... The Theta Dummy

This page is an accumulation of our various studies and essential screencaps of this not-yet-found communicator.

Here's our guess as to what this prop might look like today:


Theta's Jewels

This communicator is unique in that it's the only one with a red jewel in the left position, making the prop easy to spot from any half-decent view of its control well - which as it turns out are frustratingly few.  At least that left rhinestone shows off big time in the great low-angle Mirror, Mirror close-up (on the right):

Zooming in and comparing the two options here; Light Siam and Hyacinth...

... given the target stone's overall light / darkness and general lack of orange tint, our pick has to be 16ss Light Siam.

Figuring out the other two rhinestones, however, has been an absolute bear.  We see all three original jewels in only two quick scenes in that single episode, Mirror, Mirror; first when Scotty is working covertly above Engineering:

Zooming in, here's what that comm looks like before he covers it with his shadow:

One could easily dismiss these frames as having no jewel color data whatsoever, but that would be incorrect.  If we assume this is the same prop as in the preceeding low-angle close-up, that left jewel (on the right in these shots) should of course be Light Siam red.  So what happens when we dial up the color saturation and the contrast?  Do we see that color?

Yes, we do, establishing this comm is indeed Theta.  Thus if we color-tune the images so that the left jewel matches a Light Siam, it stands to reason the same adjustment should correct the other two jewels to be near their true colors too.  Enlarged even more, and with a black mask and simulated bezel superimposed to block out extraneous noise, here's what you get:

Clearly the center jewel is an orange-red and the right a yellowish-green.  From this, figure at least the center is another 16ss Hyacinth.

Or is it?  Just a bit later in that episode, we see Scotty once again using the device, this time in the Jefferies Tube:

In this brief scene, it's held in hand as he quickly moves his finger down to press the left knob:

But this time the center gem looks mostly dark and sometimes almost purple...

... suggesting it's instead a Fuchsia, a (view angle-dependent) Volcano or even an Amethyst:

So is the center stone bright orange-red or deep purple?  The clue that guided our choice is noting that in the fifteen time-sequenced frames above, Scotty's finger casts a moving shadow, as evidenced by the change in brightness of the jewels' surrounding bezel rings.  This shadow shifts the look first of the left Light Siam and next the center gem.  The question then becomes... can a bright Hyacinth in shadow appear purple?  We experimented below where a finger puts a Hyacinth rhinestone into shadow, then the image size is reduced so the jewel (like in the sequence above) is but a few fuzzy pixels wide:

While the Hyacinth didn't quite turn purple, its shift to at least a dark red confirms that the data from the Jefferies Tube appearance is less reliable at determining true color than the more-static scene above Engineering.  This, plus the fact that Wah put a red rhinestone in every other comm's center position, means we're sticking here with the Hyacinth.

The control well in Theta is seen only two more times, while it's tossed to the floor in Bread and Circuses and for just a flash in passing in The Omega Glory.  At this point in the show, the center rhinestone we just spent all that time examining is gone; its spot now just a bare hub top:

Moving on to the right jewel - it has taken every last scrap of data to come up with the likely stone type.  We see from "Bread" it's almost assuredly a 20ss - this by overlaying a to-scale simulation of both a 16ss and 20ss rhinestone (& bezel) atop the raw screencap image:

As to the rhinestone's color, the cyan reflected off the facet above means it's AB coated, and we know from our earlier study that the stone is likely in the yellow-green family, with the only four choices thus being:

To narrow the options, we compiled the comm's stone's every appearance, with the lower row of images taking each raw ultra-close-up just above it and amping the chroma to hopefully just short of distortion:

Of the four possibilities, the one that best satisfies all six criteria above is the 20ss Olivine AB, see matching up here as its viewed under different lighting conditions:

Since Wah had a limited selection of stone colors available, that an Olivine AB also went into the Alpha hero (albeit a smaller 15ss) can only add support to this call.

To conclude, here's our best guess as to the Swarovski rhinestones used in this communicator:


Top Choice

Other Possibilities

16ss Light Siam

16ss Hyacinth

16ss Hyacinth

16ss Fuchsia

20ss Olivine AB

20ss Peridot AB
20ss Blk. Diamd. AB

And if you thought that was rough...
. . . .. . Theta's Moiré Patterns (yes, that's plural)

Figuring out this comm's moiré installation was far and away the most brutal investigative challenge of the entire HeroComm project.  After taking more than a decade simply to find enough screencaps to study the spot with confidence, we discovered that not only did its surface always look blank but it seemed to change in appearance from light to dark!  However, after false starts and story twists galore, those two issues turned out to be the starting clues that eventually led us to the true original moiré pattern.  And it's unlike anything you'd imagine.  Here is a summary of that pursuit.

Starting with Theta's best appearance, in Bread and Circuses, the moiré field is a nearly uniform black - except around the lower perimeter where there's a prominent glue stain:

Yet in the other two episodes the prop was known early on to be in, the circular area is essentially a featureless light grey:

This difference in brightness was for years attributed, for lack of any other evidence, to just an odd lighting effect in the "Bread" jail fight shot, and that what's there in Theta is merely another bland, hard-to-see moiré pattern, like Delta's or Zeta's, only perhaps printed on glossy paper instead of the usual matte.  Still, hoping to tease out whatever pattern might be there before finishing work on this website, we created clearer amalgam images of the field from both the "Mirror" Jefferies Tube and the "Bread" scenes.  In each, multiple frames were re-circled and realigned, then blended to create a single version that cancels out the random file compression noise and hopefully elevates any true moiré elements.  What we initially saw was seemingly as useless as the raw data:

But cranking the contrast up allowed one detail to emerge:

There at the bottom of the brightened "Mirror" amalgam is what must be the same big glue stain that's in "Bread," so that was nice corroboration.  However, since the goal here was to find traces of the true moiré image, and nothing actionable was produced, this effort was judged to be a dead end.

Then came the discovery of Theta in The Omega Glory - with the same obviously black moiré area and conspicuous glue stain as in "Bread":

At this point the difference in moiré brightness could no longer be dismissed as a one-off trick of lighting.  This thing changed, and in fact comparing the timing of the now-four found episodes to how the area looked in each reveals a clear break between the light and dark:


Tomorrow is Yesterday (ep. 21)
Mirror, Mirror (ep. 39)
Bread and Circuses (ep. 43)
The Omega Glory (ep. 54)

Light Grey
Light Grey

Since the glue stain is there both before and after the change, the only possible explanation is that Theta had a 2-layer moiré assembly, only static.  Wah must have originally installed (with excess glue) a clear transparency above a paper layer with a dull, thin-lined pattern that at any distance became a simple patch of light grey.  Then sometime mid-2nd Season the bezel ring got knocked off from the shell, and while the top transparency remained glued in the ring, the bottom paper layer fell out - only to be replaced by some manner of black disk, thus the change from light to dark.  This incident easily could have happened right there when filming "Bread," as the prop was likely flung repeatedly to the floor to get one good take.

This theory failed instantly, however, when a mock-up showed a bright reflection off the clear transparency of the bezel ring's upper lip that isn't there in screencaps:

A substantial error clearly existed in our analysis.  Revisiting all the evidence, there it was:  the "Mirror, Mirror" amalgam image has lighter patches not just where "Bread's" glue stains are but around most of the circle's perimeter...

... meaning the big glue stain seen in "Bread" wasn't there at the start; it was mere coincidence that a couple of the "Mirror" bright patches (whatever they are) appeared in similar locations near the bottom.  This realization threw us back to square one, prompting a completely fresh look at, among other things, the individual frames from the Jefferies Tube scene.  While the data in each is of very low quality - given the dim light level and small object size - something new was detected... a slight but consistent change within the moiré field as Scotty's hand movement alters our viewing angle of it.  Note in particular the fairly blank circle in Frame 6 versus the distinct darker center patch in 12:

Such a change in appearance at different viewing angles can only come from either a lenticular (think of those old "3D" baseball cards) or a moiré effect, but what kind?  We know the top isn't a transparency, and printed layers don't behave this way.  About to throw in the towel, we took one last dive into our collection of all the Edmund Scientific materials Wah would likely have had access to, which included this complete "Experimenter's Moiré Kit with Booklet (Stock No. 70718)," from which six of his seven known paper moiré images were cut from (below is of course our copy, not his, which is not known to have survived):

Noticed among the contents, still taped to the back of a seperate ad sheet titled "Multi-Lensed Thermoplastic Sheeting," was a long-overlooked small envelope:

Inside were two unassuming sample pieces of flexible, translucent plastic, each about 2 x 2.5" with a 0.009" thickness, with one side being a bit shinier than the other:

Following for the first time the attached instructions (here's front and back), the shinier of the two sides were put together, and... ZOWIE!

As you see, depending on their angle against each other, the moiré effects from this material are highly varied and often striking, as instead of the usual black ink on ink, we get here light playing upon light, and in a stereoscopic "3-D" way that no camera can fully capture.  All these effects come from the 10,000 parabolic lenses per square inch molded into one side:

The two sets of lenses interact, such that when one sheet is rotated against the other, we see large cells that shrink to dots, then morph into swaths of light & dark that coalesce into lines, which revert back after 90 degrees and repeat again as rotation continues.  And under point-source lighting, assorted sparkles can also appear throughout:

It should be noted the moiré effects from these sheets can change somewhat depending both on the lighting and viewing angles.  Plus the effects can even fade away when there's the slightest gap between the two plastic layers:

So the big question is... can these sheets replicate the various looks in Theta's "Mirror" Jefferies Tube scene?  The closest that can be achieved with clean layers is when the two are in exactly the 0 degree position (as per the big matrix above):

Here a bright perimeter can stretch about two thirds of the way around a darker center, and then at a lower-angled view, the entire area can wash out.  However, this is opposite of what we see in the Jefferies Tube, where it's at the higher viewing angle that it looks blank, and only at a shallower view does the center get darker.  Plus the bright perimeter patches seen in "Mirror" are broken and irregular, not smooth like here.  Close but no cigar.  But there's one more possibility to consider, and it involves once again a glue stain.

As reported above, getting good moiré effects with this material require the two layers to be in contact with one another.  To ensure this, Wah may have cemented them together with a drop of transparent glue.  And of course glue will spread out when squished between two surfaces.  Could this explain the oddly-shaped darker patch in the center of Frame 12 - it's the extent of the glue's spread?  To test this, we simulated such a squish of adhesive with a 3/4" square piece of thin, clear double-sided tape:

The results... were glorious:

EUREKA!  This indeed is what Wah installed in Theta's bezel ring.

Also nicely revealed in this experiment is that bonding the two layers with a thin, clear glue (or any clear liquid if you want just a temporary joining) really makes the pattern pop, as the contrast between the darkest darks and the lightest lights is increased.

So, lastly, can it be determined what actual rotation angles the layers had; i.e. what the specific moiré pattern was?  Alas that's one bridge just too far to reach with the scant bit of data we have - but we'll take a stab at it anyway.  At a minimum it probably didn't have any bold lines or dots, as the test below shows you'd likely detect them if they were there:

It seems Wah picked a more subtle pattern.  Now across all the images we have from the "Mirror" Jefferies Tube scene, a single weak signal can be seen a handful of times of some mildly dark lines, always at an 11:00 o'clock-ish angle:

As these are the only somewhat-consistent discernable features appearing in the frames, those five images were blended together to bring out what is easily one line and some possible others, such that a regular spacing of them (five or six total, in yellow) can be postulated:

When scanning through the full range of patterns created by our vintage prismatic sheets, at least a half dozen times the field had the requisite number of lines.  But in only one position, at about the 40° mark (as per the big matrix above) did those lines have the correct faint darkness.  And so here it is, after all this time - our best guess as to what Theta's original moiré pattern looked like, up close and personal (including a simulation of the center glue patch using that double-sided tape):

So cool, right?

And when the same "blur" test as before is performed with this pattern...

Somewhat closer.  And as this exhausts the slim totality of all information that exists on this communicator's original moiré, we are done.

Thus to sum it up:

It's fair to observe this moiré insert, while looking playful to any nearby set of eyes, isn't that TV camera-friendly, as the 3D-like effects are just too small to be seen from afar.

A YEAR LATER CAME THE INCIDENT that jarred the bezel ring off.  The prismatic layers fell out and a matte black disk was put in instead:

But where did this black disk come from?  Did a studio worker cut one out from, say, some construction paper laying around?  Maybe not.  First, it's a precision task to trim a circle that just fits into the bezel ring, and that big bottom glue stain says the repair job wasn't precise.  Secondly, why pick black when easily-available white paper would be much closer to the light plastic that was there before?  So the other possibility is that Wah backed his prismatic layers with a black disk to ensure the pattern's appearance was maximized, and the disk assembly was just carelessly stuck back in upside down.  This theory also has a potential weakness in that in its original orientation (moiré-side up), you'd see prominently through the translucent plastic the dark spot of glue fastening that black disk, due to the glue's messing with the bottom prisms' refractive index.  However, Wah may have known of this trouble and glued on the black disk just at its outer edge.  So should the actual prop exist today, it's possible the plastic moiré layers are still there underneath.


*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Now if you're wondering if this material is still available for replica builds, we're thrilled to report the original company, Rowlux, makes clear prismatic sheets with essentially the same micro-lens density.  Unfortunately the product today, their "Moiré Illusion Film," at a thickness of 0.015", comes with the two layers pre-bonded at such an angle that they create only large-scale ripples.  You've seen this stuff before, perhaps covering drum sets...

... and certainly covering walls:

Even in 1-inch diameter circles, though, these modern sheets can still look quite handsome, especially when moved around under direct light.  For around $20, you can have a one-sq-ft. sample sheet like the one held in the picture above (details on where to buy here).  And with it you have three options:

1.  Cut a disk from any interesting spot, such as this:

2.  Cut two circles from a bland patch and stack them (adding up to four original one-sided sheets), and depending on their rotation you can sort of get a close approximation of the suspected original look (although the dark patches become lighter, reducing the contrast):

3.  Or... you can go the full monte and actually re-create to near perfection the fun original 1960s sheets!  This can be achieved by sanding off the tiny lenses from one side and polishing back up that surface.  The results are AMAZING, but needless to say it does take some work.  We describe that full process here:



In about an hour's time, you'll have the layers to create a thoroughly novel, totally gorgeous moiré pattern of your choosing that's also fully Wah-authentic:

p.s.  This material can produce yet more nifty effects beyond what's shown above.  For instance, placing a specular (mirror-like) reflective disk beneath your two layers pumps up the sparkle and overall brightness considerably.  Or taking that concept even further, these sheets can also wow when light shines through them from underneath.  In fact it could be conjectured that the strange details in Zeta - with a switch-sized hole in the shell under its control panel, and the center red jewel sunk into its hub - could have originally been intended for a lit comm with this as its moiré insert, but the plan was eventually scrapped:

p.p.s.  The ultimate effect - and you'll get this when you start playing with your finished sanded layers - would be to install these guys in a rotating hero communicator.  While not fully tested, it's assumed, however, that the contact between the two layers (needed for the moiré effects to show up) would make for too much friction for the bottom disk to then rotate via a stopwatch.  And if it did, the layers would also likely soon scuff each other up.  Still, one can dream...

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

In closing this most epic of our little journeys, it must be said our discovery of this communicator's original moiré insert was only possible due to not one but five unlikely happenstances, each occurring in precise order:  1) Wah's glue between the two layers not quite spreading to the full visible area, 2) Jimmy Doohan's pressing down on the comm's button in the Jefferies Tube, tilting the prop just enough, 3) a 2nd Season impact hard enough to knock off the bezel ring, 4) the repair guy messily sticking back in something black, and 5) the steadfast integrity of a half-century old piece of tape:

It's almost enough to make one believe in higher powers.

More information on all the moiré patterns can be found on our A Moiré Story page.

Theta's Bezel Ring Grooves
There's a clearly visible groove near the top (red arrows), and also a bare whisp of a single thinner groove (orange arrow) below it:


Essential Screencaps

This communicator in Mudd's Women needed to be identified by process of elimination, so it isn't 100.0% assured.  The comm has no back screws, so that leaves Epsilon, Theta, Eta and Iota.  The Velcro starts far up, ruling out Epsilon.  The midplate's exposure on the left looks minimal, which excludes Eta.  And the antenna opens to about a 30 degree angle, unlike Iota, which at this point in the series flipped all the way back (and later then stopped at about 10 degrees):

This communicator above with the bent antenna is either Theta or Eta, given its lack of screws and short Velcro.  We're thinking Theta, as this prop has a barely exposed midplate on the left and front, different from the wide exposure seen in Eta in "Metamorphosis", plus there's a couple of apparent solder marks here that seem to match those that fleetingly flash in Theta while tumbling on the floor in "Bread and Circuses":


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