In TNG S6 Ep22, Crusher wants an autopsy to help determine whether someone was murdered, but the dead guy’s family has cultural objections. In the story she goes ahead anyway, jeopardising her career - and that’s not the point.

To me, it seems obvious that some simple combination of replicator and transporter should allow Crusher to make a copy of the corpse and autopsy that… or if you want to be awkward about it, quietly autopsy the original and offer the copy to the family for whatever ritual their culture follows.

Personally, I think the very idea that even early Trekkers couldn’t use their transporter buffers to keep back-up copies of every transported “passenger” risible, except for bandwidth or storage capacity but even that isn't the point.

Routinely buffering every transport might be unreasonable but here in S6 Ep22 it’s by no means routine… it’s next to being an emergency and if we could imagine such a replicator or transporter copy taking 10 or 100 times the normal resources, is anyone suggesting a whacking great starship couldn’t cope with that?

  • Good point actually, in DS9 they also managed to temporarily store several crew members in a holodeck simulation during a transporter malfunction.
    – A.bakker
    Nov 27, 2020 at 20:08
  • Yes, quite… I'd forgotten that one and even without malfunctions, aren't there at least two TNG episodes in which Moriarty is stored in a holodeck buffer, in one for years? Nov 27, 2020 at 20:19
  • In theory it makes sense but I suspect you are still overestimating the capability of replicators. In practise transporters have been made over-powered too but that is way out of scope. A ct scan and whatever transporters scan should have been plenty for Dr. Crushers needs. Nov 27, 2020 at 20:44
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    @RobbieGoodwin Let's not jump to conclusions. You're making a ton of assumptions about how a fictional transportation technology works in detail. Jan 11, 2021 at 10:19
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    @RobbieGoodwin As a software developer, it's not in any way a stretch to imagine that allowing data to pass through a buffer from point A to point B like a data stream is not quite the same thing as actually copying an entire person's worth of data in-place. The latter is a classic scalability problem, often fixed by using the former instead (though the trade off is that you can't clone that way). By the way, you have a really bad habit of your first response always being the "you have an obvious flaw in your thinking" angle, and it's not very pleasant. Try humility, and an open mind! Jan 11, 2021 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


First, replicators cannot replicate living matter (at least, Starfleet replicators cannot. source and another question with a great answer about it). So at the very least all that doing what you are proposing would do is get you a bunch of corpses. Now, your question does specifically ask about replicating corpses, so I suppose in that sense it would ALMOST do what you want. Except that patterns degrade in the pattern buffers.

So, to combine the two technologies, you'd have to deal with the limitations of both. The replicators cannot replicate matter exactly, because they do not store the data of individual molecules (see the linked SE answer). The pattern buffers COULD hold that data, since they have to replicate the person on the transporter pad, but they can't do so indefinitely. Thus, storing a copy of a person with the fidelity to replicate them or their corpse exactly is not within the realm of starfleet technology.

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    There appears to be a counter-example to this in the TNG episode with Montgomery Scott. In that episode, Scotty was able to jury-rig a setup which stored himself in the transport buffer for 75 years. While that may not be normal, it indicates that storing a person in the transport buffer indefinitely is within the realm of the technology available. It may not be something which is routinely implemented, but it's possible.
    – Makyen
    Nov 28, 2020 at 4:59
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    Actually no. In that episode it is explained that Scotty had to really mix things together to make it work, his companion in the buffer degraded, and Scotty himself degraded but only very slightly. My link above cites that example Nov 28, 2020 at 18:09
  • @MichaelStachowsky Thanks and if you're saying what I proposed would get Crusher a corpse, that's all I wanted or she needed. The one and only thing I asked for was "a copy of the corpse and autopsy that… or if you want to be awkward about it, quietly autopsy the original and offer the copy to the family for whatever ritual their culture follows…" Everyone is welcome to talk about other ideas elsewhere but here, could we stay on track? Sorry the buffer was a bit of a red herring… more relevant to general scope than the specific case. Dec 1, 2020 at 21:02
  • By the way, tonight's TNG episode (here, anyway), Second Chances, featured two wholly viable Will Riker's caused by a transporter incident which might make many of us re-think what's technically possible. Dec 1, 2020 at 21:06

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