The Interocitor an article by: GF Willmetts

In the 1955 film, ‘This Island Earth’, Doctor Cal Meacham is the last of eight scientists to receive a catalogue that intrigues him enough to order up an Interocitor, seeing it as the key device for all mechanisms shown. At that time, he had no awareness that it was in fact a standard device of the inhabitants of Metaluna and their chief representative on Earth, Exeter, who uses it to test scientists of suitable intelligence to create new nuclear weaponry for their interplanetary war with the Zagons. Why would the Metalunans believe the technologically inferior humans would come up with anything better is debatable, although considering how their planetary resources have been destroyed, one could surmise their scientists are numbered. Logistically, they were clutching at straws and looking for new ideas. Oddly, the humans they brought to their Georgia ranch were not told what was wanted and any who dissented had their minds adjusted in a Transformer device. It does make you wonder how Doctors Steven Carlson and Ruth Adams hadn’t been given this treatment although Exeter’s belief compared to Brack is that it reduces creative thinking would have held sway here after the first few were changed.

Meacham’s speciality is electronics and works for Ryberg Electronics Inc., who don’t interfere with his work or mind him exploring other job opportunities. Then again, Meacham is also shown to be a celebrity scientist who is media friendly to the press and presumably have access to all his inventions.

One would have to wonder how things had gone had the Metalunans been more honest with their problem with their enemy, the Zagons, but maybe they sampled some 1950s SF movies on the way to Earth and thought this way the way they were supposed to act.

The real problem for this article is the Interocitor. The 2800 parts might be unusual but the functions wouldn’t have been difficult to determine. Seeing the number of crates the parts were sent in to how small the Interocitor becomes is a little odd. You would have thought they’d have used less crates. Equally, they are warned that no spare parts would be issued if any were damaged which should prevent testing along the way. Considering the XC condensers can tolerate 35,000 volts before exploding, you would think some testing at lower voltages might have been carried out without any damage just to see what they were.

Even Meacham’s assistant, Joe Wilson, recognised the pair of bead XC condensers as being extraordinarily powerful. A monitor screen and a transmitter wouldn’t have been hard to figure out. The twin laser destructors could have been thought either as that or the possibility of creating holograms, although that wouldn’t happen until 1962. The energy source would certainly have been suspect, more so as it was connected to the mains than within the machine and would have been limited. Then again, the Metalunan equivalent of transistors could increase the output. However, considering how those XC condensers or capacitors to use their modern name worked, then they could certainly hold their charge. The Artificial Intelligence aspect of the Interocitor would have been beyond them, though, as the IBM computers of that time were big as a small house and long before silicon chip technology.

Granted that there is a possibility that the Interocitor might not have turned on unless it was fully controlled but even solid state devices can be equipped with various kill switches to turn it off in an emergency rather than risk it being destroyed.

If anything, putting the Interocitor together was more a proof that Meacham could follow instructions and put something together without question than any scientific expertise. Any one of you with the ability to build a model or an electronic kit could have done a similar thing and I doubt the pressure of no replacement parts if you made a mistake wouldn’t have worried you. That beggars the question of how could building an Interocitor be regarded as a true test of finding a genius scientist? I would have thought that taking over control of it from Exeter would have been a demonstration of that, if only to turn it off.

Then again, if all eight scientists had each built an Interocitor, you would have had to wonder why didn’t any of one them try to do that. Considering most of them are theoretical scientists, one would have to assume not and that they might have been tested in other ways. Likewise, if they wanted extreme weapon-builders, why not just kidnap all the key scientists from the Manhattan Project? With no one knowing where they’ve gone, I suspect the American security services would have been frantically looking for them or targeting the USSR.

The real problem is that Meacham wouldn’t really know what was going to happen next but he would have had a pretty good idea about the Interocitor’s communication possibilities. I suspect if ‘This Island Earth’ was remade today, then this option would have to be accounted for. I doubt if this would change Exeter’s mind as, after all, he wants a smart scientist. If anything, the real problem would be would Exeter know if the Interocitor was working at full capacity?

Looking at how Brack used the Interocitor to observe the scientists, even through lead, and then later used its destructive capability at a distance shows how immensely powerful it is. It’s a shame that we can’t see whether or not it was connected to a terrestrial power supply or something from Metaluna. The fact that on a different setting that Exeter could also use it to control Meacham’s aeroplane and bring it down safely when its engine failed is further evidence of its energy manipulating ability. The green glow of that together with their spaceship using a similar force at a bigger scale to ensure that the small plane with Meacham and Adams on could not escape being drawn in shows different ranges of power or its limits. What isn’t really shown was the small plane was being dragged along and raised at the same time. This green glow would suggest that there is some agitation of molecules taking place, discharging some apparently harmless energy in the process. Considering how the Interocitor can focus and direct energy, this might be seen as more of an advantage than not. Even so, these Interocitors must have some limitations or means to counter their energy potential or else why were they losing so badly against the Zygons?

Oddly, the process to adjust organic molecules to Metaluna atmosphere and vice versa doesn’t appear to be an Interocitor process. This does tend to suggest that the Interocitor isn’t the b all and end all of all devices they have. Alternatively, it could be an earlier device or process.

One last thought. The Metalunans relied totally on their Interocitors for all their energy using needs. This in itself reveals one major problem in a war. All the Zygons has to worry about is how to beat one weapon and chose planetary bombardment. Aiming at specific targets, you would reduce the Metalunan capacity in short order and even moving underground would only postpone the ultimate defeat. You would have to ask why the Monitor delayed the evacuation to Earth so long but maybe he had fewer spaceships to rely on. In a good way, that might have saved their invasion of Earth and possibly the Zagons following them.

(c) GF Willmetts 2017

7 thoughts on “The Interocitor an article by: GF Willmetts

  • You may remember that I have a ‘thing’ for ‘Doctor Who’ so will understand that I was intrigued by your mention of the Zygons in your article. I didn’t recall the name from the film (though I confess it was a very long time ago and I wasn’t overly impressed on the one occasion I saw it) so I ad to do some research. Wikipedia and IMDb both have the Metalunan enemy planet as ‘Zagon’ so that resolves that!

    I obviously need to rewatch the film at some time…

    • Hello Julian
      A little distracted this past week. Don’t have a laptop modem breakdown and a toss-up to trying to find a suitable replacement or a new laptop. One spelling mistake in two articles and a story isn’t that bad.
      I’ve corrected the ‘Zagon’ spelling but leaving your comment in because it does make an interesting question as to whether Robert Banks Stewart, writer of ‘The Terror Of The Zgons’ was actually paying a small homage to ‘This Island Earth’.
      As its a 1950s SF film so allowances have to be made. There weren’t many SF films in that era given significant budget, let alone stay pretty close to the original novel by Raymond F. Jones. You would think by now Hollywood would have done a remake.

  • Once I saw the word ‘interocitor” I was hooked , This Island Earth along with The Day The Earth Stood Still is one my favourite science fiction films . As you say it was really not a huge challenge for a genius to assemble any more than assembling a PC from its component parts would be for any enthusiast now.

    Why would a society as advanced as the matalunans capable of interplanetary travel need the help of society at that time not even capable of putting a man in orbit.

    Personally glad no one has remade it as I found the modern versions of the aforementioned Day The Earth Stood Still and War of the world’s less satisfying than the originals

    • Hello Brendan
      A good question and not hard to rationalise the answers.
      The Metalunans might have had our problem, looking for alien life and not much time to do it in. Better a species who have reached nuclear power than one that isn’t and then bring a few select scientists up to speed. They weren’t asking them to create a spaceship but some deadly weapons. Exeter just ran out of time.

      I think a remake might work better than ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’. After all, humans are more advanced now and with go along with UFO paranoia in people being abducted from time to time. You would have to explain less to say more.


  • Sad to say that most of the comments here are based on seeing this movie on TV. You completely miss the impact of it that way. Kind of like looking at a diamond ring through a telescope, you know? TII is one of the ten greatest science fiction films of its era and one of the few that a budget that could produce the right results. So if you’re lucky some day you’ll see this film on a big screen. If not, you really haven’t seen it at all…

    • Hello Norman
      And how often have you seen ‘This Island Earth’ in the cinema in recent decades??
      Diabetes, let alone agoraphobia, has kept me away from cinemas for decades. Even so, its hardly like I’m watching the film on a small TV screen and have watched it many times.

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