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I've been noticing that everyone in Star Trek The Next Generation seems to sleep in a shrubbery:

Riker's shrubbery

Troi's shrubbery

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Notice in this image that the sill is void of nick-nacks except for the plant directly behind the bed (observation: I think it's literally the same prop used in the above two images).

Picard's shrubbery

Picard's other shrubbery

Is there a specific reason that everyone has plants at the head of their beds? Are they for decoration? Are they supposed to give you a little more oxygen when you sleep? I like how they're next to the window yet have to have their own little spotlight so they can stay alive.

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    Maybe the set designers are trying to plant ideas in our head. – Zibbobz Nov 10 '14 at 19:42
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    It's worth noting that at night plants are net consumers of oxygen, since no photosynthesis is going on and they still need to respire – user20310 Nov 10 '14 at 21:12
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    @Richard - Janeway doesn't count, she has no sense of style. Besides, Voyager was on its maiden voyage and probably didn't have a lot of superfluous decoration yet. The Enterprise and Starfleet Academy had that "lived-in" quality going... – Omegacron Nov 10 '14 at 22:22
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    @Richard - Regardless of whether Janeway had style or not, she wasn't on TNG. The Question specifically asks, "In Star Trek TNG..." – ShemSeger Nov 10 '14 at 22:33
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    I think the middle flower pot in the first two screencaps are the same prop. – Philipp Nov 11 '14 at 12:54
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In the 24th Century, you take your home with you

The Enterprise is not just a ship: It is the home for 1000 people. It is a little village in that regard. It is simply to give the appearance of a real traditional home.

Let’s face it, they are going to be living there for years on end: It is not as though they are on six month rotations, as current military do when they go to sea. Presuming the plants are native-ish to the crew member to whom the quarters were assigned, local plant life can bring a touch of home to their quarters.

As for their placement at the head of the bed, Star Fleet quarters have the bed butted up against the outer hull, which is curved along two axis. This leaves a lot of space that—failing plants and knick-knacks—would go totally unused. Also, consider these sets were designed in the 1980s and it exhibits wacky 80’s modernist style of putting plants everywhere.

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    @Richard: SynthPot? – Joe L. Nov 10 '14 at 20:56
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    Bashir gives Miles/Keiko a plant in DS9, Dax was planning to give Worf a plant when he moved to the Defiant. Crusher brings Data a plant. It seems like plants are a traditional gift in Trek. – Valorum Nov 10 '14 at 21:02
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    @Tritium21 Two flaws in your answer #1, Ryker and Diana have the exact (I think literally) same plant above their heads, so not native to the crew member (unless the same plant grows on both Betazed and Earth) #2. Turning your bed around and sticking your feet under the low ceiling would be a much better use of the 'extra space', you'd also have a pretty stellar view to fall asleep to. (@Zibbobz isn't the only punny one in here.) – ShemSeger Nov 10 '14 at 21:29
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    @ShemSeger: Troi is half-human and Riker has spent significant time on Betazed. Considering the actual relationship and history between the two of them, the fact that they'd have similar plants decorating their quarters isn't the most surprising thing in Star Trek history. – Ellesedil Nov 10 '14 at 21:54
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    "whacky 80's modernist style"... thems fightin' words, boy. – Omegacron Nov 10 '14 at 22:23
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It's also possible during the production era the plants were used to hide microphones. The bed sheets would have made a rustling sound, and a boom mic would have been awkward to hover above the bed, especially if certain camera angles were needed.

Also, the overall scenes would have suffered lighting issues without the plants. They reflect the light quite well as you can see in the screengrabs above, which is probably why they are spot-lit, without them they would need another source to lighten the scene.

They'll be fake too, so they would probably have used them in many other scenes too over and again.

Good value for money those plants.

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    So this is a great out-of-universe answer. So... why would Commander Riker want plants at the head of his bed? – Ellesedil Nov 10 '14 at 22:06
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    @Ellesedil - For the laydeez, obviously – Valorum Nov 10 '14 at 22:31
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    @Ellesedil: Riker loves planting seeds in the bedroom. Pulling a few roots. Exploring the bushes. Parting the leaves. Hiding in the undergrowth. I'm out of euphemisms. – James Sheridan Nov 11 '14 at 11:26
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    @JamesSheridan: Smelling the roses? – Jeff Nov 12 '14 at 22:04
  • @Jeff: Given that it's Riker we're talking about, he likely smelt the stems as well. – James Sheridan Nov 13 '14 at 7:55
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Also out-of-universe—I have a degree in stage production—it is very likely that the senior officer’s quarters are all the same set, so the plants are just there.

Sets are very, very expensive. Moving the furniture, repositioning a wall (esp. one designed to be repositioned) and changing the carpet and sheets can turn Worf’s man-cave into something Troi would call “cute” in about 30 minutes.

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    Picking up a plant and moving it to a table is not "very, very expensive" and can be done in about 5 seconds. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 12 '14 at 0:52
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    I think that's the point paul was making. I've worked with sets and they are "very, very expensive" which is why it's important to get materials that can be used on as many sets as possible. Plants are great for this. As you say they're also very easy to move. Moving a bookcase however, that's a pain in the neck I don't ever fancy doing again, but that's another story! What would be interesting would be to play 'spot the difference' on all the set items to see what was repeatedly used. – Mike Rouse Nov 12 '14 at 8:55
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    @Mike Okay but then it doesn't answer the question as to why the plants are always at the head of the bed :P If anything this answer suggests that it should be less likely, not more. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 12 '14 at 10:35
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    @BigHomie: Yeah, that makes sense. I think there are loads of reasons that the set designers would have done this; I just don't think that this answer gives any of them. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 12 '14 at 13:23
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    There are loads of reasons, but you would have to find the set dressers working on the production to find out what they were. Backstage crew, like magician's assistants, usually keep quiet about these things. Sometimes it's as simple as "there's a dozen plants in props storage and we only have 20 minutes." – paul Nov 12 '14 at 23:57
4

Has anyone considered the angle that maybe spending 24/7 in a rather sterile spaceship can make you partial towards "little spots of nature" to reconnect with something "natural" and "organic"? In my experience humans who spend a lot of time cooped up indoors with nothing "green" in sight tend to try to compensate for this in some way. Think potted plants in the office. This might just be more pronounced/exaggerated on starships, don't you think? If you discount the Arboretum and the ("fake") nature on the holodeck, there's not much "nature" on the Enterprise. So maybe the crew tries to make up for that. That would also explain why plants seem to be such a popular gift in the ST:TNG universe...

It would also be interesting to see whether non-human crewmembers share the "plants by the bed" thing. Data acquires a bed at some point, but AFAIK he has no plants near it/ at its head. And what about, say, Worf? Do we ever get to see his bed, and does it have plants? Troi is half-human after all, so maybe human nature is a factor.

As to why the plants are near the bed: Maybe it's just convenient. (You see them every evening/morning, less chance to forget to care for them, if 24th century plants need watering/trimming/fertiliser. Since Keiko's orchids apparently recquire active care I think it is reasonable to assume that they do.) Or maybe it adds to the "view"? Space + plants = prettier than just space? Or it's a left-over affectation from the days of the good old Terran windowsill, as a classical plant-space? Or, a less "esoteric" reason: Starfleet regulates these things, and for some (possibly emergency-related) reason, plants may only be placed in certain parts of/places in your quarters.

I know that this question is old, but I just felt that this angle deserved to be mentioned.

  • I like this answer. – ShemSeger Jan 3 '16 at 4:03
1

Simple reprocessed air is stale, plants are a great way to not only purify it but add odor to it, think roses etc.

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    Because a synthesized odour added to the ventilation system is so 23rd century? – ShemSeger Nov 10 '14 at 21:52
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    I have a hard time believing the environmental controls on the Enterprise-D are "simple" or produce "stale" air. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 12 '14 at 0:53
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    @ssdecontrol: At night, plants consume more oxygen than they release. Junior school-level science! – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 12 '14 at 10:21
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I haven't taken a biology class in about a decade. But I'm pretty sure I never heard that in school or anywhere else – shadowtalker Nov 12 '14 at 13:12
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    @ssdecontrol: newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/bot00/bot00191.htm scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/72363/… It's pretty common knowledge. IIRC it is/was required learning for Key Stage 2 biology, which is the curriculum in the UK culminating in examinations for 11-year olds. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 12 '14 at 13:21
1

Perhaps in the 24th Century, humans have remembered that connection to the plant world is important. Maybe they just didn't explain it to 20th Century TV viewers because they knew they wouldn't be able to handle it. :)

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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – Null Nov 12 '14 at 2:01
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    It seems to me it provides a comparable sort of answer as the other answers do, and is in fact similar to more than one of the other answers in content, but from a slightly different perspective. I did not mean it as a critique, nor as a request for clarification. However, your comment on my answer does ironically exemplify my hypothesis that 20th Century TV viewers (or 21st Century Internet users) may not be inclined to appreciate this point. – Dronz Nov 12 '14 at 7:05
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I imagine that in a storyverse where one spends years of their lives without a day/night cycle, with your only windows opening up to the vastness of the void, plants may help stave off insanity by connecting an individual to a familiar biosphere.

  • This seems very opinion-based. Can you offer any evidence that this is actually the case in the show? – Valorum Jan 3 '16 at 10:04
  • They never say it on the show if that's what you;re asking for. The answer isn't opinion though, it's basic psychology. – Minativ7 Jan 3 '16 at 15:39
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The real reason, was the quarters for various officers were simply redressed sets. They reused the same sets but slightly modified them for each character. They're just the living room section of Picards quarters redressed as a bedroom. That set was used over and over again for Picard's quarters, Admirals guest quarters, VIP quarters, etc. The plants are fake and added to the back behind frame in the windows....

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Most of the time, they're not just any plants. They're usually bromeliads. Most plants give off oxygen during the day, but use up oxygen at night. Not bromeliads. They give off oxygen at night. Hence, they're great bedroom plants.

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