The sickbays of the refit Enterprise, Enterprise-A, Enterprise-D and Voyager were all the same set, originally built for the aborted second Star Trek television series Phase II. It even doubled as bar and observation lounge!
Production Designer Harold Michaelson told Starlog magazine (January 1980, My Star Trek Scrapbook has the full interview) that the design philosophy on Star Trek: The Motion Picture was to open things up compared to The Original Series:
In the medical room, we changed things to where you can see through to several rooms. The eye is never stopped by a wall.
In keeping with the clean and futuristic look of the rest of the refit Enterprise, sickbay was painted white and given little superfluous detail.
The set underwent minor changes in Star Trek II. Numbers were added to the biobed alcoves, which suggest a half circle of beds surrounds the examination room and doctor’s office. Director Nicholas Meyer also shot all scenes in darker colors to give the ship a more claustrophobic feel.
We only get a glimpse of Dr McCoy’s office in the second movie, but it appears unchanged from the first.
Donny Versiga has created an obstructed view of the doctor’s office, which also shows the service corridor running behind it more clearly.
Lora (then Shane) Johnson, the author of Mr Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise (1987), visited the Star Trek movie set in August 1986, just after The Voyage Home had been filmed. Johnson told Greg Tyler of Trekplace years later that sickbay at the time still looked like the seedy bar where Dr McCoy had tried to hitch a ride to the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III. “The beds had been replaced with booth seating and tables, and the nurse’s station had become a bar.”
One neat little detail that escaped detection by the cameras during the making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture involved a section of the sickbay set. A silver and blue medical storage unit, seen briefly in the background during the scene in which Kirk, Spock and Decker discuss the Ilia probe situation, featured labels warning that it held culture samples of “Andromeda Strain.” That, of course, was another of Robert Wise’s films, and the set piece was a subtle homage to him.
During the first season of The Next Generation, money was tight and sickbay had to double as conference lounge. In some of the earlier episodes, the outlines of the carpet hiding the observation lounge windows is visible.
For the first few episodes, the main biobed was half-surrounded by brown-tainted partitions that tied into the round sensor cluster protruding from the ceiling. These did not survive long, but the sensor cluster remained and was later shown to be capable of creating a forcefield around the bed, notably in “Unnatural Selection”.
When the observation lounge got its own set, alcoves could be added in sickbay for the recovery beds. This look harkened back to The Motion Picture, but this time lights were added to top of the bays and the set was given warmer colors.
So was the doctor’s office, which during the first season had changed little from McCoy’s. (Consoles had been moved into engineering and the transporter room.) The doors leading from the waiting area into the corridor were also changed, from grey to orange, and the door frames were rounded.
Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider have mapped all the changes that were made to the set for the second season at Ex Astris Scientia.
A small medical lab was attached to the set, beyond the doors next to Dr Crusher’s office. It was crammed behind the transporter room set and difficult to shoot, so a separate and multipurpose laboratory was built during the third season. Whenever the small medlab wasn’t used in an episode, the doors would appear to have translucent rather than transparent glass.
Andrew Probert told Forgotten Trek in 2007 that he was asked to design a passageway between Dr Crusher’s office and the medical lab (the area highlighted in yellow on the Stage 9 floor plan below).
I saw this room as simply a connecting equipment bay with various drawers and containers for medical equipment.
It was never built.
The area behind Dr Crusher’s office was glimpsed in “Night Terrors”, when she and Picard emerge from it. It was never established on screen what this area contains and we saw only a few props against a white wall.
In his Star Trek: The Next Generation U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints (1996), Rick Sternbach puts a service corridor here that connects the familiar “Primary ICU” with the rest of a sprawling medical complex.
The Enterprise-D sickbay set was used virtually unchanged in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The scene, in which Uhura wakes Scotty up in sickbay, was shot from such angles that little of the set could be recognized.
More effort was made to hide the twenty-fourth-century elements in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, although that scene — in which Kirk, Spock and McCoy lure Valeris into sickbay — was so dark they almost needn’t have bothered.
The set was restored for Star Trek Generations, after which it was inherited by Voyager.
One of the things that weren’t carried over to Voyager were the monitors above the recovery beds, which had been unchanged since The Motion Picture. Brett Leggett acquired one from Doug Drexler, who saved it from the dumpster, and wrote about the prop for Wrath of Dhan.
Production Designer Richard James did his best to make Voyager‘s sets look different from The Next Generation‘s. But when he put all the elements together — the main biobed, recovery beds, doctor’s office, medlab — and took into account that he would need to redress the existing Enterprise-D set, rather than build one from scratch, he ended up with something that looked strikingly familiar.
Another similarity: Voyager didn’t have the money to build all the sets it wanted during its first season. The medical lab wasn’t added until the second season, when the show did have the advantage of more space because its transporter room was smaller.
A deck plan of sickbay and the surrounding area appears in the fourth-season episode “Vis à Vis”. It looks similar to the Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints, which is no coincidence. Sternbach created both.
The Voyager set was used almost unchanged in First Contact (with Robert Picardo in it) and Insurrection, except in the case of the former it was shot in warmer colors.
By the time Nemesis went into production, Voyager had gone off the air and its sets had been destroyed. A new sickbay needed to be built. It was not given a surgical bay but only a row of biobeds against a grey wall, returning to a look that ironically harkened back to the one Star Trek: The Motion Picture had established almost a quarter-century earlier.
Sources for this story include: Jörg Hillebrand and Bernd Schneider, “Changes to the TNG Sets Between Seasons 1 and 2,” Ex Astris Scientia; David Houston “Production Designer Harold Michelson, Visualizing the New Star Trek,” Starlog 30 (January 1980) 42-46; Brett Leggett, “‘Dammit, Jim — I’m a Doctor Not a Magician!’: How Bones and Beverly Made the Magic Happen,” Wrath of Dhan, September 9, 2013; Rick Sternbach, Star Trek: The Next Generation U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints (1996); and Greg Tyler, “Interview with Shane Johnson,” Trekplace, 2001