I never thought I’d be arguing this case. In fact, I’ve often argued the exact opposite. But recently I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve come around to the other side of the argument. The argument involves the eternal question in Star Trek Online: why not a top-tier Constitution-class cruiser?
Before I get started, a caveat: the license holder, CBS, said no. Ultimately, that trumps any argument a fan of the game can make. I’m not out to convince anyone to actually do the deed; that ship has sailed unless/until the decision makers higher up the food chain agree. What I want to do is put down my thoughts on the subject, including blowing holes in my own arguments from the past.
Let’s start this with a minor history lesson. Once upon a time, the ship tiers were pure. This would be, “when the game began”. You started out in a Miranda-class light cruiser (or if you were one of the ones with certain pre-orders, an Original Series version of the Constitution), at the Lieutenant level. Made sense-you were newly promoted to the position via battlefield commission, and you were hardly going to be given a ship of the line right off the bat. As you advanced in rank, new ships became available to the player. The Lieutenant Commander tier held the Constitution class, which was pretty respectable for the level (and if you were willing to go nuts like I had, could even get through the Commander level missions at that time; of course, I imagine it’s even easier now). That tier also opened up the various styles of ship: tactical escorts and science ships as well as the cruisers. At Commander, you moved beyond the Constitution and its contemporaries to the ships like the Stargazer class (based on the ship Picard commanded before he got that OTHER significant Starfleet ship). Finally, at Captain, you got access to the Next Generation era biggies: the Galaxy, the Defiant, and the Intrepid, the headliner ships of TNG, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. (Okay, not “finally”; you could get to the Rear Admiral level at the time and access the Sovereign-class ship and other newer styles; the Sov, of course, being the class of the Enterprise-E.)
So we had a progression. And naturally, fans of the individual ships started screaming the day the tiers were announced. I won’t go into detail on the shouts the Akira-class fans went into when they found out their ship was under the Defiant in tier, or the Galaxy-class ones who insisted they should be at the top tier. And even as far back as this period, there were people who wanted the Constitution-class at the top tier as well. At the time, I shook my head and dismissed them. Of course, I’m not a fortune-teller; I couldn’t see what was coming.
What I didn’t anticipate was that Cryptic/Atari would start putting ships on the C-Store. And two of the earliest offerings laid the groundwork for future arguments. First came the Excelsior-class ship. This kicked the hell out of the tier system, because they offered two versions. One version was the Commander version (which made a certain amount of sense; the Excelsior was supposed to eventually replace the Constitution, and apparently had, as it showed up in a number of early TNG episodes). But the second version was a top-tier version, which matched the most advanced ships in the fleet-and was superior to many. The second was the Vulcan D’kyr science vessel, a ship that was also at the Rear Admiral level; the kicker on this one is that this ship was based on the ones seen on the show “Enterprise”-which took place decades before TOS. In other words, one of the oldest ship designs was a match for the newest science ships in the fleet.
Eventually, the whole retrofit/refit thing became an ongoing thing. We got top tier Galaxy variants along with the Defiant and Intrepid versions. Another old ENT design came into play with the Andorian Kumari-and this one was released as a “three-pack”, three different variants with the same basic appearance. During one feature episode period, we even got a top tier Ambassador-class, the type of ship that included the Enterprise-C.
Which brings me back to the Constitution-class.
From a lore standpoint, there’s no reason it can’t serve as a top-tier ship. You can’t point to its age; the Kumari and D’Kyr put lie to that. If they can be upgraded to top-tier technologies, the Constitution should also be doable-even easier, one would expect, since at least it’s been using Starfleet designs instead of planetary militia designs. You can’t say it’s because it’s too small; it’s larger than the Defiant-class, which operates at a top-tier level. So age and size have been ruled out. From a game standpoint, there’s no reason it can’t serve as a top-tier ship. An upgrade would probably include a special console of some kind (because just about every new ship has one nowadays; maybe something to buff warp cores? Dunno; I’m not going to speculate), an increase in bridge officers and type (based off of Engineering, since cruisers go that way) and an increase in consoles, and that would pretty much take you where you want to go. And in a game where you have Jem’Hadar, Cardassian, Undine, Tholian, and even Temporal vessels available via lockboxes-which effectively means the galaxy is littered with them-it’s silly to say that all of those are acceptable, but a top-tier Constitution is not.
It’s all moot, of course. As I’ve said above, there are reasons beyond the lore and the game development side of things that prevent this from becoming real. The dangers of licensing an intellectual property is that the license holder gets the final word on things. It’s one of the reasons why we don’t have a Star Wars Galaxies anymore (well, in part, anyway; the NGE helped), and that’s why we don’t see a top-tier Constitution vessel in the game. Someday, perhaps, one of the business people over there will decide, “Hey, we can rake in cash from those TOS fans if we put it in a lockbox” or some abomination like that, and that’ll override any feelings of keeping the IP pure. But hey: its purity went to hell when we got top-tier Excelsiors and D’Kyrs, so why not?