The command chair, also referred to as the captain's chair, is the most important position on board a starship bridge. This seat, as its alternate name implies, is occupied by the captain of the vessel, or the officer who commands the vessel in the captain's absence. The ship's duty officer sits on the command chair at all times and monitors all operations on the bridge. The chair is usually equipped with companels and other related equipment. In addition, some versions can swivel, so the commanding officer can easily turn to face any relevant station.
The right arm of the command chair on the bridge of the NX-class Enterprise included a control panel that could flip up at the touch of a control. Additionally, both arms of the chair included at least one companel. An adjustable panel built into the chair's left arm had the additional capacity of being able to fire spatial torpedoes from the starship. (ENT: "Fight or Flight", "Cold Front")
While serving aboard Enterprise in May 2151, Vulcan Subcommander T'Pol used a companel on the chair's right arm to contact an away team on board an Axanar starship, and also contacted the Armory by using a companel on the chair's left arm. T'Pol later deployed the docking arm by remotely extending it from the chair's right arm. (ENT: "Fight or Flight")
When Ensign Travis Mayweather assumed temporary command of Enterprise later that year, he was slightly hesitant to accept advice, from Ensign Hoshi Sato, that he occupy the command chair rather than his typical position at the helm. Once he moved to the captain's chair, Mayweather remarked, "The bridge looks a lot different from here." (ENT: "Cold Front")
In 2152, while passing a trinary star system that was emitting a dangerous form of radiation, the entire crew of Enterprise – with the exception of T'Pol – became affected and began to obsess over trivial matters. Charles "Trip" Tucker, the starship's chief engineer, became obsessed with the command chair which, according to Captain Jonathan Archer, was not comfortable enough. Commander Tucker eventually fixed the problem by lowering the chair one centimeter. (ENT: "Singularity")
In 2154, Captain Erika Hernandez showed Captain Archer the bridge of her ship, the second NX class starship, Columbia. Archer suggested the installation of a lumbar support in Columbia's command chair, as Hernandez would probably be spending a lot of time in the chair. (ENT: "Home") When Enterprise was refitted following the Xindi mission, one of the additions was a completely redesigned captain's chair, which Commander Tucker joked "came with everything but its own protein resequencer". (ENT: "Borderland")
The command chairs installed aboard ships of the Constitution-class in the 2260s featured three slightly different versions of the same command chair. Most, such as the one on the USS Enterprise, featured a backrest that only reached the mid back. The 2250s version of this chair had a "gooseneck viewer" on the right armrest. (TOS: "The Cage") A few, such as that of the USS Lexington, had a full backrest.(TOS: "The Ultimate Computer")
During the early 2270s, Constitution-class starships went through a refit. The command chair of Captain James T. Kirk was upgraded with not only a full back support, including an automatically adjustable headrest, but also a safety restraint mechanism that allowed the armrests to hold down the occupant during turbulence and red alert. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
In 2364, Captain Jean-Luc Picard showed young Wesley Crusher the command chair aboard the USS Enterprise-D. A panel on the right arm of the chair had been designed for log entries, library computer access and retrieval, viewscreen control and intercoms. The left arm of the chair was equipped with a panel that could be flipped open to reveal backup conn and ops panels, plus armament and shield controls. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint")
By 2365, the command chair on the Enterprise-D had been upgraded to a newer version with padded armrests and the replacement of the hidden control panels with permanently open ones. This chair remained on the bridge until the ship's destruction in 2371. (TNG: "The Child"; Star Trek Generations)
Gallery of command chairs
For Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, set dresser John Dwyer made sure to acquire a new command chair for the Enterprise. "The old chair was flat up the back and had two aluminum panels that locked on your leg, with buttons on them," he recalled. "It was a real hindrance to the actors. Not only did you have to remember your lines and your moves, you had to get out of this thing... so we constructed one that was easy to get out of and looked semi-comfortable." (Captain's Log: William Shatner's Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, pp. 143-144)
The script of "Encounter at Farpoint" does not specify that the controls on the left arm of the chair are hidden beneath a panel, although Picard opens a panel on the chair's left arm in the final version of the episode.
In the past time-frame of TNG: "All Good Things...", the command chair on the bridge is not the same chair that was used in the first season, but rather, the upgraded chair that was introduced in the second season.
The command chair was not intended to be replaced for the film Star Trek Generations but had to be, after the production staff discovered – fifty hours before filming – that it had been stolen. With time running out, shop crews labored for a straight eighteen hours to craft a new chair. They fashioned the replacement out of fiberglass molded over foam built on an old frame from the first season. The thief had left behind, fortunately for the production crew, the chair's cast-iron base, so that was also used. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 3rd ed., p. 312)
The command chair of the Enterprise-E was designed by illustrator John Eaves, who placed the chair a few inches above all the others on the starship's bridge in order to accentuate the captain's position, focusing the bridge design on him. (Star Trek: Communicator issue #110, p. 22)
In a deleted scene from Star Trek Nemesis, the Enterprise-E's command chair is refitted with seatbelts. This chair design later served as the command chair for the Enterprise (NX-01) in Season 4 of Star Trek: Enterprise.
The NX-class command chair was the only chair on the NX-class bridge that was not bought from an Italian showroom. Set decorator James Mees commented, "I bought the seat itself at a boating and marine supplier. I recovered it in leathers in our colors and some different things like that, and then the rest of the chair we built from scratch; there's a retractable arm and a retractable video screen in it, and the base lights up and it completely swivels. It's quite exciting!" The chair's armrests and base were built specially. To help Mees finalize the details, senior illustrator John Eaves drew some sketches of the chair. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 3, pp. 85 & 86) Ultimately, the NX command chair featured the smallest screen of all the plasma screens on the NX class bridge, measuring seven inches across. For ENT: "Singularity", a potential updated version of the NX class command chair – an over-planned chair supposedly designed by the obsessive Trip – was based on a design by John Eaves. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 144, pp. 28 & 30)
Early in the run of Star Trek: Enterprise, the opportunity to sit in the NX-class command chair proved to be a temptation to the series' regular cast. "I think pretty much everybody has [sat in it], yeah," laughed Scott Bakula, shortly after working on the first several episodes. "We joke about it. I come in and Anthony [Montgomery] will be sitting in my chair: 'What are you doing?' We're laughing about it. He jumps up." Concerning the regard that the series regulars in general had for the chair, Bakula went on to conclude, "We're having a lot of fun with it." (Star Trek Monthly issue 84, p. 32)
As shown in the blooper reel on the Star Trek DVD and Blu-ray, the captain's chair is not actually bolted onto the floor, as Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine accidentally knocked it over while filming Spock's attack on Kirk.