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Excelsior class bridge viewscreen

The viewscreen aboard the USS Excelsior displaying computer-enhanced images

USS Enterprise viewscreen, 2259

The viewscreen aboard the USS Enterprise in 2259

For the 21st century legal system device, please see view screen.

A viewscreen (or main viewing screen, main screen, or main viewer) was an audio/visual device used as early as the 2150s aboard starships, space stations, and at planetary facilities by space-faring organizations including Starfleet, the Borg Collective, the Cardassian Union, the Klingon Empire, and the Romulan Star Empire.

These devices were used to display various types of images from sensor data and communications signals.

General specifications[]

Viewscreen refit Enterprise

The viewscreen aboard the USS Enterprise displaying red alert status in the 2270s

Generally consisting of a large screen or window located on the bridge of a starship (or operations center of a space station or starbase), the viewscreen was an almost universal facet of space exploration and colonization dating as far back as the 22nd century, surviving well into the 23rd and 24th centuries.

Viewscreen targeting, remastered

The viewscreen aboard the USS Enterprise-D with a targeting reticule, 2364

Typically used to display images of the area immediately around or in front of a starship, the viewscreen could provide views from all directions, as well as call up data from the library computer. It was also essential in ship-to-ship communication, allowing face-to-face conference if so desired, utilizing subspace and other communications systems.

Visual contact, however, could only be achieved when in visual range. Intra-ship communications were also possible, though the main viewer was rarely used for this function. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Star Trek; TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "Who Watches The Watchers", "Ship In A Bottle"; DS9: "For the Uniform", "What You Leave Behind"; VOY: "The Cloud")

When necessary, the image on the viewscreen could be magnified – 24th century starships easily gaining a magnification of 106. The image could also be augmented, with the ship's computer displaying extrapolated images or graphics displaying sensor data. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; TNG: "The Survivors", "The Bonding"; ENT: "Broken Bow")



USS Franklin's main viewscreen

The main viewscreen aboard the USS Franklin.

Installed aboard early Starfleet vessels including Freedom-class starships, the viewscreen was a rectangular window located on the front bulkhead of the main bridge. Rectangular in shape, the window provided a wide screen view of the exterior space before the ship. Computerized and processed data, such as speed and schematics, could be projected or combined with the view. (Star Trek Beyond)


NX class viewscreen

The main viewer aboard Enterprise NX-01

Installed as early as 2151 for NX-class starships, the main viewer aboard these vessels provided a wide screen view of the space around the ship, as well as visual communications. They were capable of processing multiple inputs simultaneously, as was sometimes seen when two or more parties wished to have a joint conversation with Enterprise.


Muroc and Telev in a multi-party communication on Enterprise viewscreen

In the year 2152, the crew of Enterprise NX-01 mounted a sophisticated sensor on the grappler arm allowing their sensors to detect and display onscreen cloaked Suliban and Romulan vessels. (ENT: "Shockwave", "Minefield")

Dialogue in "Balance of Terror" suggests that 22nd century starships that fought in the Earth-Romulan War were without viewscreens, or at least incapable of visual communications. While this supposition was natural, Star Trek: Enterprise clearly established viewscreen technology present on United Earth vessels, as well as aboard Andorian ships, Klingon ships, and many others, while the Romulans seemingly did not (or chose to communicate through audio only).


Kelvin-type ships in service during the 2230s were still using window/viewscreen hybrids similar to the earlier Freedom-class. They had three windows for exterior view that could have computer data projected on it. The windows also had digital blinds and could be polarized. (Star Trek)


Walker class viewer

The main viewer on the USS Shenzhou

By 2249, Starfleet continued using the window-style viewscreen first used on the Freedom-class starships. Very similar to the Kelvin-type viewers, the Walker-class version was also split into three sections. Information could be displayed such as damage reports and incoming enemy ships and was capable of ship-to-ship communications. The viewer could enhance images that have been scanned by the ship's scanners. The windows had a blue tint to them. (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello", "Battle at the Binary Stars")


Crossfield class viewscreen

The main viewscreen of the Crossfield-class

Continuing a similar style to the Walker-class, the viewer on Crossfield-class ships featured a large window with blue tint around the edges. Unlike the Walker-class it was only a single window and not split into sections. As part of the USS Discovery's refit in 3189, programmable matter was integrated into the viewscreen, allowing the computerized overlay to display in 3D. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings", "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry", "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad", "The Sanctuary")


Constitution class viewscreen, remastered

A standard orbital scan of Psi 2000 on the Enterprise viewscreen

Returning to the same basic shape of the 22nd century viewscreen, the main viewer utilized aboard such 23rd century Starfleet vessels as the Constitution-class USS Enterprise was mounted at the front of the main bridge and was generally rectangular in shape.

Main viewer rear projection

Data from science station displayed on main viewer

Though a smaller viewscreen (utilized as early as 2254) would be supplanted by a larger one in 2266, the viewscreen aboard the Constitution-class vessel generally displayed images with a blue outline and featured a number of controls mounted to the left and right of the monitor. In 2257, the USS Enterprise was seen with a window-style viewscreen similar to the Crossfield-class. (DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow")

Capable of the same function as previous versions, this viewscreen model could also be used to display sensor data from within the starship, call up cross sectional diagrams of the ship itself, and display data re-routed from other stations. (TOS: "The Cage", "The Menagerie, Part II", "Where No Man Has Gone Before"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"; TOS: "Spock's Brain")

The iconic viewscreen from Star Trek: The Original Series would be the basis for all other versions seen after in the movies or spin-off TV series. The chase lights seen at the bottom of the screen were not present during the two pilot episodes, but were present with the debut of the more standard viewer in "The Corbomite Maneuver".

One of the main foci of the remastering effort was the replacement of most images seen on TOS viewscreens.

Alternate reality[]

USS Enterprise viewscreen, alternate reality

Viewscreen of the alternate Enterprise

In the alternate reality caused by Nero's temporal incursion, the USS Enterprise's viewscreen continued the Freedom-class design up to, at least, 2263. The viewer was a single, large window roughly 25 feet wide and 10 feet high that peered out to the top of the primary hull's forward section and into space. Images, video and data could be projected on it. (Star Trek; Star Trek Into Darkness; Star Trek Beyond)

Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman created the combination window/viewscreen in order to justify the placement of the bridge at the top of the ship: " was based on the odd fact that, although the bridge didn't usually have a window, it was nonetheless situated, much like a naval ship, at a high look out vantage point (which, by the way, seems unnecessarily vulnerable to attack). Rather than move the bridge, we added a window to justify its location." [1]

Constitution II-class[]

Constitution II class viewscreen

The refit viewer

During its refit in 2270, a new viewscreen was placed on the bridge of the Enterprise, this one much larger and sometimes utilized to display alert status. By 2293, Constitution II-class starships incorporated a digital clock mounted at the top of the screen. When the ship was moored in spacedock, the inactive viewscreen displayed a generic graphic. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

Movie versions of the main viewer aboard the Enterprise remained fairly consistent, until the destruction of the original starship and its replacement with the USS Enterprise-A. That ship again featured the familiar chase lights below the monitor as well as a somewhat anachronistic clock. For its appearance in Star Trek V, the screen (at times) utilized rear-projected images rather than post-production burn-ins. It was reused as the viewscreen aboard the USS Excelsior and USS Enterprise-B in The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek Generations with some cosmetic changes.


Galaxy class viewscreen

The main viewer aboard a Galaxy-class starship

Battle bridge viewscreen

The viewscreen on the battle bridge

As early as 2364, Federation vessels including Galaxy-class starships employed holographic viewscreens.

While not projecting solid holographic images, the viewscreen installed on the main bridge of such vessels as the USS Enterprise-D displayed three-dimensional images, as though observing the image with the naked eye.

Larger than that of the Constitution II- or Excelsior-class starships, the viewscreen aboard the Galaxy-class starship featured touch-sensitive controls at the bottom of the screen. Using high resolution, multi-spectral imaging sensor systems and could also be controlled from a panel on the right arm of the command chair or at the ops or tactical stations. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint")

While it is a subtle effect, the viewscreen seen throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation clearly displayed 3-D images. This effect was created in some scenes by providing multiple angles on the viewer, with the image on screen displayed at a corresponding angle, rather than a flat, single angle shot.

Galaxy-class starships also had a smaller viewscreen located on the battle bridge. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "The Arsenal of Freedom", "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II")


Defiant class viewscreen

The main viewer aboard the USS Defiant

The viewscreen on Defiant-class starships were much smaller than those on its contemporary Starfleet vessels to accommodate the limited space on the bridge and was trapezoid in shape. (DS9: "The Search, Part I", et al)


Huron viewscreen

The main viewer aboard the USS Huron

The viewscreen on Huron-type starships were much smaller than those on its contemporary Starfleet vessels and was square in shape. (TAS: "The Pirates of Orion")


Intrepid class viewscreen

The main viewer aboard the USS Voyager

By the year 2371, Intrepid-class starships such as the USS Voyager were equipped with viewscreens also employing holographic technology.

Intrepid class viewscreen, damaged

The hologrid behind the viewscreen when damaged

Slightly smaller in size, the Intrepid-class viewscreen also differed from those of the Galaxy-class in that a hologrid was present behind the displayed image. When damaged or deactivated, a hologrid, much like that in the ship's holodeck, appeared on the bulkhead. (VOY: "Year of Hell, Part II")

While it most likely employed the same technology as the viewscreen aboard the Enterprise-D, the viewer seen on Star Trek: Voyager is the only screen to so apparently utilize a hologrid.


Viewscreen Sovereign-class

The main viewer aboard the USS Enterprise-E

One of the more unusual viewscreen designs of the 24th century, the main viewer aboard the Sovereign-class USS Enterprise-E utilized a holographic image projected onto the front bulkhead of the main bridge.

While most viewscreens aboard Federation vessels of the era did use holographic technology, the images they displayed were generally projected within a clearly defined screen area. Not so aboard the Enterprise-E, with the viewscreen appearing from only a small area of projection systems near the floor of the forward bulkhead. When deactivated, the image projected disappeared, leaving only a blank wall in its place. (Star Trek: First Contact)

By 2375, however, such technology was replaced with a standard format viewscreen installed aboard the Enterprise-E, lasting through 2379 until the forward section of the bridge was destroyed during the Battle in the Bassen Rift. (Star Trek: Insurrection; Star Trek Nemesis)

One of the first and only steps forward from the fairly straight-forward screen first appearing in TOS, the viewscreen seen in Star Trek: First Contact seemingly appeared in mid-air. According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 3rd ed., p. ? however, the producers disliked the blank wall and opted to return the traditional viewer for Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis.


California class bridge, forward view

USS Cerritos viewscreen at red alert

The California-class' viewscreen consisted of a large window and computerized overlay. Unusually, the overlay filled the screen while in use, completely obscuring the window view. (LD: "Second Contact") However, after a minor refit, the viewscreen on the USS Cerritos only displayed overlays on parts of the screen. (LD: "Strange Energies")

When the viewscreen was deactivated, it became opaque on the Cerritos while it remained transparent on the USS Rubidoux. (LD: "First First Contact", "Much Ado About Boimler")


The Protostar-class lacked a standard viewscreen typically integrated into the ship's bulkhead of most 24th century Starfleet vessels and was instead dominated by a transparent roof dome for direct visual contact with the exterior. However, a holographic viewscreen could be summoned for hails or subspace communications. (PRO: "Terror Firma", "Supernova, Part 1")


USS Zheng He bridge-viewscreen

Main viewer on the USS Zheng He

In 2399, Inquiry-class starships such as the USS Zheng He utilized a type of viewscreen similar to that of the earlier Walker and Crossfield classes, with a large window and computerized overlay. (PIC: "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2")


By 2401, Sagan-class ships like the USS Stargazer continued to use the window style viewer like the Walker and Crossfield-classes with many of the same functions as previous classes. (PIC: "The Star Gazer")

Constitution III-class[]

In 2401, the Constitution III-class vessels such as the USS Titan returned to an opaque viewer much like previous ship classes like the original Constitution and Galaxy-classes. The viewer was capable of ship-to-ship communications, scanning debris and hazards and various other information that would be needed. In an emergency, the viewer could function as an airlock and open the bridge to space.(PIC: "The Next Generation", "Disengage", "Surrender")


Borg viewscreen, remastered

A Borg viewscreen

Borg cubes were equipped with special viewscreen technology, projecting images onto four free-floating square screens in a cube-shaped pattern somewhere within the ship.

Such a viewer was utilized by Locutus of Borg during the Borg incursion into Sector 001 in 2367. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II"; DS9: "Emissary")

This was the only incident in which a Borg viewscreen was shown, all other occasions (such as in "Scorpion, Part II") portrayed smaller monitors within the Borg cube. It is likely that such a screen was erected for the newly assimilated Locutus, as the Borg collective consciousness seems to negate any need for one.


Viewscreen DS9

A typical Cardassian viewer aboard DS9

Cardassian viewer, not in use

A Cardassian viewer, not in use

Quark's viewscreen

A viewer in Quark's

During the 24th century, starships and space stations constructed by the Cardassian Union utilized unique, holographically projected viewscreens.

Installed aboard Galor-class warships and Terok and Empok Nor-type stations, these Cardassian viewers consisted of hollow, oval-shaped frames. Images were projected into these frames, then disappeared when the viewer was deactivated.

This same technology was employed in the construction of Cardassian-type viewers. (DS9: "Emissary")

The operations center aboard Deep Space 9 featured a large viewscreen placed on a wall, which allowed viewing from everywhere in ops. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Quark's had the option for a large Cardassian-style viewscreen to be placed directly in front of the large glass mural in the bar. (DS9: "Rivals")


Jem'Hadar virtual sensory display visual

Point-of-view of a Jem'Hadar virtual sensory display.

Jem'Hadar ships eschewed traditional viewscreens for a virtual sensory display. Instead of occupying the forward wall of the bridge, the "viewscreen" was in fact a display within portable headsets (which only the Vorta supervisor and Jem'Hadar First were allowed to use). The headset was not well-tolerated by Humans, who could typically wear it only for short periods. Cardassians, by contrast, were shown to have similar tolerances to Jem'Hadar and Vorta. (DS9: "The Ship", "Call to Arms", "A Time to Stand", "Rocks and Shoals", "Tacking Into the Wind")


K't'inga class viewscreen

Viewscreen on a K't'inga-class vessel

As with many things Klingon, viewscreens installed aboard Klingon starships including Birds-of-Prey, K't'inga-class warships, and Raptor-class vessels were distinguished by angular shapes.

Klingon Bird-of-Prey viewscreen

Viewscreen on a Bird-of-Prey

Performing the same basic function as their Federation counterparts, 23rd century Klingon viewscreens aboard such ships as the IKS Amar were able to display tactical information in graphic and photographic formats. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; ENT: "Sleeping Dogs")



The main viewer aboard the IRW Khazara

Narada viewscreen

A viewscreen on the Narada

Viewscreens aboard Romulan starships, including D'deridex-class warbirds functioned very much like their alien counterparts during the 24th century.

Consisting of screens smaller than those used by the Federation and Klingon Empire, Romulan viewscreens (like that of the IRW Khazara) were rounded-off square shapes, accented with green rectangles at the top of the monitor.

As with most starships, the viewscreen was mounted on the forward bulkhead of the main bridge aboard Romulan vessels. (TNG: "Face Of The Enemy")

The Narada, a Romulan mining vessel, did not appear to have a centralized viewscreen. (Star Trek)


Vulcan High Command viewscreen

The viewscreen at the Vulcan High Command

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Civilian vessels[]

La Sirena main viewer

Main viewer of La Sirena, under attack by a Romulan bird-of-prey

Some civilian vessels, such as La Sirena, featured a window style viewscreen on the front of the ship, used to display tactical, navigational information as well as communications. (PIC: "The End is the Beginning", "Absolute Candor", "Stardust City Rag", "The Impossible Box", "Broken Pieces")

Booker's ship viewscreen, internal

Viewscreen of Booker's ship

By the 32nd century, starships like Booker's ship had large window style viewscreens that wrapped around one side of the bridge with a blue tint to them similar to Crossfield-class and Walker-class ships. The screen could display incoming projectiles and was capable for ship to ship communication. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 1")


See also[]

Background information[]

Coming of age live action plate

A bluescreen in place of the USS Enterprise-D viewscreen during filming

Admiral Striker, star patrol

The Defiant class viewscreen in Star Patrol!

In early design drafts for both the USS Voyager and the USS Defiant, the designers contemplated eliminating the viewscreen entirely. Attempts such as the holo-communicator in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the suspended-in-mid-air viewer in First Contact were made, but ultimately gave way to tradition. The viewscreen was considered an important staple of the Star Trek universe.

Beginning with the 2009 Star Trek film, the traditional viewscreen was phased out in favor of a large window (or set of windows) with a digital overlay. This type of viewscreen has been featured on every Starfleet vessel appearing on screen since then, including being retconned onto the original USS Enterprise.

The Defiant-class viewscreen was re-used as the viewscreen of the U.A.P. Icarus in Jonathan Frakes' Star Trek spoof Star Patrol!.

External link[]