I guess the wrench that could be thrown in is the use of the Enterprise
-C footage to depict USS Excalibur
in the episode "Redemption". Granted, it's a fuzzy little shot, but at least in theory we do see this starship, associated in dialogue with this specific name and thus in Okudagrams with a 26000-range registry, sport the telltale "first batch" ramscoops.
And if the remastering work currently underway bears fruit, we will also be able to see the blue impulse engine in its characteristic location (unless the work involves altering this shot)...
Does this mean that both batches were built in the "first batch" configuration initially, but the higher-registry batch was then modernized to the Zhukov
style specs? The modification would involve pretty drastic things, such as completely severing and repositioning the primary hull and apparently the nacelles as well, but this might be necessary for some reason or another and worth the expenses.
shows that some 26000-range ships only get modified late in their lives if at all. But if we start believing in such modernization, how can we be sure that the Horatio
never received the refit?
We get a further twist in the tale when we note that an Ambassador
class vessel of the Zhukov
specs is witnessed as being part of the blockade fleet here, in a rear shot that does not allow us to actually identify the name or the registry of the vessel. Is this the Excalibur
? Hopefully not, as a change of configuration in mid-flight would be odd indeed! And we don't know for sure that the fleet did not have two Ambassadors