Dubbed "The Great Experiment," the Excelsior was conceived during the early 2280s as the first Starfleet vessel equipped with transwarp drive. An awe-inspiring concept to some, traditional engineers were more skeptical, as in the case of Montgomery Scott, who expressed his doubt in transwarp technology with the analogy, "and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon." (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Designed under radically new principles of propulsion, the Excelsior had the potential for becoming the fastest starship in the entire Federation, as at that time, the Starfleet record for faster-than-light travel was warp factor 14.1, set by the USS Enterprise in 2269. (TOS: "That Which Survives")
The Excelsior was days away from her first full field test of the transwarp drive, when she was unexpectedly called for duty. The crew of the USS Enterprise, attempting to rejoin Captain Spock's katra with his regenerated body, hijacked the Enterprise for an illegal journey to the Genesis Planet.
Captain Styles, confident in his new "incredible machine," was ordered to pursue as the Enterprise entered warp, fleeing the system. However, Captain Montgomery Scott, assigned as captain of engineering aboard the Excelsior, had sabotaged the ship's transwarp computer, leaving the Excelsior dead in space. Proud of his accomplishment, Scott explained that "the more they over-think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain." (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Following this embarrassing failure, the Excelsior essentially spent the next two years in spacedock. In 2286 she was briefly ordered to be launched during an apparent attack by an alien probe, but the Excelsior, as well as the spacedock, lost all internal power and was left stranded in her bay. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
After the Enterprise was destroyed at the Genesis Planet, Hikaru Sulu believed he and his Enterprise shipmates would be assigned to the Excelsior before learning their next assignment was the USS Enterprise-A. At the time, Montgomery Scott believed the Excelsior to be nothing more than a "bucket of bolts." (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
The Excelsior remained in spacedock until at least 2287, before subsequently being recommissioned for active service by the end of the decade. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Prior to her recommissioning, the Excelsior was refitted with a new bridge module, which also included a significant modification to the aft portion of the saucer section, surrounding the impulse drive, and a modification to the cargo bay on the aft ventral portion of the ship. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
By 2290, the Excelsior was under the command of now-Captain Hikaru Sulu. His first assignment was a three-year mission, cataloging gaseous planetary anomalies in the Beta Quadrant. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
In 2293, as the Excelsior was returning to Federation space following the successful conclusion of her mission, she was struck by a powerful subspace shock wave caused by the destruction of the Klingon moon, Praxis. Upon discovering the cause of the disaster, Sulu immediately contacted the Klingon High Command to offer his ship's assistance. The Klingons, including an officer on Praxis, called for help, however, the transmission was cut-off when Brigadier Kerla interrupted and reported that there had been an incident on Praxis, and turned the offer for assistance down because everything is under control, requesting that Sulu obey treaty stipulations and remain outside the Neutral Zone. Thereafter, Sulu reported the incident to Starfleet Command. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Six months later, following the arrest of James T. Kirk and Leonard McCoy on charges of assassinating Klingon chancellor Gorkon, Captain Sulu ordered an aborted raid into Klingon territory from Sector 21185 on an ill-advised rescue attempt. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; VOY: "Flashback")
Sulu, who attempted to sneak the Excelsior into Klingon territory by traversing the Azure Nebula at maximum warp, was discovered by a Klingon battle cruiser commanded by Kang. While Sulu explained that the Excelsior was on a survey mission, studying the nebula, and had gotten lost due to a malfunction in the navigation system, Kang offered to escort the Excelsior back to Federation space. As the Excelsior emerged, she fired a modulated positron beam that triggered a thermochemical reaction, and successfully disabled Kang's ship.
The Excelsior then made a break for Qo'noS, but was almost immediately intercepted by three Klingon battle cruisers. The Excelsior and Klingon ships continued to exchange fire until the Excelsior was forced to retreat back to Federation space. (VOY: "Flashback")
The Excelsior was viewed as a potential participant in Operation Retrieve and would have worked alongside the USS Eagle and the USS Potemkin. According to the plans, the Excelsior would have provided protection along the Potemkin's starboard flank as the latter ship retrieved the two Starfleet officers. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
Shortly thereafter, the Excelsior joined the Enterprise-A at Khitomer where the two ships battled Chang's Bird-of-Prey. Due to the ship's cloaking technology, the two Federation starships were at a disadvantage until a modified torpedo from the Enterprise-A took out the bridge. The Excelsior and the Enterprise-A were then able to destroy the Bird-of-Prey with a combined attack. The Excelsior's crew aided the Enterprise-A crew in preventing the assassination of the Federation President at the Khitomer Conference. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; VOY: "Flashback")
- Commanding officer
- First officer
- Unidentified first officer (2285–)
- Chief engineer
- Montgomery Scott (2285)
- Communications officer
- Science officer
See also: USS Excelsior personnel
|USS Berlin • USS Cairo • USS Charleston • USS Crazy Horse • USS Enterprise-B • USS Excelsior • USS Farragut • USS Fearless • USS Fredrickson • USS Gorkon • USS Hood • USS Lakota • USS Malinche • USS Melbourne • USS Potemkin • USS Repulse • USS Valley Forge • Unnamed|
The USS Excelsior was first mentioned in the script of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which Kirk stated that Sulu was going to have command of the Excelsior by the end of the month.  Apparently, Sulu's presence aboard the Enterprise at that time was solely as a courtesy to Kirk.
The Excelsior was featured in the story outline Star Trek III: Return to Genesis (which served as the conceptual starting point for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and was dated 16 September 1982). However, in the first draft script of The Search for Spock (dated 23 March 1983), the ship was instead named USS Valiant.
The USS Excelsior was designed for the production of Star Trek III, after the review of several prototype studio model ideas. Built by ILM, this highly detailed studio model was reused for many guest appearances until 1994 when it was refurbished to become the USS Enterprise-B and later the USS Lakota. After that, a half-scale recreation was built for "Flashback", with minor differences – even though it was supposedly the same ship as seen earlier. For example, "Flashback" features the only appearances of the ship's warp nacelles glowing, although the episode also incorporated footage from Star Trek VI in which the nacelle sides did not glow.
The model is now part of ScienceFictionArchives.com collections. 
In the German dubbing of Star Trek III, Uhura's line "Would you look at that!" was changed to (re-translated) "Look at that: Thorndike's idea!" This could provide insight into who was material to the creation of the ship. Done for lip-syncing purposes, common practice when dubbing episodes and movies, the name "Thorndike" was introduced solely for this purpose and does not refer to any canonical figure in the Star Trek universe.
The Excelsior was originally to have been included in the film Star Trek Generations, being saved (along with some El-Aurian refugees) by the crew of the Enterprise (including Uhura). However, in that case, the Excelsior was ultimately replaced with the Enterprise-B. (The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, p. 315)
In the Pocket TOS novelizations of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock by Vonda N. McIntyre, it was stated that Sulu helped design the ship, and was originally slated to be her captain at the time of the "minor training cruise" in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was further explained in the novelization for Star Trek III' that the arrogant Captain Styles was placed in temporary command by Fleet Admiral Morrow as part of an effort to sequester those with direct knowledge of Genesis and Starfleet's unwillingness to delay trial runs until the controversy subsided, due to the considerable investment in the ship's development. In the novel Forged in Fire, Sulu became captain of the Excelsior in 2289, after Captain Styles was murdered by the Albino.
The Lost Era novel The Sundered was set aboard Excelsior in 2298 with Chekov as first officer, Christine Chapel as chief medical officer, Leonard James Akaar as security chief, Janice Rand as communications officer, and Tuvok as science officer. In the later Lost Era novel One Constant Star, the Excelsior was destroyed in 2308 after passing through a temporal rift; Captain Sulu and his surviving crew are rescued eleven years later by the USS Enterprise-B, commanded by Sulu's daughter Demora.
The crew also appear in the novelization Star Trek Generations.
When DC Comics created the first set of comics for Star Trek, because they were being released in between Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the crew of the Enterprise ends up taking control of the Excelsior after the events of The Mirror Universe Saga until "Choices!", when the crew switches over to the USS Enterprise-A.
- USS Excelsior at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- USS Excelsior (Star Trek) at Wikipedia
- USS Excelsior (NCC-2000) at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
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