Last night I was watching the TNG episode "Relics", where Riker, La Forge and Worf beam aboard a disabled 75-year-old ship with minimal life support. Upon arrival, Riker takes a tricorder reading and reports that the air is "stale" but breathable. Outside of the obvious reasons of production costs and actor comfort, is there any reason why away teams would be allowed to beam into a relatively unknown environment without being required by regulations to wear an environmental suit (or at least bring along some spare oxygen)?

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    Also of note: Data and Worf beaming aboard the capsule in The Neutral Zone, upon which Data pulls out a tricorder and declares that there is an atmosphere aboard.
    – thedaian
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 19:10
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    the world of Star Trek is filled with many fantastic "do what i want" devices. In the case of the senor systems aboard star ships they are able to determine through near any interference or material whether a location has breathable air (unless the plot says they can't). the crew confirming this upon arrival is more for the spectator's benefit than anything, although away teams may be doing a more intensive test to determine exactly how long they can stay in that location.
    – Xantec
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 19:21
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    Somewhat of a sidenote, but Enterprise (NX-01) away teams (almost) always have env suits when they arrive in an unknown atmosphere. Although they're much more likely to arrive via shuttlecraft.
    – Kevin
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 19:27
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    Reminds me of the scene in Flesh Gordon where a main character steps out of a ship onto an unknown planet (along with the rest of the crew), takes two long, dramatic breaths, and says, "Good, there's oxygen on this planet". (Warning: this is an R-rated mildly pornographic spoof of "Flash Gordon" -- which is why I didn't refer to the name of the character.) Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 23:42
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    Re: ENT crews having enviro suits while TNG/TOS crews don't - It could also be postulated that NX-01 didn't have sensors quite as powerful or sophisticated as NCC-1701 and later craft, so the enviro suits were a necessity then.
    – Iszi
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 4:05

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure of how "unknown" the atmospheric conditions aboard the ship were. They always scan for an atmosphere first and Starfleet officers trust their technology almost implicitly. If they beam over then they're probably already confident that they are not in danger. The tricorder checks are just to make sure.

There reaches a point when you have to assume that they have the same common sense that you do, even if it's not shown on-screen.

Besides, the transporter keeps the story moving faster than a shuttle.


I think you may have misunderstood the scene.

As you can see from the show script, at the point that they beam over Data has already taken a scan of the ship's atmosphere and determined that the air is breathable.

Data : There are no life signs. However, there are several small power emanations... and life support is still functioning at minimal levels.

Once they beam over, Geordi gets out his tricorder. This isn't to check that the atmosphere is breathable (which they already know from Data's scan) but to perform a closer inspection of the ship's life-support systems:

RIKER : (reacts to smell) The air's pretty stale.

GEORDI : (off tricorder) Life support is barely operating.

RIKER : (to Worf) See if you can increase the oxygen level.

As to why they don't routinely wear respirators on away missions, the answer is simple; There's no need if their scans show a breathable atmosphere.


Clearly, in a real life scenario like this, they would have to take some significant precautions before boarding such an environment.

However, in universe, they do a check and verify that the atmosphere is suitable - which it seems to be most of the time ( clearly the life support systems in ships are some of the most relaible systems ). They also know that if there was a critical problem, they could beam back straight away, which would help. And they do the checks when they are present to verify the exact make up of the air, and how much is available.

Given that level of technology, it is probably OK for them to go without any extra support.

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    They also know that if there was a critical problem, they could beam back straight away... except of course for all the times that they can't get a transporter lock.
    – Xantec
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 19:38
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    Or all those times they instantly get infected with some horrible disease or become the unwitting host to some alien parasite.
    – erdiede
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 2:30
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    Well it isn't perfect, but then they have to have something to write about. Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 19:08

I guess it depends on how 'canon' you consider the animated series. In some episodes, The Slaver Weapon being the one I remember most distinctly, crew members are seen wearing kind of a force shield that acts as an environmental suit. Other races are shown wearing a standard environmental suit.

Also, in Star Trek: First Contact Picard, Worf and Hawk go on a EVA to the deflector disk in environment suits. Not exactly an away team though.

  • Roddenberry essentially disowned the animated series. He stated that he went through with it because he thought it was the last chance to continue Trek and would not have done it if he had known they'd make more movies and more shows.
    – Tango
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 5:37
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    @TangoOversway, what did he dislike about it, any idea? I thought the animated series had some pretty good episodes (granted, one was copied from a Larry Niven story :) . And with animation, they increased the scope of what special effects they could do - like three-armed/legged crewmen, catwoman crew member (not just a rubber mask), etc.
    – John C
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 12:32
  • I don't remember clearly, but I think Lt. Arix, the three-legged alien crewman, was one of the issues. (I know they were also forced to drop Walter Koenig due to budgeting issues.) For years I remembered the series as an abomination, but it was made available on the internet recently (legally) and I was surprised at the quality of some episodes.
    – Tango
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 15:42
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    I wouldn't at all compare the EVA in First Contact to an away team mission. In the former, there is no reasonable expectation of a present atmosphere at all (in fact, there's a known lack thereof) whereas in the latter there is presumably some pre-mission checks to verify the presence of an atmosphere, or the location is one where a breathable atmosphere can be anticipated.
    – Iszi
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 4:07
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    @John C, it was copied from a Larry Niven story by Larry Niven himself. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Slaver_Weapon That's why the Kzinti are present in the animated series and in Star Fleet Battles (whose license included TOS and TAS).
    – user13152
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 4:02

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