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The term transporter suspension referred to the act of using the pattern buffers of a transporter as a means of keeping an individual or individuals in stasis during the matter-energy conversion process. (TNG: "Relics"; VOY: "Counterpoint") The term "suspended in transit" also described the act. (TOS: "Day of the Dove", "The Lights of Zetar")

Although beaming was quick, it had its limits. A person could not stay within the matter stream too long. If this happened, his or her molecular pattern would degrade and the transporter signal would be lost. This signal had to stay above fifty percent to be able to re-materialize the person. A time-frame of around ninety seconds was about the maximum before that fifty-percent signal loss was reached. (TNG: "Realm Of Fear") Minor synaptic stress could also be caused by extended transport, leading to possible unconsciousness, but causing no permanent damage. (VOY: "Future's End, Part II")

Dr. Joseph M'Benga was able to keep his daughter Rukiya alive from Cygnokemia in the 2250s until an entity known "Debra" took her.(SNW: "Ghosts of Illyria", "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach", "The Elysian Kingdom")

When it was believed that the transport of James T. Kirk, Pavel Chekov and Nyota Uhura to the surface of Gamma II was incomplete in 2268, Doctor Leonard McCoy initially thought that their atoms were just "floating around out there," however, Spock assured him that if that were the case those atoms "would show up on our sensors." After an hour had passed of their absence, McCoy inquired whether or not it was possible for "people [to] live that long as disassembled atoms in a transporter beam." Though Spock did not have an immediate answer, nor did it end up being the crux of the situation, he revealed that "I have never heard of a study being done, but it would be a fascinating project." (TOS: "The Gamesters of Triskelion")

Later that year, Montgomery Scott placed Kang and his landing party were suspended in transport after they were beamed aboard with the Enterprise landing party. Chekov, who was under the influence of the Beta XII-A entity, wished to leave them suspended in what he call "non-existance". Later, Scott, echoed Chekov's sentiments after he fell under the same influence, stating "We should have left those fuzz-faced goons in the transporter. That's right where they belong! Non-existence!" (TOS: "Day of the Dove")

When the Enterprise attempted to rescue Cyrano Jones from a Federation scout ship that was under attack by the IKS Devisor in 2269, Montgomery Scott had difficulties transporting Jones aboard the Enterprise, forcing a suspended transport. As transport began, the Enterprise took a hit from the Klothos, which decalibrated the integration parameters. After the Enterprise was subjected to the Klothos' projected stasis field, Scott, who had Jones in the transporter beam, was unable to integrate him because the transporter system had been discoordinated. It still took Scott the same amount of time to put Jones back together as it did for Kirk and McCoy to reach the transporter room from the bridge. (TAS: "More Tribbles, More Troubles")

In 2294, Scott later experienced perhaps the longest recorded instance of a person remaining in transporter suspension. He was able to survive for a period of seventy-five years, while in transporter suspension, after the ship he was on, the USS Jenolan, crashed into a Dyson sphere and he was left with no way to call for help before he ran out of supplies. Scott, with the help of Matt Franklin, was able to store his pattern in the buffer. This was achieved by disabling the rematerialization subroutine, connecting the phase inducers to the emitter array, bypassing the override, and locking the buffer into a continuous level 4 diagnostic cycle. By leaving the transporter in the diagnostic mode, it rerouted the matter array through the pattern buffer. Although Captain Scott's pattern suffered less than 0.003% pattern degradation, and was successfully recovered by Geordi La Forge of the USS Enterprise-D in 2369, Franklin however was victim to the failure of the Heisenberg compensator, which caused one of the inducer modules to experience a critical overload. Though Scott attempted to save the pattern by boosting the gain on the matter stream, the 53% degradation in his pattern deemed Franklin irretrievable. In later discussing Scott and Franklin's jury rigging of the transporter, LaForge thought the part where they locked it into a diagnostic cycle so that the pattern wouldn't degrade, and then cross-connecting it with the phase inducers to provide a regenerative power source was "absolutely brilliant." (TNG: "Relics")

A similar method of transporter suspension was employed by Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager in an effort to hide a group of telepathic refugees from Devore authorities. The crew of Voyager was able to extend this time by using pattern enhancers to prolong the storage of the telepaths in the transporter buffer. However, this process produced serious complications. Acute cellular degradation was found in many of the suspended individuals, due to the fact that Voyager's telepathic guests and crew had to utilize the system of transporter suspension repeatedly over the course of several weeks. Although The Doctor was able to treat them, the degradation was cumulative. Had the process continued, the affected individuals may not have survived any further transports. (VOY: "Counterpoint")

In 3190, the USS Discovery under Captain Michael Burnham had groups of her crew enter the transporter buffer in order to survive a subspace rift created by the Dark Matter Anomaly. Discovery's computer, Zora, was able to bring everyone out of the transporter buffer after getting Discovery out of the rift.(DIS: "Stormy Weather")


Background information[]

The transporter loop premise of "Relics" originated from a story pitch that freelance writer Michael Rupert had submitted earlier, and which already suggested a character from eighty years before suspended in a transporter loop. The story was rejected, but as episode writer Ronald D. Moore recalled, when it was realized that the "transporter loop" concept might be useful, "The story didn't work and we didn't really like it, but the notion of someone staying alive in the transporter was a neat gimmick so we bought the premise from him." It was colleague Michael Piller who came up with the suggestion of using the "gimmick' in conjuncture with a Star Trek: The Original Series character. "Michael said, "That's a neat gag. I wonder if we could use this to bring back an original series character?" Everybody started to prick their ears and we started going through who it could be." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, issue 3/4, p. 22)


Transporter suspension was featured in the computer games Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force and Star Trek: Elite Force II as a method of allowing the player to carry a wide array of weapons without having to deal with any issues of where the person was actually going to put the weapons when not not in use. Elite Force II also included a scene wherein, by use of transporter suspension, the granddaughter of Montgomery Scott kept herself and some colleagues from being killed by exomorphs, the primary enemies in the game.