Wednesday, April 11, 2018


It's become commonplace – auctions for movie memorabilia are fraught with inaccuracies, exaggerations or plain old big fat lies. They constantly make big, unproven claims in hopes of making an extra buck on their auctions, all in the hope that bidders are too stupid to not know the difference between a replica and a real, honest-to-goodness movie prop.

With that in mind let's take a look at the upcoming Heritage Auction. It is the listing of a particular Klingon piece that caught my eye:

"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Screen-Used Klingon "Shotgun" Disruptor (1991)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Screen-Used Klingon "Shotgun" Disruptor (1991). Exhibits a sharp, beak-nosed appearance in the familiar red-black Klingon style, with a body, handle, "pump" and emitter crafted of cast resin, with three steel rods connecting the emitter to the pump/body, and a small acrylic Klingon symbol affixed to the handle. Used by actor Paul Roselli as military advisor to Chancellor Gorkon, Brigadier Kerla. Measures approximately 16" in length, in Very Fine condition, showing light wear from screen use/handling. "

The listing is accompanied with a very nice photo:

To be clear, I have no doubt that this is a production-made prop as described. This matches in every way a version that I previously owned that I got from a former Star Trek prop master. I was able to screen-match that version to the short scene in Star Trek VI in which General Kerla brandishes the weapon at Kirk and McCoy. The screen-match was possible due to the one-of-a-kind organic nature of the paint job on Klingon props. They are all hand-painted with unique weathered details. As a result, no two look alike, thus, there can only be ONE screen-matchable piece.

And that is where the problem arises. This prop was only seen for a few seconds in one single scene when Kirk and McCoy beam over the the Klingon ship:

Because Blu-Ray captures amazing details, it is possible to blow up the gun in Kerla's hands.

This moment is the ONLY time the pistol is seen. It is very brief and without a close-up. To be clear: this single instance is the ONLY identifiable screen time this piece gets. The general carries it with him down the hall but no details can be made out, after which it is never seen again.

Which begs the question: if I sold the only screen-matched version, how can this piece ALSO PROVABLY be "screen-used"?

Bottom line: it can't.

So what? Who cares if this is screen-used or simply production made? Both came from the studio, right?

The reason that it is an important detail is that screen-used pieces almost always go for more than simple production-made pieces. And SCREEN-MATCHED are the best of all and always get a premium.

Is it possible that the one being sold is screen-used? Yes, it's possible. It could be the one Kerla is carrying down the hall since there's a cut and there could have been hours between the filming of the different parts of the scene. That said, it's not PROVABLE. And if it's not provable, no screen-used claim can be made. Yet that is exactly what the auction does – it makes the claim that Kerla is seen with this in his hand.


But don't take my word for it. Look at the screen capture of the prop. Then look at the very good auction photo. Now, tell me where they match up. SPECIFICALLY. EXACTLY. It simply can't be done. Which of course proves that this piece was NOT in Kerla's hand when he waved it at Kirk.

For what it's worth, the seller of this piece is someone who railed against auction houses in the past for trying to get away with this very kind of bull. But when it is to his advantage to stretch the truth we get radio silence. Where is his indignation? His passion for truth and accuracy? Gone. It's inconvenient. He's tried to sell this in the past without the "screen-used" claim and it didn't sell. It will probably sell this time because of that very addition.

But if you are planning to bid on this item, be an informed buyer. Caveat emptor!

Production-made? Check.

Screen-used? Prove it.



Saturday, December 30, 2017


It's been a while since I wrote anything. My bad but I just haven't felt motivated. Luckily I've had a change of heart, though, and I've found a project that has lit a fire under me. At long last I'm going to build my home display for my collection. And while that may not seem like it's a big deal, I have delusions of grandeur so I have planned on a somewhat grand scale.

I'll be sharing the details in future installments but I'll share a piece of what I have in mind. A significant part of my collection is comprised of various screen-used bridge panels as used on the Enterprise-A and the Excelsior in Star Trek V and VI. I want to show the panels off in a way that is reminiscent of the actual bridge set.

The Master Systems Display aboard the Excelsior in ST6.
One of the things I thought would be a cool addition to my panels was a Trek 6 version of the Master Systems Displays that we see in later Trek incarnations. Star Trek VI has such a panel but only on the Excelsior bridge. I've always thought it was a cool addition and wished that the Enterprise bridge had featured such a piece as well. The closest thing to it was the ship's diagrams that appear on the back walls of the two Turbolifts. Many years ago I bought one of those screen-used diagrams direct from Doug Drexler himself and it is a prized possession for me.

But as cool as it is, it's not a very visually exciting piece, especially when compared to the Excelsior graphic which seems to be about 5-6 feet wide and dominates the bridge's background. There's a number of different panels around the bridge of the Enterprise that show various images of the ship, but nothing very large.

Here's what the actual Turbolift graphic looks like:

And here it is on-screen:

Pretty cool, right? I just wish there was more to it. So, to that end I thought I'd try my hand at making one that could be used in conjunction with my screen-used pieces. Here's my first go at it:

I went with a profile view rather than the top view used on the Excelsior. I did this because I felt the profile allowed me to create more interesting things to point out around the ship. I went with a cutaway for the same reason which I don't think the Excelsior has. It's hard to tell, though, since I can find no clear images of that specific panel. I also kept the style of presentation very simple in keeping with the overall design established on the real bridge panels by the awesome Mike Okuda back in Star Trek IV and then carried through in the rest of the TOS films.

For additional inspiration, I turned to none other that Doug Drexler himself who created the MSD panel for the Enterprise-B as seen in Star Trek: Generations. Here's a shot of that panel:

Doug did a great job of using the Okuda design approach. I've always been a fan of this work. In his Ent-B version, Doug combined the side and top views which give a more detailed overview than a panel only featuring one view. However, the Enterprise-B itself is a more elongated design than the Enterprise-A, being based on the Excelsior. That elongation lets the two views better fit a more horizontal space that would the Ent-A. This profile is done as a cut-away so I borrowed/stole heavily. Thanks, Doug!

Of course, if filmed today, Star Trek VI would present these graphics on live screens that could dynamically change their views on the fly. Content on the screen would be updated in real time with the fictional starship data being constantly revised.

Alas, there will be no 5-foot TV screens in my display. So I'll stick with the traditional static approach which will yield a more authentic match to the source material.

So that's where I'm at. At least for today. I'll no doubt revise this several (million) times because, well... that's what I do. You can check out all my screen-used panels HERE.

I'll be sharing additional components of my over-all display over the coming weeks and months ahead. I hope you'll check in. Until then, as always –



Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Admit it. You can still here that scream down through the years, right? You know the one:

Yeah, THAT one! Well, it still rings out with all the power and desperation that it had back in 1982 as I discovered this past week when I attended the Fathom Events theatrical showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (WOK). Does it still hold up? Damn straight it does! And not just because of Kirk's powerful bellow.

There's a reason that, even after 35 years, Wrath of Khan is still voted the best Star Trek film ever made. Its story-telling remains unsurpassed in both writing and visual terms. In an age of CGI where literally anything can be put onto film, WOK's intimate cat and mouse game still holds up. Why? Because everything works.

Kirk and Khan face off the first time

Director Nick Meyer did the impossible – he took a so-so script and in just ten days time turned it into the masterwork that we know today. Despite having zero knowledge of Star Trek, he quickly figured out what made the original series work at its best, and with producer Harve Bennet chose what is surely one of the best, most exciting and action-packed TOS episodes, "Space Seed", as the basis for their film. That choice would be the impetus to greatness.


Where the earlier Star Trek: The Motion Picture had taken a cold, subdued approach to Trek, WOK embraced the characters for what they were at their best – passionate and vital. The result was a complete turnaround for our gallant captain and crew. Gone was the sternness of The Motion Picture's gray tones and even grayer plot. Suddenly, our heroes were back in vivid color and breathless action. They were once again the ideals that we had fallen in love with all those years ago, back to save the day once again.

Khan has a few words with Joaquin

In the fifty-plus years of Star Trek, there has simply never been a more menacing, larger-than-life villain than Khan Noonien Singh as brought to glorious life by the great Ricardo Montalban. Beginning with "Space Seed", the character leapt off the screen and into fan's hearts as the epitome of Treky bad-assness. When we catch up to the character some 15 years later he's lost none of his bombast. Far from it! Somehow, Montalban imbued his later characterization with even more intensity and boldness, making a perfect foil for the older, wiser Kirk. It was chess-playing at its best.

Duking it out in the Mutara Nebula

Though CGI-less, the battle between Kirk's Enterprise and Khan's Reliant still has the original power of its then-cutting-edge special effects. The Enterprise never looks better than she does stalking the Reliant through the beautifully-unique Mutara Nebula, evoking the best of the WWII submarine movies. Soaring slowly through stellar mists, the mighty starship has an unequaled majesty in WOK that will, unfortunately, never come again. There's something about physical models that seem to portray an immenseness that I seldom get from a CGI creation.


Spoiler alert: Spock dies. But he doesn't get beat up on a bridge (uh) or smothered by a tar monster (really, TNG?), no. He dies the greatest death ever shown on all of Star Trek. The climactic scene when Kirk runs to his friend, only to find that he is too late, is the single most poignant moment in fifty years of Trek story-telling, in this writer's opinion. As our two heroes have their last few seconds together, we are crushed by the loss in a way that was heretofore unknown in Star Trek.

For me, TNG's "Inner Light" is the only thing that even approaches its emotional level.

Perhaps the single most amazing thing about Khan is the fact that the two main characters never actually physically share a single scene. The entire interaction between Kirk and Khan happens over communicators and view-screens. In most films that would be a vast problem, yet in WOK you're really not ever aware of it. The action is so taught and fast-paced that we never have time to make that realization.

Will Khan hold up for another thirty-five years? Only time will tell. But in this fan's heart, there will never be another two hours of Star Trek that can surpass the sublime experience that is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Like the man said:




Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Robby's ready to rock (Bonham's)
Just when I think I can't be surprised by my hobby, along comes an auction of one of the single greatest icons in all of science fiction – the original Robby the Robot from 1956's Forbidden Planet! Robby was made famous in that great classic film, but that was just the beginning of his
"career". Robby was such an amazingly well-made piece of movie magic that he would go on to appear in films and TV icludinng the original Lost in Space and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
His last appearance was as recent as an AT&T commercial in 2006.

What does Robby have to do with Star Trek? Plenty. In a letter written to Herb Solow in 1964 during Star Trek's original pre-production phase, Gene Roddenberry states:

"You may recall we saw MGM’s 'FORBIDDEN PLANET' with Oscar Katz some weeks ago."

He goes on to say that he thought the film could help generate ideas for Star Trek:

"But a detailed look at it again would do much to stimulate our own thinking."

The film featured an exploratory starship (not unlike the Enterprise) from an organization called the "United Planets", no doubt a close relative to Star Trek's "United Federation of Planets". The crew used a naval hierarchy that was also adopted by Star Trek.

Robby in a scene opposite Walter Pidgeon in "Forbidden Planet" (MGM)
The look and feel of Forbidden Planet was unlike anything that had ever come before it. The technology was realistically portrayed, one of the first times such a thing was done with what was usually considered to be "B"-grade entertainment. Almost ten years later, Star Trek would do the same thing yet again, presenting a new take on the future.

Robby is perhaps the epitome of that presentation of technology. Before him, robots were little more than tin cans with actors inside and featured crude details at best. But Robby was a revelation. Gone was the clumsily-designed robots of the past. Robby had a sleek sophistication in his design that is still unequaled to this day in this writer's opinion.

Robby meets the gang (MGM)
What is additionally amazing about the auction at-hand is not just the fact that Robby is up for bid, but it also includes the various accessories and spare parts created for Forbidden Planet, including the car in which Robby zips round Altair. An astounding extra!

Robby's original car is part of the auction (Bonham's).
Robby in his car with co-star Anne Francis (MGM)

This auction really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone with deep pockets. I think Robby will easily exceed a million dollars. Just how high could he go for? Who knows? Check out the Bonhams auction HERE.

So get ready to bid – and write a big check!



Tuesday, August 29, 2017


One hundred years ago, a force of nature was born named Jacob Kurtzberg, who millions of comics fans would come to know as Jack Kirby. If you don't know who he is, shame on you! One of the all-time-greats, Kirby, along with Stan Lee, began to build what we now know as the Marvel Universe with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. He would go on to co-create dozens of well-known characters for both Marvel and DC. He was one of my favorite story-tellers and I owe him a lot!



Monday, August 28, 2017


In the aftermath of the announcement that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan will be hitting theaters for its 35th Anniversary (check out FATHOM EVENTS), the great man and creator of Wrath of Khan himself, filmmaker Nicholas Meyer gave an exclusive interview to our friends over at Borg.Com. Don't miss the excellent two-part story!