|Character Design||Wah Chang|
|Toy Design||Art Asylum|
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
This toy requires three Triple-A (AAA) batteries (not included) to operate the electronic lights-and-sound feature. There is one battery compartment- the entire back cover is removed when the four screws are released.
In the 23rd Century, humanity has become peaceful with itself (eliminating or changing many sicknesses, breaking down political & social barriers, and dissolving conflicting cultures & religion), healed the Earth of its artificially-created wounds, and is now a major race among many extraterrestrial alien civilizations in an intergalactic organization known as the United Federation of Planets. The Federation has an armada of peaceful exploration & colonization starships, space stations, and star bases under the authority of Starfleet Command, which are manned by multi-species crews of the best and brightest.
Starfleet’s flagship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, is a Constitution-class starship currently dispatched on a five year-long solitary mission of deep-space exploration, under the command of Captain James Kirk.
The communicator is a standard-issue, hand-held subspace transceiver unit regularly used by Starfleet personnel when they are separated from a starship or star base since the early 22nd Century. Able to switch transmission frequencies as needed, communicators can broadcast narrow- or wide-band real-time audio signals over tens of thousands of kilometers. Or, in an emergency, a transporter operator can home in a communicator’s signal as a beacon to retrieve personnel/objects in need. For more distant exploration missions, however, separate Universal Translator units were needed to break down barriers in unknown languages, and are perhaps the only fault of communicators in those situations.
Of all the technology that “Star Trek” imagined in the late-1960s, perhaps none have come to fruition in the lifetimes of those who saw The Original Series with their own eyes on then-new color television sets than the communicator (back). A small portable two-way radio which could connect Away Teams with the Enterprise thousands of kilometers above seemed fantastic, and they were often used to prolong stories where simply beaming the crew out of danger would have ended storylines too early to be entertaining. (The idea of not being able to transport through a starship’s deflector shields was also one of many plot devices used.) While depending on regularly-spaced and non-moving towers to regulate and broadcast their weak signals, thirty years later cellular phones are fantasy come true- taken one step further with the specific flip-top styling which was directly & specifically influenced by the brass antenna cover on the classic sci-fi props.
. . .
Though the toy is composed entirely of ABS, the communicator replicates in minute and fine detail every aspect of the original prop, and even extrapolates on how it functions!
Opening the cover almost 180-degrees reveals the working mechanisms. A central circular display has a silver-painted rim, but a transparent window which is integrated into the electronic feature. Three small prominent lights below the display have different colors- from left-to-right, they are yellow, red, and blue. A silver-painted panel features a small square grille with holes to allow for the built-in speaker to project through, and there are two small buttons to the side. (I hate to be this guy, but I wouldn’t be a proper Trekker if I didn’t point it out: the small square speaker grille was actually brass-colored on the original props; this being the only big discrepancy in coloring that I can find.)
The electronic features make themselves immediately apparent upon opening the cover beyond 45-degrees. (I sometimes photographed it open without the batteries installed as well, by the way, to get images of it without the lights being active.)
There is no dedicated On/Off switch. Instead, the cover acts as the switch. When you open the cover all the way, you will hear the communicator chirp several times- a recorded effect from the series- and the blue light will flash along with it… which is the equivalent of dialing a phone number to the Enterprise (which later becoming the audible dial & connection tones for computer modems in the 1990s). At the same time, the outer blue and yellow lights will turn on, and a small electric motor beneath the circular display will begin turning a patterned grille beneath the window- creating a wave-like moving moiré pattern just like in the series! As long as the cover is open, the moiré pattern will spin, and the blue & yellow lights will be active. The yellow light will flash on and off periodically and cannot be altered by anything you do, but the blue light will remain constant until the sound effects are activated.
The communicator has nine built-in, authentic sounds taken directly from the classic “Star Trek” series. The first is the opening channel-chirp. The others are played in random order each time you press the right silver button:
- [Lt. Uhura]: “Bridge here, Captain.”
- [Chief Engineer Scott]: “Scotty here, Captain.”
- [Captain Kirk]: “Enterprise to Mr. Spock.”
- [Captain Kirk]: “Bridge, this is the Captain.”
- [Captain Kirk]: “Transporter Room- ready to beam up.”
- [Mr. Spock]: “Spock here, Captain.”
-these all being performed on-screen by the original actors- William Shatner (Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), James Doohan (Scotty), and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura)- and not later dubbed lines.
And, if you press and hold down the right button for about three seconds, all of the above phrases will be spoken in random order once automatically!
The button on the left contains a special sound feature, and the last audio clip from the TV series…
When the left button is pressed, the center red light will start blinking. By itself, this does nothing… until you close the cover again. This will shut everything off for about five seconds. Then suddenly, the communicator will start beeping an ‘incoming signal’ warning, which will repeat every few seconds until the cover is flipped open again- as if the Enterprise was calling! When you flip open the cover when this alert sounds, you will hear (in addition to the standard connecting-sound chirps):
- [Mr. Spock]: “Captain, shall I beam down an armed party?”
This ends the left button feature, until the next time you choose to activate it. If you turn the red alert button on, you can easily ‘disarm’ the incoming signal warning effect by pressing it again (the red light will stop blinking).
As I started writing this review, I had a stupid kid’s grin on my face for about an hour. (I started writing minutes after I got it out of the box and learned all the features... which is usually not the case!) I was not even around when The Original Series first aired, but my Dad was, and it was one of his favorite shows, so I learned about it through him. (I grew-up on the later Next Generation-era of series, and only had the movies to reference the past show. Indeed, I am ashamed to admit that I did not get to see any of TOS until the digitally-remastered episodes came out in 2006!) I sit here, typing away with this wallet-sized toy mere inches from my left hand, and I am in absolute wonder about how amazingly-accurate it is to the classic prop. While clearly aimed at collectors and fans older than myself and designed for an earlier generation of sci-fi fans, that I get the chance to hold this in my hand, and have the blinking lights, and the active moiré pattern running, and the sound clips taken directly from the show is jaw-dropping! All I gotta do is flip that cover over, and I immediately get that grin back on my face! Even living in the personal digital technology era at the beginning of the 21st Century, this thing looks a dinosaur next to any cell phone with its false leather and painted brass. But it is practical and functional, exactly as Gene Roddenberry dictated to prop designer Wah Chang. That: 1- the shape of the hand-held radio from the distant future would directly influence the design of the modern-day flip-open cell phone in real life; and 2- people cared enough to want to have a faithful toy replica that can be enjoyed across the generational gap- speaks volumes.. Things to change? Um… like, nothing! (Well… maybe that the hinges for the cover look like they might break because they used ABS plastic instead of- perhaps- die-cast metal.) I am putting my highest recommendations into this TOS Communicator!
I wonder if Diamond Select Toys plans to make any of the other communicators from over the last four decades…?
|Posted 31 August, 2009 - 14:56 by EVA_Unit_4A|