Star Trek: Lower Decks Just Ended The Bridge Window Versus Viewscreen Debate

By Josh Tyler | 1 hour ago

One of the things fans love most about Star Trek is how carefully thought out and consistent all the technical details of its sci-fi world are. It’s something no other franchise really has, and it’s critical part of what makes the Trek world seem so real and worth investing in. They really did think everything out when the show debuted back in the sixties, including how the ship’s famous viewscreen on the bridge worked. Yes, it was a viewscreen and not a bridge window. But recent versions have tried to retcon that into some sort of window, and a debate has raged among fans about whether that huge thing at the front of the ship is a window or a viewer. Star Trek: Lower Decks just ended that bridge window versus viewscreen debate in its season 2 finale episode, “First First Contact”.

In the episode the USS Cerritos is forced to power down everything on the ship. The ship’s commander Ransom reveals that this means powering down all their navigational instruments, as well as the ship’s viewscreen. And when the viewscreen is powered down, Ransom will have no way to see where he’s going while piloting the ship.

Their solution? Jettison the viewscreen…

With the viewscreen gone and open space visible, Ransom activates manual steering mode, a silly but fun idea first introduced in Star Trek: Insurrection

Ransom manual steering the USS Cerritos
Riker manual steering the USS Enterprise

We now have proof that on the Cerritos, that big thing up at the front of the bridge is a viewscreen and not a window. They actually have to detach that entire section of the ship so that Ransom can see out. Incidentally, in the episode it looks like the viewscreen is actually designed to be rem0ved from the ship, in an emergency. That actually makes a lot of sense. Star Trek: Lower Decks, despite being animated, is canon. So, it’s now logical to assume that the same is true on nearly every Starfleet ship, or at least the ones in the prime Star Trek universe.

There’s still no accounting for the alternate JJ Abrams universe or the weird alternate Star Trek: Discovery universe though. Star Trek: Lower Decks only takes place in the prime Star Trek timeline. I guess that still has a bridge window, even though it makes absolutely no sense…

JJ Abrams Bridge Window
Star Trek: Discovery’s Bridge Windoiw

Along the way to showing us that it’s not a window, Star Trek: Lower Decks demonstrates why a viewscreen makes more sense than a window anyway. The bridge viewer is located in one of the most sensitive areas of the ship. Putting easily breakable glass there just so you can see out would be pretty stupid, because glass is a lot easier to crack than armoed plating. You’d want to protect the bridge of your ship, not put a giant window there for some angry Klingon to throw rocks at.

At one point things get so hair that rocks impact the bridge and send Mariner tumbling out into space. If there’d been a bridge window there, the rocks would have broken the window, caused a mass evacuation of air and sent Mariner shooting out into space like a rocket with no way to retrieve her. Instead, with Mariner gently tumbling away, Ensign Jennifer jumps out and does this…

It’s a viewscreen. It’s always been a viewscreen and it always should be a viewscreen. Star Trek’s bridge window versus viewscreen debate is over.