STARDATE 66424.7: LT CMNDR WHATEVER REPORTING UNAUTHORIZED USE OF STARSHIP DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS STOLEN FROM THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS, ROMULAN EMPIRE AND BORG COLLECTIVE. SAID DESIGNS HAVE BEEN SENT BACK IN TIME TO NOSTALGIA HOUNDS AT HALLMARK AND USED FOR TACKY, OVERPRICED CHRISTMAS ACCESSORIES. SO UH I GUESS I’LL JUST TELL YOU ABOUT THEM?
Uh, right. So this all starts back in 1976, when Hallmark – already high on inventing extraneous holidays and cards to give them artificial meaning – entered the Christmas tree business with its first “Keepsake” ornament. I guess it sold well, because in 1979 the ornaments became annual treats for old people, suckers and the hopelessly nostalgic (all of whom we’ve conveniently catered to by adding Amazon links for each below!)
1991 saw the first Star Trek ornament, fittingly the original NCC-1701 Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D). By ’91 I was already a TNG fan, but not big on TOS, so this year’s ship went by without notice. Looking back now, it appears Leonard Nimoy himself hawked a 1992 Spock ornament.
Now, 1993 was where I jumped in. I was watching probably close to 10 episodes a week via reruns at new episodes of the 7th season, so when the Enterprise D arrived… well it had to be mine, along with all other ships from the fairly crappy Playmates line (though the ships were indeed cool). I’ve since photographed (aka clumsily shot with a phone) pics of my ornament collection hanging on the tree; here they are, because you’re very interested in this!
1993 – Enterprise D (TNG)
The main ship from The Next Generation, and the fifth Federation craft to bear the name Enterprise. So, the bit is you plug the dangling green cord into the lights, which then power the ornament; this can be simple stuff like lighting warp nacelles, or more elaborate things as the Keepsake series wears on. My favorite part of this ornament (other than the detailed sculpt) is the blinking light on the top of the saucer section; it simulates the blinking lights of aircraft in the night, which gives an extra sense of liveliness to your tree.
One of my favorites. The blinking light on the front of the craft is constantly active, so this is a rather hyperactive ornament. The ship itself is perhaps best known from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the one with the whales) or maybe as the ship that delivers the death blow to the aforementioned Enterprise D in Generations. The humps on the back of the ship are meant to look like linebackers huddled up, ready to hurl themselves at you at a moment’s notice. It’s such a strong, aggressive design that it lasted from the TOS times well into the TNG/DS9/VOY era some 70 years later. That’s like the military continuing to use P-51 Mustangs in 2010! The very idea!
1995 – Romulan Warbird (TNG)
First seen in the season one finale “The Neutral Zone,” this imposing ship is larger than the Enterprise and one of the ongoing aggressors of the series. Its unique build – with massive amounts of empty space in the middle – is suitably alien and the green color scheme is a great contrast to the red, white and blue Enterprise. Now, 1995 also introduced Picard and Kirk ornaments, but I dabbled in those only briefly and resumed focus on the ships.
Not long after the series began, its titular ship found its way into Hallmark stores with this lovely Voyager ornament. Unlike the real deal (or its Playmates equivalent), the nacelles do not move, though they do light up similarly to the Enterprise D.
1997 – USS Defiant (DS9)
At long last, Deep Space Nine sees some representation! The Defiant is the “tough little ship” seen in First Contact, and was in fact originally built in response to the looming Borg threat. On the show, however, it was mostly used in the Dominion War (a rather cool, serialized storyline that consumes seasons 4~7 of DS9); I also suspect it was created to get Sisko and the DS9 crew off the station, as seven seasons of holosuite malfunctions just ain’t gonna cut it.
Fun fact: This ornament has a voice clip of Worf that plays every time the tree is plugged in: “I wish you a most honorable holiday. Kapla.”
Bigger, faster and tougher than the D before it, the E debuts in First Contact and is the home of the TNG cast through Insurrection and Nemesis. This is a Sovereign class ship, as opposed to the Galaxy class of the D; it’s also flatter and sleeker than the D, perhaps just to look cooler on a movie screen?
Uh, so… this is a shuttlecraft used in Deep Space 9. Granted it’s “the” shuttlecraft of the show, but I mean, it’s a shuttle. Not a ship. This kinda turned me off the series, because there were plenty of other options to go through before settling on a puny shuttle. And now think of the scale! My tree was already on shaky ground with the Warbird and Defiant next to each other, but a runabout shuttle? C’mon!
Ah, much better! I’ve loved this function over form design ever since I first saw “Q Who,” a second season episode that actually creeped me out back in the day. The Borg are old hat now, but watch that episode and imagine them as a true unknown, a race that exists only to consume and grow with no regard for the individual. The haunting interior lights suggest something sinister inside.
But, as this is an ornament, you’re treated to “We are the Borg. Enjoy your holidays. Resistance is futile.
Whoa, OK – this is pretty damn cool. But for whatever reason, I didn’t get this in ’01, and only recently received it as a present. Part of my problem was that it required a base to do anything; the other ornaments lit up or spoke simply by being plugged in to the lights, while DS9 had to be connected to a battery powered base. To dangle from a tree, you have to give up the show. Fair enough I suppose, as the detail on this thing is fantastic.
This also sets a precedent for future ornaments; more and more often the ornament would require a base or batteries to trigger lights and sounds. The Delta Flyer, Vulcan Command Ship and Scorpion (among others) still light up, but this is the time period in which I completely lost track of the ornaments. Having seen every episode a dozen times, and with only one more movie on the horizon (2002’s dreadful Nemesis), my desire to keep amassing Trek stuff was waning.
2010 – USS Enterprise (JJ)
So nine years go by and I don’t buy a new ornament, missing quite a few decent sculpts in the process. The receipt of this 2010 ornament, based on the Enterprise from JJ Abrams’ alleged “Star Trek” movie, got me back on track. While I can talk about that movie forever (it’s a fine film, but it’s never once Star Trek and we don’t need MORE movies based on blowing shit up), the ship itself is cool. Pity though, the lights require tiny watch batteries and only activate when a button is pressed. Sure wish I had the option to leave ’em on…
OK, so the Klingons have a bird of prey, but the Romulans did it first back in TOS. The bird design on the bottom is faithfully recreated, but the best part is the blinding blue light that erupts from the nacelles:
It’s alarmingly bright. Like, really bright. But that makes it a standout ornament and it got me back on the bandwagon. I’ll be checking every year, once again, for new Trek ornaments.
Full circle; this year’s ornament is another Enterprise D for the 25th anniversary of The Next Generation. As an ornament, it sucks; it’s attached to a heavy base that makes it impractical to hang from a tree, and on its own it simply plays the entire opening Picard speech. I already have an Enterprise ornament, and I already have an Enterprise that delivers said speech, so this is pretty useless. I get it’s in the spirit of the anniversary, but as a collector… it’s not very worthwhile.
What a great ending point! Suffice to say I really enjoy collecting these things and this has made simply plugging in my tree a daily delight; the Borg, Worf and an errant Darth Vader all argue over each other with excessive holiday cheer, delivering a line that sounds something like “WE ARE THE BORG MOST HONORABLE HOLIDAY BUT YOU ARE NOT A JEDI YET.”