When Star Trek Discovery started I was quite surprised that they did use Kelvin Timeline Phasor effects for their phasor and Disruptor fires...thus short pulses instead of beams.

Then, in the Season 2 finale, suddenly all ships from all sides used BEAMS for their energy weapons.

Is there any explanation on that in or out of universe?

1 Answer 1


I found a video that goes over this in detail

The point he makes in the video is that, regardless of era or universe, we see phasers emit in both pulses and streams.


Most people expect phasers to look like this

NX-01 phasers

The list of places they appear like this is... well, it's long

  • NX-01
  • NCC-0514 (USS Kelvin)
  • NCC-1701
  • NCC-1701-D
  • NCC-1701-E
  • NCC-74656 (USS Voyager)


There are instances in pre-Discovery canon of pulse firing. The most notable is Star Trek II, when Khan attacks the Enterprise

So pulses are not necessarily non-canon.


So why the switch? A couple of reasons

In-universe, phaser technology has had to advance due to the Klingon war. We saw this in the Kelvin universe, where they went the other way (beams on the Kelvin, to pulses on the Enterprise, likely to counter the Nero, which had that multi-torpedo launcher). It's likely the Discovery got a refit at the end of Season 1.

Out of universe, it would be silly to have the original NCC-1701 firing beams (to better mesh with the phasers seen in TOS) while the supposedly more advanced Discovery was still firing pulses. I should note, though, there were still a lot of pulse phasers in the final fight of Season 2

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  • one has to wonder how hard it would have been to mention the reasons you brought up in episodes.....Enterprise brought up upgrded weapons a few times (slowly introducing them), and at other times mentioned extensive upgrades to the ship at the beginning of a new season instead of "WHAM".....new visual effects all of a sudden.
    – Thomas
    Jan 10, 2020 at 20:48
  • 2
    Do we have any evidence that the two effects are different weapon designs? Perhaps they can do both, and choose based on tactical considerations? Jan 10, 2020 at 21:58
  • @HarryJohnston No, but they really didn't bother to explain the differences in-universe either. All I know for sure is that the TOS Enterprise fired blue phaser streams. If it were a tactical decision, you'd expect the Battle of the Binary Stars to feature a mix of types (especially given the wide mix of ship types we see), yet we see only pulses.
    – Machavity
    Jan 11, 2020 at 4:36

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