There’s no doubt that The Enterprise-D was a way more lax and laid back ship than her predecessor. Fans used to refer to it as a “luxury liner”. The bridge crew was way more chummy. There were men in skirts, women in transparent robes, and kids running around with teddy bears. I’m pretty sure everyone was schtupping. The ship even had it’s own bartender. So, with all this pull away from traditional militarism, why was there still something as old-fashionably authoritarian as a captain’s chair?
A lot readers wondered why there’s no captain’s chair beyond the one at the conference table on the Vikrant’s bridge. Again, I’d have to say, why would there be? Kirk’s center chair was definately a way of showing who’s boss. It’s in the middle of the control center of the ship, for heaven’s sake. But it also had a function. On that tiny bridge, Kirk could swing 360º in any direction and check out any monitor and address any station he wanted without getting up. It was more than symbolic. It made his job easier.
Picard’s chair, on the other hand, is nothing more than a glorified TV watching station. His only view is of the main screen. He can’t really see the helm or navigation, and he sure as rain can’t see any other vital part of the bridge. When he gives orders to tactical he has to bark at someone he can’t see without breaking his neck. A captain’s chair on the Enterprise D’s bridge is useless because the bridge is made for exploration on foot. It’s not a place that can be taken in at a glance. Even as a place for the captain to simply sit down and work, it sucks. There’s not even a table to set things on. All Picard can do is twiddle his thumbs and watch the stars go by.
The only reason why the captain’s chair exists on the Enterprise D is because of tradition. It doesn’t serve any other function than to show who’s in command, kind of like a throne. That just doesn’t mesh with The Next Generation‘s take on Starfleet. So, when the Vikrant’s bridge was enlarged to a two level affair the captain’s chair became even more useless. A center chair on the Vikrant would also undermined the idea that, in this new Starfleet, being captain is not the old fashioned, command barking institution Delos Reyes still wishes it was.
You know, that’s one of the things that always had me wondering when I saw the series, and could never really codify, but you did it for me here. Well done! I did wonder why they had that kind of chair on TNG, as Picard couldn’t see the whole bridge, unlike Kirk, who was elevated, and could turn all the way around.