In Star Trek, Starfleet brigs on starships have a forcefield that's used for an entrance and exit. In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (yes, I'm going to actually admit that film exists), Scotty breaks Kirk, Spock, and McCoy out of the brig by blowing a hole in one wall. Does this mean that the force field is only used for one wall? If so, how are transporter beams blocked? In Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode _The Hunted, they have to take precaution to beam a prisoner directly out of the brig, so there's an indication transport to and from the brig is prevented.

Is there any canon material on how brigs are secured and escape and transporter activity is prevented? If not canon, any generally agreed upon answer outside of canon?

  • 1
    I imagine the brig on the ship crewman Daniels came from 800 years in the future is different from Kirk's brig, which is different from Picard's brig, which is different still from Archer's brig.
    – CodeMed
    Aug 5, 2015 at 23:51
  • 2
    TNG's brig is likely fortified against breaches and transporters BECAUSE of Scotty's prior action. Aug 6, 2015 at 2:49
  • How are starship brigs fortified? Very well, thank you. Aug 6, 2015 at 9:01
  • 1
    @PaulD.Waite: Well, not always. Didn't look too hard for Scotty to break his friends out.
    – Tango
    Aug 6, 2015 at 16:30

1 Answer 1


Originally, Starfleet ship brigs did not employ a force field, they were merely

small cells with solid doors (ENT episode: "Divergence")


By the 23rd century though, we know from TOS that force fields were implemented.

Memory Alpha describes the 24th century Starfleet starship brigs as being:

commonly covered on three sides by bulkheads with an electrostatic force field on the fourth side, which could be turned off and on as an entrance or exit way.

Considering what we see in TOS, I think it's reasonable to assume that the 23rd century starships had a similar composition - they also had a force field for entrance and seemed to have bulkheads.

Now, we only have the two elements in the brig - a force-field and the bulkheads. Considering the entire ship has bulkheads all over the place and they don't impinge on the ability for a transporter to work, we can safely assume it is something to do with the operation of a force field. This is supported, as pointed out in the question, in the TNG episode The Hunted where:

Worf ... calibrated the transporter beam to activate 0.1 seconds after the cell's force field ... shut down.

The Memory Alpha page on Force-Fields doesn't add much, stating what we already know:

If a force field is active, an object or transporter beam generally cannot pass through it, although this is not always the case. The Borg are known to not be hindered by most force fields; they can adapt and simply walk through the field. However, a Borg drone can be cut off from the Borg Collective if it is surrounded by a Starfleet level 10 force field. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar"; TNG: "I Borg")

An important point to take form this quote though is that not all force-fields block transporter beams.

Another important point from this page is that

If necessary, a transporter platform can be completely enclosed within a force field, to, for example, contain an alien subject or prisoner during transport. (TNG: "The Hunted", "Realm of Fear"; VOY: "Death Wish", "Demon")

So a transporter beam can still operate despite a force field if it is on the transporter pad.

So we have some slight inconsistencies here. The important point though is, how does a force-field actually work?

I think it's pretty clear that a force-field works by preventing matter from entering/exiting a certain area. We also know that there are different levels of force fields, being

rated by intensity, ranging in strength from level 1-10. A level 10 force field is the strongest and would be used, for example, during a scientific experiment of which the outcome was unknown, or known to be explosive in nature


Now, I interpret 'strongest' as referring to strength, but also the level of particles which pass through the field. Bear in mind that containment fields, another type of force-field, is capable of containing matter and anti-matter which would be pretty tiny in size I would expect. Now, if we follow this theory through to its logical conclusion, that means that it would be possible to erect a lower-level force-field which would allow a transporter beam to penetrate it, but still strong enough to prevent a fully-formed being to escape from it. Be mindful that a transporter beam for personnel works on the quantum level (Source). That would explain how a transporter beam could still penetrate a force-field strong enough that a being could not escape from it.

Now, as to the reason why it is impossible to beam an individual straight out of the brig, it is probably due to brigs using high level force-fields. Considering that brigs are designed to prevent prisoners from escaping, the force-field would probably be set at quite a high level, because prisoners can be crafty and may find a vulnerability!

  • The only question I have is that a level 10 force field can cut a borg off from the collective over any long period of time. That may have worked once. But the borg adapt to everything. So I imagine it would not take the borg collective long to crack a level 10 force field if they made it a priority.
    – CodeMed
    Aug 6, 2015 at 16:07
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    @CodeMed: Well, that would be true if the Borg knew that's what was used. If Hugh's memory was erased or modified, or he wasn't told what was used, then the Borg might not know what it was or how to counter it.
    – Tango
    Aug 6, 2015 at 16:31

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