Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hallmark's Annual Exploitation Of Trekkers Yields A Wonderful Ornament In 2009: Klingon Battlecruiser!

The Good: Amazing detail, Good light effects, Excellent balance
The Bad: No sound chip, A bit obscure for casual fans, Expensive!
The Basics: Fans of science fiction will be able to flesh out their Christmas tree with Hallmark's wonderful Star Trek starship ornament, the overpriced Klingon Battlecruiser ornament!

I have very little in the way of cultural identification, yet I am an avid Trekker and in the last few years, I have found that I have become strangely protective of my culture. I look for ways that the mainstream exploits the group I most closely associate with and lately, there have been some disturbingly obvious ways this happens. Last year, when I was shopping for Christmas ornaments, I could not help but notice that the first one I wanted to get and review was almost ten dollars more than every comparable ornament. While CBS/Paramount has outrageous licensing fees, I know this is only part of the story and that Hallmark Keepsake, which is the maker of the Klingon Battlecruiser ornament, is out to make money off Star Trek fans in a way that they aren't convinced they can make it off Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Gone With The Wind fans.

For those unfamiliar with the Klingon Battlecruiser, this version of the Klingon starship was introduced at the very beginning of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (click here for my review of the film!). Last year was the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of that film, which is why the Klingon Battlecruiser got ornament treatment before the NX-01 Enterprise. The Klingon Battlecruiser was commanded by a Klingon played by Mark Lenard and this was a vastly more detailed starship than the blockish initial Klingon ship from the Star Trek television show. Hallmark Keepsake does an amazing job of creating a detailed, well-colored ornament, even if they do make the consumer pay through the nose for it.


The "Klingon Battlecruiser" ornament faithfully recreates the cinematic Klingon starship in solid gray plastic. Highlighted almost every few millimeters, the Klingon Battlecruiser looks heavily armored and assembled. The ornament, released in 2009, is an impressive casting of the somewhat obscure starship with an immaculate paint job and decent-enough light feature. Measuring thirteen and a half centimeters long, nine centimeters wide and four centimeters tall, the Klingon Battlecruiser ornament is a welcome addition to the Star Trek ornament line, though only true fans of the franchise will easily recognize it. Hallmark, like many manufacturers, seems to have failed to anticipate how huge last year's Star Trek was going to be and as a result went with this ship instead of the new cinematic Enterprise as seen in the new film. As a result, even as they charge an arm and a leg for this ornament (retail is $32.00!), the ship has a light effect, but no sound chip. Given how conservatively even Star Trek fans seem to be buying this before the holidays, it might be better to wait until after Christmas and get this one on clearance!

The Hallmark "Klingon Battlecruiser" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the starship on its own, as is typical for Hallmark's starship line of Star Trek ornaments. Like the previous Star Trek ornament releases, this one has the date stamped on it, though this year it was actually molded subtly into the ship. The 2009 date is subtly visible on the bottom, aft section of the ship's engineering section. Stamped as it is, it it thoroughly unobtrusive. This ornament includes the 1.5V LR41 batteries to power the ship for the light effect.

The Klingon Battlecruiser is detailed incredibly, at least as much as is appropriate. The Klingon Battlecruiser had a few sections of baffle panels and nooks and crannies and the Klingon Battlecruiser has each and every one meticulously detailed on the ornament. This ship looks powerful and durable and appropriately colored all over. Hallmark got this ship absolutely right! As well, the Klingon Battlecruiser has all of the appropriate markings, like the Klingon symbol and writing on the upper "wings."

As well, there are molded details, like the top weapon's array having extraordinary boning! This starship looks great; Hallmark did a pretty impressive job with getting the details on this ornament just right for the exacting collectors and fans.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "Klingon Battlecruiser" has a light function, but sadly, no audio one. This was one of the many Star Trek ornaments to light up, but not play a sound clip. The ship is powered by 1.5V batteries which fit into the engineering hull. There is a panel that requires a screwdriver to open. The ornament comes with the appropriate batteries and I spoke with a clerk at the store who said that they have not had to change the batteries in their display ship despite the fact that the ornament has been on the shelves since July (of last year, when these were new and I actually had the conversation)! Given how many times I poked and prodded the display, I think this is one of the more energy-efficient Hallmark Star Trek ornaments!

After the batteries are installed and the battery compartment is closed, there is a button on the underside of the aft section of the ship that lights the Klingon Battlecruiser up. Pressing the button activates the light effects for the Klingon Battlecruiser and as it is individually powered, it does a pretty decent job of lighting the whole ship up well. The light effects on this starship ornament are remarkably simple; the photon torpedo tube at the ship's front, the aft section box (aft-section phaser array, if I'm not mistaken), and the impulse engine lights in the back all light up red. Given that the Klingon Battlecruiser had little else in the way of running lights, this one looks quite good and brutally efficient with its solid red lighting.

It is a little disappointing with the Klingon Battlecruiser not having any sound effect, but it is still a pretty cool ornament and the lighting accents the military darkness of the ship well.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Klingon Battlecruiser" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "Klingon Battlecruiser" ornament is a great addition, despite its under-representation within the franchise. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the craft, right on the engineering hull.

Fortunately, the Klingon Battlecruiser is perfectly balanced. Hung from the hook, it hangs almost perfectly level and it looks great as it does. The only time it is likely to rock, wobble or move is when the button is pushed to activate the light effect.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for that review!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships from the franchise- as well as some real minor ones - and they have all been more mass produced than that first one. The "Klingon Battlecruiser" ornament seems to be fairly overproduced and while Hallmark may have overestimated the interest in the obscure starship in the general populace, it is likely to get bought up by the end of the season. One suspects, though, this will not be one of the Star Trek ornaments that appreciates well for some time, especially given its initial expense.


Star Trek fans are truly being exploited with the price of this obscure starship ornament (the average price of other major-franchise ornaments that made sounds were still under twenty-five dollars!), but fans get a lot for their money in terms of quality. Despite the problems with it, it is rare to find a detailed ornament that is this well-balanced and well-made. Worth the attention of fans, if not the general populace.

For other ship ornaments from Hallmark, please check out my reviews of:
2010 U.S.S. Enterprise (Star Trek refit)
2005 U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A
1992 Shuttlecraft Galileo


For other ornament reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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