Nasa / Space

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...

217 comments
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.

Slayer_
Slayer_

That frequently seem to do nothing at all allowing out heros to, in one shot, disable their enemy.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

In three dimensional space, there is no 'highest level'. A bridge closer to the exterior of the ship is more vulnerable than one in the center. There's no advantage to being close to any one side, when all your visual images are delivered electronically and attack can come from any direction.

clmelson
clmelson

In ST:TNG they put the tactical officer behind the captain because she was a pretty blonde women and she had to make the old bald headed captain look good. When she left the show they spent all that time and money on Dorn's Klingon make up, it would be a shame not to show it on camera every chance they got.......lol.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

they have to rely on their own solar panels, and they don't provide enough power for decent lighting. edit to fix typo

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the residential area, with the bridge on top, and the basic impulse engines attached, can separate from the bulk of the vessel and fly off, it has aerodynamic abilities so it becomes a last ditch super life boat to abandon ship as a large group - ie if the warp core is about to go boom. or the bulk of the combat part of the ship is shot to pieces.

Thomas.Clymer
Thomas.Clymer

The IS officer was not a high profile position. In a few different episodes, you find IS operations happening. There was a TNG episode where (Murdock, from 'The A-Team') was working with the holo-deck subsystems and found a back-up of Professor Moriaty's character from an earlier episode. Also, there was a TOS reference to IS operations when Spock was able to inexplicably beat the computer at 3D Chess....further on the plot showed someone had tampered with the programming. Also, (although I hate to admit it in this forum) I never could get much into Battle Star Galactica....just never really tweaked right for me....and the NEW BSG seems to be more of a soap opera than a Sci-Fi No disrespect to all the BSG fans...just never really did if for me.

mark100
mark100

Jeez, I thought when Shatner told me on Saturday Night Live to get a life, he was just kidding......

Bill Ward
Bill Ward

Jim: Per the Technical Blueprints that came out back in the 1970s, there is indeed a toilet on the bridge (and not the one the Captain sits on). It's located behind the big viewscreen, on the right side. I remember laughing with a buddy of mine back then about what Aaron Spelling (at the time famous for, among others, All in the Family) would do if he and Gene Roddenberry hooked up: Kirk having a tense conversation with some Romulan, when all of a sudden "FWOOSH", and then a Redshirt comes around with some TP sticking to the bottom of his boots.

shadowwolfmoon
shadowwolfmoon

Yeah, the bridges had a rest room, on the 'd' picard had his own lav in his ready room.. apparently the bowl was hexagonally shaped ;-) as for kitchens, the 'd' and 'e' bridges had replicators, prior to that the Captains had pert young yeomans to bring coffee n snacks to the bridge ;-) The 'd' and 'e' bridges had small amouries

Raymond Danner
Raymond Danner

And the fact that they fire off broadsides like it's the 19th century. I agree, though, that the overall layouts of the Harrington universe ships (by and large) are better. And in that series of novels, Earth (aka the Solarian League) never makes a real impact, other than having set certain rules of engagement that mustn't be violated or the Sollies would come in and kick your can.

rain.longson
rain.longson

Alpha nodes? The impeller nodes of a starship which both generate its normal-space impeller wedge and reconfigure to generate Warshawski sails in hyper-space Alpha translation? The translation into or out of the alpha (lowest) bands of hyper-space. BB? Battleship. At one time, the heaviest capital ship but now considered too small to "lie in the wall." Average tonnage is from 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 tons. Employed by some navies for rear area system security but no longer considered an effective warship type. BC? Battlecruiser. The lightest unit considered a "capital ship." Designed to destroy anything it can catch and to outrun anything that can destroy it. Average tonnage is from 500,000?1,200,000 tons. Beta node? Secondary generating nodes of a spacecraft's impeller wedge. They contribute only to the impeller wedge used for normal-space movement. Less powerful and less expensive than alpha nodes. DD? Destroyer. The smallest hyper-capable warship currently being built by most navies. Average tonnage is from 65,000?80,000 tons. "Down the throat shot"? An attack launched from directly ahead of an impeller-drive spacecraft in order to fire lengthwise down its impeller wedge. Due to the geometry of the impeller wedge, this is a warship's most vulnerable single aspect. DN? Dreadnought. A class of warship lying midway between battleships and superdreadnoughts. No major navy is currently building this type. Average tonnage is from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 tons. CA? Heavy cruiser (from Cruiser, Armored). Designed for commerce protection and long-endurance system pickets. Designed to stand in for capital ships against moderate level threats. Average tonnage is from 160,000?350,000 tons, although that has begun to creep upward towards traditional battlecruiser tonnage ranges in some navies. CIC? Combat Information Center. The "nerve center" of a warship, responsible for gathering and organizing sensor data and the tactical situation. CL? Light cruiser. The primary scouting unit of most navies. Also used for both commerce protection and raiding. Average tonnage is from 90,000?150,000 tons. CLAC? LAC carrier. A starship of dreadnought or superdreadnought size configured to transport LACs through hyper-space and to service and arm them for combat. Keyhole? A Manticoran-developed deployable platform mounting control links and telemetry channels for offensive and defensive missiles. Gravity waves? A naturally occurring phenomenon in hyper-space consisting of permanent, very powerful regions of focused gravitic stress which remain motionless but for a (relatively) slow side-slipping or drifting. Vessels with Warshawski sails are capable of using such waves to attain very high levels of acceleration; vessels under impeller drive are destroyed upon entering them. Impeller drive? The standard reactionless normal-space drive of the Honor Harrington universe, employing artificially generated bands (or "wedges") of gravitic energy to provide very high rates of acceleration. It is also used in hyper-space outside gravity waves. Impeller wedge? The inclined planes of gravitic stress formed above and below a spacecraft by its impeller drive. A military impeller wedge's "floor" and "roof" are impenetrable by any known weapon. Inertial compensator? A device which creates an "inertial sump," diverting the inertial forces associated with acceleration into a starship's impeller wedge or a naturally occurring gravity wave, thus negating the g-force the ship's crew would otherwise experience. Smaller vessels enjoy a higher compensator efficiency for a given strength of wedge or gravity wave and thus can achieve higher accelerations than larger vessels. Keyhole II? A successor to the original Keyhole platform which is configured with FTL communications links instead of light-speed telemetry. LAC? Light Attack Craft. A sublight warship type, incapable of entering hyper, which masses between 40,000 and 60,000 tons. Until recently, considered an obsolete and ineffective warship good for little but customs duty and light patrol work. Advances in technology have changed that view of it. Laser clusters? Last-ditch, close-range anti-missile point defense systems. Mark 31 Counter-missile? A new, longer-range counter-missile developed by Manticore and deployed by the Alliance to give greater stand off engagement range against MDMs. The Mark 31 also provides the platform and missile drive for the Viper (see below). MDM? Multi-drive missile. A new Manticoran weapon development which enormously enhances the range of missile combat by providing additional drive endurance. Penaids? Electronic systems carried by missiles to assist them in penetrating their targets' active and passive defenses. Pinnace? A general purpose military small craft capable of lifting approximately 100 personnel. Equipped with its own impeller wedge, capable of high acceleration, and normally armed. May be configured for ground support. Powered Armor? Battle armor combining a vac suit with protection proof against most man-portable projectile weapons, very powerful exoskeletal "muscles," sophisticated on-board sensors, and maneuvering thrusters for use in vacuum. SD? Superdreadnought. The largest and most powerful hyper-capable warship. Average tonnage is from 6,000,000?8,500,000 tons. Shuttles? Small craft employed by starships for personnel and cargo movement from ship to ship or ship to surface. Cargo shuttles are configured primarily as freight haulers, with limited personnel capacity. Assault shuttles are heavily armed and armored and typically are capable of lifting at least a full company of ground troops. Sidewalls? Protective barriers of gravitic stress projected to either side of a warship to protect its flanks from hostile fire. Not as difficult to penetrate as an impeller wedge, but still a very powerful defense. Triple Ripple? A Havenite defensive technique utilizing heavy concentrations of nuclear warheads to blind and disable enemy missile seekers and electronic warfare platforms. "Up the kilt shot"? An attack launched from directly astern of a starship in order to fire down the length of its impeller wedge. Due to the geometry of the impeller drive, this is a warship's second most vulnerable aspect. Viper? A Grayson-Manticoran-developed missile with shorter range but higher acceleration rates and better seeker systems and onboard AI to create a "launch and forget" weapon for use in the anti-LAC role. Vipers can also be used as standard counter-missiles. Warshawski? Name applied to all gravitic detectors in honor of the inventor of the first such device. Warshawski sail? The circular gravity "grab fields" devised by Adrienne Warshawski to permit starships to "sail" along gravity waves in hyper-space. Wormhole junction? A gravitic anomaly. Effectively, a frozen flaw in normal space providing access via hyper-space as an instantaneous link between widely separated points. The largest known junction is the Manticoran Wormhole Junction with six known termini as of the beginning of War of Honor. You can get free e-books by David Weber and other good Sci-Fi writers at www.bean.com

SQL_Joe
SQL_Joe

The game by Ad Adstara is pretty good too. George

zclayton2
zclayton2

To generate traffic of course. Thank you for contributing.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

seeing the same information and view as the captain, as they usually take over combat responses if the captain isn't available for any reason. In the naval warships of the 20th century (I'm not sure if they still do it) the 2nd in command of most ships, stood near the captain, ready to take command if the captain was injured. By being on hand, they knew all the information the captain did, had access to the same command systems, and immediately knew when they ahd to take over. Having said all that, I think it's stupid not to have the Star Trek Tactical Officer seated in a combat chair able to deal with any maneuvers and still keep the officer at their station. But then, a lot of what is in the bridge design in all the St series is controlled by camera angles and aesthetics, not practicalities or clear logic.

rain.longson
rain.longson

with the invisible blond sex toys that appear at weird times. Maybe its just me, I find that pointless. Also only have 6 'looks' for bad guys, you'd think one of the good guys would catch one and post up some "Most Wanted" signs!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

its address, I know most of my TR peers and I have searched very hard, but haven't been able to find a store or on-line retailer whose catalogue includes the item, so it makes it very hard to get a life when no one is selling any. :p

filker0
filker0

"All in the Family" was Norman Leahrer (or is it "Lear"?), not Aaron Spelling. AS was responsible for "Love Boat" and its ilk.