21

In the Next Gen episode "Eye of the Beholder" (S07E18), we get to see the inside of one of the warp nacelles. We can see that the nacelle contains a small control room, with an access hatch to the plasma stream in the nacelle

nacelle plasma stream

When the hatch is opened, a forcefield is activated, presumably to protect the room occupants from the intense heat and radiation from the plasma. Yet this forcefield allows a crewman to swan dive through it to his death.

plasma swan dive death

Why does this forcefield allow a person to pass through it to their death?

  • 2
    Pure guesswork on my part, but a forcefield set to block non-plasmatic matter might degrade much faster than one set to just block plasma. – Valorum Oct 4 '17 at 11:25
  • I wonder if Data would also be obliterated by the plasma stream. – Ham Sandwich Oct 4 '17 at 17:42
19

One of the plot points here is that once the door is open, the field can only operate for 90 seconds before requiring a shutdown and venting of the nacelle. From the transcript

TROI: Could you open this door for me?
WORF: Yes, but only for a short time. After ninety seconds the plasma venting system will engage to prevent degradation of the forcefield.
TROI: I just want to take a quick look.
WORF: May I ask what you're looking for?
TROI: I'm not sure.
(the hatch rises and the stream of energy is visible)
COMPUTER: Warning plasma venting system will engage in ninety seconds.

When the man jumps, the force field has been open long enough for the venting system to engage. So the field would have clearly degraded significantly by then.

COMPUTER: Shutdown procedure initiated.
NARA: There's still plasma in the injector. It'll take time to vent off.
RIKER: Tell me what happened. Maybe I can help.
KWAN: I know what I have to do.
(and he jumps into the plasma stream. Riker hits the bulkhead in anger and frustration and despair)

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  • That's not the screenplay, that's a transcript – Valorum Oct 4 '17 at 14:02
  • @Valorum Corrected – Machavity Oct 4 '17 at 14:05
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    Ah I see, so the forcefield ISN'T designed to let a person through it, it's simply in a state of failing due to exposure to the plasma, which allows a person to pass through it? – dkwarr87 Oct 4 '17 at 15:57
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    @dkwarr87 That seems to be the implication based on the dialogue. Also, that platform where Riker is standing is pretty narrow. If you could fall through easily it would likely be wider, or have some sort of railing. I can't think of anywhere else in canon where someone could readily pass through a TNG-era force field – Machavity Oct 4 '17 at 16:08
  • 5
    @Machavity the only example I can think of (and what I was originally thinking the nacelle forcefield was like) is the Shuttlebay forcefield, which holds the atmosphere in but allows objects to pass through. – dkwarr87 Oct 4 '17 at 16:26

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