Back in 2017, advertising for the then upcoming Star Trek: Discovery opted not to spoil the look of the titular vessel and instead focused on the Walker-class USS Shenzhou. In fact, when that two-part pilot premiered, you would've been forgiven if you thought the show wasn't actually even going to feature a USS Discovery or Jason Isaacs, but would instead follow the adventures of the delightful crew of the USS Shenzhou under the command of jovial and wise Captain Philippa Georgiou – plus that guy from 30 Rock playing the ship's doctor.
And then, you know, Michael did a mutiny, Georgiou got knived, the Shenzhou blew up, and now we live in the 32nd century...
Despite being something of a mislead, however, the USS Shenzhou continued to cast a long shadow on Star Trek: Discovery. The destruction of the ship and death of Georgiou would inform much of Michael Burnham's motivation for that first season. And while the Shenzhou really only lasted two full episodes (with a couple cameos peppered in later), the ship was as fully fleshed out as any "hero" ship in Star Trek's pantheon of vessels.
Cast your mind back to the inaugural starship of the CBS All Access slash Paramount Plus era and let's explore ten secrets of the USS Shenzhou NCC-1227, RIP.
10. Old Reliant-able
One of the many lasting contributions from Star Trek: Discovery creator Bryan Fuller, the USS Shenzhou was intended to evoke the franchise's aesthetic past while nodding toward its progressive future.
At Fuller's request, the Star Trek: Discovery art department used the USS Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a jumping off point, intending the Shenzhou to recall Star Trek starships that audiences would be familiar with. According to Fuller:
We wanted the Shenzhou to be a much more traditional design so that when you got to the Discovery and it looked different, you wondered why it was so different.
However, there was another reason Fuller wanted to evoke The Wrath of Khan's iconic Starfleet vessel:
The Reliant has a wonderful history of minority representation. We thought it would be a nice nod to echo its design with the Shenzhou because we wanted to give it a context that non-white Star Trek fans might appreciate.
For Star Trek: Discovery, the Shenzhou would be another step toward depicting a multi-racial future both in the name of the ship herself and her commanding officer, Captain Philippa Georgiou:
I wanted an Asian female captain and calling the ship the Shenzhou after the Chinese space station felt like a wonderful way of acknowledging the scientific achievement of the Chinese community.