The Bridge Control Panels

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The Bridge Control Panels

Joined: April 29th, 2007, 8:38 am

November 9th, 2014, 7:31 pm #1

The Bridge Control panels were made to look visually
interesting to television audiences but also they were designed to look somehow
functional in the futuristic world of Star Trek.  Even though the lighted buttons and the arrangements
of them really didn’t make any sense to viewers; the layout of the control panels
themselves made them believable.  Each of
the full station consoles around the perimeter of the bridge were made up of 4
separate control panels which when combined created at semi-circle radius that
would put the buttons and switches within arm’s reach of the operator.  Of the 4 control panels there were two larger
control panels on the outer sides and two smaller control panels towards the
center.  Both the larger and smaller
control panels were mirror images of each other at each station with the
exception of the Science station (more on that later).  The mirror image makes total sense from a
production standpoint because the same patterns could be used to cut the
Plexiglas and one panel could simply be flipped over to create a different
looking panel.

Good view of the Type "A" LH control panel from the first season
A great view of the Type "F" LH control panel from the second season
The Type "A" RH Control Panel
A good view of the Navigation Type "F" RH control panel in location 3
The control panels themselves were made of 1/8” black Plexiglas.  The larger control panels were approximately
23” inches at the top, 9 and three quarters inches at the bottom.  The smaller control panels were approximately
13 and one quarter inches at the top,  9 and one half inches at the bottom.  There were holes cut into the black Plexiglas
where the resin buttons were installed that allowed them to be backlit from
under the console.  There were also
smaller mounting holes around the perimeter which were added during the second
season during the renovations that included adding the “ice-tray” style buttons
which were not present during the first season. 
There was a second clear piece of Plexiglas under the top black piece
that allowed the flat bottom of the round buttons to be glued onto the bottom
clear piece of Plexiglas.   This method
for the most part prevented glue from showing on the top of the black Plexiglas
for the round lights most of which would remain the same for the entire run of
the series except for those replaced by the oblong resin lights (which always
replaced a round resin light).  The
rectangular resin buttons were attached to the surface of the black Plexiglas
over an oval shaped hole cut through the black Plexiglas.  These oval holes were originally cut for the
pilot episode aircraft indicator light style buttons and were used for both the
later resin “prismatic” style and the “ice-tray” style resin lights; both of
which were glued over the oval cut-out. 
Additional information on the resin lights and buttons can be found
here: ... witches-Li 

This is a photo of the current condition of the Engineering Type "C" LH control panel.  You can clearly see the oval cut-outs under the missing "ice-tray" style buttons as noted in the photo.  The Graphic of this control panel with the correct color buttons is at the beginning of the thread
This graphic of the Type "F" LH shows how the control panels looked with the different buttons between season 1 & season 2.  Notice that the round lights have remained the same but the "prismatic" buttons were replaced with the "ice-tray" style buttons.
There were four different configurations of the larger
control panels and only two different configurations of the smaller control
panels.  All of the perimeter station
consoles on the RH side of the bridge (from standing at the turbolift and
facing the screen) had different sets of the large control panels at each of
those consoles.  Perhaps this was done
because typically these station consoles were closer to the camera.  Here are the designation of the different control

A good view of the Type "F" RH from the Communications Station
With the exception of the “Type B” control panel; all of them had both a right-hand and a left-hand configuration.  For the purpose of locating and identifying the location of each of these control panels they will be designated as illustrated here below:
The Science station was unique among the bridge
stations.  It is the only one that has
the “Type B” control panel which at first glance is much different from the
other control panels on the bridge.  Upon
close inspection however, we can see that it is actually the same shape except
it has a cut-out on the right hand side to allow for the library computer.  Another unique feature of the Science station
console is the control panel in position 3 which is the only place on the
bridge that we have a “Type F LH” on the right-hand side of the console.  

Good screen cap from the first season of the right side of the Science Station console showing the Type "F" LH & Type "C" RH control panels
The Type "B" which was a unique control panel with the cutout for the library computer
Graphic of the Type "B" control panel in its second season button configuration

There were two other unique control panels on the
perimeter bridge stations that don’t fit into the category of those that we
have studied so far.  The Engineering-Sub
Station on the left side of the viewscreen had two unique control panels; they
were rectangular and not cut in a radius like all of the others.  The reason most likely was because this is only
a half console and there was no need for the radius because the entire surface
could be easily reached from the chair since this console was much smaller than
the other stations.  The other half
console on the right side of the viewscreen had no control panels at all.  There will be additional information on
individual control panels in the forth-coming revised threads on each station.

Last edited by feek61 on September 26th, 2016, 6:05 pm, edited 8 times in total.

Joined: April 29th, 2007, 8:38 am

November 10th, 2014, 7:31 am #2

Without question the Type D control panel was by far the most difficult to figure out.  There are very few good views of it and when we do see it; it is usually just a quick glance of it in the background.  This is due to the location on the bridge which was on the Navigation station console.  This station is one that was frequently removed so that the camera could be set-up in that location; giving us the familiar view of the Captain with the turbo lift and Engineering Console in the background.  Consequently, this station console is very rarely seen in the series.  The below screen caps illustrate the best views of the Type D control panel from the series and also illustrates the difficulties of pinning down the configuration of this elusive control panel.
Here is a pretty good view of the Type D RH from the episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"
In the episode "Operation: Annihilate!" the Navigation Station Console was substituted for the Communications Station thus allowing us to get a view of the elusive Type D LH control panel.  During the filming they routinely substituted locations to limit camera set-ups.  It is some of these happy accidents that revel portions of the set that we otherwise would have never seen.
The most consistent views of the Navigation Station Console and the Type D control panel is in the much maligned episode "And the Children Shall Lead" which is a good reason (maybe the only) to watch this sub-par episode

Joined: January 1st, 2018, 7:12 am

January 7th, 2018, 3:45 am #3


You mention that the control panels were two 1/8 inch plexiglas sheets sandwiched together.  From the screen grabs, the panels don't appear 1/4 thick.  Was the lower piece inset and below the console surface?

Last edited by grokwhy on January 7th, 2018, 4:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: January 1st, 2018, 7:12 am

January 7th, 2018, 4:02 am #4

I found this ... Panel1.jpg

One might infer from this description that the lower plexiglas wasn't a contiguous sheet, but rather just a mounting method for the round buttons.

Joined: January 1st, 2018, 7:12 am

January 7th, 2018, 4:53 am #5

Any theories as to why they switched from the prismatic style to the ice tray style?  I've always liked the look of the prismatic style.  Maybe they felt the ice tray style looked more like buttons someone would actually push, while the prismatic style look more like indicators.

Joined: August 23rd, 2014, 8:21 pm

January 8th, 2018, 12:37 am #6

grokwhy wrote: Will,

You mention that the control panels were two 1/8 inch plexiglas sheets sandwiched together.  From the screen grabs, the panels don't appear 1/4 thick.  Was the lower piece inset and below the console surface?

Yes, the upper, opaque panel was bigger, allowing the smaller clear one on the bottom to fit within the cutout on the surface of the bridge station. Will has looked at original panels to observe this.