This is part of a series analyzing newly discovered Wing Commander IV continuity photographs. You can find the previous posts collected here.
Today we're giving you two Polaroids for the price of one! What's going on here? You're seeing two different pirate characters--Pirate and Pirate Ace--played by the same actor for their video loops. In the game, these appear as a total of six different video loops (three for each) that can have any pirate dialogue played over them (taunts, death screams, etc.). We can't confirm that the voice work, recorded later, was actually the credited actor, Todd Kimsey (despite being labeled 'Pirate #4' on both Polaroids, he's listed as only Pirate in the game's credits and no others appear in live action footage.) It's amazing how the amount of costume work you see in those photos ultimately becomes about five seconds of monochrome footage that ends up intentionally blurred and distorted!
This is the first close look we've ever had at the pirate costumes which appeared only in the VDU. And while they're simple robes they have some pretty interesting details that aren't in frame in the finished game! Both pirates feature previously unseen gold insignia on their chests. The helmets are existing Confederation pilots smeared with red and black paint to show off that they've been roughly lilberated from their original wearers. The first pirate's helmet (which IS visible in the game and which has appeared in other surviving pictures) has 'ROBERTS' crossed out and 'TRASHED' scrawled above it. The other simply blacks out the entire front of the helmet. The ace pilot also wears a set of more familiar insignias: Confederation pilot wings and three military ribbons worn on the wrong side. If, like many of the ribbons used in the production, they are real world military surplus then they're likely the Republic of Vietnam Staff Service Medal (Second class), Joint Meritorious Unit Award and Army of Occupation Medal.
In another bit of luck, Origin saved slightly higher color photos of both pirate VDUs while doing pre-production research on possible helmet designs for Wing Commander Prophecy. It's interesting to see that the pirate fighters are actually backlit with a bright green color:
Actor Todd Kimsey would go on to see plenty of success for nearly two decades following Wing Commander, performing numerous TV and film roles including the 2001 Planet of the Apes reboot. He's is certainly best recognized as Elaine's communist boyfriend in an episode of Seinfeld. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2016 at age 54 after a battle with lymphoma. You can learn more about his life at a memorial page hosted by alma mater, Davidson College. Once again, it's terribly sad to find that another Wing Commander veteran has passed away without having had their work really recognized.