The early seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine get kind of a bad rap. Sure, the arrival of the Defiant in season three and Worf showing up in season four definitely kicked the action up a few notches, but anyone who's seen "The Circle" trilogy knows that Bajoran politics can be just as exciting as interstellar war (seriously, go watch those episodes).
One of the big complaints made by critical fans during those nascent years was the relatively static nature of Deep Space Nine, which (by design) eschewed boldly going to new adventures with having the wormhole bring those adventures to us. Still, it's not like Deep Space Nine was stuck entirely on the station, when our motely crew of Starfleet and Bajoran heroes needed to fly to Bajor or Cadassia or even into the Gamma Quadrant, they hopped aboard one of three Danube-class runabouts and had... cramped adventures.
Despite being somewhat diminished after the introduction of the Defiant, the Danube-class runabout continued operation throughout Deep Space Nine, appearing in an impressive 79 episodes (plus a couple episodes of TNG, Voyager, and Lower Decks) and remains an indelible image from that early-90s Star Trek boom. Runabouts might be unappreciated little workhorses in the larger Starfleet, but their ubiquity makes them the perfect subject matter for a listicle exploring their background, design, and their secrets.... even if they never really did much exploration themselves.
10. Big Little Ships
The Danube-class runabout was created specifically for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a method of occasionally getting DS9's crew (and the show's writers) off the space station and into some trouble on a relatively nearby planet.
As Star Trek was wont to do in those days, the initial intention was to use an existing studio model in order to save on the enormous costs already incurred in the creation of the new series. To stand in for the runabout, DS9's producers turned to the Executive Shuttle, designed by John Goodson and built by Industrial Light & Magic for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Having made only a single appearance in its original configuration up to that point (it eventually reappeared in Star Trek: Generations), the Executive Shuttle had recently been converted into the USS Jenolan for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics" and was considered a good candidate to be modified yet again.
Under the supervision of DS9 production designer Herman Zimmerman, illustrators Jim Martin and Rick Sternbach worked to refit the existing Executive Shuttle model while set designer Joseph Hodges designed the ship's cockpit. As the runabout cockpit set would be required for filming long before the miniature of the ship itself would need to be ready, certain elements of the original Executive Shuttle were locked into place, including its forward windows and side airlock doors.
Ultimately, however, the producers changed their minds about reusing the Executive Shuttle and requested a brand new model to be designed and constructed. As the cockpit had already been constructed and photographed for the pilot episode "Emissary", Martin and Sternbach designed their brand new runabout model to include the pre-existing windows and airlocks, the only two elements to remain from the original Executive Shuttle idea.