After returning the Assault Phaser I bought when we found out it wasn’t a production made piece, the seller, a member of the Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Forum, offered me a screen used Klingon Communicator instead. Now, the seller didn’t purposely try to deceive me on the Assault Phaser. She just fell into the trap of believing the story she was told about its origins. She also had many other real Star Trek props and costumes, and I had bought from her before, so I jumped at the chance to buy the communicator.
The comm was a Klingon Star Trek II/IV type as seen on-screen used by commander Kruge and Kirk in Star Trek III and by Kirk and Chekov in Star Trek IV. When the comm arrived I was impressed. It was in excellent shape, the lights worked and there was a slide switch on the right front that moved. Now the task to authenticate the item.
There are two great parts of this hobby that make my life richer. The first is the friends I have made and the community we have built on the Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction forum who I get to share this hobby with. The second is the times I have spent authenticating props with my good friend Brett Jones.
As many of you know, Brett is the entrepreneur behind Federation Surplus, and he makes the best Star Trek prop replicas on the market. He works now for Hollywood’s top prop shop because he is so good. And because of his years of experience working with Star Trek props, and his meticulous nature, he is an expert at authenticating Star Trek props. He knows paint codes, manufacturing processes and many collectors I know, including myself, give our props to Brett when they need repairs, so he has handled more original Star Trek props than most people I know. When he and I start on authenticating an item, it is a blast, because it is like detective work. There are screen caps to be seen and people, like the prop makers we have to talk to in order to get the story.
So when I got the comm. and sent photos to Brett he and I spent time comparing the comm. to the Blu Ray of Star Trek III and IV. It was clearly not the one from Star Trek III. While you could pretty much only see the back of the comm in Star Trek III, and it was clear this wasn’t that one. And it was hard to tell if it was the one from Star Trek IV, because you always see the communicator from the back when someone is holding it in their hand. It looked like it, but again, nothing definitive.
So Brett contacted Richard Coyle, who worked on the early Star Trek movies. Richard sent Brett the below photograph of the communicator and identified it as the one he sent to the set of Star Trek IV. He took this photo before he sent the communicator off to the set. Mine matched this one exactly.
What happened was that when Star Trek IV started the propmaster sent Richard the ST III communicator and asked him to make another hero and a dummy. So Richard recast the whole communicator without the blades, making a metal buck for metal blades to be inserted after the resin casting of the body.
There are two pieces on mine, of different color, appeared to have been added on the set, something that happened often when props went to set and needed something extra. You can tell these parts are add-ons by the color.
Coyle then recast this piece to make a master for his replicas that he used to sell. The one on the right in the photo is one of these replicas. Richard also made changes to the ones he sold so they are recognizably different and can’t be mistaken for a production made piece. So, with a little work the communicator’s authenticity was resolved and it now resides in my collection.
Thanks to Brett and Richard for their help!