Inspired by a post on io9, I decided to do my own ranking of the ships bearing the name Enterprise.
Note that I’ve elected to omit the Enterprise-J and the alternate future version of the Enterprise-D. These only appeared in one episode each, and both were from questionable future timelines that never did—and never will—appear again. It’s unfair to elevate them to the same level of scrutiny and credibility as established flagships from within the prime (and Kelvin) timeline.
9. Enterprise (Kelvin Timeline)
I’ve never been a fan of the Abrams movie Enterprise, but it wasn’t until I saw the updated Enterprise design on Discovery that I realized just how much better they could have done in modernizing the design without overstylizing it.
8. Enterprise-A (Kelvin Timeline)
The Kelvin Enterprise-A is definitely an improvement over the original Abrams Enterprise, but an improved bad design is still bad. The warp nacelles, while improved in shape, are too far back on the struts, and something about the lettering on the hull has never quite gelled for me. (Why does it say “U.S.S. Enterprise” on the top and the bottom?)
This may be a controversial opinion, but I’ve never been a fan of the Galaxy-class Enterprise-D either. The proportions are out of balance, the saucer is too big, and it’s all very awkward-looking.
I’m partial to the Enterprise-B because it’s the same Excelsior-class that was introduced earlier in the movies, which is a solid high-end ship design and a logical choice for the Federation flagship in the late 23rd century. Not every Enterprise needs to pioneer a new class.
5. Enterprise NX-01
The NX-01, production-wise, was heavily based on the Akira-class introduced in First Contact (one of my favorite starship designs of all time). It’s a good design, but it always felt strange to me to have a 22nd-century starship based on a 24th-century design. And now, with Discovery, this design has gone on to inform many of the details being depicted in 23rd-century starships as well.
I have a soft spot for the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C. I think it’s a good design that very nicely evolves from the Excelsior-class Enterprise-B to the aesthetic we see more commonly throughout the 24th century. This should have been the design for the D.
The Sovereign-class Enterprise-E is an outstanding design with a great utilitarian beauty. It’s one of my favorite starship designs and the only Enterprise I love almost as much as the originals. It’s the high water mark of late 24th-century engineering.
The original Enterprise is perhaps the most iconic ship in science fiction, and a beautiful ship that has to go down as the greatest in Star Trek. But I reluctantly placed it at number two, because…
The Enterprise refit took everything great about the original design and made it feel real. The incredible detail of the model is abundantly clear from the first moment we see it. The original Enterprise made history, but the Enterprise-A locked it down. The refit has substance and precision that the original is somewhat lacking, and that is why, for me, the Enterprise-A is the winner.
Honorable Mention: Discovery Enterprise
The Enterprise in Discovery brings some of the detail and improvements from the A back to the original. It doesn’t appear on io9’s list is because they say it's too early to judge, but I want to list it here, as painstaking work clearly went into updating it. They did a splendid job recapturing the look and feel of the original, but adding some of the weight needed to show it on TV in 2018.