Diverting Power YKTTW Discussion

Diverting Power
Powering down one system to power up another
(permanent link) added: 2013-03-09 14:40:49 sponsor: FearlessSon (last reply: 2013-03-31 16:37:03)

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According to Tim Taylor Technology, all you need to do to enhance a system is pump more power into it. But where do you get that power?

Diverting Power is what happens when Tim Taylor Technology runs into of a limited pool of power to draw from. If the extra power to pump into something is not readily available, that power must be reclaimed from somewhere else, usually by shutting down or reducing power to one system to power up another.

Played well, this can add extra tension and interest. Buffing up one aspect of something can expose a Logical Weakness in another aspect. An observant hero might use this to dodge the extra danger of one foe powering up an aspect of themselves by exploiting the aspect they left vulnerable. Or a Wave Motion Gun might be enough to end a battle in one shot, but doing so requires the firer power down all other systems and leave themselves vulnerable, thus justifying why they do not use it all the time.

Note that most of the uses of this involve technology using presumably electrical charge or Minovsky Physics. However, this trope can also apply to something using steam pressure, Functional Magic, or other similar concepts depending on how they are handled in the context of a particular setting.


  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope. Before the final battle over the Death Star, the Rebel pilots were ordered to "Switch your deflectors on double front" (i.e switching the deflector shields to increase forward deflectors at the expense of the rear ones.)
    • The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo orders all power to the forward Deflector Shields before charging the Millennium Falcon straight at an Imperial Star Destroyer, since he knew he would not need to worry about firing coming from behind as he was planning on parking his ship on the rear side of their command tower and out of their sensors' scope.
  • Used offensively in Star Trek: Generations when the Enterprise is locked in a duel with Klingon Bird-of-Prey owned by the Duras sisters. Having been able to bypass the Enterprises' shields, they need a quick solution. Data figures out some Techno Babble that can force the Bird-of-Prey to go into cloak. Since cloaking requires that a ship power down its weapons and shields (see Star Trek under "Live Action TV" below) this allows the Enterprise to render the Bird-of-Prey defenseless for a brief window that they can use to hit it with photon torpedoes. Being a much smaller ship, it cannot take nearly as much hull punishment as the Enterprise and is destroyed.

  • Keith Laumer's short story "The Last Command". After the last battle against the enemy, Bolo unit LNE (Lenny) is deactivated and sealed underground. Many years later he's awoken by the detonation of explosive charges and tries to escape his confinement. He activates his forward scanners and shunts power to his I-R microstrobes. He channels all available power to a single ranging pulse in an attempt to figure out where he is. Near the end, when his old commander tries to convince him to not drive into the human city nearby, LNE shunts power to his forward scanner again in an attempt to verify the commander's identity.
  • Comes up on occasion in the X-Wing Series, which borrows several elements from the X-Wing PC games. The X-Wings are capable of diverting power between several subsystems, most commonly the shields, engines and guns.

Live-Action TV
  • This happened on a regular basis during space combat on Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • "The Changeling". Scotty diverts warp power to the shields to defend against Nomad's energy bolts.
    • "Balance of Terror". The Romulan ship had to turn off its cloaking device in order to fire its plasma weapon. Also, Kirk orders all power diverted to weapons before making the final attack on the Romulan ship.
    • "Catspaw". Assistant Chief Engineer DeSalle orders power diverted to the hull in an attempt to escape their imprisonment.
    • "The Tholian Web". Spock orders all but emergency maintenance power to be diverted to the shields to resist the Tholian attacks.
    • "The Immunity Syndrome". While inside the giant space amoeba, Spock diverts his shuttle's secondary power to the shields.
    • In all of the Star Trek incarnations activating a Cloaking Device requires that a ship divert power away from its weapons. In the original series episode Balance of Terror where the cloaking device was first introduced, it literally used up too much power to run both it and the weapons system at the same time. Later instances seem to have gotten around this particular issue, but new issues come up that still keeps the trope enforced. The writers described it as being akin to an arms race between cloaking technology and sensor technology, and any advantage one gains over the other is only temporary until the other side figures out a work-around. This then keeps cloaked ships as the equivalent of "submarines in space", having to reduce all the emissions that might give them away when they go into cloak.
  • Parodied in "Basic Rocket Science," an episode of Community that spoofed The Right Stuff and Apollo 13. The gang, sans Abed, are trapped on a space exploration simulator and have no clue as to where they are. Abed and a few others at Greendale are tasked with finding the gang and bringing them back to the school. About halfway through the episode Chang comes running to Abed with a plan.
    Chang: I've worked out a way to reroute the RV's power from the auxiliary battery!
    Abed: Reroute to what?
    Chang wordlessly backs out of the room.
  • Standard spacecraft function in the Stargate Verse. Typically they're switching between Deflector Shields and engines.
    • In Stargate Atlantis there was a more specific case, when Atlantis was hooked up to a cloaking field, making it invisible, but using the same power source as the shields, so the city could only be either invisible or shielded at a given time.

Tabletop Games
  • Star Fleet Battles. Since the game is based on Star Trek: The Original Series, one standard technique during combat is to move around your ship's available energy to where it's needed.
  • In Traveller Jump drives use so much power that many older ships have to divert power from nearly everything (leading to the tradition of "jump dimming").

Video Games
  • As a general rule, most Space Simulation Games will involve this as a game mechanic.
  • X-Wing was a series that helped popularized it.
  • Tachyon: The Fringe allows you to divert power between your forward and aft shields, and between your engines and recharging shields, guns, and afterburners.
  • A minor example in the X-Universe series, which allows you to switch sets of guns on and off. This can conserve power, but it's more commonly used to swap between weapons for specific targets (such as switching to a low-damage, high-ROF gun to Cherry Tap enemy fighters in the hopes the pilot will bail out).
  • This is a core mechanic in FTL: Faster Than Light. You'll never have enough power to operate every system in your ship at full capacity, even after upgrading the reactor several times. Therefor, it's imperative to adjust power distribution wisely according to the situation at hand.
  • Games based on Star Trek: The Original Series often allowed the player to do this. For example, in Super Stellar Trek and Apple Trek the player could transfer energy from reserve power to the shields and back again. Energy in the shields couldn't be used to fire phasers or move the ship.
  • In Mass Effect 3's multiplayer mode, certain classes of Geth characters can enter "Hunter Mode", lifting the Power Limiters on their weapons to fire them with greater force, diverting power to their synthetic muscles to handle the recoil that would break an organic's arm. However, this power is drawn from their Deflector Shields, reducing them to half strength while this mode is engaged and turning the Geth into a Glass Cannon.
  • Halo:
    • Most Covenant vehicles after the first game allow the player to "boost" by diverting power from the weapons to the engines, granting temporary extra speed but unable to shoot while doing so.[[note]]Though there is an exception when Covenant vehicles have a secondary turret operated by a separate gunner. Presumably the secondary turret operates on its own isolated circuit.[[/note]]
    • In Halo 4 there is a specific example. At the end of the third mission, "Forerunner", the Master Chief and Cortana must escape a Collapsing Lair on a Covenant Ghost. Given that they need even more speed than the boost would usually give them, Cortana diverts power from the Master Chief's Deflector Shields to the Ghost's engines. This does leave him vulnerable, but any Covenant he encounters along the way are too busy running for their lives to try shooting at him.
  • To progress through the Bugbear Mothership in Kingdom of Loathing, the player has to deal with various things diverting power from the elevators. KoL being KoL, this is eventually lampshaded.
    A computerized voice says, "De-Evolution Detected in Galley. Rerouting Power From Elevator To Food Replicators."

Western Animation
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Lorelei Signal". Spock orders ship's energy to be diverted into the deflector shields in an attempt to block the title sonic Mind Control attack.
  • Discussed in the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Overlabbing". Dexter explains that he shielded his lab in response to one of Mandark's schemes, and Mandark immediately investigates.
    Mandark: You must take me for a fool! Rerouting power from the deflector array?
    Dexter: I guess that is a little cliche.

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