Despite the thoughts Mark Frost has expressed on the use of the word “canon” within Twin Peaks, there is a certain set of media released during the original series run that are generally considered as such by the fans. These would be (in order) The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (Jan 1990), “Diane…” The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper (Oct 1990), The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes (May 1991), and Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town (June 1991). The one that often gets overlooked, however, is the set of Star Pics trading cards for the series.
Released in April of 19911, these cards came out just before the end of the second season. They were out before both of the books released that year, My Life, My Tapes and the Access Guide, but they actually mention both by name. All three were part of a coordinated media campaign planned around the end of the second season. All three include elements of the second season, but nothing from the end of the series. The latest mention of season 2 within the cards is from episode 11 (cards #66 and #67).
There are 76 cards total, with a mix of characters, points of interest, things, famous dialogue, and a few (OK, maybe quite a few) filler cards to round it out. Most have a picture on the front, and then a thumbnail negative of that picture on the back. Representing that everyone and everything in the town of Twin Peaks has a light and a dark side? Hmm.. perhaps.
Each of the character cards feature Accomplishments, Strengths and Weaknesses on the back, given in first person as if in the character’s own words. They also include character stats of Birth Date, Sign (astrological), Likes, Education and Actor. So there’s this mix of info from within and without the world of the show. Card #71, Production Notes, indicates that the birth dates were “determined” by Bill Herbst, a practicing astrologist of 20 years. So make of them what you will, but for example, they did use the same birthdate for Agent Cooper in his autobiography.
On the back of each of the item cards they list the Episode(s) in which the item was featured and its Significance. The Episode information is a bit suspect, for example, the Tape Recorder is said to be in “All” episodes and off the top of my head I find that highly suspect. The Points Of Interest give a little history and the location on the map. The Famous Quotes give the quote, episode and description of the scene.
Two older web sites, LynchNet2 and Glastonberry Grove3, detail the contents of each card. (Near as I can tell, one of them copied the other’s content, as both have the same intro, word for word.) Both include the picture on the front and the full text from the back of each card. Back in 2015, the Sparkwood & 21 podcast4 did a bonus episode dedicated to the cards, in which they read most of them out loud. So for this article, I’m not going to detail out every card in the deck, but I will touch on a few highlights, both relevant and silly.
- Card #7 – Cherry Pie – There’s a real cherry pie recipe spelt out on this card which I’ve heard is actually a good one (some other podcast host actually made a pie following the recipe).
- Card #8 – Sheriff’s Station – It’s mentioned here and also on Sheriff Truman’s card that he only became the sheriff six years prior. Perhaps setting up something for the season 3 that never happened?
- Card #12 – Deputy Hawk – Hawk is portrayed as being from the Zuni tribe/reservation, which is in New Mexico in the real world. The Secret History has done a little retcon on this and made him part of the Nez Perce tribe, who play a prominent role in the historical portions of the dossier.
- Card #14 – Laura Palmer – As a “Like”, she lists “potato pancakes with creamed corn topping”. That’s kind of gross in both the real world and in the Black Lodge.
- Card #16 – James Hurley – Even though he was a senior, not yet graduated, James lists graduating as a “major accomplishment”. In fact, didn’t he ride off into the sunset?
- Card #21 – Pierre Tremond – Interestingly, he is listed as “one of the youngest Master Magicians”, with a dislike of creamed corn. This information would counter at least a few fan theories about the Tremonds, I’d think. While he is unnamed in the series, he is also given the name Pierre in the Secret Diary. On the silly side, however, his Education is listed as “Twin Peaks Elementary School”.
- Card #23 – Pete Martell – Under Accomplishments, he claims to have caught a 10’9”, 364-pound sturgeon in Black Lake. My first thought was that this was a classic “fish tale”, but they really can get that big, and bigger even. Whoa.
- Card #35 – Leo Johnson – He lists, as one of his Accomplishments, that he was a hall monitor in high school. Ah yes, so close to a career in law enforcement.
- Card #37 – Ed Hurley – His profile says that in the famous 1968 high school football season, their record was 8-0-1, confirming the story in the Access Guide, but in opposition to the new version in The Secret History (where they lost the final game).
- Card #43 – Log – Says the log was given to Margaret by her husband as a wedding gift. Did not know that (or if I did, I had forgotten it).
- Card #45 – One-Eyed Jacks – The ladies working there are known as the “52 Pick-Up Girls”. Thus the playing card motif when Audrey was there undercover. Clever.
- Card #54 – Jean Renault – His education is listed as “Quebec Reform School”. No, really, it is. Did I forget to mention that some of the writing here is a bit sub-par?
- Card #55 – “The Giant” – The Giant’s education is listed as “White Lodge”. I think we mostly knew that he was an agent of the White Lodge, but there it is in writing (of sorts).
- Card #58 – “Killer BOB” – Says Bob has existed (“survived”, to be more specific) “as long as man has been on earth”. He is “able to inhabit human souls and, through them, act out evil”. So according to this, he’s never been a real person.
- Card #60 – Sarah Palmer – She reminds us that she sees things and has a sixth sense. Remember that in the final episode, Dr Jacoby brought her to Major Briggs to deliver a message from someone who was “in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper”? She also says she is “too dependent on sedatives”. Perhaps to dull the voices in her head?
- Card #61 – Ceiling Fan – Mentions the Twin Peaks Gazette. Not sure if this is just newspaper in the Twin Peaks universe, or the one other tidbit of pseudo-canonical information, the limited-edition newsletter of the same name that was sent only to members of the fan club.
- Card #64 – Major Briggs – Claims to have flown a twin-engine plane solo at the age of 8. Uh, yeah, right.
- Card #65 – Owl – It is pointed out that of the three clues the Giant gave Cooper, he still had yet to find out what “the owls are not what they seem” means. I think that may still stand true.
- Card #67 – “DON’T LET ‘EM RATTLE YOU…” – States that “Cooper’s former partner, Windom Earle (who sadly does not have his own card), is being sent to Twin Peaks to conduct an FBI Internal Affairs investigation on Cooper”. Well, *that*story sure did get changed up when it was filmed later.
Overall, I’m extremely pleased to have this as a collectable item. The original listing price in 1991 was $20, and I got my “like new” set for $25 on Amazon, so I consider it money well spent. Not unlike the recent Secret History book, there are discontinuities with the series, and even with the co-created Agent Cooper autobiography and town Access Guide. Some of this could be chalked up to them be developed from early scripts that were modified during filming, maybe a little creative license even, but it also could have been laying the groundwork for a third season that never came to be. Whatever the answer, it just gives me a bit of giddy, schoolboy excitement to hold these cards in my hand. In their protective plastic sleeves, of course.
Footnotes and Links:
- Chicago Tribune article on the release of the cards: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-25/features/9102060657_1_twin-peaks-trading-cards-log-lady-fbi-agent-dale-cooper
- LynchNet’s “Twin Peaks Star Pics Cards” page: http://www.lynchnet.com/tp/tpcards.html
- Glastonberry Grove’s “Twin Peaks Star Pics Cards” page: http://www.glastonberrygrove.net/texts/cards/
- Sparkwood & 21’s bonus podcast: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/no-ship-network/the-sparkwood-and-21-podcast/e/twin-peaks-sparkwood-and-21-bonus-podcast-the-twin-peaks-trading-40535716