Since The Next Generation was set a century after the original Star Trek, not only the Enterprise but its shuttlecraft had to be upgraded as well. The job of designing a twenty-fourth-century shuttle was Andrew Probert’s, who also designed the series’ flagship.
Much like the design of Probert’s Enterprise flowed from Matt Jefferies’, he looked to the Shuttlecraft Galileo of The Original Series for inspiration. “My new shuttle was an attempt at correcting the size of what we know as the Galileo 7, where in the actual vehicle you had to bend over to get in and out,” he told Greg Tyler of Trekplace in 2005.
I studied the interior while watching “Galileo Seven” footage, and the top of the door is actually at Leonard Nimoy’s nose, so he has to bend over to go through the door, but when you go to the exterior, the ship is much smaller, so that his bent-over attitude sort of cuts together nicely. I wanted to correct all of that. I wanted to design a shuttle that they could actually stand up in and walk out of vertically.
In an effort to make the new shuttle visually more interesting, Probert’s first plan was to put the entrance in the front.
He explained in an interview with Star Trek: The Magazine in 2001, “There’s a ramp that lowers between the two operators. The top portion of that would actually slide up, much like a sunroof does on a car, allowing the people to walk straight up into the shuttle between the operators.”
The producers liked the idea, but it proved too ambitious. “They built a shuttle that basically had square edges on it,” said Probert. “Then they came up with the idea of getting into the shuttle from the side.”
The model, which first appeared in “Coming of Age”, was even boxier. Although it was still somewhat reminiscent of the Enterprise-D’s curved lines, Probert was disappointed and called the final product a “Winnebago” (an American recreational vehicle) in his interview with Tyler.
A final modification was made to the windows. The original model had them running across the length of the shuttle, which would have interfered with the side entry. The original configuration was sometimes seen in Season 1 computer displays.
Probert used he longer windows in an artwork he made for a model kit of the pod, which also appeared in the 2013 Ships of the Line calendar.
Bernd Schneider details the appearances of Probert’s original shuttlecraft, which came to be known as the “Type 7”, as well the various incarnations of its cockpit, at Ex Astris Scientia.
After Probert left The Next Generation, Rick Sternbach was tasked with designing an alternative shuttle for the Season 2 episode “Time Squared”. He recalled in an interview with Star Trek: The Magazine in 2002:
Everybody was kind of scratching their heads and thinking that maybe we’d have to write the shuttlepod out. I cautiously went up to the front of the room with this very rough but fairly clear sketch. I said, “What if we made it fairly simple? Just planer construction, no compound curves. We can make it look Starfleet; that isn’t the issue. If we do something like this we can make the construction simple but also make it interesting.” They all looked at me, looked at the sketch, and said, “Ah, OK.” Then they approved it.
This new shuttle, dubbed “Type 15”, was smaller, which made it easier to construct a life-sized mock-up.
As with the Type 7, the Type 15 shuttle underwent several changes in both its exterior and interior over the course of The Next Generation. Bernd Schneider has the details at Ex Astris Scientia.
By the fifth season, The Next Generation’s shuttle complement was joined by the larger “Type 6”, which was a redress of the shuttlecraft that had appeared two years earlier in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
“We made use of one of the Trek V shuttles by chopping a section out of the middle and giving it new engines and windows,” Sternbach told Forgotten Trek in 2007.
The great thing about it and most of the other Starfleet shuttles we built was the fact that where there are curves, the curves follow a single bend and “softening” the joined edges is no big deal. It was much easier to do the real set pieces that way, even if we did migrate to some ships that had no exteriors except for CGI.
A miniature version was built by Ed Miarecki to appear in the model of the ship’s main shuttlebay in “Cause and Effect”, although it was barely visible on screen.
A new miniature was built under the supervision of Greg Jein, which first appeared in “Parallels”. Unfortunately, stock shots from the Type 7 were repeatedly used and paired with Type 6 interiors, an inconsistency that continued into Star Trek: Voyager.