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Kenny May 17 2012 03:46 PM

Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
Forgive me, but I’d like to roast an old chestnut.

I’m building an original 1960’s vintage AMT Enterprise kit, and since the U.S.S. Constellation was built from this kit, I’m going to build it as the Constellation before it was damaged by the Doomsday Machine. Which brings me to the decals, specifically the registry number.

Anyone who’s reading this knows about the “Constellation registry number problem”. In short, we have production drawings of the Enterprise from the mid-1960’s that are labeled with the registry system Matt Jefferies imagined for the starship class: they’d be in the NCC-17xx range. But the Constellation has a NCC-1017 registry number, anecdotally because Jefferies built the model and flipped the “1701” around to make “1017” so no one watching the episode would confuse the two ships.

I don’t want to rehash that discussion, because it’s been talked to death on other threads.

So here’s my question, inspired by my journalism professor’s admonition to “go to the source”:

Did anyone ever ask Matt Jefferies about the Constellation registry number? Did anyone ask him why he didn’t flip the decal to “1710” to be consistent with his system? Or why he didn’t use a different “NCC-17xx” number altogether? (After all, he had to create a new decal for “Constellation”, so why didn’t he create a new “NCC-17xx” decal while he was at it?)

I find it hard to believe that in the 30-odd years between the airing of the episode and his death in 2003, absolutely no one – not a single one of the thousands of ST fans – ever wrote Jefferies about it or interviewed him about it. Especially since modelmakers and fans (like Franz Joseph and Greg Jein) were already developing lists of registries for starships in the mid-1970’s.

Since Mr. Jefferies has died and can’t be interviewed today, has anyone searched the Star Trek archives at (I think) UCLA for original production sketches from “The Doomsday Machine” that might show Jefferies’ ideas about how the Constellation might be damaged (with a registry number visible on the sketch)? Or production notes with something about the registry? Or anything else that might shed some light on this problem?

Because let's be honest: much of what we “know” about the origin of the registry is not factual.

For example, it’s “common knowledge” that Jefferies flipped the decal around. But in the research I’ve done I can’t even trace this to a definitive source, much less a primary source. And I can't even find a primary source that says that Jefferies (and not someone else) actually built the model. Which means that this commonly repeated information is actually only a hypothesis (and probably a good one) but not a “fact”.


I’m interested in primary source material regarding the origin of the registry number of the Constellation, particularly an explanation by Mr. Jefferies of its anomalous nature or a reference to a number he might have preferred to give the ship. Perhaps some of you wrote Mr. Jefferies about this topic or were at a ST convention where Mr. Jefferies was asked this question and can fill us in on the details of what he said.

(Let’s try to stay on topic: I’ve read all the fan explanations, so I’m not interested in everyone’s hypotheses about the number, or about the class of the Constellation, or etc.)

Bottom line: before I put the decals on my AMT model, I want to decide whether to go with the on-screen “1017” or something else if Jefferies himself considered this to be a production error. So I want to know if Jefferies ever made a statement about it and the source of this statement.

Mr. Laser Beam May 17 2012 05:25 PM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
Remember that in TOS' time, nobody really knew what class the Enterprise was, whether it was the first ship of its kind, or pretty much anything else about it. So the use of the number 1017 for the Constellation was not seen as a big deal.

And in the end, is there any actual proof, even in the remastered version, that the Constellation is the same class as the Enterprise? We now know that the Enterprise is Constitution-class, but there's no proof that the Constellation was of that class. It could be a different one entirely. We've only seen the Constellation as a destroyed hulk. We have no idea what it looked like 'fully formed', as it were.

Knight Templar May 17 2012 05:57 PM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
Maybe Commodore Decker and the Constellation had been on some kind of "unofficial" mission and an altered registry was part of their "cover".

I know, that's pretty lame but no lamer than some of the " continuity corrections" that Star Trek fans have come up with over the years.

Dukhat May 17 2012 06:01 PM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
Since all official, Paramount-licensed publications refer to the ship as Constitution class, I myself see very little reason why it is not that class. But that's not what the OP wants to know.

I wasn't even aware that Jeffries built the Constellation. If he did, then I can't think of any logical reason why he wouldn't have been just fine with any registry number other than the one he put on the model, unless he felt that something like "1710" would look too much like "1701" from a distance. But really, why would that even have been a concern? One ship is new and pristine; the other is a destroyed hulk. Regardless of the registry number on the saucer, no one was going to mistake one ship for the other.

T'Girl May 17 2012 06:28 PM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017

Kenny wrote: (Post 6355486)
But the Constellation has a NCC-1017 registry number

We don't know that sequencial hull numbers are a standard practice for Starfleet. A small number of the "connies" (in Court Martial) did have hull numbers that were in sequence, but those might have been an exception.


Tribble Herder May 17 2012 09:26 PM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
I would think one of the staffers would've done the actual model building. Surely Jefferies had better things to do than actually construct the miniatures.

Anyway, there are plenty of structural differences between the eleven footer and the AMT model, so it's pretty easy to justify the Constellation being a different starship class, say the one immediately preceding the Constitution class. The lower registry number plays directly into that.

Dukhat May 18 2012 01:49 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017

T'Girl wrote: (Post 6356353)
A small number of the "connies" (in Court Martial) did have hull numbers that were in sequence, but those might have been an exception.

Greg Jein assigned those registry numbers in Court Martial to the known TOS Connies, but there's no canon evidence whatsoever that that's what they were supposed to be. I myself have a hard time believing that almost every Connie Starfleet owned just happened to be at the starbase's repair shop at exactly the same time.


Tribble Herder wrote: (Post 6357487)
Anyway, there are plenty of structural differences between the eleven footer and the AMT model, so it's pretty easy to justify the Constellation being a different starship class, say the one immediately preceding the Constitution class. The lower registry number plays directly into that.

The Enterprise-B has structural differences from the Excelsior (and far more than the differences between the TOS Enterprise filming model and the AMT kit), and yet they're the same class.

Also, it hasn't been canonically established what the U.S.S. Constitution's registry number was. For all we know, it could be NCC-1000, and as such, there wouldn't be a problem with the Constellation's registry. And that's even if you abide by the theory that registries are chronological (Yes, I'm well aware that there's a list somewhere that states NCC-1700 for the class ship, but it's never been shown or referred to in the show).

Tribble Herder May 18 2012 03:54 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
The differences between the Excelsior and the Enterprise-B aren't as significant as the differences between the eleven footer and the AMT kit. The E-B is an Excelsior with some added pieces (obviously, since it's the same model, only modified), but just about every structural aspect of the AMT (saucer, secondary hull, nacelles) differs in proportion and size, if you use the bridge module as a common component, (and even that's taking a liberty or two because of the differences in the shape of the bridge dome). In fact, taking that route, the Constellation comes in around twenty feet shorter than the Enterprise.

We're not talking the difference between the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan (a Nimitz class carrier with some major differences), we're talking the difference between a Nimitz class carrier and a Kitty Hawk class carrier.

Dukhat May 18 2012 04:06 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
No plastic model kit is ever going to 100% accurately portray the studio model upon which it is based. That fact doesn't automatically make the ship a different class. If anything, it would make it a sub-class of the already existing class.

The fact is, when I saw the Constellation, I saw the same ship as the Enterprise, only badly damaged, which is what I'm sure the producers of the show were going for. No effort was made to "kitbash" the model into a different design, and probably no thought was put into it's registry number.

throwback May 18 2012 07:35 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017

A schematic of a Constitution-class heavy cruiser bearing the registry NCC-1700 was seen briefly on a computer monitor in "Datalore".

As for the registry list in "Court Martial", the title of the chart is Star Ship Chart. The only ships identified in the original series as starships were Enterprise-type vessels. The USS Constellation is identified as a starship in the episode "The Doomsday Machine".



By configuration, a starship stopped in space.
Now, what I may say next may be contradictory. For me, the original series doesn't make the connection between the USS Enterprise and Constitution-class. There is a schematic of a primary phaser (left, right) from the episode "The Troubles with Tribbles". This phaser type is used on the Star Ship Mk 09/01 Constitution-class. In the original series, no ship was ever identified as a Constitution-class starship, and, staying within canon to the first series, no ship of this class ever appeared.

The Enterprise was either an Enterprise-type vessel (The Making of Star Trek) or a Star Ship Class vessel. The connection between the USS Enterprise and the Constitution-class occurred, as far I know, in the early-to-mid 1970s, long after the show ended.

Continuing along this thread of thought, using only the evidence from the TOS, the Constitution-class could have been either an older class, a newer class, or a conceptual class.

I am not troubled by the USS Constellation having a lower registry, and possibly being of an older class. I think the situation is akin to aircraft carriers. Since the 1910's, aircraft carriers have remained pretty much the same. An aircraft carrier has a hull, a landing deck, and an island. There have been variations within this class of ship as aircraft carriers became more advanced, and as the planes the ships carried became more advanced.

I would have been happy if CBS Paramount had done cosmetic changes to the USS Constellation to imply an older class of ship. I know they did these changes to the USS Lexington. Unlike the Enterprise, which had three forward facing circles, the Lexington had two sets of two forward facing circles. See here.

Kenny May 18 2012 09:22 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
I know this isn't a Star Wars thread, but in the immortal words of Gold Five:

"Stay on topic. Stay on topic."


I know that the Constellation's registry "discrepancy" (my opinon) can be justified by any number of fan-based explanations. And that's fine.

But that's not what I'm asking.

You see -- sometimes I think we fans are lazy. We'd rather sit behind our computer instead of doing research by going to the library or corresponding with folks who were involved with the original show, many of whom are still living.

It's one of the reasons I like the Trekplace website so much. I don't know who created this site, but it's a great idea to post old documents and old interviews in one place on the web. But it means that the author of this site had to do the primary research legwork.

So I find myself wishing that someone would create a website where old fan publications from the 1960's and 70's can be scanned and archived. Think of the interviews - much closer to the timeframe of the production of TOS - and the facts therein that are being lost because they're on mimeographed pages molding away in someone's basement. (Those old fanzines are also full of drivel, but....)

Now I'm getting off topic too.

Let's try not to chase rabbits about the class of the Constellation or what a "star ship" means. Those issues have been discussed on other threads.

So let me repeat my question: does anyone have an interview or a production memo or some other primary source that would shed some light onto the NCC-1017 registry number of the Constellation?

T'Girl May 18 2012 09:40 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017

Kenny wrote: (Post 6360100)
in the immortal words of Gold Five



Tribble Herder May 18 2012 05:32 PM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
In the original 1968 edition of the Star Trek Concordance, the Enterprise is listed as a Constitution class starship. Franz Joseph didn't just make it up, that tidbit was given to him.

As for the remastered version, my understanding is that they would've liked to make the Constellation look more like the AMT model, but they didn't have the time and budget to work up a whole new model, so they just modified the Enterprise model they had in the computer.

So, the heart was willing, but CBS Digital was cheap.

jayrath May 19 2012 12:35 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017

Kenny wrote: (Post 6355486)
Forgive me, but I’d like to roast an old chestnut.

What this boils down to is that you see Jefferies' intent, rather than what is seen on-screen, as your own personal canon. More power to you. Similarly, I prefer his swollen secondary hull designs to what was actually built for TOS, myself.

But there is no ultimate answer for you, just multiple questions. We know what the hull number is, we've seen on-screen what the hull number is . . . what more do you need? If we go back to "creator's intent," Spock will have a plate in his belly by which he ingests engergy, per Roddenberry's first outline.

yenny May 19 2012 02:37 AM

Re: Matt Jefferies and NCC-1017
It is mention on Space Seed that the Enterprise is a Constitution class starship.

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