On the question about the transporters in Star Trek on whether the original person dies in the transporter, I provided this answer based on the text of the Writer's Guide for the series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Much of the material in the Writer's Guide and Writer's Technical Manual from the series was later published as a technical guide to the Enterprise (NCC-1701-D).

One point I reference is that the episode Realm of Fear shows us the transport process from the point of view of a person being transported, in this case, Lt. Barclay. During the entire process, Barclay stays conscious and sees other people trapped in the pattern buffer. These people in the buffer approach Barclay, again showing that someone in the beaming process is aware and able to think and act.

In the episode Relics the crew of the Enterprise (1701-D) rescues Scotty after he has been trapped in a pattern buffer for 75 years. From what we see in Realm of Fear, people are conscious during that process, meaning Scotty was in a buffer, with nothing to do, and nobody to talk to for 75 years.

(While Scotty had also placed another person in the pattern buffer, he wasn't aware if that person survived or not, indicating there was either no interaction or that Scotty had no way to be aware when that person was no longer conscious.)

Seventy five years is a long time to be alone and with no other human interaction.

How did he survive this without losing his sanity or showing other serious ill effects mentally?

  • 3
    Time is all wibbly wobbly. Maybe it works differently in the transporter stream and only seemed like a few days to Scotty.
    – BBlake
    Mar 21, 2012 at 21:23
  • 4
    I think the obvious answer is that he DID go insane. You just didn't notice it. Mar 22, 2012 at 12:23
  • 19
    Or he was drunk when he entered the stream and since you don't change in the stream, he remained drunk for 75 years and just didn't remember any of it.
    – BBlake
    Mar 22, 2012 at 13:34
  • 15
    I'll tell ya somethin' laddie... it takes a lot more than 75 years in a pattern buffer to make a Scot go mad.
    – Omegacron
    Mar 17, 2015 at 17:50
  • 2
    OK, my problem with this and the Lt. Barclay thing: How does a transporter work? It tears an object/person apart into their molecules, records the pattern in a buffer, sends a copy elsewhere to be reconstituted from the energy in transmission. To repeat tears an object/person apart into their molecules. How exactly can anyone stay concious and thinking in that state? And as patterns are stored, does that mean everyone sent by transporter has a conscious copy in the buffer? It sounds more horrifying every second. May 17, 2015 at 4:30

11 Answers 11


Another explanation is that Scotty (being a genius engineer!) knew this would happen and modified the transporter so he would not be concious until freed. He did not anticipate for himself to be in there for 75 years, but he expected it to be a while (I think at least days, if not even weeks).

  • Two answers? Didn't want to append your first one?
    – Xantec
    Mar 21, 2012 at 19:36
  • @Xantec: Actually, originally it was just one, but it's such a different explanation, that I felt I should try out individual posts and I separated it.
    – bitmask
    Mar 21, 2012 at 19:47
  • Does this make Scotty a wizard? Mar 22, 2012 at 3:27
  • 1
    No, but a Timelord!
    – bitmask
    Mar 22, 2012 at 10:12

While within the pattern buffer, time is not perceived. Barclay was experiencing the glowy part when dematerializing/rematerializing. Since Scotty was fully within the pattern buffer the entire time, he did not perceive any passage of time.

I give you ENT 2x10, Vanishing Point, as a reference. Hoshi was trapped within the pattern buffer for about 8.3 seconds, and according to Malcom, her consciousness was only active for final couple of seconds while it was being fixed. And at neither end of the transport was her experience interrupted significantly enough to suspect something went wrong while being put in/taken out of the pattern buffer, which explains why Barclay experienced one continuous event.

  • 2
    This answer seems to fit the various episodes best. Mar 22, 2012 at 15:52
  • 2
    +1 for the 'glowy part' - correct use of the technical term ;-) Jun 16, 2015 at 17:02
  • To play the devil's advocate, there was a lot of time and technological improvement between Hoshi Sato's time and Reginald Barclay's. Subtle changes in the tech might have changed the relevant factors. Jun 25, 2016 at 12:41

Another factor to keep in mind: Scotty had rigged the transporter to repeatedly cycle his pattern through the buffer, to keep his pattern intact - i.e unchanged - while he was suspended in transport. The state of his mind as a brain-state was part of that pattern. Therefore the transporter would have continually reset his mind to its state from the moment transport began. He would have been unable to perceive the passage of time because his thought processes would have been unable to progress.

  • 3
    That's actually quite logical.
    – iMerchant
    Jun 25, 2016 at 7:16

It seems highly likely that Scotty activated the transporter's 'Neural Paralyzer Control'. This would have the effect of rendering him unconscious during the transport process and preventing him from going doolally while waiting around to get untransported.

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  • I like this answer too.
    – iMerchant
    Jun 25, 2016 at 7:19

The most likely cause I can think of is that while the transport process seems contiguous from the perspective of the person being transported, it is very likely that during at least one stage of the transport process the person is suspended and unaware. It is most probably this stage that Scotty locked the transporter system in when he attempted to save himself in Relics.


In addition to the other answers, keep in mind that the transporter used on the Jenolen is at least 75 years older than the one on the Enterprise. Perhaps remaining conscious during transport is an improvement that was made at some point between the two time periods.

We know from Scotty's confusion when he comes out of the transporter that he has no idea how much time has passed. He believes that Kirk may pulled the Enterprise out of mothballs to rescue him. This alone should indicate that Scotty wasn't aware of the passage of time while trapped in the buffer.

  • 1
    Or at the very least the perception of the passage of time wasn't 1:1. Just as we perceive time differently when doing something we love vs doing something we hate, so too might it have seemed shorter/longer to Scotty.
    – Xantec
    Mar 21, 2012 at 20:51
  • 8
    Of course, Scotty could have been having post-transport memory problems, what with the fact he actually saw Kirk die in Generations.
    – fluffy
    Mar 22, 2012 at 4:37
  • @fluffy just to point out, Relics was aired two years before Generations. RDM just liked Scotty, so he added him in, regardless of the continuity issue. The novelization of the movie has Guinen tell the TOS crew that Kirk is still alive.
    – user16696
    Aug 15, 2013 at 5:03

I see two possible explanations: One possible explanation is that what we see in Realm of Fear is exaggerated or changed for dramatic effect in the episode and a human does in fact not experience the transportation process in the way Barclay did. Note that they actually stated that his experience differs from normal beams due to the special conditions the transporter system was exposed to. This allows room to interpret the fact that he seems concious to be one of the side effects.


Perhaps Mr. Scott just has amazing mental constitution. After all that time, he still remembered the English language -- assuming he was in fact conscious, which I doubt.

  • @Slytherincess: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash See also "1.4 En dash versus em dash") Didn't know you were British :)
    – bitmask
    Apr 28, 2014 at 16:27
  • @bitmask: Actually, the US is pretty alone in the em dash thing. German and French also prefer the spaced en dash. ;)
    – DevSolar
    May 28, 2015 at 14:33

I don't know if he went insane as such, but he was a bit mixed up. He knew Kirk had been lost on the Enterprise B,he'd been there with Chekov, but said " I bet it was Jim Kirk himself who got the old girl outta mothballs to rescue me!" Realistically, he'd have known that was impossible, wouldn't he?


Let’s say he was conscious. There would be no physical changes, such as chemical imbalance. Therefore, he would always have the same state of mind. I’m surprised that he didn’t invent a ton of stuff in theory.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. To be clear, your answer is "because there are no physical changes, his mental state wouldn't change," is that correct? But if there's no change, then there's no ability to think in the first place, so being suspended in the pattern buffer would also suspend your mental state, and you wouldn't be able to think, form memories, etc. So that can't be the explanation since people obviously do.
    – DavidW
    Apr 14, 2022 at 21:05
  • A lot of what I was thinking was covered by @DavidW. If there were no changes, then he couldn't think of any new theories. But if he could think, he'd be alone, in limbo, for 75 years. That's excessively long to survive without any new stimulus or being able to interact with others.
    – Tango
    Apr 15, 2022 at 15:28

I think there is a lot of evidence that in real life our perception of time (and in fact all perception) is based on electrochemical processes. How those processes proceed if one is in a pattern buffer is anyone's guess - how Scotty would have been conscious as a pattern even is impossible to understand.

But it is doubtful that he would have perceived the years passing in the pattern buffer as he would have had he been simply imprisoned for all those years in a physical body.

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