So, via USA Today this week, Playmates Toys has leaked the first product photos of their items from the upcoming Star Trek movie. It’s an interesting cross-section to say the least: the figures are in multiple scales (though it seems to be clear that only one of these scales will have any significant number of characters in it). Let’s see what’s up in the world of Trek toys these days.
First off, I consider it a gigantic disappointment that, once again, Playmates is going with a completely different scale than what they’ve done before. Their line of figures from TNG, the original Star Trek, DS9 and Voyager hovered around a 4″ scale – bigger than Kenner/Hasbro’s Star Wars figures, smaller than, say, the 5″-ish Doctor Who figures. It was a fairly unique scale that was adhered to until the Star Trek: First Contact figures were released in a 6″ scale, which Playmates gradually switched to entirely. There were now characters available in one scale that weren’t available in the other – more than a little bit frustrating since vehicles, playsets, etc. were also incompatible with the new scale.
Playmates will be doing three scales of figures from the new movie: the 3 3/4″ (i.e. Star Wars/Indiana Jones sized) “Galaxy Collection”, each of which comes with a section of a slightly flimsy looking Enterprise bridge playset; the 6″ collection, and the aimed-at-collectors 12″ “Command Collection.” It looks as though the Galaxy Collection will feature the greatest number of figures, taking in nearly the entire Enterprise command crew; with the collect-and-build bridge, this range strikes me as the most appealing. However, I have to count big points off for the smaller scale; part of the appeal of a new line of Star Trek figures, by the same company that made them throughout the 1990s, was the hope that the new movie characters would be compatible with the old. The size was probably chosen to keep the collect-and-build bridge chunks down to a reasonable size and cost, but I’m still a little bitter that I can’t put “young” Spock and “oldest” Spock next to “Cage” Spock, “original series” Spock, “Motion Picture” Spock and “Unification” Spock without it looking ridiculous. This is the scale I’m most likely to spring for, but even then, there’s a part of me that’s thinking I might just take a pass on the whole collection. There’s one other thing that bugs me: there are so many manned bridge stations that it’ll be intersting to see if we ever actually get enough characters to fill them all. This issue is a recurring one; Mego’s 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture bridge playset also featured more seats than there were ever characters to fill them.
The other playset that we’ve gotten to see a sneak peek of is the “operational” transporter room playset, packed-in with Scotty seated at his console. Between the bridge and the transporter room, I like the look of the new Enterprise – at least in toy form – better than I did from the glimpses in the trailers. The big honking bucket seats and red flooring – assuming that those are indeed indicative of what the sets look like when you have time to actually study them in detail – are a nice throwback to the original series. The transporter playset itself looks like it’s probably a reworking of the TNG transporter playset, which I didn’t pick up the first time around; barring some irritating marketing decision such as making the Scotty figure unavailable any other way, I’ll probably pass on beaming up this time too.
The exterior of the Enterprise, on the other hand, is a whole different story; 14 inches long and featuring a ball-and-socket jointed display stand allowing the movie Enterprise to be positioned in just about any way that doesn’t overbalance it in any direction, it’s clear that this is one area where Playmates took a good long look at what Art Asylum has been doing for the past ten or so years since Playmates gave up on the Trek license. This is the one item I’m almost certain to buy.
Role-playing items such as the new phaser, communicator and medical tricorder are in the offing too, though my first impression of that phaser is that it leaves a lot to be desired: something about the clear pieces just screams “cheap imported spark gun” to me. At the time Playmates released its excellent range of full-size-or-somewhere-near-it TNG phasers, tricorders, etc., I had reason to get them – I was making movies of my own, and these were the props. Aside from idle curiosity about whether or not any fan films adopt these toys as their prop department, I’m pretty sure I’ll pass this time.
All in all, I’m very, very undecided about this new Playmates take on Star Trek. The differences in scale are a major turn-off, though I have to say that I really like the look of the 3 3/4″ figures. Seeing them in the flesh – and, of course, seeing the movie itself – will probably help me make up my mind.