During the classic Star Trek episode "The Changeling" Kirk and crew transport NOMAD on two occasions, once to bring it on board and once to put it outside of the ship so it can be destroyed safely.

Why did they not just dematerialize it, and then not rematerialize it, discarding the contents of the transport buffer?

  • 2
    Also, TNG: The High Ground where Geordi beams a bomb into space using his own combadge
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:20
  • @Richard Nomad is what triggered this question, but I think there were a few instances in TNG or VOY as well. has been many years since I watched those so dont remember specifics
    – Akash
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:21
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    They beam the tribble-bomb off the station in Trials and Tribble-ations
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:33
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    I can only think of a couple of instances where something or someone was beamed into nothingness with something like a "...widest possible dispersion..." order. Maybe the real question is why was it possible to do so in those few cases?
    – Joe L.
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 18:13
  • 3
    I don't think it's ever been addressed in the movies or any of the TV series. It could be that it takes a very high-level authorization to override the transporter's settings. Or the transporters are purposely hard-wired to disable this kind of functionality.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


I've come up with several plausible reasons.

Transporter Safety

With regard to NOMAD (and also, presumably where similar circumstances occur in TNG : The High Ground and DS9: Trials and Tribble-ations), the simple fact is that the transporter is specifically geared not to allow objects to be destroyed, except under exceptional circumstances and not without considerable effort on the part of the operator. When trying to beam a bomb into space, you would presumably want to have as few steps (and hence as little room for error) as humanly possible.

The TNG Technical Manual notes that there are no less than two different safety features that must be overriden in order to disengage the confinement beam although it does mention that this technique can be used on dangerous substances like bombs if you wish to simply destroy them. My guess is that this is something you would do if you had slightly more time to prepare.


Disengaging the annular confinement beam will cause the materializing matter stream to have no reference matrix against which to form. In such a case, the transport subject will form in a random fashion, usually taking the form of randomly dissociated gases and microscopic particulates. Operator override of the transport autosequence can cause the ACB to be deactivated in order to allow the harmless dispersal of a highly dangerous transport subject such as an explosive device. Two safety interlocks prevent this option from being accidentally activated. Such dispersal is usually accomplished by transporting the subject into space.

NOMAD is paranoid

NOMAD has shown that it is extremely reactive to threats against its person. It vaporised the two guards that attempted to block its movement and killed Scott for merely touching its energy screens.

Overtly telling Spock or Scott to beam it out in a dispersed pattern might be taken as an act of aggression and result in NOMAD attempting to defend itself.

They don't want to destroy NOMAD (at least not to begin with...)

When they first encounter NOMAD, they simply don't believe that a ship that small could possibly be responsible for the destruction they've encountered. They're also under the impression that the probe actually houses little tiny people. NOMAD has also signalled that its intent is non-hostile. Starfleet isn't in the business of murdering people:

NOMAD [OC]: USS Enterprise, this is Nomad. My mission is non-hostile.


SCOTT: What kind of intelligent creatures can exist in a thing that small?

SPOCK: Intelligence does not necessarily require bulk, Mister Scott.

  • Should we really take that quote from Scotty as a sign that he thought NOMAD had little aliens inside it? Surely even a drunken Scotsman isn't that stupid? Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 0:53
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    @JamesSheridan Sylvia and Korob from Catspaw could have fit inside Nomad with room to spare... Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 22:20
  • 1
    @JamesSheridan - You may be underestimating quite how drunk he was...
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 22:21

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