The Trek BBS

The Trek BBS (
-   Trek Tech (
-   -   TOS Phasers (

Dale Sams January 30 2013 03:27 PM

TOS Phasers
Am I the only one who didn't know that people were being vaporized until TWOK?

For some dumb reason I assumed that 'disintegration' was 'phasing' them out of our universe.

Albertese January 30 2013 04:33 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
Yes, I think you are.

And yet, a "phaser" "phasing" things out of existence seems like it would make sense, too. So, you know... whatever.


Robert Comsol January 30 2013 05:55 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
I think I understand what he's getting at. The "phasing out" seen in TOS seemed quick and painless (just like a flash of light) while the process in ST II seemed painful and crude.

Now, am I the only one who thought Lt. Galloway's death in "The Omega Glory" was totally nnecessary and - from Captain Tracey's point of view - one of the most stupid decisions in his career as starship captain? (or the screenplay writer?)

The idiot was in desperate need of fresh phasers, yet he didn't stun Galloway but "phased" him out - and the fresh phaser Galloway had been drawing along with it...not to mention it hardly looked as if Galloway would have actually been able to use his phaser on Tracey.


Metryq January 30 2013 07:46 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
I always assumed the "kill" setting pumped the target with enough energy to turn it to plasma—which means anything nearby would probably be scorched severely, or splattered with anything that wasn't vaporized. But I don't think anyone wants that kind of realism on TV or in movies.

Whether "phasing out" of our universe, or disintegrating to atoms, I also thought it rather neat the way only the intended target was destroyed—no holes or scorch marks on the floor from the phaser effect bleeding over into the surrounding area, or perhaps clothing rags left over from incomplete destruction of the target. (e.g. The motorcycle cop's smoking boots in the movie REPO MAN.)

Timo January 30 2013 10:47 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
I don't see the need for a distinction between "phasing" and "vaporization" here. The phaser phases things out of our realm and into some other; this could cover the witnessed cases of "vaporization" quite nicely. But let's speculate a bit more on how everything we see could be facets of the one and same phasing effect.

Usually, the lowest-energy way to phase a thing out of the universe is to allow the effect to propagate swiftly from the point of impact to the nearest phase border - say, the border between the victim and the surrounding air, or the border between a lump of meat and the surrounding kettle. This is how the transporter works when phasing things, from the looks of it! It takes special effort to make it cross phase borders (say, to include seawater in the beam-out of whales).

Yet sometimes a partial effect is desirable, even if it takes more effort to "rein in" the propagation of the phasing effect. Slow, piecemeal phasing obviously hurts more, so there's a special sadist gun for it (the Varon-T of "The Most Toys"), plus the option of using a standard gun on the sadist mode. It's just the same effect, but applied more slowly, with various drawbacks and extra costs but with the highly desirable terror bonus.

But there is another reason for using an effect that doesn't propagate to the body-to-air border: if you can key in an effect that only propagates internally from, say, the muscle-to-body-cavity-fluid border, you have killed the victim with a smaller-scope effect, and saved your ammo.

How could that be? Well, in this model, stopping an effect's propagation at mid-arm or half-torso doesn't save ammo. The volume of the target that gets removed is not proportional to the amount of ammo expended. We have seen that the propagation continues even after the attacker's phaser has stopped firing: the initial "injection" of the phasing effect is enough, and all propagation from there on is "free". But different settings may propagate through different substances, and perhaps injecting a phasing effect that removes body cavity fluids from this universe is less costly than injecting a phasing effect that removes muscle and bone. That is, once you remove the fluids, the victim assuredly dies, but the low-power effect doesn't jump into the muscle tissue and the corpse remains; but once you remove the muscles, the victim assuredly disappears, and because this was a higher-power effect, it also jumps into the body fluids within and removes them.

Still with me? I have failed, then. ;)

Timo Saloniemi

Metryq January 30 2013 11:33 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
^ That's pretty disgusting, Timo. :wtf:


Timo wrote: (Post 7616590)
I don't see the need for a distinction between "phasing" and "vaporization" here.

"Phasing"—The matter disappears from this universe.

"Vaporization"—The matter stays right here, but is disassembled.

Scout101 January 31 2013 10:11 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
Of course, a phaser doesn't 'phase' objects in the way a heater would heat them. It's a slang term for Phased Energy Rectification.

Can argue whether that's any less made-up a thing, but just pointing out that the intention isn't that the term 'phaser' means 'phasing the object'. Presumably, it's the ammo that's having the phase screwed with, not the object...

Timo January 31 2013 11:50 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
Doesn't sound likely. A heater does heat things - surely a phaser will phase them!

We even see it doing that very thing. That is, whenever our heroes or villains describe something as being "phased", the same thing happens to it that happens to the victims of phasers: invisibility, more or less permanent removal from this realm of existence.

Timo Saloniemi

CorporalCaptain February 1 2013 12:18 AM

Re: TOS Phasers

Timo wrote: (Post 7621492)
Doesn't sound likely. A heater does heat things - surely a phaser will phase them!

Au contraire.

A laser doesn't lase things; it itself lases.

ETA: To clarify, while Wiktionary recognizes both transitive and intransitive forms of lase [], Merriam-Webster recognizes only the intransitive form [], which is my point.

Timo February 1 2013 11:03 AM

Re: TOS Phasers
Both interpretations are possible for "phaser" - but when we note that the same device is called a "phase disruptor" on occasion (say, "Return to Grace"), and seems to be pretty much the same as "disruptor" elsewhere, and we witness the target being the party being disrupted or phased (by the usual definition of the former word, by the common Treknobabble definition of the latter), one of the interpretations would seem to take precedence.

In any case, it would be a bit awkward and confusing for a device called "phaser" to exist independent of the (visually closely related) phenomenon of "phasing". "Awkward" and "confusing" are things we'd expect to find in the real world, not in a fictional construct...

Timo Saloniemi

Robert Comsol February 1 2013 01:00 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
Please help me refresh my TOS memory. If I recall correctly, these are the phaser settings we've seen in TOS:
  • stun
  • heat ("The Enemy Within")
  • blast ("Obsession", "That Which Survives"
  • disintegrate (vaporize aka phase out)
Am I missing a "kill" (or another) setting that's neither of the last three aforementioned?


CorporalCaptain February 1 2013 01:33 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
Not an exhaustive list:

The Conscience of the King had a kill setting, and also overload.

Stun seems to have at least two levels: a mild slap-in-the-face stun as seen in The Man Trap, and then the knockout stuns seen elsewhere.

Scotty used a phaser to cut through a bulkhead in The Naked Time; "blowtorch" could be its own different setting. Under the original effects, there was no beam shown at all in that case (as if it was --say-- infrared).

Besides settings per se, there are other differences in the beams used in TOS, such as between type I and II power as stated in The Devil in the Dark, and whether multiple beams are emitted as shown in The Enemy Within. Also, ordinarily, stun was a different sort of strike on the target from other settings. Frankly, there was a lot of variation in the different kinds of beams emitted.

Also, the original effects on Wink of an Eye showed a diffuse phaser sweep effect which saturated a corridor, to Kirk's command to "sweep the area" with a stun setting, in contrast to the remastered effects which are more beam like, as shown here.

blssdwlf February 1 2013 02:00 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
additional settings:

"Heavy Stun" was used in "Tomorrow is Yesterday", "The Omega Glory" and "The Savage Curtain".

"Force 3, to Kill" was used in "Operation: Annihilate".

"Disruptor effect" was used in "Obsession".

Timo February 1 2013 06:01 PM

Re: TOS Phasers

The Conscience of the King had a kill setting
Or at least a setting that killed the frail old Kodos/Anton Karidian. (Lenore claims she knows how to use the phaser she grabs, but should we really believe her? The phaser would not have been on kill when she grabbed it, and we know stun is lethal at close range against the weak.) Yet a "kill setting" is never really mentioned by name in the episode.

The combining of lethality and the stun setting (perhaps here, but certainly in ST6 and "Samaritan Snare") is rather telling. We're probably not witnessing thirty-three different settings, but rather a combination of something like three main parameters that can be adjusted, each with a dozen notches at most, and probably way fewer.

Timo Saloniemi

Metryq February 1 2013 06:14 PM

Re: TOS Phasers
The actual props did not have "stun", "disrupt" and such markings on the controls. The scales were mere numbers.

I believe there's a Roddenberry quote somewhere in Whitfield's MAKING OF STAR TREK concerning the naming of the phasers—that they were so named because their output could be adjusted. They didn't want some technical expert pointing out that LASERS can't do all the stuff depicted in the show.

(Meanwhile the weapons in SPACE: 1999 were called "LASERS" from time to time, yet had a stun setting.)

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 01:49 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.6
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
FireFox 2+ or Internet Explorer 7+ highly recommended.