In the Enterprise episode Cold Front at about 40:00, Archer accidentally drops Daniels' phasing device out of the shuttle bay into space.

Presumably things fall in the shuttle bay because of Enterprise's gravity plating, but once outside the bay it's outside its influence and will simply travel in a straight line at a constant velocity. If we give it a generous fall height inside the shuttle bay of 10 meters, that's a mere 14 m/s or 32 mph.

The Enterprise isn't at warp, there's no warp bubble or relativistic concerns. It isn't maneuvering, or being knocked about. There's no significant drag. They're in the same gravitational field. Simple Newtonian momentum says the device will continue along with Enterprise, moving away at about 14 m/s. And that's what we see, it falling straight "down". In the minute between dropping the device and contacting the bridge, it will have moved less than 1km away.

Given that this is technology 900 years in the future it's odd that Enterprise doesn't go after it either for themselves, or to prevent anyone else from having it, such as the Suliban. It's very, very, very slowly (for a spaceship) drifting away from Enterprise. Instead, we never hear about it again.

Out-of-universe, this is due to the Space Is An Ocean trope. Once something is "dropped" into space it's lost just as if you dropped it in an ocean.

I'm looking for an in-universe answer. I'd like to see what we come up with. :)

  • Instead of sending somebody out in a spacesuit to recover it (do they have spacesuits?) could they just beam it aboard?
    – user14111
    Jan 12, 2018 at 20:37
  • @user14111 Yes they have space suits. A few episodes before is Breaking The Ice where Malcolm and Mayweather put on space suits to explore a comet. This is so routine they make a snowman. The transporter is still not considered trustworthy at this point in the show. Likely they'd scan for it from Enterprise (they have the resolution to see people on the surface of a planet from orbit) and send out a shuttlepod.
    – Schwern
    Jan 12, 2018 at 21:16
  • Given that it is a device from the future, intended for use by covert agents, perhaps it is shielded against sensors? There's also no obvious reason to think it would still be in working order after exposure to vacuum, and attempting to reverse engineer it would screw up the timeline. Jan 12, 2018 at 23:03
  • @HarryJohnston Possible, though never set up. What is demonstrated is Daniels is a very bad covert agent and time traveller. He blurts out future info to far too many people, openly uses future tech to fix a trivial problem, his future sensors alert Silik to his presence, and he gets himself killed. As for not surviving vacuum, our own electronics can survive in vacuum at least for a little while. As for sensors we can still see it, so it's detectable with visible light, and it hasn't gone far. Even if it's not functional they could learn a lot just by examining it.
    – Schwern
    Jan 12, 2018 at 23:15
  • 1
    @HarryJohnston Yes, the forward view screen. It's not a window. Also they demonstrated the ability to watch people talking on the street in real time from orbit two episodes before in Civilization.
    – Schwern
    Jan 12, 2018 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


Retrieving the device would have put Enterprise in danger from the Suliban.

Shortly before Jonathan Archer's fight with Silik, Hoshi Sato reported an unauthorized transmission:

Sato: Someone just used our comm system to transmit a message.

Archer: What kind of message?

Sato: It's encrypted, sir.

While Archer and Silik were fighting, Travis Mayweather detected an approaching ship:

Mayweather: There's a vessel approaching, no bigger than a shuttlepod.

The vessel turned out to be a Suliban cell ship. Silik jumped through the open shuttle bay door, and the cell ship rescued Silik and departed at warp.

The encrypted message was likely Silik's call for extraction. Although the rescue ship left without attacking, Enterprise was potentially in imminent danger from an overwhelming force of new Suliban arrivals. The safest option for Enterprise1 would have been to leave immediately at high warp.

At the end of the episode, Captain Archer ordered Crewman Daniels' quarters sealed so that nobody -- not even those with the highest research qualifications and security clearances -- would have access to the remaining future technology. Although the captain's caution suggests that he may have delayed departure long enough to locate and destroy the phasing device, I suspect he wouldn't have risked the extra time needed to retrieve it instead.

1 And the pilgrims' ship, if it was nearby at the time. The pilgrims said their final goodbyes to Enterprise later in the episode, so any escape instructions would have had to include a rendezvous destination.

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