I remember reading the story about how they went through different designs for the original Enterprise when Star Trek was first being produced, and eventually arrived at designs that went with the basic main section and three other sections (which became the secondary hull and the warp nacelles). As I've read it, from several sources, once the Enterprise model was completed, it was put on display, hanging on cables, for studio and network executives who would be at special event, to see what it would look like.

As the story goes (and I'm sure every Trek fan knows), the person asked to hang the model from cables hung it upside down. Everyone liked it, so they decided to just go with what they had and ended up with a spaceship that was upside down from what was originally intended.

Was this the only model for Trek that went through this "inversion?" Or were there other models they were working with early in the series that this also happened to?

  • I thought the Enterprise D (not sure about others) was intentionally set upside-down to allow for the camera to more easily simulate overhead passes.
    – Iszi
    Feb 14, 2012 at 23:25
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    Ships weren't the only thing this happened to. In one of the books about the making of DS9, it was discussed how this "turn it upside down" approach wound up influencing some aspects of Cardassian designs too, speficially I'm recalling a story about the control panels on doorways in Cardassian architecture.
    – eidylon
    Feb 16, 2012 at 7:06
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    Is there really an upside in space? :)
    – Giuseppe
    Sep 27, 2012 at 14:58
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    @Giuseppe: Well, in Star Trek, there are -- ever seen a ship at any angle other than upright?
    – Tango
    Sep 28, 2012 at 1:57
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    @Tango - yes, in the very last episode of TNG, ships move at odd angles relative to the rest of the series. Aug 26, 2014 at 17:51

4 Answers 4


Reading the story where 'ToSeek's graphic comes from, though does corroborate your information that Gene Roddenberry and the NBC people did in fact see and like the upside down ship model. The story goes on to say that "TV Guide came out, they ran a picture of the ship on the cover, upside down." The TV Guide image that this probably refers to can be seen here (it's not actually a cover, but Matt Jeffries' memory may have been slightly off):

TV Guide, "close up". The Star Strek listing (C), at 7:30. An upside-picture of the Enterprise is shown from the episode "The Tholian Web". The text on the side says: This episode won an Emmy nomination for its special optical effects (frame-by-frame animation by Van der Veer Photo Effects, Hollywood). Mr. Spock takes command of the Enterprise when Captain Kirk vanishes in limbo between two space fields. As Kirk appears and disappears with ghostly irregularity, Spock's rescue operations are hampered by the crew's mysterious madness and by alien spacecraft, slowly weaving a deadly web around the disabled Enterprise. Spock: Leonard Nimoy. Dr. McCoy: DeForest Kelley. Kirk: William Shatner. Scott: James Doohan. Chekov: Walter Koenig. Uhura: Nichelle Nichols. Nurse Chapel: Majel Barret. Sulu: George Takei. Lieutenant O'Neil: Sean Morgan. (Rerun: 60 min.)

Though as Matt Jefferies goes on to say, that wasn't what he was intending with his wooden model and that it immediately "flopped over, because the birch dowels were heavier! I had an awful time trying to unsell that" to Gene.

As for more ships designed to be upside down, I believe that in many of the spin offs of Star Trek you can see some type of variation of either a saucer or engine tubes. Many of these examples can be found in the Federation Ship Recognition Manual from FASA back in 1985. But while an engine on top of a saucer may 'look' upside down, I believe that the intention is that the crew is still standing 'rightside up'. as the request from Roddenberry was " that we didn't have to worry about gravity" and "wanted" it "to be as practical as possible".

Hope this helps some.

  • 13
    You do realize this link was probably not dead 2 years ago when it was posted? Heaven forbid he not be able to see into the future and perceive that the link would be dead when you wanted to look at it.
    – Helpful
    Apr 24, 2014 at 2:45
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    @Helpful - that's exactly why we encourage answers to contain their own images instead of links.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 27, 2014 at 15:33
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    @Omegacron -- Actually, it is an article so it would be quite annoying to copy and paste the entire article into my answer where as just posting a link to it for reference would be considered appropriate.
    – Chris
    Oct 29, 2014 at 3:07
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    Posting the link itself isn't necessarily bad, but ideally you should include the relevant text in the answer itself. Even just a small snippet is better than nothing. No downvotes or anything, just pointing out the logic behind Richard's downvote is all.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 29, 2014 at 13:18
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    This answer doesn't quite make it explicit, but just to be clear, Matt Jeffries' original design had the same orientation as the one we saw onscreen (obvious from the pictures in the article), and although Roddenberry liked the upside down version Jeffries managed to "unsell" him on it. Tango seemed to imagine the opposite in saying "Everyone liked it, so they decided to just go with what they had and ended up with a spaceship that was upside down from what was originally intended."
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 27, 2015 at 0:40

Featurettes for the Wrath of Khan frequently talk about the Reliant being drawn and shown with the engines on top. The story goes that at a finalizing meeting it was shown the wrong way around and the design stuck.

Additionally the Regula lab is a space station from Star Trek:TMP flipped upside down.

See Wrath of Khan DVD extras.


In my youth I practically memorized The Making of Star Trek, and I have no recollection of your "upside-down" story. Designer Matt Jeffries' early designs look as if he was considering either configuration. An article about this was hosted on starshipdatalink.net, but that site is no longer available. The webpage containing the article and the image of early saucer designs can be found on the internet archive.

  • 2
    1) It's also quite possible I read it in another book. 2) Your link comes up with 404 error.
    – Tango
    Feb 15, 2012 at 3:48
  • I also remember this story and I thought I remembered it from Making of Star Trek. Sep 26, 2012 at 15:55

I've always thought it was obvious that the Klingon ship design in TOS was just the Enterprise turned over with a smaller saucer section and shorter "stems" to the nacelles, so they got two for the price of one with that model design. In other words, one or the other is "upside down" no matter how you look at it!

  • You might want to read The Making of Star Trek by Stephan E. Whitfield. What you think is obvious is not so.
    – Tango
    Apr 26, 2014 at 7:50
  • I have in fact read the Whitfield book. What's your point? May 28, 2014 at 23:07
  • Never mind. It flew by you.
    – Tango
    May 28, 2014 at 23:45
  • There was definitely an intentional similarity because if these ships lived in the same universe they'd use the same physics. That's probably Gene Coon having pride in his work. Aug 3, 2021 at 22:35

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