The "PC" Props of Star Trek TOS, Part 7
The final article of a seven part series that will analyze and detail the computer props as seen in the original series of Star Trek.
The Type 6 Computer
The conclusion in our series of articles on the computer props of the original series will cover the type 6 prop. Since the type 6 units got less screen time than any of its counterparts; this series concludes somewhat with a whimper instead of a bang. Even though the type 6 units did not get the exposure during the series that the other computer props did; the type 6 units are still an interesting subject and also will complete the study of most of the regularly seen smaller computer / control panel type set pieces from the original Star Trek series. The type 6 units themselves were very unique in both appearance and location of the control panel. The front of the unit consisted of two angled planes with the control panel portion of it on the top angled section and the bottom part consisting of a nearly featureless long angled section. The only features on the large bottom angled portion of the prop were two of the now familiar mounting tubes near the bottom and some screws around the perimeter which attached the face of the unit to the frame. The sides of the type 6 were flat and featureless.
The first appearance of the type 6 computer from the episode “The Galileo Seven”
There were two type 6 units which we will identify as the “Alpha” and “Beta” models. Both of the units were hero models with working lights and switches. Like the previous type 5 models; the type 6 was designed to only be wall mounted. The reason for the unusual shape of the type 6 units and the atypical top control panel location may be due to their original mounting position at the upper tapered wall within the shuttlecraft. Even though the type 6 appeared smaller than the type 4 units; the outside dimensions were actually the exact size as the type 4 units. The type 6 computers would fit into the same cut-outs used in the series as the type 4 units did. These would primarily be in the shuttlecraft interior, bottom of the large console units seen in several episodes or in the cut-outs in the walls in the Auxiliary Control Room or in the Emergency Manual Monitor station situated above the engineering set. The type 6 units appeared to be smaller than the other units because the control panel portion was the smallest of all of the props we have looked at.
The side-by-side configuration of the type 6 in the shuttlecraft interior as seen in the episode “The Galileo Seven." Notice the tapered wall which was most likely the reason for the angled design of the type 6 and type 4 computers.
The control panel portion of the prop consisted of 9 of the familiar round lights which we saw on both the type 4 and type 5 computers. The type 6 however had three noticeably larger distinctive rounded rectangular lights that were staggered in the center of the control panel. The larger lights stood out more than any of the others that we have seen during this series of articles. Just like the other props we have studied; the type 6 light colors were unique to each unit. There were also 4 toggle switches below the lights but unlike our previous study of the other units; the type 6 computer toggle switches were the same colors for both units. The switch colors on both units from left to right were; black, red, red, black. The switches on these units were also smaller than the ones we have seen on the preceding computers. On either side of the toggle switch bank there were the familiar mounting tubes making a total of four of the mounting tubes on the type 6 computers which was needed due to the truncated depth of the type 6 unit.
The first good view of both type 6 units was in part one of “The Menagerie”
These two views show the differences in lighting between the two type 6 units
The type 6 computers like the type 4A and type 5 units; made their debut in the episode “The Galileo Seven” as part of the interior instrumentation in the shuttlecraft. The unit was mounted on the interior wall where the wall tapered inward. This “sloping in” wall section is probably the reason the type 6 was designed with the control panel located on the top and the explanation for the unusual angled shape of the type 6 unit. The shape of the type 6 and also the angled front of the type 4, which was also mounted on the tapered wall, would allow better access to the controls of each. The location of the type 6 in “The Galileo Seven” episode precluded much screen time in that episode because the wall it was located was removed for much of the filming which was done from that side of the set. Both units were located behind the entry hatch and forward of the hand phaser locker. The type 6 units were on the opposite side of the shuttlecraft interior than the other units previously reviewed. In the few scenes we saw them in; we see that they were mounted in a side-by-side configuration with the “Beta” unit nearer the front of the shuttlecraft. They were situated behind the character Boma which would put them adjacent to McCoy’s station. Even though this is the first appearance of the type 6 we can’t make out much detail in the “Galileo” episode.
Spock contacting the Enterprise with both type 6 units in the background from part one of the episode “The Menagerie.” This typically was where we saw them as only background set dressing.
The first good view of the type 6 units where we could distinguish the difference between them was in part one of the episode “The Menagerie.” We saw both type 6 units next to each at the bottom of the larger console units in the Starbase Operations set and got a particularly good view of them as Spock crept into the room behind the consoles that the type 6 units were mounted into. The obvious distinguishing feature between the two units is the different colors of the large rectangular lights in the center of the control panel. We will identify the left unit as “Alpha” and the right as “Beta.” On the “Alpha” unit the staggered rectangular light colors were from left to right; red, green and yellow. In the first season episodes the color of the rectangular lights on “Beta” from left to right were; blue, yellow and red. The “Beta” lights would be change for the following seasons. Since the switch colors were the same on both units; differentiating them can be difficult if the lights were turned off. The appearance in that episode was indicative of the scenes throughout the series in which we saw the type 6 units; usually only as colorful background set dressing.
Even though they appeared to be small, the type 6 units were actually the same size as the type 4 units and were interchangeable in the cut-outs that were used throughout the series.
“Alpha” was not in this position at the beginning of the episode “A Taste of Armageddon” but was placed there for the climatic ending because of the console it was mounted in which was the only one with the flip-down face.
“Beta” was only seen in the background in the “A Taste of Armageddon” episode
We saw both units again mounted in the bottom of the console computers in the episode “The Alternative Factor.” There was little more than a quick view of each one in the engineering section when Lazarus was stealing the dilithium crystals and the subsequent fire. Both units also appeared in the episode “A Taste of Armageddon” mounted in the bottom of the war computer consoles. At first they are barely visible but at the climatic ending when Kirk blows up the war room the “Alpha” unit can be seen in the forefront to the left on the three forward facing war computers. It had been moved there because the console it was mounted in was the only unit that had a flip-down face and this was needed for a scene when Spock is analyzing the interior circuitry to determine how the units are interconnected. The “Beta” unit can be seen mounted on a separate console unit which is the console that had the phasers and communicators stored in the compartment above “Beta.”
We only see a glimpse of both type 6 units in the episode “The Alternative Factor”
If you didn’t know it was there you would probably never notice “Beta” in the background from the episode “Metamorphosis”
McCoy used the type 6 “Beta” control panel from “Metamorphosis” but most likely few noticed.
The first second season appearance of the type 6 unit was in the episode “Metamorphosis” again in the shuttlecraft. We could barely make out “Beta” behind Commissioner Hedford in the episode teaser. This appearance was somewhat interesting because the type 6 was located on the opposite side from its original location in the shuttlecraft interior. It was now in the original location of the type 4 “Beta” as seen in the episode “The Galileo Seven.” Again these units even though they appeared to be smaller; were the same size as the type 4 units. Was the change in location of the type 6 done intentionally to give the illusion that this was a different shuttlecraft? An interesting question but probably the change was unintentional; as we have seen that the production crew would stick the closest prop into the nearest hole. This was most likely just happenstance but it is an interesting prospect none-the-less. We only saw part of “Beta” which was almost completely hidden. In one scene McCoy seemed to be using the control panel but the type 6 unit was mostly obscured and its role barely discernable.
The second and third season version of the “Beta” unit
“Beta” where it would remain for the rest of the series in the Emergency Manual Monitor set from the episode “Mirror, Mirror”
The “Mirror, Mirror” episode is the only time we see the functions of the toggle switches on either of the type 6 units
In the episode “Mirror, Mirror” we finally saw the type 6 featured; albeit only for a few seconds. Scotty used the “Beta” unit in the Emergency Manuel Monitor to bypass power to the transporter. This was the only time in the series that we saw the toggle switches operate and could determine their control functions. We never did see the toggle function on the “Alpha” unit so we have no way of knowing if the control functions were same as on the “Beta” unit. In the “Mirror, Mirror” episode if you look closely you could see that the type 6 unit had been modified from its first season configuration.
Note: The round lights randomly flashed on the actual set piece but not for the purposes of this animation.
“Beta” made a brief appearance in what became its final resting place on the Emergency Manual Monitor set as seen in this cap from “I Mudd”.
Apparently sometime between the first and second season several of the resin lights had fallen off of “Beta” and were replaced. As we know; little regard was given to the placement of the colored lights and in this case as was the normal practice; the replacements were just reattached in random fashion. There were three lights that were changed; two of the larger rectangular lights and one of the small round lights on the left of the unit. Since the rectangular lights were a specific size and did not match other lights; it appears that the same lights were simply reattached but the positions were reversed. The blue light which was previously on the left side was moved to the center and exchanged places with the yellow light. The original green round light apparently was lost and was replaced with a clear light. The “Beta” unit would remain in this configuration for the remainder of the series.
Type 6 Computer Side-by-Side Comparison
We saw “Beta” again but unlit in the Emergency Manual Monitor from the episode “I Mudd” as Norman was taking over the ship. We only saw it as Norman passes by it on his way out of the room. The “Alpha” unit made its last appearance on-screen in the “The Immunity Syndrome.” The unit however, could barely be seen in the episode at its location behind the metal screen wall in the shuttlecraft interior. “Alpha” appears to be mounted in one of the larger console computers as we saw previously in several episodes. The final and perhaps the best scene showing the type 6 unit was from the episode “Lights of Zetar.” In that episode we got a quick but great view of the “Beta” model as Lt. Romaine leans up against the side wall of the Emergency Manual Monitor set.
"Alpha" hidden behind the screen wall in the episode "The Immunity Syndrome." Of note is the set dressing covering the hole where the type 4 should be behind the co-pilot chair.
Why was the “Alpha” unit never seen again in the series after “The Immunity Syndrome” episode? Its absence was most likely due to the fact that it was not a viable shape to get consistent use as equipment and therefore had limited screen time. There were no more shuttlecraft interior scenes shot and the larger computer consoles that is was most often seen in were not used again after “The Immunity Syndrome.” The “Beta” unit was used exclusively in the Emergency Manual Monitor set after its brief appearance in “Metamorphosis.” The fact that “Beta” was never used any place else and the fact that “Alpha” was never seen again leads us to believe that these irregularly shape type 6 units just didn’t fit into the set dressing required for most episodes.
The best view of the type 6 unit in the entire series from the episode “The Lights of Zetar”
From this series of articles we have seen that 8 of the 12 computer props that we have looked at were a reuse of the shuttlecraft interior instrumentation. As we indicated in previous articles; the exterior and interior set of the shuttlecraft was provided by the AMT Corporation in exchange for model kit rights at no cost to the production. We can speculate that they supplied the interior instrumentation as well. The type 4, type 5 and type 6 units had nothing in common with the three previous types that were made by the studio; further solidifying the assumption that the three later types came from AMT. The common characteristics of the type 4, type 5 and type 6 units and the fact that they were not seen before the “Galileo” episode reinforces the proposition that these were indeed part of the AMT deal. If that is the case; Desilu struck gold with the AMT agreement receiving not only the shuttlecraft exterior and interior sets but also instrumentation that would appear in numerous episodes and in many locations other than the shuttlecraft throughout the entire series. In any case the computer props that were part of the original series have fueled the imagination of countless individuals over the decades since the episodes originally aired. They can be considered a precursor to the computer revolution that continues to this day. Perhaps with the current development of voice recognition software and the increased processing power of today’s computers; the wonder and awe we felt when we saw Kirk, Spock and the crew interacting with the TOS computers may be a reality for us in the very near future.
This concludes our series of articles on the computer props of the original series; we hope that you have enjoyed them. Any questions, comments or corrections can be directed to us at: tosgraphics69 at gmail.com