Star Trek: Picard aired its first season finale on Thursday, and "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2" brought a fan-favorite character back to active Starfleet duty. William Riker took the rank of acting captain to lead a squadron of ships in aiding Jean-Luc Picard in his defense of the synthetics homeworld, which was under threat by a fleet of 218 Romulan warbirds. But Riker wasn't back aboard the Enterprise when he arrives, nor was he in command of the USS Titan, the starship he left to take command of in the film Star Trek: Nemesis. Instead, he's placed in command of a top-of-the-line Starfleet vessel.
Riker's new ship is the USS Zheng He. The ship is named after a 15th-century Chinese explorer. In addition to being an accomplished mariner, Zheng He commanded the Ming Dynasty's treasure ships, which were referred to as the "Star Fleet."
Naming Riker's new ship after a Chinese admiral is part of a concerted effort by the creators of Star Trek: Picard to better represent accomplished explorers from across various cultures in the names of its ships. It's something that the show's producers have pointed out before in regards to naming Cris Rios' old ship the USS Ibn Majid after the Arabian cartographer Ahmad ibn Majid.
Some aspects of the ship may look familiar, though from different places. The Zheng He's bridge is a redress of the USS Discovery bridge set from the Star Trek: Discovery's production site in Toronto. While the layout is the same, the screens have been altered to show era-appropriate LCARS displays and the captain's chair has been altered slightly.
The exterior of the Zheng He, a Curiosity-class vessel, resembles some ships from the game Star Trek Online. It isn't exactly like any of the game's ships, as was the case with Admiral Picard's new ship, but the overall aesthetic is similar. No one should be surprised if Curiosity-class ships are added to Star Trek Online in an update in the near future.
Star Trek Online already featured a ship named the USS Zheng He, though it was of a different class and era. The ship appeared in the mission "In the Shadow of Cestus," a part of the Agents of Yesterday expansion to the massively multiplayer online game. The expansion involves time travel and allows players to create a character from the era of Star Trek: The Original Series. "In the Shadow of Cestus" is set during that era, which pre-dates Star Trek: Picard by more than 100 years.