img

Random Thoughts & Pictures

Star Trek may not have been the first pin I ever played, but it is the one I remember. There is no other pinball title of which I have specific childhood memories.

I spent my winters growing up at a long-extinct ski area called Hahn Mountain in the northern tip of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Both my parents were ski instructors so I spent a lot of time there. It was at Hahn Mountain that I discovered Star Trek. I liked pinball when I was a kid. But I wasn't very good at it. My typical game would last about 20 seconds. And I often was not willing to part with 25 cents. At my young age, back in the early 1980s, a quarter still seemed like a lot of money. But I must not have had anything better to do with my allowance during the winter because I played Star Trek regularly. I know my allowance at the time was $2/week because I remember being able to play Star Trek eight times (plus, hopefully, a few replays and matches). I remember the game was three balls for a quarter. Most of all I remember the "Time Warp" shot back to the shooter lane. That shot was as rewarding and exciting as earning an extra ball. I don't remember having any particular grasp of the game rules. Maybe I wasn't even aware that pinball machines had rules. But after some practice I was able to keep my balls in play long enough to earn replays with some regularity. All this happened during the new craze of arcade video games. I remember that Star Trek shared space with two video games. One was Asteroids. The other was Space Invaders. Or was it Pac-Man? Maybe Pac-Man replaced Space Invaders. But I always found video games were about as much fun as tossing quarters in the trashcan.

I skied Hahn Mountain from when I was about four years old in 1973 until around 1984 when the ski area closed for good. Obviously Star Trek was not there before 1979, but in my memory it always was.

img

Star Trek had a high production run for its day. There should be a lot of them left out there. But it took a few years for me to track down a nice one. The first time I revisited Star Trek was at the 2005 Pinball Wizards Convention in Allentown. The game I saw looked nice and was for sale at a reasonable price. But it was several months prior to my decision to actually start collecting pinball machines. And I left Friday night before the machine was fully set up so I didn't even get to play. I kept my eyes open for the next two and a half years. But every machine I looked at was junk or the deal fell through. With this particular title the buyer can be competing against Trekkies as well as other Pinheads.

Finally in September, 2007 I answered a Mr. Pinball ad for a Star Trek located up in north-central Pennsylvania. I went to test it out and decided to buy it. That test was my first game of Star Trek in about 25 years.

History of My Star Trek

Interestingly, this particular Star Trek has some traceable history. I learned that this game was previously owned by Mark Clayton, owner of the company Pinball Pal. This was the guinea pig game used to develop the company's Star Trek stencil kit. Star Trek was the first project to implement the company's computer-cut stencil system. The re-stenciling process can be seen on Mark's website and on the Pinball Pal website.

Mark also did some minor playfield touch ups, replaced drop targets, replaced thumper bumper parts and cleaned and polished everything else. At the 2002 Pinball Wizards Convention, Mark sold the game to the collector who in turn sold the game to me in 2007.

Obviously the game was in nice shape when it came to me. The yellow on the cabinet body is a bit blotchy where some underlying wood filler shadows show through. It could have benefited from some primer or a few more base coats of yellow. There are a few very minor scuffs. Fortunately the paint codes are on Mark's website so I may do some touch up. But surly the cabinet is far nicer than any other Start Trek I've seen with an original finish.

The playfield has a lot of ball swirl and the old Mylar shadows are pretty obvious. But the art is nearly all intact and original with only some very minor touchups around some of the inserts. The plastics and backglass are nearly perfect. The game is still running strong on the original electronics. The MPU board batteries have been remotely located and there is no apparent battery damage. I am pleased to have acquired such a fine example of the game.

img

img

img

img

Shown above is the two page promotional flyer for Star Trek. Click for larger picture.

TV or Movie?

There were two different versions of this game. Initially there was the TV version. Then there was the movie version. Pictures of both versions are shown on the Star Trek IPBD page. There are only minor differences between the two. The uniforms and starship on the backglass are different. And a few of the playfield plastics are different. It's clear that the original intent was to have this game correspond to the Star Trek TV series. But then some minor cosmetic changes were made to reflect the new movie, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". The TV versions are quite rare. I have read that a few hundred of the TV versions were produced during an initial production run. But most pinball references refer to the TV version as the "prototype" indicating that only a handful may have been made. More than 16,000 Star Treks were produced. The vast majority of them were the movie version.

The original Star Trek TV series was years before my time. I can better relate to the movies. But I have to say that I prefer the look of the TV version pinball machine (not that I expect to ever get my hands on one). I'm thinking that the conversion must have been a last minute decision because the execution is pretty half-assed. First off, the playfield and cabinet art were not updated. They show the old starship and uniforms and don't relate to anything that happened in the movie. One minor difference is that the prototype playfields had yellow inserts in the bonus ladder whereas the production playfields have white. A few of the playfield plastics were updated. Hot-looking crew women were replaced with creepy-looking Lieutenant Ilia. But the remaining plastics have nothing to do with the movie. As mentioned above, the uniforms and starship shown on the backglass were updated. But here again, the backglass depicts a scene that has no relation to the movie. And finally, the title of the game is simply "Star Trek" with a font that matches the TV show, not the movie. One thing I do like about the production glass is the addition of four Klingon ships. Nevertheless my vote goes to the TV version because:
1) The overall package has a more uniformed, consistent look.
2) The old uniforms add a bit more color.
3) Hot-looking crew women instead of a creepy bald woman.

The Supersonic Connection

The playfield layout that eventually became Bally's Supersonic initially had a Star Trek theme (or at least a generic rip off of Star Trek). The whitewood was by Bally designer Greg Kmiec. According to IPDB the game was to be called "Super Shooter" where the lower playfield had a double S arrangement of bonus ladder inserts that would be incorporated into the game's name. But instead of using the Super Shooter theme a prototype was developed with a science fiction theme called "Star Ship". The prototype was a one-off, two-player EM. Again, the double S bonus ladder was incorporated into the game's name. Around this time Bally acquired a license for Star Trek. But instead of applying the Star Trek license to Star Ship, the license was applied to an entirely different whitewood by Bally designer Gary Gayton. The Star Ship theme was abandoned and replaced with Supersonic. The double S bonus ladder became part of an "SST" (Supersonic Transport) logo. Apparently the Supersonic theme was selected at least in part because the SS bonus ladder arrangement could be logically reused as "SST". Supersonic was released around 1979 which was well into the solid state era. So all Supersonic production games were 4-player solid state games. The package we now know as Star Trek went into production soon after Supersonic.

So what was Bally's intention with Star Ship? While not an exact representation of Star Trek, the art was so similar that it's hard to see how the game could have been passed off as an unlicensed generic science fiction theme. But if there was some though to applying the Star Trek license to Star Ship then what would have become of the SS bonus ladder that Bally seemed intent on keeping?

Here is the IPDB link to the prototype Star Ship.

And here is the IPDB link for Supersonic.

Note the identical playfield layouts. Note how the "SS" arrangement of bonus ladder lights is a carry over from Star Ship (i.e. "Star Ship" became "SST").

Reproduction Proto Parts from CPR

Toward the end of 2010 Classic Playfield Reproductions released a reproduction plastics set for Star Trek. The set includes both prototype and production versions of the plastics. I bought a set of the new plastics and plan to install the prototype versions. Shown below are the three plastics that differ from prototype to production. Rumor has it that reproduction prototype playfields and backglasses may also be made available someday.

img

Three proto plastics (left) versus their production counterparts.

The reproduction plastics set also included the promotional plastic shown below. Promo plastics from the late '70s are pretty rare. This plastic is reproduced from an original item that does not appear to have been widely distributed with the new games or at trade shows. Original pieces are rarely seen. The reproduction piece has been drilled for use as a key fob. The original piece had no hole

img

Reproduction promotional plastic.

Classic Playfield Reproductions released the prototype backglass around January 2013 and I immediately ordered one. Aside from the obvious movie/TV differences, here are a few specific differences...

1) The prototype is darker and more saturated than the production glass.
2) The prototype Enterprise reflects all the pinks and blues from the sky whereas the production version is mostly white with some light blue.
3) The prototype has a larger white TM logo. The production glass has a smaller black TM logo.
4) The production glass has four Klingon ships. The prototype does not.
5) The production glass has a small moon under the credit window. The prototype does not.
6) Kevin O'Connor's signature is white on the prototype and red on the production glass.

img

Original production backglass.

img

CRP reproduction prototype backglass.

My only previous experience with a CPR reproduction backglass was Silverball Mania. I thought the Silverball glass was fantastic. I was comparatively disappointed with the Star Trek glass. Overall the glass is darker and more saturated, but I believe that's a reflection of how the original prototype artwork appeared. Beyond that the yellow areas have an uneven greenish hue and there is some vertical streaking. I usually light my Bally backglasses with a combination of #47 and a few #455 lamps. I'll probably switch back to all #44 lamps in this case (except for a #455 behind the orb). I still think the prototype artwork is neat and I'm glad I bought this backglass. But if you're expecting something as bright and clear as the original production glass, you may be disappointed. Some detail shots are shown below. Judge for yourself.

img

Vertical streaks and uneven greenish hues in the yellow ares.

img

Vertical streaks.

img

Uneven greenish hues in the yellow ares.

Somewhere around 2014 CPR released their Star Trek reproduction playfield featuring inserts unter the starship nacelles with a nifty lighting mod. As neat as it was, I passed because I didn't see myself as ambitious enough to pull off a playfield swap. The two page promotional flyer is shown below.

img

Two page promo flyer for the CPR Star Trek playfield. Click for larger picture.

Shown below is a Diamond Select Enterprise model I got from Amazon. The bridge is a push button. With each push the model lights up for a moment and makes a sound effect or Captain Kirk quote. Push and hold the bridge for five seconds and the lights come on and stay on with no sound. That's how I use it. The product has some bad reviews that make some valid points. Mine arrived in nice shape. In a dimly lit gameroom it looks pretty good for an out of the box model. The display stand is crap. I added some screws to help hold it together. And I screwed the whole thing down to a small piece of plywood. It's still kind of wobbly for the top of a pinball machine. I may get some fishing line and hang it from the ceiling. The running lights blink and the engine nacelles fade between two or three colors. The three AAA batteries only last a day or so under continuous use. Maybe I'll add a power pack.

img

Diamond Select Enterprise model.

img

Topper, prototype backglass and prototype playfield plastics.