UPDATE: Changes to Enterprise in 'Star Trek: Discovery' Were Creative, Not Legal

[UPDATE: A spokesperson for Star Trek: Discovery reached out to ComicBook.com to correct some inaccuracies in Eaves' account.

The spokesperson stated that CBS TV Studios does, in fact, own the rights to the designs for the USS Enterprise seen on previous Star Trek television series and that they are not legally required to make any changes to the design in order to use the ship in Star Trek: Discovery. The Eaves and Schneider piece that appears in the Ships of the Line calendar is concept artwork that was completed long before the VFX work was done, and any changes made to the design of the Enterprise were creative ones to utilize 2018 VFX technology.

In the time since this story was originally published, Eaves has deleted his Facebook post. The original text of the story follows.]

Fans were surprised to see the USS Enterprise appear in the first season finale episode of Star Trek: Discovery. They may have been even more surprised that the ship’s design had changed from how it appeared on Star Trek: The Original Series. Now fans know why the changes happened.

Designers John Eaves and Scott Schneider were tasked with putting together concept art for the Enterprise’s appearance in Star Trek: Discovery. One of their images, showing the Enterprise flying alongside the USS Discovery, is featured in the Star Trek: Ships of the Line 2019 Wall Calendar. After seeing the response to the image, Eaves took to Facebook to shed some light on the design process.

“Back in April of 2017 the task of the Enterprise making an appearance came to be and work was to start right away,” Eaves says. “The task started with the guideline that the Enterprise for Discovery had to be 25% different otherwise production would have most likely been able to use the original design from the 60's but that couldn't happen so we took Jefferies original concepts and with great care tried to be as faithful as possible. We had the advantage of a ten-year gap in Trek history to retro the ship a bit with elements that could be removed and replaced somewhere in the time frame of Discovery and the Original series.”

The “Jeffries” mentioned by Eaves is Matt Jeffries, the artist and designer who designed the original Enterprise. When asked about whether the 25 percent rule came from legal or creative, Schneider chimed in to say it was “legal” and Eaves expanded on that a bit (we’ve cleaned some spelling and grammar for clarity):

“After Enterprise, properties of Star Trek ownership changed hands and was divided, so what was able to cross TV shows up to that point changed and a lot of the crossover was no longer allowed,” Eaves says. “That is why when JJ [Abrams]'s movie came along everything had to be different. The alternate universe concept was what really made that movie happen in a way as to not cross the new boundaries and give Trek a new footing to continue.”

Another commenter points out that one would assume the original Enterprise design rights would still rest with CBS, who controls the Star Trek television rights since the design was made for television. Eaves simply says that they’re asking “the wrong guy,” implying that knowledge is above his pay grade and he just worked with the guidelines given.

Eaves also explained why the artwork appearing in the Ships of the Line calendar shows a slightly different design from what eventually ended up in Star Trek: Discovery. According to Eaves, the changes represent alterations made by the special effects department and that they simply did not have enough time to update the artwork before the calendar was finalized.

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The first season of Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream in its entirety on CBS All Access in the United States, through CraveTV in Canada, and through Netflix in other international markets.