The Geek Christmas Tree 2004

Hallmark officially released its Christmas 2004 tree ornaments earlier this month, so naturally that brings to mind thoughts of what to do with this year’s edition of the Geek Tree.

For those who don’t know, the “Geek Tree” is my annual celebration of speculative fiction … in the form of a Christmas tree. Originally, all my sci-fi ornaments were on our one-and-only Christmas tree, but eventually I acquired so many of them that the tree sounded like a Star Trek-vs-Star Wars battleground every time you plugged it in. With my forces having all but assimilated the main tree, we decided it was time for a spin off, and the Geek Tree was born. You can learn more about the geek tree by reading Nuketown’s standing feature about it.

Hallmark’s Sci-Fi Armada

This year Hallmark has some excellent-looking speculative fiction ornaments. On the Star Wars side, they’ve got The Star Destroyer and Blockade Runner, which is a ornament depicting the classic opening scene from A New Hope. It’s got powered lights and a voice component — if you press a button, you hear C3PO and R2-D2 talk (what they say though, I don’t know).

The other notable Star Wars ornament is Chewbacca carrying the disassembled C3-PO from Empire Strikes Back. It’s a figurine, and thus unpowered, but ol’Goldenrod is always good for reflecting the lights around him.

There’s also an Anakin Skywalker figurine (presumably from The Clone Wars) but I’m not going to go out of my way to buy it; if I can find it for cheap after Christmas, I’ll pick it up.

On the Star Trek side of things, this year’s starship is the lackluster Vulcan Command Ship. While the sculpt itself is ok, and it is powered, I’m not a big fan of Enterprise. I’d much rather they have gone old school, and given us the Reliant or the Excelsior.

However, they do have a very cool speaking ornament this year: The City on the Edge of Forever. It depicts Kirk and Spock stepping out of the Guardian, and includes three audio clips from the episode. I haven’t seen an episode-based ornament like this before, and I hopeful they’ll do another next year.

Of Hobbits and Superheroes

The Geek Tree has a heavy science fiction bias, and as a result I’m looking to diversify it with ornaments from other genres. Hallmark’s helping with that as well – they’ve got a Frodo Baggins ornament, with everyone’s favorite hobbit holding his sword Sting and looking anxious. I saw the ornament in person two weeks ago, and wasn’t overly impressed with the paint job, but it’ll do.

A better ornament is this year’s Harry Potter sculpt, which features Harry reaching out his arm to catch his owl, Hedwig. Harry and the owl are separate ornaments (but sold together) and are very well done. The paint job is crisp, and the sculpt mimics the visual style of the first two Potter movies.

I don’t know if I’ll have enough cash left over to pick it up, but Hallmark’s Spider-man ornament would be a welcome addition to the Geek Tree. It features the superhero hanging from a large piece of webbing. It’s well done – lots of muscle detail and good coloration – but there’s only so much money I can spend on the Geek Tree in any give year.

Upgrading the Geek Tree

In other Geek Tree developments my mom’s creating a space-inspired skirt for the tree, which will undoubtedly kick up the geek factor another notch. I’ll also be looking for a larger artificial tree – my current one’s about 5 ft. tall and about 3 feet in diameter, but it’s getting way too crowded with 35+ geek ornaments, half of which are powered.

These are rather minor updates to the Geek Tree though. At some point, I still want to add a train set to the three – particularly the Harry Potter one — but I can’t see doing that until Jordan’s old enough not to Godzilla it.

Another possibility that I’ve been contemplating is some how Borgizing the tree and adding some interactive and/or computer controlled elements. I only have vague ideas of what I’d like to do, but I’m thinking along the lines of a Rube Goldberg-type device with elements moving up and down the tree. My favorite idea is to run some plastic tubing down around the tree and then launching Matchbox cars (or maybe Star Wars vehicles minis?) down through it.

I’d need some sort of lift to get the cars back to the top of the tube, but that might be doable using my LEGO Mindstorms “robot construction” set (which otherwise just sits in my office, unused). I could create a manually-controlled lift system to bring the car back to the top of the tree. It would be even cooler if I could get it to respond to the weight of the car landing on the platform, but I’m not sure if that’s doable with Mindstorms.

Another possibility, which would be considerably easier than the “tree tube” would be a “space elevator” for transporting LEGO astronauts up and down the Christmas tree. I know I have enough gears to make such a thing using Mindstorms, so it would just be a question of clearing enough space near the trunk for it to have room to work. I’d also probably need to buy some new space-themed LEGOS — all the ones I had as a kid are long, long gone.

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