First Officer’s log. I am being held captive by the Kzinti, an aggressive feline species with the worst fashion sense in the sector. They intercepted our shuttlecraft and seized highly sought-after cargo — Adabox #1242. What IS it with cats and boxes?
It’s a simple matter of economics that retail mass-produced costumes and props will always be the popular main characters.
3D printing and electronics affords us the opportunity to faithfully cosplay the “deep cuts” — supporting or background characters with little screen time that never got a Funko POP! of their own. Everyone has an odd favorite…Willrow Hood from The Empire Strikes Back is now a cosplay staple, eventually earning his own action figure. But most remain obscure.
Episode 14 of Star Trek: The Animated Series was notable for its crossover with episode writer Larry Niven’s Known Space universe. The show’s depiction of his Kzinti species — bloodthirsty, warlike humanoid cats — was hard to take seriously with their pink space unitards. The entire Animated Series was a bit peculiar that way, seldom seen for a while with a few curmudgeons even debating its canonicity, but has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence since.
The MacGuffin of this episode was a powerful alien weapon that could change function and shape. It seemed like a fun idea for a DIY project — one design for electronics and code, two different props. The show’s weapon is seen transmogrifying among nine shapes, but time and space are finite…we picked just a couple favorites that struck a nice balance: the “talking computer” and “total conversion beam.” If you’re handy with 3D modeling, you could try for some of the others.
If you’re not looking for a Star Trek prop, the circuit and code might be helpful as a starting point for your own ideas!
“Strange, how the past sometimes breaks through into the present” — Spock
Two 3D-printable models are provided on a later page. If you’d simply like a passive prop without lights or sound, that might be all you need, perhaps adding a subset of components (unsoldered) to fill in some spaces. If you’d like to go all-out though…
In addition to the electronic components listed below, the project requires a soldering iron and related paraphernalia, wire cutter/stripper, and some heat-shrink tubing for insulating some of the connections.
There’s also some hardware and fasteners needed:
Hardware for Total Conversion Weapon
- 5x M3 x 10mm pan head screws
Hardware for Talking Computer
- 4x M3 x 4mm pan head screws
- 2x M3 x 6mm pan head screws
- 2x M3 hex nuts
Hardware for Both Props
- 2x M2 x 10mm pan head screws
- 4x M2.5 x 8mm pan head screws
- 2x M2.5 x 10mm pan head screws
- 6x M2.5 hex nuts
- 3x M3 x 12mm pan head screws
Assembly and finishing also requires one or more adhesives — the exact choice(s) will depend what you have around and are comfortable working with, so be prepared to improvise. This might involve cyanoacrylate (e.g. “Krazy Glue”), 5-minute epoxy, craft glue (e.g. E-6000), and/or hot glue. You can touch up some of the details with craft paint if you like, but this isn’t required. Set realistic expectations for build time…you might need to set the project aside while glue dries or you need to go buy overlooked nuts or screws.
Parts below are needed for each of the two props. If building just one or the other, a single set is sufficient. If building both, double up. The last few items are only needed for the talking computer prop; they can be omitted for the total conversion beam.
Key switches are only needed for the “talking computer” prop. The “total conversion beam” does not require them:
The “talking computer” prop will require two sets of these key caps, since they’re sold in sets of 5. The “total conversion weapon” does not require them:
If you already have a healthy assortment of wire, this silicone ribbon cable isn’t required. We like it because you can peel away one or groups of wires as needed. It’s handy for the keypad part of the prop!