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In "Heart of Glory," a Klingon passenger onboard the Enterprise aims his weapon at the warp core in a fit of desperation.

In universe, why not shield it? Any rogue passenger (or a depressed, perhaps homicidal crewman) could destroy the ship very easily in an act of rage or despair.

  • The same reason they don't lock the shuttles. They trust people on the ship to be adults, and monitor the crews psychological state. – DCShannon Mar 30 '16 at 21:57
  • In Nemesis, we see that they've installed a 'warp core shield' which they activate when the ship is going into battle. I guess that's not really an answer to the question of why they didn't have one before that. – Valorum Mar 30 '16 at 22:00
  • @Richard We do see Geordi activate a containment field around the warp core, during the show, to help strengthen it. – Xantec Mar 30 '16 at 22:15
  • @Xantec - Yes, in TNG Disaster, but that's a containment field for the antimatter pods, not the warp core itself. – Valorum Mar 30 '16 at 22:20
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    @Richard Searching through the Nemesis transcript for the world "shield" I don't see where Geordi says he is activating a warp core shield. There is a good chance that the images you've linked to are simply of a standard containment field seen in TNG. – Xantec Mar 30 '16 at 22:32
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Short Answer: the warp core is shielded, but not all the time.

Long Answer: as Richard and I have discussed in the comments, the warp core is capable of being enclosed in a containment force field. While ostensibly these fields are primarily to protect the crew in the event of a breach so they can evacuate Engineering and eject the core, I suggest that containment fields are also able to absorb the energy of a hand phaser.

In TNG: The Game the bridge crew attempt to catch Wesley by blocking off corridors with "security fields". Wesley then sets up a phaser to fire at the field as a misdirection. Despite security fields being meant to control people, including perhaps armed intruders, there is no reason to believe that they are significantly different from a containment field in form or function. And as a containment field should in theory be able to absorb the energy of a warp core breach, even if for just a second, there is no reason to believe it couldn't also absorb the lower energy of a phaser.

As for why the containment fields wouldn't always be active, or automatically activate on a red alert, there is no information to my knowledge that addresses this apparent oversight in the Starfleet SOP.

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    Easy to invent an explanation, though. Probably if the force field was left on all the time it would build up a dangerous concentration of <foo> particles or something. :-) – Harry Johnston Mar 31 '16 at 4:38
  • @HarryJohnston Yea, that makes sense as for leaving it on 100% of the time. But they should be able to have it turn on automatically when Red Alert is activated – Xantec Mar 31 '16 at 15:55
  • Ooh, that one's even easier. Most Red Alerts are related to stuff happening outside the ship, i.e., a potential combat situation, and when in combat engineering need to be able to access the warp core directly, in case an energy surge damages it or something. Having to turn off the containment field first might cause a fatal delay. – Harry Johnston Mar 31 '16 at 20:55

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