Two networks infamously rejected the first pilot for Star Trek, "The Cage." CBS already had Lost in Space and was not in the market for more space adventures. NBC, on the other hand, passed on Star Trek because they felt it was "too cerebral." Thanks in no small part to studio head Lucille Ball, Star Trek had the extremely rare chance to go back to the drawing board and try again.
The original Captain Pike character was ditched. A new captain was cast in William Shatner. A second pilot episode was produced from the script "Where No Man Has Gone Before." And if the network thought the first story was too cerebral, well, this one would have a big, awesome laser gun in the last act.
Now all they needed was a big, awesome laser gun.
Fortunately, another TV show had a seriously cool firearm. Napoleon Solo's gun from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. had become one of the hot toys of its day. So, Gene Roddenberry reached out to U.N.C.L.E. producer Norman Felton to find out who made the thing. Enter Reuben Klamer.
Roddenberry gave Klamer a tight two-week deadline to conceptualize and craft a Starfleet phaser rifle from scratch. Despite the time crunch, Klamer came up with a beautiful weapon, with three transparent tubes in its body and a little satellite dish at the end of the barrel. The thing came in handy when Kirk beamed down to Delta Vega in the climax of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," as the Enterprise captain used it to take down the telekinetically powered Gary Mitchell.
After that, the phaser rifle was never used or seen again on Star Trek: The Original Series. Why? The answer is simple: money.
When the series was picked up by NBC at a certain (slim) budget, the gun prop was discussed. Cranking out more of them was over and above the Trek budget, so the original prop stayed with the designer.
For years, the phaser rifle was thought to have been lost to time, until it showed up for auction back in 2013. The prop came complete with Klamer's design sketches and documents from the network. The rare, iconic Star Trek artifact drew a whopping a final bid of $240,625.
"In my personal opinion, this gun was instrumental in selling Star Trek as a series," Klamer proclaimed in a video for Julien's Auctions. On a side note, the brilliant toy designer also invented The Game of Life for Milton Bradley.
Like the Napoleon Solo gun, could the phaser rifle also have hit toy stores in the 1960s? Sadly, we will never know. But take a look at this second video to see how fans have made incredible replicas, outfitted with modern electronics.
Watch Star Trek: The Original Series on H&I
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