Today’s feature is going to be a quickie, because I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do. No, I mean actual STUFF, not just drinking. I set about to think up something quick and easy and then I remembered that we’re less than two weeks away from the premier of Star Trek Into Darkness. A quick dig through one of my Toy Closets and… voila… I found this little beauty from the original film. Playmates certainly had their share of stumbles handling the toys for the first Abrams Trek movie, but their hand phaser was not one of them. This thing is definitely a cool little toy. Let’s take a look!
The hand phaser comes sealed in a clamshell with a cool, curvy bubble. It’s not collector friendly by any stretch, as you’ll practically need a phaser to cut it out of there, but it is very nice to look at. There’s also a “Try Me” hole that lets you pull the trigger, but because of the moving parts, you can only try it in vaporize mode. Still… pretty nice. The 2009 Phaser is one of my least favorite of all of Starfleet’s hand phaser designs, but that doesn’t mean I dislike it. It certainly reflects the alternate Abrams timeline in which Kirk’s dad dying prematurely suddenly gave Starfleet engineers a collective chrome fetish. It borrows a bit from past phaser designs, and it does manage to capture at last the profile of a Classic Starfleet phaser while tossing in a whole lot of originality.
In hand, this phaser looks pretty amazing. The chrome finish looks good, and apart from some plastic seaming on the top, it doesn’t look overly toyish. The size is also a pretty comfortable fit in my hand. All too often Role Play toys tend to go too big and chunky or undersized to better fit into kid’s hands. Damn toy companies pandering to kids, with their tiny hands! It’s the extremely light weight that betrays this piece as an inexpensive toy, as there’s virtually no heft to it at all. One side looks totally clean, while the other features some exposed screw heads, the copyright stamp, and the “Hey asshole, don’t throw your old batteries in the garbage” icon.
The thing I like least about this phaser design is the switch-gimmick. Setting aside the toy talk for a moment… The engineering on the design uses two different emitters: A red one for vaporize and a blue one for stun. The emitters sit on opposite sides of a revolving piece, so when the user switches from one setting to the other, the appropriate emitter snaps to the front. They made a point of showing this in the film and when they did, I wanted to stand up and scream, “WTF??? Pause the movie… I need to see that shit again!” The design goes out of its way to be more complex than it needs to be, and much like the old Automatic vs Revolver debate, it seems like it’s just something extra to malfunction on the weapon. There’s nothing worse than when you’re in a shootout with some Klingons and your phaser jams. Now, I’m no 23rd Century weapons engineer, but I can’t see why it would be necessary to do this over the old elegant phaser design.
Anyway, getting back to the toy… Playmates’ phaser replicates the moving emitters… sort of. If you have the phaser in the stun position, you can press a button on the side of the handle to automatically switch to the vaporize position. You cannot, however, switch back unless you manually re-position it. It seems like it should have been easy to make it work both ways, but whatever.
The rest of the electronics feature an activation wheel on the top. Rotate it toward you and the panel lights up a bright greenish yellow and the phaser makes a nice, loud activation sound. This one is my favorite of the toy’s FX. The trigger activates the emitter light and sounds depending on which setting you have it on. The red light is very bright, and while the sound is loud, it sounds a bit abbreviated. I think that’s because the Abrams phasers shoot pulses and not sustained beams. I hate that, but in fairness to Abrams, I think that shit started during The Next Generation. Pulse phasers are evil, they just don’t feel like Star Trek to me. The stun setting on the toy is all around crap. The light is really dim and it sounds like the phaser is either malfunctioning or farting.
Even with its flaws, this phaser is a pretty cool toy. I think it originally sold for around $15, but chances are you can still find it on clearance at your local Toys R Us. One of the TRU’s here still has an endcap of these and the figures. Hell, even the local Books-A-Million, in their bizarre transformation into part book store and part toy store, still has these. None of this stuff sold well because there probably hasn’t been a kid since the early 70’s that said, “Hey let’s get our phasers and go outside and play Star Trek.” Sad but true. But this phaser is still a wonderful piece for convention cosplay and a nice addition to any Trek arsenal on a budget, particularly if you want to display all the designs. Now, if you’ve got a little extra gold-pressed latinum to spend, Quantum Mechanix made a remarkably nice prop replica of this piece for under $100, which can still be found at various e-tailers around the InterWebs. (If you have a little more money to spend, they also make a $10,000 Enterprise model!) I don’t own their phaser, but I got a chance to hold one at a convention. The static model doesn’t feature any FX or moving parts, but it does look and feel really nice in hand.