Andrew Probert’s first task after being hired as senior illustrator for Star Trek: The Next Generation was to provide concepts for the design of the new bridge. An early writers’ bible described the new 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 new less mechanic approach inspired the placing of couches and even a conference table on the bridge in preliminary designs. The couches were Probert’s idea, “to provide more face to face conference environment,” he said. The table idea, generated by the producers, he disliked. It didn’t make sense “to furnish a table where everyone would gather to discuss their situations” on the bridge, he argued.
Compared with the old bridge, the Enterprise-D’s featured “fewer monitoring stations,” according to Probert, who gave Forgotten Trek an interview in 2005, “and the ones that were there, were placed in a less important position at the back.” This in order to achieve a more sophisticated appearance. A century was supposed to have passed since the events of the original Star Trek and 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, said Probert, “more people would report to their rear brige stations.” This was never shown clearly on screen.
The standing set for the Enterprise bridge was erected on Paramount Stage 8. During Season One, the bridge and the officers’ quarters were the only Star Trek sets to occupy Stage 8. For Season Two, Ten Forward was built here too 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 is actually situated besides rather than directly behind the bridge. This layout prevented continuous scenes between the two sets from being filmed.
The battle bridge set stood on Stage 9, built atop the bridge set of the feature films. Andrew Probert provided a concept for a redress of the movie set and this bridge was seen in the episodes, “Encounter at Farpoint” and “The Arsenal of Freedom.” Thereafter, the set was redressed several times for use as the bridge of other vessels until, by Season Two, it was modified to such an extent that only the original structure remained, explaining the battle bridge’s altered appearance in the episode, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II” — and necessitating the construction of a new bridge set for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.