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Remote Vitals Monitoring

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[Hudson looks at the vitals monitors in the APC]
Hudson: Hey...hey, look. The Sarge and Dietrich aren't dead, man. Their signs are real low but they ain't dead, man!
Vasquez: Then we go back in there and get them!
[they start arguing about the rescue]
Ripley: You can't help them! You can't. Right now, they're being cocooned just like the others.

Whether it's for a malady or simply to observe their overall health and performance, it occasionally becomes necessary for a character's vital signs, especially their heart rate (EKG), to be monitored remotely when that character can't stay in a medical facility. This is often done via some sort of tracking device worn on their body, implanted in them, or incorporated into another piece of tech they're using. While this can be done with individuals, it's more common for this type of monitoring to be done on team/crew members that are on an away mission. In the event that the team encounters something that presents a threat, the drama is escalated by seeing team members' vital signs go crazy as they encounter the danger and/or flatline should things turn lethal. Red Shirts are particularly prone to being involved in this kind of situation, but the dramatic tension can be escalated by involving Mauve Shirts, whose injuries/deaths provide more emotional punch.

One way that this is done is through a station where the vitals of each team member are prominently displayed, usually accompanied by a camera feed from one or more of them. This allows the person monitoring the station and other relevant people to track the health of the team and, if needed, order them to withdraw should their lifesigns start going awry. This station is usually located either in the crew's Home Base or its Awesome Personnel Carrier, and the team's Mission Control is often in charge of it.

Note that this trope is specifically for monitoring someone's signals through scientific (or at least sci-fi) means. Monitoring through fantastical means (such as a Hive Mind or other Psychic Link, or sensing a disturbance in the Background Magic Field) would be covered by My Significance Sense Is Tingling. Compare Snowy Screen of Death.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion features two versions.
    • When synchronization testing is being done on the Evas and the pilots, a computer station run by Maya shows the pilots' vital signs and their synch levels with their respective Evas, with the changes in this information becoming a driving plot point in both individual episodes and Asuka's character arc.
    • When the Evas are in combat, Maya helms a separate computer station where the pilots' vital signs, synch levels, and other information are kept up with and relayed to Misato so she can direct them for optimal performance.

    Comic Books 
  • Lazarus: Forever's bionic implants include ones that allow her support team to monitor her biosigns and remote control them to provide drug treatments.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Ami's Mercury Computer is a Magical Computer with Everything Sensor-like abilities, and can look at physical condition enough to work as an ersatz Lie Detector in "Adamantine":
    The readings on her screen indicated that the padding of the Duke's armour kept him warm under the ice, and there was no shivering to obscure his body's involuntary reactions. There were no indications that he had been less than truthful, either.
  • Rocketship Voyager. Captain Chakotay demands to be put through to the Space Marines sent to rescue Captain Janeway, only to be told that they're not receiving telemetering from any spacesuit outside the Voyager's hull. Fortunately that's because Janeway and the few survivors of her rescue team have already entered the airlock.

    Film — Animated 
  • Dead Space: Downfall shows the monitoring station for the RIGs attached to the Ishimura's crew. As they get torn apart by the Necromorphs, the crewmembers' pictures turn from cyan to red, and play a flatline sound.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: Played with. Mission Commander Dave Bowman leaves the Discovery One spacecraft to rescue Frank Poole, which leaves only the three researchers in suspended animation aboard the interplanetary ship, plus the HAL-9000 computer. Each of the three "sleepers" has six vital functions monitored as real-time waveform graphs. Suddenly, an alarm sounds "Malfunction" as these waveforms blip from green to yellow. The alarm intensifies to "Critical" as, one by one, the waveforms turn red. The alarm then goes silent as all the vital signs are flatline: "Life Function Terminated." This is eventually revealed to be HAL murdering the reasearchers.
  • Aliens: The Colonial Marines' APC features a station where all of the Marines' camera feeds are kept up with as well as some of their vitals, with Lt. Gorman acting as Mission Control. When the xenomorphs attack in the base of the atmospheric processor, Crowe and Frost are the first two deaths, with the camera lingering on their vital sign monitors as the readings flatline. Later, after the Marines are rescued, Hudson looks at the station and sees that Apone and Dietrich's vitals are still active but weak, but Ripley says it's because they're being cocooned like the colonists, and they can't be saved.
  • Apollo 13 both plays this straight and for laughs.
    • During the initial disaster, while the astronauts are calling out all the warnings and alarms that are going off and Houston is trying to make sense of the readings they're getting, the flight surgeon notes the crew's heart rates are skyrocketing, an indication that it's not a system-wide malfunction but an actual incident onboard Odyssey.
    • In a fit of cabin fever, Jim Lovell removes his biomed sensors stating "I'm sick and tired of the entire Western World knowing how my kidneys are functioning!" After the Flight Surgeon has a scare that Jim's heart has stopped, but he's clearly still talking on the radio, Haise and Swigert also pull off their biomed sensors.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: When the dive team is sent down to investigate the vibranium detector, their EKGs are being monitored from the central control room of their station. The woman on the team starts panicking when her partner disappears, causing her EKG reading to become erratic, and when both are killed, their EKG monitors turn red.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The USS Argo has a bank of digital pictures representing each member of the jet squadron that are deployed to engage Rodan, apparently monitoring them. For each one of the jets that Rodan takes out, the pilot's digital image goes red with "LOST SIGNAL" emblazoned across it, and a monotonous electronic whine like a heart monitor indicating a flatline plays.
  • Jurassic World: A team of ACU soldiers goes into the park to hunt down the I. rex, with the park personnel monitoring them from the central command station. Along with a camera feed, each team member is represented by a digital picture and an EKG. When the I. rex attacks, the team leader's EKG flatlines after he's crushed, and other members flatline as they're killed.
  • Legion (1998): The Boxed Crook soldiers are told they'll be wearing black box data recorders to evaluate their combat performance. "If you perform well, you'll get an honorable discharge." Turns out they're being set up as test subject opponents for a Super-Soldier, so their superiors have a different reason for monitoring them.
  • Prometheus: As Captain Janek watches the camera feeds from the crews' environmental suits at his bridge station, EKGs can be seen at the lower left of each feed. This is contrasted with David, who chooses to wear an environmental suit even though he's an android but whose EKG is nonfunctional.
  • Star Trek (2009): When the Kelvin's captain leaves the ship to meet with Nero on the Narada, his vitals are kept up with on a screen on the bridge, the officer watching it noting that his heartbeat is elevated. The vital readout changes to "TERMINATED" in bright red immediately after Nero kills the captain.

  • Artemis Fowl: During his break-in into the Fowl manor, Boxed Crook Mulch Diggums is fitted with an iris-cam (basically a high-tech contact lens) that allows Foaly to monitor Mulch's vision and vital signs (and more importantly, track him down if he attempts to escape). After his job is done, Mulch digs into a rabbit burrow, starts shaking around and yelling that there's a cave-in, and puts the cam on the rabbit's eye before it dies to fake his death. Foaly notices "Mulch's" heart rate hitting that of a rabbit right after the iris-cam is transferred, and in the second book, he and Holly start investigating the possibility that Mulch survived.
  • Literature//Ciaphas Cain: During an investigation of a space hulk, the Terminator that Cain is accompanying dies to a genestealer attack. Cain reports it over the vox, and hears the Chapter's artificer confirm that his vitals have ceased (as he's monitoring the armor of his fellow Space Marines, which have built-in sensors for that sort of thing).
  • Imperial Radch: Radchaai citizens all have multipurpose implants through which military AIs can read their vital signs and emotional states, as well as communicate with them. Breq, the last surviving Wetware Body of a warship AI, retains this ability as captain of a new crew, and finds it comforting to "check in" on the people under her command.
  • The Martian: Mark Watney is struck by debris during a storm which had forced the Mars expedition to leave early. His fellow astronauts detect a suit decompression accompanied by a loss of telemetry, causing them to think he's either dead or soon will be (they've no time to search as they have to liftoff at once). Turns out the debris destroyed his biomonitor and impaled Watney, but the blood sealed the breach in his spacesuit long enough for Watney to wake up and fix the damage.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Barney Miller has an experimental stress monitor being tested at the precinct. Dietrich wears it while on assignment. At one point, the readings start displaying erratic numbers followed by a Flatline. Everyone fears the worst until Dietrich returns to the station. It turns out he had encountered a woman with a fire hose which ended up shorting out the sensors.
  • Batwoman (2019). One of the many features of the multi-million dollar Batsuit. In "The Rabbit Hole", Luke Fox at Mission Control realises Kate Kane's vitals have stopped and remotely-activates a built-in defibrillator to start her heart again.
  • Search has three field agents, Lockwood, Grover and Bianco, conduct clandestine missions. Each agent has been issued an Everything Sensor that's about the size of a watch dial. Among its many features, this sensor can monitor the vital signs of the agent, which is one duty of Probe Control's Bridge Bunnies. One weakness of this sensor is that if two or more sensors come close together, their signals will overlap, rendering their data unusable.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager, the Doctor has made use of the cortical monitor on several occasions to track patients' vitals when they're not in Sickbay. Specific instances include:
    • In "Flashback", Tuvok used one so the Doctor could get a complete encephalographic profile for him to try to treat his mental breakdown.
    • Seven of Nine used one twice. In "Unimatrix Zero (part 1)", it was so the Doctor could track her REM sleep and try to alleviate her nightmares about Unimatrix Zero. In "Imperfection", it was to track the performance of her malfunctioning cortical node.

  • Heavy Metal featured a short story by "Azpiri" about a project that can transmit the conscious mind of an explorer into the body of another person, even one that died centuries ago. The explorer is sent into Galilee, and awakens in the body of Jesus Christ, who shambles out of his grave. The science team for the project closely monitor the subject's vital signs, including his emotional state. The explorer can somehow transfer his consciousness to bystanders, and ends up in the body of someone wracked with guilt and fear. This fellow flees the throng around Jesus, and goes to hang himself. The project team anxiously await an opportunity to retrieve the explorer before Judas Iscariot ends his own life, presumably taking the explorer's life with him.

  • Implied in the title track from David Bowie's album Space Oddity. The astronaut Major Tom conducts a spacewalk, but something goes amiss, and Ground Control attempts to determine the astronaut's status. Major Tom's response is a non sequitur.
    Ground Control to Major Tom / Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong / Can you hear me, Major Tom?

    Video Games 
  • Among Us:
    • Both the Office in the Polus map and Medical in the Airship map feature a Vitals station; living players have a green graph which reads "OK" and shows their EKG, dead players' graphs are in red and show a flatline, and for players that died in previous rounds, their graphs read "D/C" and have no graph at all. Players can use this to check if any other players have been killed, with decisions to call emergency meetings sometimes coming from what's shown.
    • One of the Crewmate roles added in the November 2021 update is the Scientist, who can access Vitals from anywhere on the map, but each use reduces the number of times this can be done. Doing tasks recharges this ability.
  • Phasmophobia: The players begin each round in their van. In addition to any gear the team brought with them, there's a readout showing the sanity of all the players (the nearest thing to HP, since it decides if the ghost will initiate a hunt, and getting caught's a One-Hit Kill) and a monitor showing a feed from any cameras on the map, including player mounted headcams. If there's more than one player in the game, they can basically stay safe in the van and serve as a Voice with an Internet Connection, freeing the rest to carry crucifixes and other gear to protect themselves.
  • Star Wars: Republic Commando: When the squad is all together, the NPC members' health, location, and current task is displayed on the lower left of the player's HUD. Green means full health, and as they take damage, their icons change to yellow, then orange, and finally red when they're incapacitated. You can revive them if you can get to them though.