An original, screen-used Tricorder is a holy grail for Star Trek collectors. Some of the Tricorder props used on the Original Series were taken home by the crew or given away to lucky fans after the original production. So, in the 1970s, Trekkies resorted to making their own, modeling them off images from fuzzy reruns and pictures in books like The Making Of Star Trek by Stephen Whitfield and Gene Roddenbery.
With so many fan replicas out there, the question is: How does one tell an original from a clever, Trekkie-made fake?
In one of the strangest tests for authenticity ever performed, John Dywer, the former props master for the classic series, was able to prove without a doubt that one recent Tricorder on the market was a real, screen-used prop.
When props forgers attempt to create a replica, it is just about impossible to fake the aluminum elements on the prop, which will clearly show age after fifty years or so.
Some crooks have tried to stage this aging effect by placing the metal in a saltwater tank with an electrical charge. The resulting patina is close, but not to the trained eye of a true Star Trek props expert.
The authentic Tricorders do have one out-of-this-world test that can show without a doubt their screen-used status. This is thanks to Leonard Nimoy and a smoking habit he had back when the show was in production.
Many smokers use a pen or some other object to keep their hands occupied when smoking is not an option. Mr. Nimoy used a Tootsie Pop for that very purpose.
Between takes, rather than light up, Nimoy would pull out a sucker and wait for the next camera position to be set. And if they moved a bit too fast, he would take his licked, unfinished Tootsie Pop and place it inside the lower panel of the Tricorder until the cameras stopped rolling.
Take after take, over the course of three years, a sticky Tootsie residue formed inside the prop Tricorders. This candy build-up became a a sure-fire way to identify these iconic relics without a doubt.
So, the next time you head for a Star Trek convention in full cosplay from the classic series, don't forget to pack your standard issue landing party Tootsie Pop. After all, it is the logical thing to do and Spock would approve.
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