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As you can see in the two images below, there was quite a difference in the deflector dish design of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E. The Sovereign Class Enterprise-E seems to be more of a physical dish that protrudes (a little like the Constitution's) whereas the Galaxy Class Enterprise-D's deflector is just a dish with rims on it. There is also a considerable colour change.

What is the in-universe reason for this change, apart from ejecting it in case the Borg decide to use it to send a message when they travel back in time (because the starship designers obviously knew that was going to happen!)

Deflector Dish of Sovereign

Galaxy class deflector dish

  • @MrLister - I can't see any, but that's because I've got a filter on my internet service at the moment - they'll show up when I get home. – Often Right May 21 '14 at 6:20
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    It is worth noting that, physically, D's was also a raised element. You can see this on the larger scale models of the ship when assembling them. The outermost blue glow is coming from behind the dish portion. – eidylon May 21 '14 at 14:58
  • @N.Soong They're both visible now, thanks to jwodder's edit. – Mr Lister May 21 '14 at 15:54
  • That black traingle on Sovereign, I keep seeing it as an empty space rather than painted part of a hull. Confuses the hell out of me. "Sovereign had double pylons? That can't be right" – Petersaber Jul 2 '15 at 6:07
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What is the in-universe reason for this change, apart from ejecting it in case the Borg decide to use it to send a message when they travel back in time (because the starship designers obviously knew that was going to happen!)

Well, apart from facilitating a plot point... :/

The deflector, as with many pieces of Federation ships, are designed with 'plug and play' functionality. This is alluded to in a lot of off-screen documentation, such as the TNG Technical Manual -- but it is evidenced on-screen quite clearly in movies such as the run of TOS movies. The bridge of the Enterprise (and later Enterprise-A) is rarely identical in any series of movies. Consider the look of the bridge in Star Trek IV:

Star Trek IV - The Whitest Bridge of All Time

And take a look at it in Star Trek VI:

Star Trek VI - Stainless Steel Floor Edition

Now, arguably and with an absence of explicit on-screen data to suggest such -- it could just be a refurb. But we're led to believe that a lot of these aspects of design are designed to be easily swapped in and out, hence the 'detachability' of the deflector array is not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

In fact I would encourage you to examine the shot of the Enterprise-D's deflector dish -- it isn't a solid piece, it has the main concentric oblong shaped area with the orange-and-blue pattern, which sits in that ridged 'bowl'. Potentially, the middle concentric piece is as 'swappable' as the Enterprise-E's dish.

As for its 'purpose' or the design reasons that led to the pronounced change -- who the hell knows? There's not really a great on-screen explanation as to why some ships have a star drive section (aka, 'not the saucer' section) and why others don't, or why some ships don't have a long neck, or why others have more than two nacelles, or why the Daedalus-class ships are granted a giant medicine ball instead of a saucer, or or or... it just serves to show us that different ships are built for different things.

Except for Excelsior-class ships, which were apparently built for everything.

(Conjecture -- I would also hazard a guess that its artistic motivation came from a similar place as the jump from 1701's 'satellite dish' to the refit's 'blue glowy bit' change - it is a marked diversion from the previous design, which places the Enterprise-E's visual presence squarely in new territory, away from the syndicated series. It is, at the end of the day, a Very Different Ship.)

  • Excelsiors were highly modular as well, which is why they were one of the core ship classes in and after the Dominion War. Highly adaptable and easly upgradeable – Petersaber Jul 2 '15 at 6:09
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The Sovereign class is stronger, faster and more durable than either the Constitution or Galaxy class. Upgrades to support these characteristics are quite visible including the deflector array. This upgrade would also allow for much easier maintenance access or to R&R (Remove and Replace) any damaged or worn components. The warp nacelle pylons and the saucer neck have also been reworked to enhance structural integrity and longevity.

  • Also I'd add that the technology most likely advanced as well. For example, in the Star Trek: Armada games, the Sovereign class got a Corbomite Device upgrade as a temporary effect, something completely made up by Kirk (and impossible back then) - at least as far as you consider it canon (yes, I know it isn't). Or, to take a real life counterpart, look at cars' bumpers (the deflector dish isn't that different in some regards). They've changed quite significantly over the last 100 years. – Mario May 21 '14 at 6:39

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