Occasionally, people have been able to teleport through a forcefield in Star Trek. Was there ever a consistent explanation for this?

I'd previously assumed a forcefield was like a solid wall. Or do they have gaps?


3 Answers 3


Well, if you are refering to defense screens (like the Deflector Shields on the various ships), it's a matter of frequency resonance. Think of the transporter signal like any other data transmission method; run it through a random (or pseudo random) interference pattern, and it will become meaningless noise. (Fortunately, there are inherent protections against sending in those conditions in modern transporters.. That's why you hear about getting a transporter 'lock' and such.)

BUT.. if you know the frequency that the interference will be at (assuming a basic pattern, after that), you can adjust your carrier wave to match it, and it, in effect, becomes non-existant. Much like dealing with the 60 cycle hum from sending data along a power line IRL.

From Memory Alpha (Star Trek Wiki):

Shields operated within a range of shield frequencies to allow certain specific types of energy and matter to pass through, or to increase the effectiveness of blocking them. The frequencies of shields were not usually discernible without examining the controls on board the ship deploying them, meaning that it was very difficult to tune weapons to the exact frequency of an opponent's shields to bypass them. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar"; Star Trek Generations)

If you recall, fighting the Borg, they kept talking about shifting the shield harmonic frequency randomly, and did the same with their weapons, to attack.

Now, why the frequency can't readily be identified from the outside, I've never heard a good explanation.. it could be that this is a simplified way to explain it, and the actual mechanic is that you START at that frequency and then follow a standard pattern of small modifications over a fixed period of time. A statistical sample should still give you the base frequency.... but, who knows what other tricks they add.

Oh, btw.. It wasn't always like that:

Normally, transporters were not capable of penetrating shields. (TOS: "Arena") 23rd century Federation starships, such as the Constitution-class USS Enterprise, could not even transport through their own shields, but later starships such as the Intrepid-class and Sovereign-class vessels could transport personnel and objects freely to and from without having to lower their shields.

Also, Deflector Fields are just a specific (and better known) version of force fields, the same principles apply to true 'Force Fields' as well - Memory Alpha - Force Fields

  • IMO this is a question about force fields, not shields.
    – user48
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 12:19
  • That's why I added the caveiat at the end; in the Trek universe, they are the same thing, it's just a matter of how they are being applied. Most of the time when you see a Force Field, though, it's a single plane, blocking a passage or some such, and the question doesn't really apply as it doesn't close of the transport target. The exception is when it's used as a containment field, often to hold in something that will be transported out, or in medical use to quarantine something transporting in. Either way, the same details still apply.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 13:05
  • Well, I disagree that it is the same. Force field is probably in general a meta term which covers also shields, but I doubt all of those "casual" force fields work on the same principle as a deflector -- they just seem too variable and too easy to make. Moreover when the object is said to be secured from transport, they always use specific precaution instead of just a force field.
    – user48
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 13:55
  • I should be more specific -- Deflector Fields are a sub-set of Force fields, and pretty much the generic form in most applications -- A force field used to deflect incoming damaging attacks. Since the question was about teleporting thru one, though, and you rarely see spherical fields, EXCEPT for defense screens, I went with that as the type that was being asked about. Check the Memory Alpha page on force fields, though; lots of info on different types and applications - kind of interesting to read.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 14:33
  • About the inability of frequencies being "identified from the outside" - frequency hopping radio waveforms already use this principle to create difficult to jam and/or decode communications. It's a simple stretch to push it to other kinds of energy. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequency_hopping Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 16:52

I think the "official" explaination is that Forcefields have a given cycle like the refresh rate on a monitor if the Transporter signal can be matched to this say 60Hz then if you are at 120Hz there will be gaps where you can beam through. Determining this rate is sometimes plot dependant and sometimes there are gaps in the field where this can be done also - in Caretaker Season 1, Episode 1 of Voyager there was a visible gap shown which allowed the people there to get out - just about, plus people could then beam in the same way.

  • In fact, most battles in the universe that aren't with a species like the Borg boil down to one ship disabling a generator/puncturing a localized part/matching the frequency of the other, and then using that gap to damage the other ship (Or beam their occupants to the brig, if destroying the ship is undesirable.) Very rarely are a ship's shields drained entirely before the ship is disabled, although the shows makes it seem like a constant threat. 4 blasts from nearly any ship reducing the shields to 10 percent.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 12:14
  • @DampeS8N I'd love to get a source for that
    – itsadok
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 16:12
  • 1
    Actaully, that makes some sense. In TNG "The Wounded" O'Brien says that there's a fraction of a second gap (something like 1/50 or 1/60) that he can beam through the shields with. That would be consistent with synchronizing it to the frequency of the shields. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 17:09
  • @Kyle Cronin: perfect example! There are several episodes where knowledge of a ships shield frequency rotation schedule is used to match, which lets to shoot/beam through them as if they aren't there.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 18:11

Another thing to think about is the fact that there are two modes of teletransportation: the first one is from a single transporter to any place near around and the second one is between two transporter stations. (A third mode where the final destination is somewhere near the second station but not directly at this second station can be seen as a simple variation of the second mode with no effect on this discussion).

At first, these two modes look very similar but they are vastly different on a crucial point: for the second mode, the first transporter doesn't have to deal with doing the rematerialisaton process at a distant point and can therefore limit itself to the transfert of the information to the second station. Clearly, this transfert of information between two stations can be done much more easily when you have to go through a force shield than the whole process of rematerialisation that must be done when you have a single station to work with; as this is something akin to a radio communication.

Usually, they never have any problem communicating with or from another ship even when their shields are up (with a few exceptions where there is a special field blocking all types of tele-communication) and from what I remember, all teleportations through a force field have all be done with the collaboration of a second station (but I might be wrong).

  • I think the word you're looking for is transporter. They're not called "teleport stations" in Star Trek.
    – Izkata
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 3:38
  • @Izkata: sorry, you're right, I made the confusion with the word "téléporteur" that's in use for the french version of Star Trek.
    – SylvainL
    Commented Oct 7, 2014 at 4:23

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