|First pilot: the intrepid Capt. Pike wielding a Laser Pistol.|
|Second Pilot: Spock sports a modified Laser Pistol.|
|The Lasers show up in later episodes.|
So what happened to these props? That's the question asked of just about every prop ever made for the original Star Trek: where'd they all go? For most pieces, we'll never know, unfortunately. They left the Paramount lot in a variety of different ways. Some were undoubtedly stolen from the studio, either during production or after production ceased. Others were simply gifted to the various production people (or taken by same) at the end of the run in 1969. Some of the greatest pieces to ever hit the collecting market came from insiders like producer Bob Justman, Art Director Matt Jefferies, SFX guy Jim Rugg, and set decorator John Dwyer. Some stayed on the lot for quite some time and were in the possession of Dick Rubin who worked as property master on The Motion Picture in 1979. Keep in mind that, back in the day, no great value was given to these props. The idea that a phaser rifle might someday fetch nearly a quarter of a million dollars would have been a ludicrous notion.
On a side note, I'd like to address an issue that has come up time after time in regards to these Lasers. The creation of these pieces is almost always attributed to the great Ming Wah Chang, the creative mind who gave us the Cage Talosians, the Romulan Bird of Prey spaceship, the Salt Vampire from "Man Trap, the Tricorder and much more. The trouble with that supposition is that there's no evidence out there to substantiate this claim. In all the great books about the making of Star Trek, Wah Chang is given credit for all the aforementioned concepts, no one – not one single time – ever mentions him working on the Lasers. "The Art of Star Trek" says that he did, but that book got so many things wrong (and it cites no source) that it simply cannot be relied upon. And to repudiate the concept, according to an interview with Chang, himself, that occurred later in life, Chang "disavowed any involvement in their creation, pointing out the clumsiness of the design." So, until I hear some specific, provable claim to the contrary, I for one have grave doubts about the Chang attribution.
So, anyway – lots of pieces – like the Laser Pistols – got out in unknown ways. Theft? Gifts? Recovered trash? Who knows? The bottom line is that we know that SOME of these Lasers got out because there are two documented specimens that can be used for reference. Did more get out? Maybe.
First, there's a specimen owned by famed Trek prop maker Greg Jein. If you don't know who Mr. Jein is, shame on you! You can educate yourself by clicking HERE. According to various sources, Mr. Jein was able to purchase several TOS props from one of the aforementioned insiders. His version has been shown at some sci-fi shows over the years and has been the single best known example of a known Laser.
|Propmaker Greg Jein's example of an original Cage Laser prop. Note the typewriter keys! Photo by Karl Tate.|
There's a lot of shots of the Jein Laser that we can use for reference, many of which were taken by Star Trek prop fan and Space.com contributor Karl Tate. Other shots were taken by Trek prop enthusiast Steve Dymszo. Thanks to them, we get a glimpse of one of the most enigmatic of all Star Trek props.
Here's what we know about the Jein Laser:
|The Jein Laser courtesy of Steve Dymszo|
|The Jein Laser courtesy of Steve Dymszo|
1. It apparently lit up at the tip.
2. The trigger is practical and the piece is wired, though no longer functional.
3. The rear body was originally cast in clear perspex plastic.
4. The side has two protrusions which could be magnets.
5. The barrel is a hollow brass tube with two steel rings that can move. Screws on the barrel limit the rings' movement.
6. A steel cap is on the end with three plastic "emitters". Originally, they were clear but were later painted black.
7. Crosshatching on the handle is crude and shows signs of having once been painted.
The second known example is not remotely as good. This specimen probably went home with a staffer and got played with. To say it's in rough shape is an understatement. Basically, the entire front assembly is gone and it's nothing but the rear body. And even that is in terrible condition.
|Original Auction Catalog shots.|
|Blu-Ray screen cap from "What Are Little Girls..." Laser shows bold crosshatching on handle.|
In Part 2, I'll get into more details regarding the Laser's use and how the auction version stacks up to the known facts.
That's FACTS. Some out there need to look that word up.