Traveling great distances without moving is a bedrock concept in human mythology, fiction, scientific research, and common culture via magical, supernatural, or advanced scientifically knowledge means. This takes the forms of teleporters, transporters, and portal guns in science fiction. These nearly magical devices are able to BAMF! a person, an army, weighted companion cube, or a starship from Point A to Point B nearly instantaneously that could be "not quite as fun as a good solid kick to the head”. In this article, FWS will be exploring the nature of the long-held dream of instant travel, the science, and explaining the military applications of such near-mythical and nearly instant technology of matter transmission.
The Three Types of Matter Teleportation
1. There is an technology device, circle of stones, or magic spell that allows for a hole in the fabric of space/time that can transport Schrödinger's Cat from Point A to Point B in a complete whole state.
2. There is nearly-magical machine that breaks down Schrödinger's Cat molecular at Point A and then is reassembled bit-by-bit at Point B.
3. In the 3rd type of matter teleportation, Schrödinger's Cat is broken down and the pattern of the kitty is sent to Point B and reassembled there using raw materials on the other side...like a biological 3D printer or fax machine.
The Most Common Names of Matter Transmitters
As we have discussed many times on FWS, creators often throw around various terms for machinery that accomplishes similar purposes, and that can be applied to sci-fi matter transmitters. Here is a list of the most common terms used for matter transmission and their differences.
The most commonly used term for matter transmission devices and their operation is the teleporter in both the real-world discussions and in-universe works. This can be found throughout science fiction and even in the realm of fantasy with various magical spells that involve traveling without moving. This term can be used without invoking a certain fictional device, such as using the term "transporter", which is directly associated with Trek
While an amusing series of action films starring Jason Statham that featured the last good BMW 7-series made, the term “transporter” is most closely associated with the originator of the term, Star Trek: The Original Series
. When I read the term “transporter” in the context of a matter transmitter device, like most people, I connect to the Federation variety. This has caused the term to be loaded and today, it is a generalized term for matter transmission by the general public due to the popularity of Star Trek
along with "beaming".
Given that hard connection to the widely known machine in Star Trek
, and is known the world over, its usage is generally avoided by creators.
The Portal Projector/Portal Gun
Opening portals that serve as a bridge between one location and other is a common theme throughout mythology, alternate history, scientific research and sci-fi. At times, these portals are small for personal travel like we have seen in Rick & Morty
, then at times, these portals are big enough for starships and larger formations of troopers, as we have seen in gates from the Stargate
franchise. Often portal projectors take the form of a gun-like device and with the two most iconic current works: Rick & Morty
using portal guns, it has developed traction in the minds of creators.
Transmitter and Receiver vs. the All-In-One-System
When it comes to the standard concepts of teleporter technology, there is often two pieces: the matter transmitter and the matter receiver; much like a radio. These two pieces allow for limitations of this powerful technology that blocks a wielder of the teleporter to rule over the Earth like a god or Rick Sanchez. If the item needing to be teleported has to be placed through a transmitter to a receiver to cover the distance, you have to possess the two pieces and keep them secure…hence the plot of way too many Stargate
episodes and the 1994 movie. If you are to have a teleportation system that does not rely on either the transmitter or the receiver; then you have a powerful weaponized system that can overwhelm the society that constructed it as the article on Atomic Rockets
points out. Let us consider the following on these systems. With just a teleporter receiver, this system could be used, with powerful enough scanners or the correct intelligence, to bamf!
away any object or person that is in range. No more organs, gold, key general, or the super-secret war machine. It just goes away to be taken by your enemy. You are dickish god able to steal all of the candy away from the babies…or nuclear weapons. With just the transmitter, you become a mad bomber, able to beam in countless bombs, hordes of locust, Borg drones, or red shirt security officers. The very familiar Star Trek
transporter is such an example of an all-in-out-teleporter-system that can and does operations like this. However, for the sake of the integrity of the story and the very universe, there are limits placed on the Transporter, like shields, range, computer crashes, and supernatural phenomena.
The Harsh Reality of the Transporter
"Magical" is the best to describe the operation of most sci-fi teleporters when one considers the actual reality of breaking down a human being on board ship and then re-assembling them planetside. According to an article I read from November of 1995, there are two major factors preventing the matter transmission of human beings has represented by a teleportation system: power requirements and computer storage space. To breakdown something has vastly molecularity complex as a human into a matter stream being would require such a massive amount of energy that it would be equal all of the power produced on Earth in a single year and plus some. Somehow, I don’t think the USS Enterprise
matter/anti-matter reaction is up to that task, despite what is seen on-screen. If that were possible, and that is a BIG if, than there is the issue of the computer storage space needed to convert a human being from atoms to bits. It is estimated that a human being is composed of 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms that all must be cataloged and contained into to reform Mr. Spock back into Mr. Spock.
But wait! It gets worse! The exact location of each atom must be accorded for, which takes the three coordinates along with the current internal state of each atom. In the article, the author says that if that atomic information could be store in a single kilobyte, it would take 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilobytes to store the pattern of Mr. Spock in the transporter system. To put that nosebleed number in some perspective, the author states that all the books in existence would only take 10,000,000,000,000 kilobytes to store, which less than Mr.Spock’s pattern in the buffer. All of this is assuming that the break down and transmission of human beings is possible along with assembly at the terminus point. With these two massive numbers, we run into an uncomfortable situation: the length of time. To re-assembly Mr. Spock, all of that data would have to transfer and that would take a great deal of time. How much time? According to the article…billions of years. However, he does cite that given the process of technological advantage that could have been solved by the 23rd century.
Then we come to momentum and local matter density. If you are running away from hostile aliens and the Enterprise
beams you up, you would still be running when the process is completed and this would also apply to you standing on a world that rotates. Terra rotates at 1000 MPH, by the way. This would cause issues and that spin of the planet will cause you to each be tossed up into the air or thrown to the ground. Lovely. Then there is the issue of teleporting into another object. If the sensors are off, you rematerialize into rock or a tree or an SUV. This would be bad and messy. However, teleporting into an atmosphere has the same effect. You would be teleporting into a mass of air. Atomic Rockets as a cure for this...pump the air out of the location you are rematerialization and when Mr. Spock teleports, he brings his air with him to avoid the mass of air at the transport site.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Schrödinger's Cat
Then there is the larger issues associated with the use of teleporting. For Mr. Spock to be reconstructed at the desired location, the breakdown process would have to include the exact position of each particles, which runs into the Uncertainly Principle. Technology could help us over come the Uncertainty Principle, but that could take time and Then we run into Schrödinger’s cat, which informs us that either Mr. Spock is dead or alive or both...but we not know until the teleportation process is concluded. This would not put anyone at easy.
Is It an Transporter, Cloner, or Suicide Machine?
Many articles on the subject of the real science and harsh reality related to sci-fi devices like the Star Trek
transporter often bring up an uncomfortable point-of-view on these magical plot-device instant travel machines: are the transporters actual a suicide machine? We know that for the transporter to function as seen on screen, it must breakdown the molecular structure of an object, then transmit it, then reassemble the object at its desired location. Some articles and videos online claim that the “original” person being transported from the Enterprise
down to the planet surface is actually killed and a copy emerges on the planet surface. To some, this means that every time Captain Picard steps into the transporter, he is committing suicide over and over again...willingly. Some have argued that what if the person's mind is the element that is wiped out in the break-down and reconstruction process. If the body gets broken down to its a molecular pattern and teleported, does the mind, memories, and emotions follow? Would the person be mentally the same when they rematerialized? Are they clone of the original? These questions are still more in the hands of philosophy and science fiction than in the realm of science, because we simply do not know.
FTL Portal Space Travel and Jumpgates
Faster-than-light space travel is as common in sci-fi as Starbuck’s it seems and fictionalized FTL travel comes in all forms as does the starships that traverse the vastness of outer space. One interesting method of space travel is the use of teleportation technology mostly in the form of portals or “jumpgates”. As we have witnessed in the Stargate
franchise and the Buck Rogers
TV show, the interstellar network of FLT wormhole portals is able, in some cases, to allow for space vehicles to travel from Stargate
portal to portal. This type of space travel that is almost like traveling without moving, can be applied to the Spacing Guild from the DUNE universe. The tricky thing is that at times, the travel between the portal entrance and exit is nearly instantaneous and other times, there is actually travel time between the two locations which makes it not much of a traditional portal or a jumpgate. The length of time between the entrance and exit points in Jumpgate FTL space travel varies greatly between works and at times, changes within a work based on another creative input.
The Importance of Setting Limits (as seen in Star Trek)
At times, it is too easy to make a weapon too powerful, an FTL too fast, armor too strong, and machine too able to circumvent the laws of physics and good storytelling. The production staff and writers of Star Trek
knew that they had to set limits for the warp drive of their show, or else the Enterprise
would run out of galaxy to explore and run low on dramatic tension. The same concept was applied to the nearly-magical transporter. If these teleporters are not handled correctly, they are a narrative dead-end and since the very notion of matter transmitters is basically unobtainum, as Atomic Rockets put it, they are difficult to place in a more realistic setting. Star Trek
did a good job, of sorts, of putting limits on the overwhelming tactical advantage that the transport would give both friend and enemy. Which can make resistance and armed conflict futility. Demons of air and darkness indeed.
The Military Application of Teleportation Technology
This is the central question that many rise when discussing the application of teleporters in a military sci-fi setting: how could a future military organization apply this magical technology? This answer largely depends on the type of matter transmitter we are talking about and the limitations placed on the teleporter from the creator. If is like the Star Trek
transporter, or the Iconian gates, or the Gate system seen in Stargate
; than some of the tactical application have been explored. Matter transmission would revolutionize the movement of soldiers, equipment, and vehicles on and off of the battlefield.
An orbital invasion platform could simply open portals and import entire legions of space marines, mecha, and tanks onto the planet without any of the standard warnings of landing craft or drop ships. If an in-field unit needed more rations, bullets, batteries, or foot powder than the mother ship could beam their logistical needs to them instantly. No more supply train that an enemy could strike or the lag of transit time between ship and shore. This solves a major issue of getting hardware and people into outer space AKA "starlift capability". In Ken Burnside’s book “Orbital Mechanics” he states that the most effective rockets that can transport supplies and space marines from surface-to-orbit operation at a ratio of the launch mass being “94% fuel and 6% payload
”. Teleportation could eliminate the need for heavy launch facilities and the rockets. Instead, you would just beam up the rations, coffee, foot powder, and laser gun batteries in the blink of an eye from surface to orbit then back again once you reach the target planet. While the energy saving may not work out over rocket space transportation, the time would.
In addition, depending on the type of matter transmitter, you may not even need the orbital platform. Your army, its hardware, and supplies could instantly deploy from their home base of operations and portal over to the enemy frontlines…instantly. But, that is simplistic application of the technology…we all know that and have seen that in other sci-fi works. Imagine if you had the intelligence information and scanning technology to lock on and teleport the organs out of the supreme commander of your enemies’ military? How about transporting a bioweapon into the water supply of the capital city? Removing the processors of the key computers that run critical systems of your enemies’ society or their defense grid? All could be done with a teleporter technology and few keystrokes. Even just popping over nuclear devices with 2 seconds on the detonator clock onto the command centers of their warships is an easy way to end a space battle.
This was seen when the Daedalus
battled the Wraith hive fleet in Season 1 finale of SG:A
. However, these scenarios are depending on Star Trek
like transporters or portal gates.What if we were to alter the technological specifications of the matter transmission equipment to where the hardware of transmission and reassembly has to be constructed prior to use? No more orbital mothership beaming down shocktroopers and mecha to your occupy your neighbor Starbuck’s or pulling the heart of out of the senior military leadership. Instead, to teleport an invasion force onto their homeworld, you to physically assemble an exit portal gate on their home dirt...and therein lay a major strategic problem In order to teleport the army on mass to the planet surface, a convention planetary insertion would have to be mounted with the specialized unit of gate/port builders to form a “teleport beachhead” on the enemies’ homeworld. More on that concept below.
The Strategic Impact of Teleportation Technology: "Demons of Air and Darkness"
Imagine that the Dalek Empire could simply teleport millions of those angry, tin-plated murder-happy pepperpots that have intergalactic genocide on their mad little minds onto the streets of every major city on Terra? For the most part, the invasion is over and the occupation has already began giving credence to the concept of the “7 hour War” from the Half Life
universe. What would the strategic impact of having a military armed with matter transmitter technology be? If we are framing this with Star Trek
style transporters, we can see that immediately that the basic concepts of warfare are altered. Hardened strategically important locations on the planet surface are accessible in ways that relegate walls, minefields, gates, and other physical barriers meaningless.
Take for example that your enemy’s super-secret C3 center is located in a mountain range that is imposing geographically and any conventional attack would come at a high cost? Beam a few Daisy Cutters into the primary structure and problem solved. Given this, the question becomes does this mean that you cannot run or hide from the finger of god like power that the teleport bestows on your enemy? Maybe. I think it comes down to the enemy’s reconnaissance capability, intelligence gathering, and surveillance technology. Just using Google Earth to examine a foreign major city and see if you can pick out the likely targets for either ordnance delivery or inserting Special Operations units.
Just because you possess the technology does not mean you can apply it with any real strategical effectiveness. Some site would be obvious, like spaceports, most military bases, major cities, and power generation facilities; others would not be. Underground facilities would be well-hidden, like the Genii did for the Wraith threat, and it would be difficult for an enemy to locate those sites. If sensitive sites, like a backup C3 center or operational base are hidden in plain sight in warehouse districts or even larger homes, the enemy would need to figure out where they are in order to beam down a bomb or SEAL Team Rick. After all, just because the US modern military has night vision, smart bombs, and laser target destination does not mean the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan is powerless or not able to mount operations. It took many years to locate the most wanted man on the planet after all. Every technology has limitations, and teleporters would as well. One of the primary strategic concerns with facing enemy equip with teleporters is how to attack your enemy and prevent them from destroying every attempt formation of troops and equipment. This would make the hub of the teleport technology, like an orbital mothership, be the focus of all of the enemies offensive capability. If that technology was robbed or destroyed, the enemy would be much easier to defeat due to their reliance on the matter transmission technology to win wars for them.
One Possibility: The Gate Construction Operation Teams (GATECON)
If mass teleportation of military hardware and soldiers was indeed possible, there would like be the need for a beachhead force to establish a secure Teleportation Zone (TZ) to allow for the demons of air and darkness to come pouring through the portal and mount the planetary invasion. This would mean the need for specialized troopers to establish these TZ sites. Thus, we have the Gate Construction Special Operations Team (GATECON) that are tasked with being sort of an off-world Seabees unit that can drop in and assemble the teleportation gate along with securing the TZ until enough friendly units arrive through the newly constructed stargate to secure the TZ and then move to the planetary invasion.
The Love/Hate Relationship that Star Trek has with their Transporters
and its creator always had an uncomfortable relationship with the military science fiction aspects associated with the world of the 23rd and 24th centuries. Many of the powerful military and strategic applications of such technology are not utilized effectively by anyone in the any of the series for the most part. The real reason for this lack of tactical application is due to two elements: Roddenberry and creating entertainment. To his credit, Gene Roddenberry was attempting to create a show to demonstrate a positive future for the human race during a tense time in global history. He did this again, to a greater degree, with The Next Generation
in 1987. He was not interested in an action-centered show like the many western that populated 1960’s TV. That would preclude the overly tactical use of the transporter from a philosophical point-of-view. Then there is coming at this from the perspective of the story writer. While the transporter has allowed for exploration of new storylines via this nearly-magical plot device along with saving cash on special effects, it has to be wrangled in narratively from time-to-time to prevent the transporter from become magically god-like tool of violence and judgement. In my experience, every time that someone on a Star Trek
show suggested using the transporter for tactical use, it was shot down as we saw in the TNG
episode “Legacy”. At times, other works within the Star Trek
brand have used the transporter for less-than-honorable purposes. In some ST
video games, the transporter could be used to beam out needed supplies and disable interior systems. In the realm of the FASA Star Trek RPG,
players did indeed used the transporter of all manner of tactical purposes that the show ignored.
Science Fiction and the Matter Transmitter
While the concept of teleportation has been an established in folklore and mythology, it entered into science fiction in the genre’s early days: 1877 &1885. One of the lost and forgotten greats of early science fiction was Edward Page Mitchell, who pioneered some of the bedrock concepts of sci-fi, including a machine that performs teleportation that was featured in the 1877 story “The Man without a Body”. Then there the Robert Duncan Milne short story that either goes by the name “Professor Vehr's Electrical Experiment” or “Baron von Steinbach's Soul” appeared in the January 24th, 1885 issue of The Argonaut Magazine and contained the concept of a teleporter via what Milne called “an astral-travel device”. While mostly forgotten today, Robert Duncan Milne was one of the founding fathers of science fiction, especially in America. His writing career was cut short when this Scottish immigrate stumbled drunk in front of a San Francisco street car in winter of 1899, killing him. The story is similar to The Fly
, but with a dog, and it was one of the earliest published sci-fi stories on the subject of a teleporter. Since then, the concept of teleportation has been sown into the basic DNA of science fiction and it would reappear time and time again…but the greatest moment for sci-fi and teleportation came on September 8, 1966.
When the concept of teleportation was married with visual science fiction via Star Trek
, it altered the way that society, at large, viewed matter transmission technology. Suddenly, here was a TV show that fully displayed the concept of matter-energy teleportation as a pillar of the show and frequent story device. When Star Trek
premiered in 1966, the technology of the 23rd century became part of the cultural zeitgeist along with the prime example of these futuristic technologies like the phaser, the communicator, and warp drive and of course, the transporter. For much of wider society, the term "transporter" replaced "teleporter" as the common term for matter-energy transportation. When came to portals, it was popularized by many works, but especially Stargate SG-1
and the Valve 2007 video game Portal
. Today, the concept of portals has taken up and turbo-charged by Rick & Morty.
From the Fox Mulder Corner: Real-World Teleporters?
Given my life-long love for all manner of conspiracy theories and paranormal subject matter, it was a natural fit to discuss the popular tales of real-world teleportation and secret government experiments associated with teleportation.
The Montauk Project
This is one of the better known secret government black labs in the United States and has been a popular subject for conspiracy theorists and fans since I was a boy. Interestingly enough, the popularity and notoriety of Montauk inspirited the TV show Stranger Things
. The odd thing is that some of the actual behavior by the US military concerning the Air Force station and Camp Hero at Montauk, Long Island is puzzling and odd, especially when connect to the 1967 Shag Harbor UFO crash. According to a survivor of the human experiments at the site, the US military was able to use the technological and scientific knowledge acquired in the infamous 1943 Philadelphia Experiment to undertake Project Phoenix II after the USAF base at Montauk was closed in 1969.
When the base was reopened in 1971, the experiments on subjects were undertaken by 1973. One of the key providers of information was a man named Duncan Cameron, who states that he was the work-product of the Phoenix II & III Projects along with their primary source of psychic abilities. According to Duncan himself, he was placed in the “Montauk Chair” that was invented in 1974 to harness his gift to be used for something called “psychic espionage”. What the chair did was use EM fields to greatly extend Cameron’s and others natural psychic abilities to the point of being a source of intelligence for the US government.
With this extension and with a personal object, Cameron could channel onto a specific person and hack-into their own POV and use the original Cray-1 Supercomputer to translate some of the data…which were not available in 1974. Then mind-control experiments began and so did the child experiments on about 10 subjects. This is junction when the portals come into being. With an updated Montauk Chair, Cameron could create objects using the power of his mind and then open portals in spacetime. At this time, around 1979, legions of homeless were “recruited” and pushed into the portals. Some came back, others did not. These subjects were flung around locations in different times, alternate universes, and even off-world. According to several articles, thousands were lost due to Cameron’s lack of complete control over the spacetime portals. The time travel and portal portion of the Montauk Project was called “Phoenix III”. When the control over the portals became improved, the government pushed for Cameron to open stable portals on Mars to bridge Earth with her Martian colony. Yep. You read right. According to an article I read, Mr. Cameron informs us that the US and the USSR went to Mars in 1962, one year after man first went into outer space, and established a joint off-world installation.
Not only was Duncan instructed to open a portal for connecting Mars to Earth in a faster way, but also to send “away teams” to investigate the ruins at Cydonia. With Cameron’s control over spacetime, he sent teams to visit Cydonia when it was populated, some 100,000 years ago. However, it all came to end on August 12th, 1983, just shy of my 7th birthday. When Phoenix III opened a portal to the site of the Philadelphia Experiment, the USS Eldridge
, it caused much concern about the mission of the project and the integrity of spacetime. Certain members of the project implanted a phase into the subconscious of Cameron to unleash a projected monster…the Beast from the Id. It did the "Hulk Smash" thing and caused the project to be shutdown. To cover up the project, the test subjects were reprogramed and the base was shut down. Some believe that there is still some activity at the base to this very day.
The 1943 Philadelphia Experiment
One of the most common teleporter conspiracy theories is that during World War II, the best scientific minds in the United States were working on a technology to mask naval vessels from the heavy losses inflicted by German U-Boats. The platform for these experiments, codenamed RAINBOW, was the newly completed the Cannon
class Destroyer-Escort, the USS Eldridge
. According to the much repeated myth, the destroyer was teleported, in the blink of an eye, several hundred miles and fused some of the crew into the ship itself. Due to the horror of the results, the RAINBOW program was cancelled and the matter was covered up. According to others, this led to the Phoenix Project discussed above along with an just okay movie and hundreds of entries on the internet about this event.
1593 Transported Soldier
Another common teleportation story that pops up is the strangle tale of a 16th century Spanish soldier named Gil Perez. He was assigned as a guard at the Governor’s palace in Manila, Philippines. According to the legend, on October 24th, 1593, this guard was somehow teleported thousands of miles to Mexico City. When confronted he informed them of the news that Governor Gomez Perez Dasmarinas was killed by Chinese pirates, which the news had not yet reached the shores of Mexico. He was released and allowed to return to the Philippines and his story became a Mexican folklore.
The Stargate of Amaru Meru
One of the best known ancient possible Stargate portals is located in the southern Peru Hayu Marca Mountains at 6°10′14.5″S 69°32′27.92″W. This little cut portion in a rock formation is called Puerta de Hayu Marca or “Gate of the Gods” and it has been said to be an interdimensional portal. According to legend, it was activated during the invasion of the Spanish to the Inca region, a priest by the name of Amaru Meru escape through the T-shaped portal in the rock face with an artifact called “the key of the gods” and the shaman at the site used a gold disc that was inserted into the back wall of the portal notch. This spun-up the activation of the portal and Amaru Meru disappeared never to be seen again. That disc-shaped notch can still be seen to this very day, but no one knows why it is there or what the golden disc was or even if it existed. This has become a popular spot for tourists to pose and take pictures and not be teleported away.
The Portals of Skinwalker Ranch in Utah
Undoubtedly, one of the creepiest stories I’ve read recently is about the infamous Skinwalker Ranch in Utah. This has been a hotspot for paranormal activity since the 19th century with all manner of paranormal phenomena occurring in and around the nearly 500 arch ranch that encompasses all manner of weird shit. While we could go on and on about the strange doings around this corner of Utah, it is the eye-witness accounts and some video evidence of portals that are the reason for their inclusion on this article.
According to NIDSic investigators and the former owner Terry Sherman, they had seen portal openings that featured skies of other worlds, dimensions, or time period. Depending on the color of the portal, either all manner of cryptids and monsters coming pouring out or UFO-like craft. Oddly, a portal was caught on video back in 2013. It shows a bright light that seems to pulsate and small light zipping around it. According to the theory of what the hell is going at Skinwalker Ranch, it is believed that it is matrix of interdimensional portals that allow creatures and vehicles to go from their reality to ours and back again. Some believe that Skinwalker Ranch is a nexus of portals and could the origin of many UFOs. This reminds me heavily of Stranger Things and if you want a great video on subject that will haunt your night, then click here
According to the conspiracy theory, between 1969 and 1972, DARPA is reported by Arthur Neumann and Andrew D. Basiago to have a secret teleportation program that allowed from missions back in time and in space. Basiago has stated that he was teleported back through time as a boy and even he cites an 1863 photo at the Gettysburg Address that featured a group of young lads as proof of him being there. This teleportation technology also allowed for humans to travel to Mars and make contact with the ETs living there. Basiago as also claimed being portaled to Mars and meeting these Martians as part of a peace program all from a CIA secure “jump room” at El Segundo, California. Look for it if you are in the area.
Examples from Sci-Fi:
The Transporter from Star Trek
One of the bedrock concepts that set the original Star Trek
TV show apart from other science fiction at the time, the transporter, was original (and oddly) developed as a cost-saving plot device by the production to prevent from having a shuttle sequence. While teleportation was a concern familiar to every sci-fi back in the 1960’s, it was the transporter of the USS Enterprise
that set the concept of teleportation ablaze in the minds of the general public. After all, could it be Star Trek
without a transporter? While the in-universe explanation of the original of the transporter was fuzzy until ST:ENT
, the real-world explanation was well established by the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself.
Originally, the good crew of the NCC-1701 was to use conventional shuttles to go from ship-to-shore until budgetary constraints of the models, sets, and filming caused Roddenberry to "invent" this cost-saving shortcut: the Transporter. The genesis of the Transporter is believed to have come from the 1958 movie The Fly.
While Roddenberry had not seen the film by the time of his first draft of Trek
, the concept was communicated to him, causing the machines enter into the series and the lexicon of the globe. According to the in-universe history, the technology was developed for Terra by inventor Emory Erickson and first tested in 2124 that took 90 seconds to materialize.
However, the cost was high with several deaths along the way. One of the first Starfleet ships equipped with a human-safe transporter onboard was the NX-01 Enterprise
, however, the crew was weary of using it. This did not last gone as the Transporter became more and more accepted for ship-to-shore travel. Prior to this, Starfleet only used Transporters for the movement of supplies from shore-to-ship. By the time of TNG
, Transporter technology allowed for site-to-site, without the need for actually stepping onto the Transporter pads.
This time of matter teleportation technology was extremely common throughout the civilizations seen in the Star Trek
universe. It is somewhat a hard rule of Trek
that energy shields prevent the beam-in and beam-out of personnel and equipment. As stated above, most races do not use the Transporter technology for tactical purposes, save for VBSS operations as seen mostly used by the MACOs and Klingons. Captain Picard never beamed over a nuclear bomb or some quantum torpedoes, but that was well within the ability of the technology. In the 2006 PS2 video game, Star Trek: Encounters
, the Transporter is used in the game to steal needed resources from the enemy vessels once their shields are taken down. This was interesting take on the tactical usage of the Transporter and I am not sure if it was used in any other of the Trek
Rick Sandez’s Portal Gun from the Rick and Morty Universe
Taking the place of Doc Brown’s DeLorean DMC-12, is the gun-like portal projector device developed and used by Rick Sanchez throughout the many various realities. Seen in the hands of the Ricks and sometimes Mortys and even a Summer or two through the multiverse, especially C-137, it is a near magical device that allows the Rick and the Morty to move from one place to another just by entering into the green portal. There are many unknowns about the Portal Gun, it can travel to other dimensions, other worlds, and other galaxies and even to be used like a weapon with the right timing. The power that this device gives to the wielder is not lost on others that are not a Rick, like the Federation that has attempted to capture on of the Ricks portal guns. The portal travel technology was upscaled by the Council of Ricks for use on the Citadel as a means of travel.
The Stargates from the Stargate Universe
When it comes to the very concept of portal-to-portal interstellar travel, there is no other example that even comes close to the Stargates from the military sci-fi franchise of the same name. First seen in the uneven 1994 film, it introduced a fantastic concept with the very beginnings of the fictional universe we got in the TV shows. While the Stargate network of wormhole portals was used by many civilizations, like the Terrans, the builders of the Stargates were the so-called Ancients. These gates used addressed composed of six or more astrological symbols to dial-into a specific gate. While the original 1994 film made it very clear that the Terran gate connected to a very, very distant gate located millions of Lightyears away in a fictional galaxy, the show dialed that back until the discovery of the City of the Ancients: Atlantis in the Peagus Galaxy. With an 8 symbol address and a Zero-Point Module power source, you can cross the vast distances between galaxies. With the success of the Stargate
franchise, the concept of the Stargate
has filtered down into society and even into the realm of ancient aliens theory which “borrows” heavily from the show’s mythology.
The Iconian Gateway System from the Star Trek Universe
One of the most compelling and damning examples of the tactical power of portal technology is the long dead Iconian Empire from Star Trek
. Some 200,000 years ago, the Iconians were called "demons of air and darkness" due to their ability to instantly teleport using a gateway teleportation system that allowed travel around the galaxy. Iconian gateways have been discovered in Gamma Quadrant as well as the Alpha/Beta Quadrants. This could make the range of the gateways more than 70,000LYs. They were viewed as magical by the civilizations that the Iconians came into contact (or conquered) with and these more primitive cultures were frightened and threatened by the Iconians. This led to a war that cost the Iconians their empire and homeworld. Captain Picard noted that it could have been possible that some of the Iconians escaped the orbital bombardment of their homeworld all those years ago via the gateways. Only two gateways have been located and both represented a serious threat to the security of the galaxy.
Galactic Federation FTL Portal System from the Rick and Morty Universe
One of the archenemies of the Ricks was the Galactic Federation that was controlled (and founded?) by the insect Gromflomites. In the pilot episode of Rick & Morty,
we see the intrepid pair having to use Federation space travel to return back to Earth due to the Portal Gun running out of charge. During the shootout at the Spaceport Interdimensional Customs, Rick seems to modify a Federation portal system to return home, turning the portal color from Blue to Green. Not much has been explored or explained about the Galactic Federation’s use of portal travel technology. This could be that the creators did not want to continue for the Federation to possess portal technology since it was the pilot. Others have speculated that the Federation only uses portals for official travel only. We have seen that Federation attempting to gain Rick's portal gun. Just remember: The glarp zone is for flarping and unflarping only!
The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device from the HL/Portal Universe
One of the most iconic portal guns in sci-fi is the Apeture Science portal gun from Portal
and Portal 2
and possibly Half-Life 3
. This beetle-like handheld device port is able to project an entry and exit portal to allow for instant travel between, no matter the physical distance…like Earth’s Moon. Interestingly, when the ASHPD opens a linked portal system, the user of the portal device can see through the portal to the destination. Given its popularity, replicas and toys have been made of the ASHPD, however, none open portals to Black Forest Cake or underground facilities controlled by a mad AI.
Beaming Nukes from the Stargate Atlantis episode "The Siege Pt. 3"
When the Wraith finally came to Atlantis, all seemed lost until the USS Daedalus showed up with the ZPM Module. It was the idea of John Shepherd to strike back at the incoming Wraith fleet before they arrived Atlantis. Using the Asgard beaming technology, they teleported nuclear warheads onboard the alien space vampires ships, taking out a few before the counter attack and the Wraith blocking the signals. This was an impressive use of teleporters for offensive operations that makes one wonder why did Picard do this trick with the Borg?
The Transfer Discs from Xenophobe
One of my favorite arcade games of the all-time is 1987’s Xenophobe
by Bally/Midway that was three-player side-scroller shooter that fully capitalized on the popularity of ALIENS. Ported to every major system including the NES and ATARI 7800, Xenophobe
featured an intrepid band of humanoids battling to clear the various forms of aggressive Xeno infestation from shuttles, starships, stations, and moonbases. These interstellar bug stompers are transported from site to site via a cool-looking ship that is equipped with a unique form of matter transmitter: the transfer disc. These small saucer shaped short-range craft de-materialize the player’s character, and transverse the distance between the ship and the infestation site. The player’s character is reassembled when the transfer disc enters into the infestation site. How the transfer disc enters into these structures is unknown and never shown…which means I am likely overthinking this.
The Liberator Teleporter from Blake’ 7
One of my personal favorite teleport devices in space-centered sci-fi was the Liberator
teleporter from the classic British sci-fi show, Blake's 7.
It was handled well within the show and had the use of these special bracelets to allow for the teleporter to work. Without the bracelets, the process could not work...which allowed for an excellent plot device element. When the teleporter is first discussed in the show, 1x03 "Cygnus Alpha", it seems that Avon and Blake worked on a matter transmission project that used a special alloy. The special effect used for the Teleporter were viewed as cheap, but they have a certain charm like the SFX on the classic Dr. Who a
nd they were unique that set this teleporter away from Trek
The ENCOM SHV 20905 Digitizing Laser from TRON and TRON: Legacy \
The method of matter transportation from our world to the world of the computer seen in 1982 and 2010 films was via the ENCOM SHV-20905 Digitizing Laser that was nicknamed "Shiva". At the time of the first film, the ENCOM company was working on the process of taking a physical object, like an orange, and breaking it down in a digital code, then back again. When Flynn decided to use the terminal in the laser lab to hack into the network, the MCP engaged the laser and broke Flynn down digitally to serve as a slave on the game grid. An improved Shiva Laser was used by Flynn to travel back and forth during the 2010 sequel that later propelled his son into the digital realm. In the real-world, the ENCOM laser set was an actual laser lab at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, California that was constructed in 1977. The film crew was tightly controlled over the course of the four day shoot. The production team shot the ENCOM scenes there in 1981. It was the first movie to film at the LLNL. Later, Star Trek: Into Darkness
was filmed there, standing in for the engine room on the Enterprise.
The Sky Vault Space Station Transporter Beam from The Centurions
The 1980’s wee a wondrous time in toy development and we were spoiled for choice back then. One of the more bold and interesting military science fiction cartoon and toy line from 1986 called The Centurions. This marriage of Ruby-Spears animations and Kenner toys with design/creative input from Jack Kirby and Gil Kane created a very unique product that had the heroes donning exo-suits that could be modified for the mission via load-outs. Each of the basic exo-suit operators had an operational environment specialty (land, water). The ability for the exo-suits to be changed in the field was accomplished by a matter transmitter operated by the lovely Crystal Kane (sounds like something Walter White would cook up) onboard the orbital “Sky Vault” space station. Yes, the base of operations of this special team is in orbit and that is where their supply line originates from. Hidden in their underground, Earth-based HQ was in NYC and it featured a teleportation pod for transfer between the Sky Vault and dirt-side.
The Vidiian Organ Harvesting Transporter-Weapon from ST:Voyager
One of the biggest disappointments of ST:VOY
was the lack of terrifying enemies that were not the Borg. While somewhat interesting, the Kazon gangs were stillborn and thankfully left behind by the series after Season 2. Among the species encountered by Voyager
in the first two seasons was the Vidiians. Now, here was a race that was both clinical and savage, and I wished the Voyager
production team had done more with them. In the backstory of the Vidiians, the peaceful race was devastated by a horrific disease, the Phage, and it altered the destiny of the once promising race. With billions dead and more slowly dying from the Phage, the Vidiians committed themselves to finding a cure at whatever the cost.
Now, the Vidiians are a marauding ghoulish shell of themselves that harvest the organs of biologically compatible alien races to find a cure or spare parts. With this mission, the Vidiian medical technology is very advanced and this symbolized in their handheld device. Combining a surgical tool, powerful medical scanner, and a directed-energy weapon, the Vidiian Harvester. Designed by Rick Sternbach, the Harvester was able to scan a likely victim, determine if the victim had anything of value and then be used to kill or stun the victim, allowing for the surgical harvesting of the biological material. To harvest and store the biological material, the Harvester uses a form of advanced micro-transporter technology. This was horrifying seen in all of its forms during the excellent second season 1996 episode “Deadlock” when the Voyager
is doubled and one of the Voyagers is boarded and attacked. During this, it is like a buffet for the assaulting Vidiians, who kill and harvest at will. One of the best episodes of the show.
Teleporter Technology from They Live (1988)
In one of the finest sci-fi movies of the 1980’s is 1988’s They Live
and it has developed into full-blown cult classic. In the film, the aliens are able to use wrist device that look like watches that open teleportation portals. At another point in the film, our two heroes encounter a human collaborator that assumed that our heroes are part of the conspiracy and brings them down into an underground alien spaceport hub. Using some sort of gravitation lens, the aliens and human collaborators are able to move from world to world without starships.
The Mirror Universe Tantalus field from ST:TOS "Mirror, Mirror"
In the Original Series iconic episode "Mirror, Mirror", one of the more horrific devices used by the Terran Empire to instill fear and obedience was the Tantalus Field. Mounted in the Captain's quarters, the Tantalus Field was designed to kill and leaving no trace, causes fear in the survivors. Little was mentioned on how the device worked, it was based on Transporter technology that allowed the captain of the ISS Enterprise
to eliminate anyone they wanted. While the Tantalus Field was not seen again in any of the other Mirror Universe TV episodes, it was recycled in some of the books and comics. In the original DC Star Trek
Comic, The Empire invades our universe and the Tantalus Field is used to disable the Imperial captured USS Excelsior
by the ISS Enterprise
and even to power the saucer section of the ISS Enterprise
. This story that spanned 8 issues from 1984-1985 were some of the best in the entire classic ST
DC Comics run. I actually bought these during their original printing and it was my favorites among the original DC series.
The Folding of Space by the Guild Navigators from the DUNE Universe
Given the vast universe that humanity occupies in the DUNE
franchise, it would be impossible single government to control and unify the worlds and their vast populations. Via the Holtzman Effect that led to the Holtzman Engine, humanity could colonize the known universe. However, FTL jumps were tricky and dangerous due to navigation errors. Rising out of the ashes of the Bulterian Jihad and the prohibition on thinking machines was the Spacing Guild.
The navigators of the Guild used complex mathematics and massive amounts of the spice drug Melange to overcome the need for thinking machines via a Spice-born prescience vision that enabled for much safer space travel...and then the monopoly on folded space travel by the Guild began. Until the development of a navigation machine in the No-Ships, the Guild were the only way to travel between star systems and galaxies. More conventional FTL engines were used within solar systems, they could not fold space in the manner that the Guild did. The Holtzman Engine allowed for the folding of space that cause for a Holtzman Engine equipped starship to appear to travel without moving.
The Monster Door Portals of Monster Inc.
In 2001, the hallowed Pixar Animation Studios, released Monsters Inc
and it was an odd film that does indeed involve portal-based travel. The alternate dimension or reality where the city Monstropolis is based uses portal system to send a trained monster to scare children in order to harvest their screams. These screams are turned into a form of energy that is used as the city's primary power source and the company that harvests these screams is Monsters Inc. These inter-dimensional doors allow for the monsters access to seemingly every child's room in "the human world". These portals are an instant form of travel that crosses dimensions.
The Bodyslider Teleporter from the X-Men Universe
According to Cable’s own words: “Bodysliding is the instantaneous transportation of living tissue from any location to a set of pre-programmed coordinates
”. I first came across this concept in X-Force#1 and it stayed with me as an interesting example of a transporter that is not always tied to Mutant ability. However, since this the Marvel comic universe, the concept of “Bodysliding” is mentioned being a Mutant ability of Cable’s or even Deadpool’s? However, in the comic I read that involved the Bodyslider, Cable would say “Bodyslide by six” and they would teleport in a fashion similar to the ST
Transporter, but with a cooler name.
The Space Bridge from the Transformers Universe
In the iconic Transformer
cartoon, there is a form space teleportation travel that allows for instant travel between Cybertron and the Earth. These are called the Space Bridge. This was invented by the Decepticon Shockwave in 1984 to allow for the Decepticons trapped on Earth to form a link to Cybertron and transport the Energy Cube back to the crippled machine world. These Space Bridges became a common battle ground between the Autobots and the Decepticons throughout the series until the situation changed on Cybertron. One of the best storylines in the original Marvel comic dealt with literary Space Bridge on Cybertron and the remains of the Autobots on Cybertron to deal with it. Teleportation travel using Space Bridges was commonly seen in the Transformer
universe from then on in comics, video games, other cartoon, and even one of the live-action "films".
The Cylon Resurrection Technology from tBSG
Another form of teleportation is the nearly magical Resurrection technology of the Cylons as seen in the rebooted re-imagined BSG
series that allows for the Bioroid Cylons to “download” their conciseness and memories into a new body. This is one of the more interesting forms of teleportation in the realm of Military SF. The trick is that there has to be a Resurrection hub or the Resurrection ship in range or else the data is lost. Resurrection reminds of me Google Chrome when you log into a new computer and everything is just there. Pioneered by the original 13th Tribe of Kobol, it was “lost” when those Cylons settled Earth and began sexual reproduction some thousands of years prior to the Fall of the 12 Colonies.
On Earth, the Final Five Cylons were able to rediscover Resurrection technology after being warned about a looming apocalypse. When a nuclear holocaust is unleashed on Earth, the Final Five are resurrected onboard their orbiting space station in new bodies. With their world in ashes, the Final Five Cylons had no home and decided to travel through the gulf of deep space to the 12 Colonies star system and warned them of mistreating artificial life and prevent another holocaust. By the time, over 2, 000 years, the Final Five starship arrived at the 12 Colonies, the 1st Cylon War was well underway and the Final Five made a deal with the revolting Cylons, giving them Resurrection technology.
One of the ways that Resurrection technology was used in the series that impressed was when Hera was kidnapped by the Cylons. Unable to mount a rescue operation, Sharon asks her husband to kill her, allowing for her “ghost” to travel from the Galactica to the Basestar and then Resurrect into a new body and locate her child. This is rather impressive and a form of long-range teleportation of a form. The scene itself is heartbreaking and one of the best moments in the amazing series.
The UAC Teleporter Device from the DOOM Universe
Sown into the backstory of every DOOM
game is the central story of Union Aerospace Corporation constructed some sort of portal that was either designed to be a breakthrough in space travel or energy generation that instead leads to the demons from hell breaking through into our realm. Soon after everything goes to shit and you, brave space marine, are tasked with kicking ass and chewing bubblegum.
The Breach from Pacific Rim
At the beginning of the interesting, but uneven Pacific Rim
film, there is this about the appearance of the alien Kaiju: "We always thought alien life would come from the stars, but it came from deep beneath the sea; a portal between dimensions in the Pacific Ocean".
In the film, various Kaiju emerge from the icy depths of the Challenger Deep, near Guam due to a interdenominational portal-rift that connects Earth to the "Anteverse". This was an cool take on where the monsters come from and I thought it was on of the more unique portal examples in military sci-fi.
The Sikarians’ “Spatial Trajector” from the episode “Prime Factors” from ST: VOY
I've always thought that Voyager
could have been better if the two crews had been more at odds, much like what we saw in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica
. In the episode "Prime Factors" from the first season, the Voyager crew runs across the Sikarians and their use of the Trajector. This matter transportation device allows the Sikarians access to worlds some 40,000LYs beyond their homeworld via a space folding method. Some of the crew take upon themselves to gain the Trajector and attempt to use it to space fold Voyager
40,000 lightyears closer to the Alpha Quadrant. However, the planet itself is part of the equation that allows the Trajector to work and when some of the Voyager
crew attempt to use their acquired Trajector matrix, it nearly destroys the ship and did not get the ship any closer to home, but it exposed some elements of the newly mixed crew.
The JLA Teleporter from Justice League of America Comics
During my 1980’s random comic book buying, I owned a few JLA comics and I noticed the usage by the JLA of a teleporter tube in the comics that seemed mostly based on their space station: the Justice League Satellite 1. This was used to teleport the JLA members around the surface of Earth nearly instantly, but the technology was not always reliable. At times, the destination was not the same as intended...like the TARDIS. The JLA teleporter was believed to have been based on Thanagar or Martian technology.
The Hellmouth from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Universe
In the iconic Buffy the Vampire Slayer
TV series, Sunnydale, California is position over a so-called “Hellmouth" that allows continuious work for a slayer. According to the show and Christian mythology, a Hellmouth is a location that allows for the passage of demonic creatures to pass from Hell to the Earth. In the show, the Hellmouth allowed creations to cross over with greater easy due a weakness in the barrier between their realm and ours. This is expressed in the show as a “portal” between Earth and Hell.
The Hanen Interstellar Transportation Device from Think Like a Dinosaur
In 1995, American science fiction author James Patrick Kelly penned an award-winning short-story of the “gift” interstellar teleportation by an alien race that looks like Dinosaurs. This was adapted into an episode of The Outer Limits in 1996, which is where I learned of the story of when humanity was given access to the stars by the logical, emotionless Dinosaur race called the Hanen. On the Moon, a sole human operator is tasked with destroying the original body of the “jumper” that uses the teleporter who are both human and alien. According to the concept, the Hanen teleporter is used for interstellar travel, which creates a duplicate of the jumper at the destination point. The original jumper is destroyed at the transfer station. Thus, balancing the equation of there being two of the same person in the universe…but is it murder?
That question is taken up when one of the human jumpers fails to have her duplicate form on the other end of the teleportation. Her original body is not destroyed and she and the operator get to know one another. Then word comes from the alien world that the jumper did indeed get duplicated and the original must be destroyed to “balance the equation”. This forms a moral issue, especially since this jumper remains the operator of his dead wife. With pressure from the aliens, the operator kills the original via an airlock (sounds like Deep Space 69
). It is later that the operator meets the female jumper again as she is again in the teleportation bay. Awkward...
Nightcrawler's Teleportation Ability from the X-Men Universe
There can be no discussion of sci-fi teleportation without the inclusion of the famous Mutant Nightcrawler ability to BAMF! While limited in range, Nightcraweler’s teleportation abilities are formable due to this intelligence, hand-to-hand skills, and experience that also level beyond a smell of brimstone due to the dimension that he pops in and out of during the teleportation process. Within the realm of geek/nerd culture, the BAMF! sound effect is an iconic one that is used often in conjunction with disappearing or teleportation. The sound effect was a result of the air being alternated due to Nightcrawler’s teleportation. During my days in the D&D
world, we used to say “BAMF!” when someone or something was teleportated…and we all understood the reference. Good times.
Next Time on FWS...
It is odd to think that the Colt M16 is the longest serving service rifle in the history of the US military given the issues that the "Mattel Rifle" had in the jungles of Vietnam. And it was almost replaced in 1996 if there had been a successor chosen out of the four advanced military rifles tested during the Advanced Combat Rifle Program
conducted by the US Army and US Air Force between 1986-1990. In the next Guns from the Future
article on FWS, we will be diving into one of the most interesting moments in military firearms history.