This happens throughout all the series:

WORF: Captain... Klingon attack cruiser decloaking, bearing zero-one-zero mark three-two-seven.

PICARD: On screen.


PICARD: Report.

RIKER: There's an object of some kind closing in on our position.

PICARD: On screen.


KIRA: We have a Cardassian warship approaching. Fast.

SISKO: On screen.


TUVOK: I'm picking up a vessel.

JANEWAY: On screen.

Even worse, here's an example from "Q Who" where Picard has to ask to zoom in:

WORF: We are being probed.

RIKER: What's the source of the probe?

WORF: A ship. It is on an intercept course.

PICARD: On screen.

borg wide angle

PICARD: Magnify.

borg zoomed

(Worf, you can't just zoom in right away?)

What is on the view screen prior to the order to show the object of interest on the screen?

Why does no one in Star Fleet just instantly switch the screen, without being asked? And why ever give a super wide-angle shot?

I realize a likely answer is for dramatic effect, but as I just recently re-watched TNG this bugged me a bit and I'm wondering if there is actually an in-canon explanation.

  • 6
    What use would there be for a captain if the crew did things without being ordered to?
    – Xantec
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 2:59
  • 1
    This happens on other shows too. Off the top of my head, NCIS has this for both the squad room tv, and the MTAC screen. Aside from that, I think it simply flows from it being presumptuous for a lower rank officer to make a decision about the higher ranking officer's control.
    – user16696
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 3:44
  • 1
    For example, look at the yellow or red alerts. Only the commanding officer can declare them, unless a previously decided event happens (ship taking fire is an automated red alert by the computer). Even when the chief of security like Worf KNOWS that they should be at red alert, he still suggests it and lets Picard tell him NO youtube.com/watch?v=edflm7Hh3hs
    – user16696
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 3:47
  • I guess it's similar to Babylon 5*s Garibaldi: if we don't watch, Picard is watching Duck Dodgers. You don't turn off your Captain's show while he's watching.
    – Mario
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 8:22
  • 3
    It's not unheard of for the Captain to order something else onto the screen. "Sir, asteroid incoming!" "Chart its path on the main viewer." If the Captain wants to look at the thing onscreen, he'll say so, but it's not the crewman's place to decide what should be on the main viewscreen.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


Nothing. There is usually nothing on the bridge viewscreen until a leading officer requests or requires it. Lower ranking officers working on the bridge crew are already gathering information at their consoles. Technically they don't need to relay the information anywhere. Nor can they determine if it is relevant; that remains the domain of the leading bridge officer(s) to decide.

  • As for why not, the bridge crew is like most intelligence gathering teams, in that they will only relay information needed and requested. In our modern military, officers would have to go to where the information is disseminated such as the Combat Information Center or Radio Central.

  • In Star Trek, the bridge serves as the operations center where they can put the data up on the main screen and we keep the narrative flow of the story without the pesky walking and talking that would take place in a real military situation.

  • The narrative patter of bridge conversation/orders is supposed to be the discussions real officers would have over whatever the anomaly is, made easy to digest for television viewers. The most important element of this interaction is the transition to the viewscreen is a narrative tool to indicate importance and relevance for the viewer.

  • Whenever an anomaly is discovered, the crewman who discovers it is viewing it at their console or using their technology and getting the feedback on their personal system. It is on their person console they gather whatever information is available on the object/ship/threat. See: Science Console or Station

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  • He reports it, and if it is part of a system that can relay information graphically/visually, it is directed to the viewscreen indicating its importance to everyone involved. Information regarding said anomaly is also directed to other teams for analysis.

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  • If it's communication information, it is relayed to the main bridge sound system for all to hear. Old school radio transmissions or garbled distress calls are the usual candidates.
  • This doesn't actually answer the question on "why (not)"
    – user16696
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 3:41
  • "Nor can they don't determine if it is relevant"; is a sentence missing?
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 12:03
  • 1
    @N.Soong - I did a reverse image search on google, it seems to come from this guy's DeviantArt page.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 17:45
  • 1
    @N.Soong call me weird, but when I read that I heard David Tennant saying "LCARS-y!"
    – Omegacron
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 18:42

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