5 Times Enterprise Wasn’t Ready For Its Star Trek Mission

Exploring space, seeking new life, and boldly going. But here are five times Star Trek’s USS Enterprise wasn’t actually ready for its iconic mission.

Star Trek, William Shatner as Admiral Kirk, NCC-1701 from The Motion Picture, Enterprise NX-01


  • In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Admiral Kirk takes command of a refitted Enterprise without being fully prepared.
  • The USS Enterprise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a training vessel with a limited crew, but Kirk and his officers maneuver into their roles.
  • The Enterprise is stolen and operated by a skeleton crew in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, showcasing its lack of mission-readiness.

Star Trek‘s mission briefs of space exploration, seeking out new life, and boldly going, meant the various Starships Enterprise faced unforgettable and unexpected moments during their iconic voyages. But despite the vigilant and best efforts of their crews and captains, alongside rigid training and around-the-clock engineering for upgrades and repairs, unforeseen space-based situations still arose that saw these Enterprises and crews scrambling for a win. From unprepared encounters with alien civilizations to critical technological malfunctions to staff-related unreadiness, here’s a look at the times when the Enterprise could have spent longer in spacedock before embarking on new orders.

Promoting Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner)whose “first, best destiny” is the command of a starship, as an Admiral overly fixated on starship command yet not prepared for such a circumstance in Star Trek: The Motion Picture was an interestingly subversive choice. In subsequent movies, the USS Enterprise demonstrates a similar unreadiness. In Star Trek: Enterprise, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and the NX-01 crew face space exploration’s harsh and potentially fatal realities with relatively primitive technology compared to later Starfleet eras. Demonstrating Starfleet’s exploration missions were far from clean, convenient, or timely, here’s a look at 5 times Enterprise wasn’t ready for its Star Trek mission.

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5 Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Admiral Kirk was not prepared to command a refitted Enterprise.

Given the temporary command of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture to investigate an unidentified alien object several days from Earth, Admiral James T. Kirk accelerates the ship’s departure schedule to intercept the object known as V’Ger. Though Kirk’s initial excitement at the prospect of command has him expecting a refitted but essentially the same starship as from his previous command, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not the case. After an eighteen-month-long refit, the Enterprise is all but a new ship – (almost) ready to embark on a new mission, overseen and due to be commanded by the now temporarily demoted Commander Will Decker (Stephen Collins).

Ironically, it was Admiral Kirk who recommended Captain Decker to take over the Starship Enterprise’s center seat before James took it for himself and reduced Decker to First Officer.

It’s worth noting that Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) highlighted the need for more time before launch. Ceding on “untested captain” upon learning of Kirk’s temporary command appointment, Scotty lists the need for further refit works, a shakedown cruise, sufficient transition time with the new equipment for the crew, and warp tests for the ship’s engines. Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk’s lack of familiarity with the refitted ship becomes starkly apparent when he is momentarily unable to find his way to the bridge without assistance. Further demonstrating Kirk’s unreadiness for the instant reality of command, Decker later countermands the Admiral’s order to fire phasers when an engine imbalance creates a wormhole. It’s Decker’s proficiency with the Starship Enterprise that saves the ship before it can even intercept V’Ger.

4 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The Enterprise was a training vessel with a limited crew.

When the USS Enterprise receives a distress call from Regulus I in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Admiral Kirk consults with Starfleet command and Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and assumes command to respond to the call. Initially on board to assist with a short training cruise for Academy cadets, Kirk and his officers swiftly maneuver into their earlier roles. But the ship, primarily used for training, holds only a limited crew. Despite this, the Enterprise sets a course for Regulus I to offer aid. As Khan Noonien-Singh (Ricardo Montalban), a deadly foe from Kirk’s past, simultaneously reemerges intent on revenge, this mission will both renew Kirk and break him.

Interestingly, the Enterprise’s not-totally-ready-for-the-mission status reflects that of Admiral Kirk himself. Depressed, doubtful, and disillusioned by his age and role as a Starfleet admiral, Kirk is spiraling without a steady command to counter him, yet is also increasingly emotionally ill-suited to return to one. Professional and in command, nevertheless, Kirk’s experience and savvy outwits the genetically engineered intellect of Khan, although Spock sacrifices his life to save the ship and his friends when Khan implements his doomsday detonation of the Genesis Device.

3 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

The Enterprise was stolen and operated by a skeleton crew.

Following Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the grieving Admiral Kirk and crew of the USS Enterprise return to Earth. When Spock’s father, Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard), demands an explanation and the delivery of Spock’s body and katra, (the Vulcan soul or spirit), Kirk embarks breaks numerous Starfleet regulations to find Spock and reunite him with his living soul. Failing to get permission to return to the now-quarantined Genesis planet, Kirk and the command crew release the ailing-by-katra Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and steal the Enterprise, simultaneously sabotaging the USS Excelsior to prevent them from giving chase.

The word? The word is no. I am therefore going anyway.

The gambit pays off, and Kirk and crew set course for the Genesis planet to retrieve Spock’s body to return it to Vulcan. With time against them and the security and welfare of both Spock and McCoy at stake, along with their own professional futures, Kirk and cohorts must operate the stolen Enterprise with only a skeleton crew when they encounter Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), a Klingon madman seeking the secrets of Genesis. Unprepared to battle the Klingons, Admiral Kirk’s only recourse to keep the Enterprise from falling into enemy hands is to destroy it.

2 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The Enterprise-A was in disrepair when it was called to Nimbus III.

When a hostage situation arises on Nimbus III in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Starfleet summons the newly demoted Captain James T. Kirk and his key crew early from shore leave to rescue the three endangered diplomats. Recently returned from a shakedown cruise, the USS Enterprise-A is in obvious disrepair – undergoing upgrades, installations, and refits. Overseeing the work, a harried Scotty logs in the cruise report that while the ship’s warp core is satisfactory, the otherwise status of the Enterprise leaves significant room for improvement. Among other disabled systems, the ship’s transporter doesn’t work.

Commenting that the Enterprise-A is “in pieces” and has less than a skeleton crew aboard, Scott acknowledges the new orders. Indications on the bridge are no more reassuring for Kirk, who encounters a faulty turbo-lift door, a temporarily frozen audio interface, general ongoing open repairs, and a Starfleet transmission filled with static interference. Scott later accepts Kirk’s request for full power, adding even if he has to “get out and push.” Yet this Enterprise-in-shambles was the vessel Sybok (Lawrence Luckinbill) wanted to deliver to the God of Sha Ka Ree.

USS Enterprise shakedown report. I think this ‘new’ ship was put together by monkeys. Oh, she’s got a fine engine, but half the doors won’t open, and guess whose job it is to make it right?

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1 Star Trek: Enterprise Season 1

Enterprise Was Ill-Equipped For Space Exploration.

In Star Trek: Enterprise, season 1, episode 12, “Silent Enemy,” Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and the Enterprise NX-01 crew struggle against a hostile alien vessel and a lack of adequate defensive weaponry. Having already encountered multiple violent situations over the series’ first eleven episodes, Archer realizes in Silent Enemy” that Enterprise is often outgunned and ill-equipped to handle such situations effectively. Acknowledging his role in Enterprise’s early departure, Archer admits that in their haste to leave Spacedock, several ship systems and technologies were not fully fitted or upgraded – they have phase cannon ports but no phase cannons, and other similar lacks.

Further recognizing the flaws in his prior assumptions about space travel and that space is proving more dangerous than anticipated, Archer is simultaneously confronted with personal growth and the potential of future fatalities arising from Enterprise’s insufficient defensive capabilities and sets a course home for refits. With the alien vessel’s continuing curious yet hostile campaign against Enterprise, the episode counters the clear and pressing need for interstellar self-defense with the crews’ peaceable agenda. While the crew of the NX-01 ultimately completes all necessary upgrades themselves, this Star Trek: Enterprise episode provides an excellent example of the Enterprise not being ready for its Star Trek mission.

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