The description of the Warp Drive in Star Trek:

Warp drive was a technology that allowed space travel at faster-than-light speeds. It worked by generating warp fields to form a subspace bubble that enveloped the starship, distorting the local spacetime continuum and moving the starship at velocities that could greatly exceed the speed of light.

From the Warp Drive article in Memory Alpha, emphasis by me

Is it possible to create a subspace bubble and therefore basically entering Warp but standing still? And is it possible to fly backwards / sidewards in the Warp or are there technical restrictions preventing that?

That would IMHO open some interesting tactical possibilities, specially the flying backwards. One could perform the "inverse Picard Maneuver" and therefore briefly vanish from the enemies sensor.

  • Not an expert on Trek lore, so I'll leave this as a comment, but the fact that we see ships turning before jumping to warp in several establishing shots would suggest to me that straight backwards / sideways is not feasible. Although maybe that's just because the "deflector dish" is on the front? Perhaps you could do it if you mounted deflector dishes all around.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


In the TOS episode "Balance of Terror" there is a scene where the Romulan ship fires its plasma superweapon at the Enterprise while the phasers ae out of order.

SULU: Captain, are they surrendering?

(The Romulan ship has become visible)

KIRK: Full astern! Emergency warp speed!

(A red plasma blast is heading towards them)

KIRK: Do we have emergency warp?

SULU: Full power, sir. It's still overtaking us. If we can get one phaser working, sir, one shot might detonate it.

KIRK: Navigation?

STILES: Estimate it'll overtake us in two minutes, sir.

KIRK: Phasers, Mister Spock?

SPOCK: Impossible, Captain.

KIRK: Feed this to the space recorder and jettison immediately.

RAND: Captain, should I continue log entry?

KIRK: Yeoman. Affirmative. Continue log entries.

RAND: Yes, sir.

SULU: Ten seconds to impact. Captain, It's dissipating, sir.

STILES: It must have a range limit.

(Rand stands as close as humanly possible to Kirk)

SULU: Five, four, three, two, one. Impact!

(Everyone gets thrown about a bit)

KIRK: Limited range.

So the transcript of the scene doesn't mention any exterior shots of the Enterprise during that scene, and I don't rmember seeing any exterior shots of the starship during that scene in many viewings of it.

Without any shots of the Enteprise travelling either backwards or forwards at warp speed, or of it turning around, there is no way to tell if the starship was travelling backwards or turned around to flee from the plasma bolt.

But I have argued elsewhere that the Enterprise may have been travelling backwards at extreme warp in this scene.

  • 2
    I think I have to agree that "full astern" almost always means "backward." :)
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 15:02

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