In many episodes of Star Trek: TNG, people on a planet (or somewhere away from the Enterprise) transport back to their ship by someone tapping his/her communicator and saying "3 to beam up" or similar. Then, the 3 people intended by that person almost immediately begin beam-out.

How does this work? It often happens that the "N" people intended for transport are a subset of all the people available. I thought perhaps it has to do with the stances of those N people, but that seems unlikely. It also occurred to me that the computer could sense the thoughts of the person to figure out which people he/she means, but this is even more far-fetched, and has never been supported by any technobabble on the show.

There was one time someone says something like "2 people and one piece of equipment to beam up" (I don't remember which episode). That made somewhat more sense, as the transporter chief could probably see via targeting scanners exactly which thing was the "piece of equipment" but it still leaves the question of which people to beam up fuzzy.

Anyone have other ideas? This has always bugged me much more than other seeming weirdnesses on TNG, which I am usually able to come up with headcanon theories for.

marked as duplicate by Izkata, Valorum, The Fallen, DVK-on-Ahch-To, Justin Ethier Aug 21 '14 at 1:34

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  • I'm not familiar enough but could it be proximity to the person relaying the order (I'm assuming the person giving the order is always the one beaming up in the case of no further instructions having been previously given). – Chris Aug 20 '14 at 15:43
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    The "two people and one piece of equipment" line comes from the season 7 episode 12 episode of Star Trek TNG, titled "The Pegasus" where Riker and his old captain go to their old ship to retrieve (gasp) a Federation cloaking device. I think the real purpose of the statement was to underline the fact that they got the device, but that's not an in-universe answer. – Kevin Workman Aug 20 '14 at 16:42

Position to the person making the request that indicates who is leaving or ready to be transported under NON-EMERGENCY operations.

  • A request for beam out of a subset of a landing party defined who was leaving with as little information as possible. "3 to beam up" was interpreted as "the caller and whoever or whatever is next to them in a transporter position."

  • Note most of the time, particularly under TOS, they assume transport pad placement, positioning themselves so they arrive on a pad position most of the time. Where they stand shouldn't matter, since they beamed down to the planet without receiver pads, so this is probably a technical shorthand to know whose leaving.

  • The transporter technician, under normal working conditions, is able to disseminate who everyone is by their communicator (or later using comm badges) just like a cell tower can do with GPS locating.

  • Since a transporter technician is on duty during away missions, there is always someone standing by to beam teams up, as needed, during operation hours. That technician likely maintains a "soft lock-on" on all away team members in case of emergency allowing for communication shorthand to be used in case of threat or hazard.

  • Great answer. I don't know why this never occurred to me. Is this in the Technical Manual? I'm going to watch for this now to verify, just as I now always watch for Riker to sit in chairs all funny-like. – Roni Choudhury Aug 20 '14 at 19:02
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    I have the original technical manual and they don't talk much about the protocols for transporting, only the process, the limits and the different ways transporting can be done aboard ship and between ships and planets. But it resembles standard military behaviors where we were conditioned to do things that became a form of shorthand for operations where little had to be said, but lots of things were done because they were part of "operational readiness." – Thaddeus Howze Aug 20 '14 at 20:20
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    One other point, is that it appeared to be standard procedure for the transporter operator to "keep a lock" on away team members (mostly by their com badges/communicators one would assume). So when a request comes in, they would usually be ready to transport them at that moment's notice. They likely would just have to quickly identify the people to be transported on the display and slide the transporter activation sequence. – BBlake Aug 20 '14 at 20:33
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    Also, they are not instruction a machine but talking to a transporter operator that has overwatch of the away team with ships sensors. So away teams talk in a shorthand that the transporter operator interprets with the trek equivalent of satellite view. – Tyson of the Northwest Aug 20 '14 at 20:33
  • I love this "operational readiness" idea, I just had never worn it before. It answers both my question, and why Picard can bellow "Chief, get them out of there!" and everyone is (usually) ok. In other words, I guess there's more to being transporter chief than this :-D. – Roni Choudhury Aug 20 '14 at 22:46

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