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Friday, February 13, 2009

Re-Lighting Hero Props # 2

Here is another great article, first posted in The Star Trek Prop & Costume Forum by forum regular Doug Shannon.


The second non-working item I received was the Enterprise Stasis Case from the episode "Extinction" (interestingly enough, this prop was also used in "Dear Doctor", not as a stasis case but as a test tube storage container; it did not have lights in that episode). In this case, the IAW description indicated that the LED above the drawer was activated by a switch at the rear of the item, talked about a battery container in the tray with a depression switch (but did not indicate if it worked or not), and how you had to push "something flat" through a slot in the back of the item to get the drawer open. At least they didn't use the term "untested" in this auction.

When I received the prop the top light was not working as described in the listing, so nothing worked on the prop. I found it interesting that while the battery compartment in the tray took AAA batteries, there were two AA batteries in the drawer when I slid it open with a knife...why they put AA batteries in the drawer was beyond me, but more on that later.

The first fix was easy; I spent some time tracing the wiring inside the drawer and found two broken wires that were easily fixed with a soldering gun. Again, my first recommended course of action on these props is to check the wiring and contacts, which IAW doesn't do. Once the wiring was fixed and the AAA batteries were inserted, the bottom drawer lit up when a test tube was placed in the slot inside the drawer, just like in the episode! Still no light on top of the box though. And I still hadn't figured out the drawer, why on earth would you design a drawer that had to be opened with a knife from the back? What a hassle to deal with that on the set!

As you recall, upon receipt of the box there were two AA batteries in the front tray. I also noticed one AA battery in a small compartment that was just under the lip of the case if you pulled the drawer all the way out until it stopped. That battery was driving me nuts, I couldn't get it out because it was too big to fit between the lip of the case and the front compartment wall, and you could see it every time you pulled the drawer out, so my next step was to try to get that battery out of the prop without destroying the prop.

I noticed that the "stop" on the drawer was a curved piece of plastic that is actually molded into the back of the drawer; so, very carefully, so as not to break the drawer or break the plastic piece off of the drawer, I used a flat headed screwdriver and carefully bent the stop down until it cleared the lip of the case and I could pull the drawer completely out (boy was that nerve racking, watching the back of the drawer bend to very close to the breaking point!). At that point I took a flashlight to the inside of the case and noticed...a second battery holder, upside down on the top of the inside of the case, and it was meant to hold, yes, you guessed it, three AA batteries! The batteries must have fallen out during shipment, which is how they ended up inside the bottom drawer. So tip number two is, there may be more than one battery holder in these things, even if the prop is small. Placing the batteries inside that holder lit the LED on top of the case, so now the whole thing was working.

Now to put the drawer back in and we're done; slide the drawer in, carefully bend the plastic stop back under the lip, and...the drawer won't completely close, it stops dead about ¾ of the way in. Great. Just my kind of luck. And nothing I do gets the drawer any farther back in. So I carefully pulled the drawer completely out again, use my flashlight again, and discover a piece of metal (where did that come from?) sticking out from the back of the case. Start playing with the piece of metal with my screwdriver, hear a click, and the long piece of metal is now a very short piece of metal. And now my screwdriver is slightly sticking to the end of the piece of metal...

Of course! It's a magnetic catch, like you have on your kitchen cabinets! You don't need "something flat" to open the drawer, IAW! I placed the drawer back into the case, slid it shut, and pressed hard on it, heard the click, and the drawer popped open! Push it back firmly, another click, and the catch holds the drawer shut. It's pretty amazing what the prop guys do when they build these things! And, by the way, after all that work to make the drawer pop open like that, none of this was used on camera, the drawer is already open when Phlox takes the test tube from Archer and puts it in the case, he merely puts the tube in the case and slides the drawer shut. And to top it all off, someone forgot to activate the top LED light when they were shooting the episode, so it is not lit during the entire scene.

This is the case, top LED working

This is a picture of the case with the drawer open, not lit (you can see the top of the rocker switch that activates the tray light in the middle of the depression).

This is a picture of the inside of the case, lit:

Here is the case in use at the end of the episode after Phlox has put the test tube inside the stasis case....

So, if you have checked the wiring and the contacts and your prop (or part of your prop) still doesn't work, check for a second battery holder/lighting system, no matter how small the prop is! Next up the ovens/warmers used by Captain Sisko and Commander Riker... Doug[list=1] [/list]

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