An interocitor is a fictional multi-functional device that first appeared in the 1949 story "The Alien Machine", which became the beginning four chapters of the 1952 novel This Island Earth, which in turn was made into the 1955 science fiction film This Island Earth. The device arrives in kit form as an intelligence test for scientists who might prove helpful to an alien race.
This Island Earth
An interocitor is an alien device with unusual and strange properties. The concept was conceived by science fiction writer Raymond F. Jones, who wrote the original novel This Island Earth beginning as a series of three sci-fi short stories now known as "The Peace Engineers Trilogy" appearing in the sci-fi pulp magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories from 1949 to 1951.
The film and its origins
Raymond F. Jones then converted the complete story into full book form that was first published in 1952 by Shasta Press. Since the novel became a bestseller, Universal Studios purchased the screen rights to the novel in 1953 and made it into a Technicolor film in 1954, which was released on June 1, 1955. The film was a modest success and has some impressive visual effects. The first third of the trilogy of stories was titled "The Alien Machine", referring to the interocitor, with original graphic artwork penned by sci-fi artist Virgil Finlay. The story was sold to the press with the help of literary agent Forrest J. Ackerman.
The interocitor device
The term interocitor, rather than referring to a specific device, likely refers to a general class of devices that share a common set of operating principles (similar to the term computer). This is inferred from the fact that an interocitor is observed or described in many different roles:
- telecommunications device,
- aircraft autopilot,
- surveillance and security controller,
- directed-energy weapon.
In the film, advanced physicist Cal Meacham first becomes aware of an interocitor when a book arrives at his lab titled Electronic Service, Unit #16. Inside is contained a bill of materials for the interocitor, describing it as "incorporating greater advances than hitherto known in the field of electronics". From the specifications, Meacham opines: "There's no limit to what it could do. Laying a four-lane highway at the rate of a mile a minute would be a cinch."
Of the 2486 components making up an interocitor, only three are mentioned by name in the film:
- bead condenser (model # AB-619),
- cathermin tube with an indium complex of +4,
- intensifier disk.
The instructions accompanying the components also caution that no interocitor part can be replaced, and to bear this in mind while assembling.
Once assembled and powered, Meacham places the intensifier disk into the right-hand control and rotates it 18 degrees counter-clockwise. Upon doing so, the telecommunication function of the interocitor is activated, and Meacham establishes contact with Exeter, the party responsible for sending him the components for the device.
During their conversation, Meacham's lab assistant Joe Wilson attempts to photograph the device but is informed by Exeter that, "Your camera will pick up nothing but black fog. Images on the interocitor don't register on film." Exeter then destroys all evidence of the machine and its blueprints using its functionality as a guided-energy weapon – Meacham tries to pull the power cord just as Exeter initiates the process, but the interocitor self-destructs, leaving nothing but a pile of debris.
Meacham later boards a Douglas DC-3 autopiloted by an interocitor to join Exeter at his research facility. Exeter is also seen using an interocitor to remotely observe a private conversation between Meacham and two other scientists at the facility, Ruth Adams and Steve Carlson. Exeter's assistant Brack later uses the weapons capability of the device to thwart the attempted escape of Meacham, Adams, and Carlson from the facility.
- In the game Borderlands 2, the character Gaige claimed in her personal ECHO recordings that her project (that would eventually be known as Deathtrap) would make her classmate Marcie Holloway's miniature thermosonic generator look like an interocitor. Given the interociter's status as something beyond the current understanding of technology, it is unclear how this constitutes an insult.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie contained a version of This Island Earth. About halfway through the film, Tom Servo reveals that he has his own interocitor, which the crew uses in an attempt to return to Earth. However, they are foiled first by the inept Metalunan whom they contact, and then by the intervention of Dr. Forrester, who attacks them with his own interocitor.
- A small interocitor is seen, used, and mentioned by name in the 2011 film, Attack of the Moon Zombies, the sixth in writer/director Christopher R. Mihm's "Mihmiverse" series of modern-made, 1950s-style B-movies.
- In the computer-generated television series ReBoot, the interocitor was a component which frequently broke on the (flying) car of the main protagonist, Bob.
- In the 2003 film Looney Tunes: Back in Action, the mad scientist found in the California desert is looking for an interocitor that she misplaced.
- In the video game Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, an interocitor can be seen in the science lab below the library. When examined, Larry will remark "I wonder where the candy comes out."
- The interocitor is the name of a device in Doctor Who, involving quantum telecommunication across time and space. It is named specifically as a reference to this film, and this is mentioned by the Doctor (Peter Davison) during the story. This is in the 2007 audio play Renaissance of the Daleks; it is also mentioned in the 8th Doctor audio story Lucie Miller.
- In the novel Caves of Ice by Sandy Mitchell, set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Adeptus Mechanicus techpriest Logash remarks that the expedition into the tunnels 'beats recalibrating interociters (sic).'
- The short story, "A Great Moon Hoax or; A Princess of Mars" by Ben Bova, starts with an interocitor being operated by a Martian and an American industrialist to watch old baseball games. The short story is available in Laugh Lines, a collection of short stories available from Baen Books .
- An interocitor appeared in the "Weird Al" Yankovic 1989 film UHF and in the music video for his song "Dare to be Stupid" with black and white footage of men yo-yoing.
- In the 1989 film Arena, a damaged battle droid near the beginning of the film needs a new interocitor unit to be fully repaired.
- An interocitor is referenced in the setup of the Kelly LeBrock creation in the 1985 film Weird Science.
- In several books by Robert Rankin the inter-rositor is used as part of a running gag often used as a generic MacGuffin to describe away technological plot points. Most notably in the book The Suburban Book of the Dead (Armageddon III: The Remake) in which the full title of the character Byron Vegan is "Inter-rositor Prestidigitent KK Byron Wheeler-Vegan" and who spends much of the plot being passed from pillar to post failing to request a service replacement on an Inter-Rositor which has "a 2 micron downgrade on its lateral augmenter."
- Dynacon Canada (now MCSI) called the controller of its ACS on FedSat an interocitor as an Easter Egg.
- Westfahl, Gary (January 1, 2000). "Chapter 5: From the Back of the Head to Beyond the Moon: The Novel and Film This Island Earth". Science Fiction, Children's Literature, and Popular Culture: Coming of Age in Fantasyland. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 49. ISBN 978-0313308475. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
- "This Island Earth". FictionDB. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
- Jones, Raymond F. (1952). This Island Earth. Shasta Publishers. pp. 31, 43, 78, et al. Retrieved February 24, 2015.