We got our first glimpse of the new USS Enterprise A’s bridge at the end of Star Trek IV. It was bright and shiny! I’m sure it still had that “new Starship smell” too. Of course this was really just redress of the bridge from Star Trek III (originally built for TMP).
When production started on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier the powers that be decided to redesign the bridge. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe the TMP bridge had been recycled into TNG sets at that point? I’m not really sure. In any case, the resulting redesigned Enterprise A bridge was a little more like the TOS bridge in layout but with a TNG color scheme. It’s round with seated work stations around the outer rim, the conn, helm & navigation stations in the middle and all with beige and brown details. All the computer interfaces were smooth black surfaces with touch screens. It was nice! But not very naval or militaristic which lead Director Nick Meyer to ask for another re-design when he took on Star Trek VI.
The new bridge is a re-dress of the Star Trek V set. The turbolifts move the sides (something that would be hard to do in reality) and the Science and Communications stations moved back a bit and were made larger. The captain’s seat moved back as well. The big difference was in the color scheme. The beige carpet and wood finish was replaced with metallic gray and deep red. Meyer also lit the bridge much darker- more dramatically. The only gripe I would have is that Meyer removed many of the touch screen interfaces and added physical switches and sliders. The navigation console looked at bit too much like a sound mixer.
To be honest, the new bridge is overall a HUGE improvement. I loved the bridge when I saw it in Star Trek V but the redesign blows it out of the water. With just a few changes the bridge went from bland to dynamic. Here is a quick comparison gif I made from the gallery at Ex Astris Scientia: