Star Trek: The Next Generation has been off the air for almost 30 years, yet its iconography remains some of the most recognizable in the Star Trek franchise. The sleek USS Enterprise-D, the bold Starfleet uniforms, and, yes, even the main bridge are indelibly etched into many of our minds as a very specific vision of the future – a comfortable, brightly lit, carpet covered utopia.
Designed by Star Trek: The Next Generation production designer Herman Zimmerman and veteran illustrator Andrew Probert, the main bridge of the Enterprise-D retained the simple and efficient layout of Star Trek: The Original Series' Enterprise bridge, but with a sleek 24th-century slash 1980s makeover. The old "jelly bean" manual controls were replaced with advanced touch screen graphics, the plain "cardboard" walls adorned with high-tech details and built-in lighting, and those old deck plates covered up with the finest gray and taupe airport carpeting Hollywood and the Federation had to offer (seriously there was a lot of carpet in this show).
The Enterprise-D's bridge may be as recognizable as your own family living room, but behind the deceptively simple layout and plush Federation furnishings lie a few untold stories. Step into the turbo-lift and head up to deck one, here are ten secrets of the Star Trek: The Next Generation main bridge that you need to know.
10. Hilton In Space
To convey Star Trek: The Next Generation's place in the future of the future, nearly a century after the events of Star Trek: The Original Series, creator Gene Roddenberry requested the bridge of the Enterprise-D be as streamlined and comfortable as possible. The show's season one writer's bible (developed before the sets were designed or constructed) described the bridge as a control AND conference center:
The features of ship control, briefing room, information retrieval area and officers wardroom. In other words, much the same kinds of things happen here as in the old bridge, but with less emphassis on the mechanics of steering the starship.
With that directive, early sketches of the main bridge were developed by starship designer Andrew Probert and featured couches, a conference table and chairs, even a balcony looking out on a massive viewscreen. According to Probert:
The couches were my idea, to provide more of a face-to-face conference environment for the main characters. The table idea (generated by the producers) I hated, because it wouldn’t be logical to furnish a table where everyone would gather to discuss their situations.
Ultimately, the hotel lobby-esque designs were abandoned in favor of a more straightforward reinterpretation of TOS' bridge configuration, though retaining the plush elements (comfy, laid back seats, soft uppoulstery on the walls, and all that carpeting) to indicate that the Enterprise-D was as much a living city in space as it was an exploratory, quasi-military vessel.