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Sunday, May 4, 2008
The Klingon "Death Sting"
Back in September, I wrote two articles about a Klingon Death Sting that was on eBay. This is the Disruptor that was made for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and never actually seen on screen (You can barely see the top of it poking out of the top of the first officer's holster). It was later used in Star Trek V and TNG.
Here is the history. When the auction ad went up on eBay, it caught my eye. I have never seen one of these. I didn't even know about this version of the Klingon Disruptor. The auction of course claimed it was real and from a "friend" who worked on Star Trek. So I started digging for info on this. I always say "Everyone who is selling a prop has a friend who worked on Star Trek!". So I assumed it was fake.
So I called the two people I knew who knew about these. Brett Jones of Federation Surplus and the late Darrell Hyde, a replica prop builder who actually has a cast off an original. I spent about 4 hours on the phone, first with Brett and then Daryl. Both Brett and Daryl felt it was a fake. Both pointed to the different paint job as the key indicator and the fact it didn't quite match any photos from known versions.
Now the problem was that few photos of these exist, and what we had looked nothing like the one at auction. Here are the photos we did have:
The above was a Profiles in History auction for a Death Sting. Now this one looks a lot like the eBay auction. The colors are obviously totally different and this one has a solid rear. Darrell claimed he has seen others like this.
So here is one like in the auction, in a publicity photo for Star Trek V. Charles Cooper, who played General Kord, is holding one. The side tubes are missing, but it matches up to the Profiles version.
A real Death Sting that Darrell knew of. It is different from the one in the Profiles auction. The handle is smaller and has Klingon writing on the side. Also, the side tube was smaller and the details on the top of the eBay version were absent.
Finally, there is a Death Sting on page 127 of The Art of Star Trek (A book every Trek collector MUST have!) and it shows a Death Sting that was converted to be an alien weapon. This looks like the one above. Slim tubes and Klingon writing on the handle, which is different from the one in the eBay auction.
So according to Darrel, the Profiles version was the original type, and then it was re-worked and recast for TNG, when it was used several times. A new, slimmer handle with different detailing was made, and the top detailing was removed.
I asked questions of the seller, but got no responses. I asked for who his "friend" was...nothing. I asked for more photos...nothing. Well, that is pretty typical when someone is trying to pull a fast one.
So, we honestly thought the eBay auction was fake. But I felt the holster was real since I have one and it matched well, And besides, I needed a Death Sting replica since I could never own a real one and so I put in a $ 355 bid because a real holster would easily be worth that.
Well, when I received it, it turned out to be injection molded plastic and vacu-formed plastic. That made no sense to me. If it was a fake, it should be either resin or entirely vacu-formed plastic. This one has original injection molded parts from an M-16 toy, like the originals, but the handle was vacu-formed, like the TMP props often were. Well, it wouldn't make sense to make a fake like that.
So I called Brett and Darrell and explained the situation. We spent about 5 hours talking about it. I took a ton of photos and emailed them both. We all agreed this was weird. Brett felt that it might be real, but there was no way to tell. Why the wrong color? But he agreed that is not usual for a replica to be made from original parts like this. Darrell said it was inconclusive. He felt it was too different from the versions we knew about, but also agreed the injection molded parts were weird. It was a mystery. But the Holster did in fact match up well with my real one, so I felt I did well whatever the case.
Well, about two weeks later Darrell found the below photo that he had gotten years ago. It was from 1979 and showed a guy who worked at the prop house (ILM I think) and it was almost an exact match for mine! Mystery solved. More over, a couple months later I was at the Sci Fi Museum in Seattle, and Paul Allen has one on display that matches mine almost exactly! Same color and construction.
One of the problems was that we just didn't know what these things should look like! There is so little known about props from that movie. But now we know a bit more. And the Paul Allen Death Sting really sealed the deal.
So we have 3 versions.
1) TMP Version: Gray and black. Injection Molded toy parts and vacu-formed plastic
2) Movie version: Brown and black, solid resin. Recast from the TMP originals with the back filled in.
3) TNG version: Brown and black, solid resin. Recast from a movie version. Re-worked with slimmer handle, side tubes and no detailing on top.
Now, certain people have pointed out that I shouldn't write about it being a fake and then bid on it. You know, that is probably right. I bid on it feeling it was a fake, but feeling the holster might be real. So I put in a bid of $ 355. But I agree, that that could look shady being that it turned out to be real. So in the future, I won't be writing about the authenticity of an item I am bidding on. I don't want anyone to feel I am using my blog inappropriately.
Interestingly, Don, one of our forum members, had a very similar story of how he acquired a Star Trek 5 Assault Phaser. He too bid on an auction for one that claimed it was real, but the auction looked shady, bad photos, crappy description, no replies to his emails. So he bid $ 500 because he figured it was worth a shot, and when he got it it was a real fiberglass movie version! (he also was the under-bidder on the above Death Sting!
So, I hope you all enjoyed the story. I for one, loved the process of trying to figure out if it was real or fake. Brett and Darrell and I spent hours trying to figure out what the deal was, and it was a cool process to go through.