AMC recently showed The Fly and it reminded me how much I liked the movie. Jeff Goldblum was great as Seth Brundle, the kooky and amusingly arrogant scientist wonder-boy of Bartok industries.
The film raises a great question about technology- if you have a device which breaks down matter and rebuilds it, what do you get if it screws up? (well, a baboon turned inside-out for starters…:eek: ). I’m surprised there aren’t more films that deal with this.
There was an Outer Limits episode that dealt with it in a way- humans had allied with this alien race that gave them teleportation technology. It was revealed that when a person teleports they are ‘killed’ and a ‘copy’ of that person is created at the destination, with all the prior memories and such. The teleporter fudges up, and doesn’t disintegrate one traveler (so there are two of them, one still there and the other at the destination) and the aliens say the original has to die to ‘complete the equation’ (sucks to be her! )
I’m sure people have also nitpicked a flaw in The Fly’s plot- if it were a fly accidentally introduced in a telepod that caused Seth Brundle to become horribly mutated, what about tiny microorganisms? Bacteria have DNA, why isn’t the teleporter splicing that? Or what about the microscopic critters we have in our digestive tract? I’m guessing he told the computer to ‘screen’ for things like this, or maybe it just doesn’t teleport it (would kind of suck, I’m guesing without that bacteria in your gut you’d have a pretty nasty case of diarrhea each time you teleported :eek: )
I figured there might be in Star Trek. Of course, that series seems to be set at a point in time where the teleporters are pretty sophisticated (after all, they can teleport things/people wirelessly hundreds of miles away!)
There was “Wolf In The Fold” (TOS) - Kirk was split in two. One Kirk was weak and indecisive. The other was reckless and confrontational. The moral was Kirk needed both aspects of his character for balance and he was reintegrated by the end of the episode.
There was the TNG episode where it was revealed that Riker was split in two beaming up from a planet eight years in the past. One Riker remained on the planet until the Enterprise discovered him. The other carried on with his life and career and became the Enterprise’s first officer. The duplicate, Tom, eventually joined the Maquis, stole the Defiant, and was captured by the Cardassians.
“Tuvix” (VOY) - Instead of a character being split in two, Tuvok and Neelix are combined into one half-Vulcan and half-Talaxian humanoid. They come away from this with a clearer insight into the other person’s thoughts and feelings and a new respect for each other.
Larry Niven wrote several stories – “Flash Crowd,” “A Kind of Murder,” “The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club” – in which the teleportation machines (“transfer booths”) never malfunction, but still cause a lot of trouble. The stories are really about the social effects of the technology. E.g., when some interesting ongoing event is shown on television, suddenly everybody wants to be there on the scene, and can get there instantly just by stepping into their booth and dialing a number, and the local police are immediately overwhelmed by the crowd and a looting spree starts.
I’ve written about this issue of “teleportation angst” in Teemings, but the site’s blocked here for me – go to Teemings and you can find it. Basically, there are too many stories where people use a teleporter and something goes wrong. The very first teleportation story had that happen – back in the 1880s. So did the second. There’s a long history of “Bad Teleportation” stories, going back long before George Langelaan ever wrote “The Fly” in the 1950s.
Bad teleporter things in the movies:
The Fly – (original movie) kitten gets lost, hero gets mixed with fly.
The Son of the Fly – Man gets mized with guinea pig (they exchange hands and feet and paws), Man gets mixed with fly.
The Curse of the Fly (don’t recall)
the Projected Man – guy comes through disfigured, gives lethal shocks
Star Trek – lots of examples from the various series. People end up split into good/bad halves, people get stranded or attacked in teleportation space. People get mixed together, people get horribly scrambled (in ST-TMP)
The Fly (remake) – baboon comes out inside out. Brundle gets gene-spliced with fly.
the Fly II – Dog gets scrambled, guy gets scrambled with Son of Brundlefly
The Simpsons in one of the Treehouse of Terror they had “Fly vs. Fly” (great title) Bart gets mixed with fly.
All of this is pretty ridiculoys. Gene splicing seems outside the ability of any sort of teleporter. Judging from the way Brudle’s baboon got turned inside out, I’d think the teleporter was sending things through a higher dimension, and it got inverted. If you want to see how engineers would treat the problem of building a teleporter and getting it properly adjusted, dig up a copy of George O. Smith’s Venus Equilateral.
If there were teleporters IRL, I expect a malfunction would produce the same result as a bad cable TV transmission – i.e., you would come through with some blocks of your flesh just plain missing, or not properly reassembled down to the molecular level. Either way it would kill you. But you wouldn’t end up gene-spliced with something else – something that could do that would be an even bigger technological challenge than teleportation itself.
That’s assuming the teleportation technology operated by disassembling and reassembling your matter. Another kind of teleportation is conceivable – one that operates by “folding space” and creating a portal you can step through intact.
There is a really great-looking movie coming out this fall that deals with a similar issue, but it isn’t a science-fiction movie, so don’t expect your typical high-tech teleporters. I read the novel it was based on, and I fear that if I reveal the title, it’ll spoil more than I am comfortable with. So here’s the title of the movie, in a spoiler box… if you’d rather not find out, I’ll just warn you that it has a great director and an amazing cast (plenty of eye candy no matter your gender or sexual orientation), and it’s a period piece.
There was an episode of TNG where a research station was destroyed just as Commander Riker was beaming to the Enterprise. An investigation (that at various points came up with different ways Riker could have been involved, including turning and firing at a nearby important glowing piece of equipment with his phaser at the last moment) eventually showed that the destruction of the station was partially due to the glittery bits we see in Star Trek transporter beams. I can’t remeber if a piece of malfunctioning equipment shot a beam of energy at Riker or if the guy running the station fired a phaser at him (one was a possible theory, the other was the final verdict), but basically the energy beam bounced off the transporter beam and hit the expensive load-bearing device, resulting in the destruction of the space station.
And of course, there is the Mirror Universe, which doesn’t quite fit in this thread, but passage from one universe to the other was invariably the result of either a transporter malfunction or transporter tampering (in one episode of DS9, the Mirror Universe Miles O’Brien jumps to the main universe to kidnap Sisko and bring him back to the Mirror Universe).
As a rule, I like the mirror universe, what with all the female character suddenly becoming either bisexual or lesbian. Also, Mirror Kira was just a load of skanky fun for those episodes.
“You killed my wife.”
“What a coincidence, I was just wondering if you were single!”