All of Star Trek's Enterprises, ranked worst to best

Plus a bonus semi-canonical Enterprise you may have not heard of!
Star Trek: The Star Fleet Academy Experience Preview
Star Trek: The Star Fleet Academy Experience Preview / Noam Galai/GettyImages

“Let history never forget the name… Enterprise.”

Star Trek just can't quit the Enterprise.

To varying extents, all Star Trek shows after The Original Series have tried to forge their own identity, but they all come back in some way to that legendary ship designation. The shows that don't feature an Enterprise always discuss the Enterprises in hushed tones, as if the Enterprises represented Starfleet's finest, and being posted to an Enterprise is the Star Trek universe's equivalent of winning the lottery.

And why wouldn't Star Trek keep returning to the Enterprise? The Enterprise name is synonymous with Star Trek, moreso than any individual character. There's an Enterprise in every Star Trek era, and it's these references that make Star Trek Star Trek.

With that in mind, let's take a look at all the Enterprise ships we've seen over the franchise's nearly 60-year history, and rank them "worst" to "best" based on design, feel, and personal preference:

11. USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (Kelvin timeline) — Constitution Class — 2258–2263 (from J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies)

I find it hard to look at.

I would love for someone to walk me through the decision-making process here. The objective logically would have been to make the Enterprise look slicker and sleeker, so how is this achieved by making the Enterprise look like it has a bad case of the mumps?

And why change things so drastically? I am not one to insist that things must never change in franchise media, but the design of the original Enterprise from the 60s had plenty of straight lines and right angles that could've been rounded off for sharpened to make it sleeker, and director J.J. Abrams was happen to make it shinier. The design could've been updated in a very Abramsian way without undermining what made the original so iconic and beautiful.

The design has no momentum. The original Enterprise always looked like it was thrusting forward even when it was still. The way the saucer section sits too far back on the secondary hull makes it look like it’s dead in the water.

Then there’s those ridiculous nacelles! This looks like an attempt to improve a Harley Davidson by welding it to the back half of a Rolls Royce. When Scotty described them as “ample,” I think that gave the thought process away. Would “throbbing” or “girthy” have been too obvious?

This Enterprise was destroyed at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond, and at the end they were presented with a Kelvin version of the Enterprise-A that toned down everything that was wrong here. We’ve all but given up on Star Trek 4, but I want to see it happen simply because the Kelvin crew deserve a better Enterprise.

10. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-J Circa 26th Century (from Star Trek: Enterprise)

While I'm baffled by the design process behind the Kelvin Enterprise, the design process for the Enterprise-J seems clear: there wasn't one.

The Enterprise-J featured in one scene during Star Trek: Enterprise. As Captain Archer embarks on a suicide mission to destroy the Xindi weapon that's headed for Earth, he's whisked into the 26th century, and shown that the Federation will never come into being without him. He's shown that future aboard the Enterprise-J.

The design brief seemed to be, "the general shape of every other Enterprise, but make it all futury and stuff." So they made it big and round and flat and distorted the dimensions, slapped on a letter that comes after E, and called it a day. Star Trek ship designs are usually so well thought out, But here they just went bigger, rounder, and flatter until they had something that looked like nothing seen before in Star Trek. They deserve points for originality, but they needed at least a few more drafts.

That one scene shows no exterior shots of the J, we only see its shape on a computer console. Shortly after that, a full render of the J appeared on the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendar...and it looked pretty cool! It's also featured in the game Star Trek: Online, but we can only go by what's seen on the TV screen, and what was on the TV screen was a poorly realised afterthought.

9. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D - Galaxy Class - 2363–2371 (from Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Man in a skant spotted at 1:17!

Every city and town has one: a building that's beloved, yet butt-ugly. Perhaps it's beloved because it's butt-ugly. Either way, there's more to what we love than beauty. The Enterprise-D is iconic, I love it to bits, but it's neither a great ship nor a great design.

Early in Star Trek: Picard 's fantastic third season, Riker is drinking in a bar when he notices Starship models for sale behind the bar for Frontier Day. He asks why so many of the D are left, and the bar girl replies that "no one wants the fat one."

The D feels massive. If you're not the kind of nerd who knows that the D is more than twice the length of the original, you'd guess it. The D's design conveys bigness in the way Star Wars' Star Destroyers do, except where the Star Destroyers also conveyed villainy, the D telegraphs benevolence. It gets points for having that singularity of vision and achieving it. The D's design says exactly what they intended it to. It's still ugly.

Perhaps they should've thought less about the philosophical elements of the design and focussed on the aesthetics. The massive saucer section always looks like it will tip the whole thing forward. Because the laws of physics work so fundamentally differently in space, it doesn't really matter if a spaceship is off balance. But we didn't evolve to assess things visually under the conditions of outer space, so it still looks wrong to our eyes. And those little flat nacelles not only make it look off-balance, but underpowered.

8. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-F - Odyssey Class - 2386–2401 (from Star Trek: Picard)

In a vacuum, this would've been a great design. The problem is its unoriginality. It looks like its predecessor the Enterprise-E was shoved into the mould used to make Voyager (or vice-versa, I can't decide). On the plus side, the design of the F conveys bigness much better than the D does. The pointed Voyager-esque saucer section looks like it's thrusting forward, giving the design momentum, and the powerful-looking nacelles give it balance. It's a good design, I just wish it weren't a kitbash of other Star Trek ships.

The F was introduced in the Star Trek Online MMORPG game in 2011, and wasn't seen onscreen until the final season of Star Trek: Picard. It was designed by Adam Ihle, who won the "Design the Next Enterprise" competition held by game developer Cryptic Studios. I feel bad for dragging a design by a passionate fan, but it turns out that Ihle's original design was much more original than what we saw onscreen. Not that they changed it drastically, but the big original point of difference between the F and what had come before is hard to see when the vessel is rendered in motion: the recessed area between the saucer and the secondary hull, which makes the two sections distinct, gives the thing a lightness, although it looks no less imposing.

It's unbelievable how much difference the onscreen rendering makes. When you look at the original sketches, you see a design that deserved to win. Perhaps if they'd gone back to the brilliant pearlescent grey of the original Enterprise, rather than the dull militaristic mid-grey of the TNG era, that would've brought out the contrast better.

However, that livery is rather striking, I hope we see more of that.

7. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-B - 2293–2329 - Excelsior Class (from Star Trek Generations)

Star Trek Generations was not the best Star Trek movie, but it's the first one that came out when I was old enough to get excited by a new Star Trek. I vividly remember seeing that awe-inspiring opening scene in the cinema with my grandma, in which a champagne bottle tumbles through space on its way to smash into the hull of a ship and christen the new Enterprise.

I held my breath as the new Enterprise came into view... and it was... an Excelsior class vessel.

The Excelsior class had been Star Trek's go-to "other" Federation ship since 1986's Star Trek: The Final Frontier, and all through Star Trek: The Next Generation. So seeing the successor to the vaunted old gal was an Excelsior was a let down.

Sometime later I noticed that a series of wood panels in Captain Picard's ready room which depicted all the previous Enterprises. It established that the Enterprise-B is an Excelsior, so they really had no choice; it was already canon that the B was an Excelsior class vessel.

So let's talk about th Excelsior class instead. You know how they say that the Kelvin Enterprise looks like it was designed by Apple, I always thought the Excelsiors looked like they were designed by the Apple of the 80s...or Compaq, or Atari, or Colecovision; retro-futuristic in an 80s kind of way. TNG made the Excelsior class into the workhorse of Starfleet, and that's exactly what it looked like, a little dated aesthetically, but tough and practical, and quite beautiful if you were the kind of wierdo who had an appreciation for old tech.

6. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C - Ambassador Class - 2332–2344

The Enterprise-C is another Enterprise with just one appearance. TNG's third season episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" was the first truly great episode of TNG... When the C pops out of a time warp, coming face-to-face with the D, history is changed, as the C was lost defending a Klingon outpost against a Romulan attack, leading to peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Unless the C returns to its rightful place in history and faces certain death, the Federation will soon lose the war with the Klingons.

The gravity of this situation is, however, undercut by the C's dashing first officer being Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore.

The C looks like exactly what it's meant to be: the missing link between the original Enterprise and the D. It's a perfect in between, and it's perhaps a better update on the format than the D was. It's perfectly proportioned, and it has the original's lightness.

There's a sense and logic to the C's design, but a lack of personality. The D's saving grace is its sense of personality and uniqueness. The D should get credit for not being a copy of the original. It's tempting to say that TNG should've gone with this design, but if they had, TNG never would've established its own identity.

5. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A - Constitution II Class - 2286-2293 (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

The Enterprise-A shares almost the exact same design as her predecessor, post-refit. So it's a variation on the original Enterprise. It would probably be higher on this list if it wasn't for the original making this just a copy. The A is a pretty iconic design in and of itself, and almost every point of difference would have looked like an improvement at the time. But from the present, it just looks like a modification on something that was perfect. And you don't modify perfection.

In 1979, when the refit Enterprise was first unveiled in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the original looked dated, and this update would've been essential. You can see this in the futuristic glowy blue deflector dish in place of the old parabolic one. The nacelle struts are tilted, and the neck just out even further forward, giving it an even greater sense of momentum.

The only modification that's not an improvement, and I can't imagine it looking like an improvement in 1979 either, is those rectangular nacelles. It's hard to imagine the logic behind replacing something that looks like it's off a Cadillac or a hypersonic jetplane with something that looks like the battery off a laptop that weighs 20 pounds and is less powerful than a Furby, but I guess it made sense at the time.

4. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E - Sovereign Class - 2372–2384 (from Star Trek: First Contact)

Bonus Defiant! ...and yes, that is Ben from Parks & Recreation at the helm of the Defiant

Though Star Trek: The Next Generation had a rough start, the producers and writers developed a keen sense of how and where it needed to improve. It was the show's willingness to course-correct that made it a classic. They could not replace the hero ship right away, that had to wait until the movie era.

In-universe, the explanation is that after contact with the Borg and The Dominion, Starfleet concluded that big round cruise ships filled with diplomats, families, and science labs might not be the best vehicles for repelling the existential threats of the galaxy. So when it came time to replace the Federation's flagship, they went with something faster and more powerful.

And the Enterprise-E looks fast and powerful. While other Enterprises are designed in such a way as to give them a sense of momentum, every element of the E makes it look like it's in motion. There's a beautiful coherence to this design, with every part devoted to the same purpose: going fast.

The Star Trek movies may be a mixed bag in terms of quality, but they all do one thing very well: unveiling new ships with dramatic, cinematic pomp and ceremony. When we first see the E in Star Trek: First Contact battling the Borg as they approach Earth, she dwarfs the other ships in the battle, while still feeling fast and powerful. The "Battle of Sector 001" is the most exhilarating scene in any Star Trek movie. Throughout the rest of First Contact, the E feels like the sort of vessel you'd want to take into battle against the Borg.

Shame about the other two movies.

3. USS Enterprise NX-01 - NX Class - 2151-2161 (Star Trek: Enterprise)

Despite the faults with Star Trek: Enterprise, there was one thing the show did very very well: the design aesthetics of the show were pitch-perfect. Star Trek: Enterprise felt like a midpoint between the present and the world of Star Trek. And the Enterprise of Enterprise was the centerpiece.

The NX-01 looks simultaneously like something real people could build, and something that might evolve into the ships of the Star Trek universe that we know and love. In the present, in costs about 10,000 dollars to launch a pound of payload into space, so lightness is at a premium in modern spacecraft. The NX-01 has a lightness to it that makes it feel like a real spacecraft.

If you took the original Enterprise and hacked bits away to make it lighter, you'd eventually have the NX-01; the way the engineering hull has been shrunk down to a little nubbin suspended between comparatively huge nacelles is reminiscent of how the vessels that took us to the moon were basically hermetically sealed golf carts mounted atop six-million pound rockets. Elements like the cylindrical nacelles with glowing red tips, and the parabolic deflector (now mounted on the saucer) are fun callbacks to the original Enterprise.

The problem with Enterprise was that while it explored an untouched period Trek history, it still defaulted to an alien-of-the-week format. By contrast, the design of Enterprise was bold, fresh, and well thought out.

2. USS Enterprise NCC-1701-G - Constitution III Class 2396 (from Star Trek: Picard)

Star Trek: Picard season 3 featured the titular admiral commandeering the USS Titan to rescue Dr. Crusher from a mysterious villain, and ends with Picard and Crusher's son Jack serving along with Geordi La Forge's daughter under Captain Seven of Nine aboard the Titan, which has been rechristened the Enterprise-G. It's the perfect setup for a spin-off, and it's unbelievable that that spin-off may not be happening.

My suspicion is that this end was written in the hope that it would force Paramount to greenlight that spin-off, which fans have dubbed Star Trek: Legacy. Just as the setup was perfect, the Titan was the perfect hero ship, and in retrospect we should've seen the rechristening coming. The G is the perfect successor to the Enterprise name.

Star Trek: Picard takes place around 130 years after the original series, and the G looks like an homage to the original. There's a straight line from the original to the G, with 130 years of progress in between.

And the G is something of a course correction; it's the first Enterprise not to be larger than its predecessor, so it's something of a back-to-basics ship, in much the same way that Star Trek's current flagship show Strange New Worlds hearkens back to Star Trek's humble beginnings.

Meanwhile, no Star Trek hero ship has telegraphed technological advancement as well as the G. The G looks like an advanced piece of hardware built on the frame of the original Enterprise.

1. USS Enterprise NCC-1701 - Constitution Class - 2245–2285 (from Star Trek: The Original Series)

The silhouette of the original Starship Enterprise is just about the most famous shape in all of pop culture, up there with the three black circles that are universally recognized as signifying Mickey Mouse. The Enterprise would've looked like nothing else in pop culture when it was introduced in the '60s, and I find it hard to imagine Star Trek being such a great success without those arresting opening shots of the old gal whooshing by the screen.

Seriously...yes, the characters and stories were fantastic, and Star Trek deserves its status as a classic on the strength of its storytelling and world-building, but it was the appearance of the Enterprise that really kicked you in the gut and made you want to watch.

Like I said, it is easy to imagine the original Enterprise looking a little dated in the mid-70s and 80s, but we now have enough distance from the trend cycles of the time to see how timeless her design is.

"Retro-futurist" would be the term most people would use to describe the aesthetics of the Enterprise. That term is apt but hardly does it justice. The Enterprise is a very '60s vision of the future, but from the persective of the present, the retro-futurist aesthetic just looks really cool. The Enterprise certainly has elements that scream mid-century style.

But this was, of course, the era of the space race. The public's perception of spacecraft were conical rockets with aerodynamic fins and fiery exhaust. Instead of giving the public what they expected to see, designer Matt Jeffries seemingly took inspiration from Arthur C. Clark's adage that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and gave us a ship whose inner workings and propulsion were so arcane that they may have well been...well...magic. That's what made the Enterprise so novel, enticing, mysterious and genuinely futuristic.

The Enterprise is, of course, back in the new Star Trek show, Strange New Worlds, and as great as SNW is, what really makes it for me is that they left the Enterprise more or less exactly as it was (externally, anyway).

Bonus: USS Enterprise XCV 330 - Unknown

If Star Trek were just another media franchise, a picture on the wall in the background of a scene wouldn't send the entire canon into a tailspin. In 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Enterprise XCV 330 appeared in an illustration on the wall of the Enterprise NCC-1701's "rec deck"; the illustration is part of a series of five that show previous Enterprises, starting with a wooden sailing ship, the aircraft carrier, and the space shuttle. The XCV 330 is the first fictional ship in the srieies.

The XCV 330 makes two more appearances, but never in the flesh; first as another picture on a wall of a bar in Star Trek: Enterprise, and then as a model on the desk of the villainous Admiral Marcus in 2012's Star Trek Into Darkness.

Some sources contemporaneous with Star Trek: The Motion Picture state that the XCV 330 was launched in 2050, while others put the date at 2123, just a few decades before Enterprise. Can you imagine there being this much information about a piece of set dressing on any other franchise? That's what makes Star Trek fandom so much fun!

None of those sources are canon, but there is a tiny smidge of canon information that might narrow it down. Marcus has 14 model ships on his desk, including the Wright Brother's plane, Vostock and Gemini space capsules, right up to the NCX-01 Enterprise, and Marcus must be a big nerd, because they're in chronological order. He has the XCV 330 just before the Phoenix, the Star Trek universe's first warp-capable ship launched in 2063, so according to Marcus, the launch date was prior to 2063.

The XCV 330 was based on one of Matt Jefferies' draft designs for the original Enterprise, and it has the same uncanny timeless futuristic look to it, but it lacks the style.

dark. Next. house of the dragon trailer. 9 big events foreshadowed in the House of the Dragon trailers, with receipts

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and Twitter account, sign up for our exclusive newsletter and check out our YouTube channel.