Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Transporter (Star Trek)

In the fictional Star Trek universe, transporters are a form of teleportation. The devices disassemble a person or object into their component molecules, then "beam" them to the target, where they are reassembled. The target can either be another transporter, or a random site.

Transporters were devised by the creators of Star Trek to avoid having to build expensive shuttle sets and to film model shots. They were first seen in the pilot episode The Cage. They are one of the most abused and magical 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.

Limitations include range (although subspace transporters have been introduced without this problem) and the inability to transport through shields (unless it is needed for the plot). 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 reconfigured someone to stop them falling over. Many references have been made to a biofilter, a device which removes infectious agents from a person. Including a modification to a part of transporter which functions like a "bio-filter", which locks onto the organic matter within human bone, (the marrow of the bone), to achieve transport in a difficult situation.

The transporters supposedly transport objects exactly, down to the quantum level, which should conflict with the Uncertainty Principle. To counteract this, they supposedly have a part called an Heisenberg Compensator. When asked how it worked, the show's technical adviser, Mike Okuda, said "Very well."

Notable transporter malfunctions/abuses include

Despite these episodes, transporters are generally considered safe, and the transporterphobia of characters like McCoy and Barclay not understood.

See also: Physics and Star Trek, teleportation.