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At the beginning of Best of Both Worlds, an away team beams down to the New Providence colony and is surprised to find that it is not there. The colony has been removed from the surface in a manner similar to what happened to the Federation and Romulan outposts in The Neutral Zone as well as the cities in System J25 in Q Who.

In their earliest encounters with the Borg, the Enterprise was able to see that the outposts and cities were not there from orbit with no mention made of away teams.

So why did they have to beam down to New Providence to see that the colony was gone? Couldn't they have seen it (or not seen it) on sensors?

Note: I'm only asking about the away team at the beginning of the episode. I understand why the subsequent away team beamed down to investigate whether or not it was actually the Borg.

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You have to remember that this is an emergency rescue operation with multiple things happening simultaneously.

  • Having received a distress signal, the Enterprise has barreled in at high warp and crashed to a halt in orbit.
  • The away team are mustering in the transporter room even as Worf is checking the colony's life-signs on sensors.
  • As soon as they get into transporter range, O'Brien is scanning the transport site to determine whether it's safe for transport. A few seconds later the team transport down.

RIKER: Sensors picking up any signs of life?

WORF: None.

Riker frowns.

Anticipating the question --
O'BRIEN: The surface environment is safe for transport, Commander.

TNG: Best of Both World: Part 1

Presumably at the same time the team are beaming down there are other teams trying to use visual sensors to look at the surface of the planet from orbit. It's very possible that the ship has arrived at an oblique angle (with the colony below the horizon or behind one of the mountain ranges that seem to ring it) or even just that it's not possible to see through the extensive cloud cover that we see in the opening shot.

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  • 1
    This seems to imply that O'Brien only scanned the immediate vicinity to the beam down site. – Brian Ortiz Jan 12 at 19:21
  • @BrianOrtiz - I'm assuming his sensors are limited to life-sign scans and to checking the atmosphere for volatiles, etc. – Valorum Jan 12 at 20:10

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