Monday, May 23, 2011

Star Trek: Classic Science Tricorder

My wife and I have been eying this for a while. We're both fans of Star Trek in general, especially the original series, and we've slowly been amassing a collection of both Star Trek action figures and replicas.

The thing is, while this has intrigued us for a while, we weren't ready to drop $40 - $45 on it (or $30, for that matter). But given how long they'd been camping out on the shelves at Toys R Us, I've had a feeling for a while now that we wouldn't have to.

In fact, about a year ago I remember looking at this and thinking, "fifteen." You'll never guess what the Toys R Us in Queens was charging for the last one they had in stock....

If there's one thing I've gotten pretty good at, it's predicting the precise cost toys will get marked down to before disappearing altogether.

Yes, that's right. I'm so cheap, I've transformed my stinginess into a power. If I could figure out a way to fight crime with it, I'd be a superhero. The worst superhero in history, perhaps, but a superhero nonetheless.

I should mention that getting the last one in stock meant the box wasn't exactly in mint condition. Good thing I couldn't care less about packaging.

Actually, I was taking a bit of a risk with this thing. In addition to the box not looking so hot, the top drawer had fallen off and was loose in the box. The whole thing looked like it might have been returned to the store, and on top of everything else, the "try me" feature had been used so long, the batteries were completely dead. I bought this not knowing if the toy worked or not.

I'm happy to say I was worried over nothing. As soon as I'd changed out the batteries (no simple task: you have to open the bottom drawer, remove the inner panel, then unscrew and pull off a third level before you can get to the AAA's), everything was working fine.

And make no mistake, this thing is loaded with features. When you open the top (which gives you a soft "clicking" sound), the lights go on and start blinking. Incidentally, those lights are BRIGHT. There are three buttons: one to "scan", one to cycle through voice clips, and a third that's a tad more complicated.

The scan feature is the one that's most straightforward. The light patterns change, the toy emits a loud "scanning" sound, and the psychedelic disk rotates until you either press the button again, close the lid, or your batteries run out of juice.

The speech button activates one of six sound clips. These are all of Spock, and they're well chosen, not to mention loud and clear.

The button on the left is sort of a "play" setting. You hit it, close the lid, then wait five seconds, and the Tricorder starts making noise (it cycles through two possibilities - an incoming message or a sort of malfunction). Open it, and Spock's voice once again chimes in with a clips related to the sounds.

The Tricorder comes with a small scanner, which runs on watch batteries (unlike the AAA's, these are still good on mine). The scanner doesn't make noise, but it does light up. The light cycles through several different colors, thanks to a number of small LEDs inside. It's not as bright as the lights on the Tricorder, but it's pretty cool.

What impresses me most about Diamond's "replicas" is the company's willingness to walk the line between cosplay accessory and toy. Despite being made of plastic and being (relatively) cheap for any kind of replica, this is more or less screen accurate and ready to go to conventions or be worn with a nice Starfleet uniform. And the "scan" function reinforces that. If you want to act like Spock, press the middle button, and roleplay to your heart's content.

However, this is also a toy. A toy for grownups, but a toy nonetheless. There's no reason a replica needs a bunch of sound clips of Spock (replicas, strictly speaking, should just do what the prop did; not repeat lines actors say).

I like that Diamond included this functionality. Once again, they've demonstrated that they know how to have fun with their merchandise.


  1. Pretty cool! Have a StarFleet outfit?

  2. Not really. I have a Star Trek T-Shirt that looks kind of like what Kirk used to wear, and Lindsay has a few of the insignia pins, but we don't have anything fancy.

    I do, however, own a set of Jedi robes and a wizard cloak.