I can't do it captain, I don't have the POWER
May 13, 2009 3:35 PM   Subscribe

So a friend of mine asked me a question about the new Star Trek movie. (probable spoilers inside)

Basically he wants to know if raising the shield during warp has been done previously or if it violates the principles of warp as established in previous Star Trek universes. I've done some google searches but have been unable to find a definitive answer, although there are apparently other people wondering this as well.
posted by sourbrew to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm not really sure how this is a spoiler, it doesn't say anything about the plot or under what circumstances the incident happened, but if by some chance I have now ruined the movie for you or anyone else I'm very sorry. If i could go back and edit the title I would.
posted by sourbrew at 3:39 PM on May 13, 2009

I puzzled over that part of the movie for the exact opposite reason; I always assumed the shields were up while they were warping.

The only specific reference I can recall is an episode of TNG where they have to negotiate a peace between two primitive spacefaring races. They encounter a ship from one of the races and the following dialogue appears (NOT VERBATIM):

Worf: They're locking on. . . lasers.
Riker: (incredulous) Lasers? That won't even pierce our navigational shielding.
posted by Ndwright at 3:41 PM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: Appears a mod has done so for me, Thanks!
posted by sourbrew at 3:41 PM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: "I puzzled over that part of the movie for the exact opposite reason; I always assumed the shields were up while they were warping. "

From what I understand the deflector array is used to create a space time bubble around the ship that facilitates warp. I believe the deflector array is also what's used to generate the shield. Which could lead to the possibility that it would only be usable for one function at a time, ie space time bubble or shielding, but again I don't really know.
posted by sourbrew at 3:44 PM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: There are actually two types of shields on starships in the Star Trek universe: the navigational deflector shields and the more powerful defense shields.

The navigational deflector shields protect the ship from being damaged by particles when traveling at high speeds, such as warp. At such high speeds particles as small as a speck of dust could do incredible damage to the ship if the deflector shields didn't push them out of the way.

The defense shields are a tactical system that protect the ship from larger physical impacts at lower speeds, weapons fire, energy discharges, and things of that type. They can work in concert with the deflector shields, but are different, and can be on or off while the ship is traveling at warp speed. They use more energy than the deflector shield so they're kept off until needed.

The warp field the engines generate is another matter entirely and doesn't serve the same function as any shield. It warps space around the ship and propels it at faster than light speeds. It doesn't block or deflect anything.

And, yes, I am a huge geek.
posted by Xuff at 3:56 PM on May 13, 2009 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks Xuff,

You have any episodes or source material I could show my friends?
posted by sourbrew at 3:58 PM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: The deflector dish is used to create a force field which protects the ship from being hit by space-borne matter while moving. The warp field generators are inside the nacelles at the back of the Enterprise.

So there is always at least one form of shield around the ship - the shield created by the deflector. The defensive shields (that stop phasers and photon torpedoes and what-not) are separate and generated separately.

Various incarnations of Trek have shown ships in combat at warp speed, so it's pretty well-established that the defensive shields can operate at warp, and there's never been any dialogue suggesting those shields couldn't be turned off/on at warp, as far as I recall.

Read more here: http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Navigational_deflector
posted by chudmonkey at 3:59 PM on May 13, 2009

I just so happened to see the episode Q Who where the TNG crew meet the Borg for the first time. The Enterprise tries torun but the Borg cube is faster. At Warp the Birg fire on the Enterprise and Worf reports shield strength remaining.

It freaked me out a bit too. I'm a Star Wars guy more than Trek. I thought once in Hypersoace no one could follow let alone fire :)
posted by arniec at 4:05 PM on May 13, 2009

The episode arniec mentions is the most prevalent example, although I think there are a number of mentions in DS9 and Voyager, most of the latter occurring with the Borg at both warp and transwarp speeds. As chudmonkey points out, Memory Alpha is a good place to look for specific mentions.

It should also be noted that the vast majority of dialog that references "shields" refers to the defense shields and not the deflector shields; the defense shields need to be manually raised and lowered, whereas the deflector shields are automatically controlled by the computer based on the speed of the ship and the activity of the engines.
posted by Xuff at 4:15 PM on May 13, 2009

It seems to me that in the original series, the Enterprise pursued other ships in combat situations at warp speeds, with all sublight-speed options on the table. Or at least that's what I remember from the old Starfleet Battles board game.
posted by Kirklander at 4:20 PM on May 13, 2009

To put it another way, generally the shields are "active" plot devices so there's something to get in the way of enemy weapons so the ship lasts more than a minute under attack, while the deflector field is a "passive" plot device to handwave away why the ship doesn't get annihilated by every spare speck of matter that gets struck at superhigh speeds.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:21 PM on May 13, 2009

While Starfleet Battles is an awesome game, I don't think it's considered canon in the Star Trek community.

Drones incoming! Activate ECM!
posted by chazlarson at 5:18 PM on May 13, 2009

I seem to recall that in many of the various Trek series there was combat at warp speed and shields were indeed up. All of those were stern chases (one ship behind the other pounding at it).

The weird thing I noticed was in all the earlier trek all of the warp speed fighting took place with missile weapons, photon and quantum torpedoes which are actual devices that can presumably generate their own warp fields and thus actually maintain high warp speeds, but around the last couple of seasons of Voyager there were a few warp fights that took place where the involved craft were using beam weapons under warp. Of course the whole "warp drive" thing is a lark to begin with, but you'd think if we're buying into that they'd at least have the decency to realize that phasers and the like are allegedly lightspeed weapons (they seem slower for reasons of looking cool on TV) and thus wouldn't work very well at much faster than light speed. Although maybe you could actually nail someone directly behind you with a phaser because they'd be "running into" your beam. What was shown was not "directly astern" shooting though.

OK, after typing all that I went away and found a clip. At 2:30 of this clip here, the Romulans have stolen a new Federation prototype ship and are firing on a pursuer with phasers at warp speed. Addressing your initial question, you'll be pleased to note as well that there is clear evidence that shields are up during this fight.
posted by barc0001 at 5:20 PM on May 13, 2009

For what it's worth, in Balance of Terror, when the Romulans fire their plasma weapon, Kirk orders the Enterprise to go into full emergency warp (in reverse). He does not mention shields before the Romulans attack, nor does anyone mention their state after the plasma device hits.

If they could use defense shields during warp, I would have expected them to mention it here.
posted by zippy at 3:44 AM on May 14, 2009


The only way I can answer this question is to remind folks that the new movie is an alternate time-line from the Star Trek canon. Scotty might have discovered the formula for this before he got to the Enterprise in the original series.
posted by hworth at 8:37 AM on May 14, 2009

« Older How do I build an online personality for future...   |   A writing sample with teeth Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.