Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard Reminds Fans That The Enterprise Isn't Starfleet's Best Ship

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard's season 1 finale.

The debut of the U.S.S. Zheng He in Star Trek: Picard is another reminder to Trekkers that the Starship Enterprise isn't Starfleet's best ship. Of course, the Enterprise will always be regarded by fans as the greatest and most important vessel in Starfleet. The Enterprise has been the focal point of Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise, all 13 Star Trek movies, and it has been commanded by James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), the two best Star Trek Captains ever.

From TNG onward, Picard's Enterprise-D has held the status of the flagship of the United Federation of Planets, and this continues into Star Trek: Picard's era now that the Enterprise-E is commanded by Captain Worf (Michael Dorn). However, reputation aside, the starships bearing the name Enterprise aren't always the "best" vessels Starfleet has to offer. From a technical perspective, the Enterprise has often been exceeded by newer, more powerful Starfleet ships. In TOS' 23rd century era, the Enterprise NCC-1701 was a Constitution-class deep space heavy cruiser; by the time Kirk (William Shatner) took command of the starship in 2266, it had been in service for 20 years under Captains Robert April and Christopher Pike (Jeffery Hunter). When Pike (Anson Mount) commanded the Enterprise in 2257, it was already outclassed by the more advanced U.S.S. Discovery. During the TOS Star Trek movies, the Enterprise had been refitted, destroyed, and a newer starship had been christened the Enterprise-A, but Kirk's ship was still outmoded by the brand new U.S.S. Excelsior.

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The Enterprise-E didn't make an appearance in Star Trek: Picard season 1, and instead, Acting Captain Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) came to Picard's rescue at the helm of the U.S.S. Zheng He. Riker described it as "the toughest, fastest, most powerful ship Starfleet ever put into service." Indeed, the Curiosity-class Zheng He was backed by a whole squadron of identical ships, which represents the cream of Starfleet's early 25th century crop. Taking Riker's word for it, the Zheng He seems to exceed the Federation flagship, the Enterprise-E, in technical specs and sheer firepower. Of course, by 2399, the Enterprise-E has been in service for roughly 25 years. When it debuted in Star Trek: First Contact, the Sovereign-class Enterprise-E was then Starfleet's top-of-the-line achievement, but time passes and technology always marches forward.

Like the Sovereign-class Enterprise-E, some of the starships bearing the name Enterprise have also, on occasion, been the finest ships in Starfleet's arsenal. Captain Jonathan Archer's (Scott Bakula) NX-01 Enterprise was Starfleet's fastest and best ship in the 22nd century era. The Enterprise-B that launched in the flashbacks at the start of Star Trek Generations was Excelsior-class, which was the most advanced ships Starfleet had to offer at the end of the 23rd century. TNG's majestic Enterprise-D was a Galaxy-class vessel, which, in the mid-2300s, was the largest and most powerful of Starfleet's ships. But later, the Defiant-class starships, like the titular vessel commanded by Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was built to fight the Borg and boasted even more firepower than the Galaxy-class ships.

When Picard left the Enterprise-E to command the rescue fleet intended to save the Romulan people from their sun going supernova, the Admiral took command of the U.S.S. Verity (NCC-97000), an Odyssey-class starship that was also newer and more powerful than the Federation flagship. And yet, warp capability, firepower, and the most advanced technical schematics aren't necessarily what make a starship great. A truly great starship is defined by the capability and dedication of its crew and the bravery and judgment of its Captain. For these reasons, no matter how advanced Starfleet's ships become, Star Trek's heart will always revolve around the starships named Enterprise and the legendary Captains who command them.