Well, that didn’t last long. After a 20-year hiatus, Star Trek figures made a comeback with Playmates, the powerhouse that produced every figure from William Riker (my first figure!) to the Mugato (which I never got) throughout the 1990s. However, we’ve now heard that the planned figures have been cancelled. The initial line included an odd assortment of figures from across the Trek universe, a few role-playing toys, and the classic and Next Gen U.S.S. Enterprises. From the outset, there were issues ranging from distribution to identifying the target audience. Here are my top five thoughts on the line.
Is this a continuation or a new line?
When the line launched in 2022, I assumed it marked a fresh start for Star Trek and Playmates. After all the niche figures (remember Geordi as that ultraviolet alien), what more could a new run of figures offer (aside from Star Trek: Enterprise or modern series)? However, Playmates wasn’t particularly clear on this. The sizes and articulation of the figures didn’t match. The older figures were smaller. The packaging, while not identical in size, bore a nostalgic resemblance to the classic packaging, at least in the U.S. Internationally, the packaging adopted the dull style that most Star Trek merchandise is burdened with these days.
Where are they again?
The Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan figures were available at Walmart. Picard, Riker, and Data were at Target. The Discovery figures were somewhere else, and the Prodigy figures were at Amazon. So, if you managed to figure out which store to visit, you then had to locate the figure within the store. There was no consistency, even within the same chains. Target usually stocked their figures (when available) in the collectibles “NECA” section, while Walmart placed them in the kids’ toys section. This isn’t unique to Star Trek; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Playmates figures are similarly scattered, especially at Target.
Firstly, why divide the line among “retailer exclusives”? In fact, why not distribute them as widely as possible? I understand the cost implications, but dividing them by Trek series was confusing. Secondly, why revert to a distribution strategy from the 90s? Star Trek was a juggernaut back then, with TNG, DS9, VOY, and the movies dominating TV and newsstands. Today, there may be content on Paramount+, but beyond that, its presence is pretty limited and nowhere near as pervasive in the public consciousness.
Where’s the Good Stuff?
The choices of figures to release are both surprising and predictable. Kirk, Spock, Picard, Riker, and Data are the leads for the most popular shows. However, to represent the “new Trek,” early versions of Michael Burnham and Saru in their 2nd season uniforms were chosen. The only novel choice was to produce Star Trek: Prodigy figures, but they made the mistake of not including all characters, especially Janeway, their most popular character.
Why not start with figures that hadn’t been done before? How about a Seven of Nine from Picard? Or an Admiral Janeway from Prodigy? There’s nothing from Lower Decks or Strange New Worlds at all. Maybe an Admiral Picard himself or the sword-wielding Elnor? The selection of “the most well-known” characters was not noteworthy, and I think that’s why it fell flat. Also, the lack of variety was disappointing. Remember, when Playmates originally debuted in the 90s, they released all of the main TNG cast, except for Dr. Crusher. Plus, they had a generic Borg and a Klingon.
What Do I Want to See?
Going forward, there will be no more figures, but Playmates is said to continue the ship and role-playing toy lines. So, what would I like to see? That’s easy. I’d start with the latest ships that haven’t received any merchandising—the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-G and U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-F. Then, I’d look at other ships like the Duderstadt-class U.S.S. Interpid, the new Stargazer, and Dr. Crusher’s ship, the S.S. Eleos. The other ship that we’ve only seen a glimpse of is the new U.S.S. Voyager, NCC-74656-A. I’d like to see the U.S.S. Prodigy and the U.S.S. Discovery done in Playmates style, but I wouldn’t start with them.
For role-playing toys, I’d like to see a TNG-era tricorder. They were hard to find in their original run, plus updated lights and sounds would make for a high-tech toy. Maybe a Picard-era phaser or Strange New World’s phaser would be a good second toy that hasn’t been made before.
In general, we’re assuming the ships are in the same scale as the NCC-1701 and NCC-1701-D that Playmates has already released (a second time). But what if there was a mid-range version? Not the super-detailed versions that we came to love from Eaglemoss, but smaller versions of the current models. In theory, these would be cheaper to produce and allow for a greater variety.
From Super7 to Exo-6, there are multiple versions of Trek figures out there at different price levels. While I’ve picked up most of the Super7’s, I’ve yet to grab any Exo’s. They look exceptional, but their price is heavy. But I still want a Janeway…
Considering it looks like the end of the line for Star Trek and Playmates figures—what did you want to see? What would you still like to see from their starship and role-playing releases? Let’s all hope that beyond the final frontier, even more toys await.