Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Over the fifty years of Star Trek, certain constants have come through: Starfleet uses Phasers and Klingons use Disruptors. Phasers are omnipresent, but where, exactly did these "Disruptor" things come from? And how did one end up in an auction some fifty years after they were first used?

The piece in question first appeared in the original series during Season 1's "Errand of Mercy". And they weren't called "Disruptors". They were simply called "Klingon Phasers" by Kirk, himself, no less. The props themselves, however, were modified props from an earlier episode, "A Taste of Armageddon", made from an alien weapon referred to as a "Sonic Disruptor". Here's what those original pieces looked like:

It's easy to see the origins of the Disruptor in this shot. These "Sonic Disruptors" had their fronts replaced and new details on the top were added to give us a new weapon – the Klingon Disruptor.

These props made their debut along with the Klingons themselves in "Errand of Mercy". We can see them on various character's belts and sometimes in their hands.

In one scene we can see a squad of eight Klingons marching through the frame. All have Disruptors on their belts (as they move we can see all eight) so we know that at least that many were made.

These same pistols showed up in three more episodes. Here's one in "Friday's Child":

Next, five of them showed up in "Day of the Dove":

And finally, here's some being used by the Romulans in "The Enterprise Incident":

After that, they were never seen again. Where did they go? Well, at least one went with a Desilu executive named Renshaw after shooting wrapped. We know this because his family eventually auctioned it off years later. It was in pretty bad shape because he had given it to his kids who did what kids do – they played with it! Keep in mind that back then these items had no real value. Star Trek was simply another canceled TV series that would never be heard from again and so the props were disposable in the studio's minds. Here's a shot of the Renshaw from its auction catalog:

You can see that it was pretty chewed up. But the fact that such a spindly prop survived at all is amazing! The various metal parts on the emitter can unscrew so it's astonishing that they are intact. You can also see that the body is made of wood. It's worth noting that the auction piece has a wood body as well. Another specimen was also sold at auction, this time from the estate of Matt Jefferies, the heralded art director of the original series. There could be no better provenance for a piece than that. Here's the auction shot:

Note that while this is in better shape than the Renshaw, it still shows some wear on the handle. The rest looks pretty good, though.

And now we come to the auction piece which I'll simply refer to as the Comisar:
So if this is an original piece, why is it in such good shape? It looks practically new! This can be explained in two words: Phase Two.

In the mid-seventies, Paramount took note that their cancelled show was doing huge business in syndication. Since Star Trek was suddenly a success, the studio guys got a bright idea – let's bring it back! And so, Star Trek: Phase II was born. While that production would feature an updated Enterprise (inside and out), it was decided to keep the design of the costumes and props, a decision that would save tons of money. To that end, Paramount rounded up anything still in storage from the original Star Trek, most of which was in the form of costumes. But a few props remained, most notably, some of the Klingon Disruptors. Since those survivors were undoubtedly in "used" condition, they were freshened up with new paint and new foil on the forward fins.

It was in the middle of pre-production of Phase II that Paramount abruptly switched directions, pulling the plug on the project in favor of making Star Trek: The Motion PicturePhase II became a largely forgotten footnote in the history of Star Trek.

Here's the catalog description:

"This wood prop was acquired from Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s property master Richard Rubin, who received it and other materials from Star Trek: The Original Series during pre-production on the Star Trek feature film. This and other props were refreshed by Rubin for potential use in the film, including fresh blue-grey paint, though the wood body exhibits still numerous chips and marks beneath the fresh paint indicative of use in The Original Series. Ultimately, the disruptor props from The Original Series were not utilized for filming on The Motion Picture. As a result of great care by Mr. Rubin’s family and after by the Comisar Collection, the weapon exhibits only minor signs of wear and is in excellent, production-used, vintage condition overall."

The one error in this text is the attribution to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's a natural mistake, however, given that all of the development for Phase II was rolled over into the production of The Motion Picture. The important take-away from this is that the piece came from the Star Trek production through prop master Dick Rubin, an idea supported by a number of other Original Series pieces that came through Mr. Rubin's hands. Again, these weren't seen as having any real value so it was not a big deal for the prop master to take them.

I want to make note of the fact that I have done a lot of research on these pieces over the years because I own another copy of Disruptor, one that Mr. Comisar had also gotten from Rubin and then sold to another collector. That story can be found here:  My Klingon Disruptor.

Here's some more great shots of the auction piece (click on them for larger versions):

You can see some of the original wear and distress on these close-ups. That is to be expected from a production-used piece. In fact, I would be worried if it wasn't there. This piece matches in every way all the details that are known about the original versions. It is not often that I say I have ZERO doubts about a piece, but this is one of those times. Its details, combined with its provenance, make this a classic piece worth having in a museum, let alone a private collection. These kinds of things don't come along often and I'm sure it will find a good home.

Prop Store has other fantastic Star Trek pieces in the auction so I urge you to check those out as well.  You'll find the auction details including a downloadable PDF and the on-line catalog at Prop Store's Comisar Auction. If you've always wanted a piece of Star Trek history, there's no better opportunity than now! Bidding is now open with the live auction taking place on December 1 at 10:00 am PST. 

Best of luck!



Tuesday, November 27, 2018


So much of Star Trek can be said to be "iconic". From the language used – "warp speed" and "beam me up, Scotty"– to the familiar triad of colorful costumes to the props – phasers and tricorders – there's much that has entered into our verbal and visual lexicon in the fifty years of Star Trek's existence. But at its core, Star Trek has always been about far more than pop-culture references. It still endures because of the stories told, the lessons learned. It told stories the likes of which had never before been seen on TV. Stories about life and death, love and loss, the nature of what it is to be human and so much more.

And delicately sandwiched into one of those stories was a history-making moment that seems quaint today, but it had repercussions across the country at the time. It was a moment so fraught with controversy that NBC feared that some stations might actually refused to air it. It was a whirlwind of angst that was brought about because of something that has happened tens of thousands of times throughout television history.

It was about a kiss. A kiss that all Star Trek fans know of but about which the public by and large knows nothing.

On November 22, 1968 – about fifty years ago to the date! – A Star Trek episode called "Plato's Stepchildren" aired for the first time on NBC. In many ways it is an unremarkable episode and seldom appears on anyone's list of favorites. IMBD summarizes the story thusly:

"After Dr. McCoy helps the leader of a planet populated by people with powerful psionic abilities, they decide to force him to stay by torturing his comrades until he submits."

The race that the crew encounters have adopted classical Greek culture, and named themselves Platonians in honor of the Greek philosopher Plato. This is why it's often called "the Greek episode" (not to be confused with "Who Mourns for Adonais?", another Greek story).

They use their psionic abilities against our intrepid heroes until they are able to turn the tables on them. But along the way, Kirk and Spock are arrogantly humiliated, forced to sing and dance like court jesters. Eventually, the Platonians use their powers to force two other Enterprise officers to the planet – Uhura and Chapel. Forced to each wear Greek garb, the Enterprise foursome quickly get their bodies usurped by the leader who proceeds to make them perform for the gathered Platonians and a captive McCoy, including forcing Kirk and Uhura into a passionate kiss.

And that kiss was the issue. It was remarkable for one reason alone: it was the first time that a black person and a white person ever kissed on American television. Other shows had featured kissing between Asian and caucasian actors, but never THIS. But, despite NBC's fears, little was made of the kiss upon its actual airing. The episode ended up being shown everywhere and fan reactions were overwhelmingly positive. There was some outrage (mostly from southerners, apparently) but it was in the minority.

To put this into context, it was only one year before that the US Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws unconstitutional. The late 60's was a tumultuous time for race relations in the US, so NBC had every right to expect some turmoil. Luckily, little was manifested.

So that's the history behind that kiss. And that's why it's exciting that some particular offerings from the upcoming Prop Store auction are part of that history-making moment. The auction features many pieces from the Comisar Collection which contains a number of items from the original collection of William Ware Theiss, Star Trek's much-heralded costume designer. And among those pieces are none other than the Greek garb worn by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in "Plato's Stepchildren".

Because of the great provenance that is inherent to the original William Ware Theiss Collection, there is no doubt as to the originality of these pieces. But just to do due diligence, I compared the auction pieces to screen captures from the episode because one never knows

Most costumes are very hard to screen-match (i.e.: definitively identify a given piece as one seen on-screen) with any certainty because most costumes are usually mundane everyday items – dark suits and solid colored pieces that show little, if any, detail. But pieces like the "Plato's Stepchildren" costumes are exactly the opposite of plain. They feature a rich assortment of easy-to-see details that can easily be examined and compared and the auction pieces don't disappoint.

Whether it's the nature of the fabric's weave, the number of striped areas or the fine pattern seen in the sash and belt, everything matches wonderfully. The colors are still bright and vivid due to careful storage. The Spock piece nets the same result.

As with the Kirk, all the specific patterns and details match up. Prop Store has more great close-ups on the auction listing so I urge you to check those out as well.  There's many other fantastic Star Trek pieces in the auction as well. You'll find the auction details including a downloadable PDF and the on-line catalog at Prop Store's Comisar Auction.

Any piece worn by Kirk or Spock always brings great attention and these are no exception. Add in the historical aspect and these become even more special. If you've always wanted a piece of Star Trek history, there's no better opportunity than now! Bidding is now open with the live auction taking place on December 1 at 10:00 am PST.

Best of luck!



Monday, November 12, 2018


It's not often that we can point to a single person who we have never met but nevertheless had a huge impact on our lives. For me, it's names like Gene Roddenberry. George Lucas. Jack Kirby. And, of course, Stan Lee.

I discovered comics when I was around five years old. My Grandpa had taken me to the barber and while I was waiting for him to get finished up, I glanced at the usual stack of magazines that you normally find in such places. But forget Field and Stream. Sitting there in all its bright, primary colored-wonderfulness was a comic book. My first comic book. Superman, specifically. I picked it up and was instantly hooked. I couldn't wait to get my next hair cut!

A few years later I was in a neighborhood corner drug store (yes, such places actually existed) and spied my first actual rack of comics. Oh, man! I was allowed to buy some to keep me quiet during our vacation. While I don't remember most of titles in that small, first stack of magic, I remember one of them vividly: The Amazing Spider-Man # 65 (October, 1968). I had seen the Spider-Man cartoon on TV (what kid in the 60's didn't?) but had never seen an actual comic. This one was a fantastic way to meet the character with a bit more depth than the cartoon had offered.

It was drawn by one of the greatest Spidey artists of all time, John Romita, Sr., and was written by none other than Stan Lee himself. I must have drawn that cover (poorly, alas) a thousand times. I was hooked!

Since money didn't grow on trees, I had to really scrounge for my comics money. I got a small allowance that I added to lawn-mowing and snow-shoveling money to keep my new-found habit going. Over the years, many more of Stan's creations would be at the heart of my reading list including X-Men, Avengers, and most-especially, The Fantastic Four. I became a FF fanatic and worked to try to find as many back issues as I could find. To this day I think that Stan's best work came from his partnership with Jack Kirby. It's not a coincidence that a vast number of the Marvel movies include Kirby's name along with Lee's. While I know their relationship was tumultuous, that conflict yielded some of the greatest comics ever made.

(As an aside, why can't anyone get Fantastic Four right on film?!???)

I went on to read comics for decades. One of the coolest offshoots of that was that my little brother, John Michael, got hooked as well by reading his big brother's stash. We would talk comics for hours! Those are some of my favorite memories of my entire life.

Stan Lee's work has never been better known that it is today. Every Marvel movie has at its core a Stan Lee story or creation. His work will no doubt make a continuous mark for a long, long time.

So rest easy, Mr. Lee. Your legacy is in good hands. And this comics fan thanks you profoundly for bringing some happy moments to a young boy that needed all the joy he could find.

LLAP and, just this once, "Excelsior!"