One Trek Mind #19: Top 10 Transporter Moments
By Jordan Hoffman - March 15, 2012
It's hard to pick just one piece of Star Trek tech I'd most like to see in real life. Warp drive is essential for interstellar travel in non-generation ships (or without cryogenics), but how cool would it be to just say “Tea, Earl Gray. Hot,” whenever you wanted something to drink? The Trek gizmo that has had the largest mark on mainstream culture, however, has got to be the transporter. Even people who have never seen a single episode know that Scotty can “beam them up.”
With this in mind, I thought we'd step onto the pad and think back at the 10 most memorable transporter moments. In position? Energize.
10 – The Airbase Sergeant
TOS' first foray into time travel came in the episode with an appropriately scrambled title, “Tomorrow is Yesterday.” When a “black star” sends Kirk and crew to 1969 (two years ahead of this episode's air date) they contort to achieve that most important of military maneuvers: CYA. (I'll let you Google that acronym yourself.)
In an attempt to get history back on the correct timeline (which involves stealing gigantic reels of computer tape)an Air Force base security sergeant accidently finds himself beamed up to the Enterprise. It's okay, because all he does up there is look befuddled and taste replicated chicken soup before beaming back down.
9 – Birthing Thomas Riker
The atmospheric distortions around Nervala IV caused problems for a young Will Riker back when he served aboard the USS Potemkin. A transporter malfunction created a duplicate, but kept it stranded for eight years.
When “Thomas” was rescued, he was the same as our beloved Number One biologically, but there were psychological differences. (Being deserted for eight years will do that to you.) After trying to rekindle his affair with Deanna Troi, Thomas was later seen joining the Maquis, then narrowly escaping Cardassian imprisonment. He gets the attention of Major Kira, who vows to clear his name. . . but never actually gets around to doing anything.
8 – Scotty Learns From His Future Self
Taking a chicken-and-egg scenario similar to Scotty's disclosure of transparent aluminum in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Spock Prime aids young James Kirk by showing Scotty his yet-to-be-discovered formula for transwarp beaming. (It apparently never occurred to him to think of space as the thing that's moving.)
There are still some kinks to work out. For some reason Scotty managed to re-materialize inside of a giant system of water tubes. Luckily, the Enterprise comes equipped with towels in ALL timelines.
7 – The Death of Sonak
When the Enterprise had her refit in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock's name was nowhere on the ship's manifest. A different Vulcan first officer, Sonak, was prepped to squint his eyes into that blue boxy thing.
A horrible transporter malfunction, however, turned both Sonak and an unnamed crewmember into a howling mass of tortured goo. It isn't just a contender for the most disturbing moment in all of Star Trek (see previous list HERE), but it shows that even in the future you should call ahead before you pop in.
6 – Tech Sgt. Chen Trusts His Instincts
Commander Taggart is left to battle a rock monster after Dr. Lazarus and the rest of the crew fly away in the shuttle pod with the Beryllium Sphere needed to save the ship. When it seems like there's just no more rolling and jumping the Commander can do, despite a previous attempt on a pig-lizard with explosive (and gross) results, Chen takes a deep breath, grabs the controls of the digital conveyor and. . .
Hey! Wait a minute! This is Galaxy Quest!?!
Well, they still nailed it.
5 - “Hello, Alice. Welcome to Wonderland.”
Dr. Gillian Taylor knows something is fishy about Admiral Kirk just vanishing in Golden Gate Park. Once her prized whales are sent back into the dangerous seas, she runs and gets the attention of the Enterprise crew, even if she can't see them.
She then takes her first transporter trip and reacts the way most of us probably would, even if we knew what was going on: by screaming.
Luckily, the smooth and debonair William Shatner is there to guide her down the rabbit hole.
4 – Tuvix
What looked at first to be a producer's trick to cut the payroll down turned out to be one of the most fascinating (and difficult) episodes in all of Trek.
It isn't a transporter malfunction alone to blame this time, rather it’s the enzymes of a pesky Space Orchid. As such, the DNA of both Tuvok and Neelix got stirred up in the transporter beam's soup and, voila, the first Vulcan-Talaxian was born. It wasn't Tuvok, it wasn't Neelix. It was Tuvix.
The ethical conundrum (translation: what the heck do we do now!?) landed with a thud on Janeway's desk, and her decision still surprises to this day. Let’s debate this one again, shall we?
3 – Barclay's Neurosis Saves The Day
If “Realm of Fear” taught me anything, it's that crazy people on the subway are probably telling the truth.
Our friend Reg Barclay is back and this time we discover he has a fear of the transporter. During a particularly rough beaming he gets pinched on the arm and starts to have panic attacks that are bad even by his standards. Despite everyone telling him there's nothing wrong, there actually IS something wrong. He must face his fears and go back for a super-long, slo-mo beaming to cleanse himself of debilitating microbes. The punch-line comes within the beam, when an act of heroism allows him to save other Starfleet members who are trapped within the dispersed particles.
This isn't just one of the best Barclay episodes, it is the first (and, I think, only) time you get to experience a ride in a transporter from a traveler's point of view.
2 – Kirk Splits in Two, Yells.
So before “Tuvix” took two characters and made them into one, the season-one TOS episode “The Enemy Within” took one character and ripped him into two. And it gave us this beloved image of Shatner screaming his head off.
The somewhat progressive notion that this episode pulls off, however, is the concept that to be a good leader the “evil Kirk” must be a part of the whole. The Kirk that is pure good is shown as weak and ineffective. It's amazing to think what would happen if our leaders today took to the campaign trail and announced, “Believe in me, as I've retained all my animal instinct and rage!!” Hey, at least most of them would be being honest.
1 – Scotty Beams Himself Into The Future.
Sorry, I need a tissue just thinking about the episode “Relics.”
For 75 years Captain Montgomery Scott, the very man synonymous with beaming, has been hiding out in an ever-cycling pattern buffer, waiting for someone to rescue him. When he's awakened by an away team from the Enterprise-D (and is a little dazed, such that he forgets he saw Jim Kirk get killed in Star Trek Generations) Scotty discovered that he isn't the hottest engineer in Starfleet anymore.
He's still able to save the day from a Dyson Sphere run amok, but not before suckin' back some Alderberan Whiskey and sharing a tear-stained talk with Captain Picard on the holodeck.
I know you've got your fingers at the keyboard, ready to tell me which of your favorites I forgot. Energize!
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Caption: My Federation jacket insignia. The final piece to make my uniform complete.