Picard's Enterprise-G Uses 'Old' Designs to Make Star Trek Feel 'New' (2024)

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 was a celebration of the franchise's legacy, from the inclusion of the NX-01 refit to the christening of a new USS Enterprise. The series also drew on the many ship designs in Star Trek: Online for the Frontier Day fleet. However, the ships introduced in Picard, including the Enterprise-G, drew on classic Star Trek designs to make Starfleet feel new.

Walter Matthews Jefferies designed the original USS Enterprise, serving as the art director for Star Trek: The Original Series. While the ship is the most enduring legacy, replete with his namesake, the Jefferies Tubes, he also designed sets like the bridge or the planet-of-the-week. He returned to the franchise for Star Trek: Phase II, which eventually became both The Motion Picture and The Next Generation. While he stepped away, designer Andrew Probert stepped in. At the same time, models of the updated Enterprise were already in production. Nonetheless, he redesigned the Enterprise with, as Jack Crusher said in Picard, "perfectly clean retro lines." Probert stayed true to Jefferies's silhouette. Yet, he added new hull plating, a glowing blue deflector dish and squared-off nacelles. In fact, there is a lot of "Kirk's Enterprise" in the Starfleet ships throughout Picard.

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Picard's Enterprise-G Uses 'Old' Designs to Make Star Trek Feel 'New' (1)

One of the reasons the USS Enterprise is sci-fi's most beautiful ship is how unconventional it was for the time. In the 1960s, the flying saucer was all the rage. The saucer section of the myriad Enterprises was only begrudgingly added because a spherical shape didn't work. Jefferies was a student of real-world aircraft and early spacefaring vessels. "We had to base it all on fairly solid scientific concepts, project it to the future," and visualize a few centuries' worth of evolution, Jefferies said in The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield. Probert honored this with his Enterprise. But he also dreamed up a more radical change based on what he called "organic" shapes.

Probert was always bothered by the fact the warp nacelles sat above the saucer section, according to The Next Generation Season 1 DVD special features. He also felt that the ship should have an organic shape, as if it was molded out of a single piece of metal. He drew up a design mostly for his own amusem*nt. Longtime Star Trek producer David Gerrold saw it up on his wall, grabbed it and stormed off. He took it right to Gene Roddenberry, who approved the design for the USS Enterprise-D on the spot. Its follow-up, the Enterprise-E, designed by John Eaves under the supervision of Herman Zimmerman, flattened the shape and started a trend towards more "arrow" shaped ships, according to Picard showrunner Terry Matalas on The Shuttlepod Show.

Matalas often points to Probert's Enterprise redesign as his favorite of the Enterprise ships, so it makes sense the Picard ships hearken back to it. A veteran of the Rick Berman-era of the franchise, Matalas brought back many of the designers from that time: Eaves, Doug Drexler, Michael and Denise Okuda. Led by production designer Dave Blass, they "updated" Star Trek by calling back to classic design details, LCARS displays on the computers and, of course, the rebuilt Enterprise-D bridge.

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Picard's Enterprise-G Uses 'Old' Designs to Make Star Trek Feel 'New' (2)

While the production design legends took inspiration from the past, they didn't simply recreate them. The Enterprise-G, the Sagan-class Stargazer and other ships are as new as it gets. Yet, they feel right at home in Roddenberry's universe next to the other iconic vessels at the Fleet Museum. In the same Picard episode where Jack Crusher appreciates the Enterprise-A, one of Brent Spiner's Soong characters of all people seemingly puts the design philosophy of Picard into words. "Evolution is not an act of preservation," the hologram Altan Soong says, "it's addition." The Picard design team added to the visual vocabulary of the franchise rather than recreating or reimagining it.

Star Trek's designs are influential even beyond the franchise itself. George Lucas was a Star Trek fan, and Star Wars' "dirty" technology was meant to stand in contrast. Before J.J. Abrams rebooted Lucas's universe, he took a stab at Roddenberry's. Save for the chunky nacelles inspired by hot rods, the Kelvin Timeline Enterprise didn't stray too far from Jefferies' original design. However, the Picard team kept their focus on Probert's style. The squared-off nacelles of the Enterprise-G evoke the retrofit original but maintains the blue and red colors added into the Enterprise-D.

Picard Season 2 and 3 drew on the design talent that best understood the evolution of Star Trek. They didn't do something wildly different, like Season 1's La Sirenna, nor did they simply recreate past ships. Instead, like Jefferies before them, they looked at what existed and imagined how it might shift and change. Design trends in the real world are often forward-looking, but they also look backward, too. In doing so, the ships of Picard drew on the classic shapes to become instant classics themselves.

Picard's Enterprise-G Uses 'Old' Designs to Make Star Trek Feel 'New' (2024)
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