21

Throughout the Star Trek franchise, we are shown that the Enterprise is held in especially high esteem within Starfleet. For example, Riker refused his own ship to pursue a tour on the Enterprise, and it seems that not many (if any) other ships have been recommissioned again and again so many times (Enterprise-D, Enterprise-E, etc). It is often the flagship of Starfleet, and many crew members are unusual or highly respected (such as the unique Data or Captain/Admiral/Captain Kirk). And of course, the adventures and exploits of the Enterprise are legendary, with entire wars and even threats to reality itself being thwarted regularly, and many revolutionary discoveries being credited to the ship and her crew.

However, we've also seen enough of the larger universe to know that other ships get into similar situations. The Voyager crew, for example, got into quite a few hijinks, and the crew of Deep Space 9 didn't have an easy time of it either. It's probably safe to say that Sulu's Excelsior had an interesting service history, from what we see of it, and every once in a while we encounter a Starfleet officer who isn't terribly impressed by the Enterprise, implying that it's not objectively unique, or at least not indisputably so.

Are we therefore to assume that most, if not all, Starfleet ships have similar adventures? That encounters with extra-dimensional beings, ancient planetary disputes, accidental time travel, and threats to the fabric of reality are the norm, or at least not unheard of, for all major space-faring vessels? To put it another way, is that just how things work for a galactic civilization, just as jet lag, juggling time zones, and international law disputes become commonplace for a planet-spanning society?

Or do the adventures shown in the various Star Trek shows and movies constitute the "best and weirdest" of the things that happen in the Star Trek universe, and the Enterprise (and Voyager and DS9, etc) are unique in the quantity (or sheer existence) of unusual "adventures" among the ships of Starfleet?

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    i would say its just the norm, because as we see the enterprise, ds9 crew, and voyager all run into other fed, or romulan, or vulcan, ships that are in distress, dead, or other weird happenings. so we know its happening to ALOT of people. i believe thats just want happens to explorers, especially in space where theres xhundreds of unique unknown more advanced races out their, x number of new anomalies they've never seen, god like entities interfereing (Q's) ect. space is a f-ing disaster waiting to happen, and these guys are plowing into it willingly and readily. – Himarm Oct 6 '14 at 20:02
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    not to say that the sheer numbers the enterprise/voyager see arnt on the higher end of things, since as the flagship they typically send the enterprise into messed up situations more often, then say a routine patrol ship, or a specific science vessel sent to study some x phenomenon. – Himarm Oct 6 '14 at 20:05
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    I think Leuteniant Data sums it up best: "This is the 1,550th day since its (Enterprise D's) commissioning. There will be four birthdays, two transfers, a celebration of the Hindu Festival of Lights, two chess tournaments, one secondary school play, and four promotions. Overall it is an ordinary day. " – Zibbobz Oct 6 '14 at 20:11
  • @Zibbobz That's a reference to the size of the population onboard the ship: the same might also be true of an office building today. I'm asking about those events which seem unusual to us, like accidental time travel, but which may or may not be commonplace in the Star Trek universe. – Nerrolken Oct 6 '14 at 20:41
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    The fact that we haven't seen any series about more "run of the mill" starfleet operations makes it difficult to provide a cannon answer, but I'm guessing that Picard and Co. would be freaking out a lot more if such things were unheard of for a Starship. – ApproachingDarknessFish Oct 7 '14 at 3:21
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No. The Enterprise was not unique in its exploration of space no matter what era it was in. The Original Series Star Trek Enterprise was one of twelve Constitution-class starships.

  • Each of those ships was involved in the same kinds of missions the Enterprise had. We learned in The Original Series, it was dangerous to be on a Constitution class vessel.

  • As viewers we are privy to the destruction of or loss of at least four of those ships or their crews. (Constellation, Exeter, Intrepid and Excaliber)

  • The Enterprise had a distinction of having a crew that had a great deal of experience considering by the time Captain Kirk takes command of the ship, it had already been on three five year missions, one with its first captain, Robert April in 2245, two with its second captain, Christopher Pike and its most famous period with Captain James T. Kirk in 2265.

In 2267, there were around twelve Constitution-class starships in the fleet. (TOS: "Tomorrow is Yesterday") These included:

  • Enterprise - Survived five year missions
  • Exeter - Crew infected and ship abandoned - (TOS: "The Omega Glory")
  • Excalibur - Damaged by M-5. Crew killed. (TOS: "The Ultimate Computer")
  • Lexington - Damaged in exercise with M-5 computer (TOS: "The Ultimate Computer")
  • Hood - Damaged in exercise with M-5 computer. (TOS: "The Ultimate Computer")
  • Potemkin - Damaged in exercise with M-5 computer. (TOS: "The Ultimate Computer")
  • Constellation - Destroyed by the Doomsday Machine (TOS: "The Doomsday Machine")
  • Farragut - Heavy crew casualties after attack from dikironium cloud creature
  • Intrepid - Destroyed by a macrocellular organism (TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome")
  • Yorktown - Survived five-year missions, later disabled by Whale Probe in 2286
  • Republic - Survived five year missions, patrolled Neutral Zone, a training vessel
  • Valiant - Destroyed as a casualty in a war simulation (TOS: A Taste of Armageddon)
  • Constitution - Fate unknown
  • Kongo - Never seen on screen, fate unknown

Despite the successes of the class, exemplified by the performance of Kirk's ship, the mission parameters for the Constitution-class also meant that the vessels of the class operated under highly dangerous circumstances, resulting in a relatively high loss rate, and that being assigned to one was hazardous at best.

  • While we see the Enterprise and other ships which were on TV as having special adventures, other Federation crews were having potentially similar and dangerous interactions with alien life, discovering new technologies and experiencing unknown phenomena. It was part of the job description:

"These are the voyages of the starship (your ship name here). It's continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations. To Boldly go where where no one has gone before."

Unspoken but fervently hoped by every crewmember: "And hopefully we get to come back home when we're done."

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    "...it was dangerous to be on a Constitution class vessel". Yes, especially if one wore a red shirt. – BBlake Oct 7 '14 at 12:08
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    @BBlake But only after Chekov joins the bridge crew! I think he's the real bad luck charm. – Izkata Oct 7 '14 at 23:19
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    Defiant - Fell into another universe – Izkata Apr 14 '16 at 4:11
13

There's an episode of Voyager where something unbelievably weird and mind-blowing happens to Harry Kim, and towards the end of the episode he tries to talk to Janeway about it. She simply shrugs, and says "That's just another day in the life of a Star Fleet officer".

8

Well, not wholly unique - each starship has its own voyages and adventures, but the ships we see specifically in each Star Trek series are under exceptional circumstances.

We have:

  • ToS: A capital-class starship on an exploratory mission at the edge of space, during a time when conflict with violent Klingons and other newly-discovered species was frequent.
  • TNG: The flagship of the federation. You'll notice that a lot of the conflicts that Enterprise D encounters are more diplomatic in nature, but as a Flagship and the height of Starfleet's advances in technology, this Galaxy-Class ship is used often in the most dangerous of situations, and is also being used to explore unknown problems (At the time of the first episode, 'Farpoint' was the edge of Federation space).
  • DS9: A starbase that, at the start of the series is next to a remote little-known planet (albiet having just overcome an enemy occupation), but quickly gains importance for being located right next to a worm hole, through which races and dangers never seen before are emerging.
  • Voyager: Flung to the very farthest reaches of space, to lands uncharted, with no help from anyone in Starfleet.
  • Enterprise: The first real exploratory starship in Starfleet, of course it's going to encounter a lot of interesting and unknown things.

But, it should be noted that the episodes we see of their encounters are the exceptional events that occur aboard these starships (and one starbase), not the norm. We're expected to assume a period of normalcy between episodes unless otherwise stated (like episodes that are part of a series or running plotline). Simply put - the events we seen in each episode are the things 'worth writing home about'.

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    “At the time of the first episode, 'Farpoint' was the edge of Federation space” — it’s a shame the Voyager crew didn’t fly past Farpoint on their way back home. “Farpoint. Uh huh. Really far.” – Paul D. Waite Sep 24 '15 at 22:23
4

In The Next Generation series, it is implied that Galaxy class vessels such as the Enterprise did have unique missions of exploration compared with more routine missions for other ships in Star Fleet.

We hear the following exchange in "Tin Man" (TNG 3x20) between Captain DeSoto of the USS Hood (Excelsior class) and Captain Picard:

Captain Picard: "So, old friend, how are you?"

Captain DeSoto: "Ah, well... you know they send you Galaxy-class boys out here to the far reaches. Me, I just haul my butt between starbases."

1

Not only are differing classes of starship given differing roles, long or short range, investigative or martial, but they have different crews.

What could end badly for a Miranda-class with an average captain, could end heroically for a captain of greater ability or bravery, or just a better vessel, like a Nebula-class. Reading a situation one way could lead to great discovery, reading it another way could mean a missed chance.

As a flagship, the Enterprise has a top-line captain and crew who obviously see things in a particular way, take a braver or more direct course, read different things into it and have more spectacular ideas of how to deal with it.

Two identical ships have differing crews, its the spectacular crews we want to watch, not the shy careful ones.

-1

Even in real life, the name Enterprise for a ship has a special signification to Americans: not only the first Enterprise airplanes carrier has escaped the attack on Pearl Harbour without any damage but it's also the only carrier to have fought through all the second world war without beeing sunk. All the other carriers have either been sunk or have been built after the start of WWII and therefore, this name has a special place in the heart of many Americans (and especially more for those in the Navy and the Army).

Even today, you don't name a small boat Enterprise without the risk of seeing Americans taking this as a personal insult and even when Gene R. decided to chose this name for the main ship of his new Star Trek serie, that decision nearly got reversed by the network because many of its administrators feared a backlash.

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    Interesting history, but irrelevant to whether the actions of the USS Enterprise within the show are commonplace or unusual within Starfleet. – Nerrolken Oct 6 '14 at 23:42
  • Nothing to do with it??? It has everything to do with it! The actions are not about the USS Enterprise's physical hull itself but about the tradition that this name carry and even in the Star Trek universe itself (and not just inside Gene's mind), the USS Enterprise - beeing from Earth - is officially the legatee of this tradition going back in time all the way to this very first ship and people choose to serve on this ship to bear this tradition above everything else; including their own benefice like the decision of Riker to refuse to get its own ship instead. – SylvainL Oct 7 '14 at 1:42
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    The question starts with the words "Throughout the Star Trek franchise". What you've written is good background, definitely relevant background, but not a complete answer by itself. – neilfein Oct 7 '14 at 2:27
  • @SylvainL Why people would choose to serve on the Enterprise over another ship is completely unrelated to the question of whether or not the Enterprise's adventures on the show are as unique in the Federation as they appear to be. – Izkata Oct 7 '14 at 3:36
  • "Throughout the Stark Trek franchise" follow the same principle: each time an Enterprise ship goes down, the name is reserved for one of the best new hull (not a second or third grade cargo-ship) and only the best candidatures will be retained and this is true even for the Enterprise of the TOS: unless if you think that's possible for an institution as traditionalist and paternalist as the Navy to act inside some sort of historical void, they would have chosen this name for the first starship Enterprise exactly for the same reason as for the other ships: because of the previous tradition. – SylvainL Oct 7 '14 at 3:36

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