Warning: This Star Trek: Picard article contains MAJOR spoilers for the season finale.
Despite praying to the Trekkie gods, a new version of the USS Enterprise did not appear in the finale of Star Trek: Picard. But, we did get fairly huge new vision of what Starfleet looks like in in the year 2399. But, what’s up with Riker’s flagship? Where does the name Zheng He come from? Are all the ships in this fleet identical? And, most importantly, is that the bridge of the USS Discovery?
Here’s everything we know about Riker’s fleet in the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Picard, “Et in Arcadia Ego Part 2.”
“Zheng He” could reference the origin of the phrase “Star Fleet”
Riker says that the USS Zheng He is the “fastest, toughest” Starfleet vessel ever to be put into service. And it appears, that every other ship in the fleet is exactly the same. But are they, really? Here’s the facts so far…
In real life, Zheng He was a 15th-century Chinese mariner and fleet admiral. In fact, one fleet of sailing ships he commanded, the treasure fleet, was one of the first known group of ships to use star charts and constellations for navigation. In this sense, Zheng He commanded a “Star Fleet.”
In the context of Star Trek: Picard, this is the second time a historical mariner and sailor’s name has been given to a starship. Rios’ ill-fated ship, the USS Ibn Mājid, was named for 13th century Arabian navigator. Fans have also pointed out that another version of the USS Zheng He existed in the MMORPG, Star Trek: Online. But, that USS Zheng He was warping around in 2270, making it possible, that Riker’s new Zheng He is possibly just one of several Starfleet ships that have had that name over the years.
What kind of ship is the Zheng He?
According to the fan-run Star Trek Wiki, Memory Alpha, the Zheng He is a the same class of ship as the USS Ibn Mājid — both are part of the Curiosity-Class. If true, this would mean this particular class of Starfleet ship has been around for at least nine years. However, Memory Alpha might be jumping the phaser a tiny bit. In his Instagram talkbacks, Chabon simply said that many ships in the Curiosity-Class are named for historical navigators. As of this writing, it’s not clear if that automatically means the Zheng He is of the same class as the Ibn Mājid, though it might be. Chabon also said on Instagram that “ZH is brand new.”
The bottomline is this: When asked directly about the specs of the Zheng He, Chabon replied, “gathering data…” and “preparing a report.”
TLDR: We don’t actually know. Yet.
Was the fleet of ships really that big? (And were they all the same?)
Because Riker’s fleet warped in right after La Sirean duplicated its sensor image artificially, you might have thought that maybe Riker pulled something similar. But, on Instagram, Chabon made one thing clear. The fleet was big, saying: “No trickery!”
Also, while a lot of the ships look the same, Michael Chabon said on Instagram that he can nearly “confirm there are four different classes” of starships on screen. The are not all the same kind of ship, even though, at a glance, it seems that way.
Okay, but that bridge set was just the same bridge as the USS Discovery set, only gussied-up, right?
The Captain’s chair Riker sits in does look a lot like the captain’s chair of the USS Discovery, a ship that was in service over a century before the events of Star Trek: Picard. That said, it’s not entirely clear if this was a classic re-use of a set, or not. Historically, the Star Trek franchise has done this a lot. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, several sets for The Next Generation were re-used for the Enterprise-A. So, did something similar happen here with the bridge of the Zheng He?
The short answer is: probably. The popular site TrekCore has stated outright that this is the case. But it’s not clear. The chair certainly looks the same!
Could the Enterprise-E have been out there in that armada?
The answer to this is… probably not. But keep dreaming!
Star Trek: Picard is streaming now on CBS All Access