British partworks publisher Eaglemoss is back with another larger-scale “special edition” vehicle from the Star Trek universe, this time landing my single favorite vehicle from the rebooted-universe movies that we’ve been getting since 2009: the U.S.S. Franklin from 2016’s Star Trek Beyond.
What do I love so much about the Franklin? It took me some time to nail down the exact reasons, but I finally realized that it was my love for the ship designs invented for the FASA Star Trek role playing game of the 1980s reasserting itself. Give or take some minor details, the Franklin is basically a nod to FASA’s Loknar-class light frigate, a sleek design dating back to the mid-1980s.
Was this similarity intentional? It’s hard to say; apparently the Franklin started out with a different name, and its warp nacelles angled downward, until some story changes inspired a production decision to simply flip the model upside-down. Intentional homage or not, the Loknar-class design is one of the best modifications of the saucer-and-nacelles configuration that FASA devised, and even if it only subconsciously inspired the Franklin, it’s great to see it “in the flesh”.
As with other Eaglemoss Star Trek vehicles, the Franklin is a hefty model crafted primarily from die-cast metal (though its construction is still somewhat delicate; it features an above-average amount of plastic, both the bottom of the ship and on some less-durable areas, such as the transparent caps on the warp engines. Clearly the little Franklin isn’t meant to take damage like the ship did on screen.
Speaking of on-screen damage, that’s really my singular beef with this otherwise meticulously crafted model: since the Franklin first appeared half-buried in Star Trek Beyond, and showed signs of having been crashed into a planet’s surface for the entire time it was spaceborne, this model similarly has a “dirt-spackled” paint job acknowledging its appearance on screen. I understand screen accuracy is important…but I would’ve loved a pristine Franklin to “fly” in formation alongside the Romulan-War-era NX-01 Enterprise refit.
That’s because I believe these two ships took part in that conflict at the same time. Star Trek Beyond tells us that the Franklin was the first ship capable of reaching warp 4; Star Trek: Enterprise tells us that the NX-01 Enterprise is the first warp 5 starship in Starfleet. So why is an older ship given the registry number NX-326, a number that should belong to a ship far newer than Archer’s Enterprise?
Because the Franklin had been retired prior to, or during, the original mission of Archer’s crew. As a warp 4 starship, it had limited utility in wider conflicts like the Xindi incursion (which, we learn from Beyond, was only the first of at least two such conflicts with the Xindi). It might have seen some action patrolling sector 001, but with the Enterprise serving as the template for a new fleet of sister ships such as the Columbia (NX-02) and Challenger (NX-03 – notice the progression of 20th century space shuttle names?), the Franklin‘s best days were behind her.
Until the Romulan War broke out, that is. With any and all spaceworthy ships needed to protect Earth and its solar system, the Franklin might have been hauled out of mothballs, pressed back into service and reassigned a new registry number. (Given that the Enterprise was NX-01, the Franklin might not have had a registry number to begin with.) With ship construction accelerated to boost Starfleet’s numbers in wartime, the Franklin would’ve been given a number far enough “ahead” of projected shipbuilding estimates to avoid a potential conflict of registry numbers – hence, NX-326. Her engines may even have been upgraded to the latest specs, making her warp 5 capable.
And then, in a lull in hostilities with the Romulans, under the command of Captain Balthazar Edison, the Franklin wandered fatally far afield, lost forever until rediscovered in an alternate 23rd century, perhaps never rediscovered at all in the prime timeline. She looks like a ship that wouldn’t be out of place in the prime timeline, though.
At least that’s my headcanon. And thanks to Eaglemoss, that’s on my display shelf too.