After Hours

Idiot sci-fi question: Why did the starship Enterprise have such a stupid bridge?

There, I said it, the USS Enterprise (all of them) in Star Trek (all of them) had a stupid bridge. It was illogically designed, awkwardly placed, and was a complete backstep from modern thinking and plain old common sense. Here's why.

Dumb BridgeThere, I said it, the USS Enterprise (all of them) in Star Trek (all of them) had a stupid bridge. It was illogically designed, awkwardly placed, and was a complete backstep from modern thinking and plain old common sense. Here's why.

First, some ground rules: The starship Enterprise was a military vessel. Don't give me that Roddenberry-esque utopian hokum about Starfleet being an exploratory and diplomatic body. The crew had military ranks,  the ship had weapons, and people got court-martialed.

So, first question, why is the main control center of the ship -- where all your high-ranking, high-value officers sit and work -- placed on the top of the vessel where's it's easy to hit? Seriously, if Sulu ever misjudges the top of the doorjamb in spacedock, every major character gets scraped out of continuity like extra icing off a cupcake. Why Khan didn't aim for the bridge instead of engineering when he busted his sneak attack in Star Trek II I'll never know. One decent shot and it's just Scotty, Bones and some cadets versus the Nightmare from Fantasy Island, which lasts all of 5 seconds. Instead, he aims for engineering and yucks it up long enough to get pwned by some prefix-code shenanigans and later the cunning tactic of "moving in the z-axis." They just don't make genetically modified supervillains like they used to. I guess the short answer is that Starfleet can design a dumb bridge because all the bad guys are even dumber.

Second question: Why does the Enterprise have just a bridge? All modern naval vessels have this neat room called the Combat Information Center (CIC), where all important command decisions are made. So, even though many warships still have a conventional bridge up top where it can get blasted -- a pragmatic necessity since, when all else fails, you'll need to look out an open window to see and steer -- the high-ranking officers are nestled below decks behind lots of armor and with multiple methods of egress. If you get stuck on the bridge of the Enterprise -- which happened in several episodes -- you're effectively trapped, sealing the commanders off from their crew. And don't tell me there wasn't room for a CIC, the darn ship had an auxillary bridge (and a bowling alley), so they could have spared the space for a rational command center.

So, fearless readers and unapologetic Trekkies, let this here Trivia Geek in on the secret -- or at least your crackpot theories -- and explain why the starship(s) Enterprise had such a stupid bridge.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

219 comments
Benjamin_W
Benjamin_W

I've been a fan since childhood, and still am.  But I must agree that the bridge location has always been perplexing to me.  ST:TNG helped to resolve some issues of entrapment by locating a transporter right on the bridge.  But all iterations have failed in one respect that seems obvious to me.  Every bridge should have direct access to an emergency changing room and airlock.  Most, if not all, already have stairwell/ladder access in case of turbolift failure, but an actual airlock would be good, too.  With that, any crewmember could get from the bridge to any other airlock.

Kalis Varkron
Kalis Varkron

To start with the entire ship concept is weak to me. It is even unbalanced.   The ship looks cool though.  The Klingon battle cruiser is even more weak.  The neck is so small at one point it looks easy to cut in two. But yet the ship looks cool.  You see these ships were made to look cool, not to really be functional.  In fact the the first set of blue prints that came out for all the ships did not have bath rooms on the ships. Oops they redid them after it was pointed out to them.  They just used the transporters to give the crew a good cleansing.  The klingons just use a porthole, this made tougher and meaner.  I have been Star Trek fan for over 40 years.  Note on the Bridge though, there is a backup bridge on all the ships.  And the bridge controls can rerouted to engineering if need to be.  If you ever watch the show you would of seen this done a few times. sorry bad spilling.  Kalis Varkron.

Paul_Theboss
Paul_Theboss

Obviously, the original designers were not thinking of designing it for military combat, it was a TV show, it had to LOOK cool. That said, the canon explanation is that since the weapons are so powerful, it was irrelevant where the bridge was, the phasers would slice right into even the deeply placed warp core (as happened many times). The shields were what protected the bridge, and since placement could do nothing for protection, the most convenient place would be where the senior officers could get out in time. Of course, that's just an explanation made up to defend the design. But it sure looks cool!

kircard
kircard

because it was in the script....duhhh

JTRMercier
JTRMercier

 You're thinking present day concepts of armor plating stopping missiles or bullets. The laser scalpel from doctor McCoy's medical bag could cut through or best present day armor shielding. It's only dumb if layers of alloys can provide suitable protection from the weapons used by potential threats. Without  raised shields, it doesn't matter where you put your bridge, the enemy's weapons are going to cut through the hull like a hot knife through butter.

artan6966
artan6966

First: The bridge looks nice. Since the Old style Old series Enterprise had the bridge in that location the new design for the movies just left it there, but changed the styl. Second: there is a CIC/Flag Bridge on Deck 2 forward and an Auxilary Control Room on Dck 6 (center). So you must not know what your talking about. Third: A federation starship is going to lockon to the largest part of a target, center mass. Khan targeting the engineering is just for cinamatic flare and drama. They had to drop the Enterprise down to the same power level as the Reliant in some way. My only major "what the F!" is the series depiction of shields. they sure are like paper when it comes to being hit by Klingon or Romulan Torpedoes, but the shields were able to steam off an attack from V'Ger and torpedo that was hundreds of times more powerful than any Klingon torpedo.

hevland
hevland

it is a military placement, look at all the navy's bridges (US and other nations), The bridge is the highest level on the ship. you lead from the head, not hidden deep in the ship.

michaelbboise
michaelbboise

You are missing the point completly. The Bridge on the Enterprise is designed as every boys dream play room. High up for good view, big screen TV, great lounge chairs and plenty of good looking chicks hanging around. Want a Chicken Sand and coffee? Just ask the computer to make it for you

reredias
reredias

Jay Garmon wrote: "It was illogically designed, awkwardly placed, and was a complete backstep from modern thinking and plain old common sense." Now tell me... where is located the command center of most modern american aircraft-carrier? On tower-top of the ship. If I follow your line of reasoning, the american aircraft-carrier bridges are a mistake, just missing a target painted on it. Oh yes, I almost forgot: remember that aircraft-carriers doesn't have shields to activate. ;-)

daveclark
daveclark

Capt. Calhoun in Peter David's New Frontier series addressed it best. He was constantly complaining about the bridge location. "Just put a bulls eye on the saucer section for the bad guys to shoot at.."

marph321
marph321

Lets compare Enterprise 1701 with Enterprise CVN 65. The bridge on CVN 65 stsnds about 40 feet over the flitedeck in the island and SOPA the admiral in charge of the fleet is above that. Now if thats not a nice juicy target no one has ever made one, The problem with Star Trek was that they didn't follow the rules That all us navel vessels follow the xo goes to damage control central buried deep in the middle of the ship. Secondary control is manned by the next officer in comand useualy the deck officer. This is all done so that the chain of command is not broken in the event of an emergence. So putting the bridge of the Enterprise NCC 1701 at the top of the saucer section has a lot to do with tradition of being able to look out the window to see whats going on. And last but not least in the 60's electronics warfare was not even close to the abilites that we have today. GMT2 MNL W-Div USS America CV-66 1975-79

pauls_places
pauls_places

It only appeared to be a bridge and was complete with holographic officers visible through the 'windows' to fool space villians into believing this was a good place to shoot...engineer johnny spaceman

Scatcatpdx
Scatcatpdx

I feel the problem ultimately come down to Gene" Roddenberry's lack of military knowledge and basing Star Trek's structure on NASA. Not only bridge design but StarTtrek's military command structure: to many officers plus one would never put the commander in harms way.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Star Trek was stupid about it. As you say, the "bridge" should have been located deep inside the hull. Navigation, helm, and propulsion control should also be located adjacent to the CIC. A MANUAL navigation and helm should be located at the front of the ship, and a manual propulsion control should be located adjacent to the main propulsion.

venividivici2003
venividivici2003

Probably the same engineer from star wars (the one who designed that throne room and that big,huge,hole to empty the room itself and through which the evil emperor got thrown into)designed the bridge, he might have been the cheapest bet

phillaboody
phillaboody

find something else to bitch and moan about... guess what, no one cares

pinback2
pinback2

Even as a hardcore Trekker, I agree that the placement of the bridge is a little dumb. I guess I'm supposed to tell you that the bridges were a modular plug- in unit and put on the top of the primary hull so they could be replaced easily with a new updated bridge. But the thing I always felt was even dumber was the decision to make the tactical officer stand behind the captain. That's a real hoot. "Hey let's make the second most important person on the ship - the person who's responsible for the safety and survival of everyone on board - stand so that every time the ship is hit they fall over." "Fire Phasers!" "Sorry, we can't." "Why?" "Our Tactical Officer got thrown into the turbolift doors by that last volley of enemy fire." The smartest tactical station position was the "Weapons & Defense Console" onboard the The Enterprise from the Motion Picture to the Search for Spock. Okay, I've proved that I'm a total geek here. I'll shut up now.

cvservice
cvservice

True, it was rather explicitly shown that the bridge was in a rather obvious and vulnerable location on Trek, even on the original Battlestar, it was on top and up front (at least it had a big honking armoured plate that could be raised). But on the new Battlestar Galactica. It had a CIC buried deep in the body of the ship. All information was delivered through screens, and there were no windows except for the observation area up front (Sorry Mr. Gates). Ok, sure, for any dramatic representation some laws of logic and physics have to be nudged aside from time to time. But you gotta admit that if nothing else, the new BSG got that part right on the money. Despite the way that the fighters generally move, I appreciate that there are obvious maneuvering thrusters that redirect the Vipers and Raptors.

Dave Simpson
Dave Simpson

it was designed by writers and art directors not military designers. and its fiction

Rob C
Rob C

Why is the flippin thing always filmed with hardly any lights on ?

pfyearwood
pfyearwood

My complaint about Star Trek is that every time a Star Fleet ship is hit with more than one phaser/disruptor blast the warp drives go off line. Battle damage is cleaned up after the next break. And the replicators must have a special setting for Security Officers. The only time ST had realistic space battles and wars was during the Dominion War with the founders on DS9. The biggest difference between the technology of Star Fleet and the Colonial Fleet of Battlestar Galactica is that SF fights in the style of Jutland in World War One. The massive battles of what would be surface warships. Galactica and the Cylon Baseships conduct air operations simular to the US/Japan Pacific Theater of Operations in World War Two. Each battle is like the Mariana's Turkey Shoot or the Battle of Midway. Surface ships needed a topside battle bridge because the captains needed to see the enemy. The viewscreens replace the bridge portholes. They would make contact at short distances of up to twenty-five miles and could eyeball the enemy. Aircraft carriers never saw the enemy ships with contacts at over two hundred miles. The captain did not have direct control over the action, it was air ops and the CAG. All actions were handled by radio and radar, or Draidis. So, if you think of the Enterprise as a battleship, not the carrier of its namesake, and Galactica as an aircraft carrier, the location of the bridges and CIC on the respective shows make sense.

designpolice
designpolice

Okay - so the bridge is not build up to code! Good observation - But *I think* in later models of the Enterprise - that bridge disconnects from the rest of the ship so that said senior officers can take off (in today's parlance "cut and run"), leaving the rest of the crew to fight the good fight. If anyone out there can verify this it would be fun. Ultimately the old saying is true: Hindsight is 20/20 even in outer space! Loved the topic! PS. in addition to the bowling alley there was also the holodeck... bet the S-trek staff would have gone to war if they tried to get rid of that for a smart bridge!

C
C

In space, there is no up or down! Maybe the bridge was on the bottom of the ship and everyone was walking upside down!

tj
tj

The bridge was logically designed. They had sheilds top bottom middle unimportant. THe bridge was also a escape pod for the command section. The Enterprise also had alexery bridge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Bridge Secound question wrong to. Like the main bridge, the battle bridge is also a self contained, plug-in module. This way, the battle bridge can be swapped out. the battle bridge is located at the top of the secondary hull, on deck eight

mmustin
mmustin

The original Enterprise had no bathrooms. A bridge seems a fitting replacement. Makes me wonder: did the subsequent Enterprises (B through D) correct the loo dearth?

clmelson
clmelson

Get your head out of your butt, its a TV show. like all TV shows it dose not fit in the real world. if it did fit in the real world no one would want to watch it. ALL SCI FI TV SHOWS AND MOVIES ARE FANTASY........shhhh, its a secret.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Since the advent of war at sea, the captain has controlled the vessel from the highest point on the main part of the ship, it used to be the raised deck at the back of a sailing ship. later in steel ships it became the the built up bridge nearer the front, in many in the centre of the ship. This was so the captain could see what was happening on the ship and all around him. In the larger steel ships, cruisers and up, they had two combat control positions, one was a back up to the bridge and took over, fighting on instruments when the bridge got wiped out. They could still fight, but not as well as when they can see the enemy. When the original Star Trek and the early movies were made, this was still the case. Some more technically advanced ships did develop what is now called a CIC (Combat INFORMATION Centre, where the radar and computers were managed by technical staff, and the information fed to the bridge, where the captain fought the ship. In the Star Trek Vessels the computer is all over the place. But even so, they still do have a back up fighting bridge deep in the ship, for when the main bridge gets totaled. being able to look out directly into space can be useful, and needed for control at times. In two Star trek episodes, the ship is controlled by crew staring out the main view window with the display screen turned off. Also, in an emergency evacuation of a military vessel, the bridge crew are usually the ones you want to get out first, so they have to be near the escape pods / life rafts, etc. and they'll be near the skin of the vessel. Put them way down deep, and they have very little chance of getting out. In my honest opinion, there is very little choice about where you put a bridge on a large space ship. Putting it in the middle means it's a total write off when you have any significant power or technical failure. Putting it at the top of the vessel, or at the very prow of the vessel, means you can incorporate low tech support that will allow them to see where they're going, "like open the shutters and look out the window please" try that trick from the middle of the ship.

gilesbrown
gilesbrown

You are right in many things you said, but come on, its a tv show. Yes, modern naval vessels have a CIC, but they also have bridges at teh top of the ship where if they build a carrier high enough that they will take all of the high ranking officers out with the golden gate bridge next time the do a port call in SF. So while you make good points for the real world....you forget that Star Trek isn't the real world.

jim_delong99
jim_delong99

I remember seeing a drawing of the floors of the ship many years ago. Actually I was in the Marines stationed overseas when it first came out and was thrilled to see the reruns when I returned. What about conventional weapons? Did the bridge have an armory? I never saw any stand-alone computers or cell phones or candy machines. Must have been a pretty boring place to spend a day.

kim.schulte
kim.schulte

The Enterprise in the Next Generation had a battle bridge. Two Bridges are better than one ( redundancy ).

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Honor Harrington universe at least makes some sense.

huetvang
huetvang

It has a stupid bridge because we design it!

ccwatkins
ccwatkins

Naturally, all that room was needed to accomidate the actor's egos.

charlie
charlie

Let me get this straight: You're willing to accept all other aspects of Star Trek such as the transporter, time travel,warp speed, the Vulcan Mid Meld and hot green alien chicks, but the placement of the bridge doesnt quite jibe with your concept of how the universe works? If that's the best you could come up with for your Geekend contribution, I have one word for the creators of this newsletter: Unsubscribe.

K7AAY
K7AAY

Simple. Roddenberry flew in a cockpit on top of a fuselage in WWII (and in ROSWELL, TEXAS, a hilarious alt-history comic at bigheadpress.com/roswell).

wayne
wayne

2 things for you. 1 - Aircraft carriers don't have shields that I am aware of. 2 - The Enterprise D from the Next Generation had the bridge located elsewhere and the 'dome' on the top I believe was the battle bridge. In addition, the saucer portion with the battle bridge could separate from the main body and in fact did in the series and the movies.

dh9777usa1
dh9777usa1

There will never be this better world for us and our children, it was all a lie! The idea that our culture would be a one world people working together to stamp out illness, hunger and gather all the planets resources for the betterment of Mankind. It's all gone forever! It's all just some fake tv show with a bad special effects department!!!!! I knew I should've gotten into the Harry Potter series instead like my sister did.............

howard48906
howard48906

The location of the bridge at the top is to permit visability. If the view screen should ever fail, one could navigate through space dock by sight. Not that a computer geek would ever consider failure of a key system. In the pilot episode of "The Next Generation" "Farpoint Station" they seperated the sucer section from the warp drive unit. The warp drive section had an auxiliary bridge called the "Battle Bridge". They did have a back-up system.

RIP-1241
RIP-1241

Battlestar Galactica was re-invented for one reason only. To create a better sci-fi series that includes a "starship" with a CIC with lots of egress. You see, if it were not for that stupid bridge, we wouldn't have Battlestar Galactica today. Thank you Star Trek.

fischer_1t
fischer_1t

How does the lift go at a vertical angle? From the bridge down to the main body of the ship was at an angle. But every time they show them climing down it, it looks like a straight drop with no pitch.

guyvii
guyvii

I would have to say that the reason was when the TOS was made and ship designs where started, navy ships we were used to were from WW2 movies. All the big wigs were in the main bridge where they could look out windows. The captain gave orders to the department heads and they blew into the speaking tube and gave the peons the orders. The next question is were are all the windows when you are on the bridge looking out? I see the captain has a window in his room as does 10 foward but not the bridge. It should have a moon (star) roof. I see nothing. LOL

pmolina
pmolina

Lame because it obscures the real question: Why isn't there an IS officer on board? With a staff of techs and developpers? Who is running backups of that talking computer?!? Who is writing middleware to talk to alien systems? Updates and Patches? I suppose it just stays secure on its own? You think those bozos on the bridge will change their double.secret passwords if the IS officer doesn't force them to on a regular schedule?

tnfrench
tnfrench

Like Star Trek there is search for intelligent life (Unlike Rosie O'Donnell). First and foremost I challenge the notion of combat vessel. As a fleet asset I would expect a ship more along the lines of a modern aircraft carrier with sorties of recon and defense vessels. The defensive armament is just sound thinking. Secondly, CIC is a combat communications center linking multiple warships and commands. (Not really needed on a single ship mission with just a few shuttles.) The bridge location is simple. If systems for external view go down you need to be able to see. It is centrally located in saucer for short comm links. Doesn't anybody remember transparent Aluminum? As to the personnel locations of the bridge was actually studied by the US Navy as a possible layout for surface warships in the early 70's. If the author would look into modern warships he would fined many parallels. The only major differences seem to be rectangular vs circular layouts. If you really want to get picky, look into system firing and refresh rates. Even contemporary focused energy weapons can hit multiple targets in fractions of a second. My 2 cents and that?s all it really worth

eric
eric

I was pretty sure I rememberd the characters in ST referring to a "Battle Bridge" which was apparently located in a smarter location. IIRC, one of the other reasons for a secondary battle bridge was the ability of the Enterprise "D" in the Next Generation series to separate the saucer section ( with its family members and exposed bridge...) from the drive section ( with its hazardous materials). You gotta have somewhere to drive the drive section from, right? http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Battle_bridge Of course, much of the military terminolgy and organisation used in Star Trek for StarFleet was naval in origin, starting with the use of the word "fleet". From "Vessels" to naval military rankings, to "drydock", to how the weaponry is used- all naval. So, it's understandable that much of the framework for how these fictional "ships" would be designed would come from that framework. Thus, it seems fair to point out that naval vessels put the bridge right out on the top, just like the enterprise. Sure, they have a command center deep in the bowels of the ship, as well as a second bridge to operate the ship in the event of the loss of the primary bridge. Sure, they need to look out the windows, where the crew of the Enterprise just looked at viewscreens and their sensor panels. Still, the thought of the bridge getting scraped off the top of the Enterprise because of crappy parallel parking is a funny one.

hfe
hfe

The first NCC-1701 had a "Captain's Yacht", which of course would be parked on the outside of the bridge for easy and quick access for purposes of getting the hell out of there!

jburkhart64
jburkhart64

First off if you don't like it, change the freakin' channel! Second, it was in the script. GET OVER IT!

CaptMorgan
CaptMorgan

Let's face it; people in Hollywood don't go to great lengths to think about these things. It looks cool, but the entire design of the Enterprise makes little sense. They may know how to make good TV, but it's rarely realistic. Look at most Sci-Fi TV shows and movies, how many of them have such important responsibilities but have a crew that has obviously no military training in any regard, tactics are poor and not thought out, each member of the crew constantly makes some form of error in judgment each episode that any of us know is such a simple and obvious error. It?s like each crew of the Star Trek world is full of first year cadets. What?s Star Fleet teaching these people anyway?

briankight
briankight

Enjoy it for what it is ... and there is still much merit to it.

stevehorth
stevehorth

Your average Sci-Fi writer is not a military expert or has even toured a Navy vessel (where the tour guide would've pointed out the stratetic importance of the CIC, etc). In fact, many writers live up to (or WANT to live up to) the stereotype that Gene R personified; specifically, let's all just get along, we wouldn't want to torque off the bad guys so let's just lower our shields and disarm our weapons as a token of Freindship, we're going to heaven when we die because we recycle and drive green-friendly cars, kumbiya my lord kumbiya, etc. Meanwhile, if they even bothered to ask a formet military person (as I am) about the feasability of this stuff they would not design stupid bridges. ... or speak to alien life forms in American cliches so much (that really frosts my cookies). PS - I am former military AND a scifi writer.

Editor's Picks