Saturday, October 18, 2014


Twenty years ago, The Next Generation ended. Twenty years ago RIGHT NOW was the first new TV season since 1986 to not show a new season of NextGen. Thankfully, there was Deep Space Nine – then in it's second season – to fill the void. But the days of NextGen were over, and as Picard said in "All Good Things..." "they'll never come again".

Over the last several months I've found myself watching quite a bit of Star Trek, ranging from NextGen and DS9 all the way back to the very first Trek ever filmed, "The Cage". Ostensibly it was about research for props or costumes. But it became something much more in the the process. It became a kind of reawakening in me about my life-long love affair with a TV show from the sixties. As I searched frames of film for the objects of my research, I found myself actually watching the show instead. Captain Pike confronting the Talosians, Picard waxing melancholy, Spock jabbing McCoy's ego with Vulcan precision, and on and on. I found myself transfixed, immersed and lost in the stories. It was as if I had forgotten them, even though every line, every frame was at once familiar to me.

In my matter-of-fact love of Star Trek and Trek collecting, I had apparently forgotten why I loved it, why I collected it with such passion. And I wasn't even aware of it!

I consider myself an aficionado of all things Trek. OK, maybe not Voyager and Enterprise so much, but everything else. But in being busy collecting Star Trek, I had forgotten to enjoy Star Trek. I'd watch scenes to catch sight of a Tricorder or to see what rank someone was wearing. I'd scan movies for Klingon PADDs and TMP shoes without stopping to actually watch the damn story!

But, little by little that changed. When looking for Cage Lasers I found myself watching the whole scene, not just the few seconds my research required. I began to watch more and more actual episodes, not just snippets for information's sake.

And gradually, it all came back to me. Why I collect what I do came back to me. Why we all get so damn excited about this stuff, these toys, these outlandish devices – it all came flooding back.

We spend a lot of time on this Star Trek stuff. We watched these shows, these movies, these entertainments for hours, days, months on end many years ago (and last week) and we fell in love. We fell for the stories, the characters, the far-out aliens, the aliens that are really us, the starships (oh, the starships!) and the phasers and the tricorders and everything else. We enjoyed the first run, the second run, the umpteenth re-rerun. We loved Edith Keeler and winced (and finally laughed) at Spock's Brain ("what is brain?"). And now, years (no, decades!) later, what did we end up doing?


And not that kind of collecting that we USED to do. No Playmates for us, not any more. After all, what were those action figures and plastic phasers but an attempt to capture a moment from our favorite show(s)? And what captures that feeling more than holding an actual phaser prop, not a toy. Holding a piece that might have been held by Spock himself, or Picard or Scotty or Sisko or, well, the third ensign on the left in "Masks"?

Nothing. Nothing even comes close. And that's why we do it. We try to hold and preserve that feeling we had when we were a teenager seeing TMP for the first time or when we took our kid to the midnight showing of Wrath of Khan fifteen years after it's release, or when we first saw "Encounter at Farpoint" (his name is Data? Seriously?) or the thousand other moments of Trek watching that we've enjoyed for decades. We're trying to capture that lightning in a bottle and put it on display in our homes, our offices, our "collection rooms", our attics. We hold up a piece and connect to something long past and instantly that moment becomes real for us, if only for a moment's moment. Our collections are tangible avatars of our love of Trek, its big ideas, its grand ideas and its dumb ideas, all at once.

We collect despite the assholes, the narcisists, the thieves, those that would would tell us how to think, what to think about and who to hate. Despite those that would take our money for fakes, those that take others' property and neither return it or pay for it. Despite the morons, the mooks and the mindless, we collect.

We long for those stories that we love so much to live on in our lives. We struggle to recapture that sense of...enterprise...that we remember from long ago. We cannot let it go gentle into that good night. We hold it tight, we preserve it, we talk about it, we obsess about it.

As usual, a Star Trek character has already said it best, this time Kirk in "The Naked Time".

"Never lose you. Never".

Damn straight.



Monday, October 13, 2014


As the old adage goes, "when something looks too good to be true, it probably is." That saying is never more appropriate than when talking about Star Trek Original Series props. Unless you really know what you're doing, the best thing to do is to stay away.

Case in point: to the buyer of the "Star Trek Original Series Authentic Communications Ear Piece Prop" (found HERE) I have some bad news for you. You were taken. Here's what the auction looked like:

 Great story, right? Direct from Nichelle Nichols herself. Except it can't be true. Why? because the piece shown is actually a replica earpiece that was formerly sold by (yes THAT Roddenberry – the son of Gene Roddenberry). One shows up on Ebay once in a while and can be had for $100-200. Notice that the one shown above sold for $5000! That's some great repackaging.

That the piece is a replica is not in doubt. It was confirmed by HMS, the prop-making company that made these for It can also be confirmed with some basic detective work. Here's a shot of the item in question next to an actual screen shot of a real Uhura earpiece IN USE.

The Ebay "original" has a barrel-like body with the fins sticking out slightly from that body. But in the actual screen capture, we can clearly see that there is no main body – the fins are actually mounted to a slender shaft that runs the entire length of the prop. We can clearly see the lights from the background as they define the specific shape. The real piece also has either a shorter fin or some other type of detail at the top of the fin grouping. The Ebay piece does not. In short, upon examination they're they're not even close. Here's some other shots that confirm the spindly nature of the center shaft. Note the shadow, in particular:

On the other hand, here's that same Ebay piece next to an HMS-made Roddenberry piece:

Same barrel-shaped body, same number of fins, same size of fins, same type of ear gel. Not "sort-of" but EXACTLY the same. FWIW, the gel can actually be bought in that yellowed shade. So you don't need to be an expert on TOS props to figure this out. You just need some common sense.

Now, here's the distressing part. The piece was accompanied by this:

"a certificate of authenticity describing the item,  signed and dated by Nichelle Nichols. This item was bought directly from Nichelle Nichols." Here's a shot of said COA:

Is this a real document? Well, it's certainly a real piece of paper. But I could make one on my printer in about five minutes, so who knows? But it leaves us with two possible scenarios:

1. Someone faked the COA


2. The COA is genuine (even if the prop is not) and was issued by Ms. Nichols

I have no idea which of these two possibilities is true and I will not warrant a guess.

Another piece of evidence that really tells us this is a fake is the price. A real authenticated earpiece that came directly from Nichelle Nichols would be worth a small fortune. How much exactly? Who knows? But I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it would be worth a minimum of $20,000 and could easily go for double that (or more!) on a good day. Ms. Nichols would certainly be aware of this so the idea that she would sell this for something around $5000 is ludicrous, in my opinion.

One thing I'd like to add is this: I contacted the seller before it ever sold and told him exactly what he had. He never replied. Several days later the piece sold for $5000. You do the math.

So where does the truth lie? Unfortunately, I have no idea. But I DO know the piece is not a true original. So, if you're the guy that bought this, I'd REALLY recommend you try getting your money back ASAP. FYI: this was already rejected for auction by Profiles In History, and they'll apparently take ANYTHING!