Making The Biggest Star Trek Battle Was Surprisingly Easy

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

Star Trek biggest battle

Early on in Star Trek: Discovery, Paramount pulled out all the stops to give us the biggest space battle the franchise had ever seen. In “Battle at the Binary Stars,” the fight shows an epic showdown between Starfleet and the Klingons in a cosmic conflict that puts the Borg fight in First Contact to shame. Fortunately for the show’s crew, this insane battle was relatively easy to make because they were able to use leftover Shenzhou ship designs from John Eaves.

The Shenzhou

Well before the Star Trek: Discovery crew could start working on bringing the franchise’s biggest battle to life, they had to design the ships that would take part in it. None of these ships was more important than the Shenzhou, under the command of Captain Philippa Georgiou.

Though it wasn’t going to be the main ship of the series, this would be the primary Starfleet ship for the first two episodes of Discovery, so designer John Eaves wanted to give it a memorable look.

Like the legendary Star Trek concept artist that he is, Eaves cranked out several different Shenzhou designs before settling on the one that would accidentally kick off the biggest battle in then-Starfleet history.

After the final Shenzhou design was selected, Eaves had every reason to suspect that the other designs wouldn’t be used again. However, original showrunner Bryan Fuller helped find a creative use for the otherwise unused designs.

More Ships

Star Trek biggest battle

When John Eaves first read the script for “Battle at the Binary Stars,” he was shocked by the fact that it called for only six Federation vessels to take part in the conflict. He came to the simple conclusion that the episode “needed more ships,” and Fuller agreed with the artist.

They decided to take the path of least resistance and use some of Eaves’ discarded Shenzhou designs to create new Federation starships.

It Still Took Work

This decision by the Star Trek showrunner didn’t magically make creating the franchise’s biggest battle completely easy–Eaves had created concept designs, after all, and each of these concepts would need to be built.

Still, already having great designs on hand meant that the crew didn’t have to go through the laborious process of developing new ship ideas from the ground up. Incidentally, Bryan Fuller was very involved in picking the ships for this conflict: according to Eaves, the showrunner “picked all the fleet ships” and showed a major preference for “the more unusual shapes.”

Et In Arcadia Ego

We hate to play favorites, but the easiest way for Star Trek fans to appreciate Discovery’s biggest battle in “Battle at the Binary Stars” is to compare that episode to the Picard season 1 finale “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.”

Riker has a heroic moment in that episode where he shows up with an entire fleet of Starfleet ships, but the climax is ruined because literally every single ship looks the same. Fans and critics alike universally panned this “copy and paste” special effects job for being just as lazy as it was uninspired. 

An Exceptional Battle Scene

Star Trek biggest battle

Now that Star Trek: Discovery has concluded, we’ve been looking back at what the show got right and what it got wrong, and almost everything about the franchise’s biggest battle in episode 2 is great. The pacing is solid, the tension is real, and all the ships involved look absolutely beautiful. Much of the credit for that last part goes to John Eaves, an artist who proved that Discovery didn’t need Scotty to have its own miracle worker who always gave his all.