Shaw uses a handheld device to perform a real-time carbon dating on an alien cadaver. This device is a cylinder with thick-gauged needle. White rings around the base and a big button on its side indicate power. When pressed into the alien tissue, the date appears on a small screen along its side along with four beeps. Shaw then turns it off with the press of the button.
Though the device has a very little screen time, it seems simple to use, suited to purpose, and with nothing extraneous. A simple device that as far as we see is well done.
The mission is world-critical, so like a cockpit, the two who are ultimately in control are kept secure. The control room is accessible (to mere humans, anyway) only through a vault door with an armed guard. Hadley and Sitterson must present IDs to the guard before he grants them access.
Sitterson and Hadley pass security.
Truman, the guard, takes and swipes their cards through a groove in a hand-held device. We are not shown what is on the tiny screen, but we do hear the device’s quick chirps to confirm the positive identity. That sound means that Truman’s eyes aren’t tied to the screen. He can listen for confirmation and monitor the people in front of him for any sign of nervousness or subterfuge.
Hadley boots up the control room screens.
The room itself tells a rich story through its interfaces alone. The wooden panels at the back access Bronze Age technology with its wooden-handled gears, glass bowls, and mechanical devices that smash vials of blood. The massive panel at which they sit is full of Space Age pushbuttons, rheostats, and levers. On the walls behind them are banks of CRT screens. These are augmented with Digital Age, massive, flat panel displays and touch panel screens within easy reach on the console. This is a system that has grown and evolved for eons, with layers of technology that add up to a tangled but functional means of surveillance and control.
The interfaces hint at the great age of the operation.
In order for Control to do their job, they have to keep tabs on the victims at all times, even long before the event: Are the sacrifices conforming to archetype? Do they have a reason to head to the cabin?
The nest empties.
To these ends, there are field agents in the world reporting back by earpiece, and everything about the cabin is wired for video and audio: The rooms, the surrounding woods, even the nearby lake.
Once the ritual sacrifice begins, they have to keep an even tighter surveillance: Are they behaving according to trope? Do they realize the dark truth? Is the Virgin suffering but safe? A lot of the technology seen in the control room is dedicated to this core function of monitoring.
The stage managers monitor the victims.
There are huge screens at the front of the room. There are manual controls for these screens on the big panel. There is an array of CRTs on the far right.
The small digital screens can display anything, but a mode we often see is a split in quarters, showing four cameras in the area of the stage. For example, all the cameras fixed on the rooms are on one screen. This provides a very useful peripheral signal in Sitterson and Hadley’s visual field. As they monitor the scenario, motion will catch their eyes. If that motion is not on a monitor they expect it to be, they can check what’s happening quickly by turning their head and fixating. This helps keep them tightly attuned to what’s happening in the different areas on “stage.”
For internal security, the entire complex is also wired for video, including the holding cages for the nightmare monsters.
Sitterson looks for the escapees amongst the cubes.
The control room watches the bloody chaos spread.
One screen that kind of confuses us appears to be biometrics of the victims. Are the victims implanted with devices for measuring such things, or are sophisticated non-invasive environmental sensors involved? Regardless of the mechanisms, if Control has access to vital signs, how are they mistaken about Marty’s death? We only get a short glance at the screen, so maybe it’s not vital signs, but simple, static biometrics like height, and weight, even though the radiograph diagram suggests more.
Sitterson tries to avoid talking to Mordecai.
Sitterson and Hadley are managing a huge production. It involves departments as broad ranging as chemistry, maintenance, and demolitions. To coordinate and troubleshoot during the ritual, two other communications options are available beyond the monitors; land phone lines and direct-connection, push-to-talk microphones.
One other portable device that bears mention is Lt. Farmans microfiche reader.
Farman checks Morbius’ information.
When the officers originally learn Morbius’ name, Farman fetches the device from a drawer. It is a small, metallic square box about the size of a pack of playing cards. He withdraws one of a set of thin transparent sheets of microfiche held in a pocket on the back, and inserts it to a slot at the top of the device. The device magnifies the contents of the sheet for the viewer, who can scroll by pulling the microfiche up and down. The particular microfiche displays all of the manifest information from the Bellerophon expedition, which Farman uses to verify Morbius information.
Farman looks for Julia Marsin on the Bellerephon’s manifest.
Farman uses an even smaller version of this device in the field, which consists of a small, lipstick-sized cylinder with a slit, through which he passes the same film to check for a “Mrs. Morbius.”
Though this seems like miniaturization that is far ahead of its time, microforms and optical magnification had been around and used to compactly store data since the mid 1800s. This device is an extension of these optical concepts, rather than modern digital media which only reached similar portable sizes in the early 2000s.
All telecommunications in the film are based on either a public address or a two-way radio metaphor.
Commander Adams addresses the crew.
To address the crew from inside the ship, Commander Adams grabs the microphone from its holder on the wall. Its long handle makes it easy to grab. By speaking into the lit, transparent circle mounted to one end, his voice is automatically broadcast across the ship.
Commander Adams lets Chief Quinn know he’s in command of the ship.
Quinn listens for incoming signals.
The two-way radio on his belt is routed through the communications officer back at the ship. To use it, he unclips the small cylindrical microphone from its clip, flips a small switch at the base of the box, and pulls the microphone on its tether close to his mouth to speak. When the device is active, a small array of lights on the box illuminates.
Confirming their safety by camera, Chief Quinn gets an eyeful of Alta.
The microphone also has a video camera within it. When Chief Quinn asks Commander Adams to activate the viewer, he does so by turning the device such that its small end faces outwards, at which time it acts as a camera, sending a video signal back to the ship, to be viewed on the view plate.
The Viewplate is used frequently to see outside the ship.
Altair IV looms within view.
The Viewplate is a large video screen with rounded edges that is mounted to a wall off the bridge. To the left of it three analog gauges are arranged in a column, above two lights and a stack of sliders. These are not used during the film.
Commander Adams engages the Viewplate to look for Altair IV.
The Viewplate is controlled by a wall mounted panel with a very curious placement. When Commander Adams rushes to adjust it, he steps to the panel and adjusts a few horizontal sliders, while craning around a cowling station to see if his tweaks are having the desired effect. When he’s fairly sure it’s correct, he has to step away from the panel to get a better view and make sure. There is no excuse for this poor placement.