During this first encounter with the Borg, Enterprise's phasers seemed to be very effective against the Borg cube. I can understand why Picard might opt not to continue firing once offensive action against Enterprise has ceased (tractor/slicing beams broken), but when it was clear that no amount of diplomacy or speed would stop the Borg aggressors, why did Picard not resume using phasers?

This early on, it did not appear that the Borg (individual drones on up) had the adaptive shielding we later see. It would be logical to, when the photon torpedos had no effect, attempt firing phasers, would it not?

Is there something that prevented Enterprise's phaser banks from functioning properly at high warp factors? Did the Captain and/or crew know something we viewers did not? Or was this just another cheap plot device?

1 Answer 1


In theory, he couldn't fire phasers once the ships had gone to warp. Phasers are depicted to travel at the speed of light; though different media show them moving at a variety of speeds.

  • Once a Federation ship goes to warp, they are unable to use phasers since the ship is now moving faster than the energy emitted by the phaser array. This is why once the ship is in warp, photon torpedoes are the only weapon used.
  • Photon Torpedo: The propulsion system of the torpedoes is a warp sustainer engine. The engine coils of the torpedo grab and hold a hand-off field from the launcher tube's sequential field induction coils. A miniature matter/antimatter fuel cell adds power to the hand-off field.

  • When launched in warp flight, torpedo will continue to travel at warp, when launched at sublight, torpedo will travel at a high sublight speed, but will not cross the warp threshold. (pg. 129)

  • To be fair to the tactics of a starship, when photon torpedoes are ineffective, phasers are a weapon of last resort. They simply don't have the damage dealing capacity photon torpedoes do.

  • Borg cubes are designed to absorb damage due to their multiple redundancy infrastructure. You have to DESTROY a cube to stop it. This is why Species 8472 was more successful against the Borg. Their weapons could destroy an entire cube in a single volley.

NOTE: In the Abramsverse, the dreadnought class starship, the Vengence, used a form of arcing phaser that WAS capable of being used at warp. No specification for that phaser has been released.

  • Prometheus could fire phasers at warp. I thought by the time Enterprise and the cube were at warp the cube had adapted, so it was a moo point anyway.
    – sumbuddyx
    Apr 16, 2014 at 9:14
  • Phasers could be fired in warp right from the early Enterprise days and through several of the other shows. Granted, this never made a ton of sense. Apr 16, 2014 at 12:30
  • TOS used weapons at warp as well. That phasers can't fire at warp was a TNG retcon.
    – aramis
    Apr 17, 2014 at 17:45
  • @sumbuddyx There's a reference in the DS9 Technical Manual regarding the Defiant and firing phasers at warp. It had something to do with a jacketting annular confinement beam (the ACB being part of what stops a transporter beam from scattering a person across the cosmos). Considering the Prometheus post-dates the Defiant, and was built primarily as a combat vessel, it's likely she incorporates the same ACB technology.
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 5, 2020 at 19:09

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