|Justin B Rye 1992–1998|
It is generally accepted among non-Trekkie SF fans that Star Trek
transporters, hereinafter abbreviated to TPs, are an
insanely gross piece of quasiscience best kept decently
offstage. Unfortunately, the Trekkies have trouble grasping
this, and insist on plots that focus on infeasible TP
phenomena. My suspension-of-disbelief glands can't take
very much more of this, so in the hope of scaring scriptwriters
into avoiding the subject I am obliged to go into the awful
The TP's operational specifications are roughly as detailed below:
|RESOLUTION||Unlimited. Inter- and intra-atomic bonds are reconstituted correctly. Indeterminacy has apparently been abolished in the Star Trek Universe.|
Formidable. Whole (sentient!) landing parties are
routinely shifted across from
out trayin a matter of seconds.
Tomorrow is Yesterday(ST:TOS1), the sergeant is beamed down while the Enterprise is five minutes past Earth and receding at warp eight.
The Voyage Home(ST:TMP4); two whales plus 400 tonnes of sea-water are no trouble.
|MOTION||Somehow permits you to move in transit (while you aren't made of matter!?) without coming out as mince. This shouldn't be legal. In fact, won't any change after you're scanned be lost in transmission?|
TP pattern(a spying device).
energised) by remote control, with a matter-to-energy total conversion system (a weapon, perchance?).
Unnatural Selection, ST:TNG2).
materialised) according to the pattern (a replicating machine; blibbleblibbleblibbleblibble).
If the TP was in use by 2209 (
Realm of Fear,
ST:TNG6) its society-smashing practical applications
should have transformed the Federation long before ST:TOS!
The Vengeance Factor, ST:TNG3; the Enterprise reads a planetary database from in warp), or indeed by post; thus communication is equivalent to transportation.
Okay Doc, edit my body into a latest-model warpshuttle with holodeck-computer grade brain, and built-in facilities for TP-editing plus rolling backups!
Ménage à Troi, ST:TNG3)? They transport through shields – tacitly in
A Taste of Armageddon(ST:TOS1) and
Encounter at Farpoint(ST:TNG0); explicitly in
Best of Both Worlds(ST:TNG4) can be refined; e.g.
Déjà Q(ST:TNG3) implied that shuttles are transportable.
The Star Trek TP's first line of defence against such uses goes
Ah, yes, pattern materialisation is indeed how Star
Trek Universe replicators work; but they are only a
little-developed offshoot from TP technology, and so they don't
have the resolution to duplicate anything at all
complex. This, in my humble opinion, is sheerest
hogwash; replication is simply transportation minus the magic
remote-scanning-and-disassembly stages, and has to be perfected
before the TP. If, as in
(ST:TNG3), your TP can assemble a live Romulan in
sickbay, beamed from the planet below, then despite the episode's
claims it must (as part of this process) be able to
assemble Romulan ribosomes in sickbay out of data and energy.
Shouldn't the monistic materialism of TPs clash with the Star
Trek Universe's normal mystical dualism (personified by Deanna
Troi)? Doesn't the TP imply that a mind is nothing but a
functional arrangement of matter/energy? Wasn't McCoy right
to moan that TPs don't actually transport you at
all? They just rip you apart and build a replacement
elsewhere! Does it matter? Do TPs conserve
identity? Orthodox TPs (unlike my own
imply there are no
souls in the Star Trek Universe.
I'll gladly accept psionic phenomena (ESP, psychic healing, etc.)
as a convention in SF; but be consistent!
The Star Trek TP's second line of defence is a superficially neat
piece of logical judo, using the monism/dualism clash to excuse
the limitations on gross uses of TPs in the orthodox Star Trek
Universe. It goes something like this:
Ah, yes, TPs are
indeed souped-up replicators; but sentient entities have
immaterial souls, which can only be transmitted, not
duplicated. That's as useless as a theory can get;
contrary to the evidence, over-complex, internally confused, and
no solution to the original problem!
Dagger of the Mind, ST:TOS1), McCoy's extra
The Search for Spock, ST:TMP3), and the sentience of
life, but not as we know itif they have to distinguish souled from soulless cargoes?
Pen Pals, ST:TNG2). The Ferengi can't sell them, the Borg can't use them to power reactors (by embryo-farm soul-vampirism)… so what good are they?
The big problem for dualism is: what causes a soul to
appear? Deanna can detect both Worf and Data, so it's not
just human embryology; which implies the answer
of any suitable brain. Hmmm: doesn't this include
copies of Data's brain assembled by a replicator? For all
we know, Dr Sung built him using a TP in the first place!
And if any brain created by TP matter-to-energy assembly summons
a fresh soul… where does the disintegrated original's soul
go? Won't it assume it's dead?!
Or do TPs send
bereaved souls a sort of forwarding address
Don't worry, your body's over here)? If so, it's
another gross subsystem…
Oy, Romulan soul! Your
body went that-a-way! Wesley, you're promoted; kill
yourself and transmigrate your soul into yonder Romulan
commander's empty carcase! Or on second thoughts, let me
help – take that! (So how did anybody
discover the need for this extra TP subsystem, then?)
|7.0||Actually, TPs have begun to look more feasible since people started talking about nanotechnological assembler/disassemblers. But once you've got those…|
|7.2||If (say) megacredit notes are claimed to be unreplicatable, I'll just replicate the printing press instead; and if corpses are replicatable, how about temporary corpses? After all, practically the whole ST:TOS crew have been dead at one point or another!|
Incidentally, what would Picard get if he asked for
a cup of Earl Grey?
|7.5||These questions are hardly academic; they are the obvious criteria for giving entities voting rights, or letting them in your church!|
For the benefit of non-Latin-speakers: per ardua ad
through hardship to the ridiculous.
As time goes on, the Star Trek Universe tries fitfully to
mutate the mechanism of TPs from purely informational to (in
analogue. See, guys? You should have thought about it earlier.
An afterthought on TP pattern files: why not wear an amulet so
designed that its pattern is a TP computer filing-system
We've now seen permanent TP duplication (
Second Chances, ST:TNG6).