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The Constitution-Class Starships of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
by Greg Tyler
June 2, 2002

The most popular type of starship in the Federation Starfleet is arguably the Constitution-class starship. Going by the second edition of Michael and Denise Okuda's Star Trek Chronology (Pocket Books, 199x, ISBN ), Constitution-class ships date back at least as far as 2245, when the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 was commissioned, and they remained in service as late as 2293, during the events depicted in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Indeed some have reported seeing wreckage of a late-model Constitution-class starship's secondary hull in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, suggesting that at least some ships remained in service well into the 24th century.

The original Star Trek television series depicted a number of early-model Constitution-class starships, such as the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, USS Constellation NCC-1017, and USS Defiant. Interestingly the only confirmed late-model Constitution-class ships seen in Star Trek productions set in the 23rd century have been the refitted USS Enterprise NCC-1701, and the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A. From this it is possible, though unlikely, that only two starships of the late-model Constitution class were ever constructed. A recent viewing of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home on DVD suggests, however, that at least five late-model Constitution-class ships might have been in service during the late 23rd century.

Early in the film, the Klingon Ambassador shows the Federation Council footage of the destruction of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701.

Image 1 The destruction of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, a late-model Constitution-class starship

Later in the film, Admiral Morrow and the President of the Federation watch a transmission from the starship Yorktown. The only glimpse of the ship that we get is of the ship's bridge, but Star Trek fans have traditionally assumed that the Yorktown of the mid-to-late 23rd century was a Constitution-class ship. The design of the screens behind the Yorktown captain would suggest that the ship is equipped with technology equivalent to that of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, suggesting that the Yorktown was a late-model Constitution-class ship.

Image 2 Bridge and captain of the USS Yorktown

Following Kirk's "demotion" from admiral to captain, Kirk and crew are transported via travel pod through the enormous bay of Spacedock to their next assignment. The first shot we see in this journey is of the travel pod flying past an Oberth-class starship, and above a warp engine nacelle. The warp engine nacelle appears to be that of either a Miranda-class or a late-model Constitution-class starship. (On the other hand, it is possible that another, as yet unseen type of starship uses this type of nacelle.) Since the travel pod flies above the nacelle, the starship is more likely of the Constitution class than the Miranda class, since the Miranda's nacelles are positioned beneath the primary hull. If the starship were a Miranda, then the travel pod's flight path would take it very close to the lower primary hull of the ship.

Image 3 Oberth-class starship, and a mysterious warp engine nacelle

In the very next shot, the travel pod is seen to fly alongside yet another starship. Although only the starboard warp engine nacelle and supporting pylon can be seen, the geometry suggests that the engine and pylon belong to a late-model Constitution-class starship. Unless the travel pod's flight path was very "curvy," this ship would seem to be distinctly different from the ship over which the pod flew in the previous shot.

Image 4 The travel pod flies alongside another starship

The final shots in the travel pod's journey take Kirk and crew over the primary hull of the USS Excelsior NX-2000, finally revealing the crew's next command, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A, obviously a late-model Constitution-class starship.

Image 5 USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A

If each of these candidates represents a distinctly different, late-model Constitution-class starship, then Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home suggests that at least five starships of the late-model Constitution class had been in service as of the late 23rd century:

As an aside, some have speculated that the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A had previously been named USS Yorktown. If this is the case, then it is unlikely that the ship is the same as the Yorktown seen in Star Trek IV, since the coloring and displays of the Yorktown bridge in Star Trek IV more closely resemble those of the NCC-1701 than those of the NCC-1701-A.

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