Update: The events of the Star Trek: Picard finale has required a slight re-ordering of our list. Accordingly, the list contains some major spoilers for Star Trek: Picard. We’ve left most of the original text as-is.
Original story: It’s the day Star Trek: Picard fans have been waiting for all season: this week we finally get to Frontier Day! A fleet-wide celebration of the Federation and Starfleet, where everything goes according to plan and nothing surprising happens!
As part of the festivities, the episode gives us a good look at USS Enterprise-F, a ship which has existed for a decade-plus in Star Trek Online but is only making its first canonical appearance in Picard. It is, depending on how you count, the newest and most advanced version of the Enterprise we’ve seen in action in any Trek movie or TV show (yes, we talk about the Enterprise-J later).
A new Enterprise means a new opportunity to re-evaluate the many canonical Enterprises that have existed in the last half-century; to that end, we’ve assembled a completely scientific and objectively correct ranked listing of every starship Enterprise, from the original ’60s show to Picard. For good measure, we’ve also ranked various versions of different Enterprises from reboots, updates, and alternate timelines, plus a few Enterprises that didn’t log much screen time but did deserve a quick mention.
#12: Alternate future anti-time Enterprise-D
The Next Generation has a nearly perfect finale episode, one that nicely wraps up the week-to-week televised adventures of the crew while leaving the door open to what looked like (and, on rare occasions, actually was) a promising movie franchise.
It also gave us a look at an “anti-time” far-future version of the Enterprise-D, where it was still in service after extensive refits rather than being crashed into the surface of a planet. And it… just has a bunch of extra stuff stuck to it? Including a third weird centrally mounted nacelle? It certainly makes it easy to tell the difference between the regular Enterprise and the future Enterprise when they’re both in the same shot, but it’s just way too busy and slapped-together looking.
Fun fact: The events of Star Trek: Picard are taking place even later than the events of this anti-time future. If anyone sees a Galaxy-class ship with three nacelles flying around, let me know.
#11: Kelvin-timeline Enterprise
The first of a few different riffs on the original Enterprise that will appear on this list, the J.J. Abrams “Kelvin-timeline” version of the Enterprise leaves me cold. I think it’s mostly the gigantic, bulbous nacelles, which are each nearly as big as the secondary hull (the part below the saucer with the circular deflector dish attached to the front, for people who don’t spend a ton of time on Memory Alpha studying starship designs). They make the whole ship look top-heavy and bug-eyed.
Every light on the ship is also a glowing whiteish-blue, giving it a monochromatic appearance that just isn’t as fun to look at. It’s a slick, sterile, Apple Store Enterprise. I don’t hate it, but I can’t defend it, either.
#10: NX-01 Enterprise
The retconned “first starship Enterprise” is a flat little thing. It does look like an old, simple predecessor of the starships that would come later, and the red tips on the nacelles do a little spinny thing that calls forward to the nacelles on the ’60s Enterprise model.
I understand that they couldn’t make this forerunner to Kirk’s Enterprise look more fancy and advanced than the ship that replaced it, but understanding why the NX-class Enterprise looks the way it does isn’t enough to make me fall in love with it.