Thinking back on the newest film of the reboot, but also on the series I noticed something that has me baffled.

What we see combat wise in star trek it looks like the old ships (tos, archers enterprise, reboot enterprise) are MORE resilient in terms of what damage they can take (before and after shield failure) than the newer ones like Enterprise D+, Voyager, ... .

I'm not talking about what type of punishment they can take in terms of modern/old weaponry, but more what kind of damage. As example in the TNG series almost every single time the Enterprise D got one narcelle destroyed (and in some cases only a glancing blow to one) the warp core got unstable and exploded (a time loop then repaired things in the end). While in Enterprise and also the reboot films we see warp narcelles destroyed or cut off left and right and....the ship is still battle ready.

Additionally see whole sections destroyed (of the NX01 and reboot Enterprise) with a total damage that would put the worst damage even the Voyager got to shame (and that in situations where they evacuated or the Voyager got destroyed).

Thus I'm wondering there if its just better and better CGI and more realistic damage script writing.....OR if there is any in universe reason for the seemingly less resilient modern ships?

  • 3
    I think this is probably what you're after; reddit.com/r/DaystromInstitute/comments/1kv0r1/…. Basically their contention is that the Galaxy Class was a huge failure. Too large, too unwieldy, too expensive to use as a battle wagon and that it had a glass jaw.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 19:01
  • the Enterprise E on the other hand seems to take alot more punishment, specifically in Nemisis.
    – Himarm
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 19:16
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    still though from what I remember of the ds9 war arcs and also other ships (and shiptypes) portrayed in different series itw as almost always so that a narcelle hit/loss was a destroyed ship,...
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 19:32
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    It's all about polystyrene vs. CGI. CGI Ships may look sturdier, but it's all a mirage. Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 20:15
  • I wondered if it was due to improvements in weaponry outpacing that of armor. 18th century wooden Tall Ships often stayed afloat after sustaining fairly heavy damage - torn sails, broken masts, twisted rigging, ripped-up deck plating, sword nicks everywhere, and minor to moderate leaks. By WW2, steel ships were the rule, but they could be sunk with a single torpedo. Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 1:39

3 Answers 3


The simple answer is that during Enterprises era they had no shields and had to build ships that could withstand getting hit where as Ships further down the line could rely on better and better shields and were trying new things that required a weaker design, such asa Voyager's moving pylons.

Much of older ships relied on mechanical protections such as sealing bulkead compartments with a physical shield while newer ships relied on energy based protections. The result is if you hit the right spot on a newer ship a larger section of the ship is gone and that's after you get through a less physically shielded structure too.

There's also the problem that the shields seem to overload other systems which means just hitting the shields on a ship that's persistent enough to keep them going can damage the ship beyond sustainable levels while this just isn't true of older ships.

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    Add in then that in the reboot despite it being techincally superior to the old TOS (jj even said that the narada gave them improvements in terms of technology) they saw how useless shields are against narada,... they probably looked also for ships that can survive a beating. (Even more so than in the prime universe). good points!
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 19:05


Limited production budgets and physical props meant they had to look after them, so you'd never see visible damage on the TOS Enterprise.

CGI means you can blow stuff up left right and center on a virtual ship and all it costs is CPU cycles. Movie budgets, being larger, mean you can afford to blow up some real stuff too.

In the "good ol' days" of Star Trek, they were still writing the book on what stuff was (eg. what shields are and what they can do). The original series tended to stay away from explaining stuff, so the implications of depleted or obliterated shields was hard to quantify. As a result, things failed in vague ways and always seemed to get fixed quickly enough to save the day. They also had to work within a format where each story had to conclude in one hour minus commercial breaks, etc.. Later series got more serialized so bad things could happen which endured over two or more episodes.


One of the primary improvements seen in Star Trek is improvements in energy generation. Secondarily to that is their torpedoes (from photon to quantum, with stops in between).

With energy production increasing, the energy available to the energy weapons (phasers, disrupters, etc) is increased. True, the amount available to the shields is increased as well, but any increase in shield power (outside of entirely new shield systems) increases their strength far less than the same amount of power added to a directed energy weapon will increase it's yield.

In short, adding 50kW into a roughly spherical shield will give it far less of a single-point power increase than adding that same 50kW into a directed energy weapon. For this reason, absent a new generation of shielding technology, you would expect to see a difference in effectiveness between weapons and shields as the amount of available power increases. Both will see increased effectiveness, but energy weapons will scale linearly while shields will quickly show diminishing returns.

Add to that the fan-theory suggested by Valorum in the comments, and you have the makings of a complete answer.

  • It isnt only a fan theory btw....I saw it once even officially stated I think even within the series (after the destruction of the 3rd galaxy class ship?).
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 19:03

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