The Catacombs The Continuity Guide
Communications
by Martin Willey

Communications Posts

With comments by Marcus Lindroos

Breakaway Guardian Of Piri Force Of Life The Seance Spectre Seed Of Destruction

Communications posts are located in corridor intersections and most larger rooms (not Main Mission or Command Centre). The name is often abbreviated in scripts to "composts", but the only name in dialogue is "comms post" in Space Warp. They bear the section identification letter and colour. In Year 1 the letter is in the computer-like "countdown" typeface; in Year 2 it is in a plain sans serif typeface.

Breakaway The Troubled Spirit The Mark Of Archanon

The composts in corridors often have direction signs attached to each of the four faces; those in individual rooms do not. The compost is 8ft / 2.43m high including the base stand, the same height as a typical room or corridor. In taller rooms, the compost top is not attached to the ceiling.

Dragon's Domain Another Time, Another Place The Beta Cloud
The Seance Spectre

The communications post is sometimes rotated at an odd angle- here the signposts are pointing to the corners of the corridor intersection. When viewed inside Command Center, the communications post has rotated back to the normal position.

Screen and main buttons

Each of the four sides of the post has a single cathode ray tube screen. The screens have the ability to display red text only during Red Alerts. In The Beta Cloud only, the screens are colour. They are black and white screens (with a red filter placed over the screen to show the Red Alert text), but we could propose that they are colour screens which normally only show output from black and white cameras.

Breakaway Dragon's Domain The Seance Spectre The Beta Cloud

In "standby" mode, they normally show a test card (in year 1 an intricate "A" design, in Year 2 a simple double "A" with the location name), or important status information (mission countdown timer in Black Sun and Voyager's Return , the Moon's trajectory in The Testament Of Arkadia and red alert status (the words flash in red). Occasionally they show external pictures- Earth in Command Office as Koenig writes in The Testament Of Arkadia, an external view of Moonbase Alpha in Another Time Another Place. Special announcements by Koenig and Morrow in particular are made over the communications posts, as well as general broadcasts such as the internal Alpha News Service in Black Sun, the Alpha recital in Troubled Spirit and Space News in Dragon's Domain, which seems to be a TV news broadcast from Earth.

Black Sun Black Sun Voyager's Return The Beta Cloud

The built in screen can also be used for monitoring medical data if requested by individual users (Breakway, Matter of Life and Death, Dragon's Domain); computer services can be accessed by voice command with or without using the commlock as a "remote control" (Black Sun, Guardian Of Piri, Dragon's Domain). The unit also features microphones/loudspeakers/video cameras for broadcasting live audio/video (e.g. video phone calls) to other users upon request.

Another Time, Another Place

Compost audio/video access is presumably governed by privacy settings, e.g. in Another Time Another Place Dr.Russell monitors Regina Kesslann's medical ward from the commander's office whereas in other episodes, the compost video camera+microphone is only activated if the living quarters occupant chooses to answer the video call. It seems composts in corridors and other public areas double as monitoring cameras, e.g. in Another Time Another Place.

Dorzak

The communications post TV display section always features one black button nearest to the screen as well as three or four grey buttons; these are usually unlabelled except in The Bringers Of Wonder part 2 and a handful of other Series 2 episodes (Dorzak, The Lambda Factor) where the grey buttons are labelled 1,2,3,4. The black button serves as the power-on switch in Missing Link and it is also frequently used for dialling as well as ending video calls (there is probably a "resume call on hold" or "redial last used number" function as the black button seems to call different users in e.g. End Of Eternity and The Troubled Spirit). Koenig also pushes the black button to switch on the video camera outside his living quarters in Collision Course. The rightmost grey button is used for ending video calls (Dragon's Domain).

The Bringers Of Wonder part 2

In general, it seems the grey buttons are used for accessing internal "phone directory numbers" when dialling other users or selecting computer services or external video camera views to display on the built-in screen (e.g. Koenig dials a "Surface" number to activate the lunar surface cameras monitoring the activities of Carter and Bartlett in Bringers Of Wonder part 2). These buttons may also be used to redirect display information to other video devices, e.g. in Bringers Of Wonder part 2 Maya displays the pilot ship on an external Medical Centre monitor by pushing the communications post keypad.

Clock Section

Dragon's Domain

The section below the video screen features one analogue clock (a silver Metamec; hours are not numbered) and two split-flap clocks (Copal "Caslon" flip clocks). In Year 1 all three usually show the same time (even if that is throughout the episode- in End Of Eternity it is always 12:00). In Year 2 the readings tend to be arbitrary (as the minutes are completely different, they cannot reflect time zones- see the shot below, where the analogue clock reads 11:01, and the two clocks are 14:02 and 19:01). In Dragon's Domain, one of the clock panels in Tony Cellini's quarters is replaced by a fairly crude looking set of white and blue buttons. Cellini then buries his axe into it.

Metamec were a British clock manufacturer from 1945 to 1983; Copal were Japanese manufacturer of flip clocks.

Another Time, Another Place

In the alternate Alpha in Another Time Another Place, the clock and direction signs have fallen to the floor.

The Beta Cloud

The Metamec says 10:15, the two Copals read 14:78 and 19:30.

Data Input Section

The section below the timer has several input keys for accessing other functions. The leftmost group of buttons can be used for obtaining a hard copy of computer data (Dragon's Domain), while the group in the middle are used for turning on the room lights in Another Time Another Place. In Force of Life, the group of buttons on the right is used for alerting the security section. The five open slots visible at centre-right might be computer disk drives or memory card readers; in Breakaway we see a rectangular card protruding from one of the slots.

Breakaway Another Time, Another Place Force Of Life
Dragon's Domain

Year 1 vs. Year 2 Differences

The Seance Spectre

The communications posts feature less prominently in Year 2, being used mainly for alerting Moonbase personnel as well as video telephony (the latter function was often performed using desktop video consoles positioned through the Alpha working and living areas, however). The standby test card was also changed (in Year 1 an intricate "A" design, in Year 2 a simple double "A" with the location name). In Year 2 it seems the communications post is no longer used for displaying computer readouts or graphics. In some episodes, the TV display section only has three grey buttons instead of four while the three power lights are partially covered with red/blue tape.

The Beta Cloud

Technical comments

The Seance Spectre

Note the power cable on the floor.

Although the communications post has aged less well than its portable cousin the commlock -- the small black and white CRT displays now seem particularly dated -- the general concept nevertheless bears an uncanny resemblance to the International Space Station's Multi-Purpose Applications Console. As originally conceived in 1985, fixed MPACs would be located in every habitation and laboratory module to provide the man-machine interface onboard the Space Station. The MPAC would contain multifunctional display screens and programmable controls to assist the crew in their duties and to alert the crew of any catastrophic failures. Resident to the fixed MPAC will be the capability to print data and graphics from the display screen. The crew will have the capability to plot timed events data which will be selected from the MPAC. In addition, a method for recording video images will be provided. The fixed MPAC concept from 1985 also featured voice input/output in addition to having a detachable keyboard + touchpad / 8-ball control. In 1993 when the Space Station was redesigned for the last time, it was designed to use modified commercial IBM Thinkpad laptop computers for this purpose since they would be cheaper, smaller and more capable than the original fixed MPAC concept. These have been used in space since the first ISS modules were launched in 1997, and it seems highly likely that future lunar and Mars crews also will carry laptop computers.

Sources: Space Station Program Description, Applications and Opportunities (NASA 1985, Noyes Publications, ISBN 0-8155-1024-1)

Behind the scenes

Breakaway Breakaway

Filming Valerie Van Ost on the communications post in December 1973 for Breakaway. Left to right is production executive Reg Hill (in blazer), director Lee H Katzin (with pipe), lighting cameraman Frank Watts, producer Gerry Anderson.

All video was shot "live" by TV cameras off-set. The actor would stand in front of a blank wall. Often their shadow would betray that they weren't in the vast Main Mission set. Where shots of sets were required, the TV camera was filming a photograph of the set.

It is possible that all the communications post props were only 2 or 3 sides, like this one. The camera never needed to see all 4 sides, and an open side would permit easy access to the electrics. Note here there are only 2 TV screens - the one facing away from camera has no monitor behind it.

Space Brain Space Brain

Underneath the clock in the communications post are four "white" slots. As an Alphan passes behind the post in this shot from Space Brain, you can see him pass through the slots. The communications post only has two sides, and the lighted slots actually show the wall panel behind.


Copyright Martin Willey, Marcus Lindroos