From Star Trek: First Contact:

Picard: Initiate auto-destruct sequence.
[snip various characters giving authorization codes]
Picard: This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Destruct sequence: Alpha 1. 15 minutes, silent countdown. Enable.
Computer: Auto-destruct in 15 minutes. There will be no further audio warnings.

The computer's line is cross-cut with a shot of some random crewmembers evacuating into escape pods. It is clear that the announcement is audible throughout the ship, and not just on the bridge. So Picard didn't mute it to fool the Borg, for example (and there is no evidence that they were fooled in any event).

What was Picard's rationale for muting the countdown?

(The out-of-universe reason is obviously because they didn't want to run it down to the last second, and a countdown that doesn't almost run out is dramatically pointless. But I'm interested in the in-universe reason.)

  • 10
    He knew he was staying to try to save Data. You've got 15 minutes to either achieve an objective or die. Do you really want a constant audible countdown pecking at your psyche while you try to concentrate to make effective use of those critical few minutes?
    – J...
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:07
  • 6
    "a countdown that doesn't almost run out is dramatically pointless" - actually, I found the knowledge that the clock is silently ticking quite menacing and thus dramatically effective in its own right. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 15:52
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    @O.R.Mapper: You're quite right, the silent countdown was effective. I meant that an audible or visible countdown, where the audience knows exactly how much time is left, will pretty much always go down to the last second.
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 19:22

5 Answers 5


Picard has "issues" with noise

Picard may have a lingering sensitivity to sound due to his childhood experience with Shalaft's Syndrome (Nemesis, 2002). Although Picard received treatment for the medical condition, his irritability could have developed from a learned association between noise and extreme pain.

Picard showed an aversion to noise on several occasions prior to First Contact (1996), such as:

1 How many times did Picard tell Wesley to shut up?

2 Misophonia, for instance, does not require that a sound be loud in order to provoke the afflicted.

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    Clever. But in the same episode he seems to have no issue with toting a (loud) tommy-gun.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 9:37
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    @Valorum - Thanks. I think the tommy-gun and ship-smashing scenes show that Picard's Borg issues cut deeper than other problems he may have. Also, people with misophonia tend to not be bothered by their own sounds while finding the same sounds (eg, chewing food) unbearable when produced by other people.
    – Gaultheria
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 11:31
  • He just kept talking and talking.... lol Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 13:27
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    Concerning the tommy-gun: It's amazing what you can tolerate when in a fit of rage.
    – OhBeWise
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:32
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    If chewing gum counts as food, then I've got misophonia as well.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 17:29

Picard gave the order to evacuate the Enterprise a few seconds before the destruct sequence order was given, which explains why people were piling into the pods even as the audio warning (of the fact that the destruct has been set) arrives. He then muted the countdown so that the Borg wouldn't know how long they had remaining, even if they stormed the ship's bridge, something that Kirk failed to do in Star Trek 3.

Per the film's official novelisation;

Then he drew a breath of pure resolve and walked out onto the bridge. Immediately, Crusher and the others turned to him, their faces anxious, somber, concerned.

“Prepare to evacuate the Enterprise,” he said.

Picard sat in the captain‟s chair, on a bridge that had never before seemed so quiet, so still, despite the presence of others.

The order had been given. He spoke, knowing that at that very instant, most of the surviving crew members were now hurrying to escape pods

“Computer. This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Begin autodestruct sequence. Authorization Picard one-one-zero-alpha.”

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    Given that the film specifically shows a non-bridge location while the computer makes its announcement, I am somewhat reluctant to believe that they could only hear it on the bridge. Do you have a canon (film) source for that claim?
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 0:11
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    I think the ST3 giveaway of the computer countdown is the key to this for the people who know the older films.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 9:27
  • @Separatrix - It seemed like obvious fuel for the "who's the better captain, Kirk or Picard?" debate...
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 9:36
  • If this is the case, I think muting the countdown is as much for the crew's ignorance as the Borg's. Sure, an evacuation order is an emergency. Sure, fleet personel are trained for such orders. Still, a certain-death count might incite panic. That could only serve to hinder evacuation and possibly alert/provoke the Borg.
    – OhBeWise
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:27
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    "so that the Borg wouldn't know how long they had remaining" - surely at least one Borg heard the initial announcement (as per Kevin).Being as they're at least 50% computer, they don't need Enterprise to know when fifteen minutes are up. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 15:00

The reasons anyone has to do anything are many and varied, a multitude of things enter into anyone's decision making process. With that being said, the simplest thought is the easiest to explain, a countdown would be irrelevant, everyone knows the ship is going to blow up, no one really needs to be reminded of the fact.

  • 2
    I'd agree with that. There is some finalization to muting it. It's like there is no hope. This is it.
    – n00dles
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:45

It's a logical tactical decision.

It is irrelevant who the enemy was at that point.

In such a situation, when you activate self destruct and abandon ship, in order for the enemy not to know you activated the sequence, the self destruct running is in silent mode. It's standard operating procedure (not only in ST).

If the evacuation is a non-combat situation one, then there is no reason to initiate a silent countdown and the SD countdown will be announced and repeated at standard intervals.


My best guess is that prior to the self-destruct scene an officer informs Picard that the Borg have taken decks 5 and 6. Maybe the computer knows not to announce the self-destruct warning to those decks and below, and assuming the Borg will take more decks, not to announce it anywhere else after.

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