Continuing our exploration through Trek jargon. We only have a few entries left and I want to save the weaponry for the next installment. Weaponry is the next section by the way. Tonight we’ll learn about tractor beams, transporters, turbolifts, tricorders, and warp drive. Won’t that be exciting?
There are only two more sections after this, the aforementioned weapons and a section about the ship’s computer. There is also a section about science terminology, but it’s real-word science like what a planet is. If they got that part wrong they shouldn’t be doing modern science fiction. This means we’re almost done with this series, so let’s get going.
The tractor beam is referred to as a “manipulatable force field”. Anything beyond that most sci-fi geeks should already know. It grabs things and pulls them in. And if you happen to have a supergenius teenage you can also turn it into a giant deflector beam that will never be used as such again, much like the aforementioned supergenius. Instead we’re going to let him fly the ship. Sometimes this show doesn’t make much sense.
And of course we all know what a transporter is as well. Some productions call it a teleporter, classic Doctor Who used to call it a “transmat”, and other shows, books, comics, and games have given it other names, but it’s still the same process.
The beam converts matter into energy, beams that energy to a fixed point, then re-converts it back into its original matter structure. The transporter beam is primarily a line-of-sight device; its range is 10,000 kilometers (16,000 miles).
A quick check showed that’s a decent orbit. There was a time when the transporter was considered a really cool piece of sci-fi tech. Then the more jaded people took over, and so did this joke.
Although to be fair the problem came when real scientists decided to try to figure out what it would take to create an actual transporter, then came the debate as to whether or not you would still be you. Also, the computer must really hold a lot of data to map out every individual person and item that’s beamed down and put them in the right place. Then again, we’ve seen transporters clone Will Riker and merge Tuvok and Neelix into one being so it’s not like transporters aren’t still as dangerous as the ones that used to toss people into other dimensions or beam back something that hopefully won’t last long. Of course, we’ve also seen them used to repair damaged and artificially aged or de-aged tissue in both the animated series and Next Generation, which makes me wonder why this wasn’t already made into a new medical device to give people near immortality.
Our new transporter device is much more reliable than the older devices of the original series, and is much more resilient to ion storms and other mechanical breakdowns. However, because the transporter is a line-of-sight device, it is occasionally possible that a landing party may be unable to beam back to the Enterprise immediately. This situation will occur whenever the ship is in an orbit that takes it over the horizon.
I don’t remember that every being a factor, but we have seen storms, material in the ground if the away team is underground or even just in a cave, and trouble finding one person in a sea of many. The guide continues to state that the transporter can detect germs, drugs, guns, other contraband, but it also isn’t a perfect system and sometimes it finds a way. I think it was even in the first season that an energy-based lifeform managed to be accidentally beamed on board and start taking people over to get back to space. No wonder holodecks keep screwing up since the transporter is one of the techno-bits used in them.
Any Star Trek fan worth their geek cred knows what a tricorder is, and attempts have been made to go beyond even what was on the show. There’s not a lot said about it. It’s a “Walkman sized device” (Sony’s Walkman players were still popular at the time…now it’s another thing your cellphone can do) that scans and records stuff. The turbolift is a voice-activated elevator that also travels sideways. I wonder if anyone ever mapped out the path of a turbolift in one of those technical manuals they put out?
Warp drive and warp speed are given separate sections. I guess because they’re too different terms but the title for the warp speed section is one line different from the last sentence of the warp drive section.
The two huge nacelles at the back of the ship contain our warp drive engines. These engines allow the Enterprise to travel at many times the speed of light. The distance between star systems is so vast–vast beyond the ability of the human mind to imagine–that without the warp drive, it would take 50,000 years (!!) to travel from one story to the next. (Our audience is patient but not that patient.) Warp drive speed is measured in Warp Factors.
The next section is called “Warp Drive Speed Is Computed In Warp Factors”. I’m not even sure that last sentence was necessary at that point. The guide really tries to sell how amazing warp speed is and how it’s “beyond the ability of the human mind to imagine”, but considering they had to have created the darn thing, I’m guessing someone imagined it. Back in the real world scientists are actually doing a good job imagining it. I remember the original series pilot “The Cage”, which was clipped to make the two-part TOS episode “The Menagerie”, claimed that warp speed was the result of breaking the time barrier, but it’s not mentioned in this guide. What does it say about warp speed?
Warp factor 1 is the speed of light. (669,600,000 miles per hour!) Warp 10 is the physical limit of the universe–beyond that normal time-space relationships do not exist and a ship at that velocity may simply cease to exist.
Actually, Voyager showed us that just hitting warp 10 could cause you to mutate into some kind of giant lizard, so it might be best to not surpass warp 9. It does put some limits on how fast the ships can go and gives some tension but given that this cap has been busted many times even in the original series without the lizard mutation I question it here. It does say that Enterprise considers warp 6 maximum cruising speed and can go to 9.9 if they drain their batteries but not for very long.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this trip through the terminology. Next time we raid the Enterprise‘s armor and see what toys they keep on them.