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The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
Starbase11 chart

The starship chart in "Court Martial"

The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship was an influential article about starship registries written by long-time Star Trek studio model builder Greg Jein, published in the fanzine T-Negative Nr. 27 of April, 1973.

The article had apparently been circulating among fans for some time prior to that date, as it was sent in to the magazine by several people, including Jein himself, as a response to a reader question in an earlier issue of the magazine.

Determining starship registries

In the article, Jein attempts to create a list of starships with their respective registry numbers. Since no such lists existed at the time, he chose to use the registries seen in the first season episode "Court Martial" of Star Trek: The Original Series as a basis for his list. However, as he explains, he "combined confusion, circumstance, and innuendo to produce illogic, but it relatively (in the loosest possible sense) forms a semi-cohesive pattern."

Jein started by determining the names of the starships first. Taking names from The Making of Star Trek and the Star Trek episodes, he arrived at the following list:

He then claims that the Constellation, Defiant, Farragut, Kongo, Republic and Valiant are unlikely to have appeared on the Starbase 11 chart, due to them being either not yet constructed or no longer in active service. Removing these ships leaves twelve, exactly the number of starships mentioned by Kirk in the first season episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday".

Jein then matches these 12 names to the 10 numbers on the chart by using a reverse alphabetical ordering, arriving at the following matches:

NCC number Starship name
Yorktown
Potemkin
1709 Lexington
16311 Intrepid
1703 Hood
1672 Exeter
1664 Excalibur
1697 Essex
1701 Enterprise
1718 Endeavor
1685 Eagle
1700 Constitution

1. The actual chart seems to read NCC-1831, but Greg Jein may have misread it as 1631, unsurprisingly perhaps, as he had to make do with low-resolution stills from the already low-resolution original run of the series. Okuda's list, based on Jein's, corrects this to 1831. This was re-corrected in the remastered TOS to 1631. It was exactly for this reason why Matt Jefferies avoided the numbers 6 and 8 when he devised the original registry number for the Enterprise.

Although he himself admits there is little logical reasoning behind this ordering, it does lead to several interesting matches. The 1701 is correctly assigned to the Enterprise, and the 1700 is very conveniently matched to the USS Constitution, the presumed first ship of the Constitution-class. Furthermore, the Intrepid has the longest bar on the chart, perhaps indicating it has finished repairs, as the plot for "Court Martial" suggests. Incidentally, Jein's observation of a "Constitution-class" struck a cord with production staffers and fans alike, and it was "understood" to have established the Enterprise and her sisters belonging to the Constitution-class ever since, thereby replacing the somewhat non-committal "Starship-class" designation, even though a confirmational canon reference had to wait until 1982.

In conclusion, Greg Jein presents a "projected list" of starships, including registry numbers not seen in "Court Martial" and a number of vessels never mentioned in any official works.

NCC number Starship name Class
NCC-1700 USS Constitution Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1017 USS Constellation Mk. VII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1764 USS Defiant Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1685 USS Eagle Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1719 USS Endeavor Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1701 USS Enterprise Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1697 USS Essex Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1664 USS Excalibur Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1672 USS Exeter Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1647 USS Farragut Mk. VIII space cruiser
NCC-1703 USS Hood Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1868 USS Hornet Mk. X deep space cruiser
NCC-1631 USS Intrepid Mk. VII instellar cruiser
NCC-1732 USS Kongo Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1866 USS Lafayette Mk. X deep space cruiser
NCC-1709 USS Lexington Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1702 USS Potemkin Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1371 USS Republic Mk. VI space cruiser
NCC-1865 USS Tashik-Sotra Mk. X deep space cruiser
NCC-1623 USS Valiant Mk. VII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1717 USS Yorktown Mk. IX deep space cruiser
Constitution primary phaser

Phaser technical diagram from "Space Seed"

The classification of these ships is based on information from a technical diagram labeled 'Primary Phaser L, R', constructed for the script requirements of the first season episode "Space Seed", but only seen very briefly in the later season two episode "The Trouble with Tribbles". This diagram contains the following text:

PRIMARY PHASER L, R
STAR SHIP MK IX/01
CONSTITUTION CLASS

Jein interpreted 'Mk. IX/01' as meaning that the Enterprise was the first ship (after the prototype) of the 'Mk IX' class, called Constitution class.

The various classes in the above diagram may or may not have a similar appearance to the Enterprise.

Acceptance of Greg Jein's numbers

These registry numbers, and in some cases, the ships in this list that were not actually seen on Star Trek, have made their way into official works. The first major adoptions of these numbers were in Bjo Trimble's first commercial 1977 reference book edition of the Star Trek Concordance and in the FASA role-playing game in the early 1980s, both of which considered an officially licensed product at the time.

In the 1990s, official reference works by Michael Okuda, most notably the Star Trek Encyclopedia, started using these numbers as a tip-of-the-hat to Greg Jein who had become the regular studio model vendor for Star Trek: The Next Generation by that time, as Okuda himself stated on a later occasion, "I might note that some of the ship registry numbers came from Greg Jein's interpretation of the starship chart in Commodore Stone's office in "Shore Leave" (TOS)."[1]

Up until that point in time, Memory Alpha deemed these numbers conjectural, and not part of the established canon. However, the producers did seem to regard these numbers as the official ones. The 2006 remastered episode versions of The Original Series featured several of the original vessels with visible registry numbers, and they were all based on the list as it was published in the Encyclopedia. Where applicable in the remastered series, Visual Effects Supervisor Okuda made use of the opportunity to marry Jein's numbers to their respective ships, and these at least are as such considered elevated to canon by Memory Alpha.

USS Defiant orbiting Earth, 2155

USS Defiant

They concern the following vessels and their respective appearances:

This accounted for all the visually established, unnumbered, Constitution-class vessels seen in the original run of the series – though the Intrepid was originally not featured there, but especially retconned into the remastered version –, save one. The one exception was the USS Potemkin (NCC-1657) for which a registry number had already been provided by Okuda himself for representation on the mission charts of Operation Retrieve, seen in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But since he had already propagated this registry in his subsequent reference works, he chose to leave the registry for the ship as is.

Alternatives

A major perceived inconsistency with the scheme presented by Greg Jein is the apparent existence of ships with registry numbers lower than the number of the class ship (the Constitution's NCC-1700). Furthermore, and Greg Jein repeatedly reminds the reader of this, the above scheme is not particularly scientific or logical, and is mostly derived from conjecture and random chance. However, what Jein's detractors had failed to fathom was, that he actually had accounted for the numbering discrepancy. Taking his cue from the "MK IX/01" specifier from the above-mentioned graphic, Jein postulated that this was a newer variant or sub-class of the design with the Constitution being the first vessel of the (sub-)class. The vessels with lower registry numbers he assigned lower variant class specifiers accordingly, though he had made an error with the Constellation. As he had already established that the producers of the Original Series proceeded from a class launch in the mid-2220s (The Making of Star Trek, p. 203), much older Constitutions with a lower registry number could have existed, being either destroyed or decommissioned prior to 2245, the by the production staff generally accepted – though not firmly confirmed – launch year of the Enterprise.

A major 'competitor' on the subject of Constitution-class registries is the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, published in 1975. In his book, Franz Joseph lists the Constitution-class starships, sometimes as member of some sub-class, with much more consistent registry numbers ranging from NCC-1700 to NCC-1843. Franz Joseph also uses a variation of the 'Mk IX' notation. To add to the confusion, the Star Fleet Technical Manual was at one time also regarded as "official", just like the later FASA material. There were on screen references to the Technical Manual ships in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the USS Merrimack (NCC-1715) as an example of a starship with a Franz Joseph-derived registry number. For these reasons, many fans prefer Joseph's list above Jein's, although there is no clear consensus on the issue.

Apart from these two major lists, there have been a few cases in which on screen references to Constitution-class starships have ignored any of the systems. The most notable example was the USS Constellation, whose exceptionally low registry number, "NCC-1017" was the only one visually established in the original run of the Original Series. It, although introduced before any of these lists were set up, has set the precedent for starships using registry numbers lower than that of their class lead ship (in reality the decal sheet of the 1966 first edition AMT Enterprise model kit , no. S921 and from which the Constellation filming model was constructed, only contained the NCC-1701 number and the ship's number was constructed by reshuffling the one decal). The other example was the USS Potemkin, which was given the registry NCC-1657 in The Undiscovered Country, as explained above.

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