Fan Question: If Dilithium Can Be Transported, Can It Be Replicated?

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Paramount Can dilithium be duplicated?

In the circles of “Star Trek” fandom, there always seem to be lively debates. Perhaps nothing more than what could be termed as the “original” Trek debate, which started around 1987, with the debut of “The Next Generation.”

Fans who were devoted to Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) were not ready to accept a new crew and a new ship. They certainly did not want to have a bald captain (Picard), who would instead negotiate, replace their swashbuckling hero, who flew his Enterprise by the seat of his pants. 

Actress Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Deanna Troi on “The Next Generation,” remembers those days well. She told the BBC’s Graham Norton exactly how it went on his radio program, which was reported by

“The fans hated the fact that we were on,” Sirtis told Norton. “I mean, people assume because we became so successful that it was always that way. But no, I would go to conventions where there were like 30 people, and they’d all be sitting with their arms crossed going, ‘How dare you take the place of our heroes?’ So we really had to win our audience.”

Eventually, audiences warmed up to Picard, Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Geordi (LeVar Burton), and the rest of the crew. Current Trek boss Alex Kurtzman admitted that these debates are actually good for the fandom and franchise.

“Debate is essential,” Kurtzman told in 2020. “My feeling is that if you’re at a 50/50 split, you’re probably doing well. It’s when you’re at 90/10 that you’re in trouble. So generally, my feeling is that we listen, we try and incorporate what they have to say — and we’re writing as fans ourselves, so it would be foolish of us not to do that.”

So, as Kurtzman explains, debate is part of what keeps Trek fandom excited and engaged. Anyone who questions this is welcome to browse Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit for Trek arguments and debates, which go on constantly.

A Radioactive Question

A recent comment on a “Star Trek: Discovery” Facebook group stirred up debate. One fan asked the following: “When ‘The Burn’ destroyed all dilithium, why didn’t ships just replicate more? Trek history shows that dilithium can be transported, and it works afterwards — so why couldn’t it be replicated?”

Fan question about dilithium.

FacebookFan question about dilithium.

The Burn, of course, is the mysterious plot-driving problem from DISCO’s third season, which caused many Federation ships to explode suddenly. Eventually, audiences learned that the cries of a lonely Kelpian caused The Burn — which some said was “disappointing.”

If this fan theory is correct, then there should have been no need to find a new source of dilithium, which is what happened. In Season 4 of “Discovery,” one of the main aims of the Federation is to share the newly mined dilithium with species to entice them to join.

Post ‘The Burn’

In Season 4 – Episode 1, Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) beam some dilithium to a new humanoid-butterfly species. Trek has maintained that dilithium can be transported as far back as the TOS episode, “The Alternative Factor.”

Thanks to writer Armaan Gvalani, we have a detailed explanation of the transporter process in fundamental terms. Gvalani explains that the “transporter breaks down the being or the object into subatomic particles with high-energy beams and sends it to the desired region. Once there, the constituents are then perfectly reassembled like LEGOs.”

So, if the transporter scans an object to send its chemical and physical ‘blueprint’ to another location, wouldn’t that mean that the information would be stored on the ship’s computer (known as the pattern buffer)? This would allow for the object to be recreated at some point, if necessary.

This happened in the film “The Prestige,” which was by writer and director Christopher Nolan. The film starred Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Scarlett Johanson. The film detailed what would happen to people who use a transporter-like device to entertain a live audience — which was that anyone who was transported was duplicated. The original was killed to preserve the illusion. 

This same thing happened in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to Riker. In “Second Chances,” a second Will Riker is created due to a transporter accident — which is very similar to the situation in “The Prestige.”

Dilithium Cannot Be Replicated

In this conversation, one fan was pretty adamant on the fact that dilithium cannot be replicated, even though it can be transported:

Fan comment about dilithium.

FacebookFan comment about dilithium.

Others disagreed:

Fan comment about dilithium.

Fan comment about dilithium.

And one fan ended the conversation by pointing out that it’s doubtful that the transporter will ever work due to the sheer amount of energy required to break down trillions of atoms of an object, send, and reassemble in a second location:

Fan comment about dilithium.

FacebookFan comment about dilithium.

The math and reasoning behind this argument are better explained by the folks at the site Star Trek Physics

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

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