I don't think it's fair to say that the premise followed by later producers in order to flesh out the series, namely deciding that the TOS Enterprise is specifically a Constitution class cruiser, was done because of disrespect or inadequate research.
Is it fair or is not? Here are the facts and after appropriate examination everyone can make up his or her mind.
Right from the very start Gene Roddenberry made it abundantly clear and insisted that USS stands for “United Space Ship” and not “United States Ship”. His vision was that of an international crew and to give his words gravity, he approved Matt Jefferies mixing Soviet naval designations into the registry number (“NCC”) and changed the ship’s name from “Yorktown”
(definitely an American name) into “Enterprise”
(a more suitable name for a multi-ethnic ship).
What we could have concluded (had we seriously wanted it) from the actual onscreen dialogue is that alphabetic letters, much the way the Soviets did that, were used to differentiate what type of starship we are looking at (“The Menagerie”: “J-Class starship” and “F-Class shuttlecraft”, just as the series didn’t feature “Earth Class” or “Vulcan Class” planets).
And then Gene L. Coon joined the production team. I don’t know the political agenda he had but obviously the Klingons became an analogy for totalitarian Stalinists and apparently he wanted to see traditional American name classes established for Starfleet vessels (e.g. “Constitution Class” in “Space Seed” script) instead of these Commy alphabetic distinctions.
But “Constitution Class” remained a footnote of a monitor display (!) and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. It would have constituted (pun) a contradiction to what Gene Roddenberry, Matt Jefferies (and Bob Justman?) had intended from the beginning on. Sounds like a wild guess but that doesn’t really seem to be the case:
On August 8, 1967, Dorotha Fontana suggests to establish the names for the 12 ships of the Starship Class
and provides a list with suggestions (Constitution
is not on it). The next day ‘chief nitpicker’ Bob Justman responded, considered some of the proposed names, added a few of his own and insisted to have a Japanese name (at least we know where Kongo
came from). And still the Constitution
is not on his list…but
Bob Justman refers to “Enterprise Starship Class
How this correspondence continued we do not learn from The Making of Star Trek
, but at some point the Constitution
was established to be among those 12 ships, too.
Fast forward to 1975 and Greg Jein’s influential treatise “The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship
”. Greg Jein, just a Star Trek fan, then, published a theory how to match the official starship names with the numbers of the starship status display featured in “Court Martial”.
And he concluded from a passage in The Making of Star Trek
that the Valiant mentioned among the 12 names, couldn’t refer to the USS Valiant
(Oberth Class?) from “A Taste of Armageddon” because that had happened 50 years before TOS while the ships like the Enterprise
were no older than 40 years. Now where did he get that from?
“The Enterprise-class starships have been in existence for about forty years…”
It is impossible that Mr. Jein missed “Enterprise Class Starship”. And, of course, it stands to reason that the “01” of Enterprise’s
NCC registry indicated her to be the first ship of her class and therefore the name giver (equally suggested by Matt Jefferies).
But of course, this didn’t work for his weird theory, and rather than to make a theory based on facts, he “twisted” the facts to fit his
theory and therefore didn’t even mention the “Enterprise Starship Class” reference/s.
In doing so he disrespected
the apparent intentions of the series’ creators, especially since he didn’t even bother to discuss what the creators could
have meant with “Enterprise Starship Class” to try finding an excuse.
In the case of Franz Joseph Schnaubelt and considering how much he obviously based his work on The Making of Star Trek
we cannot exclude the possibility that he missed those two “Enterprise Starship Class” references but this is highly improbable. It may or may not have been an act of disrespect, but it was definitely inadequate research.
Greg Jein’s weird theory was then adopted by (his friend) Bjo Trimble for her Star Trek Concordance
and subsequently for Mike Okuda for his Star Trek Encyclopedia
. Here I have to be blunt: If you remotely consider yourself to be some kind of Star Trek TOS expert, the reading of The Making of Star Trek
is mandatory, IMO.
If you do not or don’t pay attention the result is (and has been) inadequate research
. And as a result of that we’re still stuck with this conjectural and/or erroneous “Constitution Class” for the TOS Enterprise
And here is a fresh thought coming out of my writing as an effort to appease the “Starship Class” haters.
The bridge plaque aboard the TOS Enterprise correctly indicates “(USS) Enterprise - Starship Class” (i.e. the name giver and a starship of the Enterprise Class).
The correct bridge plaque of the USS Miranda
would have read “USS Miranda - Starship Class” while for the Reliant
it would have probably read “USS Reliant - Miranda Class” or “USS Reliant - Miranda Starship Class”
’s (NCC-1764) would have been “USS Defiant – Enterprise Class” or “USS Defiant – Enterprise Starship Class”
In simpler words: A person of the 23rd Century would immediately understand that she or he is on the bridge of an Enterprise Class Starship because all it says is “USS Enterprise – Starship Class” and not “USS Enterprise – Enterprise Starship Class” (the latter one sounds redundant and odd, doesn’t it?)
So contrary to some claims I had to read in some posts here the producers, again, probably exactly knew what they were doing, but we were simply to blind and biased (myself included) not to consider this option.