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As The Couch is to sitcoms, so is The Bridge to Wagon Train to the Stars type shows: a gathering place for main characters. The Captain can usually be found here, and this is the native environment of Bridge Bunnies; together they spend their time making the Cool Ship go, noting that the Readings Are Off the Scale, evading Negative Space Wedgies, manipulating the Applied Phlebotinum, and so forth.
The standard bridge cliché involves The Captain sitting in the very center on a Command Chair, with two crewmembers (sometimes Bridgebunnies) in front of him steering the ship, looking at an Applied Phlebotinum viewscreen showing a whizzing star field or a map of nearby space. Other characters sit at workstations arranged in a circle around the perimeter. There's an elevator or other extremely convenient access, and any character who wants to come to The Bridge can do so easily. The Bridge will be spacious and have a large stage, usually in front of The Captain's chair, so the officers, their invited guests, and the random uninvited enemy of the week can walk around and meaningfully emote.
Essentially The Bridge is part of the Space Is an Ocean model of space flight, in which the traditions of naval architecture are Recycled in Space by lazy writers. It will typically either be perched on the obvious "top" of the ship, often in some sort of conning-tower, or in the nose like the flight deck of an aircraft.
The Bridge will typically cram navigation, weapons control and even strategic-level command functions into a single room, all controlled by the same handful of people.
Of course, the reason this trope is so prevalent is because it works so well for storytelling purposes. The producers of Star Trek: Voyager tried playing around with the setup, but they realized that it's pretty much the optimal design for the kinds of stories that Star Trek tells.
Live Action TV
- Ur Example: the bridge of the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Original Series set the pattern for The Bridge on many other Speculative Fiction Series. (Note though, that at in least one Star Trek movie there are in fact seat belts on the bridge, in the form of arm rests that fold down and lock a person in his seat. Also, Kirk had male Bridge Bunnies.)
- In a case of Truth in Television, the US Navy began to design their bridges after that of the Enterprise due to its more efficient layout.
- In a few episodes of the original series, and in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the ships featured, in addition to the bridge located on top of the ship, a secondary "Battle Bridge" located deep inside some heavily armored portion of the ship. It also doubled as the bridge for the main section of the ship whenever the plot demanded they jettison the saucer section.
- This only applies to The Federation ships. Klingon captains always sit at the front of the bridge, leading the warriors into battle.
- Except on the Birds of Prey in the movies, which had very Federation-like bridge layouts except for the periscope the captain uses to aim and operate the weapons. The bridges of Klingon ships in Deep Space Nine had the same layout minus the consoles in between the captain and the viewscreen.
- The first Romulan ship we ever see actually had most of the systems operated by standing crewmen arranged around a central pillar with the captain wandering around the perimeter giving orders. Later Romulan ships had bridges that looked more like later Klingon ships, possibly a result of the Klingon-Romulan treaty.
- Andromeda is another example of this pattern.
- The bridge was later re-designed by Harper a little. The pilot now has to stand, for some reason.
- The Excalibur on Crusade intentionally departed from this pattern, with a long rectangular bridge more akin to the control rooms on modern-day attack submarines.
- Babylon 5 has a variety of bridge designs for the different races. Narn ships are cramped with everyone strapped in because they lack artificial gravity. The White Star's bridge is fairly spacious with the expected central command chair and separate work stations. Earth ships have the central command chair and a more cramped layout (and seat belts). The eponymous station's Command and Control isn't really a bridge at all, but combines air traffic control, tactical control, and other functions.
- The Excalibur's bridge is still exposed. It's located at the top of the ship, although it's more towards the rear. Given that it's not really an Earth ship (it's on loan from the Interstellar Alliance), it would make sense for the bridge design to be a little different. Also, it has artificial gravity, unlike all Earth ships prior to the Warlocks and, possibly, the Omega-Xs (thos bio-ship prototypes Clark used). Still, the majority of Earth Force is still made up of Omegas, Novae, and Hyperions. There are only a few Warlocks made by the time of Crusade (about 50 in a fleet of thousands).
- The Liandra from Legend of the Rangers is an interesting case, being an old (and failed) Minbari design. It features a small (but mostly standard sci-fi) bridge, except for the weapons. The weapons room is a zero-g spherical chamber that shows the holo-image of the surrounding space, allowing the gunner to target and fire the ship's weapons with gestures. Basically, the weapons fire as fast as the gunner can punch air. No wonder the design failed. Minbari aren't very good when they try new things on their own.
- The original Battlestar Galactica had a standard TV bridge; the Combat Information Center on the reimagined Galactica is more like The War Room in nature, being located deep within the armoured superstructure of the ship.
- Averted in Firefly and the film Serenity, where the spacecraft was flown from a flight-deck clearly modeled on transport aircraft rather than ships. It is much smaller, with just two workstations, actual windows in place of a viewscreen and has nowhere for the captain to sit. The dining room or cargo hold is a much more common gathering place than the flight deck.
- The bridge of the Lexx has nothing but a viewscreen, a pedestal for the Captain, and a thousand-foot drop to one side.
- The bridge of SeaQuest DSV was not very sub-like, but it was supposed to be a radical design. Because of the ship's long configuration, a maglev train was the convenient access.
- The titular ship on Red Dwarf doesn't seem to have an actual bridge; the Navigation Room is seen a few times, but most of the action happens in and around the main characters' quarters. During the two seasons without the Red Dwarf, the bridge of Starbug is a small room only seen during emergencies, and the "character" action happens in the dining room.
- The viewer does see Red Dwarf's bridge, briefly, in the very first episode, when Lister is called before the Captain and chewed out for bringing a cat on board. Another episode hints later on that the area is still radioactive from the accident which set the show's plot in motion.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea had a submarine-style control room that was just large enough to fit all the major characters along with extras to run sonar, control, and communication. For dramatic visual purposes, the Seaview also had big viewing windows, right up in the bow, where they could be shattered by any trivial collision. They would even direct the ship from there. Eventually the producers realized that the captain of a submarine had no business trying to navigate his vessel by looking out the window into a murky ocean, though the windows remained and the bridge was never shifted to the depths of the vessel where it should have been. In fact, the bridge was moved to the front of the ship, just behind the windows in the second season.
- The windows did have moving shutters that closed over them, they just weren't used very often.
- Despite fact that the TARDIS on Doctor Who is huge, literally as big as the plot requires, and contains libraries, a swimming pool, crew quarters, a sickbay, storage rooms, cloisters, endless corridors to run up and down, and much more, you pretty much only ever see the console room. The new series has so far only shown the console room(s) -- except for one scene in the wardrobe, and some corridors a few years later.
- The Stargate verse play this trope straight across multiple species.
- Tau'ri bridges have the captain sitting in the middle with another crewman sitting on either side of him, facing a large viewport; all other crewmembers are standing behind these three.
- Ancient ships have spherical bridges with the captain sitting in a raised chair and the others working along the walls. Even larger window.
- Traveler ships have a bridge that's more like a large two-seater cockpit.
- Asgard ships have a very different bridge design, consisting of a central "pillar of light" and multiple platforms, although it only appears once: most of the time the bridge appears to be whatever room Thor has parked his teleporting throne in at that particular moment.
- Hive ships have a bridge, but it's not as important, since the ships controls are very distributed.
- Ori ships have a similar bridge as Ancient ships, to be controlled by a prior.
- Goa'uld motherships have a standard design with the throne of the captain in the middle and consoles in the front. Smaller ships lack the bridge.
Anime and Manga
- The Macross bridge on Super Dimension Fortress Macross and its counterparts in Macross 7 and Macross Frontier.
- All bridges on all the large ships in the Mobile Suit Gundam series.
- Like Firefly, the main characters' vessel in Cowboy Bebop contained a relatively small cockpit, and a larger living-room structure that better served the functions of The Bridge.
- Humorously referred to in the anime series Dennou Coil: in episode four, the kids of the Daikoku City Hackers Club engage in a cyber-battle while seated on a bunch of overturned desks that recall the classical Bridge disposition (with the club president at the center and elevated above the others, of course) and surround themselves with virtual-reality screens and terminals on which they bash with Rapid-Fire Typing: but hey, they are kids playing after all....
- Starship Operators has 3 bridges for Amaterasu, one for command, one for fire control, and one for conning. All the bridges are quite cramped, though, and there are seat belts.
- The Arthra from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and heck, pretty much every ship of the Time-Space Administration Bureau has the standard roomy bridge. The Saint's Cradle however, is controlled from a cramp platform hidden in the heart of the ship.
- Let it not be said that Suzumiya Haruhi doesn't know its tropes, as the ships of all five SOS Brigade members in the episode "The Day of Sagittarius III" come equipped with the standard bridge set-ups, complete with themed Bridge Bunnies.
- Obviously Uchuu Senkan Yamato has a bridge, explained by being literally a battleship Recycled in Space. Then again, other starships depicted are like this too, including ones not from earth.
- They actually have three bridges, but the main one gets almost all of the camera time. The third bridge, as The Other Wiki puts it, "seems to exist largely to be blown off the ship dramatically".
- Like the original Star Trek, this series predates the establishment of female Bridge Bunnies as a trope. They have one girl on the bridge, but the Bunny-like locations are occupied by young male Odd Couple Kodai and Shima.
- Mamoru Nagano and Kunihiko Ikuhara's light novel Schell Bullet gives us the Rogne Balt's bridge, pictured above. Not absurdly spacious per se, but generally as stylish and ostentatious as it gets (and as just about everything on the ship) -- exactly in the line with aestetical views of both authors.
- Crest of the Stars partially goes for the standard aversion, making the bridges of its ships cramped and flight deck like,.. but only for the lighter units. Capital ships feature standard elevated platforms for the captain (with enough room to swing the ceremonial sword), loads of Bridge Bunnies etc. Although both the capital ships and the lighter elements have their bridges in the heart of the ship and not exposed -- this comes as a major plot point in one series when Lamhirh friend and mentor dies in the doomed destroyer's bridge, when battle damage blocks the way to the shuttle.
- Outlaw Star has a small bridge for the eponymous ship, though most functions can be handled by the pilot.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: it isn't in a space ship, but the local bridge fits every caracteristics, complete with Bridge Bunnies and conveniant elevators.
- Irresponsible Captain Tylor uses the bridge of the Soyokaze quite heavily.
- The bridge of Nadesico in Martian Successor Nadesico is quite spacious and populated by very od people.
- Super Atragon: The only part of the battleship Ra's interior that is actually shown.
- Captain Harlock: The Arcadia's bridge seems to be equipped with blowers that generate Dramatic Wind.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes, the warships of the Empire and the Alliance have different bridge formats. Imperial warships feature the commander sitting in a central command chair with his bridge crew surrounding him, whereas Alliance warships have bridges that resemble Real Life naval warships with multi-tiered decks and the commander (usually standing) occupying the top deck. Yang Wen-li's flagship Hyperion is worthy of mention: retrofitted from a frontier security squadron battleship, it differs from conventional Alliance flagships by a reduction of tiers in the bridge and an expanded top deck to accommodate a meeting table.
- Bridges are described in GURPS Traveller Starships. There are several types of bridges depending on the ship. Some ships, notably naval flagships have more then one bridge(one for the ship and one for the fleet). Different crew members are assigned workstations with computers arranged to taste.
- Hivers, quite sensibly, but contrary to sci-fi tradition put their bridges in the middle of the ship. They also fire the guns from the bridge, again quite sensibly but contrary to sci-fi tradition.
- The Halo series has shown the bridges of several different ships, most of which fit the cliche. The Pillar of Autumn in particular has a rather... precarious seat for the pilot and another officer.
- That's putting it mildly. In fact, the bridge of the Autumn is a complete contradiction - suposedly one of the most ridiculously over-engineered ships in the whole human fleet, yet it has just about the most exposed bridge it is possible to imagine?
- Meanwhile, the presumed bridge on the Covenant ship Truth and Reconciliation is particularly enormous and laid out in a circular design. However, it's also located in the center of the vessel and has no obvious 'viewscreens'. Being a video game, it's also not easy to get to.
- Partially subverted with the bridge of the UNSC frigate In Amber Clad: while it does have a central Commader's chair, two forward bridge-bunny stations and several other stations around the perimeter, it's also badly cramped.
- In the novels Covenant troops occasionally Lampshade this, calling the human's bridge location in the fore of the ship "bold but foolish."
- Although Human bridges are towards the front or the top of the ship they are not always exposed. Whilst it is never out and out stated it's made very clear in the novels most ships have internal bridges a decent distance from the hull.
- Averted in EVE Online - while NPC ships are presumed to have bridges, one of the advantages of player-controlled ships is that they don't have bridges - instead, the ship's command functions are wired directly into the pilot's nervous system. This allows the ship to react quicker, and cuts down on the need for life support.
- Nevertheless, some ship models (especially Minmatar designs) have elongated or raised parts that look like bridges. The fan vid Clear Skies shows how dangerous that can be.
- Fluff-wise, the capsuleer ships are simply retrofitted conventional vessels. This troper cannot seem to remember whether the capsules fully replaced the bridge (physically) or if they were simply rerouted or rewired.
- Also averted in Mass Effect. The bridge of the Normandy is a small compartment in the nose of the spaceship with just enough room for two pilots. All important navigational decisions seem to be made from the control deck further aft, and all important character gatherings take place in the strangely spacious communications room. This is apparently a Turian design which the Alliance used on the Normandy so they could compare its efficiency to their own (never seen) bridge layouts.
- Though it seems to be implied that Alliance ships play this trope more straight.
Joker: Y'know what pisses me off? Calling this the cockpit. Alliance ships have bridges. Asari ships have cockpits. Oh, wait. No they don't."
- Technically, the pilot's compartment is the helm, not the bridge. Control deck has all the bridge facilities and is also constantly manned by officers. The game simply doesn't show how the ship is actually commanded. Normandy design also resembles one of the submarine (what makes sense, given it is small, stealth special-purpose vessel).
- In both Knights of the Old Republic video games this trope is also averted - the Ebon Hawk has a small cockpit and some sort of a briefing room for important discussions. It is played straight with the Sith warships and their massive rooms with sunken areas for control operators and a long walkway for Malak to pace up and down menacingly, and the Republic Hammerhead-class vessels and their console-lined rooms at the prow with big windows.
- Well, the Ebon Hawk wasn't exactly a warship, now was it?
- The bridge of the Destiny Ascension is shown several times. It also appears to play this trope straight, although it's an asari flagship and a dreadnought to boot (since dreadnoughts are too large to land on planets, their rooms a located perpendicular to the thrust).
- Xenogears and Xenosaga gives the player access to the bridges of several ships.
- Appears to be averted in Star Control, although, to be fair, the heavily-pixelized crew animations don't show enough to be certain. Human crews, for example, are shown to be sitting in a cramped control room with chairs back-to-back. Then again, given that their shape is based on Star Trek, they may have a "standard" sci-fi bridge. Other examples include the Androsynth, who operate their ships from a standing position, and the Ur-Quan, who hang from the ceiling in a massive chamber.
- Appears to be the case with human ships in Sword of the Stars, with The Bridge located in the Command (i.e. forward) section with a large window into space. Partially subverted with the (presumed) existence of a secondary bridge in the Mission section, meaning that destroying the Command section does not result in the ship becoming useless.
- Battle bridge confirmed here. The same diagram also shows that both bridges are protected by blast shields.
- In the "Mothership Zeta" DLC for Fallout 3, the titular alien mothership has a large bridge with the captain's chair in the front and various consoles to the sides.
- Many cutscenes in Warship Gunner 2 consist of the characters talking on the bridge. While every ship you build in the series requires a bridge, this is the only title where you get to see what's going on in it.
- Equipping different bridge modules in Infinite Space can improve your ship's performance, as well as the background for traveling or fighting. Many cutscenes are set on the bridge of some ship or other.
- The Lexington's bridge in Mission Critical is reminiscent of Star Trek, which is fitting, given that the captain is played by Michael Dorn. The captain's chair is in the middle. The officer stations are along the sides of the large circular room. No front-facing consoles, though. There is also a large viewscreen at the front. However, unlike Trek ships, the bridge and every other deck on the Lexington is facing perpendicular to the acceleration in order to provide artificial gravity.
- The player's party in Super Robot Wars games is often based on a battleship of some kind and cutscenes sometimes take place on the bridge.
- The Wing Commander games occasionally feature scenes on the bridge, though given the focus of the series they're not common. In a subversion, the BWS Intrepid's bridge was destroyed in combat with Confederation forces before Blair joins them, so the ship is run from the Combat Information Center with a jury-rigged setup to replace the functionality lost with the damaged bridge.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury has a ship with a stupendously large bridge.
- Most vehicles in Star Wars that are large enough to have one. Imperial ships don't follow the usual layout, though -- Bridge Bunnies are confined to two sunken pits full of consoles, bisected by a long walkway for Darth Vader to pace up and down menacingly. It's basically galley slaves In Space!
- The Walkway serves the same purpose as the raised command chair in TOS that allows kirk to turn around and see what everyone else is doing, only instead of requiring a full rotation, you just turn your head from side to side. It also has room in the back for a Holographic 3D display, rather than a 2D viewscreen at the front, instead it has a window for similar reasons as the Star Trek (2009) Bridge does.
- The new Star Trek film goes further than the series it's based on and has a window instead of a view screen, and the interior looks like an Apple store.
- Actually having a Window isn't a dumb idea at all, since most Combat in Star Trek occurs well in visual range and the window cannot be interfered with using jammers/false sensor readings. For example, the Nebula chase in Wrath of Khan would have been far less difficult if they simply used a window instead of the viewscreen.
- In The Hunt for Red October, there are multiple Bridges, and are used to great effect, except being submarines they're called the 'control room' or just 'conn'.
- Space Mutiny has two bridges, one for the good guys, one for the bad guys, both on the same ship.
- Averted in Alien - the Nostromo has a fairly cramped control room for piloting the ship (and, in a deleted scene, listening to a beacon), and at least one area with windows/monitors that allows Ash to monitor the away team, but most of the gathering and decision making is made around a general living area table.
- Bridges in David Weber's Honorverse are usually quite spacious, but you'd hardly notice it, them being cluttered by the crew's workstations (up to several dozens on a large capital ship), their associated shock frames (happily averting No Seat Belts), buried deep into the most protected part of the ship, and having not exactly the classical layout. Basically they are modelled not on a ship's steering bridge, but on a War Room or a submarine's Command Center. Larger ships have two, the second headed by the executive officer in battle situations in case the main bridge is damaged or destroyed.
- It's worth noting that the Honorverse ships also have a CIC that basically figures out what combat information the bridge needs.
- Ships intended for flagship purposes also include a flag bridge for the admiral and their staff.
- The Task Force Resolution ships in Lacuna have an Operations room that functions as their bridge.
- Sergey Pavlov's Hard SF novel Moon Rainbow just loves to subvert various tropes, starting with both the titular Cool Ship and its counterpart later in the novel being not a naval vessels, but an exploration boat and freighter respectively, so it's not surprising that it does it for this trope as well. Just as in Honorverse example above, bridges there are more of a control rooms, large, but cluttered, with seatbelted crew being generally just representatives of their departments collected there for the Captain's convenience, and rarely, if ever, being Bridge Bunnies—they're just too busy for it. There are also a number of other control rooms throughout the sip, each controlling is own department, and a couple of sub-bridges for steering, astrogation and managing ships various systems.
- Which is a very dumb thing to have done, because from inside that brightly-lit bridge and with the vast distances of space, they won't be able to see anything except their own reflections in a window. The original series had the right idea.