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♦ Star Trek TOS: RETRO PHASER-II Brad Nelson Style




TOS – RETRO PHASER – Brad Nelson Style

BACKGROUND:   ORIGIN:   TV – Star Trek The Original Series     RELEASE DATE:  1966 >.     PRODUCTION Co.:  no info     RELEASED BY:  NBC TV      IMDB RATING:  ?     ALTERNATE TITLES:  Star Trek    WRITER:   G. Roddenberry + others    DIRECTOR :  Varied by episode   CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Varied.      STARS:  William Shatner, Lenard Nemoy, James Dohan, Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelly       PRODUCTION NOTES:  none found.      PLOT SUMMARY:  Star Trek was Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful vision of how mankind might evolve into a more peaceful society driven by the quest for knowledge. The TV show focused on the crew of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 and their travels through the galaxy.      COMMENTS:  The show presented various social commentaries, using encounters with alien species to depict human social and political issues. At the time of its original airing (1966-1971) the show amazed audiences with its special effects, its character makeup, and its ‘Star Trek Science’ showing possible future scientific developments like warp drive for FTL space flight, matter transporters, cloaking devices, and phaser weapons. Many, if not most of the features, like the transporters and phasers, were never considered by the writers or producers as viable developments, they were just devices to make the TV show run smoother and provide the futuristic atmosphere the show required.

THE MODEL:   MADE BY:  23rd Century Pistol (maker unknown) + Jonpaultrek (metal parts)     SCALE:  1 / 1     MATERIAL:  Styrene plastic + metal parts.     FEATURES:  Full scale with added electronic lighting & sound.     DESCRIPTION / COMMENTS:  This particular version of the TYPE-II PHASER pistol was never used on screen. It existed only as a prop-replica, sold at Star Trek conventions in the 1970s. Designed by Brad Nelson, this version of the Type-II Phaser had many inaccuracies when compared to the screen-used TV props. However, at the time (1970s) it was probably the most detailed and finest full-scale prop-replica available to the public. Back then it was the closest you could get to owning ‘a real phaser’. It had working light and sound effects. Today we’d call the Brad Nelson phaser a ‘midgrade’ replica due to its molded on heat-fins and the solid aluminum beam emitter housing. I bought one of these at a NYC Trek Con and absolutely loved it, despite its inaccuracies. Unfortunately, mine was destroyed in an accident when I was moving to a new apartment. Here’s a list of the ‘inaccuracies’ of the original Brad Nelson replica  (note – this information is not intended to criticize this prop-replica, only to show how it differed from the screen-used props):

→  THE GRIP – The Brad Nelson phaser used two aluminum tubes side-by-side to form the grips. TV props never had tubular pistol grips. While not accurate to the screen-used props, the tubular grip was an excellent way to store the four (4) AA batteries used to power the phaser replica.

→ LIGHTING – Today many Phaser-II replicas have LEDs to produce the ‘phaser beam’ in colors used for the on-screen beam effects (red, green, blue). Some modern replicas even have lasers to produce red or blue beams. The Brad Nelson phaser produced only white light from the beam emitter tip. The light was generated by a compact strobe circuit. The Phaser-II’s control knob had (four?) settings that changed the speed of the strobe effect from slow  intermittent pulses to a rapid flashing that almost looked like a steady beam.  The light was very bright and very dramatic, just not the right color.

→ SOUND – The Brad Nelson replica had no sound board & didn’t sound anything like on-screen phasers. Instead, the phaser emitted loud whining ‘beeps’ created by the charging and discharging of the strobe circuit’s capacitors. The sound varied along with the speed selected for the strobe effects. Not accurate, but better than no sound at all. The one bad thing about the ‘sound system’ was that once you turned on the phaser, there was a constant high-pitched whine, interrupted only when you pressed the trigger.

→ OTHER DETAILS –   A. HEAT FINS – These were midgrade style, molded onto the rear of the body & painted silver.                   B. TRIGGER – The conical trigger stud on the Phaser-II was never used on any on-screen props. For easier production, on-screen props had simple straight triggers.     C. BEAM EMITTER HOUSING – The aluminum emitter housing was the ‘flashlight’ version used on TOS Season-1 phasers (just 1x?). It has a non-moving straight ribbed control collar and the concave ‘flashlight reflector dish’ front. The Brad Nelson replica’s color scheme marks it as a Season-2 / 3 phaser & these had emitter housings with a flat front.     D. SIGHT WINDOW – the clear window on the front of the P-II didn’t exist on this replica, it was just a solid black panel.     E. PHASER-I SIDE RAILS – Not accurate to screen-used props, these were too wide (approx. 1/4″) & were just flat metal strips glued on along each side of the Phaser-I.     F. THUMB WHEEL – the P-I’s thumb wheel was far too thin, but provided a working on/off switch to control the battery power.     G. POWER READOUT – this was an interesting feature. Though not the same size or shape as the Season-2 / 3 phasers’ power read-out dome, the Brad Nelson phaser had a working (Radio Shack / tape recorder type) DC voltage meter installed in the top of the Phaser-I. When the phaser was fired, it actually showed you the level of your battery power.     H. ELECTRON ASPIRATOR GRID – totally inaccurate. Unlike the screen props which had a grid pattern on the aspirator panel, the Brad Nelson phaser had a simple strip of ‘dazzle tape’. It looked  funky & psychedelic, but nothing like the TV props feature.      I. PHASER-II CONTROL KNOB – Wrong size and wrong shape and lacked any markings.   J. PHASER-I – was fixed in place / not removable. It was hollow with no bottom. It  contained the DC meter and thumb-wheel on/off switch. There was no face-plate or emitter tip since the P-I was never meant to be removed.

My rendition of the Brad Nelson style Phaser-II is no more accurate than the original replicas. It’s not even an exact copy of the Brad Nelson replica,  mostly due to the materials I had available to work with.  I found a partially started 23rd Century Pistol kit in my spare-parts box. There were a lot of parts missing, but nothing I couldn’t scratch-build and replace.   When I saw the Brad Nelson conversion kit on eBay I decided I’d try building a retro version of the Phaser-II, just for fun.   The first problem I encountered was the base of the P-II body where the grips are attached is too small to hold the twin aluminum tubes from the conversion kit.  Plus, there was no way to screw on the battery cover plate at the bottom of the pistol grip. Using Plastruct square rods, I scratch-built a separator to fit between the two pistol grip tubes and installed a locking nut in the base of the separator so I could use a screw to attach the battery cover to the grips. This, however, created a new problem. With the separator in place, the original metal battery cover no longer fit right. I had to scratch-build a new cover by laminating layers of  styrene sheet to get the right thickness, then cut out the shape of the grips and separator from the center of the laminated plastic. Likewise, I had to create an extended mount to hold the grips onto the P-II body. Again, the precise shape of the grips was cut into several pieces of sheet styrene, laminated together to form a solid base for the grips. Gaps were filled with Tamiya model putty, then the entire new pistol grip holder was carefully filed and sanded to fit the phaser body.  To create a light and sound system similar to the Brad Nelson replica, I installed a modified chaser board in the Phaser-I and linked it to a piezo buzzer. Instead of   selectable strobe settings, my replica uses a potentiometer to adjust the speed of the flashing effect produced by the chaser board. The potentiometer gives me a full range of speeds from slow individual bursts of  light & sound, to rapid flashing that looks like a steady pulsing beam.  To mimic the Brad Nelson replica’s lighting, I used a simple bright white LED.   The beeping sounds my phaser makes aren’t the same as the Brad Nelson phaser, but are close enough.  My heat fins don’t match the Brad Nelson replica at all; I used standard hero-grade metal heat fins, because it was a lot easier than trying to replicate molded on fins.   The P-II trigger stud was a minor problem, requiring a larger than usual hole to fit into the P-II body. Also, the trigger has no means of keeping it in place (there’s nothing to keep it from falling out of its mounting hole). I solved this by attaching the trigger (Gorilla glue) to a brass rod extending from the push-button switch inside the P-II body.   My P-I isn’t accurate to the Brad Nelson replica either. I did use the conversion kit’s ‘side rails’ but used a metal thumb-wheel instead of the conversion kit’s plastic wheel. Because of the chaser board inside the P-I, I had no room for the DC power meter and replaced it with a standard clear plastic power read-out dome with a paper power level printout underneath.   I  installed the blue ‘low power indicator’ gem from the conversion kit before I remembered that the Brad Nelson phaser I owned had a simple clear plastic rod in this position.   Luckily, I have a roll of dazzle tape in stock and was able to make an electron aspirator panel that makes this model look truly ‘retro’.   All in all, I think my model came out pretty well, and it works OK. It was certainly a fun project, despite all the extra work needed to combine the plastic phaser bodies and the conversion kit parts.

For more photos of my Brad Nelson conversion, see my YouTube video. This will also show you the light and sound features that can’t be presented in still photos.



Combines 23rd Century Pistol kit P-I & P-II bodies with a Brad Nelson style metal parts conversion kit.




































9-10-22 Video is live.


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