise in the Star Trek universe.
Since I mentioned sailing ships, there is one other sailing vessel that is worth mentioning in my top 20 Enterprises. In 1930 the J-Class sloop Enterprise successfully defended the America's Cup over Ireland's Shamrock V. The 1930 J-Class is the only vessel to win the America's Cup that is named Enterprise. She was launched in 1930, she raced in 1930 and was dry docked shortly after she won. She would never sail again, and in typical Enterprise fashion she was scrapped in 1935. However, if you would like to sail aboard an America's Cup challenger the 1977 US 27 Enterprise has been refit and is available for private charter (http://www.americascupcharters.com/enterprise.html). The US 27 Enterprise never did compete in the America's Cup finals, but in 1980 she did assist the 1980 America's Cup winner Freedom in her training. For me though, I would have much rather preferred the J-Class Enterprise. She did win her race after all!
In 2002 the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701D and NCC-1701-E took it's final voyage together on the screen. In fact, the Enterprise NCC-1701-E can probably be considered the final direct Gene Roddenberry Enterprise decedent since the 2009 Star Trek reboot film broke from the Roddenberry established time line. So in Star Trek Nemesis we see the NCC-1701-E for the third and final time and also have a chance to say our goodbyes to the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the original Star Trek Roddenberry time line. And the Roddenberry time line went out in style since the NCC-1701-E is my second favorite Starship Enterprise behind the NCC-1701-A. The three times we saw the NCC-1701-E in First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis she was always in action, she had a large formidable armament and she always prevailed despite taking a pounding thanks to her very capable crew. Also, her more modernized style lines are more visually appealing to me than the perceptively squatter and fatter NCC-1701-D. Plus who doesn't like a good desperation ship to ship ramming especially when your ship can live to tell the tale?
[caption id="attachment_5653" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="VSS Enterprise During Her Maiden Manned Glide Test on October 10, 2010 (Photo taken by Mark Greenberg and provided courtesy of Virgin Galactic Press Support)"][/caption]
High on my list of favorite Enterprises is space tourism company Virgin Galactic's first SpaceShipTwo class ship VSS Enterprise. Thanks to VSS Enterprise's builder Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic commercial space travel will soon be a reality. The fact that they named their first ship Enterprise is coolness beyond words I can offer. The day the VSS Enterprise begins operations will be a monumental date in human history. But beyond the magnitude of commercial space tourism, VSS Enterprise just looks bad ass. Burt Rutan has hardly built an ugly plane, and Enterprise is no exception. I cannot wait to see what this ship can do, and here's hoping VSS Enterprise is only the first of many ships named Enterprise to operate in space for real and not just on a screen.
There was one notable future Star Trek Enterprise that was only seen as a graphic on a screen display. In Star Trek Enterprise's third season episode "Azati Prime" time agent Daniels brings Captain Archer of the Enterprise NX-01 well into the future and talks to him on board the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-J. Little to nothing is known about this vessel, and no external shots were ever shown in the Star Trek universe that I'm aware of. By the graphic on the screen it seems a bit gangly for my tastes. However, I will have to reserve full and complete judgment for when and if we get to see her in action again. Also, it is good to know that the Federation thinks enough of the name and registry to use it at least a few more times.
[caption id="attachment_5534" align="aligncenter" width="390" caption=""Space Vikings" on November 1962 Analog Magazine Cover (My Heartfelt Appreciation to Mr. Ian Schoenherr for extending his permission to use his father's, John Schoenherr's, illustration in this post)"][/caption]
A few years before Gene Roddenberry brought his Star Trek creation to NBC viewers in November of 1962 H. Beam Piper began serializing "Space Viking" in Analog magazine. The story ended in February 1963 and then was published in full that same year. If you like pirates or vikings and if you also like space based stories, Space Viking is a real treat. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, the Enterprise in Space Viking is more like the U.S.S. Reliant in Star Trek II. The ship is commandeered straight out of the Gram planet side builders yard by a madman, Andray Dunnan. The revenge story that follows is full of space battles, viking-style planet raiding and the rebuilding of a galactic golden age viking society. The Enterprise described in Space Vikings is little more than a 2,000 foot flying armed sphere, and is hunted throughout the story by Lucas Trask aboard the Enterprise's sister ship Nemesis. The ultimate ship battle reminds me very much of the end to Star Trek VI. Space Viking is well worth a quick read, and you can grab a copy right now for a mere 99 cents from Amazon Kindle e-books. By the way, the artist responsible for the Analog cover graphic was John "Jack" Schoenherr. Mr. Schoenherr passed away April 8, 2010. In addition to creating some amazing art for Dune, one of the interesting stories about Mr. Schoenherr was his role with George Lucas in creating Chewbacca that could be found through a link on Mr. Schoenerr's son's blog: http://johnschoenherr.blogspot.com/2010/09/george-lucas-stole-chewbacca-but.html that points you to this article: http://binarybonsai.com/2010/09/18/george-lucas-stole-chewbacca-but-its-okay/.
In Star Trek: Generations the fans got to see a total of three Enterprises. We said goodbye to the Enterprise-D, we saw the crew aboard the sailing vessel Enterprise on the holodeck, and we took the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B out for short rescue mission. Of course we've seen Excelsior-class starships before in Star Trek movies III, IV and VI and also within television episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager but the only time we see the NCC-1701-B is in Star Trek: Generations. Even though the Excelsior-class was overall a better class than the Constitution class NCC-1701 and NCC-1701-A starships I remember many childhood discussions after Star Trek III released over which ship was better, the Excelsior or the Enterprise. I don't think either the Excelsior (or in later years the NCC-1701-B Enterprise) had a chance to win that debate in a 14 year-old's mind, though. It just wasn't the same as the original Constitution-class ships. I'm glad we were able to see the NCC-1701-B on the screen as brief as it was. The NCC-1701-B served her purposes within the Star Trek universe well. She completed Kirk's journey and she initiated Guinan's Star Trek story. And at least in my mind that is a service record with distinction all on its own.
For all you gamers out there, I do have a favorite video game version Enterprise. In 2006 Square Enix released a Nintendo DS version of the sixteen year old Final Fantasy III video game. The Final Fantasy III video game was never released in the United States before 2006 so the Nintendo version was the only way Final Fantasy addicts could get their fix in a language they could understand. I've honestly never played the foreign version or the Nintendo version, but I did purchase it for Little Shootette after she was gifted a Nintendo DS XL last year. I was pleasantly surprised when I paged through the instruction booklet and found a quarky half Viking sailing ship-half airship named Enterprise. The game introduction has a wonderfully rendered version that I would love as a picture on the wall of my office at work. I was even more intrigued with this airship Enterprise when I found out it was gifted in game play for courageous and heroic acts. If you've never seen this Enterprise before I highly encourage you to check it out. It is worth your time.
All good things come to an end including this blog post and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In late May of 1994 the final televised episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation "All Good Things" aired. "All Good Things" included a past, present and future time story made possible by Q. In the future story Admiral Riker selects the Enterprise NCC-1701-D as his flagship so it wouldn't be decommissioned. But this wasn't your standard Captain Picard's Enterprise. Oh no. This Enterprise can only be described as the Hot Rod of Starships. The future NCC-1701-D had an added warp nacelle, exterior mounted weapon pylons flanking the bridge area, the ability to cloak and a super weapons pylon molded into the saucer section's undercarriage. As we know from Star Trek Generations this Enterprise will never come to be in the Star Trek universe, but she sure was a formidable ship, and it was fun to she her tricked out this way in her final hour on television.
That officially wraps up my 20 favorite Enterprises. I hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to see more fan based Enterprise videos and have seen all of the currently released Star Trek, check out these YouTube videos:
In case you wanted a short list of my 20 favorite Enterprises (in no particular order), here it is:
Thank you again to Jeff Quan, Gary Burke, Marcus (aka flickr flame) and Ian Schoenherr for their responsiveness to my requests and permission to use their photos and art in this blog post. Each of you were fantastic and genuine class acts to correspond with, and you have my sincere appreciation.
If you have additional or newer information about any of these Enterprises, please let me know. You can always reach me on Twitter at @ShooterGWC or just leave a comment below. Did you like this blog post? Enterprise or not, on this post or not, what's your favorite ship? Let us know in comments! We look forward to reading them.
Until next time…