Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Review: Star Trek by Playmates

I know you'll find this hard to believe, but in the not-so distant past, Star Trek was popular.

'Shut up, you crazy fool!' I hear you say, but I'm not talking rubbish here. There was a time in the mid-90s when you could buy Star Trek merchandise in almost every shop. The Next Generation was drawing to a close, the films were crossing over from original to TNG casts, Voyager was just starting, and DS9 was hanging on in there in the background like the relative you try to avoid at family weddings.

There was a crash shortly afterwards, of course. Voyager turned out to be a bit terrible. Insurrection was a bit of a disappointment. DS9 hung in there and people began to realise that actually it was really rather good.

And then Faith of the Heart and Nemesis killed it completely.

But in those prime years, you could buy Playmates Star Trek action figures in Toys R Us.

This meant that children were buying them. Children!

The great thing (from Playmates' point of view) about Trek figures is that a lot of them come in uniform, which means all you need is a new head and the same body for just about everyone. This keeps tooling costs down from them and means that you can spend more money on the many aliens.

Of course you can then use the same head on a lot of different uniformed bodies. Including a few made up ones...

The line started as purely TNG, then expanded to a separate DS9 one when that series launched on TV. Later, everything folded into one single line, producing figures from every incarnation of Trek.

There were a couple of blips along the way. The Generations line was a bit rubbish. It didn't help that due to a last minute change in uniforms by the makers of the film led to the toys not matching those seen on screen. I think Playmates kind of gave up on the line at that point, hence the limited articulation the toys ended up having.

For the 30th Anniversary of Trek, in their infinite wisdom, and holding the rights to that line too., Playmates decided to produce a line of Star Trek Ninja Turtles.

But All Good Things must come to an end. Just like the franchise as a whole, things were on the wane. And it all began with this:

Playmates decided to produce three single-carded figures in a number of 1,701 (to match the registration number of the Enterprise). Playmates had always enticed collectors to the line, even going so far as to individually number each figure. When you only make 1,701 of something, no many people are going to have it at all. Collectors tend to like tracking down a chase figure, but in a line selling as much as it was, it made the figures basically impossible for most people to get hold of. Collectors were angry.

The bridge, minus most of its parts because I'm lazy and couldn't be
bothered putting it together for the photo

Realising their mistake, Playmates attempted to appease collectors by releasing the above set of all three figures in one box in an unlimited number. Unfortunately this made those fans who'd paid silly amounts of money to get hold of the initial releases even more angry.

The line limped along but the toyline's popularity was dying along with the popularity of the TV series.

And then it was gone.

Then in 2009, the new Star Trek film came out. Playmates had the rights again. The film was getting rave reviews from critics and audiences. Hopes were high!

And everyone was disappointed. There were two lines produced. A 4" and a 6" line. The 4" was understandable - that's the common size for figures these days - but the 6"? Fans were hoping these new figures would fit in with their old collections and these were too big. I thought they looked slightly better than was generally agreed, but even I have to admit they are far from pretty.

The toys clogged the toy aisles. The toys clogged Poundland's toy aisles. The second wave of figures were cancelled.

And once again the line was dead.

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