Star Trek III: “The Search for Spock” Hand Phaser by Diamond Select

I’ve been an aficionado of Starfleet sidearms for as long as I can remember now. I’ve had them all from horribly cheesy Next Gen Playmates versions all the way up to a beautifully professionally-machined Classic Series prop that I bought at a Trek Convention back in the early 90’s in NY and later had to sell so that I could afford to eat while paying for Grad School. Today I’m checking out Diamond’s brand new Star Trek III phaser. Hopefully with this baby I’ll have Mr. Adventure eating out of my hand.

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If you own any of Diamond’s Starships, you should recognize the deco used for the box. I’m not a big fan as it mixes Classic Trek imagery with what is a Feature Film collectible. Why couldn’t we get a picture of Admiral Kirk in his tunic on the box, or at least movie enterprise. Blah! It’s nothing special and that’s probably a good thing because mine came to me smashed to hell. Luckily it was the only thing in the box that was as it was part of my Pile of Loot and there were some pricier pieces in there.

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Straightaway, let me say that this is my second favorite phaser design in all of Star Trek and second only to the “Battle Phaser” which was introduced in Star Trek V and used during the raid on Paradise City. This version takes the general design of the Classic Series sidearm, which I’m also incredibly fond of, and makes it all sleek and sexy. There aren’t a lot of details on it, apart from the blue striping down the sides, just a lot of smooths surfaces and curves. To me, this design is totally convincing as a futuristic weapon and Diamond’s version does a pretty good job of reproducing the look of the prop and even uses plugs to cover the screws on one side. There are some stray scratches on mine, which could be counted against it on a QC level, but they kind of work as weathering and don’t bother me so much.

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Virtually all the detail on this piece is found on the control panel on top of the weapon and even that is very minimalist in appearance. You get an On-Off switch, which sadly looks like exactly what it is: A switch for a toy, rather than something integrated into the fictional design of the weapon. I don’t mind them using a standard switch, but I wish it was concealed a little better. The blue triangle lights the weapon’s ready status and there are four red lights and a power settings button to cycle through the four force settings.

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Of course, just like with the Classic Series phaser, the top unit here is a detachable self-contained palm phaser that nests with the larger hand-grip housing. When removed and used on its own, the triangular button on top becomes the trigger. This piece looks really nice and feels great in the hand. My only gripe here is that the white on my power cycle button has some messed up paint. Again, I’ll likely just write it off as weathering, but clearly it’s a pretty big QC issue of the type that DST seems to continually have problems with.

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The electronics in this piece are passable, but because the speaker is located on the bottom of the palm unit, the sounds are pretty muffled when it’s docked with the grip housing and that’s pretty disappointing. The SFX include a power up beep when it’s turned on and off, and four very slightly different sounds for each of the four force settings. Honestly, I can barely tell the difference between the first three.

As for lights, the blue power light on the top trigger button remains lit when the phaser is on. The force setting lights cycle until you choose a setting, which is done by repeatedly pressing the setting button. There’s a red light in the beam emitter of the hand grip housing and an elongated series of red lights in the smaller palm phaser’s beam emitter. Lastly, if you hold down the setting button and the trigger on the housing the phaser will prep for Overload. Pressing the top trigger button will initiate the Overload Sequence. It’s all pretty basic stuff. Nothing amazing, but adequate.

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Overall, I think this thing is OK, but I wanted to like it more than I do, especially since I love the design so much. The QC issues are perhaps minor but still troublesome and I think the electronics could have been designed a little better. I can appreciate wanting to hide the speaker under the palm phaser, but why not show the same courtesy for the power button? And the emitters could have used some brighter LEDs. The LED they used for the Excelsior’s deflector dish can burn out someone’s retina and I would have loved to see something similar on this piece. All in all, it feels like a step down from DST’s Classic Series phaser that I own from quite a few years back. At $35, I’m not sorry I bought it, it’ll look great on my wall and it’s perfect for anyone looking to cosplay, but in the end I had hoped for something a little better.

Star Trek: Starfleet Phaser (2009 Movie) by Playmates

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.