At the moment I’m spending my evenings watching all of Star Trek in order. Yes, I have watched it before (but with some really big gaps). Yes, including the animated series (I’m up to The Terratin Incident). So I’m gratified to find this beautiful The Original Series–style tricorder build.
At this year’s Replica Prop Forum showcase, we meet up once again wtih Brian Mix, who brought his new Star Trek TOS Tricorder. This beautiful replica captures the weight and finish of the filming hand prop, and Brian has taken it one step further with some modern-day electronics!
A what now?
If you don’t know what a tricorder is, which I guess is faintly possible, the easiest way I can explain is to steal words that Liz wrote when Recantha made one back in 2013. It’s “a made-up thing used by the crew of the Enterprise to measure stuff, store data, and scout ahead remotely when exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, and all that jazz.”
A brief history of Picorders
We’ve seen other Raspberry Pi–based realisations of this iconic device. Recantha’s LEGO-cased tricorder delivered some authentic functionality, including temperature sensors, an ultrasonic distance sensor, a photosensor, and a magnetometer. Michael Hahn’s tricorder for element14’s Sci-Fi Your Pi competition in 2015 packed some similar functions, along with Original Series audio effects, into a neat (albeit non-canon) enclosure.
Brian Mix’s Original Series tricorder
Brian Mix’s tricorder, seen in the video above from Tested at this year’s Replica Prop Forum showcase, is based on a high-quality kit into which, he discovered, a Raspberry Pi just fits. He explains that the kit is the work of the late Steve Horch, a special effects professional who provided props for later Star Trek series, including the classic Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribble-ations.
This episode’s plot required sets and props — including tricorders — replicating the USS Enterprise of The Original Series, and Steve Horch provided many of these. Thus, a tricorder kit from him is about as close to authentic as you can possibly find unless you can get your hands on a screen-used prop. The Pi allows Brian to drive a real display and a speaker: “Being the geek that I am,” he explains, “I set it up to run every single Original Series Star Trek episode.”
Even more wonderful hypothetical tricorders that I would like someone to make
This tricorder is beautiful, and it makes me think how amazing it would be to squeeze in some of the sensor functionality of the devices depicted in the show. Space in the case is tight, but it looks like there might be a little bit of depth to spare — enough for an IMU, maybe, or a temperature sensor. I’m certain the future will bring more Pi tricorder builds, and I, for one, can’t wait. Please tell us in the comments if you’re planning something along these lines, and, well, I suppose some other sci-fi franchises have decent Pi project potential too, so we could probably stand to hear about those.
If you’re commenting, no spoilers please past The Animated Series S1 E11. Thanks.
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