Star Trek TOS Phaser and Communicator

I've mentioned this many times before, but when it comes to Trek, I'm a TOS man.  I was too young to watch the original run of the series, but they went into syndication shortly after that, and I watched them religiously.  As you might imagine, I await the new film with a mixture of excitement and dread - sort of like seeing your mother-in-law drive your new car off a cliff.

I also like prop replicas, which I buy more than I review.  Hopefully, I'll get more reviews up this year, and in that vein, tonight I'm looking at the pseudo prop replicas of the TOS phaser and communicator, just released by Diamond Select Toys.

I say pseudo, because they're really high end toys that can pass as prop replicas.  these aren't the uber-expensive all metal style replicas, but they do look damn good and have tons of bells and whistles, all for a very reasonable price.

You can pick these two up for around $25 - $30 each, depending on the store.  I don't know if any regular mass market retailers will be carrying them, but several of my sponsors already have them in stock.

Packaging - ***1/2
The boxes are sharp looking, and you know I like boxes in general. Easy to store, and usually quite strudy.  These have holes for the 'try me' features, and plenty of descriptive text on the show, on the original item, and on the features of the replica.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Are these perfect replicas? Well, there's a few minor changes, and some of those are for the better (let's remember that props, particularly those on 1960's television shows, aren't always the most detailed or well constructed), but there's no mistaking these. The scale, detailing and style are almost perfect, taking them up from mere toys to something that can pass for a prop replica.

Both are made from plastic of course, but the communicator does have a metal grill lid. This gives the lid extra heft, making the flip motion even easier and smooth. The hollow plastic body houses all the cool light and sound features - and there are plenty of them - and while it's not extremely detailed, it does look very much like the show prop. There's also a metal plate that runs through the middle of the body (it makes up the silver edging around the black body) that gives it even more heft to the hand. What I find most amusing is that this communicator, which was Trek's dead on guess at our future style of communication technology, is actually bigger than the version I wear on my belt. Kirk called it a communicator, we call it a cel phone, but they are pretty much the same exact thing, only ours are smaller and work better than their's did! Hey, I can take pictures with mine...

The phaser also lacks any extreme detail, but that conforms pretty well to the show prop as well. All the knobs and dials that are here actually do something - none of them are merely for show. The phaser itself is actually both phasers, just like on the show. The complete phaser pistol is 'phaser 2', but you can remove the smaller black phaser from the top of the large pistol assembly, this being 'phaser 1'. On the show, the larger phaser had more power of course, but the smaller phaser section was easier to conceal.

The phaser is a little top heavy in your hand, and could use a smidge more weight in the handle. But the scale is excellent, and cosplayers are going to love using these two toys as cheap but high quality additions to their Trek uniforms.

Both battery compartments are well hidden and unobtrusive, neither hurting the appearance of the toy at all. They both come with batteries as well, of course.

Paint - ***
There's not a ton of paint here - most of the pieces are cast in the color required - but some smaller details have been added, like the numbers on the 'overload' dial on the back of the phaser pistol.

What little paint is here is clean, and more importantly (since there's so little paint), the large, broad cast plastic colors are consistent and even. There's no swirls visible in the plastic, no inconsistencies in the matte finish, and a relatively realistic appearance to the components even with this approach.

Light/Sound Features - ****
Wow - there's an amazing number of features on both of these toys.

First, let's look at the communicator. Flip it open and it does the traditional and right from the show sound, nice and loud through a speaker on the front. Yes, the little speaker that looks like it should be the speaker really is the speaker. If you close the lid while a sound is being played, it shuts it off immediately too, a nice touch.

Once open, a motor inside the body causes the round doo-dad in the center to do it's funky psychedelic spinning. This was a huge surprise to me, and a big plus. The motor is a little loud, and the effect is quite subtle, but the subtle nature of it is what makes it so damn cool.

There are three lights on the inside. The far left green light goes on when the lid opens, then blinks on an off at a steady, even rate. The blue light on the far right also comes on when the lid opens, but remains on. Whenever you press the right button (there are two buttons) and activate a clip, the blue button blinks as the clip is played.

As I said, pushing this right button plays one of seven clips on the regular version of the communicator, or one of eight clips if you have this Entertainment Exclusive version. The eight lines are:

"Enterprise, this is Kirk."
"Spock here, Captain."
"Bridge here, Captain."
"Transporter room ready to beam up."
"Bridge, this is the captain."
"Enterprise to Mr. Spock."
"Scotty here, Captain."
And exclusive to the Entertainment Earth version - "Your signal is very weak; can you turn up your gain?" (said by Spock)

There's also a nifty hailing frequency feature. Press the left button, and the red center light will come on. Close the lid of the communicator, and wait about 5 seconds. The communicator will start emitting the hailing frequency, and when you open it up, Spock will say "Captain, shall I beam down an armed party?". How cool is that?

The phaser also has a ton of goodies. As I said earlier, all the knobs and dials actually DO something. The silver ring around the front of the phaser alters the brightness ("intensity") of the light coming out of the front. The small silver switch on the left front side turns the front laser light off and on completely. On the further back left side is a pin that you pull to release the smaller phaser from its resting place, and on the back top is a small dial that you turn to set the phaser into 'overload' mode. Once you turn this, pressing the trigger activates the sounds just like on the show, ending in a loud explosion.

On the top of the small phaser are two more dials. The one on the right is the intensity of the beam (stun to kill). There are four 'steps' plus off. Turning this dial to higher intensities means that the pitch and tone of the emitted firing sound rises.

Finally, the dial to the left on top of the small phaser pops up the 'sighting' feature. Yea, I don't think it did much on the show either, but they included it for giggles.

These are far more features and sounds than I had anticipated, and really make this pair of toys damn cool for kids or adults.

Fun Factor - ****
Yep, these things are fun. Everyone that's seen my set has instinctively played with them, no matter what age they are. Kids will eat them up, even if they aren't fans of the old show, since the designs are just so damn classic. Oh, they'll probably like the phaser a bit better than the communicator (I mean, it's mean for blasting aliens afterall), but they are both terrific toys.

Value - ***1/2
Show one of these to a friend, play all the various sounds and features for them, and then tell them they cost less than $30. They'll be surprised they are that cheap, even if they don't buy toys and props regularly. And for someone looking for a great replica from the show, either for cosplay or for a media room/home theater type display, these are a fantastic way to go and stay on budget.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not a thing!

Overall - ***1/2
When I ordered these, I figured they'd be cute, but for only $25 or so, I didn't really expect too much. Certainly not something of a good enough quality to qualify as prop replica - just a glorified toy that was fun for kids.

Boy, was I wrong. These are still not quite full fledged prop replicas, but they are certainly good enough for cosplay costumes, and budget minded collectors. The sounds and features go well beyond my expectations, and for fans of the old show, I highly recommend picking up a set.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Light/Sound Features - ****
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Online options are probably going to be your best best:

- this particular communicator (with the extra sound bite) is an Entertainment Earth exclusive, where you can pick it up for $30. The phaser is $28.

- Things from Another World has the regular phaser for $24, and the Bronze 40th Anniversary version for $27.  They don't have the communicator in stock.

- Alter Ego has the regular communicator for $25.50, but I didn't see any sign of the phaser.

- YouBuyNow has the regular communicator for $28.50, and the phaser for just $23.75.  They also have the bronze handle version for $28.50.

- For the UK readers, Forbidden Planet has both for 17 GBP each.

- or you can search ebay using the sponsor MyAuctionLinks.

- Related Links -
I've covered my fair share of Star Trek merchandise:

- last was the fourth series of TNG figures.  

- I also reviewed the new TOS minimates over at Quick Stop today.

- the other most recent reviews were also from TNG, including Barclay and Geordi, and the Riker and Worf wave.

- the last wave released to general stores included the Gorn and Kor. I also reviewed Vina, but separately, since it took me awhile to find her.

- check out the second wave of TOS figures to see how things have continued to improve.

- there's a great guest review of the first wave, along with a guest review of some of the Trek mini-mates.

- Enterprise wasn't left out - they were actually some of the first figures done by Art Asylum. 

- Art Asylum did their first yellow shirt Kirk as a SDCC exclusive.

- and let's not forget that long ago (not that long ago), Playmates did their Trek line, including the 9" figures like Amok Time Kirk and Spock.

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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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