Star Trek: Beyond introduced the first Warp 4 capable ship operated by Earth, the USS Franklin. This ship and it’s known canon timeline appear to pose some challenges. Why is its registry number so high compared to later NX ships? Where was she during the Xindi crisis? Why, for a ship that predated the last holdouts joining United Earth, does she bear a United Federation of Planets dedication plaque?
I think those issues can be fairly easily resolved. Not relying on word of god statements, just on filmed evidence and knowledge of relevant real world science and engineering and history.
Her launch was some time prior to the construction of NX-01 Enterprise. This is where I think I can solve the registry number issue. Perhaps Franklin was commissioned under a different prefix? Maybe that XCV that shows up in a couple places in canon. She’s built, doing her thing, and with construction of Enterprise ready to start… Starfleet wants to test the Warp 5 engine in a real ship prior to the NX class proper, just to be sure. So Franklin is transferred to the NX program, being reregistered from XCV-326 to NX-326. There is precedent in the US Navy, sometimes ships are reclassified and the hull number prefix changes. The WWII era USS Essex was CV-9, CVA-9, and CVS-9 after various refits and role changes. This is trivial.
Now, why was she not as fast as Enterprise in this scenario? Well, it’s more than the engine. For a real world example, the Pontiac Aztek and the fifth generation Grand Am GT share an engine. The Aztek tops out at 108mph, the Grand Am can hit 130. Now, granted, this is where the governor kicks in and doesn’t let you go faster, but the governors are set up that way because that’s what the cars can safely handle. With the same engine. Franklin could easily be slower than Enterprise. Or it could have been a slightly earlier version of the engine and then there’s not even the appearance of an issue.
And now we come to where the hell was she during the Xindi crisis? Well, Enterprise is in the Delphic expanse. Columbia is expected to be deployed there immediately if she’s completed in time(If you recall, there was brief speculation that the time displaced Enterprise was Columbia). *Someone* has to be checking in on various Earth colonies and outposts, and barring Enterprise and possibly other conversions, Franklin was probably the fastest ship in the fleet. She’d be all over the goddamned place dealing with all the random crap that happens in episodes of most Trek series. Not a problem at all here.
And then- Why was she serving past the retirement of NX-01 Enterprise, a supposedly more advanced ship, which was mission capable at time of retirement? Well, the B-52 is still the backbone of the United States Air Force bomber forces, with much reduced roles for the B-1 and B-2, and other “more modern” bombers such as the B-58 have been retired entirely. Franklin may have been more reliable/cheaper to operate while providing “good enough” capability, relative to the NX class.
Lastly, the transfer from the United Earth Starfleet to the United Federation of Planets Starfleet is likely the event which warranted a new dedication plaque. Perhaps it was just done. Perhaps UESF remained(the UESPA certainly did over a century later) in existence, so a Federation Starfleet ship retaining a UESF plaque would be inappropriate.
Now, a lot of this is speculation, but I think it’s reasonably grounded in known canon and real world precedents of the sort Star Trek is already known to follow since 1966.
Support the site:
Star Trek: Beyond Blu-Ray/DVD at Amazon