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Something always bothered me about that episode. The Bozeman didn't hit the Enterprise anywhere near the warp core, it hit in one of the nacelles. How did that collision cause a warp core breach?

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The script gives us a pretty good overview of the order of events. A physical strike to the nacelle damaged the warp plasma system. The ship vented warp plasma and this destabilised the warp core, which then exploded.

DATA: The starboard nacelle has sustained a direct impact. We are venting drive plasma.

GEORDI: Initiating emergency core shutdown.

The starboard nacelle FLARES, throwing the ship into a SPINNING MOTION, out of control...

DATA: The core shutdown was unsuccessful. We are losing antimatter containment.

GEORDI: We've gotta eject the engine core!

DATA: The ejection systems are off-line. A core breach is imminent...

EXT. SPACE - THE ENTERPRISE (OPTICAL)
as it EXPLODES in a blast of fire and debris. Completely destroyed.

This aligns with what we know about the warp drive system from the TNG Technical Manual. Warp plasma is energised in the warp engine, gets channelled along tubes to the nacelles and returns spent once it's done its work. Uncontrolled venting apparently isn't good for the warp core, hence why they tend to explode when there's a containment breach.

The energetic plasma created by the M/ARC [Matter/Anti-matter Reaction Chamber], and passed along the power transfer conduits, quickly arrives at the termination point, the warp engine nacelles. This is where the actual propulsion work is done. Each nacelle consists of a number of major assemblies, including the warp field coils (WFC), plasma injection system (PIS), emergency separation system (ESS), and maintenance docking port.

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    I never knew there were so many British Star Trek fans, but this explains so much! I always hear them talking about taking the PIS out of someone, and, well, now that I know what that is, it makes a lot of sense.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 17:38
  • They make the bubble. "The warp coils in warp nacelles created a subspace displacement field, which "warped" the space around the vessel allowing it to "ride" on a spatial distortion, and travel faster than the speed of light." .... ("actual propulsion" um, that's not how warp works....) returns spent plasma - possibly acts as the coolant, which would explain randomly having to vent it intentionally. I want to compare it to a runaway diesel but it's not ingesting anything; more like removing the control rods of a reactor.
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 0:19
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    @Mazura - Hush now. Your science facts and logical deduction have no place here.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 7:10
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In addition to the events of the impact itself, it's important to note something else in play

LAFORGE: All main systems just went down. Power levels are dropping rapidly.

The ship was clearly in trouble before they were hit by the Bozeman. It's very possible that the systems that went down that would help limit that sort of damage (i.e. shields, containment fields, etc.).

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  • Oooh. I didn't spot that. I'm wondering if "main systems" includes the warp containment field. The fact that the emergency lighting still works would suggest otherwise, though. It's not all electrical systems, just a few that are easily disrupted by a distortion field.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 15:31
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    Just commenting on trek not your answer... It seems to me the Warp core is the least of the warp drive's problems - despite what a tech manual may say. It's a bit like ejecting an engine to keep a car from exploding and expecting the viewer to forget the gasoline tank is the part that goes boom. Now I'm sure million degree plasma in a warp core will mess up a ship too if the core ruptured. But what the show implies is a mega antimatter bomb. And if the power to the antimatter tanks went off that's a problem. Maybe they do it Simpsons style where the antimatter pods are powered by the drive Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 22:13
  • @lucasbachmann - Ejecting the warp core also triggers the venting of the warp plasma system.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 7:04
  • Long story short, @lucasbachmann, if antimatter containment goes out, then a reaction will occur. But when the warp core is operational, a matter/antimatter operation is already occuring in the core, and this reaction will continue for as long as the core remains operational. And if the core is damaged, that reaction can go out of control, and take the entire ship with it. Which means that if antimatter containment is a gas tank that can go boom, then the engine is a boom, wrapped in a fragile case that shatters if you sneeze too hard at it. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 23:26
  • (Continued) So, yeah, it's not wrong to think of the warp core as a "mega antimatter bomb", since it effectively is a mega antimatter bomb that explodes forever (or until it runs out of fuel). And if it's breached, then the explosion gets out of the core and into the rest of the ship, and nobody wants that! xD (It's also possible that the antimatter containment system is part of the warp core, and thus ejecting the core ejects the antimatter, too. It'd probably be the smartest way to design it, really, so you don't need to worry about the ship blowing up if aux power goes too.) Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 23:29

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