About when it all started, exploding or at least sparky consoles have been with Trek since the first days. But I think it the effects became more forceful with TWOK (the most extreme I remember is people flying around on the bridge
in GEN but then again this is the only time we saw an Enterprise being destroyed in battle so you wanna see some serious damage on the bridge).
Originally Posted by martok2112
Well, even though it might seem nonsensical to have exploding or shorting out control consoles, it does make for a visually impacting effect in terms of just what directed energy fire might do to a starship's interior. I've always looked at it as this:
Phasers/disruptors are directed energy weapons, and if they strike a critical electrical area of the ship, it could cause power feedback enough to cause control panels to overload. Photon torpedoes also, whilst not being directed energy weapons, do release energy even in the course of their explosions, and the same result could be had.
Think of ion cannons in Star Wars. An ion cannon is a directed energy weapon designed specifically to short out or disable a ship's electrical and electronic systems....but it also does it in a fairly non-destructive manner...which makes it a good thing if one ship captain wishes to capture another ship intact. We saw an example of this in The Empire Strikes Back, when the Echo Base ground based anti-capital ship ion cannon disabled an Imperial Star Destroyer. Yes, we saw arcing all over the ship's exterior, but I think that was just a visual cue to clue the viewer in on the notion that its engines were shutting down, and its internal lighting was going out.
Phasers, whilst having variable settings, don't really seem to possess that characteristic. It does physical damage, as well as energy disruption....but, again, that energy discharge from phaser impact could be enough to cause control panels to overload and explode violently.
I think the in-universe technobabble explanation is that electroplasma is directly powering the consoles (and everything else on the ship) so you have on large energy distribution network which translates a disruption one one end of the ship to the other.
But as you pointed out it could even happen if all this were more realistic, if the warp core did not emit a magical substance which powers everything but was also partly an electrical generator which powers the consoles (and other stuff).
I really start to think that exploding consoles are basically fine. You sometimes want to show that the bridge crew is also in danger and not just the ordinary folks "down there". At least that's how I read the familiar scenes in TWOK, there are people who directly suffer in the attack area but there is also a little reminder for Kirk that he is not immortal.