Master Replicas' Classic Star Trek Tricorder Review By John Davis

Master Replicas' Classic Star Trek Tricorder Review By John Davis

Jay Cochran - October 06, 2005

Master Replicas’ Classic Star Trek Tricorder is truly a Masterpiece.

For nearly 40 years, Star Trek has proven to be a phenomenon like no other. Amidst a spate of westerns and comedies, that low budget “space show” floundered in the ratings and barely managed to achieve three years on the air before being canceled. Now, after four series, ten movies, weekly conventions around the world, and a permanent exhibition in Las Vegas, Star Trek has become an iconic part of American culture.

Having proven their artistry with the museum quality Communicator and Phaser prop replicas, Master Replicas has completed the landing party exploration gear with the release of the Classic Star Trek Tricorder. Accurately engineered from the original Desilu props, the Tricorder is the realization of this fan’s dreams.

The pebbled black surface is perfectly set off by the sleek silver lines of the metal frame. (Image 1) The hood flips up to reveal the small television style screen, control knobs, and indicator lights so familiar to Star Trek viewers. The middle section opens to reveal the library disks with a functioning moiré display. Opening the lower door exposes storage pockets for smaller equipment, such as McCoy’s medical scanner (not included).

Pressing the first button activates the “sensor sweep” sound, taken directly from the Desilu sound effects tapes. Unlike lesser replicas, this is not just a five second sample; the sound will run as long as you want it to.

Pressing the second button engages the swirling moiré pattern on the middle section disk.

Pressing the third button lights up the display screen, showing a perimeter scan of the Starfleet base on Cestus III. This is not just a static image, however; a flashing red light is constantly changing position on the grid. The Gorn are on the move!

When any of the functions are engaged, the blue indicator light above the button blinks twice and remains on until the function is deactivated by pressing the button again. Additionally, the tricorder can be shut down by simply closing the hood, just like on the TV show. How cool is that?

The compartment doors are held in place by magnets that have enough force to keep the doors from accidentally bouncing open, but are gentle enough to open with the touch of a finger. A 60 inch leather shoulder strap allows you to carry the tricorder as conveniently as an Enterprise crewmember. For storing the Tricorder, a custom display stand with acrylic cover is included.

The Tricorder has always been a favorite Star Trek device of mine in all its many incarnations, but the original is such a classic it has a very unique place among television props. Master Replicas has painstakingly recreated this archetypal piece of equipment with such precision and obvious care any Star Trek collection is woefully incomplete without it.

A Little Tricorder History

The Tricorder made its first appearance in the episode “The Enemy Within”. The original prop was designed by Wah Chang, whose design talents also provided other familiar items like the communicator and the Romulan Bird of Prey as well as creatures such as the Gorn and the Salt Vampire. Although Wah Chang’s name was never featured in the credits, Star Trek would not have been what it was without his vital contributions.

The first mass market reproduction of a tricorder came in the “Star Trek Exploration Set” model kit by AMT in 1974. Although the kit included all three items necessary for boldly going where no man has gone before, they were drastically reduced in size and the features simplified. The soft detailing was probably influenced by the look of the equipment in the Star Trek Animated Series which was running on Saturday mornings at the time.

Remco produced role-play accessories for a number of licensees throughout the seventies and in 1975 released the Star Trek Utility Belt. This toy set included a Phaser that fired small plastic disks, a plastic flip-open Communicator and, of course, a Tricorder. All items were kid sized, and again looked more like their animated counterparts.

Mego was THE toy company in the seventies, producing action figures and playsets for everything from Batman to The Dukes of Hazzard. It didn’t take long before they acquired the license for Star Trek, producing a very successful range of characters and accessories. 1976 saw the release of Mego’s interpretation of a tricorder, which was little more than a cassette recorder in the general shape of the original prop. A flip-up hood revealed the controls, and the middle section opened to insert the cassette. Included was a tape with thirty minutes from “The Menagerie” on one side and blank on the other side to record your own Star Trek adventures. Far from an accurate prop, it was certainly enough to keep younger Star Trek fans very happy.

Through the late seventies and eighties, there were several fan produced tricorder props available at conventions and through mail order companies (mostly unlicensed), but no further mass market attempts were made until Playmates picked up the Star Trek license in 1992. Starting with action figures and accessories from Star Trek: The Next Generation, it didn’t take long for them to move into Classic Trek territory. After making adequate versions of the Phaser and Communicator, the Playmates designers suddenly stumbled with their release of the Tricorder - it was half the size it needed to be! (Image 6)

At long last, a licensed Tricorder has been released that not only matches the physical specifications of the original prop, but goes one further with electronic functions and accurate sound effects. Thank you, Master Replicas, for your care, dedication, and precision in recreating one of the most iconic props of all time.

Master Replicas specializes in high quality prop reproductions from Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Disney, and more. To view their current selection of authentic collectibles, or to order, check them out at

John Davis is a freelance writer and avid Science Fiction fan, specializing in custom model building and detailing and has works published on Starship Modeler and CultTVMan. He can be contacted at


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