Starship shields and physical damage

Question about shields. If a ship engages shields while landed (for ships that can land on a planetary surface) does that stop a character or npc who wants to approach the ship?

I don’t know what the RAW says about the subject, but from an in-universe perspective I think that shields can block solid projectiles as well as energy, so I would be inclined to think that yes, a person approaching the landed starship with shields up would not be able to get past the shields. Whether it’s starship shields or a force field in a brig, no solid matter nor form of conventional energy will be able to get past a force field (under normal circumstances).

We’ve never seen a similar situation in canon, though, have we?

1 Like

Well, I don’t know if we would consider this precisely the same but there was the shuttle that Worf and Data used to penetrate the Borg electromagnetic field when they were retrieving Picard in 4x01 The Best of Both Worlds, Part II. Memory Alpha, as I just stated, called it an electromagnetic field rather than a shield but could that be looked upon as being a similar concept?

This is the first (and only) example that comes immediately to my mind. Thoughts?

I believe there is also the scene where Ro and Riker (i think) pass through the Enterprises Shields in a shuttle, when shes back working for the Maquis? You also have the Deflector which is literally designed to repel physical matter.

Heres the thing though- as with all tech in Trek, its rules and limitations allign exactly to what your story needs. Even if it isnt how the shields are designed, a competent Starfleet office could 100% adjudt a couple of sessions to use the shields as a physical barrier if that is what you need to happen. Equally, if you need to prevent that, there could definitely be particles in the atmosphere that prevent such physicality, or even negate the shields entirely.


@mattcapiche is correct, story is generally going to take precedence. However, as Sparky notes, a shuttle was able to penetrate a borg cube shield… I watched a youtube video and it looks like it just breaks through. It’s possible that the size of the object determines how resistant shields are. Of course the borg cube was also under attack with phasers and an antimatter spread, so the shields may have been weakened, or adjusted to be optimized for energy rather than projectiles.

Another thing to consider when a ship has landed and has shields up is whether the shields extend below ground, or if someone/thing could dig through to the ship.

@Felderburg I don’t remember precisely where I heard it but I recall hearing in one episode (I think it was within the run of TNG) that an object’s speed had more to do with its ability to penetrate the shield. The slower it was travelling, the easier it could get through. So, while the Data/Worf shuttle was moving slowly, it could penetrate the shield but something that was moving faster, such as the shuttle used by Roga Danar (3x11 The Hunted), would bounce off as his shuttle did.

As has been said, though, the technology works at the behest of plot. :wink:

It’s perfectly explainable in-universe that shield-emitters can emit forcefields to repel physical objects/persons. The whole question of precedence and canon/on-screen behaviour boils down, mechanics wise, to one simple question:

Does the engineer need to modulate shields first?
And that’s up to the needs of the group and the plot. :wink:

Typically physical objects cannot pass through the shields. This is why to launch or retrieve shuttle craft the shields have to be lowered. This is made clear in Star Trek 5, a few ToS episodes and I think there is an episode or two of TNG that make it an issue. If relative speed was a thing then you should always be able to launch a shuttle by it just passing very slowly through the shields. However as everything in Star Trek , writers often forget about such “rules” or make a handwavium reason on why physical objects can for this specific scene. Now we should notate that shields do not cut into the ground as seen in Star Trek Generations where a small bridge of rocks perfectly in line with edge of the shield creates an opening Picard can crawl through. My call would be if you need something physical to pass through the shields you should have a reason why said person, player, enemy can pass through. I would also make sure it is an extremely or esoteric reason to explain why everyone doesn’t do it.

1 Like

But, Photon Torpedoes do routinely penetrate shields, going out of their tubes toward the enemy. If logic dictated the show reality, then nothing could come in or go out through the shields. But, as been stated, the tech works by the needs of the plot/story.