TV is cheap. While a two hour sci-fi movie may get tens of millions of dollars and months of pre-production time to build an immersive world of futuristic technology, a TV sci-fi has to do the same thing on a shoestring. And it has to do it for 45 minutes every week.
Of course props are thrown together from whatever can be found at a hardware store with bits of Airfix models glued on. Not everything can be custom designed and built from scratch.
The best corner cutting method of all, though, is just to use whatever you've got lying around already. That space age medical scanner from a few episodes ago? We don't need that any more? Great, now it's a laser gun for this week's story.
And, while we're in the reduce, reuse, recycle spirit, what about all those other shows with props that they're no longer using? They're probably just gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere. They'd just be going to waste if you didn't give them another TV airing.
Yes, whether it's digging up something second hand from a warehouse, constantly picking on the same stock prop design, or giving a long second life to what was once an inanimate big screen star, TV loves a spot of prop recycling. Here are ten of the best examples.
10. Dippy Duck Lamp
Prominent prop recycling may typically be the preserve of high budget genres like sci-fi or period dramas, but the humble sitcom is not immune. Not even the most acclaimed sitcom of the 90s.
Domestic sets in sitcoms are often redressed in the same furniture already used on other shows. It's just that typically it's generic enough furnishings that nobody notices. It is only the quirkier, more personal decor that needs to be custom built for audiences not to end up wondering where they've seen it before.
Case in point: the apartment of the title character's nemesis Newman in Seinfeld. Prominent among the malevolent mailman's oddball furnishings is a lamp sat behind his couch. It's shaped like a cartoon duck, but it isn't Donald, Daffy or any of the other familiar canon of real cartoon ducks.
In fact you'd be forgiven for not recognising "Dippy", the cartoon duck forming the base of the lamp, at all; given he was the star of an unsuccessful show within another unsuccessful show.
The prop was originally made for The Duck Factory, an earlier NBC sitcom from 1984. Only running for one season, the largely forgotten show followed the misadventures of a struggling indie animation studio, featuring real voice actors and snippets of animation of the company's signature character Dippy.
The Duck Factory's legacy is negligible, but at least it kicked off a more successful career for two of its principles: star Jim Carrey, for whom it was his first Hollywood role, and this lamp which made the big time with a part in a hit sitcom!