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As can be confirmed via Memory Alpha, the service years of the ships named "USS Enterprise" in the original timeline beginning at 2245 are:

  • NCC-1701 (Captains April, Pike, Kirk, Decker, Kirk, Spock), years 2245-2285 (destroyed under command of Admiral Kirk, acting captain)

  • NCC-1701-A (Captain Kirk), years 2286-2293

  • NCC-1701-B (Initial commission under Captain Harriman, later captain(s) unknown), years 2293-?

  • NCC-1701-C (Initial captain(s) unknown, final commission under Captain Garrett), ?-2344 (lost to Romulan Star Empire under command of Lt. Commander Castillo, acting captain)

  • NCC-1701-D (Captains Picard, Riker, Picard, Jellico, Picard), 2363-2371

  • NCC-1701-E (Captain Picard, later captain(s) unknown*), 2372-?

We all know that the Enterprise-A was a gift to Kirk for saving Earth — hence, this Enterprise was quickly recommissioned for him (it had been the USS Yorktown until then).

However, the Enterprise-B was rapidly commissioned in 2293, the same year the A was decommissioned.

I cannot find canonical data regarding the decommissioning of the B and the commissioning of the C. However, why was there a two-decade gap between the loss of the Enterprise C at Narendra III and the commissioning of the Enterprise D, given the prestige and general continuity of the Enterprise in Starfleet?

*Captained in and around 2387 by Captain Data / B-4, if you believe Countdown....

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    fyi, data is also credited as being captain of the Enterprise E in the star trek online timeline. This also leads into the first reboot star trek film as he saved neros ship from the hobus disaster. memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/USS_Enterprise_%28NCC-1701-E%29 – MrDobilina Jan 28 '15 at 9:11
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    @MrDobilina : This point (Data's command) was already mentioned in my question (see the asterisk). However, I take anything to do with the "new timeline" (including the supposed events of the old timelines that directly lead to the new one) with a few grains of salt. – Praxis Jan 28 '15 at 14:30
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    I'm thinking Himarm is on to something. As stated in the question NCC-1701-A was a gift to Kirk and wasn't a planned ship. Without knowing the decommission date of NCC 1701-B and the commission date of NCC 1701-C, we don't know how much of a gap there was between them or what the fate of NCC 1701-B was (decommissioned, destroyed, lost forever in a remote sector of the galaxy etc). It could be that, having NCC 1701-C destroyed with (almost) all hands in battle, Starfleet didn't want to crank out another Enterprise "too soon" out of respect. Ncc 1701-D's crew mostly survived and served on E. – geewhiz Jan 28 '15 at 14:35
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    It's worth noting that, in the Real World, gaps like this happen, too. USS Enterprise CVN-65 is still nominally in commission but is retired and being gradually dismantled. CVN-80 is planned, but has not yet even had its keel laid and will not be afloat until at least 2025. – Michael Scott Shappe Jan 28 '15 at 16:41
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    @Himarm : I realize there is a century-long gap between the NX-01 and the NCC-1701, but given the nascent state of Starfleet in Archer's days, I wouldn't expect the same continuity of ships around 2145 that I would at around 2345! This is why I began the question at 2245. – Praxis Jan 28 '15 at 18:10
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With regard to the NCC-1701-A, there are three likely possibilities, none of which has ever been canonized:

  1. Fleet Admiral Morrow, in Star Trek III, makes it clear that Enterprise NCC-1701 was already seen as slated for decommissioning (although he gets the age wildly wrong). This is consistent with the ship's status in Star Trek II as a training ship. Therefore, it is possible that NCC-1701-A was already being built under that name.
  2. A new Constitution Class ship could have been renamed Enterprise to suit the occasion.
  3. A recently re-fit Constitution Class ship could have been so renamed.

In Star Trek V, Scotty does refer to the A as a "new ship", which seems to weigh on the side of 1 or 2.

In real navies, though, this is something of an aberration. Ships are planned years, sometimes decades in advance, and their names planned along with them. As one pertinent example of this, USS Enterprise CVN-65 was retired in 2012, but was still nominally in commission while it was being dismantled, only being finally deconmissioned in 2017. However, CVN-80, the next planned holder of the name Enterprise, has only just (as if 2018) begun construction, and won't be afloat until at least 2025.

My supposition, then -- and I'll stress that this is just surmise, because we simply haven't been told, canonically -- is that NCC-1701-B was the originally planned replacement for Enterprise NCC-1701. The need to give Kirk and his crew a ship changed the plan.

We know very little, canonically about the NCC-1701-B or -C, but we know that the C was lost with all hands (plus one temporally displaced Lt. Yar) at Narendra III. The circumstances were thus entirely different from the loss of NCC-1701, where the (famous, high-profile) crew survived and giving them a new ship seemed the best way to keep them out of real trouble! There would have been no reason to accelerate the inheritance of the name from the -C to the -D if it was already planned to give it to a member of the next advanced starship class, even if that was going to be 10-20 years in the future.

NCC-1701-E, on the other hand, could be seen as a similar situation to the -A. Once again, a famous, proven crew had survived the destruction of their ship and needed a new one, at about the time the Sovereign Class was having its keels laid.

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    i believe we had a quote a week or so on the site where some one showed that the enterprise E was originally going to be another ship, and that they purposely renamed the ship to have a current enterprise for picard. – Himarm Jan 28 '15 at 18:41
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    The real USS Enterprises are a good example, CV-6 made the name famous in WWII, yet there have been decade long gaps between commissioned ships with the name. Also, while capital ships are laid down with a name in mind, they can be renamed in the event of a sudden death of a high ranking official or loss of ship. For example, CV-10 was originally to be called Bon Homme Richard but the loss of USS Yorktown (CV-5) lead to a renaming. – Schwern Jan 28 '15 at 19:26
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    Also the C was lost, and no one really knew if they would maybe come back, so waiting a while is a nice thing to do. – PlasmaHH Sep 24 '15 at 9:23
  • I'm not so sure on Point 1... specifically the part about 1701-A already being in the works. Kirk was an Admiral at that point; there wasn't a line captain with an emotional attachment to the ship. It was destroyed in ST3, then Kirk saved the whole damned planet from Humanity's own destructive nature in ST4. At the end of ST4, Kirk is demoted and granted a new command. They slapped the name on a fresh ship to honor him (and possibly to diplomatically snub the Klingons) at that point. – T.J.L. Feb 3 '16 at 14:40
  • My point is that the ship that became NCC-1701-B was actually, or so I believe, SUPPOSED to be eventually NCC-1701-A. NCC-1701 would have been decommissioned and there would have been a gap without an Enterprise. The events of ST3 and ST4 changed that and, as you say, they slapped the name on a new or recently refit ship, and the Excelsior-class ship wound up becoming NCC-1701-B. – Michael Scott Shappe Feb 4 '16 at 23:58
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This is completely unsupported by canon, of course, but there's no reason there couldn't have been other vessels named Enterprise with different registry numbers in the interim.

Starfleet doesn't suffix the name directly (i.e. "Enterprise-D" is informal shorthand for "USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D") so the existence of say, NCC-28121 Enterprise wouldn't break the established name lineage. You could easily squeeze in one more TV series between 1701-C and 1701-D and two or three between 1701-B and 1701-C.

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Although not strictly canon, official publications such as books, calendars and reference guides now all give the service dates for the Enterprise-B and C as 2293-2329 and 2332-2344 respectively. We'll have to see if the new TV series (which allegedly takes place somewhere in that time period) sheds any more light on that.

The more likely reason is that the Galaxy-class was designed and planned starting in the early 2340s and the decision was made to name one of them Enterprise. The C was over a decade old at that point and the Galaxy project was likely twenty years away from hitting space, so it was worked out that the D would come online around the time the C was retiring, so they "saved" the name for a Galaxy-class. When the C was lost with all hands, it was decided not to immediately have another ship with the name out of respect.

There also seems to be an informal custom that the Enterprise has to be one of the best ships in the fleet (i.e. you wouldn't name an Oberth or Miranda after her) and it looks like the Federation had decided to phase out the Ambassador class in favour of the Galaxies by the time the C was lost, so there was simply no ship available to be named.

  • new tv show?? what? when? what? fell of my chair – Cherubel May 18 '16 at 13:22
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    @Werthead: Welcome to the Stack Exchange. You can improve your answer by adding sources to back up your answer, otherwise it seems this is more of a comment. – sfhq_sf May 18 '16 at 13:36
  • @Cherubel: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untitled_2017_Star_Trek_TV_series Google will have plenty of other articles for you to read. – Ellesedil May 18 '16 at 17:26
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every ship has a expected life. NCC 1701 B was supposedly destroyed in 2239. Thats a life of about 37 years. its a average life of a ship . ambassador class was commissioned around 2225. so it was a logical successor to carry the name enterprise. it was destroyed in 2244. 4 years of service. now the next enterprise could have been either same class or the next powerful class.Galaxy class was started to develop in 2243. just a year before the 1701 c was destroyed. it is canon that the Galaxy class design did took a really long time to mature with development of new technologies and also due to the sabotage. so i guess star fleet played it safe with waiting to rename its most powerful ship as enterprise and also as the Ambassador was a stop gap kinda ship federation kept the name enterprise in store for 20 years before the galaxy matured enough

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Naming of ships, while planned in advance, can change. The (originally to have been named) USS Bon Homme Richard CV-10 was under construction during WWII. It was renamed Yorktown while under construction to honor the Yorktown CV-5 that sank from damaged sustained shortly after Midway. A quick renaming of a vessel is not outside the realm of possibility.

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    The question wasn't why there was only a short gap between two vessels of the same name, but rather why there was a relatively long gap (20 years) between Enterprises C and D. – Blackwood Aug 23 '16 at 22:01
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I attribute it to, for lack of a canonical answer, a "Star Trek ism" or simply a mistake by the writers. I find often in the Star Trek universe things are done that do not make "real world" sense. I wonder if there is a way that someone could ask the executive producer Rick Berman, or one of the other people involved with the show; such as, Ronald D. Moore, Michael Piller, Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, and or Rick Sternbach. Maybe they could clarify the hows, and whys, and more accurately answer your question.
From my perspective a starship would be designed to have a long life-span, most likely a 100 years or more, would be a logical assumption. For example current naval ships is about 50 years, as with the CVN 65 USS. Enterprise, and aircraft (i.e. B-52, C-130, A-10, F-15) 35+ to nearly 100 years. As with current military craft, there are periodic upgrades, and scheduled refits to keep them current. If I am not mistaken the C-130 is up to J model, for example. With that said, my explanation is "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" was to be the last movie for the "TOS" crew, so along with Captain Kirk, the "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-A" was retired as well. A visual cue to the fans "Kirk's Enterprise", is not associated with another captain. To this end the logical assumption is the "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-A" was decommissioned because of damage it had sustained; a good reason would be that the space frame, or chassis was damaged making repairs unfeasible, or cost prohibitive. So Starfleet renamed a new "Excelsior Class refit" to be the "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-B" as a homage to the previous ship, and crew. That would explain why the ships are so closely spaced. (A side note: I always felt the Excelsior was going to be the next Enterprise, from the first instant I saw it.) Of course they had to tweak it some to give it a different feel, and as a marketing tool a "new ship" that everyone will want to purchase... Rant: ever notice that each series has their own uniforms??? Star Trek Generations was made to be a "Bridge" between the Generations. Kirk passing the movie torch to Picard. The "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-B" symbolizes the progression toward the “Next Generation”.
The "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-C" was made to be a "Bridge" between the "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-B" and the "USS. Enterprise, NCC 1701-D". Its intent was to show a design lineage of the ships. It then became a plot device for (TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise"); a back story was developed for it, but inadvertently as which sometimes happens in Star Trek, it was not thoroughly developed. Or for that matter was omitted from the episode. However I concur with the explanation that the next Enterprise was planned to be the newest starship class, as for the gap in time a logical explanation would be that the “Galaxy Class” development was delayed. Memory Alpha has the class active in the 2350’s, so it may not have been as long as it seems. A good reason for that would be the size, and complexity of the design. If I am not mistaken the “Galaxy Class” was the first class to be able reconnect with the stardrive without the aid of a starbase. So in theory developing the latching mechanism could have taken longer than expected. I hope this helps, this is my first answer; I apologize if my answer is too long, but I felt it necessary in order to be thorough.

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    This might be better (or at least readable) with a little formatting. – T.J.L. Feb 13 '18 at 16:42
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The name "Enterprise" may not have had the same impact on each following generation. After the retirement of Kirk's legendary crew, the Enterprise B may have had a mundane, unremarkable tenure under a mundane, unremarkable captain or two. Enterprise C's tenure may have been equally unremarkable except for the war with the Klingons. And no ship named "Enterprise" wants to be known just for its war role. So the more contemporary generations may have had no legendary crews for those ships, thus no sentimental ties to the name "Enterprise". Or it's possible that the Enterprise's place as a legendary starship had been surpassed by other starships of different names. It might explain why there was never an Enterprise class of starships, although we probably feel that there should have been.

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