This article has been updated.
Star Wars just can’t leave Star Trek alone, even when it’s material from the distant past.
Yesterday, at the highly anticipated SDCC preview panel for the forthcoming CBS Star Trek series, showrunner Bryan Fuller revealed a slew of tidbits about next year’s new show Star Trek: Discovery. The show will take place in the prime universe timeline, though it’s unclear exactly when. It will play out more like a novel, and not be episodic.
Also, most importantly, the show will hew close to the classic optimistic ideals of Star Trek, with Fuller saying “We do have to celebrate a progression of our species because right now we need a little help.”
William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Scott Bakula, Michael Dorn, and Jeri Ryan were all on the Star Trek Panel at SDCC. While we didn’t get any footage of the new saga’s cast, we did get a teaser of the U.S.S. Discovery — and it’s straight out of Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s notebook.
For hardcore Trekkies, the design of the ship is both comfortingly familiar, and surprisingly retro. And not exactly retro in a 1960’s or a 1990’s kind of way, but instead, in a pop-culture alternate-dimension kind of way. The U.S.S. Discovery is a throwback to an alternate dimension of the 1970s, when the fledgling Trek and Wars franchises blended together in concept art. The design for the U.S.S. Discovery on the new show is almost identical to designs that Ralph McQuarrie, the late and famous Star Wars concept designer, sketched for the original U.S.S. Enterprise back in 1976.
Back then, Paramount was planning to reboot Trek on TV with a show called Star Trek: Phase II (not to be confused with the contemporary fan film series of the same name). Paramount commissioned McQuarrie, who was responsible for nearly all the production paintings for Star Wars, to design the new U.S.S. Enterprise. McQuarrie’s art inspired the iconic looks for Darth Vader, Cloud City, and several other Star Wars characters and locations, and it was something of a coup for Paramount to bring him over to the Trek side to design the Enterprise, even before Star Wars became a massive hit.
The thing is though: the design was never used. Though it wasn’t a radical departure from the original ship design, it was considered radical enough to be abandoned. That version of the Enterprise never flew, but now, it looks like the team on Star Trek: Discovery has paid more than a little homage to the McQuarrie designs. Speaking on the SDCC panel, Fuller noted the homage but said, “[The influence of the McQuarrie art is] to a point where we legally can’t comment on it until we figure out some things.”
Obviously, the primary noticeable difference here from other big Star Trek spaceships, is the almost wing-style design of the main part of the ship. The flat, bulky, rear section gives the Discovery a much more rocket-ship feel than designs previous. It certainly still looks like Star Trek, but perhaps the retro design indicates that Fuller and his team will be not only returning to the prime universe, but perhaps exploring un-filmed scripts and ideas from the depths of Star Trek’s past as well.