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Old May 9 2013, 06:05 PM   #80
Re: Saucer Separation

I think enveloping the barge in the Enterprise's shields was done to reinforce its hull integrity.
Well, they slap on the shields after it proves impossible to use the bolt-on thrusters, and necessary to use the tractor beam. This might be in order to keep the barge from falling apart (although we don't learn of any mechanism by which shields could achieve that, here or in any other episode), or in order to keep radiation from spreading out.

We don't know whether the shields remain extended around the barge after they clear the planet's vicinity; we only know the shields remain up, we don't hear how they are configured. And we don't hear they would be used to protect the barge from asteroid strikes (which would admittedly be silly - surely our heroes could dodge the rocks with ease, even with the barge in tow? Indeed, the whole point of the exercise was that the ship would actively tow the barge through the belt, and at that point it wouldn't be for speed of getting it away from the planet. It would be purely for allowing the barge to negotiate a course it could not negotiate by coasting.).

Yet we have this bit of dialogue:

Riker: "Geordi, you've got to stabilise that tractor beam."
LaForge: "I can't divert any more power to the shields."
If the transcript is correct, tractor beam gets more stable if power is diverted to the shields... Why, beats me, but there we have it - it does seem as if the shields indeed exist in order to stabilize the towing arrangement somehow.

our heroes couldn't just leave it out there to dissipate on its own
Why not? If it took three thousand years, ships could be told to steer clear of the barge for three thousand years, and that would be it.

Timo Saloniemi
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