Robert Comsol wrote:
As I have come to understand it, something cannot be canon if it is incompatible with information stated on screen and/or the intentions of the original producers and production designers.
Not really. After all, the canon itself was created by many different producers and designers with many differing intentions, and has plenty of internal contradictions. "Canon" doesn't mean "right" or "real" or "inviolable gospel." It's just a set of stories that pretend to represent a uniform reality, even though they can and do vary in the details of interpretation. After all, it's all equally fictional; if you're pretending that any of it happened in the first place, you can just as easily pretend that something happened differently than some earlier story pretended it did. So canon is best addressed in broad strokes, not on the detail level.
Not to mention that creators' original intentions are subject to change. There are plenty of things that were originally intended when shows were first developed but then got abandoned or reinterpreted as the shows evolved -- like the intention of TNG's developers that Data was built by mysterious aliens, an idea that got thrown out as soon as someone came up with a worthwhile story idea that required him to have been created by a human inventor. So no, creator intentions do not define canon. The canon is the final onscreen work itself, which was shaped by many different intentions.
With that late but essential information, several original statements from the producers in The Making of Star Trek no longer just seem to talk about a starship class of Enterprise “types” but indeed about an Enterprise Class as USS Enterprise was the first of it and therefore is also at least about 40 years old by the time of TOS (the age of the ship is another myth):
Bob Justman: “(D. C. Fontana) suggests that we establish the names of the 12 ships of the Enterprise Starship Class.” (part II, chapter 1, page 165)
Stephen Whitfield (authorized by Gene Roddenberry): “The Enterprise-class starships have been in existence for about forty years and are now capable of surveying and exploring the uncharted remainder of the galaxy.” (part II, chapter 3, page 203).
So where does that erroneous idea of a Constitution Class come from
Again, those were just suggestions, trial ideas that didn't end up onscreen. The creative process is full of such trial ideas and revisions. Even just working alone as a novelist, I often rethink or abandon my early ideas as a project comes together and newer, better ideas occur to me. And in a collaborative process like producing a TV series, that's going to happen even more, because lots of people will have their own distinct ideas and they can't all end up onscreen.
So it wasn't "erroneous." As you yourself discuss, it originated in production art from "The Trouble with Tribbles," and was then adopted by Franz Joseph. No, it wasn't canonical until it was stated onscreen in "The Naked Now," but that doesn't mean it was wrong; it just means it was undecided until then. Again, there were lots of different ideas shaping this work of make-believe called Star Trek
, and sometimes they conflicted with each other, and it was a while before a later story came along and resolved the issue. It's invalid to call it a mistake or a flaw just because the final idea doesn't match the rough, unofficial ideas from earlier in the process. Rough-draft ideas aren't supposed
to supersede later refinements. It's supposed to be the other way around.