When it comes to Star Trek’s history, it’s starships all the way down. When Ensign Brad Boimler travels back 122 years to the USS Enterprise of 2259, he uses his nerdy knowledge of old-school starship history to save the day. But it turns out Captain Pike is aware of what Boimler is talking about, and suddenly we’ve got a retroactive starship tradition that relies on those faith-of-the-heart adventures of the NX-01 ship from that other prequel series, Enterprise.
Here’s how the big Lower Decks/Strange New Worlds crossover episode establishes a new starship rule, and what it might mean for the rest of Star Trek.
In Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 7, “Those Old Scientists,” Lower Deckers Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Boimler (Jack Quaid) are desperate to get back to 2381 after an ancient time portal accidentally zaps them back to 2259. Hanging out over a century in the past is perilous for the hapless ensigns, who Pike describes as “toddlers” prone to “knocking over the furniture.” Then again, Boimler accidentally encourages Spock (Ethan Peck) to become a more mature version of himself, and Marnier pushes Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) to lighten up, which would make them more like the characters we know from The Original Series. But the biggest plot twist changes more than just the characters, but the bones of Trek starships.
Strange New Worlds’ new starship rule
The ancient time portal that Mariner and Boimler stumbled upon runs on a substance called Horonium, which is very scarce in both the 23rd and 24th centuries. But at the top of the episode, Boimler mentions that it was used in the construction of the original NX-01 Enterprise, which existed in the 22nd century. So any old NX-class ship still around in 2259 would have some Horonium in its hull. But they don’t even need to find an NX ship, which to both Pike and Boimler are very old. Instead, we learn that “the tradition is … construction starts with a piece of the last ship to bear its name.”
This means that when the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 was built, it included a piece of the NX-01, Archer’s ship from Enterprise. What does this new rule mean for Star Trek going forward? Based on the Enterprise finale, the NX-01 was retired in 2161, which means more than 84 years passed since Starfleet commissioned another Enterprise in 2245 (remember, Captain Pike wasn’t its first captain).
Did Starfleet really wait eight decades to make a new Enterprise after the NX-01? Or did the refit NX-01 revealed in Picard Season 3 serve for far longer than we thought? The time gap between the Earth-based Starfleet of Enterprise and the multi-species Federation Starfleet of the other series has long been murky. Oddly enough, only Star Trek Beyond explored this period with the USS Franklin, a ship we’re told was retroactively made a Federation starship. And that still leaves us with far more questions than answers about the eight decades between Enterprise and the 23rd century, which now consists of four Trek series: Discovery, Strange New Worlds, The Original Series, and The Animated Series.
The starship construction tradition introduced in “Those Old Scientists” also suggests this tradition predates the Enterprise, which means there were ships before the Enterprise that were reboots of old 22nd-century ships. We don’t know what those ships were, but we do know that different versions of ships with the same name are all over Trek canon. From more than one Stargazer to various Defiants and the USS Titan-A, we can now imagine all sorts of used parts from old ships being used to make new ships.
Of course, this doesn’t seem possible when ships were destroyed. For example, the USS Enterprise-D can’t have any pieces of the Enterprise-C because that ship was blown to smithereens by the Romulans. Ditto the DS9 version of the Defiant. The TOS version of the Defiant was sucked into an alternate universe, so no parts could be used there either. But then there’s the Enterprise-E, which could have used some part from the saucer of the Enterprise-D in its construction.
And if that’s the case, then when Geordi was restoring the D in Picard Season 3, he was missing half the ship because of the explosion in Generations. But he was also probably missing a tiny, tiny piece that had to be given to the E sometime before First Contact. So what part of the ship was it? And was it Picard’s fish tank? These are the kinds of questions Strange New Worlds has given Trekkies to ponder, so thank or curse it as you see fit.