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In the movie Star Trek: Generations, when the Klingons stole their shield frequencies, why didn't they just modulate their shield frequency, just like against the Borg in "Q Who".

I have been giving this some thought and can't figure it out. Did I miss something?

  • 2
    Off the top of my head, poor writing and/or poor procedure on the part of the Federation. You'd think that the computer would be programmed to automatically cycle the frequency when any structural damage was detected without an attendant collapse of a segment of the shield, but apparently not. Could be bad for anyone in transporter transit.. but still - So could damage to the ship. – K-H-W Mar 26 '15 at 1:15
  • I know, poor writing and bad design. But couldn't they still manually change the frequency. – vkumar Mar 26 '15 at 1:17
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    For future reference, questions that have the format "What if _____ happened" are tricky to ask on this site. See the meta discussion here, but they're not always a good fit. I'm not saying this one's not a good fit (it's probably okay), just something to keep in mind in the future – Jason Baker Mar 26 '15 at 1:24
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    @jpmc26 -- Exactly; there should be a number of predefined scenarios that either they (or the computer) automatically respond to. The ship being struck despite the shields being fully operation is one. Do they know it's compromised? No. But is changing the frequency a quick, simple counter measure to a number of possible causes? Yes. Ah, well - perhaps there's some logical, but never stated, reason, like the shields go down for a second when the frequency is changed. – K-H-W Mar 26 '15 at 2:01
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    @cde Unless I'm mistaken, the standard response to the Borg was to randomize the frequency continually. It would probably be changing too fast for Geordi to keep up, much less the Klingons watching. – jpmc26 Mar 26 '15 at 7:06
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No, you didn't miss anything.

Out of universe: It's terrible writing.

In universe: I reckon the Enterprise bridge crew panicked.

All of the command crew on the Enterprise bridge had faced the Borg. One of them should have noticed the similarity of the situation and suggested rotating shield frequencies.

It gets worse the more you think about it.

Why isn't rotating shield frequencies on shield penetration standard procedure? Why wait to be penetrated? Why not have the computer change your shield frequencies periodically in battle automatically? I don't recall any discussion of a downside of rotating frequencies. If there's a legit transport in progress through the shields, the computer knows to wait.

Why was one of the most important numbers on a starship being prominently displayed on a screen anyone can walk past and glance at? The Federation are a bunch of trusting dupes who don't put locks on things, but come on!

Why didn't Riker order Worf to disable their weapons? Shields or no shields, the Enterprise-D should have been able to kick the snot out of a second-hand D12 Bird Of Prey that had been retired 20 years before. I don't recall mention of the Enterprise's weapons being offline (and I'm not rewatching it to check).

In the comments people have mentioned maybe shield frequency rotation hadn't become a thing yet. Voyager rotates shield frequencies all the time. USS Voyager left the Alpha Quadrant, and thus contact with the Federation, in 2371 the same year as Generations takes place. The Voyager crew never faced the Borg, but they knew to rotate shield frequencies when their shields were being mysteriously penetrated.

The original Enterprise faced a similar situation in Wrath of Khan, an enemy catches them with their shields down, but even worse because Reliant was an even match for the Enterprise. That turned into a tense, exciting, intelligent space battle where every shot counts. Remembering that just makes the Generations battle even worse.

  • To be fair, the Voyager is a newer, post Borg contact ship. It has Borg tactics in mind, like the defiant. Notice the Enterprise E was a better match to Borg ships than the D. – user16696 Mar 26 '15 at 11:38
  • @cde How does the ship change the bridge crew's basic tactics? – Schwern Mar 26 '15 at 15:51
  • The ease of which re modulating the shields can be done? And the phasers and torpedoes would need matching modulation changes. Even the phaser rifles and hand phasers need tinkering with to have them rotate modulation. New ship, new tech, new tactics – user16696 Mar 26 '15 at 18:05
  • @cde I see where you're going. I find it hard to believe that the flagship of the Federation, and the only Federation ship which has faced the Borg multiple times, didn't get upgrades to change their shield frequencies quickly. Shelby has Data change their weapon frequencies on the fly in Best Of Both Worlds years earlier. I'll have to go back and see if they're equally casual about shield frequencies. They wouldn't even have to "keep them guessing", Lursa and B'Etor aren't the Borg, they could have just had to change it once. – Schwern Mar 26 '15 at 19:08
  • "In universe: I reckon the Enterprise bridge crew panicked." - I accept your "Out of universe" answer but not this - look at how quickly they came up with the idea to force the klingon ship to cloak (disabling their shields) which was a lot more complex... – colmde Mar 26 at 8:54
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No reason is given in the script or the novelisations however we can make an in-universe guess; the two people who have ready access to the shield systems (Worf at Tactical and Data at the Science station) are both occupied and while Riker could order them to spend their time sorting out their defenses, he favours tackling the problem head on and destroying the Klingons;

"Deanna!" Riker shouted. "Take the helm. Get us out of orbit!" Troi propelled herself from her chair and raced un- steadily across the rocking deck to the helm. Within seconds, Veridian III disappeared from the viewscreen --but the Klingon vessel was in full pursuit. Not enough, Riker knew, as he squinted his eyes at the dazzling glow of another approaching torpedo. Lursa and B'Etor had found a way to outwit the Enterprise's superior firepower; it was time for Riker to return the favor.

...

"As their cloak begins to engage, their shields will drop." "Right," Riker said. "And they'll be vulnerable for at least two seconds." He glanced at the android. "Data, lock on to that plasma coil." "No problem," Data answered, confident. He hurried over to a bulkhead, removed a panel, and began rerouting circuitry at inhuman speed.

...

"Worf." Riker turned to the Klingon. "Prepare a spread of photon torpedoes. We'll have to hit them the instant they begin to cloak." "Aye, sir." Worf began to work his console.
Star Trek - Generations Official Novelisation


It's also theoretically possible that the Enterprise was rotating frequencies but that since the Klingons still had a live feed to Geordi's VISOR (and since he would certainly have been monitoring the shield during a battle) that they were simply using the same trick to change their torpedo frequencies each time they remodulated the shields.

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