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Old May 17 2012, 03:46 PM   #1
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.
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