Star Trek The Original Series Tricorder

Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys

Regular readers know I'm a huge fan of the original Star Trek. I was only 5 when the show first aired, but by 1972 it was already in syndication, and they played the Hell out of it for the entire decade. My teen years was when I was really first hooked on science fiction, and Star Trek was one of the greater influences.

When J. J. Abrams announced he was doing a new film, I had some serious doubts. I like most of Abrams work, but  what he was attempting was pretty much unprecedented - resurrecting a dead franchise, and doing it by re-imagining the original characters?  Talk about your long shots.

But after seeing the film twice, I have to say that he really pulled it off. Sure, there's some issues, but it's a fun movie that manages to capture the original spirit of the show and characters, and make them accessible to current audiences. I would happily sit through a few more films with this Spock, Kirk, McCoy and the rest.

But as much as I love the new film, I haven't bought much in the way of collectibles based on it. After the first purchase of action figures, the only line I would continue to buy would be the 12" Playmates figures, and that's a stretch. God, I wish Hot Toys had picked up this license.
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys
Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys

I've also avoided entirely any of the new phasers, communicators, etc.  But the same can't be said of the replicas being produced based on the original show by Diamond Select and Art Asylum. I picked up the latest release, the Tricorder, for tonight's review.

This guy is at quite a few online retailers for $40 - $50, but Entertainment Earth has an exclusive version (it's the medical version rather than the science version) for just $40.

Packaging - ***

As I mentioned, I'm looking at the Science Tricorder, so there's a spiffy shot of the original Mr. Spock on the front, with lots of decent info on the back. There's even a complete list of the lines that you can expect to hear said when you push the buttons, and the usual 'try me' feature.

Sculpt - ***
The exterior of the tricorder is a rough plastic, designed to look like the prop itself. The plastic is sculpted with a texture, to set it off from the silver colored 'metallic' areas. In person, it doesn't really look like much more than plastic though, not quite capturing the look of leather or metal.

Pop open the top of the tricorder and you're treated to a view of the screen, which has a curved plastic cover, as well as three buttons, three lights, and a small speaker grill. These look excellent, especially the screen. Being the science version, it shows the location of unidentified lifeforms and other pertinent data. There's amber lights behind this screen, which give it a very retro glow.

Open up the first door, and you will see the sculpted 'discs' on the left, with the spinning moire wheel on the right. These aren't super detailed, but this smooth style is very much in line with the basic design of the original props.

Open up the second door, and you will see an open slot to store the small scanner, and more of the sculpted half disks. These disks are a door themselves, and pulling down at the top will reveal the battery compartment, as well as the 'try me' switch. This fit on this door is very tight, ensuring that it won't flop open at that critical moment when you're impressing da ladies with your new tricorder at the next convention.

While I have the door pulled all the way down for the photos, this second door can actually stay propped half open, like it did on the show, due to the two plastic arms on either side.

The scanner with the science version isn't as nifty as the medical version. Hey, Spock's toy wasn't as cool as McCoy's, what can I say. This scanner has a small on/off switch on one side, which activates a LED light on the end. The sides of the scanner are otherwise pretty basic, but the sculpting is nice. I do think they could have hidden the on/off switch for the light up feature a bit better, but that's a minor complaint.

The included strap is made from a leather-like material, and is sized perfectly for me - but I'm just 5' 9". To adjust the strap, you have to pop off the plastic bottom of the case. That hides the adjustment feature extremely well, and since I don't have to do anything with it, I think it's great. But if you have to adjust the strap, you may find the extra effort a bit frustrating.

While the sculpting is fairly accurate, the basic build quality and hollow plastic end up making this replica feel cheaper and lighter than I was expecting.

Paint - ***
The basic quality of the application is good, but doesn't do a whole lot to reduce the slightly cheap feel.

Yes, I know, the props weren't exactly expensive. But the tricorder just doesn't have the same feel of quality that the communicator and phaser do.

The best work here is behind the screen, where there's a cool looking display showing the location of the landing party and other possible lifeforms. This is different from the medical version, which shows various patient life signs.

Light/Sound Feature - ***1/2
Like the previous releases, it's really the sound and light features that are the highlight of this prop replica/toy.

The tricorder has three lights as well as the turning moire. The lights blink in different sequences and at different rates depending on which of the three buttons (from left to right, button A, B or C) is pressed.

The first sound you'll hear is a 'click' whenever you open or close the top of the tricorder. Yes, this is an actual sound being reproduced, not just a mechanical noise.

When you first open the top, the amber lights behind the screen turn on, as do the other three lights. The two blue lights remain on, while the amber light blinks. The moire wheel does not yet turn. This will continue for a couple minutes until it goes into 'sleep' mode, or until you press a button.

Pressing button C plays one of six Spock phrases. For the Medical Tricorder, these are replaced with McCoy phrases, of course. The phrases are:

- "Impossible to calculate. We lack the data to analyze."

- "Captain, impulse in that direction. Very weak, possibly a survivor."

- "Getting another life form reading, Captain.Azimuth 93 degrees, range 1570 yards."

- "An alien metal of some kind, an allow resistant to probe."

- "Seems to be some disturbance coming from that cave."

- "Strange - readings indicate a life form in the area, apparently human."

Pressing button B activates the scanning noise, and the moire rotates. Mine sometimes has a little trouble turning, as though it's getting hung up on something, and by pressing down on it slightly it frees it up. The lights will also flash in a pattern, recreating the scanning function. You have to press B again to stop this action, as pressing A or B will have no effect.

Finally, there's button A. This is the hailing function. Pressing A will cause the three lights to blink in order, left to right, until you close the lid. Now be patient, and wait about 5 seconds. One of two scenarios will occur. In the first, you will hear the hailing beep. Opening the lid will cause the lights to blink in another pattern, and you will hear Spock say "Captain, tricorder picking up very faint life readings approximately 700 meters from here." In the alternate scenario, you will hear the sound of the tricorder short circuiting. When you open the lid, you will hear Spock say two phrases with a short pause in between. First, he'll say "They've locked on to my tricorder!" followed by an explosive noise. Then Spock finishes with "Very ingenious. They fed back my own impulses and built up an overload."

As I mentioned earlier, the small scanner has a light up feature as well, activated by an on/off switch on the side. The small battery compartment is on the end, hidden from view. Once activated, this light switches between several colors automatically, going from color to color every couple seconds. The pause between color changes seems a tad long, but the LED is quite bright, and the color change is a nice feature.

The lights are all quite bright, and the various blinking patterns make it seem far more realistic. Spock's voice is loud and clear on all the clips, although some of them sound less like him than others. I suspect this is because of the transfer from the old show. I've heard others complain that the McCoy clips all sound like him either - again, I'm betting this is because of the transfer from the old show, but I haven't heard the medical version in person yet.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
No away team is complete without a tricorder. Now that Star Trek is cool again, you won't look nearly as weird wearing your blue shirt and vulcan ears, carrying this baby by your side. Yea, you just keep telling yourself that.

Value - **
At $40 - $50, I gotta say that this feels a bit overpriced. Something about the plastic makes these seem far more toyish than the previous communicator and phaser, and there isn't quite the 'wow' factor with the lights and sounds. Something in the $30 range feels much more in line with what you're getting.

Things To Watch Out For
Not much. The construction feels a bit cheaper to me than the previous releases, but I didn't have any issues with breakage or any of the sounds or lights not working.


Overall - ***
I was really impressed with the DST/AA version of the communicator and the phaser, making the tricorder one of the things I was really looking forward to this year. It's been a long time coming too, with several delays along the way. Unfortunately, the final result isn't quite as knock-em-dead impressive as I'd hoped. The cheaper and lighter feel of the plastic is probably the biggest attributer to that.

However, the lights and sounds work well, and add quite a bit to the overall package. It is a fun toy, and for kids who are big fans of the old show (I've got my son watching the old episodes, and he seems to be enjoying them), it will make a great gift. And yes, if you're looking for a cosplay style prop replica that will accent your trek costume without costing you a car payment, then you'll be quite happy with this version.

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

Where to Buy -
You have several online options:

- Mike's Comics N Stuff does EE one better, because they have their exclusive version, and it's a dollar cheaper at $39.

- Entertainment Earth has their exclusive version, and it's only $40.

- Urban Collector has it for $40.

- Alter Ego Comics has the replica for $42.50.

Things From Another World has it for $45.

- YouBuyNow has it for $47.50.

- in the UK, Forbidden Planet has it for 25 GBP.

- you can always hit ebay.

Related Links -
If you like this, then you really need to check out the STOS Phaser and Communicator that DST produced as well.

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Tricorder from Star Trek the Original Series STOS by Diamond Select Toys

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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