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Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome to the first Space: 1970 "Fave Five" - wherein your humble blogger becomes even more self-indulgent (if that's even possible) and counts down his own top five favorite whatevers from the S:70 era; i.e. favorite spaceships, favorite captains, favorite novelizations, favorite cartoons, favorite Space Babes, etc. Most bloggers do Top Ten lists, but honestly folks, that just seemed like too much work!

This time out, I've picked my favorite sci-fi sidearms, taking into account the design of the weapon, how effective it appeared on the show, and, well, simply just how "cool" I think it is. With that, let's begin at...

NUMBER FIVE: Colonial Laser
Battlestar Galactica

The Colonial Laser is not an elegant weapon. It's large, bulky, heavy and intimidating. Its purpose is to blow Cylons apart in close combat, and it certainly seems very efficient at doing so. The actual prop seems to have some weight to it (unlike the clearly lightweight plastic blasters of Buck Rogers), and I very much like the fact that in the original series, there was no animated ray blast added in when our heroes fired their lasers, just a blinding (and practically-created) muzzle flash, accompanied by a very cool sound effect - and an appropriately explosive pyrotechnic charge where the weapon found its target. Unfortunately, when they made Galactica: 1980, they failed to keep it consistent and cartoon beams were used.

NUMBER FOUR: Sentry Laser
The Black Hole

I've always liked the production design of The Black Hole a great deal, and in particular, I've always thought that the Sentry robots' ray guns, with their unique, over-and-under barrels and sleek, black finish, were especially cool looking. Of course, I'm not a bonafide genius like Dr. Reinhardt, but if I were designing robots specifically for duty as security troops, I'd probably have their weapons built right into them instead of having them carry around pistols -- but then our heroes wouldn't have been able to appropriate the lasers for use in their escape from the Cygnus, would they?

NUMBER THREE: Han Solo's Blaster
Star Wars

Almost all of the "blasters" seen in the original Star Wars trilogy are very convincing weapons, and that's because almost all of the props used were built on the frames of real, Earthly handguns and rifles. The most famous of these energy blasters is no doubt the pistol carried by Captain Han Solo of the Millennium Falcon - a modified "Broomhandle" Mauser C96. Because it's a real metal gun underneath the scope and muzzle extension, it has a convincing heft, and Harrison Ford certainly handled it with aplomb.

NUMBER TWO: Sandman DS Gun
Logan's Run

Some fans call it the "flame gun" for it's unique jet-flame muzzle flash, but most fans call it by the name given to the Sandman sidearms in George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan's original Logan's Run novel: the DS (or Deep Sleep) Gun. Of course, the movie weapon doesn't really resemble the revolver-like firearm of the books, but is a decidedly cool sci-fi sidearm all its own. Its sleek silhouette and matte black finish make it particularly intimidating, and the practical effects used on the set to dramatize its firing are great. As with the Colonial Laser above, there were no ray beams added in optically, just a blue jet of flame that emitted from the front and sides of the muzzle, accompanied by an appropriate sound effect. Sweet.

NUMBER ONE: Moonbase Alpha Laser
Space: 1999

My favorite sci-fi sidearm of the 1970s though, has to be the Space: 1999 laser/stun gun. I love that the designers eschewed the standard pistol configuration, and appear to have used a staple gun as their inspiration. Compact, unique, and stylish, the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha relied heavily on these weapons to defend themselves against a seemingly endless parade of malevolent aliens bent on their destruction. As the gun was only shown to have two settings  ("stun" and "kill," determined by a large thumb switch at the top of the weapon), I've occasionally wondered why it appears to have four barrels/emitters. But what the hell, it's a truly cool gun.

The only weapon that I wish I had been able to fit in was the Star Trek Type II phaser pistol, but ultimately, it didn't quite make the cut. Feel free to berate me for that decision - or any of my choices - in the comments.


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