I am quoting some answers from this question: What is the difference between the transporter and the replicator?

From this answer:

The Transporter cannot produce working duplicate copies of living tissue or organ systems.

The reason for this is that routine transport involves handling the incredibly vast amount of information required to "disassemble" and "reassemble" a human being or other life form. To transport something, the system must scan, process, and transmit this pattern information. This is analogous to a television, which serves as a conduit to the vast amount of visual information in a normal television transmission.

From this answer:

The transporter is manipulating information thousands of times more complex and requires technology that currently cannot even be conceived of such as the "Heisenberg Compensators" which would make it possible to know everything about the quantum state of a particular subject being transported. But for the transporter to do its work, it must have a real subject whose quantum state is being manipulated and transported. It is this quantum field state that the replicator is simply incapable of analyzing or creating when it performs "molecular replication".

So, a being as Data that is technical in nature but could be considered way more complex than a normal machine, especially his positronic brain, could it be replicated? I don't think it is possible due to hints:

  • Would it have been possible, Commander Bruce Maddox in TNG S2E9, The Measure of a Man, would have done it, or proposed it as a possible solution. He would even probably have brought it forward during the trial, something along "We all know life can't be replicated, we can replicate Data, so Data is no lifeform".
  • The positronic brain is (IMHO) as complicated as a human brain and it would be impossible to replicate it.
  • If possible, Lore would IMHO have replicated himself in order to be able to gain control.
  • Would it have been possible, Dr. Soong would've read in the emotion chip into a replicator and been able to replicate it at will.

So, I am not looking for a "If it were possible, then in sXeY, Data would have..." but a statement in either an episode, technical guide, or by somebody involved, if it is possible to replicate Data and, as I assume, if it is not, why not?

  • 2
    Objections to your points: 1) Living tissue is what cannot be replicated. Tissue that is not active in a way we consider "alive" may be replicatable, but then the crucial point is whether we can "invigorate" it as an autonomous lifeform. That point, that Data can be switched on and off, was made during the episode, though. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:31
  • 2) Dr. Soong did construct that positronic brain; it didn't "grow naturally". I don't see a reason to assume it's too complicated to replicate, maybe even did replicate it, or its components. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:33
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    The transporters can produce a duplicate though not under normal circumstances. Can't remember the TNG episode name but it's the one where they discover the duplicate Riker Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:37
  • 1
    @SpacePhoenix The transporters can also produce a combination of two living beings! Shame it never made a Pulaski/Data blend really. Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 10:49
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    @SpacePhoenix That episode exoses a fundamental problem: If a transporter can duplicate by accident, then it could always duplicate anything it can transport. A replicator can store some partial information, and create nonideal copies without the original being present.
    – Karl
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 20:15

2 Answers 2


Data's brain represents a sticking point in the replication process.

It's spelled out explicitly in the EU novel, Immortal Coil. Note that it isn't the complexity of the brain that's the problem, but rather some sort of 'x factor' that stops a replicated brain from going kerflooey like Lal's brain did in TNG: The Offspring.

“...Because he was family,” McAdams finished for him. “Yes, I understand. The only thing I don't understand is why no one else has been able to design a Soong-type android.”

“There have been attempts,” Picard replied. “Data's components, though complex, are quite well understood now. Everything could be replicated—except for the positronic brain. Every attempt . . .”

From behind them, Picard heard Data say, “... has been unsuccessful. And, to date, there has been no clearly identifiable reason why.” He walked down the ramp again, this time carrying a small travel case. “Or, to put it another way, there has been no clearly identifiable reason why my positronic brain—or that of my brother Lore's, or Juliana's for that matter—functions. Several theories have been advanced, none of them easily provable, though I am intrigued by Bronwin and Satar's recent note in Advances in Artificial Intelligence where they postulated that there was some unique, as yet unidentified substance in the components Dr. Soong incorporated into his positronic brains. However, my own investigations into that theory have been inconclusive.”

  • 2
    good thing there is a distinction between replication and transporting ;) What if they were able to reproduce the incident on Nervall IV that created Thomas (or did it create Will?) Riker
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 15:18
  • I feel like there are any number of things that can't be replicated that aren't nearly as complex as a positronic brain. Could you, for example, replicate weapons, like a phaser? Or an explosive device? Or even just a regular old handgun? That would be a security nightmare. Even something as simple as a dagger would be problematic. Maybe it specifically forbids weapons. Okay, so I order tea, Earl Grey, hot, splash it in someone's face, smash the cup and stab them with the broken glass while they're writhing in scalded agony... Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 19:33
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    @DarrelHoffman - Phasers and handguns (of varying kinds) can a) Be replicated with ease and b) are restricted from being created by those with insufficient clearance
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 19:53
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    That quote reads to me as if it means replicated in the sense of replicating a scientific achievement, rather than in the sense of using a replicator.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 20:12
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    @DarrelHoffman I suspect the Romulan ale thing is more of a "I don't want an imitation but the original" sort of thing. Even if you could perfectly replicate the taste (which food-grade replicators explicitly don't do, at least not without significant reprogramming), some people just want the real thing, like wines from Chateau Picard or food from Sisko's dad's restaurant. And replicators have been used for way more than just food and drink, we just see them most often used for that purpose because watching someone make self-sealing stem bolts with a industrial replicator isn't as interesting.
    – JAB
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 22:25

I'd have to say that it's possible, under the right circumstances.

Second Chances

Episode 24 of season 6 shows that Commander William Riker was accidentally duplicated in an incident described as a transporter accident. While being transported back to his ship, part of the transporter beam was reflected back to the planet, where Riker was re-materialized as well as being re-materialized on the ship.

Using a break in the disruption field, the away team beams down and discovers a man who appears exactly like Riker. He says that he is Riker, and has been living alone on the base for eight years ever since the Potemkin was unable to transport him back aboard, under the assumption the Potemkin crew presumed him lost.[2] He is a Starfleet Lieutenant, Senior Grade. This was Commander Riker's rank before he was promoted as a result of this mission.

Returning to the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher determines that this person is truly a second Riker; Chief Engineer La Forge postulates that years before, when Riker was being beamed off the planet, the Potemkin had split the transporter beam to cut through the distortions, but one beam was reflected back to the base, so that Riker materialized in both places.


Riker spent 8 years on-board ships with friends who would know him to be "different", if that would have happened. During the episode, people remarked on how his "clone" from the planet was so remarkably like the "real" Riker, including Riker himself. They remembered shared memories and thought similarly, up to the point where the 8 years in different environments caused them to think differently due to having different experiences.

Because Riker was duplicated successfully, I believe Commander Data, and his robotic family, could be similarly duplicated, if someone really tried.

Replicator vs. Transporter technology

I don't remember where I first heard it, but replicators and transporters share a technological family tree. I could swear I'd heard it within one of the TV series (like Commander LaForge mentioning it), since I've never read a novel, but the Wiki page seems to back this up, but from a non-canon source.

According to an academic thesis: "The so-called 'replicators' can reconstitute matter and produce everything that is needed out of pure energy, no matter whether food, medicaments, or spare parts are required."[3] A replicator can create any inanimate matter, as long as the desired molecular structure is on file, but it cannot create antimatter, dilithium, latinum, or a living organism of any kind; in the case of living organisms, non-canon works such as the Star Trek: the Next Generation Technical Manual state that, though the replicators use a form of transporter technology, it's at such a low resolution that creating living tissue is a physical impossibility.


If this were true, in the Star Trek universe, then we'd either need to just give replicators more resolution, or just re-purpose transporters to be replicators. There may be a political issue with this, which may be why replicators are low-res and may be off topic of the TV, films, and even books to not mention it. If you are able to duplicate Riker accidentally, then human and other cloning becomes much more of a possibility and scares people even more about their use. (Consider real life as well as the movie "The Prestige".)

Existing example vs programming

The transporter does work with an existing example of the thing it reconstitutes, but there's also the pattern buffer. People have been "stuck" in the pattern buffer and re-materialized. There have also been people "lost" within that pattern buffer. The question really becomes a question of storage, I think.

For a replicator, you can program things from a toy for a child to an edible pudding. You can also program in repair parts for engineering or nearly anything else. Technically speaking, these are simply patterns that have been reduced to their most basic examples and probably use common subroutines/methods of reproducing the item. Some things are a "simple" compound of a single molecule, but other items include much more complicated combinations. Asking for a sandwich may include bread, lettuce, ketchup, mayo, mustard, meat, a plate, a cup, and a drink. All come out at the same time, so there's plenty of complexity to deal with there.

If an engineer were able to hold onto a pattern buffer with an object in it for long enough to find a way to reduce the amount of data necessary to replicate "compile" it down to a much smaller dataset, it could be possible to store that pattern for later use. I remember Beverly Crusher (or maybe another ships Doctor) say something about checking the DNA in the logs for the last times a person went through the transporter to see if a marker or something similar (maybe a disease) could be used as a anti-virus. The DNA sequence, of course, is just a subset of the data necessary to rebuild a person, so that would be easier to store than the whole transporter pattern buffer, but if they can pull that out and store it for every use of the transporter, there's got to be a way to do it for more data. (No pun intended, but I'll take it.)

As always, the longer technology is around, the more likely it'll get easier to use, the smaller it usually gets, and the more reliable it tends to be. The Star Trek we've seen so far may simply not have progressed far enough to technologically be able to do it yet.

Parallel track from another Question

It also seems that this has been researched and discussed in a different manner. This question doesn't ask about Data being duplicated, but rather the transporter pattern buffer logs being used to restore the dead from their last transportation sequence.

Why can't a Federation Starship's transporter history be used to bring someone back to life?

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