When the Enterprise appeared in the original Star Trek series, one of the ship’s most iconic features was the view screen on the bridge. That continued into The Next Generation, when the screen got even bigger and (according to production notes) was theoretically enabled with holographic capabilities. Except was it actually a screen or a window with a holographic overlay? That debate, which has raged for decades, has now been ended.
In Star Trek: Picard’s eighth episode of season 3, the show made it absolutely clear whether it’s a window or a screen on the bridge of the Titan. And they did it by opening up the USS Titan’s hull. Take a look…
And here’s what it looked like from the inside…
As you can see in the above shots, the spot where the bridge screen should be opened up to empty space. But it wasn’t a window that got rolled down; rather, it was a solid section of the hull that opened up.
That’s right, hull. There’s a solid piece of the hull behind the view screen, a piece of the hull that can apparently be opened like a pair of shutters when needed in an emergency.
Why would a ship need this feature? Lots of reasons. If the viewscreen malfunctions and you actually DO need a window in order to see where you’re going, this plus an active forcefield would give you that. It’s also a quick way to evacuate the ship should it end up on the ground after a crash.
The whole window versus bridge screen debate wasn’t even really a thing until 2009. Before that, everyone accepted that Star Trek’s starships used screens placed against a blank piece of hull. A window wouldn’t have made sense since the bridge is the most important part of a starship, and a window would be the most brittle and breakable thing (even a transparent aluminum window) you could put there.
In 2009 though, JJ Abrams debuted his vision of the Star Trek universe and his version of the Enterprise. His Enterprise had a bridge window, which everyone could just look out at in order to wave at the universe.
That got some fans debating whether it was a window all along, but as this Star Trek: Picard episode proves, those fans were wrong.
The JJ Abrams Star Trek movies exist in a totally separate universe known as the Kelvinverse and really have nothing to do with the normal Star Trek canon. So they can have their nonsense windows over there; over here in the real Star Trek universe, we have sensible viewscreens and occasionally used shutters.
This isn’t the first time a modern Star Trek series has tackled the viewscreen versus bridge window debate. Last year Star Trek: Lower Decks took it on as well by showing us that the USS Cerritos has a solid piece of a hull there. They demonstrated it by removing that piece of hull and activating a forcefield in the hull to create a window they could view through in an emergency.
That episode of Lower Decks should have settled the debate. CBS has stated that Star Trek: Lower Decks is canon. But, since it’s animated, some fans were unwilling to accept this as a canon explanation.
Now we have that same explanation in live action too. The debate is over. It’s a viewscreen, not a bridge window.