The "PC" Props of Star Trek TOS, Part 5
The fifth of a seven part series that will analyze and detail the computer props as seen in the original series of Star Trek.
“Alpha” in its late 1st season configuration
In part five of our series on the computer props of the original series we will cover the type 4B. The type 4B is probably the prop that most people who know the show think of when considering the computer props from the original series. The reason for that perception is that it was prominently featured in many episodes. The treatment of the type 4B in many scripts was actually that of another character; it had its own dialog, multiple close-ups and it was an important element to many of the story plots. The type 4B as its name implies is a derivative of the type 4A with some of the same basic design characteristics. The type 4B was a hero model with working lights and switches like its type 4A counterparts. The overall shape of the unit was the same as the type 4A with the exception that the type 4B had a base added to the bottom with additional control switches and a data cartridge slot. As mentioned in the previous article; the type 4B most certainly was a modified type 4A unit. Speculation is that when the shuttlecraft interior set was delivered to Desilu; there was either an extra type 4A included as a spare unit or the extra unit was intended to be mounted on the wall but was replaced by the phaser locker seen in the episode “The Galileo Seven.” In any case the budget for the original series was so tight that having a spare prop unused was not an option. Most likely the spare unit was modified to change its appearance so that it could be used for filming yet fulfill a different roll than the existing type 4A units. The location of the lights and controls were an exact match to the type 4A in the unmodified areas of the prop. If the type 4B was an entirely new prop; why would they make it so similar to the type 4A? The answer is of course; they would not have. Other than the added base; the changes to the prop are minor. Below are the changes which differentiated the type 4B from the type 4A:
1. The 4 left hand side toggles switches on the face of the unit were replaced with round knobs
2 The top right side bank of lights was reduced from 7 columns of 3 lights on the type 4A to 6 columns of 3 lights on the type 4B for a total of 18 lights. A long rectangular red/orange light was added to the left of the upper bank of lights. The cut-out for this light exactly matches the location of the 3 lights that would have been at that location on the type 4A. Obviously the three end lights were cut out to make the rectangular light.
3. A base was added that extends past the edges on the sides and front. On the front top of the base there are 7 push button style switches with silver bases. Two red on the left side, a slot for a data cartridge and then the remaining five push button style switches in black on the left side.
4. A large rectangular part was added to the back presumably to attach the base to the body of the type 4B (“Alpha” model only).
The control functions of the type 4B were different from the type 4A model. In the earlier type 4A computers the left toggle switches controlled the lights. On the type 4B the knobs that replaced the toggle switches had no real function. Each of the five black push buttons on the right side of the base controlled one of five lights in the row below the bank of lights. One of the two red push buttons on the right of the base operated the added rectangular light next to the top bank of lights. The other activated the lighting sequence for the bank of 18 lights.
There were two variations of the type 4B computers. Even though we saw two versions of this prop there most likely was only one unit which was modified after the first season. We only see “Alpha” in the first season. It was never seen (except in some stock footage) again after the first season episode “Space Seed.” On the “Alpha” version of the prop the control knobs on the left side of the face were black with tiny white arrows on them. The first appearance of the “Alpha” version was in the episode “Court Martial” in Commodore Stones office. In that scene we saw the first version of the “Alpha” unit which was painted in a light grey/cream color. The same “Alpha” prop was re-used during the court room scenes in this same episode but the base, sides and top were repainted a battleship grey. This was done to make it appear to be a different unit than the one in Stones office. It is obvious by the colored lights which are an exact match that these were indeed the same type 4B unit.
“Alpha” In Commodore Stones office in the episode “Court Martial”
“Alpha” was repainted for its court room appearance in an effort to make it appear as a different prop from the Commodores from the “Court Martial” episode
The next time we saw the 4B “Alpha” was in the trial during "The Menagerie" and we got a great view of it. It had some lettering added to the face and to the top of the base. We can also clearly see the part in the back that connected the top piece to the base section. In the episode "A Taste of Armageddon" we see “Alpha” sitting on top of one of the war computers. During one scene in the episode we saw all four type 4 units together which would be the only time in the entire series that we would see them in concert. The Alpha unit appears unchanged in this episode from its previous appearance in “The Menagerie.” You can see the lettering is still on the unit. There was also a good view of “Alpha” from the side in this episode which was a fairly rare view. At the end of "A Taste of Armageddon" during the climactic scene when Kirk blows-up the war room computers; we see "Alpha" engulfed in flames. This was the last time "Alpha" was filmed which most certainly could be attributed to damage caused by the special effects explosions and subsequent fire. We see “Alpha" again in the next episode “Space Seed” however, even though this episode was next in the production order; it was actually filmed before the "A Taste of Armageddon" episode. We can speculate that after the “Armageddon” episode; “Alpha” was damaged and had to be stripped and refurbished. From what we know of the production; little notice was given to the arrangement of the colored lights when they were installed originally or when the type 4B was rebuilt; they were just randomly installed. The "Space Seed" appearance would be the last time “Alpha” is seen during the series other than a close-up in the second season episode “The Deadly Years.” The "Deadly Years" scene was obviously stock footage because other than the close-up; it’s clearly the “Beta” unit on set. So what happened to “Alpha” and why didn’t we see it again? We can reasonably hypostasize that it was damaged during the explosion and fire from "A Taste of Armageddon" and was rebuilt into the "Beta" model. This seems the obvious conclusion since the unit is noticeably exposed to flames in the “Armageddon” episode and the fact that we never saw the “Alpha” version of the prop again after the scene from the aforementioned episode.
A nice view of “Alpha” from the episode “The Menagerie.” Notice the added lettering.
“Alpha” from the episode “A Taste of Armageddon” You can see the lettering that was added from the earlier episode was still in place here.
This scene from “A Taste of Armageddon” is the only time in the series that we see all four type4 computer props together.
A nice rare side view of “Alpha” from the same episode
“Alpha” engulfed in flames at the climax of “A Taste of Armageddon.” This was the last time “Alpha” was filmed in the series and the likely reason why it was rebuilt into the "Beta" model.
The last true appearance in the series of “Alpha” from the episode “Space Seed”
The type 4B “Beta”
The type 4B “Beta” was the last of the type 4 computer props that we saw during the series. When we think of the original series computers most of us think of this unit because it was featured in several episodes and had some great close-ups. The “Beta” unit was only seen in the second and third season. The difference between the “Alpha” and “Beta” versions was more apparent than they were between the different type 4A models. The differences between the two type 4B units were as follows:
1. Many of the colored lights on the face had been changed.
2. The black knobs were replaced with multi-colored, tiered knobs which added more interest visually to the prop.
3. The wide connecting piece in the back of the unit that presumably connected the base to the top segment was removed.
4. The lettering was removed and the prop appears to have been painted.
The first appearance of the “Beta” model of the type 4B was in the second season episode “Wolf in the Fold.” In this episode we got some really great close-up views of the “Beta” model. The changes were readily apparent from the “Alpha” model in the briefing room scenes; particularly noticeable were the colored knobs on the face. The new knobs colors from top to bottom were: dark blue-grey, brown, light blue grey, and red. Other than the different knobs you probably would not notice a huge difference between the “Beta” and “Alpha” models.
“Beta” from the episode “Wolf in the Fold”
A fantastic close-up from the episode “Wolf in the Fold” showing the differences from the “Alpha” to the “Beta” models.
The next time we saw “Beta” was in the episode "Mirror, Mirror." In this episode the “Beta” prop appeared both in Kirk’s quarters in one scene and in Spock’s quarters in another. In both scenes the “Beta” computer was central to the story line as separately both Kirk and Spock queried it regarding the individual problems that they faced. In both scenes we got great views of “Beta” and of minor interest; this was the only episode in the original series that any Enterprise computer had a male voice. Although the story leads us to believe that these were different computers; in comparing the two it is obvious that they were the same prop.
“Beta” made its next appearance in "The Deadly Years" during the competency hearing for Kirk. Interestingly in this episode the close-ups clearly showed “Alpha” but this was obviously just stock footage from season one. In all of the long shots we can clearly see “Beta” was actually the computer on the briefing room set during filming. We saw “Beta” again in the science lab in the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" and also in the background of Spock's quarters in "Journey to Babel." In both episodes “Beta” is nothing more that background set dressing.
“Beta” in Kirk's quarters in the “Mirror, Mirror” episode.
“Beta” again from “Mirror Mirror” in Spock’s quarters.
A long shot from the episode “The Deadly Years” showing “Beta”
The close-up of the type 4B computer from the episode “The Deadly Years” is of the “Alpha” model but this was just stock footage that was used for this scene.
“Beta” can be seen as background set-dressing in the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”
The last appearance of “Beta” in the second season was in the episode “The Omega Glory” when it appeared on the planet as part of McCoy’s medical equipment. There was a scene in the episode when Spock tries to contact the ship using the “Beta” unit. In the scene Captain Tracy ends up disintegrating “Beta” before Spock can make contact with the Enterprise.
“Beta” on the planet Omega IV from the episode “The Omega Glory”
Spock does not get to contact the Enterprise in this sequence from the episode “The Omega Glory”
“Beta” made its third season debut in the episode "The Enterprise Incident" but only as background set dressing. We saw “Beta” again in a minor role but its part was an important story element in the episode “Wink of an Eye.” Kirk used “Beta” to record his message telling Spock & McCoy that he had been accelerated beyond their ability to see him. We did not see “Beta” again until the episode “The Lights of Zetar” where it had a wonderful close-up in the briefing room scene when they realized that Lt. Romaine's brain waves were identical to the aliens. The final appearance of “Beta” was in the episode "The Way to Eden" as Spock tried to find the planet Eden in his cabin. Here in Spock's quarters we could see that there was lettering added to the face of “Beta” but we can’t make out what it is. Although the type 4B computers had less screen-time than many of its counterparts; it is the one that most people remember from show. It was unforgettable because it was an important story element in many of the episodes and its colorful appearance made it easy to recognize. Many of the plot lines portrayed “Beta” almost as a character and the interaction that the actors had with it made this prop the most recognized of all of the original series computers props.
“Beta” in the background from the episode “The Enterprise Incident”
“Beta” had an important role in the episode “Wink of an Eye”
Another great “Beta” close-up from the episode “The Lights of Zetar”
“Beta” made its last appearance in the episode “The Way to Eden.” Notice that lettering was added but sadly we will never know what the lettering was.
The type 4B appears in the following episodes:
15 Court Martial (Alpha)
16 The Menagerie (Alpha)
23 A Taste of Armageddon (Alpha)
24 Space Seed (Alpha)
36 Wolf in the Fold (Beta)
39 Mirror, Mirror (Beta)
44 Journey to Babel (Beta)
54 The Omega Glory (Beta)
59 The Enterprise Incident (Beta)
68 Wink of an Eye (Beta)
73 Lights of Zetar (Beta)
75 Way to Eden (Beta)
Up next the type 5 . . .what is a type 5? (http://theomegasecto...rek-tos-part-6/)