Voice Prints and Inboard Sensors

By Gabriel Boehme

Some time ago, as I was watching "Powerplay" for the nth time, I was struck by two aspects of Zen and the Liberator which seemed to have been created out of thin air just for this episode: voice-print authorization and inboard sensors.

DAYNA:You mean the ship is doing whatever it wants?
TARRANT:That's right. Our guess is that before Blake and his crew abandoned the computer was instructed only to respond to recognised voice prints. If Blake or any of the others have survived they'll use a communicator link. The computer will identify the voice and then direct the navigation units to take the ship within teleport range of the transmission source.
AVON:You need one of the original crew back on board to put the ship under your control.
KLEGG:That's exactly right.

This got me wondering: at what time, exactly, did the Liberator crew decide to implement the voice-print security measure? It seems unlikely that they were anticipating having to abandon ship, or that they would have had time in mid-battle ("Star One" - "Aftermath") to devise such a scheme.

So when did this happen? Well, the clues are subtle, but I'd suggest that it actually took place waaaay back in "Redemption," where Blake gives the following command to Orac:

BLAKE:We want total analysis of Zen's override system and erasure of that control. Eliminate any links with an external computer. Key the voice systems to respond only to the commands of Avon, myself, and Jenna.

And sure enough, once Zen is back under their control at the end of the episode, the only commands he responds to are the ones given by Blake, Avon and Jenna. (By "Shadow," this authorization has clearly been extended to the other three crew members as well, no doubt in much the same way that Avon extends voice-print authority to Dayna and Tarrant at the end of "Powerplay.")

This also seems to make sense with the other "Liberator takeover" stories: Tarvin has no trouble giving Zen orders in "Bounty," whilst Servalan's need for voice-print authorization is a major plot point in "The Harvest Of Kairos."

Unfortunately, there's also "Terminal," where Servalan doesn't even bother trying to get voice-print authority! Perhaps she was accompanied by a team of experts who could fly the ship even without Zen's help -- Zen seemed to indicate to Servalan in "Kairos" that this was a possibility:

SERVALAN:So tell me, Zen, how does one operate this craft?
ZEN:One manipulates the controls, and the craft functions accordingly.
SERVALAN:Yes, I've heard of your impudence. Now perhaps you will tell me _how_ to manipulate the controls.
ZEN:Manual operation is not possible without full pilot training. Automatic navigation and control computers will respond to certain voice patterns.

So, it *does* appear entirely possible that one could operate the ship manually, without any voice-print authorization whatsoever. Servalan could very well have decided that bringing her own experts with "full pilot training" was a far simpler option than having to deal with potential voice-print trickery from the Liberator crew (as demonstrated by Avon in "Kairos").

In addition to the voice-print security system, it seems likely that events in "Redemption" had something to do with the existence of the inboard sensors as well. By "Powerplay," Avon treats them as a normal, everyday part of the Liberator:

AVON: Zen, where are they?
ZEN: Inboard sensors registering movement in the teleport section.

They're also present in "Sarcophagus," where Zen is able to detect the presence of an intruder. And yet, contrast the above dialogue with this excerpt from "Bounty":

VILA:Zen, has something happened to them?
ZEN:Data is not available.
VILA:I don't want data, I want to know what's happening.
ZEN:It will be necessary for you to make a personal investigation.
And what about all those other early episodes, like "Time Squad," "Project Avalon" and especially "Redemption," where everyone was forced to run around and search the ship manually, to make their own "personal investigations?"

I'd say it all points to programming blocks initially set up by the System, preventing anyone without System authority from truly taking over the ship. Locking out the inboard sensors would be a *tremendous* tactical advantage for System troops attempting to take the ship back, as events in "Redemption" clearly proved. For Orac, it was no doubt trivial to reactivate these locked-out systems, as they presumably fell under the heading of erasing Liberator's external control mechanisms.

Thus, Zen's unwillingness to be overly helpful in early episodes like "Time Squad" can be viewed merely as side-effects of the restrictions put in place by the System, which were later removed by Orac.

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Last changed on 18th of March 2001