Occasionally in Star Trek Enterprise, a visual or audio communication channel will be open between Enterprise and an adversary. While the com is open, the crew will tell the captain things that they clearly don't want the adversary hearing.

It seems that the com channel only communicates what the captain says, but to the casual observer it looks like a live video feed. Are there any specifics on whether com channels are dumb live feeds or whether they're filtered in some way, either automatically or by the communications officer?

2 Answers 2


In the Voyager books I have at home they mention that the audio contact between the Starship and whomever it is talking to filters the audio.

ISTR it transmits

  • Anything said by the person at the 'centre' of the viewscreen (it does not specify how this is determined).

  • Other noise above a certain level.

Hence, if you were communicating with someone else I could quietly give you advise or information and the other party would not hear it. If you wanted a proper discussion with people then you would need to mute the audio to avoid everything you say and anything that other say loudly enough being transmitted.

  • That sounds like what I'm looking for. Can you give me the author and title?
    – Error 454
    May 30, 2013 at 16:12
  • I have not read many so I would guess it was the captain's table or the voyager part of invasion. Not sure other than that, sorry :-( although I remember nelix was pretending to be the captain and janeway was quietly prompting him as spoke to them on the main viewer
    – Stefan
    May 30, 2013 at 22:38

Most communications between ships that involve the primary viewscreen do not seem to filter communications unless the order is requested by the captain or officer in charge of said communication. It is likely the communications officer has the capacity to filter the outgoing signal so only the commander/captain can be heard.

  • On the bridge, when the viewscreen is active, no one but the command officer is speaking so filtering isn't usually a priority. Each ship handles its communication protocols differently depending on their tactical situations.

  • We have watched when Picard will give the order to "mute audio" while he discusses tactics or choices with Riker or other bridge crew members.

  • The technology surely exists to filter audio so only the person speaking is heard, but we are rarely shown that such technology is used even if theoretically it exists. Such technology exists on our current Earth, so the Enterprise's future should have some completely controllable aspect, even if it isn't show except for dramatic purposes.

  • 1
    Related to point 2, Picard makes a point of silent orders at the end of TNG 3x18, Allegiance
    – Izkata
    May 30, 2013 at 1:41
  • 2
    "Mute audio"--fortunately, no one knows how to read lips. :-) Also, presumably the universal translator is sometimes applied as a filter, no?
    – user11683
    May 30, 2013 at 16:10

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