Thread: Props Re-used
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Old February 26 2009, 06:33 PM   #167
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Re: Props Re-used

Folks may heard the story of how Gene Roddenberry wanted some salt shakers for "The Man Trap"--which ended up not being appropriate for use as salt shakers--so Gene asked that they be pressed into service as medical and surgical instruments for Doctor McCoy.

Gene Roddenberry had this to say in the book The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield & Gene Roddenberry:

"In the very first show of our first season, ('The Man Trap' by George Clayton Johnson) we needed some salt shakers because we had a creature that craved salt, we had a story point which required the creature (disguised in human form) to give himself away when someone passed with a salt shaker on a tray. This posed a problem. What will a salt shaker look like three hundred years from now? Our property master, Irving Feinberg, went out and bought a selection of very exotic-looking salt shakers. It was not until after he brought them in and showed them to me that I realized they were so beautifully shaped and futuristic that the audience would never recognize them as salt shakers. I would either have to use 20th Century salt shakers or I would have to have a character say 'See, this is a salt shaker.' So I told Irving to go down to the studio commissary and bring me several of their salt shakers, and as he turned to go, I said 'However, those eight devices you have there will become Dr. McCoy's operating instruments.' For two years now, the majority of McCoy's instruments in Sick Bay have been a selection of exotic salt shakers, and we know they work, because we've seen them work. Not only has he saved many a life with them but it's helped keep our prop budget costs low."

(In truth, it appears that Gene actually miscounted. There were actually nine conical "devices" Irving Feinberg appears to have brought in.)

It would seem that Feinberg didn't actually obtain a "selection of very exotic-looking salt shakers." Rather, he obtained one set of salt and pepper shakers in a Danish Eames-era style and liked the general look of them so much, he had the Desilu machine shop fabricate seven additional similarly-shaped cone-things out of aluminum. Here's a typical salt and pepper shaker set from a recent ebay auction:

So, the entire set of these "devices" (original "shakers" and machined, custom-made cones) is:

One (1) Danish Eames-era salt shaker (with appropriate green paint job)
One (1) Danish Eames-era pepper shaker (with appropriate red paint job)
Two (2) identical flat-top custom fabricated cones
Two (2) identical pointy-top custom fabricated cones
Set of three (3) flat-top custom fabricated cones in three different sizes

You can see the entire set of nine devices in this third season publicity photo:

Of course, it's pretty much assumed that these things are scalpels. Doctor McCoy uses them in surgical operations and appears to be making incisions with them. Further, a photograph of these devices in The Making of Star Trek identifies them as scalpels. You can see the picture here:

You can see these devices pretty much in all those episodes where a surgery is taking place. However, these "surgery" episodes generally show only six of the nine devices (and only six of the nine are shown in The Making of Star Trek). So it would appear likely that the extra set of three flat-top scalpels with the two concentric rings lathed into the bases might be some other kind of device with more Engineering-related applications. Here are some shots of the surgical/engineering devices--whatever they are:

"The Naked Time:"

"Charlie X:"

"Space Seed:"


"Mirror, Mirror:"

And here's a close-up of this "Mirror, Mirror" screen shot where you can make out the red-orange color and the green color on the two "real" salt shakers:

"Journey to Babel:"

And here's a close-up of this "Journey to Babel" screenshot. You can see all kinds of interesting medical props--including a few of the scalpels:

"A Private Little War:"

"Elaan of Troyius:"

"The Enterprise Incident:"

And here are a couple of those instances where we see the three slightly different shaped devices in some non-surgical related contexts.

In "The Omega Glory," Doctor McCoy has them down with him on planet Omega IV--where presumably he's not doing any surgeries:

In "Return to Tomorrow," Sargon and Thalassa use them in their project to create android bodies for themselves and you can see them sitting on the workbench:

In "The Ultimate Computer," Mr. Scott uses one to try to bypass the M-5 computer:

At any rate, here is my complete set of nine insturments--the six surgical scalpels and the three other (possibly Engineering-related) ones:

So we might see these devices sometime in Star Trek: Phase II--either as a surgical device or possibly as some kind of engineering tool.

See the slide show at:
Greg Schnitzer
Co-Executive Producer
Star Trek Phase II
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