Star Trek fans have been treated pretty good over the years. Sure, TV series have been cancelled and movies have disappointed, but the franchise keeps plugging away against all odds, and it looks like recent success at the box office may translate into an all-new series on CBS. And you know what that means – more toys!
While the latest film disappointed in the toy department, Trek fans have been treated to a ton of playthings over the years, including two long-running figure lines, a whole fleet of ships, plus more toy weapons than you can shake a lirpa at. We looked back over the years to find the items that have impressed the most, and came up with ten standouts, avoiding any item priced over $100 to rule out high-end replicas.
We don’t expect any Star Trek fan to agree with us 100% (or even 50%), but hopefully nobody will feel the need to slide a Daqtagh in between our ribs over a perceived slight. Today is not a good day to die!
10. Star Trek Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles First Officer Donatello (1994)
If GalaxyQuest can be one of the greatest Star Trek movies, then a Ninja Turtle can be one of the greatest Trek toys. In 1994, Playmates Toys made dreams come true – although whose dreams, I’m not sure – by mashing up their two biggest brands, resulting in one of the greatest toy crossovers of all time. The four members of the TMNT (who would also dress up as Universal Monsters and pro athletes) became four classic Star Trek characters: Leonardo was Kirk, Donatello was Spock, Michelangelo was Scotty and Raphael was McCoy.
First Officer Donatello is the best of the bunch, with his pointy ears, great accessories and LLAP hand pose. Sure, he probably should have been the ship’s engineer instead of Michaelangelo (seriously?), but it makes slightly more sense than Raphael as Chief Medical Officer, which makes me very happy I wasn’t sick on board the U.S.S. Turtle-prise, or whatever the hell their ship would be called. Plus, you can totally imagine the brainy Don dressing up like Spock at a sci-fi convention.
9. Mego Captain Kirk (1974)
Some of you kids may not fully understand why Megos are awesome. Back when TV toys were king, Mego had all the greats: CHiPs, Happy Days, Dukes of Hazzard and, of course, Star Trek, and they all played together in the same magical universe. They’re not the most photo-realistic of toys, true, but they have loads of personality, a decent amount of poseability, and their intrinsic toy-like nature infuses those who handle them with a sense of innocence and wonder. Also, their pants totally come off.
Kirk gets the top spot because… well, because he’s Kirk, and he sports a great smirking headsculpt that closely resembles a young William Shatner. Everything about the figure is standard to the other crew members in the line-up, but Kirk is one figure where being able to remove his shirt is actually accurate to the character. Factor in his light blue weapons, the belt that holds them and his frequent appearances in ToyFare magazine’s “Twisted Mego Theatre,” and you have one of the funniest, awesomest, most shirt-removing-est Star Trek toys on the planet.
8. “Trouble with Tribbles” U.S.S. Enterprise Minimates Vehicle (2013)
When Diamond Select Toys showed off a Minimates-sized shuttlecraft a few years back, Star Trek Minimates collectors lost their minds. Unfortunately, that ship never saw production, but DST must have kept the idea of a Trek vehicle in the back of their heads, because this year they came out with four separate variations on the U.S.S. Enterprise: a standard version, plus versions based on the episodes “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Cage” and “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
All of them feature an opening bridge dome with a removable command chair, as well as an opening Jefferies tube in the secondary hull and an adjustable display base. But the Tribble-prise includes an exclusive figure of Kirk in his green tunic from that episode – their first time making that look in ten years – and a big bag of tiny Tribbles, which practically fill the bridge. True, the ship only seats two, rather than the full complement for 430, but that can be overlooked for reasons of cuteness.
7. Borg: Assimilation Klingon Figure (2002)
Although mainly known for their innovation (the Kreaton sheathing on their figures, the Minimates body) Art Asylum also had some plain old kick-ass sculptors, and while the Klingon and Borg they sculpted for Playmates’ Alien Combat series were pretty darn cool, they were slightly exaggerated. It was really when they combined alien features and Borg tech in a more realistic style (mixing the chocolate with the peanut butter, as it were) in their own Borg: Assimilation line that they showed what they could really do.
The concept was simple – take a bunch of alien races, and make it look like they’ve been assimilated by the Borg – but the result was, frankly, amazing. The Cardassian and Hirogen look pretty bad-ass, but the Klingon is the standout, with plenty of detailed sculpting, connecting tubes and a hinged claw. While a human Borg can look pretty sleepy, a fully assimilated Klingon apparently looks even more pissed off than an analog Klingon! Even the unproduced Ferengi Borg was scary, but the less said about that the better. (Pours some Romulan ale out on sidewalk.)
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Communicator (2010)
While less expensive than true prop replicas, Art Asylum and Diamond Select’s electronic role-play toys are realistic enough to have been used as background props on the actual Enterprise TV show, not to mention as foreground props on numerous fan productions. And while their classic tricorder, communicator and phaser are all really nice, we have to give the edge to the TWOK Communicator.
Yeah, I know people don’t love the Wrath of Khan tech designs as much as the sleek simplicity of the original series, or the elegant lines of the Next Generation, but despite the device’s boxy form, the toy has some great TWOK movie quotes built into it, from Kirk, Khan, Spock, Scotty and others. (Yes, it can play Kirk’s enraged cry of “Khannnnn!”) And, as usual, the call-back feature allows you to be hailed and hold a pretend conversation with your crew, thereby taking all the work out of your usual pretend conversations with Star Trek characters.
5. Electronic Borg Cube (1994)
The number of electronic ships put out by Playmates in their heyday is pretty dang impressive, and Diamond Select still hasn’t caught up with them for sheer variety. Ships like Voyager may make the DST line some day, but one of the most notable (and coolest) ships in their collection is one DST may never make due to its size and intricacy. That’s right, it’s the Borg Cube.
Now, I’m not saying that the Playmates model matches the intricacies of the screen-used Borg Cube, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing ship. The layered look is achieved by placing grids full of piping on top of a sculpted core, and once you add in some cool techno lights and sounds, plus a display base. …Did I mention it’s the fricking Borg Cube? I definitely don’t see Diamond Select making this one any time soon, but they’d have their work cut out for them to make it cooler than this one.
4. Star Trek Select Mr. Spock (2013)
When Diamond Select relaunched their Star Trek action figure line this year, early shots of statically posed legs with interchangeable parts caused many fans to wince. The cry of “mini-statues” was raised, and the line was declared a failure before it was released (although not on this site). But the end result made for arguably the best 7″ Trek figure ever, one that’s two (or three, depending on how you’re counting them) figures in one.
The two sets of static legs that Spock comes with holds poses better than any one set of articulated legs ever could, and the fully articulated arms actually give you a wide range of display options. Add in interchangeable hands, open and closed tricorders and an extra agony-etched head – which you can use to re-create scenes from the episode “Devil in the Dark” – and you’ve got the perfect Spock figure, plus a keen diorama base with the first-ever Horta figure stuck to it. The Horta is a little small, but let’s be honest, it’s a miracle a toy of that thing even exists.
3. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Klingon Bird of Prey (2013)
Diamond Select’s electronic ships frequently raise the bar on what came before in the Playmates line, and while the occasional production-line snafus can confound fans, when they get it right they get it right. Factory issues left fans waiting for almost three years for the Klingon Bird of Prey, but now it’s out, and man, this thing is awesome. The wings move up and down, General Chang’s dialogue booms out of the speakers, and the weapons sound effects sync up with the lighting effects. Also, you can make those same lights stay on at the touch of a button.
The only thing that would make it perfect would be landing gear – it only comes with a display base for flight – but the Bird of Prey is more impressive when it’s swooping in for an attack than when it’s parked. An upcoming edition will have the landing gear, but it will also be loaded up with dialogue from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. And as great as it’ll be to hear Scotty talking about whales, this version has Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer quoting William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” One of the most classically trained toys ever!
2. Spock Ears (1966-present)
That’s right, Spock ears. I actually don’t know when the first set was made for mass consumption (I assume sometime between the Animated Series and The Motion Picture?), but even though they’ve been the setup AND punchline to jokes about Trekkies for decades, the fact remains that a simple pair of rubber ears (either full ears or ear tips) can transform anyone into an emotionless Vulcan. Spock, Saavik, Sarek… hell, say you’re a Romulan if you like. You don’t even need to dress up in a costume! Just tell people you’re an undercover time-traveler trying to fix history, and blammo – you’ve saved a bundle in cosplay expenses.
The best part is that they’re versatile. Put on some medieval garb and you’re instantly an elf – a convenience not lost on Rubies’ costume company, which markets the exact same ears for their Lord of the Rings line of costumes. It makes those quick changes in the bathroom at DragonCon much easier.
1. Star Trek: The Next Generation Innerspace U.S.S. Enterprise Mini Playset (1996)
There’s something about micro-figure playsets that brings out the kid in all of us, and the Innerspace line, while sadly lacking in Martin Short-style hilarity, gave us some amazingly awesome toys. Most of them were tiny renditions of alien ships, or full-size Trek accessories, all with tiny dioramas inside, and tiny figures to live in them. But the crown jewel of the line was the adorably superdeformed – but highly interactive – Enterprise D.
Okay, the saucer section is a little… hamburger-esque, and it requires a stand to support it, but inside you get a bridge set made for 1-inch micro-figures, with opening turbolifts and a changing viewscreen, plus a ready room, security office and Ten-Forward! It’s true that Playmates also made a pretty accurate bridge playset for their regular 4″ figures, but that’s just a big, round room. This is the actual Enterprise, and one you can open up and play in, to boot. It even has a tiny shuttlecraft that comes out of a tiny shuttle bay! Maybe it’s not the most accurate Trek toy ever, but dang if isn’t more fun than a barrel of Mugatus.
Previously by Jay Barish