After watching (I'm sure quite too) many Star Trek episodes, I've noticed a number of occasions where the characters seem to step away or onto a more specific location to get transported, even if they are not anywhere near a transporter "pad."

Recently, I noticed this at the end of Deep Space Nine, Season 4, Episode 11, Paradise Lost - Part 2 where it's clear that Sisko steps slightly out of the way and closer to the group of other people to get transported, before he actually is ...

However, I've noticed this, to some extent in episodes of all 5 live-action TV series.

So, the question is ... is there there something inherent in transporter technology that requires people to be either:

  1. Closer together in proximity or ...
  2. In a certain location before normal transportation is possible?

Note: I realize this is sci-fi and an easy answer is "well it's a bit of a plot device, it depends ..." That's kinda weak, I'm looking for a more well-rounded anwser.

  • 1
    How about the following? A transporter field has only a certain size and people within the field only will get transported. Also, a further assumption could be that the people to be transported should stand approximately where the transporter pads would be. Jul 11, 2012 at 10:26
  • 1
    It's for dramatic reasons. The actors are going to be standing still for the transporter sequence, so the director puts them into a group pose that looks good on camera. Jul 11, 2012 at 11:38
  • @AmitBhargava Area transports (seen in just a couple of episodes, usually when they're unable to get a lock) target a point + some amount of meters around that point. Usually, some terrain is taken with them and they transport into one of the cargo holds.
    – Izkata
    Jul 11, 2012 at 15:19
  • 2
    When you are about to be dematerialized anything you can do to make it easier for the transporter to bring you back in one piece you do... even if it only makes it easier in your mind.
    – Chad
    Jul 11, 2012 at 20:43
  • I suggest that's for nothing more than dramatic effect, and all the Answers and Comments attempting to explain it through technicalities have simply fallen for that effect. Nov 27, 2020 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


A little bit from Memory Alpha to provide background for my reasoning:

A typical transport sequence began with a coordinate lock, during which the destination was verified and programmed, via the targeting scanners. Obtaining or maintaining a transporter lock enables the transporter operator to know the subject's location, even in motion, allowing the beaming process to start more quickly. This is an essential safety precaution when a starship away team enters a potentially dangerous situation that would require an emergency beam-out.

A transporter lock was usually maintained by tracing the homing signal of a communicator or combadge. When there was a risk that such devices would be lost in the field or are otherwise unavailable, personnel could be implanted with a subcutaneous transponder before an away mission, to still provide a means to maintain a transporter lock. Alternatively, sensors could be used to scan for the biosign or energy signature of a subject, which could then be fed into the transporter's targeting scanner for a lock.

Basically, it's just easier. Usually, someone will say something like "5 to beam up". The question for the transporter operator is: Which 5? When there's more life signs and/or combadges around, they'll just choose the 4 that are next to the one who gave the command.

As to why they do it even when they're the only ones nearby on the planet, I'd say it's become an automatic reaction. Like how we turn around after entering an elevator/lift.

There's also much rarer instances where they have to do a blind area transport, but I don't think that's what this question is asking about.

  • The coordinate lock item is the key item here. Jul 11, 2012 at 11:35
  • @GorchestopherH Unfortunately, as far as I recall, the series don't give a lot of information on how the targetting scanners work, other than being able to lock on to different targets (combadge, positional coordinates, life signs, etc).
    – Izkata
    Jul 11, 2012 at 11:59
  • 2
    The new movie demonstrates it the best I think. When you see Chekov actually working with the targeting scanners to get locks on Kirk and Sulu before they hit the ground and are crushed.
    – BBlake
    Jul 11, 2012 at 12:26
  • When there's more life signs and/or combadges around, they'll just choose the 4 that are next to the one who gave the command. / I'd say it's become an automatic reaction. ... I appreciate these as a very reasonable explanation. Jul 11, 2012 at 22:35
  • 2
    @BBlake The movie itself was fine, and I did like it, but it was more like a generic sci-fi action movie with Trek names slapped on, than anything else. (And DS9 wasn't strictly true to Roddenberry's vision either, but I find it to be the best of all the series or movies)
    – Izkata
    Jul 12, 2012 at 19:11

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