The Bridge Helm & Navigation Station

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

September 22nd, 2013, 6:09 pm #1

Like most of the bridge set; the Helm and Navigation console was originally built for the pilot episode “The Cage” in late 1964.  Although the design stayed basically the same throughout the series; the production crew continued to modify the console adding and changing parts of it the entire production run of the show.  The console itself was split and had two stations; one for the helmsman and one for the navigator and was separated by the astrogator section.  For the pilot episode the helm station consisted of a control panel and also one of the familiar computer consoles similar to those seen around the perimeter of the bridge.  The navigator station originally consisted of a control panel and a plot board graphic.  This original configuration provided plenty of arm room for both actors but that would later change once the series got underway as additional switches, lights and other features were added to console.
The original Helm Console Configuration from the Pilot Episodes "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
Original Helm Control Panel
The Helm - Nav Console masquerading as the Transporter as it did in both pilot episodes
 The original color scheme of the entire console was grey and black but was repainted for the second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to the familiar red/black scheme (although additional black painted areas around the perimeter corners of the console were later added for the series).  In both of the pilot episodes the buttons of the control panels on the helm and navigation as well as all other control panels on the bridge were made up of surplus aircraft indicator/warning lights and plastic hemispheres.  Most of the indicator/warning lights throughout the bridge were replaced but the original configurations were retained and the indicator/warning lights were simply replaced with resin buttons in the same configuration as the original (more on this later). 
The original Navigator Console Configuration from the Pilot Episodes "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
Original Navigator Control Panel
Close-up of the Navigator Console from "Where No Man Has Gone Before" courtesy of our friend Blu-Ray
The familiar control panel location and orientation as seen during the series was actually originally reversed between stations and rotated 180 degrees (upside down) in both pilot episodes.   Other than the repaint of the console and reversal of the center indicators (next to the red alert beacon) for “Where No Man Has Gone Before” the only other difference between the two pilot episodes was that the gooseneck viewers from “The Cage” were removed.   Also of note is that in both pilot episodes the helm and navigation console served  double duty as the transporter console.
The Helm - Nav Console showing the Gooseneck Viewers from "The Cage"
Here is the transporter version of the console with the Astrogator replaced by a planet graphic as seen in the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
Gary Mitchell manning the Navigation Console from "Where No Man Has Gone Before"
The pilot versions of the Helm / Nav console
"The Cage" configuration
"Where No Man Has Gone Before" configuration.  Notice that the center row of lights on either side of the red alert indicator have been rotated 180 degrees from the first pilot.
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 3:05 pm, edited 32 times in total.

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

September 23rd, 2013, 4:37 pm #2

A nice overhead view of the Helm - Navigator console.  Note the illusive, rarely seen Helm Computer to the right
Familiar view of the Helm - Navigator console courtesy of the standard camera set-up
When the series went into production major changes were made
to the bridge including the Helm and Navigator console.  Gone were the indicator warning lights which
were replaced with resin prismatic style buttons.  The original Helm and Navigator control
panels were switched and flipped around.  In addition, the row of lights on either side of the red alert were rotated such that they were mirrored; facing opposite directions.  Also there was black painted banding added around the perimeter of the console;
helping to add more interest visually to the bright orange/red color added from the second
pilot episode.  On each station a row of eight rocker switches were added to the console surface under the
control panel.  Several of the rocker switches actually were functional; turning on & off parts of the console.  In addition there were two of these rocker switch banks added to the bottom of the astrogator housing.  During the first two episodes
of season one these switches were white but by the third episode “The Enemy
Within” they were painted to the multi-colored configuration that we would see
throughout the sets for the rest of the series.  There was also a 1/4" of masonite added to the top of each console top which caused a small step-up instead of the flat surface seen in the pilot episodes.  No doubt this was done so that the interior of the lighted consoles could be accessed from the top instead of crawling underneath which was difficult due to the small raised platform the console sat on.  It would be much easier to simply remove the entire top if they needed to add or change light bulbs. 

The Season One Helm Configuration
The Season One Helm Control Panel which was the original Navigator control panel flipped up-side-down
Close-up of the Season One Helm Control Panel from "The Galileo Seven"
Another close-up of the Season One Helm Control Panel from "The Naked Time"
In this lightened up screen cap we can see the helm computer to the right of the control panel
Another nice close-up of the Helm Control Panel and the Helm Computer
Views of the Helm were not seen as much as Navigation because the camera was typically set up on the Nav side of the bridge.  Here is a side view of the Helm control panel showing the colors of the prismatic buttons

In addition to the rocker switch bank that was added to the
Helm station there was also some slight changes to the Helm C
omputer.  It was modified by changing some of
the colored gels since it was seen second pilot.  This computer is extremely difficult to see
most of the time because it was flat on the surface of the helm console and it does not appear as bright as the other bridge computer displays.  Most of the time it is on screen it appears
just as a black piece of glass with none of the display visible.

The First Season Navigator Station Configuration
The First Season Navigator Control Panel which is the pilot Helm panel flipped upside-down
A good view of the Navigation Console from the first episode "The Corbomite Manuever."  Notice the white rocker switches.
A nice close-up of the white rocker switches before they were painted for the third episode
By the third episode "The Enemy Within" the rocker switches were painted the familiar colors seen throughout the sets for the remainder of the series
Another great view from "The Galileo Seven"
An good side view showing the side of the Navigator Control Panel

  The Navigation
station in addition to the added switches also had a large round light added to
the center which was featured in the first production episode filmed “The
Corbomite Maneuver.”  This light was the same shape as those found on the captain's chair control panels and appear to have originated from the same molds.   The console stayed
the same for the rest of the first season but there were changes to come for
season two.

Kirk walks around the front of the Helm in "The Squire of Gothos"
Nice side view of the Helm Control Panel showing the button alignment
View of the Navigator control panel showing the colors of the prismatic buttons
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 5:31 am, edited 18 times in total.

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

September 24th, 2013, 5:58 pm #3

The Early Second Season Helm Configuration.  Note new control panel and the removal 
of the computer  to make room for the targeting scanner (shown retracted here).
Close-up of the New Helm Control Panel from "Friday's Child" but also
 seen in "The Omega Glory" courtesy of recycled footage
Early second season Helm Control Panel

The Second Season brought major changes to the console surfaces of the Helm – Navigation stations.  The Helm was majorly reworked with both the computer and the control panel being removed.  The computer was replaced by a new targeting scanner that would pop-up out of 3 doors that were mounted flush to the console surface.  The new scanner was in a self-contained metal shell and was motorized; it can be seen in several episodes rising-up out of the console.  Since this added much more weight to the console; the original masonite top of the helm was removed and replaced by a piece of aluminum plate to support the weight.  The rising scanner actually had 2 motors; one that operated the two doors and another that operated the rising scanner.  The hard truth was that production wise the rising scanner made so much noise that it was mostly shown either already up in place or closed.  The same footage of it rising up from the console in “Friday’s Child” was used in several different episodes but there were also a handful of other episodes that show it partially rising from the interior of the helm station.  In addition to the scanner, the rocker switches have obviously been reworked and put back in a different configuration.  The addition of the aluminum plate top made it necessary to mount the rocker switches from under the plate which made them sit lower in the cutout than they were previously.  The rocker switches were in pairs of 2 and individually mounted so that each pair could be removed.  It appears that while the rework on the helm station was done; these switches were removed and simply put back in a different order than the original configuration.
An additional row of lighted buttons was added at the bottom of the control panel which were controlled separately from the rest of the panel; allowing individual lights to blink independent of the rest.  Note: targeting scanner shown retracted
First view of the expanded Helm Control Panel from "The Doomsday Machine" showing the bottom row of blinking buttons
The original Helm control panel was replaced with a new one that had a completely different configuration in both size and button shape.  The original second season Helm control panel consisted of 6 rows of 5 square resin buttons for a total of 30 buttons.  These resin buttons appear to be shorter versions of the "ice-tray" buttons used throughout the bridge.  They possibly could be left overs from when they would run out of resin and only partially filled the mold as indicated by the various size heights of the buttons which vary considerably.  The control panel had a pattern of switching lights so it appears that probably the original helm computer was used under it to light it.  It seems reasonable that it would have been used and by simply removing the graphic and moving it over it would have been easy and an effective use of the discarded computer light box. With the tight budget on the series; very little was wasted.  This configuration lasted only a few episodes however because in “The Doomsday Machine” there was a need for an indication on the control panel showing the hangar bay doors opening.   Since the original helm computer unit appears to be under the control panel it would have been a major issue to rewire it to add the individual blinking lights so the additional indicators were accomplished by extending the control panel down; adding a new row of resin buttons.  In order to accomplish this individual holes had to be drilled through the aluminum plate where each light on the extended control panel was going to be.  This new bottom row of indicators were capable of being wired with individual lights separate from the computer light box so that they could show flashing lights on the panel when needed; although only one light was ever filmed flashing.  We also saw this same flashing light in the episode “Mirror, Mirror” when Uhura distracted Sulu from the status board.  The lights under the control panel made the buttons extremely hot to the touch and also weakened the glue that attached the resin; causing them to be replaced throughout the series.  Nearly every scene showing the control panel has a different color configuration on the buttons due to them falling off and being replaced with whatever color was available.
Photo of the helm console when it was auctioned off clearly showing the additional round holes that were where the blinking lighted buttons were located
The added bottom row with the blinking lighted buttons as seen in "Mirror, Mirror"
The modified Helm Control Panel after the bottom row was added. 
Like the Helm station; the Navigation station also was changed for season two.  The control panel stayed the same; however, the entire left-hand rows of the round hemisphere resin buttons were replaced with new colors (including blue which was a new addition to the bridge color pallet).  For the tenth episode “Mirror, Mirror” a row of lighted buttons were added under the plot board on the right side of the console.  These new buttons which were surplus aircraft "press to test" buttons are highlighted in the episode as Chekov signals his henchmen that the captain is leaving the bridge.  This was the only time the new buttons were ever used on screen.  There does not appear to have been any further changes through the rest of the second season to the console but there were changes to come in season three.
The second season Navigator Console configuration
The Second Season Navigator Control Panel with the replaced row of lighted buttons on the left side
A great view of the added row of 8 lighted "press to test" buttons under the plot board from "Mirror, Mirror"
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 6:17 am, edited 30 times in total.

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

September 29th, 2013, 6:49 am #4

"The Ambassador" at the Helm in "Is There In Truth No Beauty?"
There were changes in the third season but most were relatively minor.  There does not appear to be any
change at all to the Navigator Station and the only apparent change to the Helm
Station was the replacement of some of the resin lights on the control panel up until the episode "The Tholian Web."

The Early Third Season Helm Configuration - the only difference from season 2 was the resin lights on the control panel
Here is a great view of the Helm Control Panel clearly showing the bottom row of lighted resin buttons.  In scenes like this the lighting pattern from the original helm computer (on the left side of the console from the first season) was visible (except the bottom row) showing the sequence of lights that move like one of the readouts.  Also of interest in this screen capture is the recessed rocker switches which were mounted under the aluminum plate top.
The Early Third Season Helm Control Panal
Sulu realizes that Spock forgot his visor but we get to see another nice view of the Helm station
A great side view of the Helm from "And The Children Shall Lead."  At least there is something good from that episode!!
After "The Tholian Web" there was another change to the Helm Station.  There were two toggle switches added near the bottom of the console beginning in the episode "For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky."  These appear to have no function at all and were probably put there so that Sulu would have a switch to flip instead of just pressing the colored resin lights.  All we do know is that these two toggles were added right at the bottom where the Helmsmen's arm would sit (which is a strange place to put them).
The bottom toggles clearly visible in this cap from "That Which Survives"
The Last Version of the Helm Console with the added toggle switches at the bottom
The Navigation Station stayed the same as it appeared in the second season.  Here is the Deviation Plot Board which never changed from the first pilot through to the last episode.  Of note is that this is also the same graphic used on the RH side of the transporter but with different colored gels.  I always appreciate the attention to detail on the original set.  This looks like it could be a real display from a functioning piece of equipment.  Of note is the asymmetric layout.
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 6:25 am, edited 14 times in total.

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

November 3rd, 2013, 2:04 pm #5

The Astrogator made its first appearance on screen in the first production episode "The Corbomite Maneuver."  During the first few episodes the tri-pointer in the center was not there but insert shots showing the tri-pointer was added into those first handful of episodes but those scenes were filmed later.  In the pilot episodes it appears to be there based on a scene in "The Cage" when we see part of it when they are trying to restore power.  In the second pilot we only saw the Astrogator area in the transporter room where there was a planet graphic used instead of the Astrogator graphic.  As I mentioned before; the graphics of TOS were so detailed that it appeared as if they were part of a real piece of equipment and the astrogator was no exception. The detail on this graphic was exceptional; the reason being that it was an actual found piece of surplus naval equipment. Even though the astrogator was seen in virtually every episode; we really never saw the detail on it. The graphic itself was 24.5" inches across and was printed on a white translucent plexiglass sheet.  It was a found item like many other components used to build the console but with additional elements added to make the astrogator look futuristic.  There was an amber colored disc with green and red strips (actually lighting gel strips sandwiched between two discs) with a three sided pointer mounted above it; both of which could spin.  On the amber disc there was also a curious red anvil shape that appears to be some sort of pointer.  The translucent graphic was lit from below allowing all of the detail including the amber disc and colored strips to show very clearly.  A large portion of the graphic also was a separate piece mounted on a circular clear acrylic piece in the middle which allowed it to spin independent of the outer graphic.  This separate area was located just inside the outer radius lines where the individual degree lines were located.  Half of the individual degree line was permanently mounted on the outer piece  and did not move; the other inner half of the degree line was on the rotating middle part.  This would have created a very convincing effect of plotting different courses if it was ever seen on screen but it was not.  The only indication on screen that this was more than a static graphic was when we saw the center translucent tri-pointer being turned but the Astrogator had many other features that were never shown on screen with its three separate spinning sections.
The Astrogator
Despite appearing as if there was a gray boarder around perimeter of the graphic; actually the entire surface was white.  The gray around the outside was simply the wood frame under the graphic.  The back-lighting made it appears as a different color but it was not.
Although we never directly see the Astrogator in the pilot episodes; we know that it's there because of this scene near the end of "The Cage" which shows the mid-disc of the Astrogator lying on top of the console
Close-up showing the detail of the graphic.  Every degree was marked in multiple rings around the graphic.
View from under the Astrogator in its current condition showing the amber discs under the graphic with colored strips between and also the spinning graphic center disc
The best view of the Astrogator from "The Gamesters of Triskelion."
Comparison showing all three sections of the Astrogator rotated in different directions.
Here is a photo of the Astrogator pieces from the 2016 restoration showing the mid-ring and outer part of the graphic.  Notice the area on the mid-ring where the graphic has been worn off.  This piece of surplus naval equipment was used previous to Star Trek as indicated by the wear marks on it visible even in the first episodes.
Screen Cap from "By Any Other Name" showing the separate sections turned to different locations than in the above "Gamesters of Triskelion" cap
A close-up of the Red Anvil shaped indicator on the amber disc
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 6:49 am, edited 36 times in total.

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

June 23rd, 2014, 5:31 pm #6

Did you know that even though we see the chronometer in the 5th episode filmed "The Naked Time" in a close-up; it was not actually installed yet on the set?  In fact the first time that we saw the chronometer installed in its familiar position is in the 12th filmed episode "The Galileo Seven."   Check out this clip from the 7th filmed episode "Balance of Terror" which clearly shows the hole had not yet been cut for the Chronometer.  The explanation of its appearence in earlier episodes is that the close-ups were filmed much later then the principle photography for those first episode.  The insert shot was filmed after the hole was cut and Chronometer installed and the scene was simply edited into the earlier episodes before they aired.
Notice in the circled area where the Chronometer should be . . . there is nothing!!  Interesting because this is 2 episodes AFTER we saw it in "The Naked Time"
This graphic represents the earliest production version of the Helm / Nav station; very early in the 1st Season.  The production continued to improve the Bridge throughout the entire run of the series but you can see here in the early version that all of the rocker switches are white, the tri-ponter on the astrogator is missing and as mentioned; the missing Chronometer.
This graphic shows what the Helm / Nav looked like for most of the 1st Season showing the difference form the earlier version
Last edited by feek61 on November 8th, 2016, 12:31 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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

June 23rd, 2014, 6:41 pm #7

The Early 2nd Season version of the Helm / Nav Console.  Changes from the first season include the replacement of the lights across the center front of the console and actually the lights and red alert beacon were moved forward; centering them up.  The Helm station has been completely reworked with a new control panel, pop-up scanner and rearranged rocker switches.  The Navagation control panel left side resin jewels have also been replaced.
For the episode "Mirror, Mirror" the Helm control panel was extended with a bottom row of blinking lights (actually only one blinked) and the added lighted push-buttons switches on the Navigation side under the targeting display.  This is the configuration that we are most familiar with on screen.
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 6:52 am, edited 5 times in total.

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

June 23rd, 2014, 6:45 pm #8

The 3rd Season changes were minor with only the small changes to some of the Helm control panel resin jewels.
The last version of the console during filming was the addition of two small toggle switches at the bottom of the helm station.  The function of which (if any) will forever be a mystery.
Last edited by feek61 on November 8th, 2016, 12:17 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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

October 29th, 2014, 8:16 am #9

The Targeting Scope was a beautiful addition to Bridge instrumentation
This screen cap from "The Lights of Zetar" looks almost like a publicity still
The helm targeting scope was added during Star Trek’s second season and quickly became a practical part of the instrumentation on the Bridge story-wise and it was visually interesting to the viewers.  The scope would rise up from the helm console and was installed were the helm computer was previously located in the first season.  It had to be folded to fit into the limited space inside the console and would be raised and unfolded by motors inside the console.  It also had internal lighting that lit both the front and back of the hood with power supplied from the console by way of a wire that can be seen connected to the arm of the scope.
A great view of the fully extended Scope from "The Doomsday Machine"
A couple of screen caps of the scope rising from the helm console the last showing us a good shot of the bubble on the bottom of the scope
The power supply wire can be clearly seen here.  Since most of the camera angles were from the other side you very rarely saw this view of the targeting scope which is why the wire was connected on this side; to hide it as much as possible.  Later in the series the wire can be seen just sticking out in random places along the armature obviously pulled from the mounting clips.
 The targeting scope armature was made from 3/8” aluminum plate and bolted together so that is could move and pivot.  The top hood part had a milled aluminum base with the viewer part on top probably made from fiberglass but could have been made from vacu-formed plastic.  We saw the scope actually raising in 5 different episodes but with its two motors it was so noisy that after the novelty of seeing it rising up from the console a few times the production apparently decided to avoid the sound issues and would typically just show the scope already extended when in use. 
Two great views of the top of the scope clearly showing the pattern on the front illuminated part
Of the 5 episodes that we saw it rising there was only one episode “Fridays Child” that showed nearly the entire sequence of the targeting scope rising up out of the console (the same footage also used in "Spocks Brain").   The mechanism that allowed the scope to rise was quite the engineering feat for a TV show.  As mentioned the targeting scope had to be folded to fit inside the console which was fitted on the top with a piece of 3/16” aluminum plate.  The aluminum plate covered the top of the helm console and had three doors cut into it for the targeting scope; two large doors towards the top and a smaller door below.  The two main doors would open by way of a motor and push-rods connected to them which would open as the rising sequence was activated allowing the folded assembly to rise from its stowed position after the doors were almost completely opened. 
This animation accurately shows the rising sequence from the stowed to the fully extended position.  You can see how the linkage and rotating parts allows the scanner to fold into the console

Once the support arms started to rise; the scope would tilt towards the back of the console in order for the entire
assembly to fit through the door opening at the top of the console. 
Once the arms began to rise above the console; the third smaller door which
was not motorized would begin to open due to the motion of the arms of the
targeting scanner pushing against it. 
The third door did not have any mechanism attached to it at all; it just
had a piano hinge that would allow the arm to push it up and open and a spring
which would pull the door down when the entire targeting scope assembly would
retract (which we never saw happen on screen). 
After the targeting scope arms had cleared the area covered by the two
main doors; they would close leaving the scope in the upright position through
the third door which matched the size of the targeting scope base. 
Another great view of the targeting scope from the third season episode "That Which Survives"
We very rarely saw this side of the scanner as we did in this great screen cap from "I Mudd."  We also get a good look at the two main doors closed after the Scope was extended only through the smaller third door
The targeting scope was used throughout the second and third
seasons and survived along with the rest of the helm / nav console after the
end of the show.  The entire console
along with the base armature of the scope was put on display in 1992 at the
National Air & Space Museum’s Star Trek exhibit.  The following year it was sold to the Planet
Hollywood Corporation who maintained possession of it until it was auctioned off
in April of 2003.  It disappeared from public view until it was displayed at the EMP Museum in Seattle for the 50 Star Trek anniversary exhibit which is open until March 5th, 2017.    

A great view of the scanner from a second season promo photo
Last edited by feek61 on November 11th, 2016, 7:08 am, edited 15 times in total.

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

November 6th, 2016, 6:42 am #10

In 2015, I was asked to re-create the missing pieces on the original Helm / Navigation console from TOS for the EMP Museums 50th Anniversary Exhibit.  Initially we proposed to do a very in-depth restoration similar to the scope being done to the Enterprise miniature.   Our goal was to restore the iconic console to the “last day of filming” condition.  We had planned on repairing the damaged sections, repairing the structural issues and then restoring the finish where damaged while leaving most of the original finish intact.  Due to budget constraints however, we were only able to replace the missing components.  The console has NEVER been displayed properly.  During the Smithsonian display in the 1990’s it had parts added that were not close to the original configuration.  My goal was to make the replacement parts as accurate as I could make them which included the correct button colors, button heights, lighting intensity and lighting pattern among other things.  For the most part I think we succeeded.  

Here are a few before and after photos.
After we finished the installation of the components
The Helm portion of the console
The Navigation portion of the console
The center Astrogator

The console lighting is comprised entirely of LED's so it can stay on during the entire run of the exhibit and there will be no heat build-up.

NOTE:  I know some of the rockers switches in these photos are in backwards; they were corrected before the exhibit opened!!!  :)