|The Classic Phaser|
|As formidable as the Phaser was, it was actually quite a “civilized” weapon. In fact, more often than not the Phaser was used to “stun” rather than kill. The design of this television prop seems absolutely inspired. Simply put, it's beautiful. Not only externally, but the design of the internal mechanics were amazing as well. Like so many of the elements that made up Star Trek, the Phaser prop was so much more than it needed to be. That's not to say that some of the actual filming props weren't crude (some definitely were,) but the working “Hero” pieces were a marvel of prop-making ingenuity. Sadly, we never really got to see all of the Hero Phasers abilities on screen.
As with the Communicator, I longed since childhood to have an accurate re-creation of this marvelous prop. And like the Communicator, there were indeed toy versions, but nothing that would totally satisfy those of us with an obsessive need for accuracy. They were fun, but not exactly accurate. Truth is, even the most sophisticated mas-produced replicas available today don't satisfy the die-hard Prop enthusiast. The original props were handmade works of art. I don't know how to describe it, but there's a certain “magic”about a hand-crafted item. Whatever it is, it definitely comes across on camera. In fact, and as weird as it sounds, the camera seems to like a comparatively “crude” hand prop, as opposed to something too perfect and manufactured looking. I know that in my photo documentation of several of the original filming props, many of the flaws that were plainly visible in person, seemed to disappear on camera. I actually chose to use some of the less flattering pictures here so as to give you a better idea of what these things really look like. Thanks to the generosity of one of the most talented prop and model makers in the industry, whose personal star Trek Prop collection rivals anyone’s anywhere, I was able to examine and photograph a couple of the last surviving screen-used Phasers. It was this opportunity that enabled me to share these pictures with you, as well as to create the replicas shown on this page.
|Perhaps the most recognizable weapon in science fiction history, the Classic Phaser is a true piece of Americana. I've already admitted that the Communicator was my favorite prop, and my first love as far as the gadgetry of Star Trek is concerned. However, that is not to say that I don't have a boarder-line unhealthy obsession with the Phaser as well. I do. In fact, to the die-hard Trek prop fan, naming your absolute favorite Trek prop is a little like asking a Beatles fan what their favorite Beatles song is. The truth is, all of the Star Trek props were just too cool, and as for the trio that made-up the “Landing Party” set (Phaser, Communicator, and Tricorder,) all three were of similar importance to the crew. Anyway, lets talk Phasers.
The Classic Phaser married the distinctive “art deco” lines of the 30's and 40's, with the futuristic styling of the 1960's. Unlike it's predecessors, the Phaser was not some unbelievable “rocket ship”with a handle attached looking thing, nor was it a dressed-up contemporary hand gun. The Phaser was totally unique. It was very sleek and aggressive looking. When you saw someone holding a Phaser, there was no doubt they were armed and dangerous.
|"Bring your camera, your calipers, a tape measure. Whatever you need..."|
|With the bottom screw, and fin/clip
assembly removed the phaser 2 is
about to reveal all of it's secrets to me.
| Wow! They sure crammed alot of phaser goodness into this little fiberglass shell!
From the ingenious design of the scratch built, phaser 1 push-button release mechanism, to the clever use of a vintage twist-lock electrical connector, it was plain to see that an incredible amount of effort went into creating this working "hero" prop.
|That was the message from my model-maker friend, the owner of possibly the last surviving hero phaser prop. He arranged a meeting with me in a union hall parking lot where a model kit convention was being held.I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. The chance to document, in intimate detail, his priceless piece of television history.
| In preparation for this event, my friend
Brent and I set up a makeshift photo
studio and documentation station
inside my van.
| A look inside the Original Hero Phaser Prop
This prop was an absolute marvel of prop-making
ingenuity. Notice the springs, cams, and levers
that make-up the interior of this piece. Though we
never really saw it's abilities exploited in any of the
episodes, this prop had no shortage of cool little
tricks up it's sleeve. These include: A removable
grip (which actually housed the batteries), a
rotating flip-up sight, side diall and rear knob that actually turned, and an extend/retract illuminated
"beam" emitter on both the removable little Hand Phaser, and the Pistol.
|Let's go inside and photograph this television icon.|
| Phaser toys of the '70's. Not exactly accurate but still a lot of fun.
(upper left)The Star Trek Exploration Set model kit, (center) A Phaser "clicker Gun" I believe this was the phaser included with the Utility Belt. With the exception of the words "Star Trek" this phaser was identical in appearance to the one included in the Exploration set. (right) This miniature penlight phaser, is half the size of the previous two. Once a very inexpensive grocery store toy, now is a sought after collectible. (bottom) Phaser 2 Target Game. Very advanced for it's time. It "shot" a light beam onto a Klingon ship Badge. A "bull's eye" was registered by a sensor in the pistol which activated the sonic buzzer device inside the phaser. A great toy, but the Phaser itself was HUGE!
Note; I used the same quarter in both pictures for scale. Despite the scale differences these phasers all have essentially the same design.
|The Classic Phaser|
|The Classic Phaser|
|The CLASSIC PHASER|
On the day we documented the original Hero, I just
happened to bring along a model I built a few months
earlier. Much to my surprise-and despite my somewhat
limited reference material prior to that day, the replica
I had created was actually quite close to the original prop.
Now with reference material to die for, I couldn't wait to
go and make a truly accurate replica
|When Master Replicas obtained their Star Trek license,
they purchased my replica to aid in the creation of their
|The finished replica, complete with all of the working "hero" features.|
|This is the pistol body tooling I created after our documentation. This wooden master faithfully re-creates the, dimentions, lines, and contours of the original piece.|
|As I left the documentation meeting. I realized that I had not only seen, but handled, and dissected to my hearts content, the hand prop
which I longed to merely "get a better look at" in my youth. At long last the Classic Pistol Phaser had moved out of the half-seen flicker world of television, and into the harsh telling light of day.
I took full advantage of my hosts generosity. I measured, traced, and recorded every square inch, all the angles and every
shape on this hand prop, that was so beautifully designed by Matt Jeffries.
Equipped with a passion for this prop, my years of experience as a prop maker, and an abundance of reference material, I was now determined to recreate this television icon.
|After our documentation of the original Hero, I set out to create an exacting replica.|
A test-fit of the first fiberglass shells generated from the wooden tooling
|Above is the MM hero-build Phaser 1, Displaying it's light up extending emitter and flip-up site,|
|This is the Phaser kit produced by Masterpiece Models.
Dispite it's QC short-commings, this kit is already a
collectors item, as it is the only kit of the Phaser pistol
to faithfully re-create the shape and size of the actual prop.
|For a very limited time, a company called Masterpiece Models
offered a resin model version of the TOS Phaser Pistol.
Above, is the actual "master-tooling" I created for that project.
|End-cap of hero MM build.
On the original prop, the pistol grip had a special end-cap
with an interesting little "butterfly" shaped cut-out (see issue-
#146 of the Star Trek Communicator magazine for complete
details). For this "hero build" , I created a faux version of this
detail. The endplate itself is made of plastic, and the little
"nut" is actually the resin trigger that came with the kit. With
the exception of the screws, nothing seen in this shot is
|This is my build-up of the Masterpiece Models Phaser kit.
Normally this is a "static" kit (no working parts). However,
I built this one as a "Hero", and incorporated all of the
functional features of the original screen-used prop.
|This lightweight, sturdy, somewhat nondescript version of the pistol
phaser actually enjoyed the most screen time of any of the phaser
incarnations. These were created to be worn on the costumes. and
used in scenes where the prop needed to be knocked out of the
hands of the actors, or abused in some way.
| To the right, and below are my replica "stunt" phasers
Shown with the upgraded paint scheme,
and simulated stage wear.
(Below & Lower Right)
As if fresh from the Desilu prop department, shown
with a first season black and white paint scheme.
|On the day we documented the Hero Phaser our host gave us a bonus...|
|When Masterpiece Models obtained their Trek license, it
was their intent to offer a number of different Trek weapons
in kit form. Among them was the Phaser Rifle as seen
in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
They requested that I create the master tooling for this
project. Now despite the fact that I had seen a
number of replicas of this peice created in the past, it
was well known among those who are really into this stuff,
that a truly accurate version had yet to be offered. The truth is, very little was known about this prop. Or so I thought....
The first part of the project would be to nail down some really
good reference material. I mean, why put all the effort into
creating the tooling, if all I was going to ultimately achieve
was another mediocre rendition? So I made a few calls, and
much to my surprise and delight, it turned out that one of my
Friends actually had the goods on this prop. He didn't have
the thing, but he definitely had the next best thing.....good, clear
photos. The following day he came by the shop with pictures to
die for. They were so much more than I had even hoped for.
Every shape and angle was right there for me. My Friend Brent
and I poured over the photographs, and after we had locked onto
one of the components that could be used to scale-up the entire
prop, I requsted that Brent create some blue-prints for me. He did.
This gallery of pictures show the creation of the masters, and
culminates with a finished rifle as it appeared in one of my
spots on the Star Trek third season DVD box-set.
Sadly, and based on a number of circumstanses surounding the
pistol Phaser kit, I requested the return of these Masters from
the company prior to any of the kits being manufactured.
I'm hoping that eventually this tooling will be used to bring an
accurate version of this beautiful prop to market.
| ...The original Stunt Phaser
On the day I documented the hero phaser, I was also given the opportunity to include this background, or "stunt" phaser in my documentation.
|The Phaser Rifle|
|Building the grey and bronze Hero replica, as well as
the two stunt pistols,
made me realize I was missing an important link in the phaser chain. So,
a little out of the time-line, but totally necessary to complete any good TOS Phaser Pistol collection, I set out to build a replica of what the Hero pistol looked like prior to receiving it's "sprucing-up" by Mr. Wah Ming Chang.
This period-materials Black & White pistol boasts all of the same working features of my other Hero replica, but is sporting the (early) first
season paint scheme. Another interesting difference in this early version of the phaser, is the rear "radiator" fin detail which was originally
just lines carved into the body. Notice also that the flip-up sight hood has yet to receive it's metal "diamond-pattern" foil we are so used to seeing on all of the later versions of this prop.
|I was so pleased with the way my first build-up
of this kit turned out, that I decided to create a
special display stand for it.
The stand is made of polished acrylic, and
features three-dimensional stars and planets.
Here we see the Phaser on it's new stand.
|On a different day...
Thanks to the generosity
Thanks to the generosity of collector PJ Rubal,
here is another example of a "Stunt" Phaser.
This little Phaser 1 is basically identical to the
ones permanently afixed to the pistol version,
but was made to be a stand-alone Phaser 1
prop. It, like the pistol, is made of light-weight
vacuum-formed plastic, and features velcro
(on the back) to enable it to be worn with the
|© John Long 2005.
John Long is the author of this page and all text and images for purposes of U.S. and other copyright laws except where otherwise indicated.
Any duplication or distribution without the express written permission of the author is strictly prohibited and may result in civil or criminal liability.
TM, ® & © 2006 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved. STAR TREK and Related Marks are Trademarks of CBS Studios Inc.
|For more information on the classic
phaser, please see backissue #146
of the STAR TREK Communicator.
| ...one more Phaser
Seeing that my Friend with the monster Trek collection still had his Hero, and that Master Replicas now owned my fiberglass replica, it seemed that one more Phaser build was in order. What I really wanted (in leu of owning the original) was an absolutely believable, fully functional, period materials, re-creation of the Hero. Despite the craftsmanship that obviously went into the creation of the original Hero we documented, it was clear that it had been made on a limited budget of time and money. That and the rigors of three years of use on a television series that was notoriously rough on props, had created in this piece a rustic and "authentic" look that frankly was about as cool as it gets. That's what I wanted in my personal replica. This "one-last-phaser" had to be made of all of the same materials as the original. It needed to have all of the mechanical elements scratch-built to look and work exactly like the real deal. The ten-turn that was used to make the rear dial needed to be an original vintage part. Same goes for the twist-lock electrical plug, the G.O.W. bulbs, the epoxies, heck even the springs needed to be the same as those that were available back in the 60's. I wanted a Phaser that even the most qaulified authority could examine and say WOW! Below is a montage of what I came up with.
|This exploded view, taken prior to a much-needed
repaint after being handled hundreds of times by
excited convention goers, at a local Star Trek Convention.
| The "Mid-grade" Phaser
More often than not the vacuum-formed stunt Phasers were what we saw on screen. However, there was still yet another version
of the classic pistol Phaser. When the Hero wasn't necessary, and the stunt wouldn't do, in came the "Mid-grade" Phaser.
This version of the prop was made
of fiberglass like the Hero, and was
probably even generated from the
same molds. It even had a metal
nozzle, side-dial, rear knob and
trigger. The main difference from
the Heroes, was the fact that these
(as with the stunts) were not made
to include any of the working
features. The mids were perfect
for when the scene called for a
relatively tight shot of the prop,
but it wasn't appropriate to use
the expensive Hero version.
The Mid-grade shown here
is a scratch-built replica.
For information about
the first Screen-Accurate
Classic STAR TREK®
HAND PHASER® KIT