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The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship

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Starbase11 chart

The starship chart in "Court Martial"

The Case of Jonathan Doe Starship was an influential article about starship registries written by Greg Jein, published in the fanzine T-Negative Nr. 27 of April, 1973.

The article had apparently been circulating among fans for some time prior to that date, as it was sent in to the magazine by several people, including Jein himself, as a response to a reader question in an earlier issue of the magazine.

Determining starship registries

In the article, Jein attempts to create a list of starships with their respective registry numbers. Since no such lists existed at the time, he chose to use the registries seen in TOS: "Court Martial" as a basis for his list. However, as he explains, he "combined confusion, circumstance, and innuendo to produce illogic, but it relatively (in the loosest possible sense) forms a semi-cohesive pattern."

Jein started by determining the names of the starships first. Taking names from The Making of Star Trek and the Star Trek episodes, he arrived at the following list:

He then claims that the Constellation, Defiant, Farragut, Kongo, Republic and Valiant are unlikely to have appeared on the Starbase 11 chart, due to them being either not yet constructed or no longer in active service. Removing these ships leaves twelve, exactly the number of starships mentioned by Kirk in "Tomorrow is Yesterday".

Jein then matches these 12 names to the 10 numbers on the chart by using a reverse alphabetical ordering, arriving at the following matches:

NCC number Starship name
1709 Lexington
16311 Intrepid
1703 Hood
1672 Exeter
1664 Excalibur
1697 Essex
1701 Enterprise
1718 Endeavor
1685 Eagle
1700 Constitution

1. The actual chart seems to read NCC-1831, but Greg Jein may have misread it as 1631. Okuda's list, based on Jein's, corrects this to 1831. This was re-corrected in the remastered TOS to 1631.

Although he himself admits there is little logical reasoning behind this ordering, it does lead to several interesting matches. The 1701 is correctly assigned to the Enterprise, and the 1700 is very conveniently matched to the USS Constitution, the presumed first ship of the Constitution-class. Furthermore, the Intrepid has the longest bar on the chart, perhaps indicating it has finished repairs, as the plot for "Court Martial" suggests.

In conclusion, Greg Jein presents a "projected list" of starships, including registry numbers not seen in "Court Martial" and a number of vessels never mentioned in any official works.

NCC number Starship name Class
NCC-1700 USS Constitution Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1017 USS Constellation Mk. VII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1764 USS Defiant Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1685 USS Eagle Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1719 USS Endeavor Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1701 USS Enterprise Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1697 USS Essex Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1664 USS Excalibur Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1672 USS Exeter Mk. VIII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1647 USS Farragut Mk. VIII space cruiser
NCC-1703 USS Hood Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1868 USS Hornet Mk. X deep space cruiser
NCC-1631 USS Intrepid Mk. VII instellar cruiser
NCC-1732 USS Kongo Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1866 USS Lafayette Mk. X deep space cruiser
NCC-1709 USS Lexington Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1702 USS Potemkin Mk. IX deep space cruiser
NCC-1371 USS Republic Mk. VI space cruiser
NCC-1865 USS Tashik-Sotra Mk. X deep space cruiser
NCC-1623 USS Valiant Mk. VII interstellar cruiser
NCC-1717 USS Yorktown Mk. IX deep space cruiser
Constitution primary phaser

Phaser technical diagram from "Space Seed"

The classification of these ships is based on information from a technical diagram labeled 'Primary Phaser L, R' seen very briefly in TOS: "Space Seed". This diagram contains the following text:


Jein interpreted 'Mk. IX/01' as meaning that the Enterprise was the first ship (after the prototype) of the 'Mk IX' class, called Constitution class.

The various classes in the above diagram may or may not have a similar appearance to the Enterprise.

Acceptance of Greg Jein's numbers

These registry numbers, and in some cases, the ships in this list that were not actually seen on Star Trek, have made their way into official works. The first major adoption of these numbers was by the FASA role-playing game in the early 1980s, which at the time was an officially licensed product.

In the 1990s, official reference works by Michael Okuda, such as the Star Trek Encyclopedia, started using these numbers as a tip-of-the-hat to Greg Jein who was a model-builder for Star Trek at this time, as Okuda himself stated on a later occasion, "I might note that some of the ship registry numbers came from Greg Jein's interpretation of the starship chart in Commodore Stone's office in "Shore Leave" (TOS)."[1]

Memory Alpha deems these numbers conjectural, and not part of the established canon. However, the producers do seem to regard these numbers as the official ones. The 2007 remastered episodes of TOS feature several of the original vessels with visible registry numbers, and they are all based on the list as it was published in the Encyclopedia.

USS Defiant orbiting Earth, 2155

USS Defiant

On screen references


A major perceived inconsistency with the scheme presented by Greg Jein is the apparent existence of ships with registry numbers lower than the number of the class ship (the Constitution's NCC-1700). Furthermore, and Greg Jein repeatedly reminds the reader of this, the above scheme is not particularly scientific or logical, and is mostly derived from conjecture and random chance. It is also possible that the Constitution NCC-1700 was not the first ship of its class, but its replacement. (Much like the Original Enterprise and the Enterprise-A.) If this is the case then there could very well be yet another, much older Constitution with a lower registry number that was either destroyed or decommissioned prior to 2245.

A major 'competitor' on the subject of Constitution-class registries is the Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, published in 1975. In his book, Franz Joseph lists the Constitution-class starships, sometimes as member of some sub-class, with much more consistent registry numbers ranging from NCC-1700 to NCC-1843. Franz Joseph also uses a variation of the 'Mk IX' notation.

To add to the confusion, the Star Fleet Technical Manual was at one time also regarded as official, just like the later FASA material. There were on screen references to the Technical Manual ships in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the USS Merrimack (NCC-1715) as an example of a starship with a Franz Joseph-derived registry number.

For these reasons, many fans prefer Joseph's list above Jein's, although there is no clear consensus on the issue.

Apart from these two major lists, there have been a few cases in which on screen references to Constitution-class starships have ignored any of the systems. Notable examples are the USS Constellation (NCC-1017) which, although introduced before any of these lists were set up, sets a precedent for starships using registry numbers lower than that of their class lead ship; and the USS Potemkin, which is given the registry NCC-1657 in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

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