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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old December 30 2007, 06:35 AM   #1
Wingsley
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Romulan weapons: a step backward?

In "Balance of Terror", the Romulan ship attacked Earth outposts using a plasma ring projectile weapon. This weapon could chase the Enterprise at maximum warp speed, overtake the ship, and still cause damage even at the edge of its effective range. The weapon penetrated a mile deep inside an asteroid made of solid iron, according to Commander Hanson on Earth Outpost 4.

After "Balance", this fearsome Romulan super-weapon was seen again in "The Deadly Years", but seemed to loose its effectiveness. The Enterprise sustained several direct hits, but was nowhere near as overwhelmed as what was clearly seen in "Balance". After "Deadly", the super-weapon vanished altogether.

By TNG, the Romulans were using photon torpedos. Granted, the plasma weapon was never seen again in TOS either, but doesn't it seem that the Romulans were defanged? How can this apparent step backward be explained?
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Old December 30 2007, 06:53 AM   #2
ancient
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

The Romulans are using 'plasma torpedos' I think.

Like any technology, the plasma ring probably became ineffectual as soon as Fed techies figured out how it worked and devised some counter-defense.
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Old December 30 2007, 09:53 AM   #3
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

The weapon proved to be near useless on anything other than stationary targets. The Romulans realized they'd never be able to sneak a stealth fleet across the Federation border and bombard the major worlds without serious resistance from Starfleet, and the Bird of Prey was a comparative slouch in ship-to-ship combat.

Hence, they went back to the drawing board. Perhaps not entirely, however. DS9 does make reference to Romulan plasma torpedoes being illegally stored on a Bajoran moon.
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Old December 30 2007, 05:36 PM   #4
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

Also, I don't think the weapon was ever installed on any other ship besides the one seen in "Balance of Terror". The enemy vessels in "The Deadly Years" were not said to employ plasma weapons, nor did the original visuals show the approaching cloud of plasma in its full glory. Rather, the visuals were of the photon torpedo impacts first seen in "Errand of Mercy".

We might say that the plasma weapon was devised exclusively for use against fixed fortifications, and was always fired at warp speed at very long range, even when employed against the asteroid fortress. Modern, large Romulan ships might carry the weapon, as implied by DS9 dialogue, but it would never be wielded in ship-to-ship combat because of being so unsuited to it.

Personally, I like to think that the plasma weapon could only maintain warp speed because the mothership was projecting a warp field around it - somewhat analogous to semi-active radar homing missiles of today. A potent weapon in one-on-one combat, but deadly to the wielder if there are two or more opponents!

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Old December 30 2007, 05:54 PM   #5
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

Timo said:
Personally, I like to think that the plasma weapon could only maintain warp speed because the mothership was projecting a warp field around it - somewhat analogous to semi-active radar homing missiles of today. A potent weapon in one-on-one combat, but deadly to the wielder if there are two or more opponents!

Can you explain this? I'm afraid I'm a bit ignorant in some military manners.
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Old December 30 2007, 06:05 PM   #6
GodThingFormerly
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-active_radar_homing

TGT
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Old December 31 2007, 12:32 AM   #7
Cary L. Brown
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

Wingsley said:
In "Balance of Terror", the Romulan ship attacked Earth outposts using a plasma ring projectile weapon. This weapon could chase the Enterprise at maximum warp speed, overtake the ship, and still cause damage even at the edge of its effective range. The weapon penetrated a mile deep inside an asteroid made of solid iron, according to Commander Hanson on Earth Outpost 4.

After "Balance", this fearsome Romulan super-weapon was seen again in "The Deadly Years", but seemed to loose its effectiveness. The Enterprise sustained several direct hits, but was nowhere near as overwhelmed as what was clearly seen in "Balance". After "Deadly", the super-weapon vanished altogether.

By TNG, the Romulans were using photon torpedos. Granted, the plasma weapon was never seen again in TOS either, but doesn't it seem that the Romulans were defanged? How can this apparent step backward be explained?
My take on this is different than that of most of the folks here, I suspect.

I believe that the "disruptors" we see used after TOS are all based upon the Romulan Plasma Weapon technology.

Think of the BOP's weapon as being the Battleship Missouri's 16" gun. The BOP was built around this weapon... think of it like the A-10 Warthog, which is an aircraft built around a big gattling cannon.

This is not to say that "guns" of this type would be obsolete. Only that a "smaller caliber" repeat-firing weapon, or multiple repeat-firing weapons, is actually more practical in "normal" combat.

It wasn't the science behind the weapon that was abandoned, only the concept of a "one-shot, must hit" weapon that got replaced with a "if you miss you can keep shooting" approach.

The weapons we see later are the same thing, just scaled down a bit, in other words.
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Old December 31 2007, 01:30 AM   #8
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

Gotta disagree with you there. Disruptors seem to be unsophisticated, brute-force versions of the phaser, meant to break up atomic bonds and disintegrate an opponent.
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Old December 31 2007, 03:54 AM   #9
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

I always figured that the plasma weapon lost its effectiveness because after "Balance of Terror", Starfleet analyzed the sensor data from the Enterprise and adjusted the shields to withstand it.

In "The Deadly Years" we say onscreen the Romulans fire at least two of the plasma shots at the Enterprise.

It is quite possible that the Romulan fleet of 10 ships in "The Deadly Years" attacked with both types of weapons.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed just how tough the original Enterprise was against photon torpedoes?

In "Errand of Mercy" and "The Deadly Years" the Enterprise withstood dozens of direct hits by the devices without sustaining serious damage.
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Old December 31 2007, 04:56 AM   #10
Cary L. Brown
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

JuanBolio said:Gotta disagree with you there. Disruptors seem to be unsophisticated, brute-force versions of the phaser, meant to break up atomic bonds and disintegrate an opponent.
Yes, but how is that different from the weapon we see in "Balance of Terror" (which causes castrodinium... the "hardest material known to our science"... to become, essentially, plaster-of-paris consistency?

Yes, when we see phasers (including the TNG-era "green bad guy rayguns") they just cause PEOPLE to go "poof" in a nice clean disintigration. But how does that demonstrate that they're unrelated to other weapons?

If you had a REAL "enveloping plasma weapon" which disrupts material, as the "BOT" weapon did... would you expect all materials (human tissue or "castrodinium" or whatever) to be destroyed equally effectively... ie, "glow green and magically disappear?" Or would you expect something much more... "visceral" in how this happens?

I've always been bothered by how ... CLEAN... the Trek weapons effects have been. At least in TOS, you'd see burnt remains sometimes... in TNG and later... they just go "poof" and are gone.

I really don't see ANY canonical, on-screen evidence that contradicts my perspective on this. Only "fannish" assumptions... which aren't necessarily "really the case" (so to speak).
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Old December 31 2007, 05:51 AM   #11
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

I just don't see anything at all supporting your hypothesis. There's never been any link between plasma implosion weapons and disruptors. You're entitled to see things your way, of course, but I'm more inclined to believe that the Romulan plasma weapon was one of their dead-ends in weapons development, unless they went and made an anti-ship version, the plasma torpedo, as mentioned in DS9.

I find plasma-based weapons to be more than a little silly, anyway.
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Old December 31 2007, 08:12 PM   #12
Unicron
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

Timo said:
Also, I don't think the weapon was ever installed on any other ship besides the one seen in "Balance of Terror". The enemy vessels in "The Deadly Years" were not said to employ plasma weapons, nor did the original visuals show the approaching cloud of plasma in its full glory. Rather, the visuals were of the photon torpedo impacts first seen in "Errand of Mercy".

Not canonically, although the FASA RPG did suggest that several Klingon designs were modified with plasma weapons as part of the technology exchange. Such modifications seemed rare though, as the Klingons didn't seem overly impressed with the plasma weapon technology.

Other games, like SFC3, have suggested that the Romulans are the only power who use plasma weapons regularly. Other powers consider the potential dangers to be not worth the risk for the sheer damage power that a plasma torpedo offers.
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Old January 1 2008, 10:20 PM   #13
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

That TOS "smart" plasma weapon had some serious capabilities: accelerate and track a target @ warp plus deep penetration ability. So you had something like a "soliton waverider" plasma which could accelerate, probably transferring plasma energy to the wave, thus limiting range. As for target tracking, perhaps a subspace "link" painted in some way on to the target like a transporter lock (or we'll just assume no evasive manouvers besides a straight line runaway by the 1701 in TOS:BoT - ie. they're idiots). Perhaps the wave can be phase shifted slightly for effectiveness against buried targets.

As for why we never see it again, the Praetor probably sent his techlings back to the drawing board when his "flagship" didn't return home triumphant. In romulan culture, I suspect a "shameful" failure would be buried quickly. When military tech and politics clash, well, just think "Avro Arrow".
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Old January 2 2008, 10:57 AM   #14
Timo
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

...Indeed, if we take "the Praetor" in the original Roman context, this political heavyweight would be just one out of many, vying for the favor of the rulers by running various projects and schemes including military campaigns. If the pet project of this particular Praetor didn't pan out, his competitors would swiftly take advantage. The whole fate of the Empire need not have hinged on whether the plasma mortar was a success or not.

That's one of my pet peeves, really: even though the writer of any given episode will try to give the villain of the week a defining characteristic, which often is a technology or an agenda, this shouldn't automatically be accepted as a defining characteristic if the villain pans out and results in lots of sequels. Tholians shouldn't be just about energy webs, or the Borg about scooping up cities.

Romulans could be all about backstabbing and lost honor, and they just might be characterized with the cloaks on their starships, but they shouldn't be defined by their plasma mortars. The plasma weapon may have been a defining characteristic for that one introductory episode (a cowardly but potent weapon akin to submarine torpedoes, to fit the general theme), but in the bigger scheme of things, it should be incidental at best.

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Old January 2 2008, 03:55 PM   #15
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Re: Romulan weapons: a step backward?

For get all that Plasma crap... What you need are Hellbores and Fusions set to suicide overload.. Take that on your #4 and it's a whole helping of internals..
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