In a first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Battle, we learn about the first command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He served on the USS Stargazer but lost his ship about nine years ago in The Battle of Maxia. The son of a Ferengi known as Daimon Bok was Picard's opponent back then, and his ship was crushed when Picard used a before unused tactical starship maneuver on Daimon Bok's son, surprising the hell out of him, crippling his ship, and killing Daimon Bok's son. Since that day, people in the United Federation of Planets refer to this battle tactic as The Picard Maneuver because it turned out to be so cool.

Daimon Bok finds the Stargazer, and offers to return it to the Captain as a token of appreciation between the two races. Needless to say that's not what the Ferengi has in mind. Ferengi never give anything away for free. In the episode The Battle, Daimon Bok tries to get revenge on Picard. He uses a brain scramble thingy that forces Picard to relive the events of that battle, and Picard almost uses his Picard maneuver on The Enterprise. But in the end Doctor Beverly Crusher saves the day and all is righted in the universe.

Anyway. The Picard Maneuver is a tactical battle move, in which the starship's warp engines are used in a risky but dramatic way, so that to the enemy it appears for just a few seconds that there are suddenly two ships attacking them instead of one. Since the badguys don't know which one to shoot at, this confuses the opponent and gives the attacker the edge.

Now. I told you that story to tell you this one.

During filming of the Star Trek Next Generation series, the actors would crack jokes and be generally silly to one another in between takes. Brent Spiner who played Data on the tv show and subsequent movies, noticed that every once in awhile Patrick Stewart did this weird little thing with his costume when he played the part of Picard. He'd take his hands, grab near the bottom front of the shirt, and tug down on it. It did give a bit of an air that the costume was more like a uniform, thus adding to the appearance of realism for this otherwise unreal futuristic show. One day when Spiner caught Stewart doing that, he called him on it, and laughingly referred to it as "The Picard Maneuver." Everybody got a good laugh at Stewart's expense, and as the urban legend goes, Stewart was a good sport about it all.

But it didn't stop there. If you watch the show at all, periodically you might notice many of the men working that bit of stage business into their performances. It's not done too much, but Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton and even Michael Dorn did it at least once on the show throughout its seven season run. They'd grab the lower part of the top shirt and tug on it, thus performing the Picard Maneuver. Unfortunately I don't think Gates McFadden or Marina Sirtis ever did it. Chances are if they did, considering the photon torpedoes they were both sporting, they mighta fallen out of the suit.
Some ST fans made a list of other "maneuvers" for which other ST characters could be famous. A collection of them is available at http://startrek.miningco.com/tvradio/startrek/blmaneuver.htm Personally my favorite is the Chekhov Maneuver.

In theory, the Picard Manuever is performed thusly:

1.) The combatting ships must have a distance of several lightseconds.

2.) The ship which is attempting to perform the maneuver (the attacker) accelerates to warp with a heading towards the enemy ship

3.) The attacking ship decelerates to sublightspeed, and engages the enemy

The distance of several lightseconds is required since the enemy vessel must no be able to obtain real-time information on the location of the attacking ship. As the attacker accelerates to warp, he approaches the enemy at faster than light speed. When the distance is closed, and the attacker drops out of warp, the enemy ship will now see two images of the attacker: the real image of the ship in its current location, and an image of the ship in its previous location, as the light which it emitted before accelerating into warp has not yet crossed the distance between the ships. Thus, they might just shoot at the wrong image.

However...

There is a flaw in this theory. On many occasions, we have witnessed that the sensors on a starship must operate at faster than light speeds, as a ship has observed events in real-time through long-range sensors which took place several light years away. Therefore the Picard Maneuver is only useful if the enemy ship is primitive or damaged enough to lack FTL sensor capability, as they would otherwise be able to determine that the attacking ship is no longer at its previous location.

We may assume that the Ferengi vessel which Picard destroyed using this maneuver had already lost its FTL sensors, but certainly in the TNG episode "The Battle", the Enterprise was not lacking FTL sensors (at least no such statement was made in the episode, and no prior damage was taken) so they should have been able to easily defeat the U.S.S Stargazer. Instead, Data was forced to quickly come up with a counter maneuver, involving the measurement of differences of density in the interstellar gas; a feat which apparently had eluded the best strategic minds of the Federation for decades.

Oh well, much of Star Trek doesn't make much sense when you actully think about it.

At first I misunderstood the Picard Maneuver, since I was busy tending the popcorn instead of paying attention to the show. I like my version better:

One fires the phasers while entering warp. As the phaser beam leaves the warp field, it drops to sub-light... and is then immediately overtaken by the field and re-accelerated back to warp speeds. When the ship drops to sub-light, the phaser beam has been compressed to many times its original density, making it much more powerful. Where did this energy come from? The main engines, through the warp field. Very inefficient, and it would probably burn something out... but this is why it would be a specialized maneuver, not the standard way of attacking someone.

Alternately, one fires the phasers from a great distance, then warps in at a slight angle and fires again so that the two beams arrive at the same place at the same time. Time on impact, with the same gun.

But neither of these is the 'actual' Picard maneuver.

By the way, the 'actual' Picard maneuver relies on the victim (advanced FTL sensors or not) failing to realize that he should pay attention to the big image of the nearby ship rather than the little tiny image of the faraway ship. This might fool someone the first time, yes. But it obviates the need for Data's scientific excursions. They completely ignored the effects of perspective. Wow.

Also, a combo award on the pinball machine, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Picard Maneuver combo is left orbit to left ramp. When you shoot the left orbit, the ball should go all the way around the back of the playfield, bypass the jet bumper area, and wind up at the upper left flipper, where you will hopefully be able to flip it up the left ramp. This shot is difficult to make.

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