As to the lack of needle-ness, I guess I'm feeling more than a little influenced by Rick Sternbach's Raven design here, Christopher.
Keep in mind that it's named Cleopatra's Needle
specifically because of its long, narrow shape.
The ship would also be sleek and narrow, like the rocketships of old, presenting a minimal cross section to oncoming space debris and radiation and reducing the power requirements for navigational deflection. For a Starfleet vessel, designed with the possibility of combat in mind, such a design was impractical since enemies could approach from any direction. But this craft was built purely for moving forward as fast as possible.
analogy is interesting, though I've never been quite clear on whether that was a Starfleet design or not. It had a civilian crew, but Starfleet equipment and stylings and a "USS" designation. I think the original writer intended it to be a civilian craft, but the production crew couldn't break free of Starfleet thinking.
What's a DC locker?
I have to agree with Christopher
, regarding the Raven
... I seriously doubt it was a genuine Starfleet design. I prefer to think along the lines that it was a small "research" type ship, that Starfleet was loaned by some academic institution, like the Daystrom Institute, or the Vulcan Science Academy. Personally, I think that makes more sense.