I've been watching a few different Star Trek series lately, and have noticed a similar plot device throughout each series. Many episodes within the various series have the crew try to find someone, and discover that they have removed their combadge. This seems like a very unreliable method of locating people.

With the way they portray the Federation in all its scientific glory, you'd think they would have made a better method of locating someone aboard a ship/space station. Why not integrate that same technology within the very uniform someone wears, or better yet locate them by their bio-signature?

Why didn't the producers of the show eventually catch on and just use another method of locating people?


2 Answers 2


Because Starfleet officers don't generally need to be tracked against their will. The com badge is designed to act as a communicator first, and as a location beacon for someone who WANTS to be found as for instance in the case of using a transporter.

For this role, the com badge works well. It's easy to move to a different uniform as needed for instance.

The situations that make it into episodes are necessarily unusual. A Starfleet crew spends most of its time travelling between planets where they do boring things like study alien moss. We only get an episode out of it if the moss tries to eat the crew's brains, or it's a sentient life form being harvested as an antiagathic by some other aliens, or something like that. Most of the time though it's just moss, and we don't see it.

If the episodes were representative: Surgically implanted communicator/locator/recording devices would be standard for all crew, the Holodeck would never be turned on, and the slightest hint of odd behaviour in anyone would be grounds for a shipwide quarantine.

As for why bio signs aren't used, often the attempt is made, but the sensors, magical as they are, aren't as good at picking out individuals that way. They can sometimes figure out where someone is but not identify them. This is just how star trek sensors work.

  • 1
    "and the slightest hint of odd behaviour in anyone would be grounds for a shipwide quarantine." - Now I want to read a rationalist fanfic where they actually do this and it gradually drives everyone insane.
    – Kevin
    Sep 17, 2016 at 5:39

Out-of-universe: it can't be made too easy or the drama goes away and they can't tell an engaging story.

In-universe: they can detect the presence of a person and differentiate species by sensor readings, just not identify a specific individual. It makes sense if you consider that the equipment meets the needs of routine circumstances, and to go beyond might be intrusive or an invasion of privacy.

If you think about it, some of the features and limitations of the various technologies do create inconsistencies. For example, the transporter can precisely scan a subject at some remote location, down to sub-atomic level, in order to disassemble them and reassemble them elsewhere, yet not reliably get a "lock" on a person without the assistance of a communicator.

Given the capabilities of the transporter, you'd think it would be possible for it to precisely locate and identify an individual.

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