The USS Excelsior (NCC-2000) was a Federation starship that was in service from the late 23rd century through the late 24th century. It was also the prototype for the very successful Template:ShipClass line of starships.
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 its first full field test of the transwarp drive, when it 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 trip 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 it 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 its 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. 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 its recommissioning, the Excelsior was refit 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)
- Although never directly addressed, the only evidence that the Excelsior was a failure as a transwarp prototype can be found in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, which stated that "the attempt to surpass the primary warp field efficiency barrier with the Transwarp Development Project in the early 2280s proved unsuccessful...".
- In addition, the Star Trek Chronology speculates that the reference made by Data in TNG: "Evolution" stating "there has not been a system-wide technological failure on a starship in seventy-nine years," may have been in reference to the failure of the transwarp drive.
By 2290, the Excelsior (NCC-2000) 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)
- According to a line cut from the script, the crew cataloged "fifty-four planets – and their gaseous atmospheric anomalies."
In 2293, as the Excelsior was returning to Federation space following the successful conclusion of its mission, it 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, however, turned the offer down, 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)
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, 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, it 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 played a pivotal role in assisting the USS Enterprise-A in the battle at Khitomer against Chang's Bird-of-Prey, and in preventing the assassination of the Federation President at the Khitomer Conference. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; VOY: "Flashback")
- The ship was referred to by name only in "Interface." Whether this was a reference to NCC-2000 is unknown, although there has been no canon mention of another USS Excelsior or of NCC-2000's retirement or destruction.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- VOY: "Flashback"
The USS Excelsior was first 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.
In the German dubbing of Star Trek III Uhura's line "Would you look at that!" was changed to (re-translated) "Look at that: Thorndyke'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 Thorndyke was introduced solely for this purpose and does not refer to any canonical figure in the Star Trek universe.
In the Pocket TOS novelizations of Star Trek II and Star Trek III by Vonda N. McIntyre, it is stated that Hikaru Sulu helped design the ship and that, by the events of The Wrath of Khan, he had already been named as the vessel's commanding officer. Apparently, his presence aboard the Enterprise at this time was solely as a courtesy to Kirk.
It is further explained 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.
Also, the 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.