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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old July 26 2014, 09:40 AM   #1
ZapBrannigan
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Deflectors vs Sheilds

Gene Roddenberry had a pretty good idea In the Beginning when he said the speeding Enterprise would need a deflector beam to sweep aside particles that lay ahead.

Along with the specks of dust he had in mind, which are not a big deal between the stars, there are hydrogen atoms in outer space, about one per cubic meter. If you fly through these atoms fast enough, the effect is just as if you were standing still and getting blasted with hard radiation. It would be fatal after a while. So giving starships a forward-facing deflector dish was an even better idea than GR realized. It probably saved the lives of Star Trek's entire cast.

But I think the writers, especially early on, may have conflated the deflector beam with the shields, which Scotty once called his screens. They even used the term "deflector screen" in "Mudd's Women," when it had to be the shields. [Mudd's ship would be pushed but not protected by our deflector beam.]

The shields are for combat, blocking enemy transporters, slipping enemy tractor beams, and surviving collisions if any. You can also use them to cover Harry Mudd's ship in an asteroid belt, but it breaks your own ship (and it was worth it, it turns out). The deflector dish is for interstellar hydrogen and pushing asteroids out of a planet's way.

The early confusion of terminology might lead us to think the two systems are inter-related.

One thought that arises is: as long as you have the shields (which presumably put the ship in an egg-shaped bubble of safety), maybe you could run them all the time and you don't even need a deflector dish. It certainly seems like a belt-and-suspenders arrangement to have both systems. You can always use the tractor beam to manhandle asteroids; don't leave home without it.
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Old July 26 2014, 10:10 AM   #2
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

The navigational deflectors probably use less energy than the shields. And we've seen shields diminish in strength as objects hit them so running at high warp and having even in tiny amounts of interstellar matter hit them might mean the shields only last a short time.
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Old July 26 2014, 10:26 AM   #3
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

Deflectors, screens, and shields seemed to be used interchangeably in the early episodes until they started standardizing things. I don't know if it was canonically mentioned in the series, but I think The Making of Star Trek said deflectors were used to sweep cosmic particles from the ship's path. Screens were a little more vague, but shields became the primary defense system in battle.
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Old July 26 2014, 04:58 PM   #4
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

In the ST:TMP novel, we here about many layers force fields and force shields even.
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Old July 26 2014, 06:53 PM   #5
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

At one point, Decker even asks if both "screens and shields" should be utilized.
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Old July 26 2014, 07:45 PM   #6
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

If there was supposed to be a distinction back then, it's likely that one was for matter, the other for energy.
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Old July 26 2014, 07:49 PM   #7
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

They even used the term "deflector screen" in "Mudd's Women," when it had to be the shields.
They still do the same in "Errand of Mercy".

I gather we have no chance of interpreting "deflectors" and "shields" as separate things now, after all this confusion. Apparently, shields work by deflecting, and the terminology is optional, just like elevator vs. lift.

However, that ST:TMP phrase not just allows but forces us to think that "screens" and "shields" are different, at least aboard certain vessels. Both may be called deflectors for short, or deflector screens and deflector shields by their fuller names, but somehow those two things are separate technologies.

Since we also visually learn that the protective thingamabobs can be of two shapes, big standoff bubbles (sometimes of multiple layers - see e.g. "Datalore") or skintight suits of armor (sometimes of multiple layers - see e.g. ST6:TUC graphics), we might just as well decide that one of those is screens and the other is shields. In the 23rd century, that is, until the language erodes and the terminology distinction disappears even though the technology distinction remains.

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Old July 28 2014, 11:18 AM   #8
ZapBrannigan
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

Timo wrote: View Post
However, that ST:TMP phrase not just allows but forces us to think that "screens" and "shields" are different, at least aboard certain vessels. Both may be called deflectors for short, or deflector screens and deflector shields by their fuller names, but somehow those two things are separate technologies.
Timo Saloniemi

Yes, I can't argue with that as such, but for me the movies are a bit less canonical than TOS itself. The movies didn't seem to respect techno continuity from one film to the next.

In other news, if real-life astronauts ever go to Mars, their ship might have to be protected en route with a magnetic field that deflects the solar wind. That would be pretty cool. It would be an actual deflector system.

And since Mars itself has no magnetic field, even landing on the surface doesn't protect you the way being on Earth does.

http://www.space.com/24731-mars-radi...ity-rover.html
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Old July 28 2014, 03:54 PM   #9
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

ZapBrannigan wrote: View Post
In other news, if real-life astronauts ever go to Mars, their ship might have to be protected en route with a magnetic field that deflects the solar wind. That would be pretty cool. It would be an actual deflector system.

And since Mars itself has no magnetic field, even landing on the surface doesn't protect you the way being on Earth does.

http://www.space.com/24731-mars-radi...ity-rover.html
I read somewhere that the inside of the hull in the crew areas will be filled with some of their water supply in order to protect them from the harmful radiations. I'm not sure how that works so don't quote me.
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Old July 28 2014, 09:42 PM   #10
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

In the Wrath of Kahn, it appears that Enterprise has two distinct sets of protection. There is a sort of deflector that goes up around the upper decks of the saucer section when yellow alert if called, and then there is the close in shields that go around the whole ship when the shields are raised (or red alert is called).
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Old July 28 2014, 10:52 PM   #11
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

^^^That's just the unused intruder alert display from TMP.
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Old July 28 2014, 11:00 PM   #12
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

I don't think in the original run of the show there was really any distinction, and the only times I can recall the navigational deflector beams being used were in "The Cage" and "The Paradise Syndrome". I also don't think the secondary hull dish became the navigational deflector dish until around Phase II/TMP, as the original "Making of" Jefferies diagram labelled it the "Main Sensor".
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Old July 28 2014, 11:57 PM   #13
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

ZapBrannigan wrote: View Post
And since Mars itself has no magnetic field, even landing on the surface doesn't protect you the way being on Earth does.
Earth is awesome.
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Old July 29 2014, 03:57 AM   #14
ZapBrannigan
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

drt wrote: View Post
I also don't think the secondary hull dish became the navigational deflector dish until around Phase II/TMP, as the original "Making of" Jefferies diagram labelled it the "Main Sensor".
Great catch; I forgot about that. Of course, if any drawing needs to be retconned, it's that one. And I think "The Paradise Syndrome" did intend the big dish to be the deflector, so it's really just the one drawing that's off.


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Old July 29 2014, 07:07 AM   #15
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Re: Deflectors vs Sheilds

"Main Sensor" is why we got all those Franz Joseph ships with dishes coming out everyplace. While, yes it sort of works for the navigation deflector on most of them, the Dreadnought has four of them, one facing aft even.

I never did like the deflector on a pole hanging below the saucer on the other designs. I always figured they could mount it internally in the lower sensor dome (like some suggested for the refit Enterprise to have its secondary deflector located here). or the three circles at the front of the saucer.

It might also be that by the time I first saw the Franz Joseph ships I had already watched The Wrath of Kahn, in which USS Reliant has no obvious navigation deflector dish.
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