Are the visual and sound effects that we see in the show visible/audible to the individuals within the show itself? Do they ever react or mention either of them? Or are they simply for us, the watchers?

Basically, while watching various shows, from TOS to Discovery, I don't believe I have ever noticed someone reacting to these (such as the blinding light or looking up due to the sound [instead of the person/item hitting the ground or similar to make them look up]). It seems more like they simply appear and people then notice there are new people/items around. They never seem to mention them either, while I do remember mentions of humming of grav-plating or EPS relays, I can't recall any mentions of someone discussing the visuals/sounds of someone transporting.

  • Are you looking for answers only from the shows (i.e. canon sources) or are the books fair game?
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 20:45
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    STIV Kirk beams out of the park and Gillian does a double take from the light reflections and sound youtu.be/JdHavaH5ysw (7min mark) Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 0:13
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    @lucasbachmann Why not make that an answer? Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 16:41

5 Answers 5


In the Enterprise episode The Andorian Incident, the use of the transporter is discussed as a method of rescue and T'Pol nixes the idea, saying this:

T'POL: The sound of the transporter alone would alert the guards. They'd start firing before the team was fully resequenced.

Given this, I see no reason to believe that the audience sees or hears anything that the characters do not.

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    I guess the people are normally accustomed to it and don't react to it like I would... both your answer and @Pete answers are perfect for different aspects.
    – thaimin
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 22:34
  • @thaimin the transporter operator will expect it to make that noise, but IIRC the transportees can't act or perceive until fully resequenced, so would not be aware of it, not entirely unlike passengers on a train not hearing the change in noise it makes whooshing past a bystander. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 10:39
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    One exception is that the Jem'Hadar personal transporters seen in DS9 seem to be more explicitly designed for stealth. They're not silent, but they're much quieter and faster, which would make them a lot more useful for this sort of purpose. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 13:43
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    @PeteKirkham In Wrath of Khan, when they are beaming up from the Genesis Cave on Regula, Savvik is in the process of speaking with the others. Her voice is distorted, but they understand her.
    – Omniwombat
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 18:11

They are certainly visible. In A Piece Of The Action the character Kalo says "Don't worry, Boss. They can't do nothing till they're through sparkling. "

He previously saw Kirk and Spock's arrival. He describes it as sparkling, which is what the viewers see.

As for the audio, I don't know, but I'd assume we are hearing diegetic sounds, rather than a musical cue.

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    I guess the people are normally accustomed to it and don't react to it like I would... both your answer and @BrianOrtiz answers are perfect for different aspects.
    – thaimin
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 22:34
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    @thaimin In the same way you might not look up from your phone when your friend opens the car door, you were expecting it. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 16:42

This is trivially disproven by the numerous occasions when there are problems with the transporters. We frequently see a character appear partially, and the transporter technician respond to the problem by making various adjustments to try to get transport to complete.

If the transporter technician was purely looking at the controls to know whether transport had completed or not, then your idea that it was purely for the viewers could be correct. However the transporter technicians are always looking at the transporter itself, and they very clearly can see what it's doing.

For maybe the most infamous example of this, we have the failed transport at the start of the first film. (I'd forgotten just how truly dreadful an actress Grace Lee Whitney was, until I saw this again.)

  • However, that may not include the sparkling effects or whatever, but just them appearing...
    – thaimin
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 22:36
  • @thaimin No, it definitely includes the sparkling effects, otherwise the characters would not be able to comment (as they do) on the progress of the transport and what the other side needs to do. If a transported person is simply there or not there, the entire scene is meaningless.
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 22:40

See the Next Generation’s episode 2 in season 6, “Realm of Fear”. It has a first person view from Barclay (a.k.a. “Broccoli”) while within a transporter. He can observe the energy field, flows within, and a little extra something :-)

  • That was always odd to me since the matter stream shown in that episode does not look like what we see on the outside, and how would that extrapolate to some of the other species transporter beams that are really crazy like the Cardassians ones? In fact, that episode is one that made me consider that we do actually see something different.
    – thaimin
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 22:38

In The Enterprise Incident, as Spock is reading his Right of Statement, the Romulan commander is looking away when the transporter sound begins. She reacts quickly enough to be able to grab onto him before he is transported and also gets beamed out with him.

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