I've just about finished season 2 of ST:TOS and I funnily enough don't remember ever seeing the warp core of the original Enterprise. Do we actually ever see the warp core like in TNG onwards?

We do see the engine room (below)

TOS Engine Room

and interestingly enough in the below schematic we do not see any warp drive:

An LCARS schematic surprisingly lacking a 'warp core' as such

So, my question is: Do we ever see the Warp Core of the Enterprise in TOS?

  • You can see the Warp Core in the Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness if you are interested in USS Enterprise C.
    – I' Robot
    Nov 18 '15 at 8:33
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    @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 pretty sure the C isn't in the reboot! Nov 18 '15 at 8:50
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    I thought that was Scotty's personal brewery memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Budweiser_Brewery Jun 5 '16 at 10:44

No, it's never seen. While I can't give you an actual source, I've seen all the episodes many times since I first saw an episode back during the original network run. The term "warp core" was never even used in the original series.

About the closest I can remember is in That Which Survives, where Mr. Scott has to interrupt the fuel flow before it gets to the matter/anti-matter reaction chamber.

But we never see (until ST:TMP) a warp core or reaction chamber.

If you want a really good set of designs for what the Enterprise looked like during TOS, and before there was any retcon work, see if you can find a copy of the blueprints or Technical Manual done by Franz Josef Designs. My understanding is that Gene Roddenberry originally endorsed those, then later retracted that. However, they matched what we saw and knew in the 1960s and 1970s, before ST:TMP came out and before any changes or new ideas were introduced.

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    Another way to put it is that there may have been such a thing as a "warp core" while Archer and Kirk were captains, but there was no such thing as a warp core in the 1960s, when TOS was produced.
    – Tango
    Mar 18 '14 at 3:56

According to the memory alpha article Warp Core, one part of the warp core was visible in engineering--the "dilithium crystal converter assembly", "which consisted of two flattened rounded nodules situated directly in front of the warp plasma conduits to the warp engines, which were behind a large metal grate". The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual would later establish that the matter and antimatter were actually channeled into the dilithium crystal itself, where they would react in a non-explosive way somehow made possible by the unique nature of dilithium, and the high-energy plasma that resulted from their reaction would be channeled to the warp nacelles (that's what the "warp plasma conduits to the warp engines" in the above quote is presumably talking about). The function of the dilithium crystals (referred to as 'lithium' crystals in some earlier episodes) is not really stated in TOS, although in the episode "Mudd's Women" after several crystals are overloaded, Spock says "The entire ship's power is feeding through one lithium crystal" and Scotty says "it's frustrating. Almost a million gross tons of vessel depending on a hunk of crystal the size of my fist." So, it seems plausible that the creators of the original series would have had some notion that the crystals were closely connected to the matter/antimatter power generation system.

The article on the assembly shows a shot of this part of the warp core, from the episode "Elaan of Troyius" (where Scotty actually used the term 'dilithium crystal converter assembly'):

enter image description here

Note that although in this scene the chamber with the dilithium crystal is exposed, most of the time it was retracted between the "two flattened rounded nodules" described above, which you can see better in this shot from "Day of the Dove":

enter image description here

There's a photo in the U.S.S. Enterprise Owners' Workshop Manual (which was written in consultation with Michael Okuda, who with Rick Sternbach was the technical consultant on all the shows from TNG onwards, so I think it can be considered to have almost the same level of canon as the TNG Technical Manual which was written by Okuda and Sternbach) which shows these two rounded things and calls them the "dilithium-focused matter/antimatter integrators". The text also says "Before 2267, the dilithium crystals were located in a separate control room. However, during a layover at the end of 2267 the Enterprise NCC-1701's main engineering room was redesigned and the twin matter/antimatter integrators were fitted in the centre of the room. These redesigned units contained the dilithium crystal converter assembly." Presumably the out-of-universe explanation for this is that they redesigned the engineering set somewhat, around the time of one of the later episodes that have since been defined to have taken place in 2267--this site on the history of changes to the engineering set suggests it may have been around the time of the episode "The Doomsday Machine".

As for the rest of the warp core, where the matter and antimatter would be channeled up towards the dilithium crystals, this apparently wasn't shown, but there's a note in the Warp Core article saying:

Of the original Constitution-class warp core, only the dilithium crystal assembly and the plasma conduits were ever seen in Star Trek: The Original Series. When Doug Drexler was called to design the detailed schematics of a Constitution-class starship, he designed a horizontal warp core that runs two decks below main engineering. The schematic made a prominent appearance on screen in ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II". Star Trek: The Animated Series also featured a vertical component of the warp core, that extended from the dilithium crystal assembly.

Here is the schematic of a Constitution class ship designed by Doug Drexler (also mentioned in Bill Teel's answer), which I suppose we can consider canon since it did air on that Enterprise episode. And below is the same image with labels, from an archived copy of Doug Drexler's old "Drex Files" site (linked on the memory alpha Constitution class decks article, which has a more detailed guide to what's what)--just click the image and use the magnifying glass tool on your browser to see it full size.

enter image description here

And here is the image of the vertical warp core from the animated series:

enter image description here


We don't ever see it in the original series - as showing it was not only not thought of, but, more importantly, they had a (low) budget, so, they had to only build what was necessary.

Sometimes, to have an episode (and this goes for other series as well. Doctor Who comes to mind) which the producer knows will cost a lot, they do an episode or two beforehand, which won't require much - limited to the series' regular cast, and confined to within those sets already built.

The third - and last - season of TOS had the lowest budget of all, and by that point, the possibility of building anymore sets was nil.

Also, as I mentioned, showing of the warp core was not even thought of (as necessary) during the original series.

It wasn't until - I think it was actually during the (aborted) series Star Trek II when there were plans to show it.

I do know that much of what was built for this series was used on the first Star Trek film (1979), which did in fact show the warp core, as did every subsequent series and movie.


The M/AM reactor is referenced, and in the animated series episodes "One Of Our Planets Is Missing" and "Beyond The Farthest Star", it is referred to as the Engineering Core. In the third season episode "That Which Survives" Scott uses a maintenance crawlway to access the core (probably the injectors) when it is active. He has rigged charges to blow it out into space should it be necessary to eject it. Doug Drexler, in the only canon plan of a Constitution Class cruiser that I am aware of, took his lead from the warp reactor from Enterprise, and ran the "core" horizontally beneath the deck. Based on the line from "The Menagerie", and some of the dialogue from Enterprise, it can be surmised that the increase in power seen in the intervening years between the two series was not accompanied by an appropriate increase in shielding technology. Thus, burying the core in the deck makes a lot of sense.

It should also be noted, however, that even Drexler's plan breaks with canon as far as the placement of certain features, such as weapons.

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    While it's an interesting answer, it doesn't answer the question, which is simply "Do we see the warp core?" Nov 18 '15 at 0:18

The warp core is in The Original Series Enterprise. Look on the image. Warp Core The matter is going right pipe and anti-matter left and the annihilate reaction is on up end of pipes. The boxes on image is dilithium chamber.Boxes

  • The function of the pipes was not originally defined on the show, but later sources such as the U.S.S. Enterprise Owners' Workshop Manual (which I discussed in my answer) have defined them to be carrying "warp plasma" to the nacelles, with the plasma being the the result of matter/antimatter annihilation. The warp core is where the matter and antimatter first react and create the plasma, the plasma conduits then take the plasma away from the core to other systems, they aren't part of the core themselves.
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 20 '15 at 21:36

Well, I say that the Constitution-class starships had Linear Self-Contained Non-Networked warp drive engines, or LSCNN warp drive engines. The two nacelles had their own separate fuel convertor and intermix assemblies, and did not require an intermix chamber in the middle of the large Main Engineering Section.

The Main Engineering Section is located at the stern of the primary Hull, or saucer section of the ship. This is also known as the Impulse Engineering Section. Most of the ship's engineering functions are run from this location. Behind the large metal bulkhead wall, are the 4 Impulse Power Units, which are the Impulse Drive Engines, or I.M.Pulse Drive Engines. Short for Internally Metered Pulse Drive.

In case of an emergency saucer separation maneuver, the saucer acts as a life-boat, and engineering functions can continue uninterrupted. This was seen in most of the episodes, like "The Doomsday Machine", "Day of the Dove", and "The Changeling", to name a few.

The other, smaller Warp Drive Engineering Section is located in the top middle of the Secondary Hull. This was seen in the earlier episodes like "Space Seed" and "Court Martial".

There are no warp cores, or plasma conduits, going throughout the ship, since it's non-networked, during the time of the original series. The networked linear warp core design came later on, during the time of Star Trek - The Motion Picture.

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    Welcome to SFFSE! Do you have any concrete evidence to support this claim? We hear plenty of times in the series that there is a warp drive rather than multiple warp engines Jun 5 '16 at 6:07
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    Could you provide some sources?
    – Adamant
    Jun 5 '16 at 6:18
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    trekbbs.com/threads/franz-joseph-blueprints-revisited.205441/… - This appears to be based on the (deeply non-canon) blueprints tech fandom
    – Valorum
    Jun 5 '16 at 7:53

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