Sunday, June 18, 2017


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!



Friday, June 16, 2017


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!



Thursday, May 4, 2017


Yet another fake Original Series Star Trek prop has showed up on Ebay. This time it's a Tricorder. You can find it here:

Fake Tricorder on Ebay
The description is clear

"Up for auction is an original Star Trek Tricorder from the private collection of Scott Giarrocco. Scott was a big comic book dealer who passed away years ago. Scott was friends with the cast of the original Star Trek TV show from 1966 to 1969. This is not a reproduction prop. It's the real thing and very valuable. Don't miss out on a rare opportunity to own a piece of Star Trek and TV history. More original items to come!"

Who the heck "Scott Giarrocco" is, I have no idea. But he either got scammed or did some scamming. Either way, this piece isn't real, IMO. Here's why:

First up is a comparison of the auction piece to a frame taken directly from a Trek episode. Notice the subtle differences (click on photos for larger versions):

The detail on the colored buttons is all wrong. The originals used fluted watch crowns while the auction piece clearly does not. The speaker mesh is obviously different as well.

Next is the interior. There was only one version made with an interior and that was removed later in the production to satisfy the needs of a particular episode. No trace of that interior has been seen since. But that doesn't matter as the auction piece's interior doesn't match the originals anyway.

The "disks" in the original had a gap between the 7th and 8th discs because that last disc was the only one that was detailed and removable. This has been confirmed by no less than the prop master who worked on the original production who complained that the removable disk was a hassle to deal with because it would slip out and roll around the set.
While I can't say for sure, the auction version doesn't look like it has that feature. And it clearly does not have the gap. The bar beneath the disks is also clearly different. It is much thicker and higher on the auction version.

Only two "hero" Tricorders (highly-detailed versions used for close-ups) were known to have been created for original Star Trek. While some details vary – like the color of the control buttons, for instance – the construction details were consistent from one to the other. Blu-Ray screen captures have revealed previously-hidden details that prove the point. 

How do I know all of this? Because I was part of an exhaustive examination of the original Tricorder props by a group of Star Trek Prop enthusiasts/fanatics at the Trek Prop Zone (click HERE for more), an on-line community of voracious eaters of all information related to Star Trek props. So the information presented here is not one guys' opinion but rather is the culmination of dozens of people all hell-bent to know everything knowable about Star Trek props and the original Tricorder in particular.

An interesting caveat regarding this is that I was recently contacted about this specific piece (and several others). I gave the same verdict then that I present here. Apparently, the seller didn't like my opinion.

Also, keep this in mind as well: if this were a true, authentic piece, it would be worth waaaaay more than the seller's asking price. Tens of thousands more! So it is my opinion that he's trying to hook an unsuspecting fish – a fan who is hungry for a piece of original Star Trek who has more money that insight. In short, they're looking for a sucker.

Don't let it be you!



Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Ah, the names of legend: Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, Archer and... Lorca?

Hmmmm. Maybe it's an alien name? Perhaps he's the Andorian-ish character we've been waiting for. We'll see. Here's his Twitter feed today:

I have to admit that upon hearing his name I had no idea who he was. After checking him out on IMDB I realize that I just barely know who he is having played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. Most of his other roles I'm simply not familiar with. But then, I barely knew who Patrick Stewart was back in the day so I don't read anything into this.

The actor in the guise of Lucius Malfoy, the father of loathsome Draco.

Apparently he's a second-tier British actor who gets lots of work, again, not unlike Sir Patrick was before Trek. I look forward to seeing what he brings to the Star Trek universe!



Saturday, February 11, 2017


Direct from the set of Star Trek Discovery comes a leaked photo showing us a bunch of aliens that don't look much like Klingons. And yet, that's how they are labeled. Take a look.

These are very, VERY different than any Klingon we've seen before. They are much more reptilian in appearance with more severe features than what we've come to know over the last 37 years. At a glance, they bear some resemblance to the Klingons as shown in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That look was modified a bit for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, and that modified look has been in place through the run of Star Trek Enterprise. The JJ Abrams films show an alternate  version, but those movies are stand-alone things and are not part of the universe in which Star Trek Discovery is set.

The Motion Picture Klingons were supposed to be somewhat reptilian, according to creator Gene Roddenberry. Hairy, too!

Confused? Me too. Because if these are truly the new show's Klingons, we have not a prequel, but a reboot.

This actually dovetails nicely into the images we've seen in the recent teaser trailer which show things that are far more advanced looking than anything seen in The Original Series (TOS), despite being set 10 years prior to that series.

This totally makes sense, in this writer's opinion, as the technology shown in TOS would be laughably primitive looking to a modern audience. At some point you have to throw out the stuff that is just too damn old.

What's next? We'll have to see.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017


AT long last, Discovery is shooting it's first episode. To coincide with that event, CBS has released a short teaser trailer that gives very little away but certainly whets my appetite for more.

In case you're living under a rock, here's the trailer:

So. Not much, right? No new shots of the Discovery itself. No props. A quick close-up of a uniform. Let's break this down and see if there's more to it:

First off, we see some extreme set-building (click on each pic for a larger version):

Under way but incomplete. The third shot makes me think "green screen use?"

Next up, "action!" is called and we get a view of something very alien.

We can't say for sure, but the detail on the arms is very reminiscent of the spine piece used on former Klingon costumes. Is this heap a new Klingon armor of some type? This also reminds me of Voyager's Hirogen. A relative?

And speaking of aliens, we get a fast shot of this:

Doesn't look like much. Until you brighten it, that is:

MUCH better. This is definitely the back of an alien head. It looks like some kind of carapace. Does this go with armor we just saw? Seems likely.

Up next: uniforms! Or A uniform, to be exact. They seem to a feature a high collar that opens in the front.

We then see the chest:

Aha! There's the ubiquitous Starfleet Delta, once again done in metal like later Trek incarnations. But what's with all the gold braid? Is this a dress uniform of some kind?

Let's take a closer look at that badge:

The shield is broken down into two pieces with the left piece raised and overlapping the right. I assume they're simply trying to create a distinct look with that approach. OK, I'll buy it. But what's with that small peg down in the lower left corner? What the heck is THAT? Rank pip, ala TNG? It's so small that it won't show up on camera in anything but an extreme close-up. Hmmmm.

Another interesting take-away is the fact that, while the shirt is blue, which in The Original Series (TOS) meant "science division", the small glyph in the badge was that used by "ships services/engineering" and as any fan of TOS knows, they wore red, not blue. Is this a mix-up? Have they changed division colors yet again? let me explain.

In the original Star Trek pilot, The Cage, science wore blue and the patch featured the same sphere-ish glyph used in TOS. But between the first pilot and TOS' run, a second pilot was produced called Where No Man Has Gone Before. The science shirts were still blue, but the glyphs were different. The spiral glyph shown was later worn by Scotty's red shirts throughout TOS. So is Discovery using an obscure piece of Trek detail on purpose and doing a change-up? Or was this simply a mistake? Who knows, but I'm leaning toward "mistake".

Moving on, next we see a ship. Or, rather, a 3D wireframe of a ship.

Based on the teaser CBS released last year before Comicon, we know this is not the Discovery. We've been told that there is at least one other Starfleet ship in the show, the Shenzhou. Is this that ship? We can't know but there's a good chance. It reminds me of the USS Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Is this an earlier version of that class of ship? Seems likely.

Some plans are then shown:

Any Trek fan worth their salt knows this is for a starship bridge. Probably Discovery herself. We then get some weirdness that can't be identified and end up here:

If that's not the command chair, I'll eat my dilithium. Interestingly, though, while the captain's chair is emblematic for every Star Trek vesrion up to now, that's not really the case with Discovery. Without exception, the main character in every Trek has been the Captain. But we've been told the Discovery's main character is NOT the captain but rather the first officer, or Number One. But the chair is nonetheless still a powerful iconic image for any Trek. We then get the slightly modified show logo:

The badge in the background has been modified a bit to reflect the actual uniform badge, I assume.
So, there you have it. Image by image, that's what we know. Which ain't much. But it's still fun for an old Trek fan like me to ponder and dream. I hope the show is good. If it's great, that would be amazing, but I'd settle for good. I a world where Star Trek has come to mean big action movies with inane, silly plots, anything that touches on the magic of the original will be an improvement.
Let's hope!



Monday, January 30, 2017


Star Trek: Discovery finally started shooting on January 24. On that day, CBS tweeted a congratulatory message that featured a heretofore unseen image. It features outlined figures in the midst of transporting. I think we can safely assume they represent the crew of the ship Discovery. We can see some Starfleet-ish boots, for instance, but most importantly, there's the Starfleet Delta patch that in the past would have represented only the Starship Enterprise. After all, in the original series (TOS) each starship had their own unique chest insignia and the delta represented only the Enterprise, not Starfleet as it would in later Trek incarnations after The Motion Picture. Here we can see that detail will be ignored. I think it's a good call because the delta shield has become ubiquitous with Star Trek. New viewers would just be confused if they didn't do it this way.

In the Original Series, every starship had its own insignia. It got very clunky very quickly.
So what characters are represented by these outlines? Some are pretty easy to guess while others are strictly a shot in the dark. Take a look at my attempt:

1. We know that the main character is the first officer or "Number One", played by Sonequa Martin-Green. I've designated her as the third figure due to her prominence in the foreground.

2. We've seen a make-up test photo, below, that appeared to be an Andorian with two slender antennae so I have assigned the sixth character as an unknown Andorian. I want to throw a caveat in, though.

Andorian? Or something else?
The test shots we saw did not feature a style identical to Andorian antennae that we've seen in the past. So rather than Andorian, this could be the alien character to be played by Doug Jones, Lt. Saru. All we know is that his race has not been seen before in Star Trek. Perhaps his race is similar to Andorians like Vulcans are to Humans.


3. Lt. Saru might be the fifth figure which is VERY alien-looking. That's my vote and I'm super anxious to see how this character will manifest itself. We've never had a regular character that was exclusively CGI and this looks to be a likely candidate.

Now THIS guy looks interesting! Note the cloven hoofy things.
4. Anthony Rapp will play Lt. Stametsan, an astromycologist (ie: scientist). I've assigned him to the first slot. Seems to be a little phaser-happy.

5. Michelle Yeoh plays Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. We have no idea how she fits into the story but I have added her arbitrarily as the second slot.

6. Emily Coutts has just been cast as a Conn Officer. She's designated as the last figure.

7. Finally, we have no idea who the captain of the Discovery is. So I designated the fourth slot to him (it's a male outline) though for all we know the captain is a woman. No idea but I think it's a reasonable guess.

So for the first time we now have a sense of the crew, however vague. Several other characters have been cast, most notably Spock's father Sarek to be played by James Frain as well as several actors as Klingons who will apparently be playing a significant role in the story.

Since shooting has begun, I hope some behind-the-scenes stuff starts to appear. I'm anxious to see the uniforms as well as the new props and sets that have been created.

While I'm still not sanguine about the whole "CBS All Access" thing, there's nothing to be done about it. The first episode will be airing on regular CBS network channels so at least we can get a taste before buying. Heck, I'm hoping I like it so much that I won't care about the cost!