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Star Trek Tech #1: The Transporter

August 13, 2014


What is it? The Transporter

What does it do? Transports, beams, breaks down a lot

How does it work?

Far as I can tell, the Transporter takes all your molecules/atoms, puts them into a holding pattern, chooses a new place to put you…either the nearest planet or starship…or Q’onos if you find yourself in that universe…and then puts all your molecules back together again. In the exact same order. With no interruption to the routine operation of your body, and no need to look at someone’s fingers and say a number. It seems to be based on the principle that humans are merely biological machines, not spiritual beings [I think]. I mean, I don’t think your soul can be taken apart and re-assembled…can it?

Which episodes is it used in?

Pretty much all of them, except ‘Enterprise’ because it’s only just been invented in that series.


Most of them are fairly obvious…

1] You can get somewhere faster [without needing to fly over Ukraine].

2] You can escape from awkward situations before they become impossible to survive e.g. talking shit to Klingons, being lectured by Picard, waking up next to Neelix

3] You can eliminate diseases from people.

Actually, I don’t know if this one is viable or not. For example, would cancer be excisable using this method? Theoretically, it must be as you could just beam out the cancerous cells, but would there be side effects if a chunk of you is missing when you rematerialize?

I really don’t know for sure how cancer works. Maybe someone else could answer this?

4] You can rescue that Chinese Nobel Prize winner from prison. And, to be completely objective, all those poor bastards having their balls whipped in Guantanamo Bay.

5] You can escape no problem if you suddenly turn a corner and run into Nick Nolte.


Excluding the fact that the transporter breaks down any time they actually need it, there are some flaws in both the concept of it and the practicality.

1] Ethics [not the TNG episode]

As ‘The Fly’ taught us, at some point you have to test the thing on humans and when you do, results will vary.

Actually, results won’t vary, they’ll just be terrible every time.

In the Season 4 episode of ‘Enterprise’ where a very boring man has very boring conversations about the effectiveness of the transporter [I think he’s the inventor of it] while really searching for his very boring son who isn’t really that boring, he’s just unseen for most of the episode and when he is seen he’s basically dead or on his way to being dead and…

In short: he tested the transporter on himself, or his dad tested it on him, I’m not completely sure, and it killed him. Or it lost his signal in space, which is pretty much the same thing.

It’s skipped over in the other Trek series as, by that point, the transporter was a familiar piece of technology. The only bone given to the audience as to the sheer marvel of the device was that Bones was reluctant to use it. Apparently, he didn’t like it on a conceptual level, which is understandable.

To recap: it takes apart your entire body and then puts it back together again. It slaughters the idea of a soul…or the idea of a rigid soul at least. You could argue that a true soul has no physical form so by that definition it isn’t in your body in the first place, it is something that just is and, by that logic, can never be separated from you.

Does that make sense?

Argument 1: There is no soul if the transporter works because if you are taken apart and put together somewhere else then how can your soul know where you have gone? Also, if there is no discernible change in the person transported, if they are not suddenly a humourless machine then…what exactly was the soul in the first place? Answer: it was nothing, it never existed. You are the sum of your biological parts.

Argument 2: The soul is not physical so it can’t be transported. However, if your body has physically moved to another place, and there’s no physical soul to lock onto, it doesn’t mean there is no soul. Basically, this argument says that you can’t attach the soul to the physical universe at all. It is with you always, the same way God is apparently with you. Or they’re the same thing. Opinions vary, but I like to believe this is the kind of argument that fits like a very comfortable glove, the kind that can never, ever be wrong as long as you have faith.

Argument 3: souls are kept in jars in David Warner’s Austrian laboratory and voiced by Sissy Spacek. [Mic Word will not recognise ‘Spacek’ as a legitimate surname, which means Mic Word has never seen ‘Carrie’]

Back to ethics…

At some point this machine would’ve been ready for testing. You can start with tables or plants, but that wouldn’t tell you if a human being could use it safely or not, so pretty soon you’d have to wheel out the monkeys and the dogs or whatever animal is outside the science lab…then after animals, you’d have to use humans.

How exactly did they test the transporter in Star Trek?

I really don’t know. They never explain it, except for the aforementioned episode of ‘Enterprise’ where they reduce it to the son using it to the extreme [I admit, I forget the details of that episode, I just know it was too tedious to re-watch]. They never explain how the first tests were done because the answer would have to be very un-Trek. In the same way that every single person on Earth and in Starfleet is apparently happy with the way things are run, we will never know how brutal those tests were or how many people rematerialized with their dicks sticking out of their throats…

Fat People

People nowadays use the car to drive to the local shop. Imagine if they got their hands on a transporter…

Fat Camp would never be off air. It would be perpetual, like the sea. Like Rob Lowe. How old is that guy now? 70? Still looks 24.

Police State

No-one ever talks about the security that would need to be in place to stop people from beaming wherever they wanted to e.g. Olivia Wilde’s bedroom.

I suppose they might need the exact co-ordinates to be sure they don’t rematerialize within the walls [or inside her husband], but would they really be so hard to get?

And if they are easy to get then every building would have to install a dampening field around it. This kind of security inevitably leads to isolation and distrust of strangers and that’s exactly the kind of atmosphere fascists thrive in.

This was actually used in an episode of DS9, the one where Sisko and Odo went back to Earth to hunt for changelings…

Episode: Homefront/Paradise Lost [for 44 minutes]

Plot: Changelings bomb a Romulan-human language exchange meet-up on Earth. Sisko is put in charge of security and attempts to convince a prune-looking alien that the planet is in serious danger. Odo hides in different Starfleet rooms and gets tortured by some kind of changeling death ray. I mean, he actually goes along with this. Fool. A random admiral that Sisko used to disobey when he was a lieutenant uses his own fear to increase the public’s fear and, before you can say ‘Odo looks like a sunburnt turd’, has the whole planet under lockdown.

Subplot: Jake gets a job in his grandfather’s restaurant [nepotism!]. Nog appears and whines about not being in Red Squad, a team of elite students from Starfleet Academy. Red Squad chooses a leader stupid enough to brag about his illegal attack on the planet’s power system directly to Sisko. The woman that Geordi fancied in TNG has a twin with almost the exact same personality. Worf commands the Defiant and defies physics to get the ship to Earth within a day. Actually, I don’t know exactly how far DS9 is from Earth, but if it takes the Dominion a day to get from Cardassia to the station then it must take at least a week to get to Earth.

What does this have to do with the transporter?

Replace ‘changelings’ with ‘Transporter technology’ and it’s the same theme. In fact, the same thing could’ve happened when the transporter was invented. All the random admiral at that time would’ve needed to do was spread rumours about Klingons beaming down to the US and people would’ve gone along with increased security.

Nothing makes a police state faster than public fear.

How does it work out at the end?

Sisko and the admiral sit in a room and run through their arguments while their inferiors trade phaser fire somewhere in space. It’s quite a nice conclusion actually, the problem played out as it does in real life – the instigators wait for results, the enforcers duke it out and lose lives.

In the end, Sisko wins as his argument is pure Trek.

So the changelings on Earth just go away then?

That’s the problem with Trek, isn’t it? Once the episode is over, the issue never crops up ever again, which makes no sense whatsoever.

If you were a changeling, why would you stop stepping on this particular pressure point? It almost worked with only 4 changelings on the planet, so if they keep doing what they’re doing, something will crack eventually.

Optimism is a state of mind, a defiance of reality at times, and there’s no shame in showing that.

What about Red Squad?

It’s never referenced, but I assume they turn up at Trek conventions from time to time i.e. whenever they need cash for whatever it is they do between auditions.

And Nog?

He’s a uni student, which means for the rest of season 4 he was waking up in the afternoon, getting tanked at night and putting ‘little Nog’ inside anyone who could get past the fact he looked like a tiny orange gremlin.

Also, thanks to the transporter, he could beam to Bangkok whenever he liked.

Anything else negative about the transporter?

I suppose people like O’Brien felt conflicted about it. On one hand, it gave him a job. On the other, it confined him to a room with no posters and no TV screens and no other people for most of TNG.

Poor guy.

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