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♦ STAR TREK TOS SEASON-1 PHASERS: two versions of the iconic ‘white handled’ phasers used only in TOS’s first season.
STAR TREK – TOS SEASON-1 PHASERS
BACKGROUND: ORIGIN: Star Trek TOS – First Season. RELEASE DATE: ? PRODUCTION Co.: Roddenberry Productions. RELEASED BY: NBC. IMDB RATING: ? ALTERNATE TITLES: N/A. WRITER: Varied by episode. DIRECTOR : Varied. CINEMATOGRAPHER: Varied. STARS: William Shatner, Lenard Nemoy, Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelly. PRODUCTION NOTES: Low budget TV production, but with amazing sets, makeup, props, and special effects for its time. PLOT SUMMARY: It’s the original Star Trek – space adventures, new worlds, new civilizations… the usual Trek stuff. COMMENTS: TOS Season-one was a ‘test bed’ for Star Trek. It established the TOS characters, the plot & story-telling style, and established the basic designs for the starship sets, hand props, and uniform styles. While the Enterprise sets remained pretty much unchanged, Seasons 2 & 3 had visible changes to the hand phasers and uniforms, even the makeup (Spock’s in particular).
THE MODEL: MADE BY: 23rd Century Pistol (maker unknown). SCALE: 1/ 1 MATERIAL: Plastic. FEATURES: Accurate scale, contours, and detailing. Made of thick, rugged, injection molded styrene plastic, these kits were an easy build for almost any model builder. Hollow Phaser-I and Phaser-II bodies make it easy to add light & sound electronics. ADDED FEATURES: Both my versions of the ‘White Handled’ phaser have added metal parts (beam emitter housings, triggers, P-I release pin, control knobs / thumb wheels). Both have independent light & sound systems installed in the Phaser-I and Phaser-II bodies.
The hand phasers used in all three seasons of Star Trek TOS shared the same size, shape, and overall design features. However, there were significant differences between the Phaser-I and Phaser-II props used in the first season and those used in the last two seasons. The hand phaser props underwent numerous changes during the first season. An excellent history of the evolution of the hand phaser props can be found on racprops.com (see ISSUE-1).
Season-1 Type-II phasers are generally referred to as the ‘white handled’ phasers, obviously enough because they had white pistol grips – in seasons 2 & 3 the grips were dark bronze or gray. The overall color scheme of Season-1 phasers was drastically different from the props used in seasons two & three. Except for the beam emitter housing, the P-I release pin, the side-dial, and the trigger stud, the entire Phaser-II body was solid black. Even the heat dissipation fins at the rear of the body were black. Likewise, the Phaser-I unit was all black, there weren’t any shiny metal ‘side rails’ (aka deflector strips) or electron aspirator grids. As a result, the major portion of the phaser props was a black mass which did not photograph well. Even in closeup shots, the props details (like the heat fins) were difficult to see. About the only things that stood out on these phasers were the grips and shiny metal beam emitter housings. This is the primary reason why the ‘white handled’ phaser props were discontinued at the end of season one. Season 2 & 3 hand phasers were given gray P-II bodies and shiny metal heat fins making the shape and detailing far easier to see on-camera. Even the control knob on the P-II was enhanced to look more realistic (functional) and stand out better on camera. The P-I was also modified, being given metal side-rails, a raised power read-out dome, and a shiny metal electron aspirator grid to break up the top of the P-I and give it added detail.
Not all changes to the hand phaser props occurred in seasons 2 & 3. During season 1, there were numerous ongoing changes made to these props. The early hero-grade P-I props had pop-up sights and a clear ‘beam emitter’ tip that extended from the front of the prop when the sight was raised. The tip lit up when the phaser was ‘fired’ & the light was used as a cue, telling the post-production staff when to add a ‘phaser beam’ effect to the film. These props were costly to produce & proved mechanically unreliable, often malfunctioning during filming. So, the later P-I props were simplified and the cue light was eventually eliminated. The Phaser-II props underwent changes to the beam emitter housing, the side-dial, the trigger, and the control knob. One version of the beam emitter housing had a deep concave front. This looked too much like a modern flashlight so it was dropped in favor of emitter housings with a flat front. The length of the clear beam emitter tip varied with the emitter housings & there was one that was a straight tube, rather than the conical shape Trek fans are familiar with (I don’t think this emitter tip was actually used on-screen). There were several versions of the side-dial. The early ones were very basic, just a flat metal disk with a raised bar across the center. Later dials were machined in a form closer to those used in seasons 2 & 3. Even on the hero props, these were non-functional features, simply glued onto the exterior of the P-II body. Triggers came in different lengths and diameters. I’m not sure if the heat fins were molded on or if they were separate parts – since they were the same shade of black as the rest of the P-II body it’s hard to tell.
The two replicas seen in the photos below represent rarer forms of early Season-1 Type-II Phasers, including the (experimental?) version with a straight beam emitter tip. Both versions have independent light & sound electronics in the P-I & P-II units. Click on the YouTube video link for more images, details, and demos of the props’ light & sound features. NOTE – the video is an edited version of a video I originally posted to YouTube in 2013. The photos below show a third white-handled phaser that I built after the original video was shot (the second set of photos, with the conical emitter tip) while the video shows one version with a ‘flashlight’ emitter housing and another with the later flat-front emitter housing.
SEASON ONE – EARLY & LATE STYLES
SEASON ONE – EARLY STYLE PHASER-II
Phaser-II, LEFT SIDE VIEW. The tiny size and lack of features / shape of the ‘mushroom cap’ control knob made it very difficult to see on-screen. This replica has a hero grade emitter housing with a rotating control collar.
PHASER-II, RIGHT SIDE VIEW. Note how the P-II body, the P-I, and the heat fins all merge into one shape due to the all black finish. Notice that there’s no power read-out dome on the P-I.
LEFT: Flat emitter housing & clear sight window. RIGHT: Top view, note how the electron aspirator fades into the P-I due to the all black finish.
LEFT: Mushroom cap control knob & black heat fins. RIGHT: Firing the P-II, blue ‘phaser beam’.
SEASON ONE – LATE / END-OF-SEASON STYLE PHASER-II
PHASER-II, LEFT SIDE VIEW. Notice the slightly longer clear beam emitter tip. At the end of Season-1, the ‘mushroom cap’ was replaced by a control knob that was similar to those used in seasons 2 & 3, but it still lacked definition or any ‘power setting’ markings. The side-dial is the more complex shape seen on season 2 & 3 phasers; the one on this replica is metal and set into the side of the P-II body.
PHASER-II RIGHT SIDE VIEW.
REMOVABLE PHASER-I UNITS: All of the Season-1 phaser replicas I’ve built are equipped with removable Phaser-Is. On the Phaser-II, a plastic plate covers the electronics & battery bay and is locked in place magnetically. The Phaser-I has its own battery and light / sound system.
LEFT: Flat-front emitter housing, movable side-dial, & P-I emitter showing in the sight window. RIGHT: Late style P-II control knob and P-I details.
LEFT: Rotating the thumb-wheel all the way forward fires the P-I on early models, this one has a trigger stud on the underside. RIGHT: Firing the Phaser-II. This replica is equipped with a bright red laser.
For this version of the late season-1 Phaser-II, I built an alternate Phaser-I, with a raised sight and extended beam emitter tip, including a white ‘cue’ light, as used in the original TV props. The ‘cue lights’ were used to ‘cue’ the post-production staff as to when the animated phaser beam effects were to start and stop.
Be sure to view the YouTube video for this article. It provides information, photos, and demos of the phasers’ light / sound systems.
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