Why do all Federation ships look different, whereas other civilizations have identical ships that look like they came from a production line?

Are there any two Federation star ships of the same design?

Are there non-Federation star ships other than the single types (per civilization) we are familiar with? (i.e., AFAIK Klingons only have Birds of Prey.)

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    They don't. Compare the Romulan vessel in "Balance of Terror" to the later Warbirds, for instance. I'm voting to close as I feel this is opinion-based. Jan 21 '15 at 10:54
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    @JamesSheridan: It's real, and it's answerable. Jan 21 '15 at 11:08
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: It's not. We have many instances of species having different classes of ships in Star Trek, and only superficial similarities. We also have differences within the species themselves. You acknowledge this in your answer, but attempt to handwave it away as "the odd one out," but the fact is that there is very little uniformity among the races in Star Trek. The Federation is also arguably as uniform as every other species, with its tailor-made uniforms and preference for battleship grey colour schemes. And the ubiquitous plants above the bed-heads! Jan 21 '15 at 12:15
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    In fact, there is a question on this very site about why all Federation vessels are so similar in design. The exact opposite of this question. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/4362/… Jan 21 '15 at 12:30
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    @JamesSheridan: I don't think that proves anything. The fact that there are enough Federation starships to bother saying "hang on a minute, why do they all share common design concepts" is a testament to the fact that there are many distinct classes in the first place, which is what this question is asking about. Look at the big Dominion War battles: the Federation has far more variety in ship classes than either the Dominion or the Cardassians. It's quite clear to see. Jan 21 '15 at 12:54

Out of universe, this is a common problem with fiction depicting alien cultures. It's not just ships: Klingon and Romulan uniforms are basically all identical, as are the haircuts, skin tones, voices, behaviours, vocal idioms... whereas the familiar human characters have the predictable wide range of all of the above. Occasionally we see the "odd one out" character (e.g. the Klingon scientist in Enterprise's Augment arc who doesn't give much of a crap about honour and "glorious battle"), but they usually stand out like a sore thumb.

In-universe we can only theorise that the Federation's propensity for developing many different classes of starship stems from a strong desire to explore many different kinds of phenomena and environments, whereas governments like Cardassia, the Romulan Star Empire and the Klingon Empire are largely content to pump out thousands of Galor, D'Deridex and Bird of Prey class ships because they are proven to work in combat, espionage, defence and all those other wonderful things that don't change too much.

Similarly, of course the Federation is comprised of many different species which is not largely true of the Klingon Empire (which subjugates) or of the Romulan Star Empire (which hides from). It could therefore be argued that a broader talent pool of design aesthetics and architectural approaches being available within the Engineering Corps could have resulted in a broader pool of extant, in-service ship classes (though I'm struggling to imagine cultural factors having an overbearing influence on what is ultimately a political/military/economic decision).

Jumping back out of universe again, we see a lot more of the Federation than we do of other civilisations. It's conceivable, though not particularly convincing, that it's just that we haven't seen enough of those other cultures to have "run into" their 52 other ship classes.

  • Regarding your in-universe paragraph: the Federation is also a wildly multi-cultural society, which would naturally lead to many design aesthetics and construction differences, while most other galactic powers (Klingons, Romulans, etc) are generally single-species organizations, which would naturally lead to a more unified design process.
    – Nerrolken
    Jan 21 '15 at 18:08
  • @Nerrolken: That is a very good point. Jan 21 '15 at 18:18
  • Eh, Klingon "uniforms" (armor) are made for practicality, similar to the ENT era Starfleet uniforms, where the variation was also very subtle...
    – Izkata
    Jan 22 '15 at 0:27
  • @Izkata: The point is that, although we saw plenty of Starfleet uniforms, we also saw plenty of Terran casual attire. We don't see that in the Klingon world. The same sort of observation bias is noticeable in their ships: we only see the Klingons through their interactions with our heroes, and that's hardly a fair representation of an entire set of cultures from many worlds making up an empire. Jan 22 '15 at 1:50

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