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Old January 9 2013, 11:58 PM   #15
Just a Bill
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Location: Norfolk, VA
Re: How many transporter rooms on TOS Enterprise?

A mirrored or "flipped" transporter room definitely fits, and has even more space for back-end variation than the canonical layout (due to the entrance being a bit further from the curved corridor). It interferes with the implied outer corridor beyond the A-frame, but then so does the canonical transporter room; so that's a wash, I think.

The problem I have with this, though, is that we never saw a transporter in this configuration. We saw plenty of variations, which makes for an easy justification of multiple transporter rooms on board, but (IIRC) they were always "right-hand" transporters. The real reason we saw multiple transporter rooms and multiple engine rooms that were all oriented the same way, of course, was budget and soundstage limitations — but there is also an in-universe utility argument.

Let's pretend for a moment that there are three redundant bridges, with the two backups arranged to port and starboard. We would never expect the architect to flip one of these so that the turbolift was to starboard, the science station to port, and the navigation and helm positions exchanged. Nor would we expect everything in the even-numbered science labs to be laid out opposite from the odd-numbered ones. Nothing is gained (and something is lost) when you force operators to switch between opposing configurations just because a duty roster changed or a section is down for maintenance.

And we have to consider not only operators but also users (which are sometimes civilians). It might be disconcerting on some conscious or subconscious level for crew to beam up and never quite know whether they're going to go right or left off the platform. Having your visual expectations jarred when you're in the middle of one of the most unnatural processes known to man is probably not advisable. There is some degree of both comfort and efficiency, subtle though they may be, in knowing that you can walk into any mess hall on the ship and you always turn to your right to go to the food dispensers.

As a youth, I discovered something interesting about my brain when I once put my trombone together "left-handed." If I didn't pay very close attention, when I needed to move the slide out my brain wanted to move it in. Neurologically speaking, mirroring is not always as simple as "left is the new right." How many Americans have caused accidents while driving in Britain, even though they knew full well they needed to drive on the left?

I think there is value is designing a ship so that when crewman x performs function y, console z is always on the far right, and the hamberfratz disambiguation actuator is always the third rocker switch down from the top of the second switch panel. If the transporter room fills with smoke or the Snorgphlembian ambassador shoots stinging foam in your eyes, you instinctively know you always run to the left to escape the room. When you have to replace the scorched cover on the heisenberg compensator cavity, you don't have to worry about requisitioning the wrong one ("sorry, I should've ordered HCC504/236-R, my bad"). If a phaser coil starts to overload, you reflexively head right to get to the emergency cutoff console — because it's always to the right, whether you're in the port, starboard, forward, or aft phaser control room.

And (possibly most important of all in an era where you don't just replicate up everything you need) the ship's replacement-parts inventory doesn't have to stock twice as much of everything to support all the right and left configurations.

That's my story, anyway.

Last edited by Just a Bill; January 10 2013 at 04:10 AM.
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