Thursday, November 3, 2016

HERITAGE AUCTIONS OFFERING "BACKGROUND" WRATH OF KHAN MAROON JACKET. EXCEPT THERE'S NO SUCH THING.

Every so often, a so-called "Monster Maroon" uniform as seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan comes to auction. As a fan of these great pieces, I look forward to these with particular anticipation. Usually they are the real deal because they are incredibly difficult to fake and a knock-off sticks out like a sore thumb.

Which brings me to this offering from Heritage:

Heritage's Maroon uniform Jacket (click to enlarge)
Looks, cool, right? Here's the accompanying text:

"An Extra's Jacket from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Paramount, 1982. Red cotton, collarless, black and gold piping, gold-metal emblems attached on shoulder strap, chest and cuffs, no labels present; likely worn by an extra as it's similar but not identical to the uniforms worn by the main cast members."

So it is "similar but not identical to the uniforms worn by the main cast members". Which makes it, by their definition, at least, an "Extra's Jacket", which totally makes sense except for one thing. There were no "extra" or "background" versions of the officer's jacket in these films. Every jacket we ever see is a full-blown version, identical in materials and construction to those worn by the main cast. How do I know that? Because I know more about these pieces than just about anyone alive (go HERE to see what I mean). I have done exhaustive research over the years. I have owned many specimens, both main cast pieces and background pieces. I know many others who own various specimens and they have shared their insights with me. I have a database that has tracked every version sold over the last fifteen years. They all have one thing in common – they are all made the same way with the same level of detail. In short, they are all "hero" versions. There is no secondary, lower-level "background/extra" version for one simple reason – money. When Wrath of Khan was made, the production was under very tight budgetary constraints. So very few actors outside of the main cast even wore the officer's maroon uniform. Those few that did, show them to be identical in every way to the main cast versions because they are on screen with the main cast so they had to match.

The shoulder straps on all production pieces, for instance, were all the same design. Heritage's is different and doesn't even have a clasp! A background piece shouldn't be as elaborate as, yet different from, a production piece. That makes no sense. It has a different gold braid. Why? It's thicker and gaudier. Why? And in the dozens and dozens of straps and jackets I've seen over they years not a single one was missing the clasp. Not one. In the image below, the far right shot shows an actual extra's strap (from Wrath of Khan). This is the only extra ever seen on the bridge throughout the film, and only one of three extras shown wearing a maroon in the entire movie. Note that it has the clasp and the thinner, darker gold braid.


The heritage piece is described as being cotton, which would have stood out like a sore thumb against the wool versions worn by everyone else. The wrists on production pieces all show the same trapunto (or quilting) detail with stitched rings in all cases (the Heritage piece has none). The admiral wrist braid was of two particular designs, neither of which match the Heritage version.

No production piece has ever been missing the quilting detail on the arms. But Heritage's is.
So, in short, while the Heritage version appears to be a WOK jacket at a glance, it quickly falls apart under scrutiny. Their main claim of "extra" usage is not supported by the facts, but is a claim commonly used to support a piece because, as such it wouldn't have to match the "hero"versions. Very convenient, and unprovable as it is circular logic – "It's a background piece that you can't see very well, which is why its details are different and you can't confirm it because it's, you know, always in the background". Riiiight.

I say there were no "extra" versions, ever, and that supposition is supported by years of research, not guesswork. If someone has information to the contrary, by all means please pass it along to me. I live to learn.  But I think I'm on pretty solid ground here.

I contacted Heritage with my concerns and this was their reply:

"Dear Mr. Hillenbrand,

Please see attached photos where background actors are wearing similar jackets to the one Heritage is offering in our upcoming November 12th auction.  I’ve spoken to the consignor of this piece and he obtained it directly from Paramount Studios a number of years ago. He’s “in the business” so it makes sense he would have this costume piece. It is not a fan made piece as you speculate below.  It is actually quite well-made and detailed if you could see it in person.  It was worn by one of the background actors probably in the scenes I’ve attached here – it was not worn by one of the main actors and is not a “hero” piece.  Hopefully this addresses your concern.

Best,
Margaret Barrett
Director / Entertainment & Music"

The scene she refers to is this shot from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home :


The only problem with that theory is that several of those maroons shown were later sold at auction and were the same as all the other versions. They were no different from the main cast uniforms in any way. And we know that they reused jackets from earlier films over and over so that they didn't have to go to the expense of making new ones, especially for bit players. All trek films had super-tight budgets. These are facts, not guesses.

Regarding the Paramount mention, it's actually possible that this is a Paramount copy created for things like the old Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. They created copies of many Starfleet uniforms and various aliens for those venues. Perhaps this is one of those. It would actually explain the missing clasp. I suspect there might be Velcro under there in place of the clasp which is commonly used on theater costumes to make them easy to take off and on. But who knows?

So here's the bottom line on this piece. It is either:

1. A rare, never-before-seen "extra" version which has never, ever been shown or proven to exist

or

2. It's a very nice (though inaccurate) copy.

Guess which one I'm going with? I'll let you decide for yourself as to whether or not this piece is what they claim. But here's some additional food for thought.

This piece has been up for auction for weeks and has not garnered a single bid, despite have a very low opening number. If this were real, I know of any number of people who would be hot after it, myself included! Yet there it sits, languishing in loneliness. Which is what it deserves, after all. Heritage needs to up their game, especially on something as simple as this. It makes them look like fools in this writer's opinion.

Don't be fooled by fools.

LLAP

Don

Thursday, September 29, 2016

SINCE CBS DIDN'T GIVE US A 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, LET'S WATCH THE 25TH AGAIN

While it was nice to see a couple of Star Trek 50th Anniversary shows appear on History Channel and The Smithsonian Channel, there was no "official" celebration on CBS and Paramount, the actual owners of Star Trek. In light of that, let's watch the 25th Anniversary special that was originally broadcast on September 28, 1991.

It was a simpler time!


LLAP,

Don

Thursday, September 15, 2016

TOM HANKS SNUCK ONTO WRATH OF KHAN SETS BECAUSE HE'S TOM HANKS

Everybody's favorite actor, Tom Hanks, is also a Star Trek fan as evidenced by his various Trek insider comments over the years. Here's his latest where he talks about his "greatest day in Hollywood":

LLAP

Don

Monday, September 12, 2016

CELEBRATE YOUR LOVE OF THE ORIGINAL SERIES: A FIVE-FOOT ENTERPRISE CAN NOW BE YOURS.

If you've always wanted a really big version of the original Enterprise, well, you're in luck!

A number of years ago, a company named Custom Replicas created a huge model of the Enterprise. And by huge I mean it was 66 inches long! That's roughly half the scale of the original filming model which was 11 feet long. Only a handful of these models were assembled, painted and finished, and one of those is now available. Click on the photo, below, to see this baby in all its glory!


This will soon be sold at auction (more to come as details are known). Keep in mind that these things were incredibly pricey to begin including the cost of the original model, having it built and wired for light, then painted and put on display. It is beautifully detailed and looks like it could take off for the stars at warp 9!

This is a really cool piece that I hope will find a good home with another devoted Star Trek collector. When the auction details are known, I'll post a follow-up. I'm not involved in this transaction in any way. I'm just a fan of this great model!

LLAP.

Don


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

MY OBSESSION WAS BORN FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY. HERE'S WHY IT STILL MATTERS.

Star Trek was born on September 8, 1966, with the airing of the first ever episode "The Man Trap". Now, I'm not one of those people who claim that the heavens parted and their lives changed forever after that first hour of Star Trek was over. There's a good reason for that: I was simply too young to watch it, let alone be moved by it. No, my obsession didn't start until years later when I could actually think and read and stuff like that. Star Trek hit me right between the eyes when I discovered it being shown every afternoon at 6 on my local Kaiser Broadcasting station (Channel 61, Cleveland!) in the early seventies. While my parents watched Cronkite, I watched Kirk. And watched, and watched and – well, I'm still watching!

Why is a fifty-year-old TV show meaningful today? First of all, it's still relevant because of the simple fact that everybody knows what Star Trek is. Even after half a century, it endures. The longest period of time between Trek productions was the 10 year stretch between the original series ending in 1969 and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December of 1979. (I'm not including the short lived Animated Series from 1974 as it was not a traditional live-action show). After that time, no more than four years passed without a Trek series or film being produced. It's an unprecedented achievement with no other TV show in history even coming close to Star Trek's staying power.

That staying power has been fueled by one key thing: Star Trek is, at its best, a story about ideas. Sometimes it's big ideas (the end of the universe!) and sometimes small (the love between mother and child). And that's the beauty of Trek. It's not just telling the same story over and over (Law & Order, anyone?). It's about opening new doors, looking into corners that are rarely, if ever, peeked at and shining a light onto new possibilities. It can be alternately heavy (The Motion Picture) or light (The Voyage Home), big ("Best of Both Worlds") or intimate ("The Inner Light"). Great and awful (too many of each to name).

Star Trek typically tells its stories through the lens of family and how that family comes together in a moment of crisis to move things to a safer ground. Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Picard, Data and Riker. Sisko and his crew, and on and on. Our heroes are challenged, then rise to meet said challenge through ability, intelligence, guts and having that most undefinable of qualities, The Right Stuff. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't. But it's almost always a positive, forward-looking outcome which is refreshing in this age of stories about darkness, evil and How Bad Things Are. In an ever-increasing pessimistic world, Star Trek has always strived to show the best in humanity.

We need that optimism now more than ever.

With that in mind, there's a new Trek coming our way next year. It's called Star Trek Discovery, a name that evokes the very best of what Star Trek can be. You know the drill:

"...to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldy go where no one has gone before."

Let's hope this new Trek lives up to its distinguished pedigree.

Happy Fiftieth, Star Trek. May you continue to Live Long and Prosper.

Don

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"STAR TREK DISCOVERY" WILL HAVE FEMALE LEAD – SET 10 YEARS BEFORE ORIGINAL SERIES

Star Trek Discovery, the new Trek series due out in January from CBS, will have a female lead according to Showrunner Bryan Fuller speaking at CBS's Television Critics Association press event. Interestingly, the lead won't be the ship's captain, but rather will be a lieutenant commander.


A unique point of view

This will be the first time any Trek has moved away from the POV of the ship's captain. “We’ve seen six series from captain’s point of view,” he explained. “To see one from another point of view gives us a richer context.” Who will fill the role has yet to be determined. “It’s about who’s the best actor,” he said. We're going to delve into something that was for me always very tantalizing and to tell that story through a character who is on a journey that is going to teach her how to get along with others in the galaxy," Fuller said . "For her to truly understand something that is alien, she has to first understand herself."

Set 10 years prior to The Original Series in the Prime Universe

The show will NOT be set in the movie universe as created by JJ Abrams for his film series (THANK GOD!). It will take place ten years before Kirk, Spock and company set out on their Five Year Mission. That's far closer than I thought it would be. On a related note, Fuller mentioned that he loved the character of Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother who married the Vulcan Ambassador Sarek. Amanda was played by the great Jane Wyatt in the TOS episode "Journey to Babel" and in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Does that mean the character will actually appear in some way? Will a young Spock appear? Holy crap!

Gay characters will exist

Fuller, a gay man himself, stated that "Absolutely we’re having a gay character ." That element is one of the last taboos to be broken by a Star Trek production and it's long overdue. “What can we say about diversity in every role,” he added. “We’ll probably have a few more aliens than you typically have on the show. We wanted to paint a picture of Starfleet where we’re going to have new exciting aliens and also new imagining of existing aliens,” Fuller said via Entertainment Weekly.

A new visual style?

Fuller addressed the nature of a story that takes place 10 years before another show made in 1966 (TOS). "We can redefine the visual style,” he said. “We get to play with all of the iconography of those ships and that universe. Since we are doing this series in 2016 and all of the other series have been produced [at a time that] isn’t as sophisticated as we are now with what we can do production-wise, we’re going to be reestablishing an entire look for the series — not only for the series, but for what we wanted to accomplish with Star Trek beyond this series.”

This, frankly, confuses the hell out of me.  If you change the style, then this is not actually set in the Prime Universe, but one similar. If you change the visuals, you change the story and the universe in which it takes place.

This sounds like a defacto reboot. And I'm all for that!

LLAP,

Don