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A darkened Galaxy-class observation lounge in 2364, as seen from space

The USS Enterprise-D's observation lounge

The second "observation lounge" on a Galaxy-class starship - Ten Forward

The observation lounge or conference lounge was a special designation referring to the briefing room on Excelsior-, Galaxy-, Sovereign-class, and Protostar-type starships as well as on the Reman warbird Scimitar. It included an expansive view of space on one side of the room. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "Chain of Command, Part I", "Too Short a Season"; Star Trek Nemesis; PRO: "Starstruck")

The observation lounge was originally termed a "ready room". This was at a time, during preproduction of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when that set was named the "away cabin". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (3rd ed., p. 21)) In the script for "Encounter at Farpoint", the conference lounge was called a "lounge deck" and the only detail of its design which was described was that it had "huge windows" that provided a view of "the immense span of the Starship's outer surface." [1]
Although space station Deep Space 9 wasn't depicted as having an observation lounge, the station did have an office for the facility's commanding officer and Production Designer Herman Zimmerman once likened it to an observation lounge. Pointing out the similarities, he said, "You can go in there and have private conversations. You can also have a fairly large group in there, 'cause it's a reasonably good-sized set. It has a window to space and you can watch the stars moving, out the window." ("The Deep Space Nine Scrapbook", DS9 Season 1 DVD special features)

Starfleet design

Aboard Starfleet vessels, the observation lounge was used as a meeting place for the ship's senior staff as well as special events and gatherings. Some went to the observation lounge simply for the view. Admiral Jameson usually found himself in the ship's observation lounge, looking out at the stars, just prior to a mission. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "Chain of Command, Part I", "Too Short a Season"; Star Trek Nemesis)

On both the Galaxy- and Sovereign-classes, the room was elongated, spanned the entire area aft of the bridge on Deck 1 and featured a large conference table. There was also a series of seven viewports, composed of transparent aluminum. (TNG: "In Theory") These viewports spanned from close to the floor to up along the angled ceiling, which faced the rear of the ship. (TNG: "Lonely Among Us")

The concept of the Starfleet variant of observation lounge, complete with its big conference table, was initiated after Gene Roddenberry suggested that the Galaxy-class bridge include a large oval table and be essentially a conference room, an idea that was deemed as lacking dramatic excitement. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 22) The windows from TNG's observation lounge were reused for the equivalent area seen in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek Nemesis, as well as the potential Ten Forward seen in Star Trek: Insurrection.


Location of the observation lounge on the Enterprise-B

The observation lounge on the Excelsior-class was located on the same deck as the main bridge.

In 2293, the location of this lounge was labeled on a MSD of the USS Enterprise-B. (Star Trek Generations)


A Galaxy-class observation lounge in 2367

A Galaxy-class observation lounge in 2370

An exterior view

The USS Enterprise historical sculpture display on the USS Enterprise-D

The observation lounge on the Galaxy-class was connected to the bridge through a short, ramped corridor, which originated at the upper starboard alcove of the bridge and led to a door on the starboard side of the conference lounge. Another door, on the port side of the room, led to another corridor, (TNG: "Datalore") at the end of which was a turbolift. The shape of the conference table matched the curvature of the exterior hull, and had seating and data pads for ten individuals. The captain usually sat at the head of the table, at either side. In 2365, two display screens were added and located at either side of the room, behind the table and adjacent to the doors. The observation lounge was decorated by plants, and had two replicator terminals. (TNG: "The Child") The room was also fitted with audio and visual recording devices behind a panel. (TNG: "The Nth Degree")

The Enterprise-D's observation lounge was scripted to first be shown on-screen during the initial scenes of "Encounter at Farpoint", while Picard tours the ship. However, the room does not appear during this sequence. In fact, the only scene of "Encounter at Farpoint" that is set in the location was not scripted to be, as that scene was intended to be in Picard's cabin instead. [2]
Different angles of the conference lounge were shown on TNG and, when directing episodes of the series, Les Landau was careful to make varied use of the room. "I remember he was always looking for new ways to shoot the observation lounge," offered Michael Okuda. ("Tapestry" audio commentary, TNG Season 6 Blu-ray) However, filming in the set was notoriously difficult. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 25/26, No. 6/1, p. 83)

USS Enterprise-D

For a number of years, the wall opposite the windows on the USS Enterprise-D featured an alto-relievo-style display of scale sculptures of six of the Earth vessels previously commissioned as the USS Enterprise as of 2364. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint")

The display of USS Enterprise sculptures echoes a memorial on the recreation deck of the USS Enterprise, as depicted in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Each of the sculptures was created with fiberglass-covered foam. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (3rd ed., p. 21)) Ronald D. Moore has stated that these ships are now in his possession. "I saved them from the dumpster," he revealed. "They're in my storage locker, waiting to be mounted on a wall." (All Good Things (Blu-ray) audio commentary)

In 2366 of an alternate timeline, the battleship Enterprise-D had an observation lounge which omitted the display of Enterprise models and seemed to have only one door. However, the conference table was still a feature of the room, as was a row of windows built into one of the walls. The conference table was at waist height so that occupants stood at the table. One addition was a large tactical graphic of the Enterprise-D, illustrated in blue and yellow on a transparent, vertical stand. (TNG: "Yesterday's Enterprise")

The script for "Yesterday's Enterprise" specified that this observation lounge had been "converted into a war room atmosphere." However, the script also described the conference table as "filled with wartime displays and charts," which is not true of the table in the episode's final version. [3] Of the room, Ronald D. Moore remarked, "It's unrecognizable, with the angles and whatever they've done production-wise. You don't see the big wall with the gold ships on it, any more. You're not even really clear what set you're in, it looks so different from the standard obs lounge." Regarding the Enterprise-D tactical graphic, Michael Okuda explained, "I think it was made for ['Yesterday's Enterprise']." The graphic was reused in the teaser of "Captain's Holiday". ("Yesterday's Enterprise" audio commentary, TNG Season 3 Blu-ray)

The display of Enterprises was removed, for unspecified reasons, in 2368. Also at this time, ribbed light vents were added below the windows. (TNG: "Redemption II", "Darmok") The redress of the set for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country gave the production team an excuse to redesign the set for Season 5. The gold ships on the wall were rescued from a dumpster by Ronald D. Moore after he had been tipped off by Michael Okuda that they were being discarded.[3]

In 2369, the display screens were permanently illuminated, with the port display showing information about the Enterprise systems and the starboard display giving status reports of various Starfleet vessels. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I")

The modifications made to the observation lounge were retained for all past scenes included in TNG: "All Good Things...", although the sculptures of the ships were returned to the back wall. "In fact," recalled Ronald D. Moore, "I loaned them back to the company to do that [....] They had to ask my permission to bring them back in for that show." (All Good Things (Blu-ray) audio commentary)

The conference lounge served a multitude of purposes; in addition to being a meeting place, it could also host informal parties (TNG: "The Game") and held events for "Captain Picard Day". (TNG: "The Pegasus")

In late 2367, the observation lounge was decompressed after the transparent aluminum of a window was temporarily phased out of normal space by pockets of subspace instability in a dark matter nebula. (TNG: "In Theory")

In 2370, effects due to the D'Arsay archive transformed the observation lounge into a swamp. (TNG: "Masks")

During the first season of TNG, the conference lounge was a redress of the sickbay set on Paramount Stage 9; in sickbay scenes, the outlines of the windows can be distinguished over the biobeds. Set Decorator John Dwyer recalled how the set's transformation into its observation lounge variant was achieved; "We hauled most of the sickbay stuff up into the ceiling, took out the half-round wall on one side and put in a half-round window wall, and then we brought in our banana table and all the stuff."
By the second season, there was sufficient budget to build a new, separate set for use as the observation lounge. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 24) The set was subsequently redressed to serve as an art studio in TNG: "A Matter of Perspective", the captain's dining room in TNG: "Sins of the Father" and "Violations", Beverly Crusher's rehearsal room in TNG: "A Fistful of Datas", a meeting room where the Federation Archaeology Council gathers in TNG: "Qpid", and the USS Enterprise-A officers' mess in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The set was rebuilt for a brief scene during ENT: "These Are the Voyages...", although there were several minor changes from the original design.
The scenes that take place in the observation lounge were a subject of ridicule from the TNG writing staff, the members of which occasionally visited the set and discussed stories there. "We used to make fun of what we call 'the obs lounge scenes,' because those are generally scenes," said Brannon Braga, with a laugh, "where a lot of exposition came out and, in more unfortunate episodes, technobabble." Ronald D. Moore elaborated, "The obs lounge scenes tended to be written almost by a patter, like you could really almost just write it rhythmically. Picard sitting down. 'Report.' And then, Riker gives the report and then Geordi says, 'Well, the TECH problem with this is that it's gonna blow up the ship for TECH reasons,' and then Data says, 'But there is a theory, of how we could TECH the TECH.' And then Riker says, 'Has it ever been done before?' And Geordi says, 'No, but he's right; if we just TECH the TECH,' and then Picard eventually says, 'Make it so.'" (All Good Things (Blu-ray) audio commentary)
The observation lounge was directed in a new way by Jonathan Frakes. "I was the first director to take the camera up outside the observation lounge on TNG," he proclaimed. "I shot into the room as if it were way up." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. 168))
While directing "Genesis", Gates McFadden was hampered by filming in the observation lounge set. "What everyone said was true, the observation lounge was the hardest [set] to shoot," she admitted. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 25/26, No. 6/1, p. 83)
At one time during the writing of "All Good Things...", Brannon Braga made a mental note that he and Ronald D. Moore were writing the "last obs lounge scene," in Braga's words. (All Good Things (Blu-ray) audio commentary)


A Sovereign-class observation lounge

The Enterprise models in 2063

The Enterprise models and master systems display in 2379

The layout of the Sovereign-class observation lounge was similar to that of the Galaxy-class; the conference table was curved in a similar manner, and there was also the same number of seats. However, the room connected directly to the bridge via two doors on either side of the master systems display. Steps inside the lounge led down to the table level. The room also lacked viewscreens during the early 2370s.

USS Enterprise-E

In 2373, the USS Enterprise-E conference lounge also had a "past Enterprises" display, though it took the form of a large glass case enclosing seven full models on stands (the Enterprise-D being the most recent). The display was damaged when Captain Jean-Luc Picard smashed the case with a phaser rifle in a fit of hysteria following an attack from his one-time abductors, the Borg. (Star Trek: First Contact)

By 2379, the case was split to either side of a new, large computer terminal and the doors were relocated. (Star Trek Nemesis)

The Enterprise-E observation lounge was built on Paramount Stage 29 and was an extensive redress of the TNG observation lounge, having been spared from destruction in Star Trek Generations. That revamped set was later connected to the bridge for the first time in Star Trek: First Contact. For its appearance in the ENT finale "These Are the Voyages...", it was restored to its TNG appearance.