So I have this idea about how to change up the way away team missions are conducted so that half the command crew isn’t put in jeopardy when they beam down into an unknown situation. But it’s more than that as well, so I’ll explain.
Create a dedicated away mission crew/team of specialists that are carried aboard all ships. Well almost all ships. It’d be hard for smaller ships like the Defiant to carry more people, but with even light cruisers it should work fine....though the NX did carry a number of MACO's so maybe it could work.
The dedicated mission specialists would cover all areas that might be needed, command, security, medical, science, and engineering. The specialists would be grouped into standard military sized units; however, accommodations would be made given mission specific needs. All the away team specialists do is go on away missions.
The mission team stays aboard the ship and this is where things get interesting. My original idea for this was for a rapid response force, but it can work for an away team as well. This involves combining two technologies, portable holographic emitters and sensor bio-feedback suits, like we saw LaForge wearing in the episode where he was looking for his mom’s lost ship.
The idea goes like this;
The away team goes to a holodeck wearing the feedback suits and conducts the entire mission from that location, never leaving the ship. When the ship arrives in orbit, a mission module pod is beamed down. Preloaded mission pods (trauma pods, security pods, engineering pods) would be available and carry standard gear and equipment like tricorders phasers, medkits, engineering tools…you get the idea. The mission pod has an onboard power source and subspace datalink that transmits power to the mobile emitters, (in addition to the emitters onboard power) as well as transmits data to the ship.
The pods carry, say twenty emitters, which can be used by a corresponding number of people in the holodeck.
The mobile emitters are a bit larger than the one the Holo-Doc used, about the size of a brick. They contain sensors (equivalent to a tricorder), and have the ability to hover/navigate on their own away from the main pod...say up to a kilometer away from the pod before power and signal loss become issues. The emitter also has an extensive imaging system and an encrypted data transfer system.
Once engaged, each mobile emitter creates a fully interactive avatar of the individual away team members. Likewise, in the holodeck, the away team sees a fully interactive recreation of the environment in which the pod has been transported to. The away team can operate from the safety of the holodeck aboard the ship in orbit, while the holographic avatars are down on the planet, assuming all the risk. If something goes wrong, at most you lose a mission pod, rather than an actual life.
This would be great in situations involving diplomats/ambassadors and if the captain needs to get involved, he/she can, without ever leaving the ship.
Certainly there will be situations where individuals will have to beam down in person, however overall, it could greatly reduce the number of lives lost needlessly in away missions. Ensign Red Shirt #3 doesn’t need to die!