As a kid and budding Star Trek fan growing up in the 1970s, I used to watch the reruns on a little black and white TV, moving the antenna around in order to get the channel to come in, and sometimes the signal was so bad that I’d have to decide between picture and sound. Those were the days, right? Along with that, I managed to get my grubby paws on a few toys, books, models and so on. I still get the odd Trek gift, though nowadays I’m usually filling a hole in my collection, or else it’s a poster or print, or a humorous knick-knack of some sort. You know...Mr. Potato Head, Pez dispensers, and so on. But, when I was ten or twelve years old? It was all about the play time and the make-believe.
I used to “play” Star Trek outside with my friends, the way you played “Cowboys & Indians” or “Army.” We had those oversized communicator walkie-talkies and cap guns standing in for phasers, and that big ball at the center of the playground with all the windows and slides and ladders was our Starship Enterprise. Action Jackson or G.I. Joes often filled out my Enterprise crew when I needed redshirts to be led by Mego Captain Kirk. Growing older, toys gave way to other things like books and models, and then things went really off the rails when I supposedly “came of age” with more disposable income to direct toward the acquisition of Cool Trekkie Stuff.
Yes, I’m a geek. Have we met?
So, with long range sensors detecting Christmas approaching on an intercept course, I decided to dig deep into the memory bank and come up with ten favorite Star Trek gifts delivered by ol’ Saint Nick (or his designated representatives), particularly those given during my oh-so impressionable youth:
The Tracer Gun - So far as I can remember, this was the very first Star Trek toy I ever received. Even though it had a pseudo-Star Trek logo and Kirk and Spock’s picture on the blister pack, the gun looked nothing like a phaser, but wow! Was this thing awesome. It fired those little plastic discs, and I spent who knows how many afternoons exchanging fire with my neighborhood friends as we pretended to be Kirk, Spock, or the Klingon commander. How I made it out of childhood with both eyes intact, I’ll never know.
Mego Kirk and Spock Figures – I remember my grandmother handing me a square, lightweight package and thinking, “Great, a shirt.” Lo and behold, my crafty grandma had arranged the two blister packages so that I wouldn’t be able to tell right off that I was holding the two coolest action figures that weren’t The Six Million Dollar Man or G.I. Joe. The rest of the crew soon would follow, along with that hokey vinyl bridge play set, but the continuing Enterprise adventures all started right there on my grandparent’s living room floor.
AMT U.S.S. Enterprise Model – The first of many attempts at building the Big E came courtesy of my parents. I’ve probably bought and built a dozen of these over the years, but this was the one that was special. My construction job was horrific, sagging nacelles and all, matched only by the paint scheme I inflicted upon the thing, and it eventually met its fiery end thanks to a bag full of firecrackers. Zero Zero Zero, Destruct Zero, yo. There eventually would be other models—a Klingon ship, an “Exploration Set” and Spock shooting at the three-headed snakes—but the original, inaccurate and yet captivating Enterprise will always be my favorite.
TOS and Animated Series View-Master Reels – Long before the era of VCRs, Blu-rays and Netflix, View-Masters were one way to revisit favorite characters from TV and film. In addition to reels for Superman, Batman, Planet of the Apes, and Lost In Space, I also got to relive the exciting adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew from... “The Omega Glory?” Yeah, maybe not the best choice of episodes to represent Star Trek, but that was the one they were filming the day GAF showed up to shoot pictures with their fancy-schmancy cameras. The set from the animated series redeems Trek a bit, showcasing the popular episode “Yesteryear” while carrying the title “Mr. Spock’s Time Trek.” Unlike the previous gifts I’ve already listed, I still have both of these sets.
A Boxed Set of James Blish’s Star Trek Novelizations – My favorite aunt gave me these one Christmas, after seeing how excited I was at finding one of the books during a visit with her to the library. Basically, it was the first five of the twelve books Blish wrote for this series of adaptations, enclosed in a nice box featuring artwork from the fourth book. It was through books like these that fans got to relive those favorite episodes while waiting for them to come around again in their local TV station’s broadcast rotation. The box has long since gone to dust, and I’ve replaced those five tattered volumes with copies in better condition, but those original five books sure did get a lot of use.
Star Trek Blueprints – The other gift from my aunt that same year? BAM. Right here. It’s perhaps one of the coolest Trek collectibles ever devised, at least so far as ten- or eleven-year-old me was concerned. Every deck, every room of the Enterprise, laid out in painstaking detail across twelve sheets, and all hand-drawn by Franz Joseph Schnaubelt. There was a point where I could close my eyes and trace my finger from the bridge to the transporter room, boring to death my parents and everyone else around me while I did it.
Gold Key’s “Enterprise Logs” Comic Compilations – Growing up in the 70s, there were no “comic book stores” near where I lived, so I was at the mercy of the local grocery or drug store to get my latest issue of Batman or The Incredible Hulk. Because of that, I only saw the occasional copy of Gold Key’s sporadic Star Trek comic. Thankfully, somebody had the bright idea to start collecting those early issues into inexpensive omnibus editions. With a cover price of $1.95? How did you resist these? My mother certainly didn’t, so all four collections were bundled under the tree one bright Christmas morning. Though newer versions of the collected editions have come and gone, and now you can get pretty much every comic before the current IDW era on one DVD, you can’t compare to the elegant simplicity and wonderful innocence of these four volumes. I still have my lovingly preserved copies.
Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology – Another wonderful “technical” publication from the late 1970s/early 1980s. This, to me, was the absolute best of all the books and other publications which came out in conjunction with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. My uncle gave this to me that year, and I spent countless hours drooling over the pictures, “log entries” and other “historical anecdotes” tracing the history of spaceflight up to the point of the revamped Enterprise’s launch. I haven’t been without a copy since its initial publication, and even though it no longer fits with “the Star Trek canon,” it remains one of my very favorite Star Trek reference works.
“The City on the Edge of Forever” Diorama – For a time, my mother would send me all sorts of Star Trek stuff for Christmas or my birthday courtesy of the Franklin Mint. I have the pewter U.S.S. Enterprise, and a few medallions, and even a tankard celebrating Trek’s 25th anniversary from 1991, but it’s this diorama—recreating the scene of McCoy jumping through the Guardian of Forever while Kirk and Spock look on—that is my favorite. The attention to detail, including the Guardian and the surrounding alien ruins, makes it a really beautiful piece. My writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, has already made me promise to amend my will so that it’s left to him.
The Star Trek Original Series Soundtrack Collection – Released just this past December 4th from La-La Land Records, this was my own early Christmas present to myself. Such a set literally has been a Wish List item of mine for decades. If you’re a fan of film and television soundtracks, this collection might well be the Holy Grail of such music, assembling as it does every note ever composed and recorded for the original Star Trek series. Fifteen discs with 636 tracks comprising more than seventeen hours of material, the music has never sounded as good as it does in this collection. When I die, I want this set played in nonstop rotation all through my visitation and funeral. In fact, I think the morticians should have to listen to it while they prep my body for viewing.
All right, then: Those are just ten of my favorites. Who’s got their own list?
The Ten for Ward backlist:
“Ten Star Trek Novels the ‘Canon’ Passed Over” – August 2012
“Ten Star Trek Historical Events Which Should’ve Happened by Now” – February 2012
“Ten Favorite Star Trek Games” – November 2011
“Ten Favorite ‘Classic’ Star Trek Comics” – September 2011
“Ten Favorite ‘Old’ Star Trek Books” – June 2011
Dayton Ward is the author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories, including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often working with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. He’s also written (or co-written) for Star Trek Communicator, Star Trek Magazine, Syfy.com, and Tor.com, and is a monthly contributor to the Novel Spaces writers blog. As he is still a big ol’ geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward: http://daytonward.wordpress.com.
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