Andrew Probert allocated many windows on the Enterprise-D model for observation decks when he designed the ship for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Having such a large vessel with families, singles, lovers and loners aboard, Probert envisioned those areas as comfortable places where people could go and relax.
“They were simply lounges,” he told Trekplace‘s Greg Tyler in 2005, “and they were different sized, ranging from a two-person lounge to a fourteen-person lounge, where you could have family gatherings or parties and they would all be very darkly lit, so you wouldn’t get gross window reflections, allowing you to see outside a lot easier.”
The rim section of the saucer was meant to be a single deck in height, with windows along the curved corners of the ceiling and the floor and the sensor strip running in between.
I thought it could be more romantic or just quiet, some space away from the aluminium gray walls of the ship. That’s what that was intended for.
There were also huge windows in the underside of the ship, specifically designed for large entertainment areas: cocktail lounges, restaurants, shopping malls, etc. And there were large windows in the edge of the superstructure, just as there had been on the refit Enterprise Probert contributed to on The Motion Picture.
Wrong deck height
So how did Ten Forward end up where it did?
By the time Production Designer Herman Zimmerman was able to build a lounge — on Stage 8, across from the officers’ quarters — Probert had left the series. It seems nobody else realized the edge of the saucer was only one deck high. Little wonder Probert disliked the set. “It destroyed the scale of the ship,” he told Forgotten Trek in 2005.
I specifically designed large window clusters all over the ship [to serve as] large lounge spaces. Still, if they had insisted on yet another lounge in that saucer nose position, it would have worked to leave the windows the way they were — at the scale they were — or they could have been modified without alluding to the space behind half of the saucer rim’s height.
Zimmerman remembered the set fondly. “Gene [Roddenberry] wanted a place where the crew could socialize with each other without having to do it in a very intimate setting in their living quarters, or in a very formal setting in the observation lounge or on the bridge,” he is quoted as saying in Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Continuing Mission (1998).
Ten Forward became the place where ordinary crew and the officers could mingle and where aliens who were not allowed on the bridge could interact with the Starfleet crew.
It was a very important set for the telling of stories.
The conception of Ten Forward coincided with Whoopi Goldberg joining the cast of The Next Generation in 1988. Ten Forward needed a bartender, but it wouldn’t appear in every episode. Goldberg, who was not always available, was a perfect fit for the role.
A large fiberoptic mural was placed behind the bar, designed by Rick Sternbach to represent the Milky Way Galaxy as seen from an oblique angle.
The doors of the Ten Forward set were first seen as part of Starfleet Command in the episode, “Conspiracy.”
The set was redressed to serve as a concert hall in the episode “Sarek” and as a theater in the episodes “The Nth Degree” and “Frame of Mind.” It was also heavily redressed to represent the office of the Federation president in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
After Star Trek Generations was filmed, the set was refurbished to become the mess hall on Voyager. The windows were flipped upside down and used in both that series’ ready room and briefing room. A corner portion of the set was rebuilt many years later for a brief scene in the Star Trek: Enterprise finalize, “These Are the Voyages…”
Sources for this story include: Greg Tyler, “An Exclusive Interview with Andrew Probert,” Trekplace, 2005, and Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens, Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Continuing Mission (1998)