In 2268, the Potemkin was part of a small task force that participated in a series of war games problems to field test the experimental M-5 multitronic unit, which had been designed by Doctor Richard Daystrom. The M-5 was installed aboard the Potemkin's sister ship, the USS Enterprise.
When the M-5 unit suffered a disastrous malfunction during simulated combat, it caused the Enterprise to attack the other Starfleet ships with full phasers rather than minimum-strength beams that were standard for such situations. At least five hundred people aboard the USS Lexington and the USS Excalibur were killed in the initial attack. The Potemkin and the USS Hood attempted to retreat, but were nonetheless hit numerous times by full phasers from the Enterprise. This resulted in an unspecified number of casualties.
Following the crippling of the Excalibur, the Potemkin and the other two remaining ships were ordered to destroy the Enterprise to end the threat. Fortunately, the Enterprise was able to deactivate the M-5 computer before the three-ship battle force attacked. (TOS: "The Ultimate Computer")
In 2269, the Potemkin was scheduled to rendezvous with the Enterprise at the Beta Aurigae binary system. The two ships were assigned to conduct gravitational studies of that binary system. The Enterprise, however, was diverted by a distress call from Camus II, causing the mission with the Potemkin to be delayed. (TOS: "Turnabout Intruder")
In 2270, the Potemkin was ordered to transfer a shipment of the life-saving medicine, strobolin, from Beta Canopus to the freighter USS Huron. The Huron was then to transfer the drug to the Enterprise so that it would be received within the three-day time frame needed to cure Spock's choriocytosis infection. (TAS: "The Pirates of Orion")
Later that year, in the "Operation Retrieve" command briefing, the Potemkin was depicted as being in the theater of operations. Furthermore, the starship would have been the command ship for the rescue mission, in which it would make an attempt at rescuing James Kirk and Leonard McCoy from the prison planet Rura Penthe. This starship would have been escorted by both the USS Eagle and the USS Excelsior. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
|USS Ahwahnee • USS Constellation • USS Defiant • USS Eagle • USS Emden • USS Endeavour • USS Enterprise • USS Enterprise-A • USS Excalibur • USS Exeter • USS Hood • USS Intrepid • USS Korolev • USS Lexington • USS Potemkin • NCC-1700 • Unnamed|
|Mirror universe: USS Defiant • ISS Enterprise|
|Alternate reality: USS Enterprise • USS Enterprise-A • Unnamed|
The registry number of the Potemkin was not mentioned in any of the TOS episodes – it was later revealed on the Operation Retrieve chart in Star Trek VI. Michael Okuda, the creator of the charts, usually endowed Constitution-class vessels, that had not yet been provided with one canonically, with numbers either derived from Franz Joseph's reference book Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual (NCC-1711) or Greg Jein's influential "The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship" article (NCC-1702), published in the April 1973 issue 27 of the T-Negative fanzine. Oddly though, in this particular case, Okuda deviated from the norm and used a number originating from neither. Okuda has stated years later, "In still other cases, the ships and/or numbers did not come from either source, but were consistent with some fleet status charts I did elsewhere on the USS Enterprise-A in Star Trek VI."  Since Okuda has propagated the number throughout his subsequent reference book writings, the Potemkin became the only visually established Original Series Constitution-class vessel, not retconned with one of Jein's conjectural ship registries, when the 2006 remastered version of the series, over which Okuda presided as producer, started its release.
The name of the ship had already been established by the producers at the start of second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, when they composed a list of fourteen ships belonging to the Constitution-class, still referred to as "Starship-class" by them at the time, including the Potemkin. Producer Robert Justman annotated on a memo of an earlier draft of the list, "I think there would be several other candidates, such as Saratoga and perhaps another English carrier, a French carrier, a Russian carrier and certainly a Japanese carrier." (The Making of Star Trek, pp. 164-165) However, at the time of his writing the Russian navy had never operated an aircraft carrier before, so the World War I-era battleship Potemkin, immortalized by Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent movie with the same title, was chosen instead. Both the historical as well as the fictional Potemkin were named after Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin, a famous 18th century Russian army commander under Catherine II. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 2, p. 177))
According to a ship listing included on page four of the mission plans, but which was not seen in the extended cut of the movie, the ship was commanded by D.M. Flinn, and the ship was located in Sector 21185.