Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Back in 1997, a book called "Star Trek Sketchbook: The Original Series" by Herb Sollow was published. While the book wasn't exactly groundbreaking, it did offer some new insights of which I, for one, was totally ignorant.

One of my favorite things was the so-called "Lost Set" – a cardboard scale model of the standing sets of the Starship Enterprise's interior as built at Desilu's Gower Studio (now Paramount).

Matt Jefferies original Enterprise interior model. All photos: Robbie Robinson
Matt Jefferies was Star Trek's Art Director and designer of such things as the Enterprise herself, the Galileo shuttle, hand phasers and so much more. As the Creator Of All Things, Matt was constantly being called upon by incoming directors for time on the sets so that they could figure out how to shoot their episodes. Keep in mind that for much of the first season's shooting, directors had no idea  what the sets looked like. Episodes were shot months in advance of airing so until Star Trek's premiere in September, 1966, no one had any idea of what things looked like. Everything was custom-made and unlike anything that had been seen before, and so the directors needed to plan in a new way.
The Bridge set featured moveable wedges for camera and lighing access
The problem was that all the permanent sets weren't really permanent. They were always taking things down and adding new things for the needs of a particular episode. Plus the studio was in use from dawn to dusk with the active shooting of episodes. So to meet the needs of these directors, Jefferies spent his own time and money to build a four foot by four foot three-dimensional scale model of Desilu Stage 9 to show an idealized version of all the sets and what could be made available for a given story. He hung it on the art department's wall and it gave the directors the only practical look possible of their sets that they would be shooting on a week or two later.
Sickbay is in the foreground with the Transporter off the the right.

Everything was there – the Bridge, Sickbay, Transporter Room, hallways – in short, everything a director would need to create their vision of the Enterprise. The Engineering set even featured the forced perspective section that helped make the set look bigger on screen than it actually was. Stand-alone modules like the Auxiliary Bridge were also included.

Jefferies completed the model by painting everything to approximate the actual set colors. The final effect is a very effective tool that was used throughout the three year run.

Scotty's Engineering set with forced perspective engine core.
The model had been stored for decades by Jefferies in his basement. Thankfully, he had squirreled it away so that future generations – us – would be able to marvel at his ingenuity.

This model presents one more aspect of film-making that made Star Trek work, and work incredibly well. Kudos to Mr. Jefferies and abilities to see and create a future that didn't yet exist!

If anyone knows of the model's current location, please drop me a line. I'd love to know its whereabouts!

EDIT: I've been told by a reliable source that this is now part of Paul Allen's collection at the Science Fiction Museum (or whatever it's called now) in Seattle.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014


This week's Clapper shot is from the great first-season episode Court Martial". This scene shows one of the rare shots of the bridge where we can see things that we shouldn't. The camera was probably going to zomm and/or pan in so the  details wouldn't have been seen in the final cut. But if you look closely at the lower left corner, you'll see where the bridge platform where Spock's science station is located that the cross-section of the platform's floor can be seen. Also, at the top of the frame you can clearly see lights suspended into the frame.

This is the pivotal scene in which it is discovered that the man Kirk was accused of killing was actually still alive. This scene is one of the few times we see so many different dress uniforms.

Clapper info:  Scene 97 / Take 11.



Sunday, January 5, 2014


I admit it – I have an obsession for facts, both in life and in my hobby. I only want the real deal that was actually made for Star Trek productions in my collection. And I want it to be properly identified using only provable facts. Imagine my surprise then when I come across people who want to act, not on facts, but on belief.

As anyone exposed to Trek collecting knows, it can be quite a minefield out there. There are several ways that a collector can get screwed, First, there's the idea of sellers knowingly selling fakes. This is an obvious concern of which everyone is aware and on the lookout for.

But there's a far more subtle pitfall out there and it's the subject of this story: those collectors who unwittingly bought a fake and then try to sell it without understanding its true nature. I call them The Believers – they Believe the original story they were told that was usually a version of one of these:

"I got it from a guy who worked on Star Trek."

"I got it from a relative who worked on Star Trek."

"I got it from a guy who worked at Paramount and got it out of the trash." 

"I got it from ________ (fill in the blank with any famous Star Trek person – Roddenberry, Shatner, Nimoy, etc" 

"I got it from the prop guy during a studio tour." (one of my favorites)

There's a zillion variations on the story but you get the drift. The thing that is so enticing about these stories, of course, is that they all refer back to the studio, and what could be better than that? And while occasionally these stories are actually true (swear to God!) the vast majority of the time they aren't.

But why would any halfway intelligent person buy into one of these stories in the first place without some kind of solid proof to back it up? Tough to say. Gullibility? A desire to own something, however vague its history? Frankly, I'm not sure, but as the saying goes "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people".

For a certain percentage of these people, whatever their reason for buying into the story is irrelevant. Because once they make the deal, they Believe – down to their very soul, they Believe! And no amount of proof to the contrary will convince them otherwise.

Once these people get their piece, generally one of two things happen. Either they do zero research on the item to actually try to confirm its authenticity OR they do research but accept only information that confirms authenticity while ignoring anything that inconveniently does not. Both avenues lead to the same place: Unshakable Belief.

Now as long as these people hold on to these pieces, that's fine. It doesn't cost anyone else anything to let them live in a dream world. You believe you have Captain Kirk's Communicator because that's what the guy who sold it to you said? Good for you. But inevitably, these things come to market. People lose interest, they need money – whatever – and out they come into the light of day. And at that point, it's caveat emptor – buyer beware.

A number of years ago when I was just starting to collect screen-used stuff, I got to know a collector who had been buying screen-used Star Trek for many years. The more I heard about her awesome collection, the more mesmerized I became. Here was someone who had already walked the road upon which I was just embarking. She had all sorts of cool props and costumes – things that I hoped to own someday.

As time passed, this collector had a major upheaval in her life and needed to raise some serious cash. To that end, she offered me several pieces, one of which was a Star Trek III style Phaser that she got from one of the Star Trek film prop masters. Like any self-respecting Trek fan, I LOVE Phasers so I made the deal as fast I could. After all, here was a long-time collector who got it directly from the prop master on a Trek film. She really, really knew her stuff so it would be a safe purchase, right?

Not even close.

My beautiful Star Trek 3 Phaser
After I got the piece, I was thrilled with it. Here was a true piece of Star Trek, right in my hands. The deal went so well that the seller then offered me something else: A Generations Kirk costume. She wanted a LOT for it, but hey, it was a Kirk! And this wasn't just ANY Kirk according to the seller, but the version in which he was killed! She sent me a number of photos and I got very excited. She then told me that she'd send it to me for review – I could inspect it to my heart's desire and If I was happy with it, I'd pay her price. I quickly agreed.

In the mean time, though, I remembered that I had some photos of a proven, bonafied Generations Kirk that I could use to compare. I then found every frame of film that I could that showed Shatner wearing the costume and I started learning everything I could about the piece. I examined every little detail that I could find, every nook and cranny. In short, I was looking for those small details that would define a Generations Kirk as a Generations Kirk. What I found was not what I was hoping for.

The photos of the proven version showed certain specific details that matched the style shown in the screen versions. I couldn't say that they were a screen match (that the piece was a specific one used in a certain scene), but I could clearly see that things like the vest's zipper and zipper-pull matched in style the versions I saw on screen.

And I could also clearly see that the version offered to me did not match.

Top left shows the zipper detail from the piece I was offered. Note the zipper is brass and the Starfleet symbol is not burnished and hangs down. Top right shows the known version with a red zipper (that can be seen in the screen cap at lower left) and a burnished Starfleet logo (that can be seen in the screen cap at lower right).
I was deflated, to say the least. I spent many hours over several days trying to see if the details of the one I had matched ANY scene in the film. The death scene was out of the question – the zipper was a completely different color than the one clearly shown on screen. And I couldn't find it anywhere else, either. So what was the piece I was holding? By then I'd seen enough pieces to have an educated guess about whether a piece was production-made or not and this piece definitely seemed to fit the bill. Was it a stunt? A prototype? A fake? I had no idea, but I knew for certain it wasn't what the seller claimed it to be.

Then things got very strange. I shared my findings with the seller and instead of being concerned or upset, she was completely unfazed. She said that maybe the zipper had been replaced (with a completely different style and color?), maybe there were different versions for close-ups and other shots (huh?). Whatever it was, she was sure that the piece was what she claimed it to be. Why? Because that's what she had been told by the person that she bought it from. She had been given no proof of the claim – no photo evidence, no letter from Paramount, nothing. Just a story that she wanted to believe and so she Believed. And despite any evidence to the contrary, she continued to Believe, Blindly and eternally, she Believed.

But I did not, so I sent it back. And that got me thinking about my phaser. My wonderful, beautiful phaser.

I started looking for where, exactly it was used. My reasoning was that if it came from the prop master, the proof must be out there. So I began to educate myself about Star Trek III Phasers. I learned about the prototypes, the production-made versions and the copies made later for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I learned about the hero versions, the stunt versions and the static versions. I found out who made them and when. And after all this research, I discovered one thing: that contrary to what I had been told, mine probably wasn't real. None of the details on mine matched the production-made versions. Oh they were close – very close, in fact. But they weren't exactly the same. And as I was to discover, the Devil is in the details.

While doing my research, I came across a number of replica versions of the Phaser – close copies made for the fan market. Much to my chagrin, after comparing some of these replicas to mine, I discovered the virtual twin to my version. It was identified as having been made by prop-maker Ed Miarecki. Ed had worked on various Star Trek productions and had made replicas on the side, all of which had various differences (tells) so that they could be identified as replicas versus real props. Mine was apparently one of his replicas.

Once again I was deflated. And when I confronted the seller with my findings, once again she shrugged them off. "That piece is real", she insisted. "The prop master said it was a background piece used in Star Trek V and that he had personally put the clip on it."

I shared all my data with her that clearly pointed to it being a replica but she would have none of it. "It's real," she said, and that was that. This was to be my first exposure to a Believer. Facts didn't matter. Evidence was disregarded. After all, she had been collecting Star Trek for years and she knew what she was doing.

Then another piece that she sold someone else was found to be a fake as well. When I pointed this out to her she said they were wrong. I never saw my money.

I want to be clear on one point – I don't think the seller thought she was selling me a bogus piece. Being a Believer, she couldn't conceive of owning something that wasn't what she claimed it was – what the original seller convinced her it was – a real prop.

I later had some dealings with Ed Miarecki himself and, remembering the Phaser, I sent him some photos. He confirmed my conclusions – he had definitely made the piece as a replica and it had his tells. I asked him if any of this style had been used in ANY production. He said that he was sorry, but no. And it was not the first time he had heard this kind of claim before.

A few years later I would repeat this situation, this time with a Genuine Walking Tribble that wasn't so genuine. It was only after I had owned the piece for several years that I discovered the key "tell" that defined it as a fake. It was a really nice-looking fake, too.

So I've been around a bit and I've gotten some lumps. I've taken some chances, most of which paid off. But some didn't and let me tell you – those instances sting like hell. No one wants to think that they can be cheated. We're too smart for that, after all. But in reality we're not. If a story is well-enough crafted and the piece is of a certain quality, ANYONE can be fooled.

So The Believers have taught me well and, as a result, I'm not one of them.

When I buy a car, I use the magazine "Consumer Reports" as my Bible. It helps me make an educated, informed choice rather than simply pick a car that's pretty and shiny. Unfortunately, no such thing exists for prop and costume collectors. We're left to find our own way, and to that end I follow the "Consumer Reports" model: prove it. These days, the only way I will believe a prop or costume to be genuine is if there is specific, measurable proof. And I don't mean some vague, blurry photographs that sort-of/kind-of match the piece in question. I mean solid, unqualified proof like a perfect screen match or paperwork that can be traced back to the studio. I'll only buy anything after I've done my homework and satisfied myself as to the authenticity of a piece. Which means I disregard anything the seller has to say about the piece and make it stand on its own merits. That way, I can't fall prey to Believers ever again.

Many current Star Trek collectors won't take any chances on a piece. If it wasn't sold at Christie's or It's A Wrap and includes a paper trail, they won't touch it. Frankly, I don't blame them. The problem with that approach for me, though, is that many things that I'm interested in – like Original Series pieces – never went through those auction venues.

And so I'm always on the hunt, and it's a tricky path, indeed.

So I urge you to learn from my mistakes and, above all, don't become a Believer yourself.

 • Question everything. Don't be fooled by unprovable stories or blurry photos that claim to show something when in fact they don't.

• Ask yourself if a given claim actually makes sense. Don't buy anything until you've done your own homework and can determine for yourself whether or not the seller's claims are true. If they can't be proven, I advise you walk away.

• And if a seller gets angry about asking questions, don't walk – run. After all, if it is a real piece, why should they fear questions?

Some collectors think that my standards are too high, too unrealistic. To them I say: I don't care. People are free to accept my approach or not. I don't really care if anyone agrees with me or not – it's my process and it's necessary for me. But, for the record, many do agree. I've gotten many e-mails (and a few calls) about various articles from readers who are in step with the idea that proof should be paramount to buying a piece, and demanding it is not only not unreasonable, but plain common sense.

The idea that people will believe what they want to believe is a universal truth, and it is nowhere more prevalent than in this hobby. When lies are given a seat at the table, truth dies. With that in mind, beware The Believers. They'll have a great story to tell, but in the end, that's all you might get – a story.



Saturday, January 4, 2014


This message is exclusively for STPC&B members. We'll return to our regularly scheduled Blog tomorrow.

A friend of mine told me that I should be honored – after all, there was an entire thread dedicated just to me on your Board. It was apparently quite lively. I was called a bully, a bitter old man and oh-so-many-more delightful things. Oh, and for some strange reason I was referred to as, "unmarried with no kids". My family will be shocked to hear they don't exist.

The thread reminded me of a bunch of teenagers who think they're at the cool table while being led by the school bully. The word "pathetic" comes to mind.

Now we all know this type of thread is not unique on your forum. Bashing others is apparently a common thing, at least for some of you. It's rather ironic that this very behavior is EXACTLY why several participants in the thread were not permitted into the Star Trek Prop Room. Sorry, Carol, we don't do that sort of thing that you seem to enjoy so much. We talk about other things – things like props for instance. And costumes. Oh, we're occasionally guilty of talking about people – we're only human, after all. We talk about people like Matt Jefferies or Doug Drexler. Wah Chang or Greg Jein. Provocative stuff like that.

But what we NEVER talk about is the childish drivel that was the basic content of "my" thread. We only have one rule: do unto others. It's not just lip-service. You can't find one Prop Room thread where anyone is spoken of in the way I was spoken of.

Bottom line: we have a moral code and, frankly, that makes us better than you. Or, at least, less rude.

Whatever differences I have with people – and God knows I have them – they in no way enter into the Prop Room. My views are my own and I make no requirement (or even the smallest request) that others support me. Those that do are simply like-minded.

For the record, Mr. Peters, I think buying a house as you did was a laudable endeavor. What I find incredibly distasteful is how you wear it on your sleeve – your desire to be patted on the back for it at every turn. Where I come from charity is a thing done quietly and privately, not publicly and boastfully. It makes me want to vomit, as does your general neediness. And I noticed you manged to work several lies into your brief comments. Or have you repeated them so many times that you now can't tell the difference?

As for Gerald, well, the less said the better. That's fish in a barrel.

And neither of those things (above) would have been mentioned in the Prop Room. See how that works?

So here's my pitch. If you think that Alec Peters is Mr. Integrity (and his death threats are de rigueur) then you're too far gone – we can't help you. But if you think for yourselves, and don't have your nose actually buried in Alec's ass, well then you just might be Prop Room material and we'd love to have you.

Remember, though – you won't get any of that fun "bashing" thing that you're currently getting – there's no "hate club" in The Prop Room. We don't ask anyone to take sides – because there's no sides to take!

So here's a few requirements. Prop Room members must:

• Think for themselves (scarey for some of you)

• Not bash people (hard for some of you)

• Have integrity (unlikely for some of you)

• Be honest, not just when somebody is looking (impossible for some of you)

• Be able to read (difficult for some of you, apparently)

• And be passionate about collecting Trek, Trek, and ONLY Trek.

If you think that sounds good, feel free to check us out at: Star Trek Prop Room

If not, keep doing what your doing. Cuz THAT'S workin' so well.



PS: please, Mr. Peters, no more death threats. It's very disturbing to my non-existent family. Now go tell your sycophants how to think.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Hunter as the intrepid Captain Pike
Below is a a bit of film about the actor who played the first captain of the Enterprise, Jeffrey Hunter. While it's framed in a general seediness (it's from "Mysteries and Scandals", after all) it's still an interesting piece. Inevitably it leads us to "what might have been".

Hunter had more good luck in Hollywood than most actors. In 1956 he starred in the epic John Ford Western "The Searchers" with no less than John Wayne himself. The film is considered to be one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – westerns of all time, and Hunter held his own in every scene with The Duke. In 1958 he costarred with the great Spencer Tracy in "The Last Hurrah", and in 1961 he took on his most famous role outside of Star Trek, that of the son of God in "King of Kings".
It was 1964 when Hunter took on the role of Pike in the first Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

Personally, I didn't care for Hunter's Pike, though it was more about the script than the actor. Squared-jawed and heroic-looking, he was written as brooding, humorless and prone to melancholy. There was very little likability in his Pike, in my opinion, especially when compared to Shatner's Kirk. But in the early days of the first pilot, the producers were still trying to find their way and so we got a rather two-dimensional captain. Had Hunter been given something to really sink his teeth into – as he was given in "The Searchers" – I think we would have had a far more interesting character. But the point was made moot by Hunter's own rejection of the second Star Trek pilot.

While I know the Enterprise ended up with the right person at the helm, it's always interesting to think about what would have happened had Hunter taken the role. Would Star Trek have lasted only one season? Would it have run more than three? And most importantly, would it still have a resonance almost half a century later like it does now? We'll never know, of course.

Check out the video for more about his Star Trek involvement and his untimely death at age 42.




Star Trek Authority Gerald Gurian has something – make that A LOT – to say about me on his Blog. When he and Alec Peters both have problems with me, I know I'm on the right side of things. Though in this case, I admit it's for the wrong reasons.

Gerald's story deals with the fact that he made a rebuttal comment on my Blog about a story I wrote, and I then responded to that and then the floodgates opened. Stupid, stupid move on my part. According to Gerald, I then deleted the entire conversation because I did not approve of the content.

And he's absolutely correct, I did not approve.

But it was not his comments that I objected to, but rather my own. By commenting on his insipid, childish posts I did what I had promised myself that I would not do – I engaged someone who is desperate to engage me. And when I realized what i had done, I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed of playing these stupid, wasteful games with someone who I DON'T CARE ABOUT. He has no opinion that is worth my time, yet I reacted like he did. And so I deleted it all.

So if you have a few hours and want to wade through the crap that should have never been written to begin with, feel free. I'll warn you now that it is encyclopedic in its length. You'll find it here:

For the record, I don't recommend it. It's childish, it's boring and it shows two people being incredibly stupid. The only difference between the two is now one is ashamed and the other wants to trumpet it. As usual, I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

And I sincerely apologize for stepping into it to begin with.



Thursday, January 2, 2014


Whether they acquire action figures, replica phasers or screen-used props and costumes, all Star Trek collectors have one thing in common: a passion for Star Trek. That's what this Blog has always been about – celebrating that passion. This year I hope to do even more stories featuring engaging collectors and their fascination with Trek.

Unfortunately, in my particular corner of the Star Trek collecting universe, there are problems that don't manifest themselves in other facets of Trek. Collecting screen-used stuff can be a mine field, and from what I can tell it's not getting any easier. Too many unscrupulous sellers exaggerate or lie outright about their pieces. As someone who has fallen victim to these tactics in the past, I'm understandably sensitive to them. So this year I'll continue to do my best to try to figure out what's real and what's not, with the help of the many, many people with whom I've had the good fortune to come into contact – people who know far more about different aspects of Star Trek than I ever could.

On that note, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all those who have been invaluable sources of information and inspiration for their help, guidance and support. Without your contributions, I would truly live in ignorance.

So Happy New Year to all my readers (both of you!) and thanks for coming along for the ride! And as always...

Live long and prosper.