Deflectors vs Sheilds

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by ZapBrannigan, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  2. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In the ST:TMP novel, we here about many layers force fields and force shields even.
     
  5. FormerLurker

    FormerLurker Commodore Commodore

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    At one point, Decker even asks if both "screens and shields" should be utilized.
     
  6. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Clean Old Mod Moderator

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    If there was supposed to be a distinction back then, it's likely that one was for matter, the other for energy.
     
  7. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    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-radiation-curiosity-rover.html
     
  9. Kevman7987

    Kevman7987 Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  10. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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).
     
  11. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^That's just the unused intruder alert display from TMP.
     
  12. drt

    drt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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".
     
  13. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Clean Old Mod Moderator

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    Earth is awesome.
     
  14. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    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.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  15. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    "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.
     
  16. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    That case is either a new technology or a continuity error.
     
  17. Marsden

    Marsden Commodore Commodore

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    I'm sorry at how ignorant this sounds, but what was the big blue dome that the Enterprise blew up after they used the prefix code to lower Reliant's shields? I always thought it was the "dish equivilant" that the Enterprise had in the movies. How it would work on the dorsal surface instead of facing forward is another thing, but I thought it worked that way somehow.
     
  18. drt

    drt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I wonder if there was ever any internal discussion during production on where the beam should originate?

    I half-suspect if they had paid for that special effect shot it would have come out of the bottom of the saucer like everything else.
     
  19. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    You mean towards the rear of the ship?
    http://www.thelightworks.com/models/img/models/reliant15.jpg

    That's often referred to as the impulse deflection crystal. An engine component.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    In the NX-01 rear pod, the dome that looks like that is supposed to be manipulating or stabilizing the warp field for the high performance introduced in the warp five engine. Like "impulse deflection crystal", it's technobabble that is never heard or seen onscreen.

    We know that blowing up the thing didn't stop the Reliant from doing better impulse than the Enterprise. Whether the two ships retained warp capability, we don't know - but if one did, the other must have, too, as both reached Regula One at roughly the same time, not decades apart. (Of course, the Reliant has two of the domes; the one beneath the ship did not get visibly hit or damaged.)

    Speaking of the belly of the ship, some fan publications suggest deflectors located there. There are certainly plenty of greeblies that could be assigned this role, but the cleverest idea IMHO is that two deflectors actually flip down in warp, the way some sports car headlights flip up. We never really see a ship of this class at warp from below, so two blue-glowing slits staring ahead from beneath the hull is a distinct possibility.

    And checking intruder control systems would be a reasonable element in a minor increase in alert status; yellow alert in general appears to involve preparing for action but not so much that one would appear to be initiating it (say, not raising shields, and not arming weapons).

    Timo Saloniemi