GUEST BLOG: The Lineage of Ships That Bear The Name Enterprise

By John Eaves - December 12, 2013

The Starship Enterprise NCC-1701 was the first fictional spacecraft to carry on the name of many vessels in English and U.S. history. There were actually two ships in the English Navy called the HMS Enterprize (and that's not a typo). The first was from 1743 and the second sailed in 1775. Fast forward to the U.S. Pacific Fleet during WWII and the USS Enterprise CV6 was our first Aircraft Carrier to carry the name Enterprise. In 1955, the second USS Enterprise CV65 took to sea. She was a massive aircraft carrier and the first of our nuclear-powered fleet. Fast forward again to 1966, and a new USS Enterprise would to take us into space… with Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek.

Little did TV viewers know at that time what they themselves would set into motion. The fan based continued to grow well after the show ended only after three seasons. So much in fact that in 1976 when NASA was getting ready to start production on the space shuttle, fans galore wrote the space administration demanding that they name the first shuttle "Enterprise." The requests were disregarded at first, but the fans would not let up and in the end they won -- and the first shuttle did in fact bare the name Enterprise.

It’s now 1978 and Star Trek: The Motion Picture is well into production. The USS Enterprise is back, with a major retrofit by Richard Taylor and Andy Probert. With the scope of a motion picture and a huge budget to work with, the ship’s interiors got extended and re-imagined to fit her new big-screen premiere. One of the new sets was called the recreation lounge or deck. This was a huge room for the crew to hang out in and get some rest and relaxation when off duty. One of the notable details of this room was a little alcove that featured some backlit drawings of ships and vessels named Enterprise. Rick Sternbach was asked to create the art work for this set and he illustrated the sailing ship, the aircraft carrier, the space shuttle, one of Matt Jefferies’ early rejected designs for the Enterprise and, finally, the starship Enterprise. This set would be redressed and relit for another scene in The Motion Picture: when the crew assembles to watch the deep-space footage of Vger and the attack on the Klingons. Although the set was a redress, Rick's drawings remained as a prominent feature.

Star Trek The Motion Picture lounge John Eaves

Now let’s travel farther into the future, to 1987, and the airing of Roddenberry's next television adventure, Star Trek: The Next Generation. This series introduced us to a new crew and a new starship: the Enterprise NCC 1701-D. This was a bold design by Andy Probert, and also on board for this series were Rick Sternbach and newcomer Mike Okuda. For the show and the new ship, great set designs were conceived by Andy. One of my personal favorites was the introduction of the observation lounge. Well, it's not really that new because Andy did a version for The Motion Picture, but the set got very little screen time and was a bit overlooked. For his TNG version, the set is a curved room situated just behind the bridge. Carrying on with what was started in the rec room, the Enterprise lineage would be a major part of the design.

This time around, the drawings of the various incarnations of the Enterprise would be replaced with large 3D wall relief sculptures painted gold. This display concentrated more on the starships, with the exception of the CV65 Aircraft Carrier. As the seasons went on, the Enterprise-C would be added to the display. The "C" had not been designed when TNG began, so when it was introduced in a prominent episode the relief was added to the set.

Now, back to the time machine we go and let’s move forward to 1996 and the new Enterprise NCC-1701-E and the release of Star Trek: First Contact. The "E" was the next starship to traverse the heavens and with this new design came a new version of the observation lounge. The design and location were similar to the "D" and, in fact, the same windows were used for both sets -- with a bit of detail changes to give you the impression of there being two different ships. This was my third big Star Trek movie and it was a glorious ride. Working with my boss, Herman Zimmerman, was the highlight of the show and when we got to the observation lounge all the real fun began.

Star Trek First Contact lounge John Eaves

We were talking about the wall of Enterprise and how we were going to put up those reliefs again. I casually mentioned that for this one, why don't we make models and have them gold-plated to add a little something extra. Herman loved the idea and said, “How soon can you get them made?” “Haaa!” I replied. “I don't know, but I'll get right on them.” The hardest part about this project is that we were doing double duty between First Contact and Deep Space Nine, so there was not a lot of time to squeeze these ships in. Things got done quickly. I assembled everything that was available in kit or toy form; the Enterprise A, D, and the Original Series ship all were available in model kit form. The B was available through Playmates, leaving the C and the E to be made from scratch. I put the word out and a garage kit of the C emerged, making the E the only ship that had to be made from scratch.

Thankfully I was making a big study model of the E for the ILM model makers and, in the end, that model was used for the set. As the script progressed, a scene was added that these models were going to all be smashed by Captain Picard. This meant that we would need more than one set of models. So the next step was to make molds of everything and get a lot more gold plating done. The end results were great, especially under those quartz halogen lights. The sad day came and we had to watch them get repeatedly smashed for the scene...  Well, they all looked good intact and broken I had to say!

Two years later, production on Star Trek: Insurrection was in the beginning stages and again the observation lounge called for more gold ships. This time around, both the C and the E were available as kits, so we used those for the new masters. As the film progressed, the lounge set had to be redressed for a party scene and the new ships didn't make it into the set or the film.

Moving ahead another couple of years, to Star Trek Nemesis, we are back to the observation lounge in what would be the Big E's final mission. The lounge set got a big face lift and the addition of a much-larger display area for the Enterprise models. Instead of six ships, this time there were going to be 12. For the second case, we built the Voyager, the Excelsior, the Grissom, the Reliant and under construction were the Phoenix and the Defiant. The deadline for these models moved when the filming scheduled changed the set order, and the observation lounge got moved up considerably. To make a long story short, the additional models didn't make it to the set and instead the E models were duplicated in pairs on either side of the viewing screen.

Star Trek Nemesis Lounge John Eaves

At this same time, the series Enterprise was on the air and instead of an observation lounge, the new Enterprise NX-01 (designed by Doug Drexler) would have a captain's ready room. This was a small set situated just off of the side of the bridge. The size of the set determined that models would consume too much space, so I created art for the set. The script called for five pieces of art, so what was illustrated was the HMS Enterprise, both of the U.S. carriers, the space shuttle and, finally, the NX-01. Once on stage, only four prints would fit in the case, so the WWII (CV-6) version of the USS Enterprise was scratched.

Star Trek Enterprise Ready Room John Eaves

OK, then, one last trip into the future and this story will be complete. For this we travel to 2012 and onto the set of J.J. Abrams’ second installment: Star Trek Into Darkness. For this lineage we find ourselves in the admiral’s office where very prominently displayed is a set of accurately painted models depicting man’s history of flight. Karen the set decorator came over to my office and asked what models would be used to show this Star Trek lineage, and “Can we find them or do we have to build them? Oh and how much do you think they will cost, so I can put them in my budget?” I said, “We’ll, I'll make you a list and see what we can do with pricing and what is available vs. what you have to build.”

So I made her a list of 22 ships and planes and gave her a rough budget on what she could buy pre-made -- which was a good majority of the ships. Still, there were a handful to build from scratch though, and this worried her. About this time Andy Gore from QMX collectibles was over visiting Karen. He saw the list and offered to make all the ships for her. She gladly accepted and off he went. He came back a while later with a beautiful array of models covering the reality of flight within the imaginary Star Trek universe. The final models got some fantastic screen time and set a new standard for the Enterprise lineage.

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And now for this special edition of the Red Dress Series, we’re going to play the blues with Miss Jessica Rammell of Torrington, Wyoming. Jessica and I met by accident in the hallways of Eastern Wyoming College. I was going to a meeting and saw Jess sitting on a bench wearing some very cool heeled boots and sporting a perfect 60’s-esque hairdo. On my way back from the meeting she was still there, and I asked if she would perhaps like to do some modeling for a retro Star Trek photo shoot. She responded with “That sounds fun” and told me she used to model years before.

This was about a month ago and we spent a while trying to get schedules and the weather to cooperate. Finally, it all came together for a great shoot out at a place called Grey Rock Ranch, owned and operated by the Camp Guernsey Army base. Col. Knowlton is the head of operations there, and he has let me do a couple of shoots on the tanks and aircraft they have on the main base. For this outing he let us venture into an area of the property covered with these very alien-looking natural rock formations. This place screams Star Trek and is a vast and sprawling landscape highlighted by these incredible rocks and mesas.

The sun sets at 4:30 p.m., so we started shooting around 2:30. We were lucky to have such a beautiful day, especially because we’d already had a couple of winter snowstorms and the big winter stuff is going to hit at any time now.  Anyways, we had a great shoot and Jessica did a fabulous job putting her spin on the Trek theme.  Coming in at 6 feet tall, she has a very powerful and commanding presence. That, combined with her posing talents and lovely expressions, made every picture great. Jess wrote a brief bio for you all to read. So here it is and I hope you enjoy her story and the pix to follow.

Jessica Rammell was raised in Idaho and Wyoming. She is the youngest of four siblings, and a country girl who loves riding horses, camping and outdoor sports, and is also a violinist and fiddler, as well as a fan of sci-fi books and movies. Jessica is now attending EWC, where she is actively involved in the student senate and has been the student representative for debate, skills USA, and computers. She is currently studying web and graphic design, photography and the arts. Jessica works as an assistant for her father, who is a veterinarian, as she attends college.  

So until next time… stay tuned for more and God bless.

John Eaves