Star Trek art director Matt Jefferies was the primary designer of the original Enterprise, which was originally namedYorktown in series creator Gene Roddenberry‘s first outline drafts of the series. Jefferies’ experience with aviationled to his Enterprise designs being imbued with what he called “aircraft logic”. However, Jefferies years later confessed to have taken some inspiration and artistic license from electric stove coils.
The ship’s “NCC-1701” registry number stemmed from “NC” being one of the international aircraft registration codes assigned to the United States; the second “C” was added for differentiation. According to The Making of Star Trek, “NCC” is the Starfleet abbreviation for “Naval Construction Contract”, comparable to what the U.S. Navy would call a hull number. The “1701” was chosen to avoid any possible ambiguity; according to Jefferies, the numbers 3, 6, 8, and 9 are “too easily confused”. Other sources cite it as a reference to the house across the street from where Roddenberry grew up, while another account gives it as the street address of Linwood Dunn. Jefferies’ own sketches provide the explanation that it was his 17th cruiser design with the first serial number of that series: 1701. The Making of Star Trek explains that “USS” should mean “United Space Ship” and that “the Enterprise is a member of the Starship Class”.
The first miniature built for the pilot episode “The Cage” (1965) was unlit and approximately 3 feet (0.9 m) long. It was modified during the course of the series to match the changes eventually made to the larger miniature, and appears on-set in “Requiem for Methuselah” (1969). The second miniature built for the original pilot measures 11 feet 2 inches (3.4 m) long and was built by a small crew of model makers (Volmer Jensen, Mel Keys, and Vernon Sion) supervised by Richard Datin, working out of Jensen’s model shop in Burbank, California. It was initially filmed by both Howard A. Anderson and Linwood G. Dunn at Dunn’s Film Effects of Hollywood facility, who also re-filmed later more-elaborate models of the ship, generating a variety of stock footage that could be used in later episodes.
Initially, the model was static and had no electronics. For the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (1966), various details were altered, and the starboard window ports and running lights were internally illuminated. When the series was picked up and went into production, the model was altered yet again. These alterations included the addition of translucent domes and blinking lights at the forward ends of the engine nacelles, smaller domes at the stern end of the engine nacelles, a shorter bridge dome, and a smaller deflector/sensor dish. Save for re-used footage from the two pilot episodes, this was the appearance of the ship throughout the series. The 11 feet (3.4 m) model is undergoing restoration, having previously been displayed in the Gift Shop downstairs at the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Greg Jein created a model of the original Enterprise for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” (1996). Jein’s model was built to be exactly half the size of the larger of the two original models, and later appeared in the 1998 Star Trek wall calendar. In addition, a CGI model of the ship makes a brief cameo appearance at the end of the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, “These Are the Voyages…” (2005), and another CGI version was created for remastered episodes of the original Star Trek, based on the model in the Smithsonian.