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Deep Space Station K-7, transporter pad

Transporter platform on Deep Space Station K-7 in 2268

Transporter tas

A Federation transporter device from the 23rd century

Galaxy class transporter pad

A Galaxy-class transporter pad, circa 2364

Transporter room, Jetrel

Intrepid-class transporter room, circa 2371

Defiant larger transporter room

Defiant-class transporter room, circa 2373

Template:Disambiguate "Transporting really is the safest way to travel."

- Geordi La Forge, 2369

The transporter was a subspace device capable of almost instantaneously moving an object from one location to another. Transporters are able to dematerialize, transmit and reassemble an object. The act of transporting is often referred to as "beaming."


NX class transporter

A 22nd century transporter platform from Earth Starfleet

Transporter on Enterprise (NX-01)

...and its console

NX transporter

The upgraded transporter platform later installed aboard the Enterprise (NX-01) (2154)

Emory and Danica Erickson

Emory Erickson, the inventor of the transporter, with daughter, Danica Erickson

Ferengi transporter beam

A Ferengi transporter beam

Hunter transporter effect

The transporter effect of the Hunters

Transporters have been used by many civilizations throughout history, but the first Human-made transporter was invented by Emory Erickson sometime prior to 2121, with the first operable transporter being developed before 2139. When the transporter was in its infancy, there was much controversy surrounding its safety and reliability within United Earth. When it became approved for biomatter, there were even protests. The debates ranged from health issues to metaphysical debates over whether or not the person transported was the same person or a copy of the original. (ENT: "Daedalus")

In TAS: "The Terratin Incident", the colonists who settled Terra 10 claimed to have had knowledge of transporter technologies two centuries before 2269.

The Enterprise NX-01 was one of the first Starfleet starships to be equipped with a transporter authorized for transporting biological objects. Initially, however, it was utilized only sparingly due to a general distrust of the technology held by Enterprise crew members. Its use became much more common during Enterprise's search of the Delphic Expanse. (ENT: "Broken Bow", "Strange New World", "The Andorian Incident", et al.)

These early transporters were not very reliable and, even after Enterprise's mission, most were authorized for non-biological transports only. Even when transporter use became commonplace, most Humans and other races at a similar stage of technological development preferred traditional methods of travel. (ENT: "Strange New World", "The Andorian Incident", "Daedalus")

With the advent of safer transporters, biological transport became increasingly common, which led to the appearance of the first transporter-related diseases. The best known disease was transporter psychosis, which was diagnosed in 2209. (TNG: "Realm of Fear")

As Starfleet continued its exploration of space, dependence on transporters grew, significantly. Transporters could simplify away missions, considerably, by eliminating the need for a shuttlecraft. In case of emergencies (medical or otherwise), the time saved could mean the difference between life or death. (ENT: "Strange New World")

Transporters became the most reliable form of short-range transport by the 24th century. Innovations in transporter technology around this time included safer site-to-site transport, which allowed for transport between two locations without first returning to a transporter room. By the 29th century, Starfleet had developed temporal transporter technology that allowed travel through time in a very similar manner to standard transporters of earlier centuries. (TNG: "Realm of Fear"; VOY: "Relativity")

The basic principles behind Federation transporters didn't differ from those of other species, although they had a distinctive blue color (see below). (Star Trek)


Transporter matter beam

View from within a transporter's matter stream

By the 24th century, most space-faring civilizations of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants employed transporter technology for short-range transport of personnel and equipment. There were many advantages to utilizing transporters.

Traveling by transporter was essentially instantaneous and an individual's sense of time while transporting was effectively non-existent. Benjamin Sisko and Harry Kim, while training at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco, frequently transported to New Orleans and South Carolina, respectively, to see their parents. (DS9: "Explorers"; VOY: "Non Sequitur")

In general, a transporter chief was responsible for the operational readiness, maintenance and repair of a ship or station's transporter systems. By the 24th century, transporter systems could also be operated from computer terminals, other than those in transporter rooms.

Furthermore, emergency transporter armbands, transponders and combadges could be programmed to remotely activate a transporter. Normally, remote transporter activation was limited to emergencies or when the crew of a vessel was not on board. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", "Realm of Fear"; DS9: "The Jem'Hadar")

A typical transport sequence began with a coordinate lock, during which the destination was verified and programmed, via the targeting scanners. Obtaining or maintaining a transporter lock enables the transporter operator to know the subject's location, even in motion, allowing the beaming process to start more quickly. This is an essential safety precaution when a starship away team enters a potentially dangerous situation that would require an emergency beam-out.

A transporter lock was usually maintained by tracing the homing signal of a communicator or combadge. When there was a risk that such devices would be lost in the field or are otherwise unavailable, personnel could be implanted with a subcutaneous transponder before an away mission, to still provide a means to maintain a transporter lock. Alternatively, sensors could be used to scan for the bio-sign or energy signature of a subject, which could then be fed into the transporter's targeting scanner for a lock.

Next, the lifeform or object to be beamed was scanned on the quantum level, using a molecular imaging scanner. At this point, Heisenberg compensators took into account the position and direction of all subatomic particles composing the object or individual and created a map of the physical structure being disassembled, amounting to billions of kiloquads of data.

File:Phaser beam in transporer.jpg

Simultaneously, the object was broken down into a stream of subatomic particles, also called the matter stream. While certain types of energy could be transported safely, active phaser beams would be disrupted during this breakdown process. (TNG: "Datalore") The matter stream was briefly stored in a pattern buffer while the system compensates for Doppler shift to the destination.

The matter stream was then transmitted to its destination across a subspace domain. As with any type of transmission of energy or radiation, scattering and degradation of the signal must be monitored closely. The annular confinement beam (ACB) acted to maintain the integrity of the information contained in the energy beam. Finally, the initial process was reversed and the object or individual was reassembled at the destination.

From its earliest incarnations until sometime between the early 2270s and mid 2280s, transporters generally immobilized the subject being beamed during dematerialization and rematerialization. Advances in transporter technology after that point allowed a person being transported to move, during the process, in a limited fashion.

With perhaps one or two exceptions, every instance of transporter use shown in ENT, TOS, and TAS showed a "suspended subject". This held true for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well. Beginning with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, transport subjects were shown being able to engage in limited movements and even conversation while in transport.

Transporter operations (alternate reality)

USS Enterprise (alternate universe) transporter in use

Transporter effect of the alternate reality's USS Enterprise

In the alternate reality caused by Nero, the transporter operation process included the use of the annular confinement beam, followed by electromagnetic focusing, the use of a gravitational compensator. The transporter operator then applied a temporal differential, after which he engaged a particle lock. (Star Trek)

The information about the alternate reality transporter process comes from on-screen graphics of the transporter control panel, shown in several scenes of the film Star Trek.

Safety features, protocols and components

As with other Starfleet technology, the transporter had its own set of safety features, protocols and procedures. In an emergency, many of these safety systems could be modified or circumvented.

Early versions of the transporter in the 22nd century appeared to have no protection against external incursions into an active transport. "Foreign matter," such as blowing debris, could get caught up in the transport and become embedded or integrated into the subject. (ENT: "Strange New World") Energy weapons fire would also affect the subject, unless it was sufficiently far into the transport that the fire passed through it harmlessly. (ENT: "Broken Bow", "Countdown") By the late 23rd century, however, transporters shielded the subject from these external incursions. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, TNG: "A Matter of Perspective")

Biofilters were uniformly used on all Federation transporters by the 24th century. These filters functioned to decontaminate transported objects and prevent harmful substances, pathogens, and even certain forms of radiation (including theta radiation), from contaminating the rest of the ship. This process replaced earlier systems that required the subject to be fully rematerialized on the transport platform before applying an energy-based process to topically decontaminate the transportee. (VOY: "Macrocosm", "Night", TOS: "The Naked Time")

Though the biofilters performed a general contaminant removal with each transport, they were far from perfect; previously-unknown infections or viruses occasionally failed to register, requiring the filters to be recalibrated to recognize the new threat. As such, biofilters were incapable of filtering out certain types of substances and pathogens, most notably psychic energy. (TNG: "Lonely Among Us", "Power Play")

Biofilters were also unable to detect and filter certain types of phased reality lifeforms without prior calibration. Biofilters also functioned to detect and disable weapons and explosives (remat detonators). (TNG: "Realm of Fear", "The Schizoid Man", "The Most Toys")

Additionally, pattern buffers were used to compensate for relative motion during transport, ensuring that transported matter materialized in the correct location.

Except in cases of extreme emergency, protocols prohibited transporting objects while traveling at warp speed. (TNG: "The Schizoid Man") Such transports are possible, however, if the two vessels match warp velocities. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", VOY: "Maneuvers")

Diagnostic and maintenance tools

System components

Transporter types

Almost all Starfleet facilities and starships were equipped with at least one transporter device. The number of transporter devices differed; for example, most shuttlecraft had one transporter while Template:ShipClass starships had twenty. (TNG: "11001001")

When cargo bays were present, these often contained cargo transporters.

The visual effects of transporter beams varied among the types used by different species of the galaxy, and the different models of transporter. In most cases, there was a delay and visual/auditory effect as the subject/thing being transported was dematerialized and rematerialized, however, the transporters used by the Aldeans, transported the children and Wesley Crusher from the Enterprise-D and on the planet almost instantly, with the only visual effect being disappearing and reappearing. (TNG: "When The Bough Breaks")

22nd century Starfleet transporters showed a number of blue "sparkles" moving to one center, forming a small sphere that then disappeared (dematerialization).

23rd century Federation transporters, during the 2260s, showed a shower of golden "sparkles" during materialization and dematerialization. Klingon units during the same time emitted a solid golden "haze" effect.

Regula I transporter room

2280s transporter

Borg transporter

Four individuals of Species 10026 are transported off a Borg vessel

By the 2280s, both races utilized transporters that appeared to utilize a "wave" effect, the Federation's being blue and the Klingons with golden yellow.

24th century Federation transporters emitted a distinct blue/white "sparkle" when used. Klingon transporters displayed a red/orange sparkle and Romulan transporters a green sparkle. Cardassian and Ferengi displayed red/orange "swirls" of energy. Borg displayed green "swirls" of energy.

Another difference was the speed by which a transporter operates. Compared to transporters used by the Hunters, a Gamma Quadrant species, in 2369, the Federation transporter was slow. (DS9: "Captive Pursuit")

Furthermore, each type of transporter beam had a distinctive sound pattern associated with it. Along with differences in "tone," the volume of the sound also varied. Klingon transporters in the 2260s, for example, were completely silent. (TOS: "Day of the Dove")

Production of Mark V transporters was halted in 2356. By 2371, Mark VI transporters were considered outdated. Mark VII transporters were able to transport unstable biomatter, as long as the phase transition inhibitor was adjusted. (DS9: "Family Business")


Transporter console, 2254

Transporter console, 2254

Transporter console, 23rd century

Standard duotronic transporter console (ca. 2260s)

USS Enterprise (alternate reality) transporter console

Transporter console in the alternate reality's 2258

The most commonly used type of transporter was the personnel transporter, designed primarily for personnel.

Personnel transporter rooms usually consisted of a transporter console, a transporter platform with an overhead molecular imaging scanner, primary energizing coils, and phase transition coils.

A pattern buffer with a biofilter was typically located on the deck below the transporter room. The outer hull of a starship incorporated a number of emitter pads for the transporter beam. (citation needededit)

Personnel transporters worked on the quantum level to enable secure transport of lifeforms. Biofilters built into the transporter systems prevented dangerous microorganisms from boarding the ship.

Transporter platforms had a variable number of pads, arranged in various layouts (by model and by manufacturing race):

The transporters installed on Earth's NX-class starships featured one large circular pad that took up the entire platform. It was large enough to transport two to three people, provided they stood close together.

By the 23rd century, Federation transporter platforms featured multiple independent pads, typically six in a hexagonal configuration. One- and two-pad platforms were also available.

This became something of a standard layout for Federation transporters well into the next century. As an example, the platforms used on board Template:ShipClass starships had the familiar six individual pads, with an over-sized pad (in the center of the platform) that could handle small cargo.

The model of transporter installed on board Template:ShipClass starships featured a ¾ circle platform and three personnel pads in a triangular formation.

Some 23rd century Klingon platforms featured six hexagonal pads in a straight line. Others, such as those on Birds-of-Prey, featured a small number of platforms in a tight group. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

Cardassian transporter platforms in the 24th century featured three to five triangular pads placed close together, such as those installed on Deep Space 9.

The personnel transporter was a reliable but sometimes fragile piece of equipment. The phase coils, in particular, were vulnerable to feedback patterns and could be severely damaged as result of power surges or low-level phaser fire. (TNG: "Brothers")


Cargo transporter

A cargo transporter aboard a Galaxy-class starship

Cargo transporters were larger-scale versions of personnel transporters and were optimized for the transport of inanimate objects. These transporters were adapted to handle massive quantities of material. (citation needededit)

In case of an emergency, cargo transporters could be reset to quantum-level mode, making lifeform transport possible. One reason for such a reconfiguration was to expedite an evacuation of personnel. (TNG: "11001001")

Cargo transporters were mostly found inside the cargo bay of a starship or space station.

Dedicated cargo transporter platforms used by Starfleet in the 24th century typically featured one large circular or oblong pad. (Star Trek: The Next Generation)


Portable transporters were self-contained units capable of direct site-to-site transport without using a fixed transporter pad. While having the capability to be moved from one place to another, they were known to be rather large and bulky. Most portable transporters were incapable of transporting themselves along with their payload. (citation needededit)

In 2372 of an alternate timeline, Tom Paris owned an advanced, portable, site-to-site transporter device capable of transporting itself along with its payload. Also of note, this device was small enough to be carried easily on a person. (VOY: "Non Sequitur") It is unknown whether this device existed in the normal timeline.


Emergency transport unit

An emergency transport unit

Emergency transporters were a special type that had a low power requirement; in case of a ship-wide power failure, the crew could use these transporters for emergency evacuation. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual; VOY: "Future's End")

In older technical manuals and other non-canon background materials, these are sometimes referred to as "evacuation" transporters or "combat" transporters. Typically, they are said to be platforms with a dozen or more pads each. In addition to emergency evacuation, they are used in any high-volume movement of personnel, such as in troop deployment.

By the late 24th century, emergency transport was further improved through Starfleet's development of a single-person, single-use, one-way emergency transport unit. The device was small enough to be hand-held and could transport to specified coordinates with a single touch.

Because of its extreme limitations, this device was not widely deployed and was still considered a prototype in 2379. (Star Trek Nemesis)


By 2375, the Federation had developed a micro-transporter – essentially a scaled-down version of a regular transporter – which was capable of transporting small amounts of material within an almost-imperceptible span of time. When attached to a TR-116 rifle, it could be used to transport the bullet to anywhere within the transporter's range, where it would continue at its original velocity until striking a target. (DS9: "Field of Fire")

Non-"beam" transporters

Spatial trajector

The spatial trajector, an example of a non-beam transporter

Certain species have experimented with transporters that differ in technology and theory than those used by most species encountered by the Federation.

The Sikarians were known to use a folded-space transporter, relying on dimensional shifting rather than matter-to-energy conversion. Similarly, the Iconians perfected their own form of transport, known as gateways, which were capable of near instantaneous transport over vast distances. (VOY: "Prime Factors"; TNG: "Contagion")

Other transporters



Although beaming was quick, it had its limits. A person could not stay within the matter stream too long. If this happened, his or her molecular pattern would degrade and the transporter signal would be lost.

This signal had to stay above fifty percent to be able to re-materialize the person. A time-frame of around ninety seconds was about the maximum before that fifty-percent signal loss was reached. (TNG: "Realm of Fear")

The crew of the USS Voyager was able to extend this time by using pattern enhancers. In an effort to transport refugee telepaths to another world, Captain Janeway was able to hide many telepaths, in addition to a few of her crew, in the transporter buffers. This process, referred to as transporter suspension, produced serious complications. Because Voyager's guests and crew had to hide from Devore authorities repeatedly over the course of several weeks, acute cellular degradation was found in many of the refugees and in Tuvok. Although The Doctor was able to treat them, the degradation was cumulative. If the process had been continued, the people may not have survived the transport. (VOY: "Counterpoint")

The longest recorded instance of a person remaining in transporter suspension was that of Captain Montgomery Scott. He was able to survive for a period of seventy-five years, while suspended in an extensively modified transporter buffer and setting it to loop diagnostic mode, after the ship he was on crashed into a Dyson sphere and he was left with no way to call for help before he ran out of supplies. (TNG: "Relics")


In general, transporters could not be used while the deflector shield of a ship was active, or a deflector shield was in place over the destination. However, it was possible to take advantage of EM "windows" that were created by the normal rotation of shield frequencies. During these periods, a hole opened, through which a transporter beam could pass. To use this window, timing needed to be absolute and usually required substantial computer assistance. This technique was theorized and first practiced in 2367, by USS Enterprise-D transporter chief Miles O'Brien. (TNG: "The Wounded")

Magnetic shields could also be used to prevent beaming. Rura Penthe was protected by such a shield to prevent prisoners from escaping. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

There was a type of shielding that allowed transport, although it had the limitation of not allowing phasers to be fired through it. (TOS: "A Taste of Armageddon")

The limitation of transporters versus shields was not universal, however. The Aldeans were able to pass through their own shielding using transporters, though the shielding was impenetrable to other forms of technology and weapons. Similarly, both the Borg and Dominion used transporter technology that was able to penetrate standard Federation shielding. Some adaptations, including rotating shield frequencies, could inhibit this ability but not eliminate it altogether. (TNG: "Q Who"; DS9: "The Jem'Hadar") Voth were able to beam entire starships into a single Voth city ship, despite its shield being raised and running at full capacity. (VOY: "Distant Origin")

Warp speed

Transporters were not allowed to be used while a ship was at warp speed because of the severe spatial distortions caused by its warp field. (TNG: "The Schizoid Man") Transport at warp was highly dangerous and had been attempted safely only a handful of times. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", "The Emissary") There were, however, ways to circumvent this limitation.

  • If both ships maintained exact velocity (that is, the warp field on both vessels must have the same integral value/factor) transport at warp speed was possible. Failure to maintain the same velocities would result in severe loss of the annular confinement beam (ACB) and pattern integrity.
  • If the ship was traveling at warp speed and the object to be beamed was stationary, transport was possible by synchronizing the ACB with the warp core frequency. This would cause difficulties in obtaining a good pattern lock. The Maquis were known to have used this method. (VOY: "Maneuvers")
  • Sometime before 2387, Montgomery Scott discovered the necessary formulas enabling transwarp beaming. (Star Trek)

"Near-warp" transport was also possible, but required extensive adjustments to the transport procedure. It involved the transporting ship energizing its transporters at the same time as it dropped out of warp for just long enough for the matter stream to be transmitted. The ship would then immediately jump back into warp.

Persons who had experienced this form of transport remarked that there was a sensation of being merged with an inanimate object briefly before the transporter beam reassembled them.

Near-warp transport has also been referred to as "touch-and-go downwarping". (TNG: "The Schizoid Man")

Faster-than-warp speeds

In 2374, Voyager personnel successfully used Template:ShipClass transporters to beam stranded crewmembers from the USS Dauntless while both ships were traveling within a quantum slipstream. Voyager accelerated on a pursuit course during the transport, bypassing the velocity limitations imposed by warp field dynamics. (VOY: "Hope and Fear")

Based on Voyager's launch date, presumably an unmodified Mark VII transporter was used for transport at quantum slipstream velocities.


During the 22nd century, standard Earth transporter systems had a range of 10,000 kilometers; however, by the 24th century, standard transporter systems maximum range was about 40,000 kilometers, though a special type of transport, called subspace transport could beam over several light years. (ENT: "Rajiin"; TNG: "A Matter Of Honor", "Bloodlines") Many 24th century starships were equipped with an emergency transporter system, but these only had a range of at best ten kilometers. (VOY: "Future's End")

Although having a maximum range of about 40,000 kilometers, some conditions adversely affect the effective range. In at least one instance – due to missing components of Voyager's primary computer systems, – the starship Voyager had to be within 500 kilometers of a planet's surface to use transporters on Kathryn Janeway and the hologram character Leonardo da Vinci. (VOY: "Concerning Flight")

For context, five hundred kilometers above the surface of Earth would place the ship inside the ionosphere.

The maximum range of a transporter differs per species, depending on what kind of technologies they've used to build it. The transporter with the longest known range is that of the Sikarians, with a range of about 40,000 light years; however this was due to their planet's large quartz mantle which amplifies their transporter signal. Because of this, Sikarian transporter technology works only on their planet. (VOY: "Prime Factors")

Gary Seven's mysterious sponsors on the Assigners' planet possessed transporter technology with a range of at least a thousand light years according to Spock. Scotty later noted that Seven's beam was so powerful it fused all of recording circuits, and therefore he could not say exactly how far it transported Seven, or even whether it transported him through time. Exactly how they achieved this effect remains unknown, since there has been no subsequent contact with them, and they hide their entire homeworld in some fashion. There were, however, other indications that their technology was considerably advanced beyond that of the 23rd century Federation. (TOS: "Assignment: Earth")

The Vedala, one of the oldest space-faring races, also possessed transporter technology capable of beaming people and equipment to and from other planets (presumably in different star systems.) (TAS: "The Jihad") Dominion transporter technology, enhanced with a homing transponder, was said to have a range of at least three light years. (DS9: "Covenant")

Radiation and substances

Some forms of radiation and substances, usually minerals such as kelbonite, prevented transporters from working. In most instances the interference was caused by scattering of the annular confinement beam or sensor interference preventing a transporter lock. Interference could be natural or artificial and usually occurred during surface-to-starship transport but might also occur between vessels. Examples of other radiation and substance limitations are:


Over the centuries numerous devices have been designed to overcome some limitations of transporters, and still others to intentionally interfere with transporters.

Transporter crystal

A transporter tag given to Kira Nerys

By the 24th century, usage of pattern enhancers was common aboard most Starfleet vessels, most often deployed to a planet's surface during emergency situations where transport was critical.

Devices that were specifically designed to block transporter signals or to interfere with them were usually deployed under hostile conditions, thus making use of a transporter impossible or very dangerous and hampering maneuverability of personnel or material. Some of these devices were:

In 2375, Vedek Fala, gave a small crystal to Colonel Kira as a gift. The device, of unknown origin and design, was actually a transporter tag, which instantly transported her to Empok Nor several light years distant. (DS9: "Covenant")

Also, in 2293, Spock used a viridium patch to locate and lock on to Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy on Rura Penthe. While not a transporter device, it was used to locate the subject with the transporter. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)


Although someone with minor injuries could be transported, this was not possible when the injuries were extensive. When the brain stem was damaged and autonomic functions were failing, transport was only possible if a volunteer controlled the person's autonomic functions. This was done by placing a neural pad at the base of the skull of both individuals and then connect both people via a medical tricorder. This way autonomic functions could be stabilized for a short period of time and made transport possible. (TNG: "Transfigurations")

In the 22nd century, a Skagaran/human hybrid, Bethany, was successfully transported from a planet's surface to a starship after suffering a gunshot wound to the torso. She was treated for the wound and recovered shortly thereafter. (ENT: "North Star")

Special operations

Disabling active weapons

By the 24th century, the transporter had the capability to disable any active weapon during transport. This could be accomplished by removing the discharged energy from the transporter signal, or by "deactivating" the weapon itself. (TNG: "The Most Toys")

The transporter was also capable of removing weapons entirely during transport. When the Defiant beamed aboard survivors from a damaged Jem'Hadar ship, the transporter was programmed to remove the crew's disruptors and other weapons. (DS9: "To the Death")

Falsifying disintegration by a phaser

Although transports usually took several seconds to complete, it was possible to transport an individual to safety a split-second before they were to be struck by a phaser beam, making it appear as though they had been disintegrated. By 2373, Section 31 had access to such technology and used it to fake the death of operative Luther Sloan in front of the Romulan Continuing Committee. Since William Ross later told Julian Bashir that Tal Shiar chief Koval had fired a phaser at Sloan, rather than a disruptor pistol, it is likely the weapon had been specially modified and was integral to creating the illusion. (DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges")

Connecting two transporters

Two transporters could be bridged together by means of a system interlock to facilitate direct transport between them. Federation vessels could activate other Federation vessels' transporters remotely by means of this. This meant that two transporters could be connected to each other to allow beaming in situations where it would otherwise not be possible due to ionic or some other type of interference. (TNG: "Symbiosis", "Realm of Fear")

First, a remote link to the other transporter had to be established, then the system interlock needed to be engaged and the pattern buffers of both transporters were synchronized. When the phase transition coils were in stand-by mode energizing could commence.

A side-effect of using this form of transport to beam through ionic interference was that the person who was beamed might feel a slight tingling due to static. (TNG: "Realm of Fear")

Intra-ship beaming

In the mid 2260s, beaming from a transporter pad to a location within the same vessel was a very risky proposition. The limitations of the technology at that time made it highly probable that any error would result in the subject rematerializing within a bulkhead, deck, or other structure. As such the procedure had rarely been attempted. (TOS: "Day of the Dove") Interestingly, the first ocurrence of this procedure was used without incident a century earlier. (ENT: "Chosen Realm") Commander Riker and Tasha Yar used this operation during a rescue. (TNG: "Symbiosis") When cargo instead of passengers was beamed aboard, Riker tells Yar to beam the cargo to the hold without a second thought.

Why this would be the case is not known. A technology capable of transporting a subject over thousands of kilometers without error should be able to do so over a few dozen meters easily, though one could speculate that the emitters are focused away from the ship, as shown in the technical manuals.
From the writing standpoint of the episode itself, though, if such capability did exist, then it would have been an easy matter to free the trapped crewmen in the lower decks.

Intra-ship transport appears to be both safe and commonplace by the 2360s, as, beyond the aforesaid example, the technique was used a number of times aboard the USS Enterprise-D:

"Site-to-site" transport

Site to site transport

Beaming directly to sickbay

The earliest known example of site-to-site transport carried out by Federation personnel occurred in 1986 (though the transporter was on board a vessel that had traveled back in time from 2286). A Klingon vessel stolen by the crew of the late starship Enterprise had site-to-site transporter capabilities. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

By at least 2268, limitations in pattern buffer and targeting scanner technology had been sufficiently overcome that it was now possible to transport from one location directly to another without the need to re-materialize the subject in between. (TOS: "A Piece of the Action") In the 24th century, this operation was enabled and controlled by the site-to-site transport interlocks. (TNG: "Brothers")

Klingon Site to site Transport

A Klingon transporter performs a site-to-site transport

Site-to-site transport holds the matter stream in the pattern buffer while the ACB was re-targeted. Afterward, the matter stream was redirected to the new location and normal re-materialization was carried out.

Using this technique, any computer terminal with access to the main transporter sub-systems, or any applicable subroutine, could be used to control transporter operations, including bridge terminals. This technique could only be utilized when sufficient energy was available to the transporters; all normal transporter limitations would still apply. (Star Trek Nemesis)

This procedure was particularly useful in emergency medical situations where time was of the essence. Subjects could be beamed directly to sickbay where treatment could be carried out quickly. (TNG: "Tapestry", Star Trek: First Contact)

Ensign Wesley Crusher used this method in an attempt to outrun those (especially Riker and Worf) who were taken over by the Risa/Ktarian mind game. (TNG: "The Game")

Transporter trace

By the 23rd century, it was common practice to store a "transporter trace" (a stored copy of a subject's molecular pattern as scanned during a normal transporter cycle). While it was usually kept for security purposes, in extreme situations the transporter could be modified to use an older trace pattern in place of the latest scan for the purpose of re-configuring the matter stream during molecular conversion, effectively replacing a subject with a younger version of itself during matter re-construction. The first known use of this technique was in 2270, when it was used to restore the reverse-aged crew of the USS Enterprise to their adult versions. (TAS: "The Counter-Clock Incident") Another notable use was in 2364, to restore Captain Jean-Luc Picard after an unsuccessful attempt by an alien energy being to merge with him. (TNG: "Lonely Among Us")

The transporter trace itself would be stored for the duration of the person's tour of duty; when that person was reassigned, his or her trace would be deleted. (TNG: "Unnatural Selection")

When necessary, a person's DNA could be used to create a transporter trace. This technique was utilized by Chief Miles O'Brien and Lieutenant Geordi La Forge during a mission to the Darwin Genetic Research Station in 2365.

Transporter traces were also used as a medical tool, to help in spotting anomalies at the molecular level. When comparing the transporter ID traces of Deanna Troi, Data and Miles O'Brien before and after they were taken over by Ux-Mal criminals, Doctor Crusher was able to detect that their nervous systems were generating high levels of synaptic and anionic energy. (TNG: "Power Play") Another example of such an application was in 2373, when The Doctor used Harry Kim's transporter trace records to determine when he had been infected with Taresian DNA. (VOY: "Favorite Son")

Deflecting the transporter beam

A transporter beam could be deflected to different coordinates by a tractor beam so that the objects being transported would rematerialize at a point other than the intended target coordinates. Such action could only be detected by examining the transporter log. An unusual amount of antigraviton particles would be present in the emitter coil, as those particles do not occur naturally but are used by tractor beams. Locating the coordinates at which rematerialization took place was not possible; however, it was possible to calculate the point of origin of the tractor beam itself. (TNG: "Attached")

Single person transport

A transporter could be programmed to only allow one particular person to be transported to and from the transporter pad. Thus programmed, no other persons could use the transporter. If the use of the transporter was further prohibited, by use of an unknown access code, using the transporter was almost impossible.

The only way to circumvent this lock-out was to use the transporter trace from the person who re-programmed the transporter and to input this into the transporter while it was in its testing mode. When in testing mode, a transporter would accept simulated inputs.

When the main computer could not be used, several tricorders could be networked together to control the transporter. To circumvent the lock-out, access codes from a few bridge officers were necessary to force it in a recall loop. So, everyone who would beam down would be seen by the transporter as the person who re-programmed it in the first place. (TNG: "Brothers")

Faking a transporter accident

A transporter accident could be faked in such a way that a transporter chief would think a person died during transport. For example, this could be done by adjusting the carrier wave of a second transporter to the carrier wave of the first. The person would then beam off the first transporter while the second transporter beamed in a small amount of genetically identical material.

Only a doctor could determine if this material was really the person in question. The transporter trace could be used to compare the logged DNA pattern "trace" to the "dead" person. Single-bit errors might be detected if the "dead" material was replicated.

Only transporters that operate on the same subspace frequency as the spoofed transporter can be used for this type of ruse. For example, some Romulan transporters were capable of this.

Another indicator of such a ruse would be a temporary increase of the matter to energy ratio while transport was in progress. However, this increase could fall with in the nominal operational parameters of the transporter in question. Investigation of the transporter logs would be necessary to find evidence of a second transporter signal. (TNG: "Data's Day")

Emergency mass beaming

Some transporters could transport large numbers of people, and either rematerialize them simultaneously, or in groups. However, this was not often done due to safety reasons. In 2268, the crew of the USS Enterprise used their transporters in this manner to capture members of the crew of a Klingon ship. In 2377, the USS Voyager transported over two hundred Klingons off a battle cruiser by expanding the transporter's buffer capacity. (TOS: "Day of the Dove"; VOY: "Prophecy")

Narrow confinement beam

Setting a transporter's annular confinement beam to a narrow width would sometimes allow it to penetrate some types of shielding or other interference. One noteworthy application of this was to penetrate Borg shields, a procedure developed by scientists Magnus and Erin Hansen. (VOY: "Dark Frontier")

Skeletal lock

Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres invented an emergency measure of locking a transporter beam on to minerals in the targets skeletal system in order to allow transport when bio-signs could not be detected from transporting origins. This allowed personnel to be transported back to the ship, even if regular means of transporter lock failed. She came up with it after a conventional signal lock failed during an emergency beam-out from a Borg cube in 2373.(VOY: "Scorpion")

Medical Transports

See Fetal transport.
According to the DVD commentary, in early drafts of Star Trek, the transporter would've played a role in the birth of James T. Kirk, though it would've also created another loss - in an emergency, it was possible to beam a child out of a womb, but, being an "inexact science", this came at the cost of the mother's life. While J.J. Abrams thought it was a "really cool" idea that the technology could be used in this way, the plan was dropped because the production staff didn't want to introduce the transporter so early in the film, and felt that the end of such a traumatic opening scene needed the "victory" of Winona Kirk's survival.

Other operations

Transporter accidents

Though transporters were a quite safe way to get from one point to another, there were still cases of transporter accidents:

Transporter psychosis

In early models of the transporter, errors at the molecular level during rematerialization could cause serious damage to living subjects over time. As a result of these errors, some subjects developed a syndrome that was named "transporter psychosis". (TNG: "Realm of Fear")

Rocks embedded in skin


The result of a transporter accident in 2151.

In 2151, Crewman Ethan Novakovich was beamed back from the face of a planet later known as Archer IV by the still-experimental transporter system aboard the Enterprise NX-01. The emergency transport was attempted during a fierce windstorm. Upon arrival, he was unconscious and had rocks, leaves and other debris from the planet's surface embedded in his skin due to a malfunction in the phase discriminator.

Phlox was able to remove the debris and repair the rather extensive damage, and Novakovich was expected to fully recover. (ENT: "Strange New World")

Split one entity into good and evil entities

On stardate 1672.1, in 2266, a strange ore had altered the function of the transporter, causing one of the most bizarre transporter accidents on record, in which Captain James T. Kirk was split into two separate entities.

One man embodied all of Kirk's so-called positive qualities and the other embodied all of his "evil" qualities. It was some time before the mishap was discovered, and the malignant version of Kirk roamed the ship, stealing brandy, assaulting crewmen, and even attempting to rape Yeoman Rand.

When he was cornered, and finally captured in the engine room, his errant phaser shot damaged the transporter further. Scotty and Spock isolated and repaired the damage.

Their repairs were confirmed when a test animal, which had previously been split in a similar manner to Kirk, was sent through the transporter in an attempt to reintegrate the two creatures. Upon reintegrating, it rematerialized dead, but McCoy speculated that this was the result of the animal not understanding what was happening to it and dying of fright, where the sentient and rational Kirk would be able to understand what was being done to him and thus be able to cope with it.

Crippled with indecision, Kirk was able, barely, to make the trip, and his two halves were reintegrated once again. (TOS: "The Enemy Within")

In the 1960s, the writers were encouraged to be vague about just exactly how Federation technology worked, so there were no detailed "rules" about what could and could not be done with it. However, those established for the writers of "The Next Generation" made it clear that, like "Splitting one individual into two identical ones" below, this accident should not have happened. This did not prevent them from having it happen anyway in TNG: "Second Chances".

Transport to the mirror universe

Multidimensional transporter device, Shattered mirror

The multidimensional transporter device

In 2267, an ion storm near the Halkan homeworld resulted in a power surge in the Enterprise's transporter, causing momentary interdimensional contact with a parallel universe. Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, Commander Scott, and Lieutenant Uhura, who were beaming up to the Enterprise at the time, materialized in the other universe, transposing with their counterparts from that universe, who experienced an identical accident at the same time. Later, after reviewing the events which led up to the accident, the Enterprise crewmembers were able to recreate the power surge using energy tapped from the ship's engines, and return to their own universe. (TOS: "Mirror, Mirror")

According to Intendant Kira, all transporters were subsequently redesigned in order to prevent a recurrance of such an event. Despite this, the Terran rebels were able to develop a multidimensional transporter device capable of reconfiguring transporters for use in beaming from one universe to the other. (DS9: "Crossover", "Through the Looking Glass", "Resurrection")

Sonak dead

The death of Commander Sonak in 2272

Thomas Riker

Thomas Riker

Accidental deaths

In 2273, two Enterprise crewmen, including Commander Sonak, were killed in a transporter malfunction when beaming up to the ship while the Enterprise transporter was down for repairs. In the transportation, the malfunction caused commander Sonak and the other crewman to lose their shape. As they began to form in their now deformed humanoid form, they both screamed out in agony. The transportation was aborted, sending the deforming bodies of the crewmembers back to Earth; the transport chief reported back, shaken, "Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long... fortunately." The details of their injuries are unknown, only that they grew much shorter than their normal form. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

In early 2375, Weyoun 5 was killed in a transporter accident. Damar was to have been with him but "had been called away", casting suspicion on him for possibly "arranging" the incident. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")

Split one entity into two identical entities

In 2361, on Nervala IV, the USS Potemkin was conducting an evacuation of the science outpost on the planet. Lieutenant William T. Riker was part of the away team at the time.

An unusual distortion field meant the Potemkin had difficulty beaming up Riker. A second confinement beam was initiated to overcome these difficulties, with the intent of reintegrating the two beams in the transporter buffer.

This was unnecessary as only one beam was successful at transporting Riker, the modulation of the distortion caused the second beam to be reflected back down to the surface, materializing two Rikers, one on the ship, and one on the planet's surface. Unlike the two Kirks created in 2266, both Rikers were functionally identical to the original man.

The Potemkin left orbit, unknowingly abandoning the duplicate Riker. After eight years, this accident was discovered by the Enterprise-D which revisited the planet, found the second Riker and brought him back to the ship. (TNG: "Second Chances")

Rematerialization without clothes

During Chakotay's Starfleet career, he was involved in a transporter malfunction. His uniform ended up in the pattern buffer and he materialized wearing only his combadge. (VOY: "In the Flesh")

Time travel

In 2371, Benjamin Sisko, Julian Bashir and Jadzia Dax were accidentally transported to the year 2024, by an explosion in a microscopic singularity while passing through the solar system at the time of the beam-out.

Fortunately, Miles O'Brien was able to devise a way to send Kira Nerys and himself to different periods of Earth's history to try and find out where the away team was sent, and then bring them back home.

However, while in the 21st century, Sisko accidentally caused the death of Gabriel Bell, forcing him to assume the identity of this historical figure. (DS9: "Past Tense, Part I") As a result, Sisko is actually in all the historical photos of Bell. (DS9: "Little Green Men")

Transfer to holograms

In 2372, the patterns of Sisko, Kira, Worf, Dax, and Miles O'Brien were temporarily stored in the computer core of Deep Space 9 to prevent their patterns from degrading because of an explosion on their runabout at the time of beam-out.

Their physical patterns were integrated into a holoprogram run by Julian Bashir, and each took on one of the holographic roles in the program, while their brain patterns were spread throughout the station's computer systems. Eventually, Michael Eddington was able to restore the crewmembers back to normal by using the still-active transporters on the Defiant. (DS9: "Our Man Bashir")

Two entities merged into one

Lysosomal enzymes of an alien orchid were the cause of another accident in that same year. Tuvok, Neelix and the orchid were temporarily merged into one being during transport; as the orchid aided microscopic entities in breeding by allowing them to combine with each other, it accidentally caused Tuvok and Neelix to combine when they were broken down into atoms during transport. "Tuvix", as he named himself (or "themselves"), was a complete mixture of the talents of both crewmembers.

After discovering how to separate the two patterns and retrieve both Tuvok and Neelix, Tuvix protested that such a procedure would be equivalent to murdering him, but the procedure was undertaken anyway, and Tuvok and Neelix were restored. (VOY: "Tuvix")

Other transporter accidents

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Because of these accidents, some people suffered from transporter phobia or experienced transporter shock.

It should be noted that by the mid-24th century, there were only an average of two or three transporter accidents a year across the Federation, yet millions of people were transported every day. (TNG: "Realm of Fear")


Background information


  • The transporter was developed by the production staff of the original series as a solution of how to get crewmen off a planet quickly. The only alternative was to either land a massive ship each week, or regularly use shuttles for landings, both of which would have wreaked havoc on the production budget. (Star Trek Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., p. 519) Although both of these were proposed in the initial draft of the series outline Star Trek is... (with regular shuttlecraft landings and rare descents of the ship), a revision of the same document (as reprinted in The Making of Star Trek, pp. 22-30) contains one of the first examples wherein the concept of the transporter was outlined. ([1]; The Making of Star Trek, p. 26) The description posits a not-yet-named "energy-matter scrambler which can 'materialize' [landing parties] onto the planet's surface." The outline goes on to say, "This requires maximum beam power and is a tremendous drain on the cruiser's power supply. It can be done only across relatively short line-of-sight distances. Materials and supplies can also be moved in this same manner, but require a less critical power expenditure." (The Making of Star Trek, p. 26)
  • Gene Roddenberry considered the invention of the transporter to be highly fortunate and "one of many instances where a compromise forced us into creative thought and actually improved on what we planned to do." He further explained, "If someone had said, 'We will give you the budget to land the ship,' our stories would have started slow, much too slow [....] Conceiving the transporter device [...] allowed us to be well into the story by script page two." (The Making of Star Trek, pp. 43-44)
  • The script of "The Cage", the first Star Trek pilot episode, refers to the transporter as consisting of a device that dominates the transporter room and "could be an artist's nightmare-conception of a futuristic x-ray machine," as well as a "glassed-in transporter chamber" that the device hovers over.
  • The series writers' guide (third revision, dated 17 April 1967) stated about the transporter, "Its range is limited to about 16,000 miles." [2]
  • The writers/directors guide for Star Trek: Phase II contained the exact same statement. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 96) For that series, a "transporter station" was to have been incorporated into the Enterprise bridge, complete with a working transporter. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 20) This was to have served as an equipment transporter, for beaming such things as small tools to the bridge. (text commentary, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD) On 13 October 1977, Gene Roddenberry posited that transporters of Phase II would be able to beam through the Enterprise's forcefield when it was fully raised, by opening a section of the forcefield in order to make it weak or moderate. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 50) However, the writers/directors guide for the series clarified that the Enterprise's transporter could not be operated while the ship's deflector screen was in operation. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 97)
  • During the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation, some consideration was given to the possibility of featuring a transporter on the Template:ShipClass bridge, though this idea was soon dropped in favor of turbolifts. (Starlog issue #125, p. 46) Since writer David Gerrold had listed (in his book The World of Star Trek) transporter malfunctions as being a too-overused plot device in the original series, Gene Roddenberry intended to correct this in TNG. (Star Trek - Where No One Has Gone Before paperback ed., p. 110)
  • The Template:ShipClass transporter was designed by Jim Martin. (The Art of Star Trek, p. 112)

Sets and props

  • The "psychedelic" back wall of the TOS transporter was actually made from reflective, translucent plastic known to musicians as "Drum Wrap" since it's commonly used to adorn the outer cylinders of drum sets. The same plastic later went on to be incorporated into intercoms regularly featured on Star Trek: Enterprise. ("Stigma" text commentary, ENT Season 2 DVD)
  • The transporter pads from TOS were simple Fresnel lenses. Star Trek: The Next Generation Set Decorator John Dwyer explained, "In the original series, the lights in the platform under the round rings were curved lenses, polished in such a way as to make the light really bright, like you have in lighthouses; but they also use them in the bigger stage lights, and that's what these were." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 25) These components were the only part of the transporter set that remained when the set was redesigned for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (audio commentary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Blu-ray)) The Next Generation also used the lenses as the units in the ceiling directly over the pads. (The Art of Star Trek, p. 78) Dwyer recounted, "[Production Designer] Herman [|Zimmerman] said, 'Hey, that's a good idea; let's just keep it!' So we did." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 25) The same components were additionally included in the transporter of the USS Voyager in Star Trek: Voyager. (The Art of Star Trek, p. 78) Michael Okuda remembered, "One day during, I think, Voyager, I happened to be working in the catwalks above the set and I was looking at those lenses. Five of them looked yellowed and chipped, so I believe that they were from the original series. One of them looked a lot newer." (audio commentary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Blu-ray)) (See this Flash recreation from a scene deleted from "Mudd's Women" for an indication of the luminosity of a 10,000 watt Fresnel lens.)
  • The equipment transporter proposed for the Enterprise bridge of Star Trek: Phase II was actually built. One remnant of its construction, a square arrangement of four green lights, was incorporated into the Enterprise bridge of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Regula I transporter in that film involved spotlights reflecting off a glitter ball behind the set, a simple way of achieving the effect of energy patterns on the transporter chamber's back wall. (text commentary, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD)
  • The faint pattern on the insides of the TNG transporter took its inspiration from a sweater owned by Herman Zimmerman, who created the pattern while prepping TNG. Interested in doing something different from the psychedelic moire patterns of the original series' transporter but not having liked any of the patterns that he or his staff devised for potential use, a frustrated Zimmerman finally took off his sweater and declared, "Here, this is what we'll use!" The pattern was thereafter incorporated into the design of the Enterprise-D's transporter, which was reused as the Enterprise-A's transporter in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. (text commentary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) DVD)
  • For Star Trek Generations, the transporter of the Enterprise-D was given a new interior lighting scheme that included the addition of amber gels behind some of the upper transporter lenses from TOS. (The Art of Star Trek, p. 278)
Transporter set for Voyager

The Intrepid-class transporter set being created for Star Trek: Voyager

Sound effects

Special effects

  • One early method of depicting beaming involved an actual light beam between the transporter and its target. In a memo dated 24 August 1964, however, Gene Roddenberry vetoed this idea. "I think we can safely forget the animated beam of light from the transporter chamber to the planet surface," he wrote. "It would be much cheaper and certainly handier from a story point of view to simply 'dematerialize' the passenger in the transporter chamber, 'rematerialize' him on the planet surface. We can also save the effect here of the crew being transported down a light beam to the planet." (The Making of Star Trek, p. 89)
Transporter early effect

An early version of the beam-in effect

  • The transporter effect was experimented with during production on "The Cage", the first Star Trek pilot episode, and – on 28 December 1964 – Roddenberry sent another memo, this time criticizing the effect and providing recommendations on how he thought the appearance of beaming could be improved. He advised, "Eliminate the thick line around the crew members as they are transported. Have a subtle suggestion of sparkle rather than the Peter Pan sparkle presently being used. Get rid of the colored outline. Have crew members slowly dissolve. Maintain whole image with slight flickering of color instead of present solid color." Another suggestion that Roddenberry presented was that, when showing crew members materializing on a planet's surface, "all the actors should have the same color effect instead of the present individual assortment of colors." (The Making of Star Trek, pp. 117-118) For an animation of an early version of the transporter effect, see Special Effects at
  • The transporter effect ultimately used in The Original Series was a composite created by the Howard Anderson Company. Due to the differences required in each of the shots when the effect was shown, the TOS transporter effect could not rely on stock effects footage, unlike a lot of the series' other effects. [3] A matte was used to mask the part of the photographic image into which the transporter effect was to be inserted. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 40) In TOS, individuals came to an immediate standstill whenever they were being beamed. This was mainly due to the limits of effects techniques available at the time of the series' production. (text commentary, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD) Darrell Anderson created the shimmer by dropping aluminum dust through a strong light beam, filming this with an upside-down camera. ("The Menagerie, Part II" text commentary, TOS Season 1 DVD) The shiny, backlit grains of aluminum dust were dropped in front of a black backdrop. (Star Trek: The Original Series 365, p. 006) Dan Curry commented, "The composites were done on an optical printer, and they were basically glitter swizzled in a jar." ("The Making of A Legend", TNG Season 1 DVD special features)
  • According to Pony R. Horton, VFX artist on the web-based STAR TREK: PHASE II, Hugh Wade, a VFX artist at Van der Veer Photo Effects, informed Pony that the most used sparkle elements were created using Alka-Seltzer in hot water, lit from beneath. Mr. Wade was one of the VFX artists who worked on TOS at Van der Veer during the 1960's.
  • The transporter effect was to have been recreated for Star Trek: Phase II. In a memo Gene Roddenberry sent to producer Robert Goodwin on 15 July 1977, Roddenberry instructed Goodwin to write a rough draft of the Writer's Guide for the series and stated, "We should specify that the old-style transporter system will still be used (although we ourselves may improve the optical a little)." (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 29)
  • The beaming effect was redone for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spock actor Leonard Nimoy remembered, "A camera unit and special effects crew spent countless days and hours shooting tests in the transporter room – as though it had never been done before." (I Am Spock, hardback ed., p. 167) The revised beaming effect was done by John Dykstra's company, Apogee, Inc. They combined two methods to create the illusion. The company bought several expensive candy dishes, shattered them, mounted the broken shards of crystal on a motion-control mover and then shone an argon laser through them, rephotographing the patterns that the bits of crystal created on a wall, which are known as Lissajous patterns. This provided the outsides of the effect, whereas the center was created with filtration light flares and moire patterns that were done by moving one pattern atop another before rephotographing the result. Of the inner effect, Dykstra remarked, "[It was] what we call a slot gag [....] It was a two-dimensional effect that looked three-dimensional, because the convention of the way the moire looked." (audio commentary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition)) Commenting in simple terms about The Motion Picture's transporter effect, SFX artist Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz said, "One of the elements is just sparkles in a bottle of water. That's very easy to do. You just light it, film it, and stick it into a shot as a composite." (Star Trek Monthly issue 86, p. 51)
  • The sequence from The Motion Picture in which two transportees die in a malfunctioning transporter incorporated both of the effects methods typically used for the beam-in as well as a third, using Mylar to distort footage of the two actors playing the victims. "Essentially what it was," explained John Dykstra, "was a flat Mylar sheet which worked as a perfect optical mirror when left flat. But then when you distorted the surface, it created these very unusual optical distortions. So, we rephotographed the actors, in their normal form, through this mirror and did motion-controlled distortion of the mirror to create the distortion of their image." (audio commentary, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition))
  • For The Director's Edition DVD release of The Motion Picture, the transporter effect was not altered, unlike many of the film's other visual effects. "When you're trying to generate everything with the computer," stated Mojo, "you have to find a way to make the sparkles happen. And it actually can wind up taking a lot more time than doing it the 'old-fashioned' way." (Star Trek Monthly issue 86, pp. 51-52)
  • For the subsequent trilogy of films – namely, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – the visual effects involved in portraying the uses of transporters fell under the supervision of Industrial Light & Magic. The beaming effects were repeatedly revised in these early Star Trek films, along with other basic effects such as warp jumps and phaser beams. Kenneth Ralston, who supervised the visual effects of all three movies, had concerns about the ongoing changes, though he was outvoted at the time. "The directors were driving the film, and we begged them not to do that," Ralston stated. "They were cool looks, and although I didn't like those in the first films, to me it's like a car. I don't really care what it looks like – it's just taking me from point A to point B. Wherever you're beaming them, that's the most important thing. I was just trying to save a few pennies and do something quick and painless. I don't remember which movie it was, but it was as if the design on it went on forever." (Star Trek Monthly issue 49, p. 41)
Transporter effect for Star Trek II

An early version of Star Trek II's transporter effect

  • For Star Trek II, the transporter effects were provided by Visual Concept Engineering and some initial consideration went into re-envisioning the standard appearance of the effect. "The way we wanted to do the transporter effect would have been more interesting than what they ended up with," stated VCE founder Peter Kuran. "We would have liked to show a person's body sort of building as he was beaming in... skeleton appearing first, then veins and finally clothing. Not exactly like This Island Earth, but more like an effect I saw once in The Outer Limits." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 34) In fact, the proposed redesign was specifically inspired by The Outer Limits episode "The Special One". Producer Robert Sallin, however, opted for a more conventional approach to achieving the effect. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 68) "Paramount wanted a very high-tech electronic look, with a moire effect and strobes and flashes," Kuran explained. "And one of the things they emphasized was that they didn't want to use freeze-frames for the transporter process the way they had in the old series and the first movie. They tried to make a point of having people moving while they were being transported. We did a lot of articulate mattes to follow most of the action in those sequences, which took a lot of time. Then they decided they didn't want to see that effect, so we ended up throwing most of them away." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 34) Finally deciding upon the look of the effect, Paramount settled on merging two pillars of light; the transporter effect still varied from its appearance in the first film, yet was not so radically different. (Trek: The Unauthorized Story of the Movies, p. 68) The idea of having people move during beaming remained as a new element of the second film, in which people even talk during the beaming process, two aspects of the effect that director Nicholas Meyer decided to emphasize. (text commentary, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD)
  • During the making of the sequel films featuring the original series cast, one controversial aspect was the degree to which the visual effects involved in the films' depictions of beaming resembled the equivalent effects from the original series. Industrial Light & Magic Animation Supervisor Charlie Mullen, who worked on the appearance of the transporter effects for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, commented (shortly after the making of that film), "I think it depends on who's directing the movie. Everyone wants something distinctive, but nobody wants it to get far enough away from the TV series to really startle the Trekkies." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56)
  • It was with a visual effects team from ILM that Charlie Mullen created the look of the transporter beam effects in Star Trek III. Mullen recalled, "It was the first thing on Trek that we worked on." One requirement was that the revised transporter effect be stylized for both Starfleet and Klingon beaming sequences. It was also thought preferable if the new effect could be positioned more precisely on the person or item that was being transported than vaguely in the general area. At first, an animation effect was experimented with, but this did not prove to be entirely successful. "It looked too animated–a cel animation type of thing," Mullen explained. "We kept trying to get closer to the source of the effects–to use light as artwork, rather than animation cels as artwork." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56)
  • The ILM group finally settled on another method, attaching a high-intensity light bulb to one of several paint bars on an animation stand. The bulb could be positioned exactly wherever the effect was intended to begin, such as directly where the diaphragm of a transportee was, thus achieving one of the team's goals. Each beaming effect started with a rotomatte of the person. A horizontal slot was then cut, providing a window that the light was positioned in. The contents of the window was all that could be seen by looking at the animation stand. "It's a little sharper look–hot in the middle and tapering off top and bottom," commented Bruce Walters, one of two ILM Effects Animators who worked on the film. "A computer-generated move would cause the light to fade up quickly and spread from the center to one edge, where it would die off. Then the bulb would return automatically to the center, fade up again, and spread from the center off the opposite side. The height was controlled by two things–the exposure makes it higher or lower, and the optical printer can be taped off to soften it, in case we couldn't make it as small as we needed." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56)
  • The transporter effect in Star Trek III involved filters and some subtle animation. For example, a flashing blue and white color element that was part of the effect was given a vertical look via the use of numerous kinds of filters that were located at the front of the lens, making the light seem as if it was actually stretched into vertical bands. These filters were basic hand-made creations. "We used a piece of acetate that had been rubbed with an eraser in one direction until it looked frosted," Walters clarified. "All the abrasion that's been done with the eraser tends to stretch the light out in one direction. It's almost like looking at a reflection in a piece of stainless steel." Other filters used were color gels. Two layers of this type of gel were laid over the artwork. "We'd lay a yellow with a red on top, for instance, then scratch the red so that a light passing underneath would flicker red and yellow," explained Walters. "We even used moire patterns on some of them that ran together–it didn't give it a moire pattern look, but it broke up the light in an unpredictable fashion. The computer repeated the moves left and right, creating something like a curtain of light that defined the shape of the individual–then over the shape of the transporter tube in which the body was disappearing." Effects animation subsequently added tiny, flickering highlights that were known as "bugs" and were actually residual ripple-glass elements that filled the empty spaces where an apparently transporting individual had seemingly been. With this basic method, each transporter effect had to be filmed with at least four passes. It was then decided that the top and bottom of each transporter tube should have an initial glow as if the tubes were lighting up. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56) "Those had to be rotoed at the edges," stated Charlie Mullen, "and in a lot of cases there would be somebody standing in the foreground, in front of a light that had to go on in the background. A lot of people had to be articulated–at least mattes for their head and shoulders had to be done– so the glow in the background wouldn't take the top of their heads off if somebody's transporter lit up behind them." (Cinefex, No. 18, pp. 56 & 59)
  • Lastly, Star Trek III's transporter effect had to look differently for its alternate Klingon and Starfleet versions. Charlie Mullen commented, "The Klingon transporters are red and yellow–they look more aggressive, more flickering than the Federation ones. The Federation's transporters are a lot smoother, while the Klingon transporters are more erratic. It's just a subtle thing, but it works real well." (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 59)
  • Creating complex beaming sequences for Star Trek III sometimes involved as many as four or more ILM crew members and the work became fairly intensive. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 56) In fact, most of the people involved were ultimately in agreement that the film's transporter effects turned out to be more trouble than was absolutely necessary. However, Charlie Mullen accepted the considerable effort expended on creating those effects as an implication of having become ambitious for a particular look. (Cinefex, No. 18, p. 59)
  • The transporter effect for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was handled by ILM's animation department. That film presented the first case of a person walking while being transported; this happens to Spock as he is pacing toward camera. The historic illusion was done via a motion control effect, executed by Bruce Walters (who was credited as an Animation Camera Operator in Star Trek IV). Animation Supervisor Ellen Lichtwardt regarded the effect as "the shot with the most interesting problems to solve" and went on to say, "We had to do the transporter beams and match the move to Spock's movement, and the dots that appear as he's being transported fade out in perspective as he's coming toward camera." Bruce Walters also created an unusual beaming effect for the whales in Star Trek IV, George and Gracie. "The whales needed to have sort of interesting transporter look, because they're so big," said Lichtwardt. "It's very similar to the other look [i.e. the regular Klingon transporter pattern], but there are more panels of beams which expand across the screen, over which we added a nice white element." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., pp. 70 & 71)
  • For Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, transporter beam animation was once again provided by Visual Concept Engineering. (Cinefex number 49, p. 41)
  • For Star Trek: The Next Generation, the production company Rick Zettner & Associates, Inc. produced a new transporter effect. Four different stages were used for this: the original photography of the actors disappearing; the "shower curtain" element, which initiated the beam-in and beam-out; the generic field of sparkles, which was actually glitter; and the final stage, which was residual glitter on the actor's chest or the center of the object that was meant to look like it was being transported. ("The Making of A Legend", TNG Season 1 DVD special features) When it came time to remaster TNG Season 1 for its Blu-ray release, a roomful of compositors were tasked with taking the raw elements of the series' transporter effects and putting them together in a way that was as close as possible to how they had originally been composited. (Star Trek Magazine issue 168, p. 57)
  • The beaming effect was updated for Star Trek: First Contact, while also building on how it had appeared before. Visual effects supervisor David Takemura later explained, "That was my decision – to do something cooler, to add one thing I always thought was lacking in some of the other movies for the transporter effect: a measure of dimensionality, a little more 3D sense of what was happening inside their bodies as they're materializing. So we created some new CG elements at Pacific Ocean Post and added that. I think it makes a big difference in giving the beam-in effect some depth." Laughing, Takemura concluded, "I certainly like it better." (The Making of Star Trek: First Contact, p. 123)
  • The transporter effect in Star Trek: Enterprise was intended to look reminiscent of its forebears, though still believable for its audience. "[It] is still coming out of process," reported Foundation Imaging VFX artist David Morton, early in the series' development. "We did some experiments with that. Dan Curry had a very specific mental picture [of this effect]. I think it will hearken to the [Star Trek: The Original Series] style, but we also want it to look good to today's audiences." With a chuckle, Morton added, "I don't think we're just going to resort to dropping sprinkles in front of a bright light." (Star Trek Monthly issue 86, pp. 22-23) Curry himself later commented, "We had to do a variation on the transporter that looked more primitive than what we were doing on Voyager and Deep Space Nine, yet took advantage of the increased technology we now have available that was not available when we did TNG." (Star Trek Monthly issue 92, p. 11)
  • One of the first steps in the process of revising the transporter effect for the film Star Trek involved visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett studying the various beaming effects created for the previous Star Trek films and television series. (Cinefex, No. 118, p. 67) As director and co-producer J.J. Abrams found the original series' transporter effect too static and two-dimensional, the redesigned effect was made to encompass more movement to increase how realistic it looked, such as by having the energy beams swirl around an actor and be shown with a moving camera. Abrams also wanted the effect to envelope every part of the actor's body and even some of their surroundings. He later recalled, "It was the idea of light circling around people and the space they occupy. It wasn't just the shape of a person that would go into a light color, rather the person was enveloped and defined by the energy and light." (Star Trek - The Art of the Film, p. 105) ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Russell Earl offered, "J.J. described the effect as transporting particles of not only the person but also the immediate space around them. As particles formed, they generated light and became visible, spinning in space. This built to a flash, and then the person disappeared." ILM continued the efforts to bring a photographic realism to the effect. "We focused on the idea of the space around the person starting to activate," Earl explained, "encircling the subject as particles were sucked away and reconstituted elsewhere." Still adhering to the premise of objects and people transporting as particles, digital artists at ILM generated points of spinning light by using a three-dimensional particle simulation. "We built matchmove proxy geometry of characters," said Earl, "and then ran [the] 3D particle simulation, slowly building up the number of particles, which produced trails of light." ILM compositors then blended the effects with warping and interactive light passes using ILM's high-speed SABRE compositing system, adding even more realism to the overall design. "We did warping in the composite, and did Saber [sic] work with particle passes and interactive light passes to simulate a three-dimensional effect," Earl related. (Cinefex, No. 118, pp. 64 & 67)
  • In Star Trek Adventure, where volunteers were picked from the audience, there was an optical illusion using lens distortion to simulate the transporter, which was then further edited to video for purchase after the show.


Although the catch phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" has worked its way into pop culture, the exact phrase itself has never been uttered in Star Trek. (Star Trek Encyclopedia) The closest usage to the phrase came in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when Kirk requests, "Scotty, beam me up." Similarly, in "This Side of Paradise", Kirk states, "Beam me up, Mr. Spock." Only two other instances have used unqualified references to the phrase "Beam me up" – "The Squire of Gothos" and "Time's Arrow".

According to Michael DeMeritt, the performers who portrayed persons who were beamed up were frequently thrilled to do so. He stated, "This is every actor's dream, whoever gets on Star Trek. 'Please, beam me up.'" (ENT: "North Star" audio commentary, ENT Season 3 DVD)


A partial explanation for the difference between transporters between Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation is provided in the TNG novel Dark Mirror, where the Enterprise-D encounters a mirror universe where the Terran Empire continues into the 24th century; when discussing the original crossover, Chief Miles O'Brien notes that transporters in Kirk's era were essentially more powerful, but a lot less sophisticated, with people lacking knowledge of how some spatial anomalies would affect the system even if its sheer power tended to compensate for those shortcomings.

In the novel adaptation "Broken Bow", it is said that, before the verb of "beam" had been accepted for describing the process of transporting, Starfleet had considered the words "scramble", "heat," "disassemble," and "spear," although "beam" had been considered the least frightening term.

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