I know the obvious out of universe reason for the discrepancy in the computing systems in the reboot universe and TOS universe in ST, but is there an in-universe account for the substantial difference in the computing systems?

TOS bridge

Reboot bridge

  • 3
    I have heard the claim that it was due to researching Nero's ship, but that doesn't make sense as it was in Klingon custody at the time.
    – Izkata
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 4:16
  • 2
    I'm afraid you are mistaken. It is not the Federation's technology that has changed, it is our remote-visualization technology and receiver personnel (commonly referred to as "writers of the show"). The time-quake induced by Nero and Spock also permanently modified the perception. It is to be assumed that by the time the Abrams-Viewport reaches TNG-time, you won't be able to recognize the Borg anymore...
    – Zommuter
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 11:30

5 Answers 5


The change in terminal interfaces on star ships must have occurred some time before Nero arrived in the alternate timeline. What drove the change is unknown, and will likely remain unknown. However, you can see that there are significant differences between the Original Series bridge and the bridge on the USS Kelvin.

Here we can see that the Kelvin has multiple large screens all around the bridge, view screens in front and random displays at the side/aft stations. Most controls, however, remain as individual key, switches and levers. Kelvin Bridge view front Kelvin Bridge view aft

Later, when the USS Enterprise's bridge is revealed, although the aesthetic has changed dramatically, interface-wise the biggest change is to replace the physical switches and toggles with touch-panels. There are still some physical manipulators, even at stations that wouldn't seem to obviously need them, such as communications (see the big sliding lever right in the middle of Uhura's panel). Enterprise Bridge view front Enterprise Bridge view aft

Thus, from the Kelvin to the Enterprise the only major change was from physical to virtual buttons, and some holographic display upgrades. Keep in mind too that it is unknown how old the USS Kelvin's bridge was, but at minimum we know that the roughly 20 years passed between the two bridge designs. In the modern world of computers that would more than account for the changes and improvements in technology (think of a laptop from 20 years ago compared to a modern one with a touch screen).

So, as I said earlier the change in computer tech started before the Narada arrived, it's cause is unknown at this time, and the cause is likely to stay unknown for the foreseeable future.

  • 2
    Ah, but you can't apply the speed at which technology is progressing now to other time periods. The technological advances in the late 20th and early 21st century had an abnormally high rate, going much faster than later developments. This was caused by the events in Future's End.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 6:23
  • 1
    @MrLister That is a good point. But there is also no reason to think real life can't apply. Besides which, perhaps Future's End never happened in the new time line which is why the technology is divergent to begin with. Like I said, the change is unknown and is likely to remain unknown.
    – Xantec
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 12:33
  • @Mr Lister - is this really an issue of "technological advances" though? It could be that the computers of TOS were equally powerful, but aesthetic preferences in the style of the interface were different in that timeline, for whatever reason.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 16:58
  • @Hypnosifl That is why I focused on the interfaces and displays in my answer, rather than actual computer(s) they drive.
    – Xantec
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 17:32
  • @MrLister: Those events were deleted from the timeline at the end of the episode. [edit: well, or were they?!] Of all the advances that Henry Starling claimed ownership over, either he overestimated his influence in developing them, or 1996 in that alternate timeline was much more technologically advanced than ours in ways that weren't really shown in the episode. Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 10:41

It changed because they had a bigger budget, and contemporary expectations from high tech design has changed. Looking any more into it is really nitpicking beyond realistic expectations of canon. I doubt the reboot producers/writers intended for updates to the design to be viewed as an in-universe event (you may as well ask what's the in-universe significance of Khan now being white).

But you're also comparing the wrong bridges. The Enterprise and Enterprise-A bridge has evolved throughout the franchise, even in the prime universe. Abrams clearly modeled his Enterprise on its most modern-looking incarnation from Star Trek IV:

Screen capture of the white with black trim color scheme of the *ST IV* Enterprise-A bridge.

It's somewhat similar to the Enterprise refit bridge style we begin seeing in ST:TMP: The light-grey washed bridge from *ST:TMP* looks like a stepping stone between the TOS/TAS bridge and the *ST: IV* bridge.

—especially in this TMP toy set, which replaced the light grey color scheme with white: *Star Trek: TMP* U.S.S. Enterprise Bridge toy set, which has a bright white bridge similar to the *ST:IV*/Abrams bridge.

The ST V and ST VI updates to make the bridge look more "modern" in the eyes of late 80s/early 90s audiences, ironically, makes it look much more dated today:

2293 Enterprise-A refit from *ST VI*

Anyway... back to the Abrams/ST IV bridge, here are the main similarities:

Image of the Enterprise-A bridge at the end of *ST IV*, showing that the helm console is entirely touchscreen.

  • Obviously, the whitewashed walls, ceiling and stations immediately stand out from the other bridge designs, which all use off-white colors like egg-shell/beige, blue-grey, or gunmetal. The absence of the tan/maroon/orange highlights found in other versions also makes the 1701-A from ST IV look a lot cleaner.
  • The newly minted Enterprise-A also eliminates all those awkward, outdated-looking toggle switches, keypads, dials and gauges and instead replaces them with an all-touchscreen interface, foreshadowing the introduction of LCARS/iOS/Windows 8 (apparently, Nicholas Meyer decided this looked too fake and reintroduced physical switches and gauges in ST VI). Anyway, the shiny black touch screens and white paint job are a dead ringer for the reboot Enterprise.
  • Notice the gently curved helm console just like the one in the reboot. The Enterprise-D, Enterprise-E, Voyager, and the Defiant all share this trait as well.

So, just like the Klingons, the tricorders, the uniforms, and the ship's exterior, the reboot designers took inspiration from the old but updated them to look more futuristic to modern audiences while still being recognizable to old school fans. And, frankly, they did a much better job with the bridge than they did with Klingons. And the bridge is also much truer to the original than the reboot engineering section.

  • Can you elaborate on "But you're also comparing the wrong bridges", please? Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 9:22
  • @O.R.Mapper See my edit. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 11:25
  • Oh, ok, that was referring to out-of-universe reasons as well. I see. In-universe, of course the OP is comparing the right pair of bridges. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 11:47
  • Wasn't the Bird of Prey the only bridge seen in IV?
    – Xantec
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 13:53
  • @Xantec: The Enterprise-A is revealed at the very, very end of IV. After the whales are released and Kirk gets demoted back down to a captain, the crew are sent to their new ship assignment. When they enter the spacedock, it appears as if they'll be assigned to the Excelsior, but they fly over the NX-2000, revealing NCC-1701-A sitting behind it. The scene of the Enterprise-A bridge is the very last scene before we see the 1701-A jump to warp and the credits roll. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 23:15

It's entirely an art direction thing, nothing more.

If the contention is true -- that Classic Spock was sent from the 'original timeline' to this altered one, then his ship and the Romulan mining ship should bear the familiar characteristics of TNG-like starships of the time. Neither one does; the Jellyfish's controls and interior design are largely indistinguishable from 23rd century FederAbrams starships (save the insanely large viewscreen/windows/transparent aluminum/whatever-that-is for the viewable areas) and the Romulan mining vessel looks like a big wet metallic version of the Goblin King's lair from Labyrinth.

Barring a decent onscreen explanation for why this is so (the canonical status of the Countdown comics are under contention; apparently the script writers for the new Star Trek movies can't decide whether or not they actual 'count' at all) the only thing left to really surmise is that they just look different because this production crew likes their starships to look a certain way.


The effects of time travel in the Star Trek Universe are thought to have more than singular event happenings in some instances when you change the near past it may change the further past see "Year in Hell" (particularly the ending where the scientist/mad man moves away from his work delaying the time wars) and "Before and After" (which is one giant retcon of Kes's life). This is like a built in retcon.

  • "Year of Hell" isn't a great example; the Krenim weapon ship had been erased from the timeline, and the natural antecedent of this is that Anorax never decided to build it. This opens up some tricky questions about how such a weapon could ever really work in practice, but if we take it as read on screen, this isn't so much an example of time travel autonomously affecting past events, as it is an example of one specific piece of time manipulation that is inherently and intrinsically linked to a single past event. Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 10:45

As pointed out by Xantec and others, a lot of changes in technology were already there, before Nero arrived with the Narada.

However, there is an in-universe explanation for the dramatic technology change after the Narada/Kelvin incident (albeit non-canon), given by screenwriter Roberto Orci and director J.J. Abrams:

Quote from Memory Alpha:

The scans the Kelvin took of the Narada's 24th century technology, that went with the survivors on the shuttles, were used by 23rd century Starfleet to reverse engineer the more "advanced" technology seen in the alternate reality, according to a post by Star Trek screenwriter Roberto Orci on Ain't It Cool News. Director J.J. Abrams also said in an interview with MTV that readings from the Narada "inspired ideas and technology that wouldn't have advanced otherwise."

Source: https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Narada

The AICN and MTV articles are linked on the Memory Alpha page.

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