What follows below is the version of the page as it existed on January 6, 2003. I have created these back-ups for the sake of historical accuracy, since my site and its pages will continue to evolve long after StarDestroyer.Net's attempted "attack on [my] credibility" is forgotten.
A brief analysis of and theory about the strange glow of photon torpedoes.
1. Torpedo casings have been seen on several occasions as two meters
long, black or grey in color, and demonstrate a distinct lack of glow.
(Star Trek II, Star Trek VI, the first TNG episode with K'ehlyr, "In Theory"[TNG], Star Trek Generations (solar probes), "Dark Frontier, Pt. I"[VOY] (when one was transported onto a Borg ship and detonated), "Living Witness"[VOY], et cetera)
2. Torpedoes, when fired, glow like crazy, whether at warp or impulse. Different Federation torpedoes have glowed in many different colors, from yellow (VOY) to red (Star Trek VI), and from blue (ST:TMP) to white (TOS, and I suppose you could say Quantums, too).
3. There is no logical reason for a torpedo to be made to glow this way. "Tracing" the torpedo is unnecessary, would make it easier to shoot down. One could try to say that it is holding on to its impulse drive products, but why would this be desirable, and how would it work at warp? It's also not the crazy idea I just came up with, that being that the torpedo is constantly firing phasers on widebeam around itself. This would be weird at warp, and though it might help the torpedo penetrate shields, it would only make sense if the torpedo were firing (and therefore glowing) in front of itself.
4. No one has ever really tried to shoot down a torpedo.
5. On the new series Enterprise, their older torpedoes do not have a glow. Of course, they don't have shields, either.
Given the above, it is clear that something else is going on. It should be readily apparent that photon torpedoes have some sort of high-energy field surrounding them. But what? It's certainly not anything designed for low-observability. Besides, energy output like that ought to make them *easier* to target . . .
So, what's left? Shields.
We know what a ship looks like when it has shield power driven up to such an extent that the ship is not worried about burning out its own works (the one-way trip Orion pirate vessel in "Journey to Babel"[TOS]) . . . it glows like a torpedo.
Further, we know that photon torpedoes can comfortably enter a star ("Half a Life"[TNG]), or smack into a planet and dig before detonating ("Pen Pals"[TNG]). It is also the only logical explanation for how a solid object can be set to the right frequency to bypass starship shields, as seen in Generations.
Of the possibilities, shields would seem to win out.
Update: I knew I was forgetting something.
In "Half a Life"[TNG], Dr. Timicin has spent the last few years of his life developing a guidance program for Federation photon torpedoes, so that they can be used to restore the star of Kaelon II. No mention is made of further modifications to the photon torpedoes, and the torpedoes look no different than usual. The photon torpedoes that are fired are capable of reaching the star's core, and Timicin reports that "their shields are holding". The torpedoes then sit there for over six seconds waiting to detonate.
Update: Strangely enough, it would appear that even Mike Wong, one of the most rabid of Rabid Warsies, agrees that torpedoes are shielded, at least to some extent. He claims that torpedoes must use "some kind of device to locally neutralize an area of the shield on their way out, and it would presumably do so by producing a small mini-shield at 180 degrees out of phase to the main shield." This effect would also allow torpedoes to penetrate shields.
is this subject so amusing to me? It was one of the first concepts I
fielded on ASVS, and I can still recall the efforts of some to disprove it with
flame and ridicule.