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"Hailing frequencies open, Sir."
—Lt. Uhura, Star Trek the Original Series
When The Captain needs to contact Mission Control to talk to the Voice with an Internet Connection, he has a number of options. He could call him up on his Comm Link, or maybe even find a pay phone. But maybe this is a job for someone more specialized, or maybe The Captain needs someone to delegate this to while he deals with other things. He needs the Communications Officer.
The Communications Officer need not be an officer, and in fact, will often be a lower ranking member tasked with maintaining and operating the complex radio equipment. On a sci-fi show, they will often have a workstation on the bridge of the ship, while in a war movie, you can expect to see this guy running around two steps behind The Captain with a cumbersome backpack radio with a huge whip antenna. Whenever we see Mission Control, expect to see an entire squad of these guys at work. More mundane examples include a secretary in an office, who has the job of screening calls to their boss and sending out messages for them.
Against Dangerously Genre Savvy enemies, he can expect to draw fire, especially if he has one of the bigger backpack radios. You can't call for help if nobody alive can use the communications equipment. If The Radio Dies First, they can be expected to be hard at work trying to fix it, or helplessly declaring that it can't be done.
Anime And Manga
- In Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh, the giant robot in question is so complex to operate that it needs two communications officers.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Kain Fuery's speciality is this.
Film -- Animated
- Mrs. Packard on Atlantis: The Lost Empire, although she spends most of the time chatting up her friend over the phone (which, unless she's also in the submarine, would be quite a feat using 1914 technology).
Film -- Live Action
- Down Periscope has Nitro, a skilled but very eccentric electrician who manages to coerce the aging ship's radio equipment to work via various short-circuits (including several passing through his own body).
- Fantastic Voyage has Charles Grant, a rare example of where the Communications Officer is also The Hero.
- Parodied in Galaxy Quest with Lt. Tawny Madison, Gwen's character from the Show Within the Show. All she did was relay orders to and from the computer.
I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm gonna do it! Okay?
- In Small Soldiers, Link Static serves this role in the Commando Elite.
- Starship Troopers had a series of (often short-lived) characters fulfilling this role, with Dizzy and Ace each taking on the role towards the end of the film.
- Super Troopers has Farva given this job at the highway department as punishment after the school bus incident. Meanwhile, Ursula is tasked with the same job at the Spurbury Police Department because she's a woman.
- Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961). The comm officer aboard the Seaview (a U.S. government vessel) was called Sparks.
- We Were Soldiers: A number of radio operators are mixed in amongst the soldiers, with several unnamed ones getting shot and killed during firefights. Another one, after proving himself particularly skilled by managing to tune in on radio transmissions from a battle happening on the other side of the Earth Reality Is Unrealistic. This actually happened, owing to a quirk of UHF radio signals that allows them to bounce off the upper atmosphere, is assigned as Colonel Moore's personal radioman.
- Robert Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. When Hildy Burroughs is captain of the Gay Deceiver, Zebadiah ("Zeb") Burroughs acts as her comm officer, especially when talking with the British colonists on Mars.
- Adele Mundy in the Republic of Cinnabar series.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5: On the station itself, this job would typically fall to Lieutenant Corwin (in the first season, it alternated between him and an un-named Bridge Bunny.) If Sheridan or Sinclair was in Command and Control, this job would instead go to Commander Ivanova. When traveling out and about aboard one ship or another, this job would fall to whichever character was serving as The Lancer for that mission (Lennier or Marcus, usually).
- Battlestar Galactica originally had Commander Adama's daughter Athena in this role in the original series. In the reboot, the job was performed by Corporal (later Lieutenant) Dualla, as well as her replacement, Hoshi.
- In Mash, Radar was usually called up on to operate the communications equipment
- Star Trek
- Star Trek the Original Series brings us one of the most famous examples, Lieutenant Uhura. In the Star Trek Expanded Universe and the 2009 film she is also a xenolinguistics expert.
- Star Trek the Next Generation: This was the original duty for Worf, perhaps owing to his bicultural background.
- Star Trek Voyager: Harry Kim got a battlefield promotion to chief communications officer, despite only being (perpetually) an ensign.
- Star Trek Enterprise: Hoshi Sato handled communications. Her linguistics expertise also came into play because the Universal Translator was still a work-in-progress.
- Robert RO Dixon in Sea Patrol is a very snarky Communications officer. He does go on boarding parties and is the best person with software.
- In Warhammer 40000, the Imperial Guard has "vox operators" with radio backpacks.
- One of the crew specialties in GURPS Traveller Starships.
- One of the standard Mandatory Bonus Duties in Paranoia. In practice, it mostly plays into the Commie Hunt dynamic.
- GI Joe communications officer "Breaker" was one of the first 3 3/4" GI Joe figures produced, and came with a helmet-mounted radio.
- In every incarnation of Transformers, some version of Soundwave is the Decepticons' Communications Officer. And in many continuities, Blaster serves the same role for the Autobots. There are also some occasional secondary characters who also fill the role, such as Hubcap in Transformers Generation 1 and Kup in Transformers Wings of Honor.
- In the Mass Effect series, this role is typically filled by Joker, Yeoman Chambers, or Specialist Traynor.
- In Wing Commander III, "Radio" Rollins is both this in the literal sense, being the TCS Victory's communication's officer, as well as in the informal sense, considering himself as the one person on the ship who will tell you exactly what's really going on. You have the option upon first meeting him to lay down the law and get him to stop hurting ship's morale with his rumors.
- Exo Squad features team member Alec DeLeon, with his specialized Communications E-Frame.
- In Sealab 2020 and its Gag Dub Sealab 2021, the com officer for the title installation was Lieutenant Sparks (apparently his real last name).
- Voltron: Legendary Defender has Curtis and Veronica, who serve under Captain Takashi Shirogane's orders at the Atlas. Atr the very end, Curtis becomes Shiro's Love Interest.
- The backpack radio is Truth in Television, since they've been around since World War II. The American version is the SCR-300, Which was an large, portable radio that was utilized by infantry in order to bridge the communications gap between a company and their headquarters, and to call in the occasional artillery barrage. Weighing just under 35 pounds and having an flexible antenna that had an tendency to attract the enemy's attention, the SCR-300 was somewhat of a burden for whomever it was issued to; but the ability to shell whomever is shooting at you is generally worth lugging around an electronic brick that's strapped onto you. But in a case of Technology Marches On tactical radioes have gotten smaller and lighter nowadays, which makes it harder for the enemy to find the designated comms officer.