Again, how so? Our Starfleet heroes engage in mercy killings often enough
No they don't.
I'm not aware of even a single exception to the absolute rule that unshielded ships inevitably die of Starfleet torpedo impact.
Off the top of my head:
Reliant firing on Enterprise (TWOK)
Enterprise firing on Reliant ... twice
Enterprise firing on Kruge's bird of prey... twice
Enterprise and Excelsior firing on Chang's bop, destroyed with FIVE torpedoes (TUC)
Equinox firing on Voyager (Eq Pt-II)
Voyager firing on Equinox (Eq Pt-II)
Chang firing on Gorkon's ship actually counts too, since Qo'nos-1's failure to immediately explode after two torpedo hits didn't strike anyone as odd (Kirk, obviously, wouldn't have expected the unshielded cruiser to blow up after one or even two torpedoes).
AFAIK, there are exactly zero hits against actually unshielded targets
This is still supposed to "look like" something else altogether, something that can plausibly take place without direct help from Worf. The Maquis swallow it hook, line, sinker, rod and boat
That's because they're the Maquis. What do THEY know about Starfleet shields?
The two aren't really different: how the weapon fundamentally works is certainly an interesting feature that is tacked on purely for dramatic purposes.
In this case, it's the difference between "The guns shoot laser beams
" and "The guns shoot bullets
." Maybe for the purpose of scriptwriting these might as well be interchangeable, but this is Trek Tech
, not the copyeditor's nitpick forum.
Which makes it sound all the more as if the glow is a fighting function, something "interesting" that is "tacked on" for a special purpose but can easily be left out as well.
The thing is, leaving it out renders the torpedo useless (or at least highly ineffective) as a weapon. That tells me that the glow ITSELF is relevant part of the weapon.
Put another way: a broomhandle has lots of things in common with a spear, but a boomhandle doesn't become a spear unless you put something sharp and pointy at the end of it. By the same token, a probe/missile/torpedo doesn't become a PHOTON torpedo without that distinctive glow.
Actually, in TNG at least, the two behave completely differently from the technical viewpoint. The probes always exhibit significant acceleration after sailing out of the tube, and this involves an oddly pulsating glow resembling the blast of a cheap fireworks rocket. Never mind the payload, the propulsion system appears fundamentally different, or at least is staged very differently from that of a torpedo.
technically the only difference between a probe and a torpedo is (supposedly) their payload.
Which is the main reason I believe the photon torpedo casing isn't part of the actual weapon. It seems to me the energy bolt itself is being accelerated out of the tube where it travels at a constant velocity all the way to its target. The casing, in this case, would be a bit like a shotgun cartridge that generates the initial energy bolt in the first place.
They CAN'T be simply jazzed-up guided missiles
Because jazzed-up guided missiles look like this
. Or like this
. Or sometimes like this
The glow from a photon torpedo is inconsistent with a standard exhaust plume, even from what is necessarily a torpedo-sized device
. This suggests the glow is more than just "really bright light from engine." It may, in fact, be the only important thing about photon torpedoes at all.
Spot the difference: this
is a photon torpedo. This
is not a photon torpedo. Even if they had identical explosive yields, even if they used the same warheads, it seems clear that they would still be two entirely different weapons.
More importantly, look at the cap of the actual photorp. Perspective may be screwing with us here, but the circular part of the glow is too small to hide the actual casing; in fact, it's not much
bigger than one of the windows on the neck of the ship. At this scale, IF the entire torpedo casing had been fired, it would be plainly visible riding in front of the fireball (it would actually be pretty hard to miss). We're not seeing it here, nor the front angle
shot where the casing should be right in front of the tube and is large enough that it should actually eclipse most of the glow anyway. It's more likely that a small energy projectile has been launched FROM the casing with a small amount of guidance on the way out. This would explain why the spherical part of the torpedo has about same diameter as the casing -- just two or three feet across -- but is not be nearly
as long and is otherwise completely non-physical.
Furthermore: we only ever see the torpedo deck crew load a single tube into the launcher, and yet Enterprise fires TWICE from the same tube in considerably less time than it would take for them to lower and reload that tube. The same thing happens in TUC, where Enterprise is able to fire from BOTH tubes on Chang's bird of prey, apparently without having to reload its tubes. This leads us to wonder that perhaps a single torpedo casing can fire multiple times (if only just twice) before it is exhausted?