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Seen only in the episode "Tears of the Prophets", the battle against the defence platforms was in four basic stages. The initial scenes involved all the platforms being off-line. In this state they were unable to defend themselves at all, and several were destroyed fairly easily.

The second stage involved the platforms becoming operational. Here they were pretty fearsome; once active, we didn't see so much as a single platform even sustain visible damage, let alone get destroyed. For their part, they were blasting Starships to hell with apparent ease.

Stage three revealed a crucial flaw in the design. The platforms turned out to all be powered entirely from a central generator located on a nearby asteroid. This also proved to be virtually impossible to destroy by conventional attack from the fleet, so the Defiant imprinted a Federation warp signature onto the asteroid. Recognizing it as an enemy vessel, the platforms opened fire on their own power source and destroyed it. This is a really strong indicator that the system operated entirely automatically - it's hard to believe that even a fairly low key level of management by a Dominion operator wouldn't have prevented such an attack.

Once the power system was destroyed we had the final phase, in which the platforms were destroyed by the remaining fleet unit. Again, it seemed fairly easy to do this.

The most obvious question is just how big a problem is this flaw? Well, there are two ways to look at it. On the one hand, it's highly likely that the system could be reprogrammed to ignore its power unit as a target no matter what. Put a few dozen platforms around the power system at the same time, and you should have a system which is pretty hard to beat in theory. On the other hand, the system is dependant on a single link - no matter how strong you make that link, it's a bad idea in principle to have a whole system totally reliant on one part. You may be able to make the power system all but invulnerable to conventional attack, but Starfleet has demonstrated an incredible ability to find sneaky ways to get around such obstacles in the past. And they only have to succeed once to make an entire network useless.

As such, I tend to regard this system as being massively flawed. And fixing it is going to be no easy matter - putting a power plant into every platform is likely to mean a total redesign, a task not far short of designing the whole thing in the first place. And after this battle was over the Dominion itself was steadily getting weaker for the remainder of the war, hardly an ideal situation to launch an effort like this.

As to the individual platforms, they are stated to have one thousand plasma torpedoes each along with regenerative shield systems. They also fire beam weapons which appear to pack a heavy punch, presumably phasers or disrupters - the Cardassians have used both weapons in the past. I tend towards phasers myself, since disrupter beams are usually - but far from always - green. There seems to be three beam emitters, one per arm, and a single torpedo launcher on the centre. In some of the images I've snapped the torpedoes look like they consist of two or three individual balls of light in a cluster, and I was tempted to claim that the platforms fired a triple burst of torps which travelled to the target together, but in the end decided the evidence was too thin for this.

It's very hard to judge the platforms size, but it seems that they are quite small - those we see around the Excelsior class ship appear to be no more than 40 metres or so tall, and according to the scale diagram in the Encyclopedia 3rd edition that makes them 46 metres across when extended. Packing a thousand torpedoes into something this size is an impressive feat - so either the FX people messed up the scaling, or plasma torpedoes are significantly smaller than the photons we've seen throughout Trek.

Just how many platforms there are is an interesting question. The first picture on the images page shows them only about ten or twenty times their own size apart - maybe a kilometres or so. Assuming the planet is Earth sized, that would put their numbers well on the way to a hundred million! But the Encyclopedia third edition shows a schematic of the Chin'toka system, and on this there are two planets very close to one another, with a shell of platforms completely enclosing both planets. This would put the numbers well over a hundred million, even towards the billion mark!

If the fleet was so massively outnumbered it would at least explain why they had such little luck once the platforms were active. Nevertheless it's hard to credit such numbers, and I think we have to look for an alternative explanation. Certainly the number of symbols visible in the schematic is not even close to millions - there are eighty three visible markers orbiting the planets. I think we have to assume that the platforms detected the approaching fleet and "swarmed" - that is, adjusted their orbits to bring them into one or more groups clustered around the likely approach vectors. Given their apparently state of the art weapons technology I would guess that eighty or so should easily be able to hold off an entire fleet, so I've pegged this as the number deployed in Chin'toka. We also see some of these platforms orbiting Cardassia in "What You Leave Behind", the last episode of DS9.
 


Last updated : 22nd January 2000.
This page is Copyright Graham Kennedy 1998.

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