Transporter (Star Trek)

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A transporter on the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)

In the Star Trek fictional universe, transporters are teleportation machines. The devices convert a person or object into an energy pattern (called dematerialization), then "beam" them to a target, where it is reconverted into matter (rematerialization). The target can either be another transporter or another specified site.



Transporters were devised by the creators of Star Trek to avoid having to build expensive shuttle sets and film model shots. They were first seen in the pilot episode "The Cage". Narratively, they are arguably one of the most over-used technologies of Star Trek — several episodes have had plots based upon transporter malfunctions, and in some they have acted as a deus ex machina to solve the problem-of-the-week.


A transporter transports objects in real time, accurate to the quantum level. Heisenberg compensators remove uncertainty from the subatomic measurements, making transporter travel feasible. Further technology involved in transportation include a computer pattern buffer to enable a degree of leeway in the process.

The Heisenberg Compensators are the result of a great deal of artistic licence; when asked how it worked, the show's technical adviser, Michael Okuda, said "Very well, thank you."

The latest "Mark" for transporters, as revealed in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is the "Mark VII", which is capable of handling unstable biomatter.

Additional enhancements to some transporters include a device which can detect then disable or destroy an active weapon, based on the operator's choice, and a bio-filter to remove contagious microbes or viruses from an individual in transport. The transporter can also have tactical applications; under certain circumstances it may be possible to transport weapons such as photon torpedoes to detonate at remote locations.

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Captain Kirk and Lt. Saavik carry on a conversation during the course of a beamout, suggesting that the transporter is also capable of teleporting moving sound waves.


Limitations include range up to 40,000 kilometers from the TOS-era onward (although transporters based on subspace radio do not have this limitation, as of the TNG era they are experimental and cause brain damage in higher lifeforms) and the inability to transport through shields (unless it is needed for the plot, in which case a method of "penetrating" the shields is discovered). We sometimes see transporters allowing people to move during the transport (indeed, this is the plot of "Realm of Fear"), but other times they seem to freeze people. In "Bloodlines", it appears a transporter altered a person's position in transit to stop them from falling over.

Notable incidents

The transporter was invented in the early 22nd century by noted scientist Dr. Emory Erickson, who became the first human to be successfully transported according to the episode "Daedalus" (ENT). It is implied, however, that the devices were widely used for the purpose of shipping cargo before they were ever "approved" for human use. Further experiments in 2139 led to Erickson's son, Quinn Erickson, being transformed into an "energy being" that was suspended in space until he was recovered by his father on board the starship Enterprise (NX-01) in 2154, although Quinn did not survive the recovery process.

Notable transporter malfunctions/abuses include

  • "Vanishing Point": Following Hoshi Sato's first experience with a transporter, strange things happen. She eventually decays into some kind of residue. Later, she gets put back together.
  • "The Enemy Within": A transporter makes two nearly identical copies of Captain Kirk after he beams up, one good, one bad.
  • "Mirror, Mirror": A transporter swaps a returning landing party with their counterparts from a parallel universe.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Two Starfleet officers, Commander Sonak and Admiral Lori Ciana, are killed in a transporter accident.
  • "Unnatural Selection": A disease affecting Pulaski is cured, and the damage it has done removed, by transporter.
  • "Relics": Scotty managed to keep himself in the buffer of a transporter, unaging, for seventy years.
  • "Rascals": Interference from a spatial anomaly causes four characters, Picard, Guinan, Ro Laren, and Keiko O'Brien, to physically but not mentally regress into children when they beam from a shuttlecraft. Later, the transporter's stored record of each individual is used to restore their bodies.
  • "Second Chances": Commander Riker was once "cloned" by a transporter when beaming through a distortion field. The duplicate took on Commander Riker's middle name (becoming Thomas Riker), and appeared again in later episodes.
  • "Realm of Fear": Lieutenant Reginald Barclay discovers worm-like creatures in the transporter. This is the only time where we see a first person view of someone being transported.
  • "Deadlock": A baby is delivered by transporter.
  • "Tuvix": A transporter accident melds Tuvok and Neelix into one being.
  • "Drone": A highly selective transporter accident caused a super-borg drone to be created.
  • "Scorpion, Part 1": After a conventional signal lock fails during an emergency beam-out, engineer B'Elanna Torres successfully transports an away team back to the ship by locking onto their bones. This became known as a skeletal lock.
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USS Voyager's transporter room

Despite these episodes, transporters are generally considered safe, and the transporterphobia of characters like Dr. Leonard McCoy, Lt. Reginald Barclay, and Dr. Katherine Pulaski not understood. Presumably shuttle crashes occur more often than transporter accidents, but are just less interesting in plot terms. A transporter accident is caused when a person using a transporter is somehow not reassembled correctly. This can be caused by human error, but safeguards in the system make this very unlikely. Computer malfunctions are also highly unlikely in the more advanced systems, and are only caused by extremely unusual conditions.

On Star Trek: Enterprise, the crew mainly use the ship's shuttlepods; the transporter is used very rarely, as it is new and not quite trusted. Nevertheless, the transporter of the NX-01 has been used for actions such as intra-ship beaming and beaming of an object/person in motion, which would not be perfected for another century.


See also

External links


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