Why the Enterprise bridge on Star Trek: TOS doesn't actually face forward

Originally published at: Why the Enterprise bridge on Star Trek: TOS doesn't actually face forward | Boing Boing


TL;DW: Because you have to rotate the bridge to get the turbo lift door to line up with the shaft shown on the outer hull in exterior shots. Really it’s an “error”. The turbo lift door was moved off centre in the set because it was better for filming, but the exterior of the ship looks better with the shaft on the centreline.

I just saved you six minutes of mumbling and homebrew CGI.


It’s only now that I think about the fact that this bridge only has one exit - and it’s an elevator at that. Doesn’t that seem like a poor idea from a fire code perspective? Are there emergency egress options?


I loved his big dramatic reveal… “The Enterprise bridge is a stage.”

So, not a documentary. Got it.


I didn’t even watch the video and my response was going to be the same thing.


I watched it hoping there was some weird reason based on nautical history, but it was actually “Because they didn’t anticipate nerds picking apart every aspect of a 56 year old TV show that ran for three seasons because we still won’t be Spacefarers in the 21st century.”


I wish I would have read the comments first. You nailed it, @VeronicaConnor.

I think the windows pop out so that you can make your escape. Wait…

My question is, Why would the bridge need to be in such a visible and vulnerable spot, up top like that? I’m sure the Enterprise was a fly-by-wire vessel, so the bridge could be anywhere. Hell, the entire crew that works on the bridge could even be working from home (from their cabin?) and in a constant MS Teams session. Imagine the emojis!

But that makes me wonder… were Chekov, Sulu, Uhura and the rest of the regular bridge crew permanently on the bridge? Or were there other communications officers and such? Did the bridge ever shutdown the the night?


Every time I watch a Star Wars movie, especially the recent ones, I wonder how they manage to stand on open decks in the middle of space.


Yeah, it’s always bothered me that the bridge was up on the most vulnerable part of the ship, where it could be breached with a large rock once the shields were down, when there wasn’t any need for it to be there. Watching the show as a kid, I assumed it was somewhere in the interior of the ship, where it was protected, then I saw a ship diagram and was all, “WTF?” I mean, they don’t even have any windows - which makes me wonder if that wasn’t part of some early part of the idea that was quickly shot down for being impractical, but they kept it there anyways.


I kinda thought everyone knew this. I don’t believe I get out enough.


Perhaps due to the technology of the shields, it IS the most protected spot when the shields are working. Personally, if I was a set designer, my starship bridge would be a cross between an old fashioned operating theatere and Mission control. Cramped, heavily raked consoles around a central display, with the captain centered at the top in the rear, just like Gene Kranz. The thing that set designers almost never get right (partly because they want to leave room for the cameras) is just how cramped the interior of a spaceship is going to be. Extra space means the hull has to be bigger and therefore heavier. And the more mass you have to move around, the slower you are.


I think as early as the Franz Joseph technical manual there was supposed to be an emergency trapdoor between the center console and the mein viewer. Otherwise, the idea was that the bridge could eventually become a lifeboat if the rest of the ship suffered too much damage. That, and it was positioned to be as far from the main sensors as possible.


That’s true if the biggest danger is coming from outside the ship. Most Starfleet deaths and injuries are self-inflicted, though.



I know that Voyager is the only series through 2010 that seemed to address this. I think it was Harry Kim who worked the “night” shift a couple of times and was the ranking officer on duty.

I haven’t seen any of the new series as yet since I’m trying to save money.


Although the shields often didn’t seem to be working - plus, a good hand phaser blast from inside the ship would punch a hole into space, so it was pretty generally vulnerable. I assume there was some sort of Napoleonic Wars nautical element they were trying to reference, but I suspect it was as simple as it being the highest point of the ship.

Now that you say that, it strikes me that there’s elements of those in the design - it’s just that the captain’s down at the bottom and the screen is on the wall like NASA’s mission control (so a bunch of the crew can’t see it). I expect another inspiration - the bridge of a submarine - ended up having more of an impact in some respects, but with practical staging/shooting concerns trumping everything else.

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As an adolescent I was nerdy enough to read TNG novels, and I distinctly remember one scene on a mystery ship where they’re looking for the bridge and Data says “every ship we’ve ever seen has the bridge at the top”, which vexed me, because I’d already thought the placement of the Enterprise’s bridge was silly, and plenty of vessels (notably submarines) don’t have a bridge at the top – including on Star Trek – and there’s no fundamental reason for a ship to even have a bridge, and so on.


Well the Romulan warbird bridge is obviously based on a submarine.


Picard’s Enterprise-D did have a complete set of controls somewhere beneath the saucer section called the “Battle Bridge” which would have had a comms station and at least a tactical station if not a full science station. My favorite Star Trek ship, the USS Defiant, has a sunken bridge that is in the center of the ship for extra protection, under the ablative armor. It also defies convention by having the warp nacelles close to the body instead of out on extended pylons, where they usually are to keep the warp energy away from the rest of the ship. Defiant probably has extra shielding in place to handle the warp energy. Or something like that!


I believe in one or two episodes of Next Generation Dr. Crusher had the night watch on the bridge. Perhaps the episode where Counselor Troi took her Commander’s exam?


I know that Crusher and Troi each had turns commanding the ship, but I can’t remember that it was specifically due to the night shift watch. I’m currently rewatching TNG (a few episodes per week), so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for any nightshift comments.