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seane

The Transporter as a weapon?

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seane   
I've always wondered why the Federation never used their transporter technology as a weapon...?
 
Lock on and simply beam away important chunks of the enemy ship. You wouldn't even need to reconstitute the pieces at the other end. Just let the beam lose coherence...

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Sim   

Well the transporters can't beam through deflector shields, so in a combat situation, where the enemy ship has the shields up, the transporter cannot be used.

But yeah, it's weird it wasn't used at least sometimes in a sudden surprise attack, like when the shields weren't up yet.

The closest thing to using the transporter as a weapon I can think of, was in TOS "Day of the Dove", when Kirk ordered the Klingons to be beamed up, but they were kept in the buffer long enough to disarm them.

Maybe it's a matter of energy management? Perhaps beaming huge amounts of matter, like in a ship hull, would be less energy efficient than just using phasers and photon torpedoes. Why waste so much energy (which empties the power banks until they are reloaded), when a phaser beam can do the same or even more damage, while using less energy?

Edited by Sim

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Interesting topic, ethically speaking. 

Given the delicacy of disassembling mass into energy atom-by-atom I imagine there are many ways such a device could be perverted into a weapon.  Besides the obvious (beaming weapons onto an enemy ship), there are also far more cruel and unusual methods that would be exploited by less ethical species (like the TOS-era Klingons, who were not above poisoning grain shipments or sneaking arms shipments to disrupt a planet's balance of power).  Even in TOS' "Day of the Dove" when Kirk and Spock arranged to have Kang and his Klingon landing party 'suspended in transit' to await a security detail, Scotty (admittedly under the influence of the 'hate entity') toyed with the idea of leaving the Klingons in 'non-existence.'   Basically beaming your enemies into energy and NOT returning them to mass (!).  A more insidious way of killing an enemy than simply aiming phasers at them.

There was also that scene in TMP which was nightmare fuel to my then-12 year old self, when the refit Enterprise's transporter malfunctioned, turning Commander Sonak and a female crewman into inverted blobs of screaming protoplasm.  I'm not sure why, but that moment really screwed with my head when I was a kid.  Maybe it was the muffled, agonized screaming, but wow; that would be the most HORRIBLE way to die I could imagine....

Besides tricking one's enemy into allowing themselves to be disassembled (or inverted, as in TMP), there is also (as suggested above) the potential tactic of beaming off 'chunks' of an enemy vessel, or beaming out a piece of a vital system that would cause an overload if removed (such as a warp core containment system).  But since nothing can beam through shields, this would require either lowering the enemy vessel's shields through more conventional means, or tricking them into allowing access.  Either way seems a bit time-wasteful or perverse than a direct attack.

Maybe there is some kind of intergalactic Geneva convention that prevents the transporter from being used in certain ways for all species that have the technology (?).   I don't know.  If not, perhaps there should be...

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This made me think of one moment in which the combination of transporter and a (hand) weapon is done, and that's in "Gambit", when Jean-Luc is seemingly vaporized by a phaser but in reality he's "just" transported.

"These mercenaries use weapons that can activate their transporter. It gives them the opportunity to beam things quickly, just by firing at them. That's what they did to me."

Granted, it's being done by space pirates, not the Federation/Starfleet, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. It's also not exactly using the transporter as a weapon, it's using a weapon as a transporter, but hey, same result, basically.

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This made me think of one moment in which the combination of transporter and a (hand) weapon is done, and that's in "Gambit", when Jean-Luc is seemingly vaporized by a phaser but in reality he's "just" transported.

"These mercenaries use weapons that can activate their transporter. It gives them the opportunity to beam things quickly, just by firing at them. That's what they did to me."

Granted, it's being done by space pirates, not the Federation/Starfleet, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. It's also not exactly using the transporter as a weapon, it's using a weapon as a transporter, but hey, same result, basically.

I'd almost forgotten that one, and I just saw "Gambit" only a couple weeks ago (don't ask; I was bored...hehe).

This raises the issue of Starfleet's personal transporters, like the ones seen in NEM. What if one had a personal transporter that could be smuggled past a security screening (since it's not an obvious weapon) and then, when one finds their target, they clandestinely stick one of those PT's on them and either kidnap them or disassemble them?  

Could PTs be used as abduction devices, or to simply beam some poor, unsuspecting victim into oblivion?   That's a scary thought, especially since a PT could be easily disguised as a combadge or even a piece of jewelry (given their small, discreet size in NEM).

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This made me think of one moment in which the combination of transporter and a (hand) weapon is done, and that's in "Gambit", when Jean-Luc is seemingly vaporized by a phaser but in reality he's "just" transported.

"These mercenaries use weapons that can activate their transporter. It gives them the opportunity to beam things quickly, just by firing at them. That's what they did to me."

Granted, it's being done by space pirates, not the Federation/Starfleet, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. It's also not exactly using the transporter as a weapon, it's using a weapon as a transporter, but hey, same result, basically.

I'd almost forgotten that one, and I just saw "Gambit" only a couple weeks ago (don't ask; I was bored...hehe).

This raises the issue of Starfleet's personal transporters, like the ones seen in NEM. What if one had a personal transporter that could be smuggled past a security screening (since it's not an obvious weapon) and then, when one finds their target, they clandestinely stick one of those PT's on them and either kidnap them or disassemble them?  

Could PTs be used as abduction devices, or to simply beam some poor, unsuspecting victim into oblivion?   That's a scary thought, especially since a PT could be easily disguised as a combadge or even a piece of jewelry (given their small, discreet size in NEM).

Given how Data uses the device against Jean-Luc's will in Nemesis already even though he has BENEVOLENT motives in mind (I will forever be grateful he did what he did), it stands to reason that the device is not unproblematic indeed. Even if you have GOOD intentions with it, you can still create a mess, and I don't want to know what happens when someone with BAD intentions uses it on someone else against their will.

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This made me think of one moment in which the combination of transporter and a (hand) weapon is done, and that's in "Gambit", when Jean-Luc is seemingly vaporized by a phaser but in reality he's "just" transported.

"These mercenaries use weapons that can activate their transporter. It gives them the opportunity to beam things quickly, just by firing at them. That's what they did to me."

Granted, it's being done by space pirates, not the Federation/Starfleet, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. It's also not exactly using the transporter as a weapon, it's using a weapon as a transporter, but hey, same result, basically.

I'd almost forgotten that one, and I just saw "Gambit" only a couple weeks ago (don't ask; I was bored...hehe).

This raises the issue of Starfleet's personal transporters, like the ones seen in NEM. What if one had a personal transporter that could be smuggled past a security screening (since it's not an obvious weapon) and then, when one finds their target, they clandestinely stick one of those PT's on them and either kidnap them or disassemble them?  

Could PTs be used as abduction devices, or to simply beam some poor, unsuspecting victim into oblivion?   That's a scary thought, especially since a PT could be easily disguised as a combadge or even a piece of jewelry (given their small, discreet size in NEM).

Given how Data uses the device against Jean-Luc's will in Nemesis already even though he has BENEVOLENT motives in mind (I will forever be grateful he did what he did), it stands to reason that the device is not unproblematic indeed. Even if you have GOOD intentions with it, you can still create a mess, and I don't want to know what happens when someone with BAD intentions uses it on someone else against their will.

One wonders if the Klingons or Romulans have their own versions of PTs, and would they use them as 'ethically' as the Federation?  

And yes, while Data used his to save Picard's life (inarguably a good thing), we also saw Lore have a hidden beam up device in his thumbnail (in "Brothers"); if a being like Lore had access to miniaturized transporter tech, that would pose a serious threat to the Federation.  What if Lore gave such a device to the greedy, stupid Pakleds (with whom Lore commandeered a ship from)?  They could roam the galaxy kidnapping people to 'look for things' to 'make them go.' :P

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I was 9 when TMP came out. I fell asleep. Ha. Later on I saw it on VHS. Anyway, even on second viewing at about 12, before TWOK came out, I thought, if they could literally beam up anything, why couldn't they have just descrambled those two people back into people, and they didn't die? They have their patterns from before they left. I suppose it got corrupted though, and they couldn't just fax a copy down, ala 'duplicate Riker' in TNG, years later. And what happens to your soul or personality if that happens? Are you evil and good like the two Kirks, or human and alien like Torres in that one episode where she got separated, ur merging people like Tuvix?

Using the transporter to totally kill someone could be possible. Your invading army is going to beam down to the planet, but you lock onto them and beam them into particles and light, and make them simply dissintegrate into atomic nothingness. That could be easily turned into a horror show. Enemies would simply decloak their ships and lock the beam onto the bridge, beaming all of the crew into space, but not reassembling them.

Maybe they have some safeguard for using the transporter like that, or for enemies doing similar things. In the awesome book The Physics of Star Trek, they go into the transporter and what it could be used as. Kraus also points out that the ridiculous amount of energy the ship would need to even atomically dismantle a person would be greater than a G type star's output, and then there's the reassembling him or her whole somewhere else, with not one iota of interference., If they so much as lose some atoms, the person is dead.  Even if the Enterprise D could 'fax just protons' it would still have to have a Jupiter's worth of matter conversion power, and you'd end up with a corpse, missing a lot of basic elements.

"It's not just the whales, it's the water." Scotty, TVH

But yeah, even ruthless aliens would want such a weapon, capable of old style disintegration. You would literally be able to destroy something without leaving a single trace.

They likely do have some rule or convention against actually using the transporter to kill. I know some of the novels did something like this. Wasn't there a plot in the classic Vulcan Academy Murders book that did that?

Also an enemy could break into the transporter unit of the enemy ship via some kind of future hacking, and mess with it, unless it was shielded, and make just bits of it malfunction, which would take out anyone that would try to beam in.

And what would happen if one day transporter officer Joe Smithie was drunk or on drugs, and accidentally pressed the wrong button, utterly cooking Captain Unicorn and his away team?

You wouldn't just have the mortality of a red shirt on a landing party, but a gloriously gory mess on the other end.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Chimera82405

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Even though the transporter is "iconic" to Star Trek like the lightsaber is to Star Wars - this is why I am not a big fan of it (like a lot of Trek tech). It was constantly used as a quick plot device and then discarded later on. It can turn you younger. It can split you in two. It can divide your personality into an actual person. It can cause you to time travel. It can cause you to go into a "ghost" form. It can send you into another universe. Etc. etc. etc.

Plus, from a writing stand point, it's a nightmare to have drama when you can easily just transport your people out of danger. It's why they constantly have to do the whole "I can't lock on to them" or "Shields were raised." or "That last hit knocked out our transporter." etc.

I wish they simply used it in a single way that doesn't leave all these plot holes later on.

As for the question - technically ... it could be used as a weapon. But I think the "larger" an object is the more power the transporter needs. So for example - I don't think the Enterprise can beam an entire building away from a city. Simply due to the fact that there is not enough space in the buffer. However, one could beam a chunk of the ship and cause "hull breaches" but that seems unnecessarily evil/pain/cruel for the Federation. Plus - you have to have perfect skill in locking on and then beaming the part of the ship you want to remove.

When ships are zipping back and forth firing at each other - it's probably hard to do that. Plus, a lot of power is going to the shields and phasers. So there probably isn't enough power to mess with the transporter in such a specific way during that moment.

I think a good question, though, is why is it not utilized when intruders are on board? Simply beam them directly into a holding cell...

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