I was exploring the possibility of having a transporter like device in a potential new story I’m working on. I like the idea of them, beaming over to an enemy ship for some quick action or having enemies beam aboard the characters ship for a challenge to face. There’s lots of story potential involved in transporters. Unfortunately, they create a lot more problems.
See, once you present the ability to move from one place to another in the blink of an eye, you have to wonder why you don’t use that all the time. Either the limitations on the technology are so onerous as to negate much of their usefulness or they are to powerful that you wouldn’t use anything else. Let’s look at Star Trek as the primary purveyor of transporters.
In Star Trek, you can’t beam through shields. We’ll ignore all the times they do beam through shields as this is a discussion of the tech, not the shows inconsistent writers. You’re battling an enemy, both have your shields up. No transporting. Fair enough. Though that removes the story potential of having to deal with a boarding party and fight the ship.
Unless the shields drop for a brief period, long enough to transport. Okay, so far so good. But wait, why would you beam troops over? Why don’t you beam over a big ass bomb? You’re fighting each other to the death right? A big ass bomb beamed into the enemies ship and BOOM! You’ve won!
You could say on Star Trek, that’s not the kind of thing Starfleet would do. Fair enough. But that wouldn’t stop their enemies from doing it. Even if Klingon honor might somehow be justified to stop it, why wouldn’t Cardassians or Romulans do it? This was used to good effect in Stargate. The Daedalus beamed over nukes inside Wraith ships until they figured out how to jam the beam.
So that’s one way to deal with transporters, make it so you can’t use them most of the time. That gets around the bomb option but effectively makes it so you don’t have them. You could technobabble it; make up some reason you can’t beam a bomb over but can beam a person (whose potentially carrying a bunch of small bombs on him). But that’s stupid.
So how do you open the door for transporters to allow beaming from ship to ship, without opening the door for a bomb exploit, or making the device useless most of the time?