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Old January 2 2013, 05:23 PM   #34
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Caseless Torpedoes

Timo wrote: View Post
The idea that the torpedo is caseless "in-universe" can IMHO be safely dropped at this point
I don't, and here's why:

But the ability of a "torpedo" to carry a physical payload from A to B is explicit in the quantum case, and implicit in the TNG photon case where the casing is known to be traveling in space after launch in a variety of applications, and something physical and recoverable is known to be traveling in space after a standard photon torpedo launch.
The VFX from Genesis shows, for the first time in TNG, a photon torpedo that leaves a visible exhaust plume trailing behind it. Data says these are "the new photon torpedoes" and they're being fired as part of a weapons test; when one of them veers off course, Picard orders Worf to destroy it with phasers, which is ANOTHER first in the history of Star Trek. Significantly, we never do see whatever it was Picard and Data recovered, so we don't know if they recovered the entire casing or a football-sized booster pod that -- in the experimental design -- rides in the middle of the photon bolt to increase its accuracy and yield.

This mirrors "For the Uniform" where Sisko asks Worf to arrange a "cargo pod" with "two hundred kilograms of trilithium" (not tricobalt) as payload. Worf says this will make the torpedoes less effective, implying that the extra pod would make the torpedoes less accurate for some reason; this undoubtedly reflects Worf's experience with similar modifications in "Genesis".

Even the TOS movie era has more or less explicit physicality-after-launch in that a novel guidance system is physically installed inside the casing in ST6:TUC.
The premise, once again, is that the casing is a device that generates the torpedo bolt but otherwise never leaves the tube (at least, not until it burns itself out and has to be replaced). It would contain both the initial charge and payload for the bolt (physical or otherwise) and the guidance system that provides steering instructions for the bolt itself.

Debatably, we got to see what the actual TOS torpedo system looked like in "STXI" when we got a look at the Enteprise' torpedo room. The 2250s photon torpedoes were the size of howitzer shells and loaded into a revolver-like assembly, which implies that each cylinder could only be discharged a single time. These would seem to be absurdly small weapons for a ship with such a large torpedo launcher, unless the size (and power) of the torpedo bolt has nothing at all to do with the size of the casing. This may also explain the odd weapons composition of the Kelvin 30 years earlier; script for the movie calls the blue energy bolts "photons", and if photon torpedoes or similar weaponry are energy-based projectiles instead of physical ones, they could be exactly that.

In light of this, I'd loathe to separate the names "photon torpedo" and "quantum torpedo" from the warhead/payload type completely
You pretty much have to, actually, since otherwise a photon torpedo could be made full quantum just by swapping out the warhead, which we already know should be possible for physically-cased weapons. Even more importantly, your point about "merculite rockets" and other projectile weapons that AREN'T photon torpedoes cannot be overlooked either; if you can stick a matter/antimatter warhead on a photon torpedo, you could stick it on a conventional rocket too.

This reflects modern conventions for guided missiles, guns and even directed energy weapons. The descriptors for these things usually describe the delivery system, not the warhead itself; thus a cruise missile is still called a cruise missile whether it's carrying a nuclear warhead or a gift from Santa Claus (or both). Same for machineguns; armor piercing and incendiary rounds are described for what they do, regardless of their caliber or the weapon that fires them.

Does the exact same type of propulsive hardware move the casing at high warp in "The Emissary" without the trademark glow?
No. Because the casing in "The Emissary" is called a "Class-8 probe", not a photon torpedo.

Significantly: if an object the size of a torpedo casing can travel at warp 9 WITHOUT glowing like a fireball, then why do photon torpedoes do this?

Still bigger is the question of why Starfleet doesn't have a weaponized version of the Class-8 probe, like a warp-powered interplanetary cruise missile with a photon torpedo warhead on it. We already know such a device DOES have tactical viability in some contexts (The gigantic Cardassian Dreadnaught, the putative missiles used by the Maquis, even the long-range missiles from "Warhead"). There's all kinds of uses for physically-cased weapons, but photon torpedoes do not resemble any of them and aren't used that way.

The undisputable part of it all (feel free to dispute case by case!) seems to be this:

-Torpedo features at least two physically stored components: casing (all shows but TOS) and a separate warhead (DS9 "Tribunal") or several
Which is as far as we need to go. As far as we can tell, photon torpedo warheads come in MANY varieties of both varrying lethality and -- possibly -- even physicality. I would imagine some warheads are designed to "dissolve" on launch in order to deliver their effect against the target (say, a tungsten slug that is heated up to 9,000 kelvins and contained in the torpedo bolt until it is released into the target).

Actually, we've seen them do something similar to this on Voyager, modifying hand phasers to fire nanoprobes at their targets. Since phasers ordinarily don't seem to require a physical ammo source, the presence of a physical projectile -- if even a microscopic one -- implies that Starfleet tech has grown BEYOND the need for mundane projectile weapons; in that case, photon torpedoes would be a controlled-energy weapon, a type of directed energy that can be controlled from a distance.

Wanna bet that the "quantum" in "quantum torpedo" actually stands for "quantum entanglement"?
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Last edited by Crazy Eddie; January 2 2013 at 05:45 PM.
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