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Discounting the usual ethereal-like or omnipotent entities (such as Q), normal humanoid life forms, with their comparable technology, seem to be blocked from being able to penetrate the Federation's flagship’s shields and computers.

That said, there is an instance in the season 4 episode "Devil's Due" where Ardra casually and repeatedly transports into the main bridge (as well as Picard's quarters) using her flim-flam operation's resources, despite Picard's requests for the crew to raise the shields. She also manages to hack their computers to disable core functioning aspects of the ship (transporter, communicators etc.)

How does she manage this?

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You may want to edit the question slightly, as at the moment it is a list question, and those are considered off-topic. –  James Sheridan Mar 9 at 3:13
    
@John O: Thanks for the notification but really not my intent. Just asking if I missed something here that other examples/episodes in the series could justify better. I will modify the question to highlight that. –  shivsky Mar 9 at 4:02
    
There is no consistency in Star Trek. When your question is of the form "Was Star Trek inconsistent on the the issue of X"... the answer is always "yes". I still like Star Trek, but let's not pretend they were going for overall consistency. –  John O Mar 9 at 4:23
    
Note: This only applies to Star Trek and a few other shows, if we're talking about B5, then inconsistency might be worth asking about because there's a strong chance you just didn't catch something that explains why it is consistent. –  John O Mar 9 at 4:24
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@JohnO Were the shields actually up when Ardra beamed in/out? –  Izkata Mar 9 at 4:26
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3 Answers 3

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Nothing Ardra did requires access to the Enterprise systems, and it is consistent with the rest of the series(es).

Yet all of the Federation's known enemies (including the Borg) seemed to follow the logical "penetrate/destroy shields or have them lowered" formula for forced entry. (I doubt a con-artist's starship has capability far exceeding the Federation's more famous enemies!)

They key here is "or have them lowered". The Enterprise does not have its shields up all the time, and had no reason to put them up while in orbit of a friendly planet. Ardra didn't have any shields blocking her from beaming in and out of the Enterprise.

She also manages to disable core functioning aspects of the ship (transporter, communicators etc.)

When she visits Picard in his quarters, he's unable to use the comms or the door. This is possible by way of a localized dampening field, probably generated by a device that was beamed in with her. And her depiction of Picard's "perfect woman" can be inferred by how he acts, mixed with knowledge of Earth's history (which we know she has because of the form she took during the trial).

Why didn't they detect her beaming in and out? Energy requirements. The ship is not continually scanning for everything all the time - that's why they usually bring out a tricorder when they need to detect a transporter signature. In DS9 we are treated to additional instances of this, with Sloan regularly beaming in and out of DS9 without detection.

But in this case scanning for it wouldn't likely have helped much. In DS9 6x18, Inquisition, at Sloan's first appearance, he somehow managed to hide his transporter signature - something a con artist who relies on hiding her use of technology would surely know how to do.

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The needs of the narrative dictate the vulnerabilities of the Enterprise. Shields are raised or lowered when this action enhances the story as they also become substantially weaker when the narrative requires this to occur to threaten the ship and its crew.

In the case of Ardra why her ship escaped detection for such a lengthy period of time is never made quite clear. Romulan and Klingon cloaking technology is shown to be an energy-intensive function and yet Ardra's ship was so weak that the Enterprise was later able to take control of it without much difficulty. This would, of course, never have happened when facing a Warbird or Bird of Prey (the standard Romulan and Klingon combat vessels).

Also there's the glaring error that Ardra is somehow able to analyze technology incompatible to her own (in this case the Enterprise's systems) and alter them in minutes. Since both Romulan and Klingon technology is comparable to that of the Federation and Cardassian technology is only slight below it. Those adversaries should logically have been able to do the exact same things as did Ardra in roughly the same amount of time or less.

Again, Star Trek's narratives always depend upon the antagonist being able to do what the narrative requires of them to endanger the Enterprise. There is never a program where the antagonists fail in their endeavors at or near the beginning of the program as that would eliminate the danger ( real or imagined) that the crew undergoes in that episode.

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"The needs of the narrative dictate the vulnerabilities of the Enterprise." Is this yours, or did you hear it somewhere? Either way, thank you for it... it's quotable. –  John O Mar 9 at 4:25
    
It's me. Thanks. I have seen all of the series episodes so many times that I have grown used to things going the way that story needs them to "go." It's one of the series' weaknesses: No real suspense. –  Mistah Mix Mar 9 at 4:33
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Rephrasing to bring it more closely into alignment with Spock's line: "The needs of the story outweigh the needs of the crew." –  keshlam Mar 9 at 5:53
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@keshlam Arr! Just wanted to write that after reading the first comment. :D Maybe you could replace "crew" with "continuity" or something like that as well. ;) –  Mario Mar 9 at 10:04
    
"Story/crew" echos "many/few" in the original quote. –  keshlam Mar 9 at 14:35
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Shield penetration is not uncommon. Another TNG-specific example that comes to mind is Ensign Ro's gambit in "Pre-emptive strike" in which she is able to penetrate the Enterprise D's shields in order to beam out medical supplies. As you say, the Borg are also able to penetrate shields without constant nutation modulation.

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But wasn't Ro's attempt detected and didn't they let her get through to help her with her cover story? –  mu is too short Mar 9 at 5:20
    
Yes, but merely because it was detected doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't an actual vulnerability. One presumes they didn't have the ability to stop the penetration beyond simply firing on the Maquis vessel. –  Ryan Norbauer Mar 9 at 5:23
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