"Hailing frequencies open, sir."
When The Captain
needs to contact Mission Control
to talk to the Voice with an Internet Connection
, he has a number of options. He could call him up on his Comm Link
, or maybe even find a pay phone
. But maybe this is a job for someone more specialized, or maybe The Captain
needs someone to delegate this to while he deals with other things. He needs the Communications Officer.
The Communications Officer need not be an officer, and in fact, will often be a lower ranking member tasked with maintaining and operating the complex radio equipment. On a sci-fi show, they will often have a workstation on the bridge of the ship, while in a war movie, you can expect to see this guy running around two steps behind The Captain
with a cumbersome backpack radio with a huge whip antenna. Whenever we see Mission Control
, expect to see an entire squad of these guys at work. More mundane examples include a secretary in an office, who has the job of screening calls to their boss and sending out messages for them.
Against Dangerously Genre Savvy
enemies, he can expect to draw fire
, especially if he has one of the bigger backpack radios. You can't call for help
if nobody alive can use the communications equipment. If The Radio Dies First
, they can be expected to be hard at work trying to fix it, or helplessly declaring that it can't be done.
Overlaps with Mission Control
. Will often be working as one of the Bridge Bunnies
. A key member of the Command Roster
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Anime And Manga
Film — Animated
Film — Live Action
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. When Hildy Burroughs is captain of the Gay Deceiver, Zebadiah ("Zeb") Burroughs acts as her comm officer, especially when talking with the British colonists on Mars.
- Adele Mundy in the Republic of Cinnabar series.
- Cpl. Fife is this during his first battle in The Thin Red Line.
- Sten seems to like communications officers, as they figure prominently in his command staffs in multiple books, and he even promotes one to Captain.
- In the Wraith Squadron novels, this is Jesmin Ackbar's specialty. In addition to her experience with the actually communications gear, she is skilled at cryptography and codes, and is able to twice alert Wraith Squadron to forces attempting to ambush them by picking up supposedly encrypted low-power transmissions that the enemy thought were safe to use. After her death in Wraith Squadron, Runt begins cross-training to pick up the slack.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5: On the station itself, this job would typically fall to Lieutenant Corwin (in the first season, it alternated between him and an un-named Bridge Bunny.) If Sheridan or Sinclair was in Command and Control, this job would instead go to Commander Ivanova. When traveling out and about aboard one ship or another, this job would fall to whichever character was serving as The Lancer for that mission (Lennier or Marcus, usually).
- Band of Brothers: T-4 George Luz, Easy Company's radioman who also doubles as the resident jokester / Pop Cultured Badass.
- Battlestar Galactica originally had Commander Adama's daughter Athena in this role in the original series. In the reboot, the job was performed by Corporal (later Lieutenant) Dualla, as well as her replacement, Hoshi.
- Generation Kill: Cpl. Ray Person, the best RTO in Bravo Company.
- In M*A*S*H, Radar was usually called up on to operate the communications equipment
- Star Trek
- Robert RO Dixon in Sea Patrol is a very snarky Communications officer. He does go on boarding parties and is the best person with software.
- In Noob, Ystos is in the unique position of being the only member of Justice guild that the Noob guild can contact without risking a Not Now, Kiddo response. In return, he has easy contact with the Noob guild should Justice find itself unable to spare its own members for a relatively simple task. This takes an important role in Season 3 finale and its novel equivalent as he ends up monitoring the Noob guild through a task that Justice had to abandon to take care of mor urgent matters.
- In Warhammer 40,000, the Imperial Guard has "vox operators" with radio backpacks.
- One of the crew specialties in GURPS Traveller Starships.
- One of the standard Mandatory Bonus Duties in Paranoia. In practice, it mostly plays into the Commie Hunt dynamic.
- G.I. Joe communications officer "Breaker" was one of the first 3 3/4" GI Joe figures produced, and came with a helmet-mounted radio.
- In every incarnation of Transformers, some version of Soundwave is the Decepticons' Communications Officer. And in many continuities, Blaster serves the same role for the Autobots. There are also some occasional secondary characters who also fill the role, such as Hubcap in Transformers Generation 1 and Kup in Transformers: Wings of Honor.
- In the Mass Effect series, this role is typically filled by Joker, Yeoman Chambers, or Specialist Traynor.
- Unusually, both take steps to avert the "glorified secretary" aspects of this trope; Chambers is a psychologist (important when you have a crew like Shepard's), whereas Traynor, before being drafted as Shepard's adjutant, was actually in charge of a complete refit of Normandy's comms that allows it to coordinate an entire, galaxy-wide war effort involving thousands of ships on multiple fronts.
- In Wing Commander III, "Radio" Rollins is both this in the literal sense, being the TCS Victory's communication's officer, as well as in the informal sense, considering himself as the one person on the ship who will tell you exactly what's really going on. You have the option upon first meeting him to lay down the law and get him to stop hurting ship's morale with his rumors about Confed being on the ropes in their war with the Kilrathi (which, while largely true, are disastrous for morale to just come out and state them openly when there is still a fighting chance for them to recover).
- In Space Quest V: Roger Wilco - The Next Mutation, Flo performs this function. Given that the game is a clear parody of Star Trek, this is all she does. Since the SCS Eureka only has a crew of four (with the position of the Science Officer left open), the rest of the bridge duties are done by Droole who appears to be a tactical/pilot/navigation/garbage officer.
- The Vietcong series has the radioman. In the first game, you have to use his radio whenever the radio icon shows up. In tunnel-based missions, you're equipped with your own radio. In the second game, he uses the radio himself.