Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fave Five: 70s SCI-FI SIDEARMS

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.


  1. Now I want to see the video of all these weapons in action.

  2. There were a lot of ray guns used in Dr Who in the 70's and while they didn't make the impression of say these because they were normally only in one story they were well designed for the most part. The Dalek Gun with its horrid moving center section and negative transforming ray deserves notice, and the transparent guns in "Blakes 7" and the Federation weapons in that also bear notice

  3. This pretty much matches what my top five would have been perfectly.

  4. I can argue with this list at all, especially number one. My second favorite overall Sci Fi sidearm after the TOS Phaser. The third is the LIS laser pistol.

  5. The four-barrel setting for the Alpha laser was used only once, in the Year Two episode "All That Glisters"

    While the weapon's design is kool, the animated ray effect is...well...weird!
    It looks like it was doodled on the film cells!

  6. Now these are just pistols, are we going to see rifles?

    My list would have Solo's blaster at 2 and a Trek phaser at 1, but that's just personal preference. ;)

    Great post BTW!

  7. While it's far from the 1970s, the Captain Pike Star Trek "Laser" is one of my favorite designs, and it bugs me that Enterprise used "Phase Pistols" that were not even remotely ancestral to it. http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/gallery/artoftrek/wahchang-laser.jpg

  8. I think that you nailed it! All of these would have made my top 5 list. Great job!

    And worst gun? Right here:

  9. I haven't seen The Black Hole, but I totally agree with all the other four weapons on this list.

    As for the concept of rifles, these are only 'sidearms', rifles are a different concept. (wicked grin)

    I always thought that the 'staple-gun' weapon was adjustable with different degrees of stun, but had for barrels for maximum targeting effect. The guards and the senior personnel never seemed to practice marksmanship, so that is possibly not something done in Space: 1999. Not practical, of course.

    Gordon Long

  10. Great list! My faves are The Black Hole sentry gun, the Sandman pistol from Logan's Run and the Moonbase Alpha "staplegun" laser.

  11. The LOGAN'S RUN 1977-78 television series enhanced the 1976 DS Gun's capabilities by adding colored laser beams that blue laser beam can freeze-stun a person, a red laser beam can kill/disintegrate a person and the original flash blast from the 1976 movie too.

  12. Your top two pics are mine also ... good choices. Space 1999 had so much style ... to bad the stories didn't receive as much thought (esp. season 2). Don't get me wrong I love the show but clearly the visuals were more thought out than the scripts

  13. I don't know if I'd list the Cygnus Sentry weapon as among my favorites, but it was certainly different. The animators had to coach the actors how to sight down the weapon towards their target, as they were aiming all over the place, which would have resulted in beams coming off the emitters at strange angles. Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms) was a wild west gunman—just as bad as George Takei loose on the STAR TREK set with a fencing foil. (Photo from CINEFANTASTIQUE vol 9 no 3 / vol 9 no 4)


    For anyone interested in sci-fi firearms modified on real weapons (like STAR WARS, ROBOCOP, SERENITY, etc.), check out the Internet Movie Firearms Database:


  14. Hello Mr. Mills!
    Aside from the SPACE:1999 "STUNGUN", another too rare and seldom seen or mentioned weapon is the "PARAGUN" from the 13 episode 1970's sci-fi series "STAR MAIDENS", which made the exact way cool second season firing sound (!) of the SPACE:1999 "STUN GUN" seen and heard in the second season of that show!
    The designer of the STAR MAIDENS "PARAGUN OR STUN GUN" (it was called that as well) was non other than the famed Space:1999 production designer KEITH WILSON! Check that out!

  15. As I've explained before: aside from UFO and Space: 1999, I am woefully unfamiliar with pretty much all other 70s British sci-fi. I've never so much as seen an episode of Blake's 7, Star Maidens, etc.

    As for Doctor Who - I am a fan (in fact, I spent the afternoon watching "Snakedance"), but I didn't see an episode until well into my 20s.

  16. The three episodes of Blake's Seven that I saw made it seem like a good show, with production values not too different from Tom Baker-era Who. But because it was a ongoing series as opposed to a show with standalone episodes (like Star Trek), it was harder to get into it. Sadly, I don't recall them very well, just like I barely recall the one episode of The Starlost I saw.

    Gordon Long

  17. It's funny you mention the guns on Battlestar Galactica not firing animated laserbeams. The actual reason for this is not well known, but when Galactica was in preproduction, Glen A. Larson was given a list of terms by Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz intended to prevent a lawsuit over copyright infringement. One of these stipulations was not to show animated beams streaking from any handheld weapons, and that's why a quartz flare effect was used in all the early episodes. When Universal got sued anyway, this list was no longer considered important, and so animated lasers were seen in some later episodes of the original show (starting with War of the Gods pt. 2) and later, Galactica 1980.

  18. Some of the weapons from Blake's 7 were really cool and very Star Wars-inspired. If you don't mind heavy spoilers, you can see some of them showcased in the final clips of the finale.


  19. Logically, the bright muzzle flash on the Colonial Laser would ruin a Warrior's night vision and make them an excellent target for return fire. But it sure looks cool!

  20. I always loved the Colonial Warrior blaster and the sentry guns from Black Hole. I think the type II phaser would have edged out the Sandman gun.

    I have a special place in my heart for Jason's pistol in the animated series, Battle of the Planets, or Gatchaman if you use the original Japanese series name.

  21. I also thought the Sentry guns were very cool. I'd probably say the Star Wars guns are my favorites, but that seems almost too easy.

  22. My all-time favorite sci-fi sidearm is the aliens laser pistol from V and V: The Final Battle. These were modeled after a German Lugar and were very impressive in their detailing and color. I own one which was purchased for me by a model company called MARCO, but I undertsand him to be out of business. Too bad. I would have ordered another one from him.

  23. I just thought someone ought to actively berate you for excluding the star Trek phaser.
    The phaser I is notable as a derringer like palm-gun which is kinda neat. A flattened teardrop that fits nicely in the hand... sacrificing accuracy and, presumably, power/capacity for extreme portability and unobtrusiveness.
    The phaser I fits into the phaser II frame - becoming a full size pistol.
    Looks good. Seems believable.

  24. I'm very sorry. I forgot this is the internet.
    Please take it as written that I consider you several kinds of vulgar things and that you are obviously of subnormal intelligence for excluding my favorite imaginary handgun from your list.
    Anyway, consider yourself berated. And thanks for your time.

  25. I remember having one of those Starlog (?) special issues that was all about weapons, and had blueprints of some of them and such. I seem to recall that it described (and depicted in the diagramme)the Sandman pistol as firing magnesium pellets, as opposed to being a beam weapon.

    1. That's certainly what it appeared to be in the film (magnesium pellets), but it was definitely portrayed as a multi-ray weapon on the TV series.

  26. I think you got the order about right. The Space 1999 stun gun was the best, most futuristic looking weapon. And Logan's weapon was definitely a close runner up. These were the weapons I was most interested in playing wtih as a star kid.

  27. If anyone's still there. Yes, I'M in my 40's, i remember have some of this stuff as a kid!!! I had a lot of Space 1999 toys. I had the cool alpha laser pistol, toys from UFO, Star Trek TOS, some old Battlestar stuff, and of course Classic star wars toys. I wish my mother never gave this stuff away, or threw any of it out. They would have been worth MONEY!!! And Now as adult who likes prop designs. I have an affinity for J.J. abrams pulsed blaster like phaser... They choreographed that Klingon phaser-disruptor firefight for* star trek into darkness* really well! And that bodes well for star wars fans!"