Wednesday, September 13, 2017

35TH ANNIVERSARY THEATRICAL RETURN OF WRATH OF KHAN DEFINITELY NOT A NO-WIN SCENARIO!

Admit it. You can still here that scream down through the years, right? You know the one:



Yeah, THAT one! Well, it still rings out with all the power and desperation that it had back in 1982 as I discovered this past week when I attended the Fathom Events theatrical showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (WOK). Does it still hold up? Damn straight it does! And not just because of Kirk's powerful bellow.

There's a reason that, even after 35 years, Wrath of Khan is still voted the best Star Trek film ever made. Its story-telling remains unsurpassed in both writing and visual terms. In an age of CGI where literally anything can be put onto film, WOK's intimate cat and mouse game still holds up. Why? Because everything works.

Kirk and Khan face off the first time
THE STORY

Director Nick Meyer did the impossible – he took a so-so script and in just ten days time turned it into the masterwork that we know today. Despite having zero knowledge of Star Trek, he quickly figured out what made the original series work at its best, and with producer Harve Bennet chose what is surely one of the best, most exciting and action-packed TOS episodes, "Space Seed", as the basis for their film. That choice would be the impetus to greatness.

THE CHARACTERS

Where the earlier Star Trek: The Motion Picture had taken a cold, subdued approach to Trek, WOK embraced the characters for what they were at their best – passionate and vital. The result was a complete turnaround for our gallant captain and crew. Gone was the sternness of The Motion Picture's gray tones and even grayer plot. Suddenly, our heroes were back in vivid color and breathless action. They were once again the ideals that we had fallen in love with all those years ago, back to save the day once again.

Khan has a few words with Joaquin
THE ANTAGONIST

In the fifty-plus years of Star Trek, there has simply never been a more menacing, larger-than-life villain than Khan Noonien Singh as brought to glorious life by the great Ricardo Montalban. Beginning with "Space Seed", the character leapt off the screen and into fan's hearts as the epitome of Treky bad-assness. When we catch up to the character some 15 years later he's lost none of his bombast. Far from it! Somehow, Montalban imbued his later characterization with even more intensity and boldness, making a perfect foil for the older, wiser Kirk. It was chess-playing at its best.

Duking it out in the Mutara Nebula
THE BATTLE

Though CGI-less, the battle between Kirk's Enterprise and Khan's Reliant still has the original power of its then-cutting-edge special effects. The Enterprise never looks better than she does stalking the Reliant through the beautifully-unique Mutara Nebula, evoking the best of the WWII submarine movies. Soaring slowly through stellar mists, the mighty starship has an unequaled majesty in WOK that will, unfortunately, never come again. There's something about physical models that seem to portray an immenseness that I seldom get from a CGI creation.

THE DEATH SCENE

Spoiler alert: Spock dies. But he doesn't get beat up on a bridge (uh) or smothered by a tar monster (really, TNG?), no. He dies the greatest death ever shown on all of Star Trek. The climactic scene when Kirk runs to his friend, only to find that he is too late, is the single most poignant moment in fifty years of Trek story-telling, in this writer's opinion. As our two heroes have their last few seconds together, we are crushed by the loss in a way that was heretofore unknown in Star Trek.



For me, TNG's "Inner Light" is the only thing that even approaches its emotional level.

Perhaps the single most amazing thing about Khan is the fact that the two main characters never actually physically share a single scene. The entire interaction between Kirk and Khan happens over communicators and view-screens. In most films that would be a vast problem, yet in WOK you're really not ever aware of it. The action is so taught and fast-paced that we never have time to make that realization.

Will Khan hold up for another thirty-five years? Only time will tell. But in this fan's heart, there will never be another two hours of Star Trek that can surpass the sublime experience that is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Like the man said:

"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANN!"

LLAP

Don

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"FORBIDDEN PLANET" ONE AND ONLY ROBBY THE ROBOT GOES TO AUCTION! HOW MANY MILLIONS WILL HE COMMAND?

Robby's ready to rock (Bonham's)
Just when I think I can't be surprised by my hobby, along comes an auction of one of the single greatest icons in all of science fiction – the original Robby the Robot from 1956's Forbidden Planet! Robby was made famous in that great classic film, but that was just the beginning of his
"career". Robby was such an amazingly well-made piece of movie magic that he would go on to appear in films and TV icludinng the original Lost in Space and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
His last appearance was as recent as an AT&T commercial in 2006.

What does Robby have to do with Star Trek? Plenty. In a letter written to Herb Solow in 1964 during Star Trek's original pre-production phase, Gene Roddenberry states:

"You may recall we saw MGM’s 'FORBIDDEN PLANET' with Oscar Katz some weeks ago."

He goes on to say that he thought the film could help generate ideas for Star Trek:

"But a detailed look at it again would do much to stimulate our own thinking."

The film featured an exploratory starship (not unlike the Enterprise) from an organization called the "United Planets", no doubt a close relative to Star Trek's "United Federation of Planets". The crew used a naval hierarchy that was also adopted by Star Trek.

Robby in a scene opposite Walter Pidgeon in "Forbidden Planet" (MGM)
The look and feel of Forbidden Planet was unlike anything that had ever come before it. The technology was realistically portrayed, one of the first times such a thing was done with what was usually considered to be "B"-grade entertainment. Almost ten years later, Star Trek would do the same thing yet again, presenting a new take on the future.



Robby is perhaps the epitome of that presentation of technology. Before him, robots were little more than tin cans with actors inside and featured crude details at best. But Robby was a revelation. Gone was the clumsily-designed robots of the past. Robby had a sleek sophistication in his design that is still unequaled to this day in this writer's opinion.

Robby meets the gang (MGM)
What is additionally amazing about the auction at-hand is not just the fact that Robby is up for bid, but it also includes the various accessories and spare parts created for Forbidden Planet, including the car in which Robby zips round Altair. An astounding extra!

Robby's original car is part of the auction (Bonham's).
Robby in his car with co-star Anne Francis (MGM)

This auction really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone with deep pockets. I think Robby will easily exceed a million dollars. Just how high could he go for? Who knows? Check out the Bonhams auction HERE.

So get ready to bid – and write a big check!

LLAP

Don

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY TO JACK "THE KING" KIRBY! GONE BUT NEVER, EVER FORGOTTEN!!

One hundred years ago, a force of nature was born named Jacob Kurtzberg, who millions of comics fans would come to know as Jack Kirby. If you don't know who he is, shame on you! One of the all-time-greats, Kirby, along with Stan Lee, began to build what we now know as the Marvel Universe with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. He would go on to co-create dozens of well-known characters for both Marvel and DC. He was one of my favorite story-tellers and I owe him a lot!


LLAP

Don

Monday, August 28, 2017

35TH ANNIVERSARY OF WRATH OF KHAN – WRITER/DIRECTOR NICK MEYER TALKS ABOUT PUTTING WORDS INTO MONTALBAN'S MOUTH IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

In the aftermath of the announcement that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan will be hitting theaters for its 35th Anniversary (check out FATHOM EVENTS), the great man and creator of Wrath of Khan himself, filmmaker Nicholas Meyer gave an exclusive interview to our friends over at Borg.Com. Don't miss the excellent two-part story!


LLAP

Don

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

HERO-TRICORDER PART 1: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BASICS

This is one of a multi-part series of stories regarding a research project covering original series Star Trek Tricorders and Phasers. An overview of the project can be found HERE

Ah, the Tricorder. That amazing machine that instantly told Captain Kirk (and us) just what the heck was going on 300 meters ahead of wherever the heck they were. Unlike most TOS props, the Tricorder was actually a story-telling device, meant to inform the audience of some piece of information that would otherwise not be available. They served the same purpose as "sensors" did on the Enterprise – they gave us the skinny on something.

Wah Ming Chang's original Tricorder sketch
Star Trek creator and producer Gene Roddenberry came up with the concept for story-telling purposes. But for the actual design and execution of the prop, he turned to special effects artist Wah Ming Chang whose work on 1961's "The Time Machine" won an Oscar. Wah came up with the basic design that is now familiar to everyone. After getting Roddenberry's approval of his sketch, he went on to build two highly detailed "hero" Tricorders for the show. Later Trics would be copied from these first two.

It's important to note that much of what we know about Tricorders stems from the four known surviving examples that are now in various collector's hands. Each survivor has been visually matched to an on-screen version, sometimes in minute detail. But while the survivors tell us a lot, they also leave huge gaping holes in the Tricorder story. How many of each kind were made? When did they come about? Why were different versions built? Each of these questions will be answered in depth in future posts. But we start here with a brief overview of all the Tricorder examples. Future installments will be getting down to the nitty-gritty on each of the styles mentioned here.

In our research we discovered that there were four different types of prop Trics:

One of two Hero Tricorders built for TOS





















1. Heroes – "Hero" refers to any prop meant to be seen close-up. It is built to look as sophisticated as possible so as to sell the idea of reality. Two of these highly detailed props were created. Built at the beginning of the show for Season 1 and modified in Seasons 2 & 3.

2.  Fiberglass – Three copies were made of these simplified versions meant for longer shots and stunt use. Introduced partway through Season 1 with the episode "Arena.

Fiberglass versions









3. Leatherettes – A second type of detailed version meant for close-ups and general use and named for the faux leather used on their exteriors. Two copies were made. Not seen until Season 3, these became the new de facto Heroes, perhaps the original Heroes were too beat up by Season 3, or perhaps they were deemed too cumbersome. Whatever the reason, though, these became the Trics usually seen throughout Season 3.

Leatherettes

















4. Stunt  – A crudely made version used for – what else? – stunt use. Only one was known to exist. This type only appeared in early Season 1 episodes like "Miri" where they obviously didn't want to risk damaging the expensive Heroes. Until the Season 1 episode "Arena", the show apparently only had the two hero props to work with so the stunt was built. This filled the need for a heartier version that could sustain abuse until the Fiberglass versions came along for "Arena".

Stunt





















So there's our overview. Coming up next, I'll be getting in-depth with the Hero Tricorders and spill the beans on everything known so far. They were the first Trics made, of course, and had quite a convoluted history of use. Trek prop fans won't want to miss it!

LLAP

Don

PLEASE NOTE: if readers have additional information we want to hear from you! Anything that adds to the research is appreciated. And, if we have something wrong, by all means, let us know.

Friday, August 18, 2017

INTRODUCING AN ALL-NEW TPZ STAR TREK "HERO" PROP RESEARCH PROJECT

There's an amazing website out there that does what no other resource has ever achieved. It's called HeroComm and it has made a science out of researching the various communicator props that were used back in the original Star Trek TV show (TOS) of the sixties.


The folks who worked on this project used the scientific method which meant that every theory had to be proven through thorough research and testing of ideas. The ultimate resource for them was the original episodes themselves. While the Communicators were in most episodes, they were usually hidden from view in an actors hand or the camera was just too far away for us to see any real detail. But every once in a while, magic would happen, and we got a fast glimpse of a Communicator close up and suddenly a unique mix of details could be seen. By poring over every moment of every episode in which a Communicator was shown, insights that had been previously hidden were brought to light. A total of ten props were identified – two "hero" versions with internal moving parts and eight "dummy" props that only had an openable lid.

All of this amazing research has been a boon to fans of TOS props. Many, many fake Communicators have been offered for sale over the years and until HeroComm came along, many of those fakes were accepted as being the real thing. But with this information available to all, anyone can read the research and decide for themselves if that piece that was supposedly bought from George Takei in 1978 is actually real. Hint: it isn't!

I have personally availed myself of this information many times over the years and have found it invaluable. There's one problem, though. As amazing as HeroComm is, it only focuses on (naturally!) Communicators. But in TOS circles, the Comm is only one of The Big Three Props, the other two being the Phaser and the Tricorder. What I longed for was a resource that was equal to HeroComm but with the emphasis on those other two great props.

As luck would have it, I've been a long time member of a Star Trek prop forum called the Trek Prop Zone (TPZ). The TPZ's membership includes what is simply the most informed group in the world when it comes to TOS props. These people make astounding copies of every type of prop ever seen in Star Trek over the past 50 years! They are painstakingly thorough in their research and execution and as such, the TPZ is the natural place to find the information I sought.

Since the TPZ's inception more than ten years ago, a crapload of research had been done on Phasers and Tricorders. The problem was, it was all over the place, in dozens (hundreds?) of individual threads and was so dispersed that it was virtually impossible for one person like me to cull the needed info from the past. So I approached TPZ owner Kevin Hanson with my idea of using all the TPZ's resources – both the members themselves and their great content – to create what we now call HeroTricorder and HeroPhaser. He was on-board enthusiastically and we commenced the project.

I'm kind of a nut for research and it was my job to spearhead things but I was in no way "in charge". I simply put things in motion and the members took it from there! Over the next couple of years, dozens of members would add to the slush-pile of information on every aspect of both types of props. We would painstakingly sort through every theory, claim, cliche and wild guess to figure out what was true and what was conjecture. We challenged every past preconception and had one mantra: a theory had to be proven to be accepted.

As you might guess, that lead to several passionate conversations ("the removable data disk" theory comes to mind!) but everyone was very civil and open-minded and we were all trying to do the same thing: figure stuff out. It was a lot of fun (Hey, we're prop nerds! Get over it!) and we uncovered an amazing amount of data that surprised each and every one of us in some way. We followed the information to wherever it lead, and it was never in a straight line.

Over the upcoming months, I'll be sharing all of our Hero research on this blog. You might have noticed that the HeroComm site has information regarding Tricorders and Phasers, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. I'll be sharing our methodology and research with in-depth stories that will explain exactly how we know what we know.

First up will be Tricorders (all four kinds!) followed by Phasers (too many kinds!) so stay tuned.

LLAP

Don





Saturday, July 22, 2017

STAR TREK : DISCOVERY FULL TRAILER HITS. AND SOMETHING ELSE HITS THE FAN.

Oh, the haters gonna hate. Not me.

There's a very interesting line about "preconceptions".

LLAP

Don

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY'S SDCC17 BIGGEST REVEAL – THE NEW STARFLEET SPACESUIT

In the Star Trek: Discovery trailer that was released a while back, one of the many surprises was a new take on a spacesuit for the series. To say that it was a departure from anything seen so far in Trek is an understatement.


Whoa! Now THAT is new! And not only is it unlike any other Star Trek suit, it's really unlike any movie or TV spacesuit, and that's a tough thing to do these days. It's worth noting that spacesuits in Trek go all the way back to the original series. Most later incarnations had a version of their own .

TOS suits seen in "The Tholian Web" / CBS
The Motion Picture suit / Paramount
Picard and pals in "First Contact"
Enterprise-era suits
What's interesting to me about all these different versions is that there's really no carry-overs from one to the other. They are all unique in their design and totally different from each other. They're also versions of a very basic suit. With the exception of The Motion Picture version, none had any kind of flight capability (though I wasn't much of a watcher of Enterprise so I can't say for sure regarding that one). But the new Discovery version definitely has the capability to move independently through space which can make for some very cool uses in its future.

This week at SDCC17, CBS had this new suit on display in all its glory.

image: CBS
image: Treknews.net
Now that's amazing looking! FWIW, up to now my favorite Trek spacesuit design was hands down the Motion Picture version. But this one might take its place one we get to see it in action.

I'll add the now-familiar acknowledgement – I KNOW this is apparently too advanced if it takes place before TOS. Well, apparently this is both a prequel AND a reboot! Once you accept that, all things are possible. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

Frankly, I'm psyched to see this baby in action. It's sleek and sophisticated and interesting. In short, it's cool!

Can't wait.

LLAP

Don

Friday, July 21, 2017

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY'S NEW PROPS AND COSTUMES MAKE BIG DEBUT AT SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON

At long last, after getting a few fleeting glimpses of the props and costumes created for the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, the wait is over. CBS pulled out all the stops at San Diego Comic-Con with big displays of all the different pieces that we'll be seeing in the new series. And the pictures don't disappoint!

First off let me address the 800 pound gorilla in the room: I know a lot of fans are having fits of apoplexy about the look and feel of Discovery. That's because they're locked into fitting this into existing Star Trek lore. To them, I say this: don't. Liberate your minds from old. See this series for what it is – a reboot of the Star Trek franchise. But CBS says it's ten years before Kirk and Spock, huh? Well, apparently they aren't quite the Kirk and Spock we know. Once you accept that, all things are possible. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, right? Pretty sure I heard that somewhere.

And now, back to our story! Let's start with the basics. Phasers! Click for larger images.

photo: treknews.net
Image on left care of Jonathan Frakes himself! Greg Jein, right image.
Now THAT, my friends, is a PHASER! It has the overall form of the classic Original Series original complete with centered handle and small Phaser 1 attached at the top. There's a few nods to the original's details as well with the emitter nozzle, rear fins, and side dial. The grip is much more like an Assault Phaser from the TOS movies but that's fine by me. This looks sleek and hefty, like a Phaser should.

The emitter nozzle has an interesting detail – three different-sized emitters. Some have said it looks like an old-time movie camera (it does), but more importantly it emulates the nozzle from the Laser Pistol from the first Star Trek pilot made in 1965, The Cage.

both images: CBS 
I've read where some have called this a bunch of details from other phasers thrown together. I could not disagree more. Yes, it takes inspiration from the past, but in elegant ways, in my opinion. I think it uses the best of the past to create a more sophisticated version of a familiar prop.

Next up is the ever-present Communicator. This design is based on the TOS original, emulating what Kirk and Spock used on landing parties and are instantly identifiable as such.

left: Startrek.com / Right: CBS
Like its inspiration, this version features a gold flip antenna/lid, a circular center detail and three buttons. The lid detail was taken from the Communicators used in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan rather than the TOS design, and since I think it gives it a more robust look so I applaud the choice.

As for that center section, it apparently does stuff that we've never seen before. Lookee what's inside:

image: CBS
Very nice. The Comm will give some type of detailed information. Cooool. To round out the traditional Landing Party set is the Tricorder:

left: Startrek.com / right: Wah Ming Chang
This is definitely based on the original TOS design but with a much larger screen. The bottom part is much like that of the Tricorder seen in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock but the overall proprtions are also reminiscent of a 1960 Philco Portable TV thought to be the inspiration for the original prop.

left: Richard Coyle  /  right: unknown
The large screen and overall boxiness is very much like the old Philco. The screen has a major upgrade from past versions with live info being displayed. No good shot is available yet but this gives us an idea of what to expect:

image: CBS
The last piece of Starfleet hardware shown at SDCC is a Phaser Rifle. This was an item seen only in a single episode of TOS though later Trek versions all had their own versions that were extensively used.

top: Startrek.com / bottom: Heritage Auctions
While there's few obvious crossover elements, one detail did make the cut. The original's three tubes appear to be emulated in the new rifle. The forward handle is also present but that's about it. The scope is similar to those seen on later rifles. The TOS version was very "rag-gun-y" so it's not surprising few elements could survive.

So that's it for Starfleet tech. Check out part 2 for more from SDCC.

LLAP

Don

Monday, July 17, 2017

A NEW STAR TREK SHOW CAN ONLY MEAN ONE THING – LET'S ALL BITCH LIKE IT'S 1987!!

You know the old saying – the more things change, the more they stay the same. That could have been written specifically to describe Star Trek fans. They're always bitching about something, amiright? If it's not The Motion Picture, it's Star Trek V. If it's not Insurrection it's JJ Trek. OK, so some of those are worth bitching about. So it's no surprise that the new show, Star Trek Discovery is garnering its share of nay-sayers. For a show that has yet to broadcast a single episode, it has truly brought out the best in Trekdom. Darrin Bell, creator of Candorville has summed it up masterfully.

Now, it may come as a surprise to many who are either not old enough or may simply have convenient memories, but no version of Star Trek created more bellyaching than Star Trek: The Next Generation back in 1987.

"What? Surely you jest?! My beloved NextGen was the source of unrest at its inception?" Yes, princess, the much-loved second Trek to the stars, the one that created a golden age of Star Trek and made like a zillion dollars for the studio was not well-loved upon it's premiere. I myself uttered such intelligent musings as "Geez, they named the android Data? Really? Well, that sucks!"


You name it and NextGen got hit with it. Who can forget:

"Where's Kirk and Spock?"

"That's the Enterprise?!? THAT'S NOT THE ENTERPRISE!!!"

"Wait, the captain is a bald Frenchman played by an English guy I never heard of?!"

"What's a 'Spiner' ?"

And the always favorite:

"THIS IS NOT MY STAR TREK!!!!!"

Ah, such erudition. Those were heady days!

Now, if we simply replace a few words (very few!) you get today's trashing of Discovery:

"Where's Kirk and Spock?" (Or Picard and Data or Sisko and Dax or...)

"That's the starship?!? THAT'S NOT A STARSHIP!!!"

"Wait, the main character is a black chick played by a black chick I never heard of?!"

"What's a 'Shenzhou' ?"

And since some things never change:

"THIS IS NOT MY STAR TREK!!!!!"

So we've been there and done that. But instead of learning from history, we are, alas, destined to repeat it. Every. Damn. Time. Because over the last thirty years, every new Trek incarnation was greeted with a shit-load of negativity before airing a single episode! Just like today.

It's human nature, apparently, but I find it more than a little ironic that a show that has as one of its base tenants the concept of "infinite diversity in infinite combinations" can generate so much close-mindedness, unenlightened tunnel vision, and a fair share of misogyny with a bit of racism thrown in (it's 2017, after all).

For what it's worth, I'm not a fan of all forms of Trek. While I loved TNG and DS9, I was less enthralled/indifferent to Voyager and Enterprise. And I despise JJ Trek because JJ Abrams.

That said, I plan on doing what I've done since learning my lesson with NextGen: keep an open mind and hope for the best. And then will I actually watch the damn show before judging it!! And if it sucks, only then will I bitch. You betcha. But I'm going to give it a chance.

Your mileage may vary. Especially if you're already bitching.

LLAP.

Don

PS: IMO, it took TNG two full seasons to actually become good. I still consider most of Seasons 1 & 2 to be unwatchable.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A NEW VIEW OF STAR TREK DISCOVERY'S EPONYMOUS STARSHIP GIVES SOME NEW DETAIL WITH (HOPEFULLY) SLEEKER LINES

Star Trek Discovery was finally given a release date this past week. Part of the announcement consisted of this little poster:


It's very nice and all, but my favorite take-away is the little image of the ship. Up to now all we've seen are these shots:



Kind of a "Soviet-looking" starship, ie: inelegant. But then we have the new shot. Does it reflect an updated version?


Maybe it's just the lighting and speed effects but I think this has a sleeker feel to it. And we can see that the secondary hull has a definite TOS Klingon-ish shape to it.



Coincidence? We'll have to wait until September to see. But I hope this latest image reflects a cooler-looking Discovery than we've seen up to now.

LLAP

Don

Sunday, June 18, 2017

ONE-OF-A-KIND SCREENUSED STAR TREK VI "PUMP"-STYLE KLINGON DISRUPTOR UP FOR AUCTION! QA'PLA!

The latest Profiles In History Hollywood auction is coming up on June 26. It's a three day affair and features a ton of very cool Star Trek items. One of those items has been consigned by none other than me, Your Humble Blogger, so I thought I'd give a little extra insight into the piece since I'm intimately familiar with it.

The item in question is a Klingon "Pump-action" Disruptor Pistol from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Here's the listing as shown in the PIH catalog:

Here's the deal: while they made a zillion (OK, a few dozen) each of Klingon Beak-nosed Disruptors and Death Sting pistols, the Pump-action Disruptor falls onto the other end of the spectrum. As far as I know, they only made two, and only one ended up on camera. As luck would have it, that version is the one in the auction and has been screen-matched to the only scene in which it was used, which makes it the only screen-used Pump-action Disruptor in existence. How's that for rarity?

By now you are no doubt wondering what the heck is the significance of this piece. Why was it even made if it was only used once? And why was it never used again?

I can answer the first question readily enough. The piece was made at the behest of Star Trek VI director Nick Meyer. Meyer wanted to see a Klingon weapon that actually did something rather than the very static (ie: no moving parts) standard sidearms used up to that time. He turned the problem over to the prop department with one instruction: make it do something. Thus, the pump-action element was added. The intent was that the user would pump it like a standard shotgun before firing. What this movement was supposed to actually do is anyone's guess. After all, loading a shell is not needed in an energy weapon so...  ??

I got nothin'. And apparently the prop guys had nothin' as well as the piece was limited to the use of General Kerla as he held it on Kirk and McCoy in the Klingon transporter room. The distinct painted weathering can clearly be matched to General Kerla's piece (thank you, Blu-Ray!). Alas, we never get to see a pitched battle with a squad of Klingons pumping their way through battle with these babies! More's the pity.

General Kerla keeps an eye on Kirk and McCoy.
So it was definitely used in Undiscovered Country.  But tons of movie props and costumes were re-used in the various TV shows that followed the films. Death Stings and Beak-nosed Disruptors showed up literally everywhere in Star Trek over the next two decades. But no Pump-action pistol is ever seen. Why is that?

I think I have the answer and it comes from the source of the prop – Don Hulett, the prop-master on Star Trek VI. For some reason, Mr. Hulett ended up with a number of Trek props in his possession long after production had wrapped. I've owned several pieces over the years that came from him – including this piece. So if Hulett took the only two Pump-action pieces ever made and sat on them for a number of years, that would explain why they are never seen again.

Until this auction, of course. With this auction, one lucky buyer will own a very cool, very rare piece of Star Trek history. And unlike most Star Trek props and costumes, it will be one of a kind – the only one to ever be seen on film!

You can find everything you need about the auction here:
Profiles In History Hollywood Auction.

Plan on bidding? Qa'pla!

LLAP

Don



Friday, June 16, 2017

A REAL, HONEST-TO-GOD ORIGINAL SERIES PHASER IS ON EBAY?!? UNFORTUNATELY, NO.

In yet another example of trying to fish for suckers, there's an Ebay auction going on for those with more money than brains. The listing can be found here:

TOS Phaser Prop



As is usually the case with such things, it is short on details but long on photos. The reason for that is obvious. There are no details to be given so the photos are meant to give the air of authenticity. But, while there's an odor wafting from this auction, it ain't authenticity. Here's what you'd need to know before buying any such piece.

1. Where does the piece come from?

2. How does it compare to known examples?

Let's tackle the origin issue. The seller, one "afteredengallery-beacon" states that this was sold by Profiles in History back in 2000 and has a Certificate of Authenticity from someplace called "Sterncastle Collectibles". That's all well and good but what does that really tell us about the piece? Only that an auction house was willing to sell it back in 2000 for a cut of the profits and that a place that nobody ever heard of was willing to print out a spiffy COA on a desktop printer.
I can make a Certificate of Authenticity that says monkeys fly out of my butt. That would be as useful as this piece of paper.
What it does NOT tell us is anything about the actual origins (known as provenance in the hobby) of this piece. In other words, how did it get from the studio to the owner? Yes, it filtered through an auction house but so what? Back in the nineties and early 2000's, several auction houses were taken in by good fake copies of Star Trek original series (TOS) props ranging from this type of Phaser 1 to all the usual suspects – Tricorders and Communicators as well as full-on Phasers. This was a dark time before the internet had caught up to all the info that was out there and so fraudulent pieces could thrive and be sold in the marketplace without red flags. But once known examples were analyzed and their details presented online, it was realized that the vast majority of these TOS pieces that had been sold at auction were, in fact, fakes.

That is why it is so important to be able top track a piece back to the studio. If that can't be done, it puts a high probability of fake-ness on any TOS piece. Provenance is everything when it comes to these pieces.

As to how it compares to known versions, the quick answer is "not well". While at a glance, it certainly looks like it could be the real-deal, upon close inspections things quickly go south. Here's why. Take a look at the shots in the auction.




Oooooh. They certainly have that old-timey grunge look to them, don't they? They look very much like a crude hand-made prop from the sixties. Of course, that's the whole point, so there's no surprise there. It's when we look at the details that the facade of authenticity cracks.

First off, it's important to know that there were various types of props made for various uses.

1. The "hero" props were made for close-ups and featured moving parts and details that added to an authentic look.

2. "Mid-grade" props were made to be used in most scenes. They would be in the hands of the landing party or the security team. While they had some detail, it was just enough to fool the camera from a distance. They had no moving parts and simplified details.

3. "Stunt" props were usually made of rubber and were simple, solid castings. These were used for action scenes or if an actor was far from the camera. They had some basic, painted-on detail.

The piece in question would fall into the "mid-grade" category as it has no moving parts or details but is not a simple stunt version.

Here's how the auction piece stacks up to known, authenticated pieces.

NOTE: It's important to mention here that this authentication was done by many people who know a great deal about the original pieces and not by me. I heartily concur with their methods, however, and I stand by their educated, informed opinions.

Take a look at this image with the auction piece on the left and an authenticated piece on the right:


This metal detail piece is known as the "crispy" to prop aficionados, and is made from a thin piece of metal that is stamped with a pattern. Note that the "real" phaser's pattern is distinctly a diamond pattern while the auction piece is, well... something else. But whatever it is, it definitely does not match.

Next up is the center part of the phaser:

 
On the auction piece we see a stud in the center which is generally thought of as the "trigger" as that's where the actor's thumb would usually rest. The problem here is that the mid-grades had no stud. Only the detailed hero piece had that detail as seen in this screen capture from an actual episode:


You can just make out the red stud behind the wheel. You can also see all the additional detail that is not present on a mid-grade (and not present on the auction piece).

And speaking of the wheel, the auction piece has crudely etched ridges while real props have specific machined fluting, another detail that doesn't match.

I also don't think the over-all shape is correct but that's too tough to call from photos like these. But since every other detail doesn't match, the shape is a moot point.

Based on these known facts, it is my opinion that this piece is not, in fact, an authentic TOS prop. For what it's worth, if I thought for a moment it WAS real, I'd have hit the $5,000 "Buy It Now" button immediately. Five grand would be a bargain for such a piece!

Which brings me to my last piece of evidence – that price of $5000. That's a sucker's price, in my opinion, designed to be attractive to an unsuspecting fan who thinks they're getting a bargain. It's a price that tells me that the sellers themselves do not think it's real because if it was, they'd be selling it for ten times that price (the seller told me herself that she knows a real piece is worth more!). And since no mere replica or fake is worth $5000, it confirms my theory of being a sucker price. Why else would you price it at that level?

So, alas, this is yet one more example of another fake TOS prop coming into the marketplace. It sucks but what can we do? It does have some positives, though, in that it definitely reinforces the true rare nature of an actual authentic TOS piece.

Maybe next time? We can only hope!

LLAP

Don