One of the aspects of Star Trek that has always ignited the imagination of fans are the starship designs themselves. The designs so accurate and amazing that even NASA and other organizations taking a look at those designs for potential use in the real world. In today’s episode we take a look at the Miranda Class of Starships from the late 23rd Century that seems to STILL be utilized by Starfleet a century later and ask ourselves does this make sense?
Star Trek The Original Series had no shortage of starships mentioned and/or seen in its series. But even though Starfleet has many different starship classes all that we got to see in the original run was different Constitution Class Starships. In fact, it wasn’t until the Animated Star Trek Series when budgetary concerns were no longer a factor did we see any other Starfleet ship on screen.
But then in 1979 the newly refitted Enterprise made its debut and amazed the audiences and thanks to repeating visits to the movie theatres by fans was a financial success cementing future movies on to the Paramount roster.
With Star Trek 2 coming together shortly after the motion picture, it was quickly realized that a new class of Starship was needed for the film and was to be the first “real” Starfleet starship seen since the constitution class was created for the original series.
Designed by Joe Jennings, Mike Minor and Lee Cole, the Miranda Class was basically a Constitution Class saucer section with warp engines slapped underneath and roll bar slapped on top. And although a simple design in retrospect, it worked and worked very well! It felt like a different and well-utilized class of starship in the federation. And would continue to be active Starship class well into the latter half of the 24th century, but why?
To understand this I think we need to look at what hasn’t changed in Starship design since the Refit of the Constitution class back in the motion picture and that put simply is the vertical warp core.
In both Enterprise and TOS we see the warp core was on a horizontal plane, but then sometime during Kirk’s 5-year mission a breakthrough in warp technology would turn bulky horizontal core into a sleek vertical one and hasn’t changed since.
Sure we’d see different variants in different ships but the constant remaining factor was it was always vertical. And to accommodate this the Refit Enterprise was completely redesigned and became a worthy successor of our love in the Star Trek Movie Franchise.
There has been a LOT of speculation as to whether the Miranda class had existed during the TOS era but in the same style as The Original Enterprise, but since none were ever seen on screen that question may never be answered definitively. However, it would be logical for Starfleet to take a look at starship designs they already had and say to itself what classes could be easily redesigned and built for this new technology to be able to replace an ageing and weaker fleet. The Miranda would probably be at the top of their list.
Its primary hull being basically a saucer section was a design that Starfleet has a LOT of experience with since it’s first starship design ever was also basically a saucer section it would have been easy to build and then easy to use and refine for that vertical warp core. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the USS Miranda herself was the original testbed for the prototype vertical warp core, that would just make sense.
Given the ease of build and experience with saucer configurations, Starfleet would find that it was a solid design that could easily have its technology swapped out and updated with little change necessary. And thus this design would survive into the TNG Era, though I’m betting weren’t actively sought out by Captains being how plain and boring the class actually was, having captains probably longing for an Excelsior-class instead.
Canonical references for the capabilities of the Miranda Class don’t exist, but generally, it’s been deduced that it was approximately 277 meters long and 172 meters wide with a crew of approximately 210 Officers with the amazing reduction to 35 or less by the 24th century. (Pause)Though a maximum cruising speed is also not in canon it is believed to be a little less than the constitution class which was rated at a normal cruising speed of warp 7 with a maximum of warp 9.
There were also five different known variants of the Miranda-class during its time in service. Some of these variants even lacked the “roll bar” and included two large sensor pods attached to both sides of the primary hull. In DS9 we see a variant which even had only a single pod module. These variants can be seen widely used during the Dominion War and the Borg Battle at Earth seen in the movie First Contact.
The Soyuz class starship which was in service until the latter part of the 23rd century lends credence to the theory about how Starfleet was most likely using the Miranda Class as a testbed for new technologies. Being an obvious variant on the Miranda class, this ship design would be given its own name but would be retired from service very early in the lifespan of the ship having lasted only 10-20 years. SO most likely it was testing some type of new and improved technology but ultimately must have failed or else its construction would have continued like the Miranda class.
It would seem that Starfleet’s revolutionary leap in technology was not limited to Vertical Warp cores, however. Starship designs, which include the Excelsior and the Oberth Classes Would also survive at least a century so maybe this period in Starfleet’s history was somewhat of a golden age when it came to starship design. However, one question that lingers in the minds of most fans is why, are there no Constitution classes still flying around in the 24th Century, especially considering how The Intrepid Class USS Voyager has the exact same warp core as the Original Refit Enterprise?
Well, the truth is there is evidence to support that there are. In the TNG season, 4 Episode The Best Of Both Worlds We can see the wrecked hull of a constitution class that apparently had tried to help fight the Borg. SO it’s reasonable to assume that the refit Constitution Class is still around but since it’s not seen that often it’s probably a class being phased out in favour of newer easily built classes.
Whatever the case we can see that the Miranda class and her variants served well in to the latter half of the 24th century with them being very active in the Dominion War and probably began being phased out after that war in favour of starship classes like the Defiant Saber and Akira which could be quickly constructed but also packed quite a bit more punch. The events of the eras seem to dictate Starfleet Starship design innovations. During a time of relative peace, Starfleet maintained it’s tried and true designs but then when the 1st Cardassians War happened began to think outside the box to keep up with the Cardassians coming up with classes like the Ambassador Class and then when back at peace began designing the Galaxy Class.
And once again with the more serious Borg and Dominion Threats Starfleet begins to design new ships to combat this danger and most likely lead to the technological breakthroughs that will cause the Miranda to phased out quickly in favour of those new designs.
Whatever the reason though it’s clear that the Miranda class served with honour and distinction for at least a century in Starfleet. And allowed the Federation to continue to explore strange new world and seek out new civilizations and to protect itself from the evils that awaited them during those exploratory missions. Making it one of the most important and well-used starship classes in Starfleet history.
Watch episode 9