Andrew Probert’s first job as senior illustrator on Star Trek: The Next Generation was to provide concepts for the design of the new bridge.
An early writers’ bible described the bridge as combining “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.”
This less mechanic approach inspired the presence of couches and even a conference table on the bridge in preliminary sketches.
The couches were Probert’s idea, “to provide more face to face conference environment.” But he didn’t care much for the table, which was the producers’ idea. It didn’t make sense “to furnish a table where everyone would gather to discuss their situations” on the bridge, he argued.
Compared to the old bridge, the Enterprise-D’s featured “fewer monitoring stations,” Probert told Forgotten Trek in 2005, “and the ones that were there were placed in a less important position at the back.” This was meant to give the bridge a more sophisticated appearance. A century was supposed to have passed since the events of the original Star Trek, after all, and in order to show that technology had advanced, the new Enterprise would be controlled by fewer people.
Gene [Roddenberry] really wanted the ship run by only the [Conn] and Ops positions, forward, with a bridge officer in charge.
In the event of a crisis, Probert explained, “more people would report to their rear brige stations.” This was seldom shown on screen.
The bridge set
The standing set for the Enterprise bridge was erected on Paramount Stage 8. During the first season, the bridge and the officers’ quarters were the only Star Trek sets on the stage. For season two, Ten Forward was added, as was a separate Observation Lounge set. Previously, sickbay had constantly been redressed to double as the Observation Lounge.
Note that, contrary to the in-series configuration, the lounge set is situated next to as opposed to behind the bridge. This layout prevented continuous scenes between the two.
Star Trek: Generations upgrade
The bridge set was upgraded for Star Trek: Generations in 1994. Production Designer Herman Zimmerman and Art Director Sandy Veneziano darkened the set’s colors and added more tones to its palette. They also chose richer textures.
According to John Eaves, who was invited to the Generations art team by Zimmerman, the idea was to make the bridge appear more functional. “To accomplish that,” he writes in Star Trek: The Next Generation Sketchbook, The Movies (1998), “we raised the captain’s chair slightly (symbolically putting his authourity higher than those sitting in the two chairs flanking him).”
For functionality, we also split the ramps on either side of the command center. We still had a ramp going down, but added two elevated stations, one against either wall, where crew members could work. We also replaced an alcove filled with lockers and storage panels with a new graphics station.
“At one point,” Eaves recalls, we had added some new standup stations behind the captain’s chair, where Worf works.” They liked the design, but it would have been too much of a change from the television series.