The "PC" Props of Star Trek TOS, Part 4
The fourth of a seven part series that will analyze and detail the computer props as seen in the original series of Star Trek.
In part four of our continuing examination of the computer props from the classic TOS series we will look at the type 4 computer. There were four of these props with two basic variants of the type 4; the “A” and “B” models. All four units were “hero” models in that they had functioning controls and lights. The type 4 computer prop was a grey rectangular box which had an angled front. Common characteristics of both variations were a row of controls on the left hand side and various lights across the front. The lights themselves were actually clear resin hemispheres that were lit from behind. For simplicity in this article we will call these simply “the lights.” There were also two curious round tubes that protruded slightly out of the front about half-way down the face. Speculation is that these holes were used to mount the units to various walls as needed. These mounting tubes appeared to be hollow all the way through the back of the unit as you can see through them at times. Also visible on the face were six screws that mounted the face to the body. The shells were likely made of wood but it appears from the texture visible in certain views of the front that the face was made from fiberboard or what is commonly referred to as masonite. Although there were only four type 4 units used during the show; there were modifications to them throughout filming of the series. This article will focus on the type 4A and its variants with the type 4B to follow in the next installment.
Control functions of the “Alpha” type 4A
There were a total of three type 4A computer props. Generally all three had the same physical characteristics. They varied in the colors of the lights, toggle switch colors and the function of the switches which controlled the lights. The type 4A computer had a column of 4 toggle switches on the left-hand face of the unit. The toggle switch colors were different on each unit but were all a combination of white, red or black in color. There was a bank of 21 multi-colored lights consisting of 3 rows of 7 which spread across the face to the right hand side. Below there was a row of 5 additional lights. In our analysis we will use the different light and toggle switch colors which were unique to each in identifying specific type 4A units. These were by far the most versatile of the computer props; constantly appearing in various locations throughout the series. We will look at these individually because there is a lot of information to cover. First we will discuss the type 4A “Alpha” unit.
The type 4A “Alpha” first appeared with its other two sister type 4A units in the episode “The Galileo Seven.” In addition to identifying it by the light colors; it can also easily be recognized by the toggle switch colors which were from the top down; white, red, red, white. All of the type 4A computers were first seen as part of the shuttlecraft interior instrumentation. Since we know that the AMT Corporation supplied both the shuttlecraft exterior and interior set; we can speculate that the type 4 units were supplied to the show as a part of the interior set. That would have given them three type 4 props for the Shuttlecraft interior and a single spare to be used as a back-up unit. The spare unit most likely became the Type 4B unit which we will discuss in a following article. In “The Galileo Seven” all three type 4A units were mounted on the wall of the craft. “Alpha” was the unit installed towards the front in the shuttlecraft behind the co-pilot. The “Alpha” version is the first unit we saw as the camera passes Phyllis Douglas as Yeoman Mears. She was seen throwing the toggles on it when she said “Phase one separation normal” during the opening teaser.
“Alpha” in the episode “The Galileo Seven”
It was also seen here in the same location in part one of the episode “The Menagerie” as well. In addition to appearing in the shuttlecraft; it also appeared in that same episode in the Starbase Operations Center down on the planet. It can be seen at the bottom of one of the bank of larger console computers. The next time we saw “Alpha” was as part of the Eminiar VII's war computers. It was once again a part of one of the larger console computers seen in the war room.
A quick view of “Alpha” in the shuttlecraft from the episode “The Menagerie” (part 1)
Commodore Mendez next to “Alpha” from “The Menagerie” (part 1)
Here we see “Alpha” installed in the bottom of a computer console at Starbase Operations in part one of “The Menagerie.”
Here is a good shot of all three of the type 4A computers all installed at the bottom of the console units. We also see a type 4B sitting on top of one of the consoles. This is the only scene in the series that shows all four type 4 units together.
“Alpha” made its second season debut in the episode "The Changeling" as part of the auxiliary control room. It is mounted to a wall status panel where a crewman is working while he is suppose to be watching Nomad. He should have kept a better eye on the robot! Obviously the sets had openings where they could insert anyone of these computers into the wall because later we see “Beta” in this same location. This was precisely what happened in the shuttlecraft interior later in the second season. Next time we saw “Alpha” it had been installed in the emergency manual monitor above the engineering set in the episode "Mirror Mirror." Interestingly in that episode only it was installed upside down; presumably to subtly but intentionally give the illusion of things being turned up-side-down in the alternate universe. As the season went on it appeared at this same location in the episode "The Immunity Syndrome" but it has been turned back to the correct orientation. This was the last time we see “Alpha” in season two.
“Alpha” in the auxiliary control room from the episode “The Changeling”
“Alpha” installed upside-down in the episode “Mirror, Mirror.” This was a great subtle way to let us know that we are in an alternate universe.
“Alpha” was returned to the correct orientation in “The Immunity Syndrome”
It is not until the later third season episode "The Lights of Zetar" that we saw “Alpha” again. We got a good look at it again in the emergency manual monitor as Lt. Romaine leans up against it. This was the last time we saw “Alpha” in the series.
“SCOTTY!” A nice close-up of “Alpha” from “Lights of Zetar”
“Beta” control functions
“Beta” was the second type 4A computer that we saw in the episode “The Galileo Seven.” It was located near where Scotty sat during the teaser at the beginning of that episode. It was also in the same position in the first part of the episode “The Menagerie.” This unit is identified by the different colored lights and the toggle switch colors. The toggle switch colors of “Beta” from the top down were; black, red, white, black. Like its sisters, “Beta” also appeared in the Starbase Operations Center in the first part of "The Menagerie." It was installed in the bottom section of large console computer unit and can be seen when Spock uses the Vulcan neck pinch on the first technician. It was seen in this same console in “The Alternative Factor” after Lazarus knocked out the technician. Again like the other type 4A units; it was also a part of the Eminiar VII war computer complex where it was mounted at the bottom of one of the larger console computers. “Beta” was in one of the units facing the entrance of the war room.
“Beta” from “The Galileo Seven” episode
Kirk turning off “Beta” from “The Menagerie” (part 1)
Also from “The Meagerie” part 1, “Beta” installed at the bottom of a large console unit.
“Beta” in the background from “The Alternative Factor” episode
The first appearance of “Beta” in the second season was in the episode "Metamorphosis" in the shuttlecraft. This time however it was moved to the front position previously occupied by “Alpha.” It seems clear that no thought was given to which unit went where; the set decorator would simply put the most readily available unit in any position. The “Beta” unit maintained the front position in the shuttlecraft during its appearance in the episode "The Doomsday Machine" although in both episodes we only saw glimpses of it. Later in the second season in the episode “I Mudd” we saw “Beta” mounted to the wall in the auxiliary control; again in a position that “Alpha” had previously occupied. In that episode we saw that there had been some lettering added to the face of the unit. The “Beta” unit remained in the auxiliary control room for the rest of the series. We saw it in that position in the episodes “By Any Other Name,” “And the Children Shall Lead” and its last appearance in the show in the episode “The Way to Eden.”
A quick background view of “Beta” from the episode “Metamorphosis”
Another background view of “Beta” from “The Doomsday Machine”
“Beta” in the Auxiliary Control Room from the “I Mudd” episode
“Beta” in its final resting place in the Auxilary Control Room from the episode “And the Children Shall Lead”
“Beta seen in the same location from “The Way to Eden” next to Phyllis Douglas who also played Yeoman Mears in “The Galileo Seven”
“Beta” animated sequence from "Way to Eden"
“Gamma” control functions
The third type 4A will be identified as “Gamma.” Again as with the other two type 4A units; “Gamma” made its first appearance in the episode "The Galileo Seven." It was not mounted on the same interior wall that the other two type 4A computers were; it was mounted on the opposite side next to the entry door. We only saw a quick view of it at the doorway as the camera was looking out through the hatch as Spock and the remaining crewmen attend the funeral. “Gamma” however had a glorious close-up at the climax of the episode when Spock jettisoned the fuel and ignited it. This close-up view of “Gamma” by far is the best we see during the series of the type 4A. In the close-up we can make out the lettering on the face portion of the prop. This lettering was added specifically for this close-up because it is not on “Gamma” when it was seen earlier in the episode. The next time we saw “Gamma” was in the episode "The Alternative Factor" when it was part of a larger computer console in the engineering area where they had the dilitium crystals. It could be seen at the bottom of the console in the scene when Lazarus overtakes the technician. As with the other two type 4As we also saw “Gamma” in the war room of Eminiar VII from "A Taste of Armageddon.
This is the first appearance in the series of “Gamma” from the episode “The Galileo Seven.” This is the only time we see it without the lettering on its face.
“Gamma” close-up from “The Galileo Seven”
“Gamma” installed near the bottom of a type 7 from “The Alternative Factor”
Here is “Gamma” showing the missing resin light on the top right.
“Gamma” atop the test chamber from“Operation - Annihilate!”
Notice the misshapen replacement light on the upper right corner.
Sometime before the episode “A Taste of Armageddon” the top right resin light had fallen off “Gamma” and was not replaced for that episode. Before we saw it again it appears that a few other of the colored resin lights had fallen off. All of them were replaced by the time it appeared again in the episode “Operation: Annihilate!” Three lights were changed; the green one at the upper right corner in the bank of 21 lights was replaced with a bigger different shaped red/orange part. The new part was a very different size and shape from the original one. Even though it obviously did not match the other lights; it remained unchanged on Gamma throughout the rest of the series. The two other lights replaced were the first two left-hand lights in the bottom row of five lights. The far left light was changed from blue to red and the one next to it on the right (the famous "Fuel Jettison" light from "The Galileo Seven") was changed from red to pink. “Gamma” was next seen in the last episode of the first season "Operation - Annihilate!" In this episode it was now mounted atop the test chamber that they were trying to destroy the brain cell creature in. In this episode only; there was some sort of circuitry board on top of “Gamma.” Sometime prior to this episode the label "Fuel Jettison" that was seen in the “The Galileo Seven” close-up was removed from the number 3 toggle and that area was left blank; with no replacement lettering. All other labels remained for the rest of the series and “Gamma” remained mounted atop the test chamber for the rest of the series as well. The test stand itself continued to have different parts added to it as the series progressed; “Gamma” itself remained unchanged during the second season. There is a wonderful view of “Gamma” in the episode “Obsession” which gave a view of the balance of the lettering that was off screen and couldn’t be seen in the episode “The Galileo Seven.” “Gamma” can be seen almost in every scene in McCoy's lab and for the most part remained there, however it did make one appearance down on the surface of the planet Omega IV during the episode "The Omega Glory." Other than that one episode it was confined to the Enterprise medical lab.
The first second season appearance of “Gamma” from“The Immunity Syndrome”
A nice close-up of “Gamma” from the episode “Obsession”
Using McCoy’s lab equipment including “Gamma” in an effort to try an overload the Kelvins power source from the episode “By Any Other Name”.
“Gamma” from the episode “Return to Tomorrow”
Nice view of the misshaped replacement part on the upper right side of “Gamma” from the episode “The Omega Glory”
The author’s type 4 original configuration “Gamma” with its cousin the type 2
Sequence from "Return to Tomorrow"
The first appearance of “Gamma” in the third season was in the episode "Elaan of Troyius" again in McCoy's lab. The unit had been modified in the third season by an data cartridge slot that was added to the face of “Gamma”. We saw it in the background in the episode "Wink of an Eye" when Kirk was trying to get a message to Spock but it was not featured in the scene. In the episode “The Lights of Zetar” it was also seen in the background during the scene after Scotty was zapped while trying to put Lt. Romaine into the pressure chamber. “Gamma” makes its final screen appearance in the final episode of the series "Turnabout Intruder" again in the lab. The final appearance of “Gamma” is a solitary shot of it standing alone in the lab. The type 4 computer props were workhorses during the filming of the show. They had prominent roles in several of the stories and were background players in many more. They worked well in the show because they were more than just static set dressings. The type 4 computers added familiar shapes with colorful blinking lights to many scenes that otherwise would have been boring.
A good view of the added data cartridge slot and the bigger upper right replacement light from the episode “Elaan of Troyius”
“Gamma” seen in the background in the episode “Wink of an Eye”along with its cousin a type 4B
Another background appearance of “Gamma” from “The Lights of Zetar”
The final appearance of Gamma from the final episode “Turnabout Intruder”
The type 4A's computers appear in these episodes:
14 The Galileo Seven (Alpha, Beta, Gamma)
16 The Menagerie part 1 (Alpha, Beta)
20 The Alternative Factor (Beta, Gamma)
23 A Taste of Armageddon (Alpha, Beta, Gamma)
29 Operation - Annihilate! (Gamma)
31 Metamorphosis (Beta)
35 The Doomsday Machine (Beta)
37 The Changeling (Alpha)
39 Mirror, Mirror (Alpha)
41 I Mudd (Beta)
44 The Immunity Syndrome (Alpha, Gamma)
47 Obsession (Gamma)
50 By Any Other Name (Alpha, Gamma)
51 Return to Tomorrow (Gamma)
54 The Omega Glory (Gamma)
57 Elaan of Troyius (Gamma)
60 And the Children Shall Lead (Beta)
68 Wink of an Eye (Gamma)
73 Lights of Zetar (Alpha, Gamma)
75 Way to Eden (Beta)
79 Turnabout Intruder (Gamma)
Next up the mysterious Type 4B (http://theomegasecto...rek-tos-part-5/)