Phasers have been a staple of Star Trek since The Original Series. They may look similar to typical laser weapons seen in a lot of sci-fi, but they are actually much more powerful and complicated.
Starting with archaic lasers, Starfleet weapons evolved into early phase pistols and phase cannons in the 22nd century, which led to the standard handheld and ship-mounted phasers we've seen since (if you ignore the laser weapons that Pike's crew used in the first pilot, though many argue that 'laser' was just used at this time as an anachronistic term for phasers, similar to calling them guns).
These devices have been made in many different varieties and have several interesting features that rarely come up in the franchise. Here, we're going to look at some of the most outstanding facts about phaser technology and learn everything we can about Starfleet's main weapons along the way.
10. Phaser Overloads
Phasers require a huge amount of energy to function, and if one is configured to release all of its stored energy at once, it will overload, emitting a high-pitched noise and exploding violently.
Someone attempted to assassinate Captain Kirk by hiding a phaser set to overload in his cabin in the episode The Conscience Of The King. Upon hearing the distinctive sound, Kirk began ordering an evacuation of the whole deck, and calling for a 'double red alert', which is like… Twice as bad as a normal red alert. Kirk was eventually able to find the overloading phaser and proceeded to drop it in a waste chute in the corridor, likely murdering several unfortunate red-shirted lower-deckers.
Later, in That Which Survives, Kirk's phaser had its overload triggered while in his hand, forcing him to throw it away like a grenade. An overloading phaser even showed up in the Next Generation episode The Hunted, where a man named Roga Danar tried to use them as bombs aboard the Enterprise-D.