Being shot by a phaser set to disintegrate/vaporize is rather a tidy death:

since when hit in the clothed chest, the shirt, pants, shoes, and entire lifeform within all disappear.

But the disintegration doesn't propagate through the shoes into the deck - perhaps that's too big? What if the victim was sitting in a chair with his feet off the ground - would the chair disappear too? If they're shaking hands is the shakee going to go too? How about penetrative sexual intercourse - does the penetrator "wear" the penetrated? The countless bacteria in the gut certainly vanish (much to the relief of Starfleet janitors)

Presumably along with all the other safety instructions and directives to wash hands after visiting the powder room, new Starfleet inductees get briefed on the nuances of vaporising malefactors - what are these rules?

(the dull out-of-universe explanation seems easy: dissolving between before and after views with a little rotoscoping is a lot easier than a convincing suddenly-empty-clothes-drop-to-deck effect. But it wouldn't be Star Trek without a loving in-universe rationalisation)

  • I've also wondered this, sometimes kill setting vaporized a being entirely while other times only leaving a burn mark. Good question. – nexus_2006 Jun 21 '16 at 2:09
  • Here's a question that relates to this one: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/12474/…, but I don't think it's an actual dupe. – Major Stackings Jun 21 '16 at 2:26
  • The floor has plot armour – Valorum Jun 21 '16 at 7:09
  • Not to sound wimpy, but I don't know that the intercourse example was all that necessary. – Ham Sandwich Jun 21 '16 at 19:11
  • 1
    In both examples of suicide-by-phaser that I know about, the phaser gets vaporized too! Think of the hobo in City on the Edge of Forever after he steals McCoys phaser. And there's the example in the in video clip above where Captain Terrell kills himself in Wrath of Khan. Why doesn't the phaser just drop to the floor after these suicides? – RichS Jan 7 '17 at 20:46

The details of how this works are obviously not very clear. However, there is at least one instance where the disintegration effect was very clearly limited to the object that it struck. Observe what happens in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country when Lieutenant Valeris shoots a massive cooking pot.

The metal pot disintegrates entirely, but the stove below it—as well as the food inside and the metal whisk being used to stir it—are virtually untouched. It seems that, at least for the phasers used in the Star Trek VI period, the disintegration effects halts when it reaches a boundary between the object that was struck and a mass of dissimilar material.

This is almost certainly not consistent with every instance of the phaser disintegration seen in the shows and movies. However, it is an instance where the issue was clearly considered and a definite (and fairly reasonable) answer provided.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.