There are a number of popular arguments that Pro-Trek debaters have made, and continue to make, when arguing that the Federation would defeat the Empire. Here’s a selection of them…
1. Imperial vessels look old, and in no way sleek or modern. Federation ships are therefore much more advanced.
Looks aren’t everything. A modern cruise liner looks a lot nicer and more modern than an AEGIS cruiser- I know which one would sink the other though. Imperial ships are designed for function- and that function is war. Who cares if they have fancy shiny controls or sleek aerodynamic designs? These things are not relevant where war is concerned.
2. Why is this about the Federation vs the Empire? Wouldn’t the Klingons, Romulans etc help?
Why would they? Did the Alpha Quadrant band together to fight the Dominion, who represented the biggest threat to them all bar the Borg? No, they didn’t- the Cardassians joined the Dominion, the Romulans had to be tricked into taking part on the Allies’ side, and the Breen later also joined the Dominion. A number of empires declared themselves neutral too- the Gorn and the Tholians spring to mind.
So there’s no reason to assume everyone would rally round to fight the Empire, although even if they did, it would not affect the outcome of a war.
3. Q would help the Federation. For that matter, so would any number of super-beings within the Milky Way.
Like they did when the Federation was threatened by the Borg, or the Dominion? They have never intervened to help, even when the problem was caused by them (Q introduced the Federation to the Borg, remember).
Furthermore, if Q did help, how is this a sign that the Federation can defeat the Empire? This is a copout- relying on super-beings to win, because the Federation can’t hope to.
4. In the TNG episode ‘The Outrageous Okuna’, Picard scoffs at laser weaponry, claiming it wouldn’t even penetrate their navigational shields. Since the Empire uses turbolasers, this means Imperial weapons would be useless against Federation shields.
This argument falls prey to the ‘no limits fallacy’. It assumes that because Picard made no specific mention of the power of laser weaponry, it doesn’t matter how powerful the laser is- Federation shields can resist it. This is of course wrong.
Firstly, energy has to go somewhere. This is one of the cardinal rules of thermodynamics- energy cannot be destroyed or created. Lets say the Enterprise can withstand 70TJ of energy before her shields fail. Lets say she is hit by a laser carrying 700TJ of energy. That’s ten times the energy her shields can handle. If you listen to the ‘no laser’ crowd, 630TJ of energy just mysteriously disappears. We have never seen or heard of the Federation possessing the ability to make energy disappear.
Secondly, where does Picard say that no laser, of any type or power, is useless against Federation ships? It’s clear he is referring only to the weaponry he is immediately facing. A fact made all the clearer by how other lasers later on are effective.
The Borg cutting laser, as seen in both ‘Q Who’ and ‘Best of Both Worlds’, is described as a laser by Worf, a trained tactical officer, and this weapon is very effective.
Finally, why assume turbolasers from Star Wars have to be like real lasers? They can be seen, which means they travel slower than light- whereas a laser is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and would travel at the speed of light, thus not being visible.
5. The Federation has advanced technology that the Empire lacks, such as holodecks, replicators, and transporters.
So what? Holodecks are usually used for recreational purposes, and whilst they can be used for training purposes it’s not like the Empire would lack training facilities- they possess a million star systems! They could easily have entire worlds devoted to training troops.
Replicators are convenient, but they hardly change the balance of military power. Their usefulness in that respect is quite low.
Transporters would allow for the rapid deployment of troops, but they cannot get through shields, and magnetic fields (even low-level ones that occur naturally, or even simply thick rock or metals) can interfere with them. Imperial ships use jamming as a matter of routine, so there is no guarantee that they would work at all.
6. The Rebellion defeated the Empire, and they only hand a few dozen ships! Surely if such a paltry force could beat the Empire, the Federation could too!
The Rebels have ships that are of the same technological base as the Empire’s, and they didn’t defeat the Empire in open battle. They fought a guerrilla war, and attacked only when they thought they had the element of surprise. They ‘beat’ the Empire by killing the Emperor, and because the Emperor did not have an official heir, the Empire fell into infighting and civil war with several factions vying for power. Add to this mix the Rebellion continuing to sow seeds of disarray and with (if the end of the Special Edition of ‘Return of the Jedi’ is anything to go by) multiple worlds in open revolt, the Empire fell apart.
The Federation cannot hope to achieve this feat.