Monday, October 13, 2014

If It Were An Animated Series Episode . . . “The Devil In The Dark” Ornament Underwhelms!

The Good: Iconic moment, Good sound clip, Generally good sculpt
The Bad: Spock doesn't look quite right, Expensive, Very simplistic coloring
The Basics: Hallmark’s latest diorama ornament focuses on “The Devil In The Dark” and is much more like a cartoon version of the characters than it ought to be.

The Star Trek diorama ornaments are conceptually wonderful, but frequently suffer on living up to the promise of the moments created given that they usually have detailing needs finer than the sculptors or colorists at Hallmark are able to manage. This year’s Star Trek diorama ornament suffers from that problem for sure! For 2014, Hallmark chose “The Devil In The Dark” as the subject of their second most expensive Star Trek ornament of the year. Unfortunately, the color detailing is simplistic and it undermines the entire ornament.

For those unfamiliar with the episode, "The Devil In The Dark" (reviewed here!), is the classic episode where the Enterprise tries to help out a mining colony that is under siege from a supposedly vicious killer. The crew discovers that the killer is a silicon-based life form that is trying to protect its eggs. Because it is unable to communicate, save through crudely spraying acid into the rock face it burrows through, Spock has to mind-meld with the entity, the Horta, in order to communicate with it. It is Spock in the middle of the mind-meld that is the subject of the “The Devil In The Dark” ornament!

To add extra value to this ornament, Hallmark provided this ornament with an impressive sound chip.


The "The Devil In The Dark" ornament recreates the moment Spock is crouched before the Horta, hands extended trying to mind-meld with the entity. The Horta is detailed to include the big wound on the side of it, from Spock and Kirk’s phaser cut. The ornament, released in 2014, is a good rendition of the Horta, though the ornament is not as finely detailed as the new 6” action figure of the same moment, which has the fringe on the edges of the Horta, as appropriate for the creature. The ornament has good detailing for the Horta’s eggs, but the ground, Horta, and Spock are very animated in their appearance. Hallmark makes up for that with a great sound chip.

Hallmark clearly made an effort on the characters as Spock on this ornament is detailed with accurate rank insignia, phaser on the belt, and division badges. Measuring 2 1/2" tall, 4 1/2" wide and 2 1/4” deep, the "The Devil In The Dark" ornament is a larger Star Trek ornament and with the sound feature, it is one of the more pricey ones in the collection with an original issue price of $29.95.

The Hallmark "The Devil In The Dark" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the Vulcan and Horta next to one another with the Horta an amorphous blob on a very simplistic patch of ground and Spock crouching and reaching out to it. The ground has the “No Kill I” etched into it, as is appropriate.

The Horta's detailing is good, save for the coloring. There is no realism to the flesh color on Spock and the coloring is oversimplified so Spock has an annoyingly animated look to him. The fact that his face is not at all green tinted is not going to please the die-hard fans. Similarly, the Horta has a monotonal orange color for its rocky flesh broken up by simplistic grays for its veins.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "The Devil In The Dark" has only a sound effect. This ornament operates on an independent battery so one does not need to position it near a light strand on their tree. Because there is no special light function in the scene, it makes perfect sense that there is no light effect on the “The Devil In The Dark” ornament.

On the ornament, there is a small button on the front of the ground portion that, when pressed, activates the sound chip. The sound chip contains actual dialogue of Spock crying out during the mind-meld scene in “The Devil In The Dark.” Featuring the actual voice clip from Leonard Nimoy, the ornament sounds great and realistic!


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "The Devil In The Dark" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "The Devil In The Dark" ornament is a high priced option and most fans will find is to be an extravagant and unnecessary one. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the Horta. This is fairly obtrusive, though it is necessary for the ornament.

Despite the loop's position, this is an amazingly well-balanced ornament. It hangs level, so the ground of the alien planet is flat and one has a decent perspective of the moment the ornament portrays. The balance being this good is uncommon for this type of Hallmark ornament, so Hallmark is clearly learning from their past missteps.


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 (reviewed here!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships and many of the characters from the franchise and they have all been more mass produced than that first one. "The Devil In The Dark" ornament has been selling steadily since, but it still seems unlikely that this will be an ornament that sells out before the holidays. Most fans bought it early and while serious investors might be hoping to get them on clearance, the quality of the ornament suggests that fans who did not buy it immediately are unlikely to feel the need for it, even at a discounted price.

I’m betting against the longterm investment potential of the “The Devil In The Dark” ornament because it seems like whatever does not sell before the post-holiday discounting is not likely to appeal to collectors anyway.


A return to mediocre form on the Star Trek diorama ornaments, the “The Devil In The Dark” ornament is a far cry from a must-buy Star Trek ornament, despite having a pretty cool sound clip and a good concept.

For other Star Trek diorama Hallmark ornaments reviews, please check out my reviews of:
2013 "Arena" ornament
2012 "An Extraordinary Meeting" Star Trek ornament
2011 "Mirror, Mirror" ornament
2010 "Amok Time" ornament
2009 "The Menagerie" ornament
2004 "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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