History of Design Changes
In the 1980s, Star Trek fans were taken aback when the saucer section of the USS Enterprise-D of The Next Generation separated during the show’s pilot episode, Encounter at Farpoint. Then in the 1990s when Star Trek: Voyager aired, another new starship design element was introduced with the USS Voyager’s warp nacelles folding up when going to warp speed. Deep Space Nine, a series that focused around a space station, introduced the USS Defiant. That ship’s appearance was unlike any other Starfleet vessel we had seen. Star Trek Enterprise mostly played it safe in terms of ship design with only a more rugged, early engineering appearance.
Star Trek Discovery‘s main starship, the USS Discovery, looks to make interesting changes again. Today in their follow-up San Diego Comic-Con announcement, CBS revealed an image depicting the revised design of the Discovery. What’s noticeable is that there are two layers of gaps in the saucer’s hull – one towards the outer edges and another gap surrounding the ship’s bridge.
The purpose of the gaps is currently unclear and it’s not anything we’ve seen in any previous designs of featured Starfleet vessels.
Also of note are the elongated warp nacelles. Traditionally, Starfleet warp nacelles sit either vertically aligned with the saucer section, or higher. Discovery, similar to Voyager (when not at warp), has nacelles that sit very low.
Discovery is slated to feature another starship, the USS Shenzhou. That ship draws upon inspiration take from the Enterprise NX and other traditional Starfleet vessels.
Debate Over Design
Ever since Star Trek Discovery showrunners released their early concept work of the USS Discovery at SDCC 2016, there’s been plenty of debate over the ship’s design. Original series creator Bryan Fuller, at the time, made it clear there were to be many design elements certain to change. He made no specific references to the differences.
While there’s been no consensus by Star Trek fans about the ship, these newly-released modification are certain to keep buzz high surrounding the series.
Whether or not the saucer section cutouts server a purpose in the series’ story arc, some functional reasons, or if it was simply a design decision by show creators isn’t clear. It’s also not clear if the saucer section can be separated from the ship’s main hull or not.
Star Trek Discovery airs this September 24th on CBS All Access (USA), Space/CraveTV (Canada), and September 25th on Netflix everywhere else.