The Doomsday Machine - why no photon torpodoes?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by MarsWeeps, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. MarsWeeps

    MarsWeeps Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    After recently watching the re-mastered version of The Doomsday Machine, it reminded me of something that I always wondered about...why weren't any photon torpedoes used? Since it was obvious they could not penetrate the outer hull with phasers, didn't anyone think of shooting a few torpedoes "right down its throat?"

    I'm sure the writers would simply have the DM gobble them up like M&M's but it was interesting that they weren't even mentioned. For that matter, why not aim the phasers "down its throat?"

    Was it because the torpedoes weren't introduced until a later episode?
     
  2. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    No, photon torpedoes were around since first season.

    There's no good answer in-universe for why they didn't use them at all.

    In the end, it's not important to the story, anyway; they wouldn't have worked.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's pretty easy to argue in retrospect that photon torpedoes would have been suspect because the DDM had already demonstrated the ability to "neutralize" antimatter.

    Of course, back then, we didn't know that photon torpedoes relied on antimatter, but nowadays it's pretty much a given. Or at least we can rest assured that most photon torpedoes have antimatter warheads, even if the name just possibly might refer to something else than the warhead type.

    Decker might have decided that approaching the beast from the front would be an absolutely idiotic idea...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

    They ran out and wouldn't get more until Tuesday?
     
  5. MarsWeeps

    MarsWeeps Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    Much less idiotic than thinking that the phasers would have any effect on a solid neutronium hull. Besides, with Decker in command of the Enterprise, they were already being pulled into the mouth of the DD. Of course, phasers were probably conveniently off line at that time.
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yup, again possible in retrospect. But I'm not sure the concept of running out of photon torpedoes would have been invented at that point yet, either... Them being physical projectiles in casings is a ST2-onwards thing, although of course retroactively enforced on TOS by ENT.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. Mr.AtoZ

    Mr.AtoZ Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    It could very well have been that at the time the writers crafted the Doomsday Machine story, photon torpedoes weren't widely used in the series. Thus they didn't think of it and at the time, it just didn't dawn upon Roddenberry and others. I can't recall, but was there ever an episode where the Enterprise employed a thermonuclear warhead? In Balance of Terror, the Romulans dumped one overboard. It would have been an interesting idea for the ship to send one down the maw of the Doomsday Machine. The vessel would probably detect just a crumb of matter and go about ingesting it without realizing the danger. The same principle with the Constellation being ingested without the engine overload being detected.
     
  8. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    I think that photon torpedoes were off the table because of the antimatter damping field prevented their use. As to why didn't they fire phasers down the throat, we'll probably never know. Although, we can't rule out that Decker didn't try it earlier with the Constellation. He said they fought at long-range and if that is true, then a phaser hit on a pursuing Doomsday Machine would've been a "down the throat" shot.
     
  9. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    In the novelization by James Blish, phasers were fired into the "maw" only to have the beams "bounce around" inside until their energy was expended.

    I know; I know, "not canon!" But it's the closest thing we have to an answer. Maybe such a sequence was intended but for one reason or another (script running over time, not enough money or time to do the added effects) the idea was "cut".

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  10. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    That sounds like a good theory but would that not have also incapacitated the Enterprise to make use of her matter-antimatter energy ("warp power")? ;)

    If that thing was capable to "deactivate" the onboard antimatter of the Constellation, we could assume it did the same with the Enterprise which then relied entirely on energizer power (or fusion power, IMHO).

    Alternately, photon torpedos essentially provide a devastating and diffuse blast while the phasers have properties of a cutting beam (same story with "The Paradise Syndriome", no use of photon torpedos either). I was under the impression they tried to cut through the hull of the planet killer.

    But even then, of course, firing some photon torpedos into the throat of the planet killer would have surely provided a yield of over a 100 megatons, so I do believe their antimatter had been rendered inert.

    While the tactical approach doesn't seem to make a lot of sense in-universe, I believe we are looking at another fine example of an attempt to implement the "Hornblower Effect" into a Star Trek story.
    Eventually, the Constellation's dead hull is used as a fire ship to destroy an enemy's vessel.

    Bob
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  11. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    From the POV of the DDM, antimatter would be easy to detect and declare either categorically inedible or at least categorically threatening. Things like fusion powerplants, or stores of chemicals with the potential to release destructive energies if combined, would be much more ambiguous, and probably edible as such - unless a malevolent power turned them into weapons at the last second.

    Was the DDM a weapon? It did not seem to pursue tactical goals, such as eliminating threats. It just demolished and ate, and growled at those who attempted to intervene. If the DDM was merely a reverse terraforming tool of sorts, it would not systematically and strategically act against potential threats, and would have no particular reason to scan for devious hidden bombs.

    The TOS practices on photon torpedo use warrant some examination, too. In "Arena", torpedoes were used against a target at extreme range, while the landing party fought at long ranges using a possibly similar weapon that apparently posed a great risk to the user in closer combat. In "The Changeling", a single torpedo was a seeking precision weapon used against a nearby but extremely small target. In "Elaan of Troyius", a spread of torpedoes was effective at medium range in a warp fight (or possibly a warp-impulse-warp strafing fight), while in "Journey to Babel", it was ineffective at close range.

    This spectrum of uses or attempted uses would seem to rule out most of the tactical limitations we might imagine applying to the "DDM" situation. The maw of the DDM would not be too close ("Journey to Babel"), too small and difficult to hit ("The Changeling"), or too distant ("Arena").

    Then again, if torpedoes are the preferred weapon in long range or high speed fights, "Arena" and TNG era style, it would make sense for Decker to have tried them out in his reputed initial long range engagement. If they proved useless there, Decker would not try and use them when commanding the Enterprise, either.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. MarsWeeps

    MarsWeeps Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    Phasers proved useless on the Constellation, both banks were drained and yet Decker had no problem trying to use them on the Enterprise.
     
  13. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    There are only so many ways to use photon torpedoes, especially if they suffer from TNG style proximity limitations; Decker could have exhausted the options in his long range experimentation already. In contrast, there could be plenty of phaser tricks up Decker's sleeves yet, considering the demonstrated versatility of that weapon.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  14. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    DECKER: I made a mistake then. We were too far away. This time I'm going to hit it with full phasers at point-blank range.
    I think that's what eventually gets the Enterprise. As she closed, her shields were already under some kind of load despite not being directly fired upon yet. Once the shields were drained the antimatter probably would've been deactivated as well. A photon torpedo probably would've been drained sooner.
    SULU: Closing fast.
    SPOCK: Deflector shields at full power. They can't take much more of this.
    DECKER: Helmsman, hold your course. Stand by all phaser banks.
    SULU: Aye, aye, sir.
    SPOCK: Deflectors holding, but weakening. We must retreat, Commodore. The energy drain...
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  15. Garrovick

    Garrovick Commander Red Shirt

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    Since there was never any explicit discussion about the status of Constellation's photon torpedoes, we don't really know for sure what all Decker did or didn't do with them.

    Perhaps, during his initial attack on the machine, the Constellation's torpedoes were completely ineffective, but maybe one of the phaser hits got lucky and did some kind of extremely minor damage to the machine - something like knocking off some minor piece of unrelated debris off the neutronium hull or something. So Decker may have had an unrealistic hope that phasers might have more of a chance than a torpedo, which is why he didn't launch any from Enterprise.

    But, I do think everything Decker did against the machine from Enterprise has to also be looked at in light of the fact that he really wasn't mentally fit for command and shouldn't have been in the center seat anyway, and therefore all of his decisions, including not using the photons and not trying for a "down-the-throat" shot (not to mention flying into the machine in a shuttle), were all suspect.
     
  16. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    Or he wanted to use the phasers as cutting beams to open up a section of the planet killer's hull and keep the torpedos in reserve to then target such an unexposed area.

    Bob