Monday, March 09, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Center Seat

Every commanding officer needs a good chair. 

Not only should the “center seat” be comfortable, but it should be distinctive enough in appearance so as to single out the prominence (and authority) of the commanding officer.

In Star Trek (1966 – 1969), Captain Kirk’s (William Shatner) center seat on the bridge of the starship Enterprise is probably the most distinctive chair in TV history, at least outside of Archie Bunker’s living room chair on All in the Family (1972 – 1978).

Later Star Trek series also featured a control room or bridge-bound center seat. On the Enterprise D on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994), however, Captain Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) center seat was bracketed by seats for the First Officer, and the ship’s counselor, an arrangement which suggests a committee more than it does a confident, singular command presence.

Worse, on Star Trek: Voyager (1995 – 2001), the captain’s chair and first officer’s chair was positioned in such a way that they were both “the center seat,” essentially.  If I were Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) I would have complained about the fact that the starship put the first officer on the same level as the captain.

However Captain Sisko, on the Defiant (in Deep Space Nine [1993 – 1999]), got a standalone center seat, like Kirk.

In Space: 1999 (1975 – 1977), Commander John Koenig (Martin Landau) was in charge of Moonbase Alpha, a lunar facility.  He had a grand, high-backed, cushioned chair (as well as a large, silver desk) just above the control valley of Main Mission.  In Year Two, the chair survived and was still used by Koenig, but in the underground Command Center.

Over the years, other starships also had command chairs or center seats.  In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979 – 1981), for example, the Searcher had a center seat, where Admiral Asimov (Jay Garner) issued his commands.  In one episode, “The Guardians,” we got a good, long look at the chair when a mysterious green box appeared there after being jettisoned into space.

Another command chair was seen on Quark (1977), and SGU (2010 -2012) featured a special chair that could, with some danger, imbue the sitter with the advanced knowledge of the Ancients.

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