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"Star Trek without tranporters?" Topic

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20 Nov 2020 10:04 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Ghostrunner20 Nov 2020 1:54 p.m. PST

I think the most 'controversial' technology in Star Trek seems to be the transporter.

I know Warp Drive has a host of issues to the point of seeming impossible as well, but transporters have AT LEAST the following issues:

- How do you re-assemble someone hundreds of kilometers away without a receiving station?
- Is it really you that got reassembled, or just a copy (every time you 'beam down' you are choosing to die)?
- The fact that converting a typical human to energy and zapping them down to a planet would probably result in enough energy transfer to vaporize a good sized city if anything went wrong with the materialization process.

So the question is: would Star Trek still be Star Trek without the Transporter?

Enterprise gave it a shot, but even in the first episode, they had a working transporter and in fact used it to save the day at the very end.

WaltOHara20 Nov 2020 2:03 p.m. PST

"- Is it really you that got reassembled, or just a copy (every time you 'beam down' you are choosing to die)?"

This. This right here. Whenever I think of the metaphysical aspects of this.. I get the creeps. It's basically a science fiction version of the Prestige.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2020 2:47 p.m. PST

Very early on the Schlock Mercenary web comic deals with a similar question that has repercussions which run through the storyline. By the end, other questions are raised as well— what is the meaning of "death" if a duplicate you with all your experiences, memories, knowledge, etc. can be almost instantly produced? Are you the same person as the you who died?

Of course, what makes you, you? In the end, we're all made of absolutely identical components— one atom of hydrogen is fundamentally indistinguishable from another— and all are part of the same space time energy field which comprises the Universe. So if I take one atom of hydrogen, convert it to energy, and transfer it across spacetime and convert it back to hydrogen, does it not remain the "same" atom for all intents and purposes? And if it is a molecule of different atoms, does it not remain the same molecule? And if it is a complex combination of molecules (as a human body, including the complex neural network of the brain), does it not remain the same combination, and thus the same body and the same person? And if therefore it is the same person, how can that person be said to "die"? It is still part of the Universal Field of Spacetime, with only its construction momentarily altered and its location permanently changed.
Great things to ponder, while watching Kirk get the girl!

Major Mike20 Nov 2020 3:37 p.m. PST

Well, it was developed in its early stages by Willy Wonka.

Stryderg20 Nov 2020 3:40 p.m. PST

Transporters are just really fast transport shuttles. Keeps the story flowing without a lot of cut scenes and watching people ride.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse20 Nov 2020 5:04 p.m. PST

I have never held Star Trek to any logical or scientific standard. That way lies madness.
It's FANTASY, but not as much as Star Wars with its wizards and magic swords.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2020 5:06 p.m. PST

It would make a lot more sense if the transporter were a small, focused, limited-range warp field. The person being transported takes a two-meter stroll into the light but thanks to the warp "bubble" moves several thousand kilometers and steps out onto the planet's surface, or whatever. Of course "inertial compensators" or some such technobabble would have to correct for the differences in relative movement and orientation between the start point and the end point of the transport warp field.

No "breaking down into molecules" and reassembling, which frankly denotes a level of quantum knowledge probably actually theoretically impossible. Also preseves plot points (can't transport-warp through activated shields, range is strictly limited to orbital ranges, etc etc).

Syrinx020 Nov 2020 5:40 p.m. PST

I agree it was a plot device to move the story along. It didn't work as often as it worked some seasons – depended on what advanced the story.

They did have fun with McCoy always questioning the metaphysical aspects of it. Didn't Blake 7 attempt to explain their version of it as a focused limited 'movement' bubble?

Ghostrunner20 Nov 2020 5:45 p.m. PST

Interesting thoughts.

I admit I was thinking in terms of how the ships would be different (starting with larger shuttle bays, although the Galaxy class probably has that covered).

Also, what % of the episodes would either no longer exist or would require significant rewriting? (Mirror Universe would be hard to rationalize.)

USAFpilot20 Nov 2020 6:13 p.m. PST

I have never held Star Trek to any logical or scientific standard.

Bingo, Star Trek is set in the future but really has nothing to do with the future. It has the appearance of sf but it was a show about us humans in the 20th century dealing with our own problems of ignorance, prejudice, conflict. The Klingons, warlike and aggressive are the Soviets; Romulans are Chinese, inscrutable and subtle. Just think how difficult it is to communicate with people who speak the same language; how many languages just on this Earth, and yet in Star Trek galaxy every humanoid speaks English.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2020 7:25 p.m. PST

While we're bashing the transporter, let's not forget the energy requirements. E=mc2, so the energy used is the mass of the away team times the speed of light, times the speed of light again. Right. Good thing they get almost 100% efficiency out of the dilithium antimatter technobabble in the engines.

Oh, then let's talk about putting them back together again. You need a computer than can record the exact positions and energy levels of every molecule in everyone's bodies.

So, no, suspension of disbelief is blown.

I have a better chance of hooking up with 7 of 9 or T'Pol than ever seeing a working transporter.

KarlBergman20 Nov 2020 9:09 p.m. PST

In the answer to the question "would Star Trek still be Star Trek without the Transporter?" the answer would be no. I remember reading the book "The Making of Star Trek", and even using it in a book report at school. In that book they explained why they used transporters, which was that the cost of trying to film shuttle scenes was prohibitive given the technology of the time. With no way to get from the ship to a planet there would have been no Star Trek, so no matter how questionable the transporter was it was needed to film the show.

Zephyr120 Nov 2020 9:12 p.m. PST

Roddenberry "invented" the transporter as a plot device to avoid constant shuttlecraft travel. Without the transporter, you have The Orville… ;-)

Augustus20 Nov 2020 9:35 p.m. PST

I thought it was akin to a "tractor beam" but in reverse. I thought of it like a beam weapon…fires in straight lines, creates a contained wormhole of sorts, target needs to be in "line of sight" , etc. Handwavium.

Texaswalker20 Nov 2020 9:36 p.m. PST

I'm with WaltOhara on this, whole idea gives me the creeps. So much talk in scifi and future science imagining about gaining immortality by transferring contents of brain to the "brain" of a computer, before dying. But this isn't convincing to me, I think that a robot wakes up, convinced it is you, but you are dead. Gets to the whole essence of continuity of consciousness, and who you really are, and how you know it.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian20 Nov 2020 10:04 p.m. PST

I think the most 'controversial' technology in Star Trek seems to be the transporter.

No, it's the holodeck!

dilettante Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2020 4:31 a.m. PST

The holodeck should be the most controversial tech 'within' the Star Trek universe considering how often it breaks down in one way or another. It should be shut down, but I think the whole federation society has a holodeck dependency issue a la Barclay.

gisbygeo21 Nov 2020 7:58 a.m. PST

I always hated the inconsistencies – It obviously remakes you from stuff in the poo tanks. In one episode it creates two Rikers, so it had to make at least one from the poo tanks. In another episode they cure a disease by running a diplomat through the transporter using a stored file from several days before.

Therefore, they can cure ANY injury the same way – so much for lamenting Nog's lost leg.

In fact, they don't need to SEND the away team, they can just beam down the away team stored in their buffers, or send multiple copies of a marine squad.

When you join Starfleet, you never need join a ship. They can just scan you in, and you stay home while your replicated selves go off to explore the universe.

gisbygeo21 Nov 2020 7:59 a.m. PST

The transporter was fast, but more important, it was cheap. they didn't need a set to use it

Ghostrunner21 Nov 2020 9:09 a.m. PST

The holodeck has a host of dramatic as well as technical issues.

However, given that it's a closed environment and you aren't creating living beings (or at least you shouldn't be able to), I find it much less improbable than the transporter.

On a scale of 1-10 of relative improbability, my arbitrary ratings are:

Replicators: 1
Artificial gravity: 2
Force fields: 2
Holodeck: 4
Warp Drive: 5
Transporters: 9

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2020 11:12 a.m. PST

Well, also not to mention that in addition to speaking English apparently 95% plus of the intelligent species in the universe are bipedal humanoids

forrester21 Nov 2020 2:06 p.m. PST

The bipedal humanoids thing was explained in a Next Generation episode…all descended from the same proto humanoid race.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2020 3:39 p.m. PST

I will spot any SF show improbable technology, given that it's used consistently on the show. I have regular access to some technology I'd have rated as highly improbably when Star Trek first aired.

But I truly hate the transporter, the holodeck and Q, and the transporter the most--not for being improbable, but for being such an easy out from difficult situations that part of almost every episode seemed to be devoted to explaining why the transporter couldn't save them this time. (I never bought the budget excuse, by the way. Take the plywood shuttle they built anyway, put it in the back of your first shot "on planet" and say "here we are on Planet Xenon." How much does it cost to have a truck drive something from one end of the 40 Acre Lot to the other?)

The holodeck exists to justify the use of cheap sets and plot digressions, and Q is Rodenberry's worst idea--"the crew of the Enterprise meets God, and God is mad, a child, or both"--embodied in a recurring character. But sometimes they go away, while the transporter is always with us, but never gets the crew out of a tight spot.

Oh. Frederick. They've been mentioning off and on since the 1960's that they're using a translator device and you're only hearing it in English. Of course, if you'd rather spend an episode flipping through your English-Romulan dictionary…

Dukewilliam Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2020 6:02 p.m. PST

Transporters are cool and they worked because Gene Roddenberry said they did. More ‘science fantasy' than fiction, good luck getting me out of the holodeck with pretend T'Pol or 7 of 9.

bsrlee21 Nov 2020 8:49 p.m. PST

As Zephyr1 said – Trek without Transporters = Orville.

We already have limited Replicators – 3D printers can make parts, clothes and food from generic stock materials. Its not yet quick or particularly cheap, but its available and getting cheaper and quicker every year.

The bipedal humanoids was addressed in one episode of Trek:TOS where they found some preserved precursors as well as why Human/Klingon/Vulcan-Romulan hybrids work.

ST:Discovery season 2 (set before ST:TOS) has an episode with Captain Pike having to wait for the 'Universal Translator' to adjust to a new alien trying to deliver a message.

gisbygeo21 Nov 2020 10:10 p.m. PST

I too hated Q, for the same reasons stated, and because he was so badly written.

I also hated the constant fallback to use time travel to fix problems created by their trip back in time to fix it.

In one episode, they traveled back to investigate a phenomenon that was getting stronger the farther back in time you went. They had to go back to stop it before it got strong enough to destroy the universe. Only two problems:

1 It was in the past, so if it was going to destroy everything, it already would have done so.
2 To observers, it was a phenomenon that had done nothing, and was growing weaker every day. Why is it a threat?

JSchutt22 Nov 2020 6:53 a.m. PST

Hard to resolve a plot in the last 2 minutes of the episode sometimes… without using the transporter.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2020 5:40 p.m. PST

Maybe the transporter isn't actually "taking you apart and reassembling," maybe it's just "telling" the Universe that this particular bit of information regarding the structure of a the Universal Quantum Field is no longer in this location of spacetime but this other location of spacetime. Think of it like altering a piece of code to change the parameters of a computer simulation. However, the transmission of the information occurs at the speed of light, is restricted in distance without the assistance of a receiving transporter station, and can be effected by various states of the Universal Quantum Field both at the point of transmission and the intended target point.
(It's all still a hand wave, but there can be a scientific argument for such a concept, even if we have no way of knowing how or if it could work.)

Legion 423 Nov 2020 3:32 p.m. PST

It's classified …

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse23 Nov 2020 8:45 p.m. PST

It's classified…

Ok. I give up. You got me.

Sargonarhes27 Nov 2020 1:15 p.m. PST

OMG. If they didn't use the transporter as a plot device they could have used the tractor beam as an easy solution replacement. Just tractor beam a capsule back and forth from the ship, it would have been like a space elevator. And probably more believable as well, and could have been done as other sci-fi had it as well. Tractor beams are rather universal in sci-fi.

The Transporter is just another hamndwavium space magic like teleporters. Which have been in sci-fi before Star Trek even used it.

Roddenberry just wasn't that creative of a guy.

Giant Gundam robots are more plausible than the transporter.

The H Man Supporting Member of TMP02 Dec 2020 3:38 p.m. PST

Universal translaters were around since TNG, if not the movies, (or TOS??). Even if you suggest TOS didn't have them, who said everyone is speaking English?? Federation may well be speaking a generic Universal dialect, dubbed for viewers at home.

Just like now, in international relations, it would be odd to send people out without A a translator, or B knowing multiple languages. As A is not visible, it must be a computer translator, or people are speaking other languages.

The only other possibility is that Klingons and such can speak English when needed and new species are advanced enough to learn quickly, use mental or technological translation.

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