Does it bother anyone else that the characters of ‘Star Trek’ regularly overlook the obvious solution? They’re not stupid. I’d understand if they were stupid. They are among the smartest collection of people in fiction. They just have a huge blindspot: the power of teleportation.
In ‘Star Trek,’ transporters can dematerialize people or things in one location and rematerialize them elsewhere. I wouldn’t be the first to point out that the functionality of the technology maddening varies based on the requirements of the plot. Take the first film of the Chris Pine cast: Scotty and Kirk beam from underground an ice planet to the Enterprise traveling at warp speed. Teleporting through space with this level of precision was an innovation acquired in the previous scene so my expectations have been understandably raised for the rest of the franchise.
Fast forward to ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness.’ Our heroes want to apprehend Khan first for revenge and then for a shot at saving their Captain. They are on the Enterprise and have trouble teleporting Khan on board because he is…moving about? He certainly isn’t moving at warp speed. I doubt he is even moving as fast as Kirk and Sulu when they fell to the surface of Vulcan in the previous film. And that was before the tech upgrade!
The solution they came to was beaming down Spock and then Uhura…onto a speeding vehicle which is apparently doable. Anyway, the two risk their lives against the super-soldier even though that needn’t have been the case. Even with a flaky transporter, I could think of a half dozen less risky ways to neutralize Khan off the top of my head. Beam down a small bomb near Khan. Bombs exist in the Star Trek universe, Khan used one earlier. It could be a small non-lethal one even. Surely someone has developed a stun grenade in a world of phasers.
In lieu of outlining other ways to use the transporters against Khan, allow me to talk about big picture solutions that are either possible in current continuity or could be with a little focus on the technology.
The Federation Should Weaponize Transporters
The Federation is trying not to be a military organization, but they clearly need a better way to deal with hostiles. In ‘Star Trek Beyond’ the Starbase Yorktown could easily house a transporter with a much larger staging area than the Enterprise. Scaling the technology in this way allows for bulk teleportation. Then, instead of firing blasters at attacking vessels, the Yorktown could materialize armed photon torpedoes directly into the enemy’s engine room. Actually, beaming in bombs would be unnecessary. Beaming in matter would do the trick. Imagine materializing a huge block of steel somewhere it doesn’t belong; on the bridge or inside the warp core, for instance. There is (sometimes) an obstacle here. A ship’s shields can block transporter functionality, so the Yorktown couldn’t start beaming things in and out of a Warbird that has it’s shield’s up. Fine, then we go back to the Photon torpedoes–beam a ton of them all around the enemy ship until it’s shields are drained. Keep in mind, this needn’t be a one-to-one battle even if only the Warbird and Yorktown share the same space. The Yorktown can signal to the Enterprise, other Starbases, and even Earth to aid in beaming bombs to the Warbird’s coordinates. It’s an advantage significant enough that the Federation should spend most of i’s resources perfecting.
The Federation Should Use Transporters Defensively
In the event that a transporter can’t be used to fend off hostiles, there is another option. Beam away. We are familiar with the concept of an away mission beaming away when the going gets tough. By scaling teleportation the same could apply to entire starships. Imagine a specialized starbase designed as a staging area for threatened starships. When the Enterprise is overcome, the only functionality they’d need to escape would be a means to communicate with that starbase so it could teleport the entire ship to safety. If that is impossible, for whatever reason, an alternative could be to beam each individual crew member off the ship to a massive transporter bay on a nearby ship or planet. The crew’s coordinates could be tracked through the same badge they signal when in danger. This would be faster than escape pods and without the downside seen in ‘Star Trek Beyond’ when each escape pod was systematically captured. If there is a distance obstacle-a nebula causing interference or something, a back-up starship should always be deployed when danger is likely. The Enterprise starts to lose a battle? Signal the partner ship far enough away to stay safe and hidden yet close enough to use transporters. Beam to that ship and warp away. Simple.
Transporters Should Be Used As A Warp-Alternative
We have seen people teleport huge distances, which begs the question: do we need starships anymore? There is clearly no need for basic travel. Even exploratory missions could be expedited by beaming a fleet of probes into uncharted space. Once the Federation scale teleportation, an additional benefit is instant ship travel, no warp drive required. Warp cores are obviously dangerous as we have seen in the past. There would be exceptions to this ability, like the aforementioned nebula interference, but it would work in the majority of cases.
Star Trek takes place in a future where much of today’s struggles are solved. Replicators can make most stuff on demand. Khan’s blood can bring people back to life. It’s an amazing time. I can understand that writers would be hesitant to explore the ramifications of transporter technology. To that, I say, let’s make it interesting. No one culture has transporters. If one did they probably would be too powerful to allow for outside conflict. The Romulans have transporters. The Kingons have transporters. Let’s use them outside the box.