The Enterprise E transporter has a range of 40,000 km, yet Picard's team beamed up at least 360,000 km from Earth to Enterprise hiding near the moon, and the Vulcan sensors never detected the transport (AFAIK).

PICARD: Picard to Enterprise. Energise.

[Enterprise-E bridge]

PICARD: Report.

WORF: The moon's gravitational field obscured our warp signature. The Vulcans did not detect us.

In Bozeman, Montana, on April 5, 2063 the moon will be closest around 7:00pm which is about the right time we saw the T'plana-Hath land. But, earlier, LaForge showed Cochrane the Enterprise in orbit through a telescope, so she was plainly visible if the Vulcan ship arrived - and the Vulcans will have sensors. When Picard beamed up, the Enterprise was hiding in the Moon's gravitational field, and I have to assume she was also hiding from Vulcan visual sensors. This means she had to be no less than 363,104 km away in the best case scenario.

So there are two distinct problems here: The distance transported, and transporting without Vulcan detection by the survey ship's sensors.

How did Picard transport to the Enterprise, which was hiding its warp signature in the Moon's gravitational field and hiding from sight? Why wasn't the transport picked up on Vulcan sensors?

  • I'm assuming the Vulcan ship is smart enough to see everything orbiting Earth to avoid hitting anything, like the thousands of satellites drifting around up there. A starship within 40,000 km might be easy to spot?
  • 1
    Presumably the Enterprise has a total understanding of the technical capacity (and shortcomings) of the Vulcan's ships and sensory array
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 19:03
  • That's 1/2 of the problem.
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 19:07
  • They pull the same schtick when they make the cloak on Lursa's ship activate.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 19:09
  • 8
    Shouldn't the question be, why doesn't every scriptwriter have at least a Bachelor's degree in physics? Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 19:24
  • 1
    You can't park there, but you can linger anywhere under sufficient thrust.
    – Cadence
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 20:42

3 Answers 3


I think it's safe to assume that ship sensors in Star Trek aren't omnipresent and active all the time. There are tons of instances where teleportations aren't detected, when it's convenient for the plot, throughout several episodes of different shows. Intruders boarding by beaming are typically revealed by crewmen or sensors inside the ship.

In a similar way, it seems to happen rather often that ships hide successfully behind or inside celestial bodies. The Vulcans most likely fell for their logic here: If there's been any active warp effect, it's more than likely only the strongest remaining trail will lead to the ship in question. Once they found it, there's no need to scan for more, since from their point of view there shouldn't have been any around there to begin with. They were looking for one anomaly and there's one they've found.

In addition to these points, I think the far bigger plothole are the Borg: While the Vulcans clearly visited Earth before (as shown in Enterprise for example), their scans for warp capable vessels should have revealed at least some debris of technology too advanced for Earth. Whenever a crew is looking for another ship, they'll always notice and track potential debris. Maybe the Vulcans just gave up too early, being fascinated by a warp capable phallus crossing their viewport. ;)

  • OK but what about the 360,000 km transport to the moon? If they’re hiding behind a celestial body... “beam me to the moon, Scotty?”
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 6:46
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    @VogonPoet Basically. ;) It's a stretch and according to this question and answer TOS era transports are up to around 40,000km according to the writer's guide, but that might have changed in later versions. Also we don't exactly know the Vulcan vessel's approach to earth. It's certainly possible that the Enterprise was still between Earth and Moon at this point, while hidden behind Earth.
    – Mario
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 7:27

TRANSPORTER It is important to understand that from a writer's perspective, the transporter was a necessary invention to keep the TV shows plot moving: characters don't spend time travelling, just bouncing from adventure to adventure. It's purpose was not to subplant intersteller travel, that is this ships' job. From this perspective, 10,000 to 400,000 are small number compare to 1 light year (9.4 billion killometers.

Trolling related posts, I found this gem:


Which establishes TOS era transporters had a range of 40,000 km according to the tech manual. This makes sense, as earth's geosynchronous orbit is 35,786 km. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geosynchronous_orbit The original article also points out the transporter is a particularly troublesome piece of technical writing, with several inconsistencies. Moreover, our understanding of quantum mechanics has improved from almost nothing in 1967, making much of the "science fiction" of the transporter now "debunked."

There is no reference to how Transporter range has improved over time, except for the numerous examples of improved transporter technology we see employed multiple times in various episodes.

Then there is this: https://www.trekbbs.com/threads/transporter-range.275253/

So it would seem not even die hard star trek researching nerds can agree. And that's likely because writers have been too nebulous on the subject to be certain. This makes sense to a certain degree: why quibble over the transporter's distance. You can't do interstellar travel with it. That's the key point.

In light of all this, I'm fit to submit this data point to say, "look! they beamed from Montana to the moon. So Enterprise E has at least 300k km transporter range.

BEING UNDETECTED The Enterprise has superior intelligence. They know exactly what sort of craft will appear, when and where. Using this information, it is simple to evade detection. This alone explains their ability to be undetected.

But they also have superior technology and superior knowledge of the limitations of the Vulcan's technology. Given time, a solution can easily be found. They probably would just have to look up "known sensor blindness of Vulcan sensor array " in their computer.

  • 1
    I agree with all points, I think the information belongs on this site because, while writers may get sloppy and nebulous, they create problems when they want to create a crisis in a future release. If they ever revisit 24th century earth, they can no longer say "Captain! We are out of transporter range!" near any planet, because the audience just literally watched them beam a team to the moon, from what the dialogue seems to say. And if the Enterprise was on the other side of Earth, well, beaming through rock is obviously not a valid plot device either.
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 14:59
  • 1
    I appreciate the sentiment. I think the issue is not having the information available, but rather having the production team consistently use it. Their focus is to produce a good story on a schedule, and this is not near the top of their priority list.
    – BAMF4bacon
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:44

Unfortunately, it is not explained, whether in the movie, the script or the novelization. They just did.

We can try to find a plausible explanation in-universe, but it would be pure conjecture.

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