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Thread: Playmates Star Trek- memories of a line long past

  1. #1
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    Playmates Star Trek- memories of a line long past

    I think this is one of those toylines that people are familiar with, even if they never collected them, because they're everywhere- and by everywhere I mean Playmates made piles and piles of them, including episode-specific variations, and most shops can barely give the things away these days. It's a line that suffered heavily from over saturation, a collector mentality that left many of them in the packages and shifting tastes in sculpt and articulation killed much modern interest in them. The "1701" limited exclusive set later saw the same figures released on their own in normal numbers, which really upset many collectors. Today, you will often find them between $2 and $5 MOC because the demand is so low.

    The line's first strength was that it was made when the 3 shows were on the air. Kids collected it, adults collected it. It was perhaps one of the first lines where adult buyers were actually a major portion of the customer base. This is perhaps why so many episode-specific toys were made and why Playmates pushed it hard as a collector line.

    The second strength was the sheer number of characters. You could easily get the primary cast, background crew members, random aliens, and yes, episode-specific toys including holodeck outfits and unique uniforms. They did TNG, DS9, Voyager, then they went and did a TOS box set, various TOS and movie characters, and you'll find most anything up until perhaps later in Voyager's run.

    Third? Perhaps that Playmates did not simply reuse bodies as some companies would have. They could've used one male body and one female body for the primary uniforms but they'd switch out torsos, legs and arms to adjust the height of the characters as needed.

    That's not to say the line was perfect...

    The first weakness? The articulation. On paper it sounds good- neck, shoulder, bicep swivel, elbow, waist, hips, thigh swivels and knees. But the shoulders were simple swivels that were set at a slight angle, and the hips were the dreaded V cut. Walking poses were out and trying to sit your figures always looked weird, which is perhaps why we saw so few playsets that required sitting. Playmates probably couldn't do the TMNT leg joints since these figures were thinner, but there had to be a better option. These were display figures, they were not as playable as Toy Biz or Kenner offerings which had less movement but more useful movement.

    Second? Accessories. Each figure came with lots of accessories, but as I complain a lot about Monster High, many of the accessories are useless because they can't be held. They don't fit into the hands properly because playmates went with naturally posed hands instead of action figure gripping hands. Phasers had those oddball beams sculpted on, which I'm sure many people cut off, and not long into the line Playmates cut corners by dropping paint apps, limiting stickers and casting weapons in primary or neon colors. You'd get oddities like computer consoles and pink phasers. The stands are also rather poor, being comm-badge shaped with a single peg that's not really useful.

    Third? Inconsistent facial sculpts. Sometimes you'll get a figure that's likeness is utterly perfect- Picard, EMH, Riker, season 7 Troi. Sometimes you'll get one that's technically correct but looks off until you hold it up to a photo- Tom Paris, Q, Kes. Sometimes you'd get some really bad ones- Dukat, first Troi. In a way I think some faces may have been too perfect, but when you shrink something like that down detail gets lost or distorted. You can look at a face head on and it looks off(I'd say Paris looks like a young Anthony Hopkins at first glance) but you then turn it to an angle, or hold it up to a photo of the actor(easy to do since MOC toys have that character card right beside them) and they look perfect. Playmates also had a habit of using shiny plastic for certain heads, and I'd bet the inconsistent material lends itself to some of the issues with likenesses. They also made some odd paint decisions, such as giving Ro Laren heavy blue makeup which was never in the show.

    Fourth? Variants no one really cared about. Geordi as an alien, Tom Paris mutated from that episode everyone disliked, Picard as a Romulan, it really could over saturate the line with stuff no one asked for. This is a major problem you'll find with thrift stores, a fair number of the figures you'll see are these variants that no one wanted then, and we don't want now.

    Fifth? Time marches on. Toy collectors were suddenly spoiled by McFarlane coming along and Playmates responded by abandoning the 5" scale for a 6" scale- you can imagine problems caused by this. New figures don't display with the old, they were often pre-posed in odd ways, and the face sculpts and accessory issues were still present. I swear, these sell worse in thrift stores than the 5" figures do. This change is perhaps one factor in the line's death. But toy collectors became accustomed to detailed sculpts, bigger toys and better articulation, and who wants those old relics when Art Asylum/DST was making better toys? Not that the DST stuff was perfect, what with each TV series getting its own scale that didn't mesh with others(yes I do feel that if they'd been consistent the things would have sold far better) and a limited line that was really just the main cast.
    I would sooner gouge my eyes out with a heated spoon than watch Jem. I consider it to be a terrible cartoon. There. I said it.

  2. #2
    plastic vice Phil.Pastel's Avatar
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    I had a pretty big collection of them back in the day. It's not something I'm looking to rebuild. I just have zero interest in Star Trek as a franchise at this point....

  3. #3
    Heroic Warrior
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    I never collected them since I didn't start watching any of the Star Trek series until somewhat recently.

    I'm still trying to find a 12" Captain Janeway. I considered building a Voyager collection in the 3.75" scale, but the absence of a show-accurate shuttlecraft, especially the Delta Flyer, discouraged me from collecting that scale.

  4. #4
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    I picked up 4 figures today, the local comic shop marked then down to $2 each. EMH, Tom Paria, B'elanna, Kes, and Garak from DS9. They do have Chakotay, Kim and Tuvok which I'll pick up next trip out. I'll try and get Kaneway and Neelix by trade.


    Quote Originally Posted by Haephestus View Post
    I'm still trying to find a 12" Captain Janeway.
    There's one on eBay now for a bit less than $30 shipped BIN, but you could probably beat that by bidding on one of the regular auctions.
    I would sooner gouge my eyes out with a heated spoon than watch Jem. I consider it to be a terrible cartoon. There. I said it.

  5. #5
    Heroic Warrior Drakken's Avatar
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    I didn't collect these figure either. It became a matter of just not having space for more stuff. I liked the figures but had to pass on them.
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  6. #6
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    The comic shop has that big TOS box set, they want $45 but I bet I could get it for much less since it'll never sell at that price. I'll aim for $25-$30.

    Most of the figures I bought had a white dust on them, I think from improper storage and that open space along the bottom. I don't think the plastic is degrading since it only affects the legs, not the other parts, and it was just a fine white dust, not sticky plastic.
    I would sooner gouge my eyes out with a heated spoon than watch Jem. I consider it to be a terrible cartoon. There. I said it.

  7. #7
    Heroic Warrior snakeeyes0217's Avatar
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    I was VERY into this line in all it's forms. I still have them all...packed away of course. In fact, my first email list was the old Playtrek group.

    Great figures and so nice to have one that was so encompassing of all characters. Now I want to dig them out!
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    Heroic Warrior byinfernoslight's Avatar
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    Not sure I agree with the assessment of why the line ended/why people aren't collecting these anymore. I think the reason is that Trek generally just isn't as popular as it once was. Once upon a time there were two shows on the air, plus movies - Playmates could make all those character variants and they'd sell. Now you have the Abrams movies alone, which have been met with a mixed reaction from Trek fans.

    I was speaking to a dealer at Destination Star Trek London last year. With relatively little notice he'd been told by The Powers That Be that he could sell only Trek merchandise and had subsequently struggled to get enough stuff to fill his stand. There simply isn't that much Trek merchandise being produced these days because the market isn't there for it.

  9. #9
    Casual Fan slackrguy's Avatar
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    This line actually got me back into toy collecting. It was relatively cheap and easy to find on ebay.

    I favor ST:TOS and these figures allowed me my first foray in customizing as I learned how to pop open torsos, parts swap, ets..
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  10. #10
    Completely Serious. Bri-Man's Avatar
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    i already have picard with the jacket he started wearing on and off in the latter seasons. i really just want the next gen bridge crew...
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  11. #11
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    I picked up a few more figures today. I take back what I said about Playmates using unique bodies because all the Voyager figures use the same body, only swapping out the thighs to adjust character height and maybe the hands. Likenesses aren't too bad, though not perfect- Harry Kim's eyes aren't quite right, but the scale and painted eyes don't really allow for the right look to be captured, and Chakotay has a Duke Nukem jaw. None of them can really properly hold their accessories, and they continue to come in goofy colors.

    The TOS box set is a bit more of a winner, though the figures lack thigh swivels. The likenesses aren't perfect, but close enough, and most of them can hold their accessories, which are proper colors. The stands are more useful, being larger and with the peg off-center. Though the males use the same body, with only the feet swapped out for height, but it's a height difference of a couple of millimeters.

    One thing I'll give Playmates credit for was decent role play accessories. They weren't sort of goofy like Kenner's Ghostbusters stuff, these actually looked like the props. There was a decent TNG Phaser and Tricorder which were about as perfect as you'd ask for without paying $100 and up for a replica.
    I would sooner gouge my eyes out with a heated spoon than watch Jem. I consider it to be a terrible cartoon. There. I said it.

  12. #12
    Awesome Warrior Alexx's Avatar
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    Ah, these came out around that awkward period where I didn't have my own cash to buy toys, but I was just getting slightly old enough to be embarrassed to ask for them. My friend had a bunch of these, and he was the one with which I shared an interest in Star Trek, so we often played with those figures. Lots of fond memories, but only one single figure in my possession! I bought Captain Kirk from...I think Generations. He's wearing the red coat from the movies 'n such - I always liked those uniforms, so when I had some cash back then, I made sure to get him.

    I don't know what happened to all my friend's figures, but like I said: I've got a lot of fond memories of them! The one I remember the most is Lt. Barclay, because he had an interesting range of stuff: from one of those universal tool things, to a fencing sword. Also one of those hover trays for tools 'n such. I actually don't remember the guy at all - just the toy. Another good one was Q in his Starfleet uniform, 'cause he had a dilithium crystal (the only guy we had that did) and a tiny model of the Enterprise, that I loved.

    Most of all I remember the warp core playset - MAN I'd love to have that today! What a great little set. I especially liked how you could stop a meltdown with the little universal tool thingy, and how the port opened up to reveal a removable dilithium crystal.

    Good stuff! So far that I remember. Wouldn't mind tracking a few down.
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  13. #13
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    I suppose the DST stuff could be considered better, but personally I think a lot of them have faces no better than Playmates, and the DST figures really lack emotion. Everyone has the same blank stare. There's also the problem I mentioned earlier of inconsistent scales between series lines(TNG, DS9, ENT and such can't be displayed together), and I know the "stands" lacked pegs which means they were useless chunks of plastic.
    I would sooner gouge my eyes out with a heated spoon than watch Jem. I consider it to be a terrible cartoon. There. I said it.

  14. #14
    Heroic Reviewer of MOTUC Pixel Dan's Avatar
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    I still love the TNG line to this day.

    I recently bought a HUGE collection of carded figures. A toy show I went to a lady had cases of them, selling them for $1 a piece. So I dug througha ll of the boxes and pulled out just about every unique character she had and bought them. I haven't gotten around to opening them yet, but I will be soon. I also recently got the Bridge playset, one I never had as a kid but always wanted. It's fantastic.

    This is one of my favorite lines, for sure. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for it.
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    Cat dead, details later Sorceress's Avatar
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    Was there ever a Weyoun toy made? I'd buy one if there was .
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  16. #16
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    It's annoying seeing eBay sellers put up single MOC figures for $30 BIN because no one's ever going to pay that. Even on eBay, with a wider market, $5 apiece seems to be the best any seller can hope for.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sorceress View Post
    Was there ever a Weyoun toy made? I'd buy one if there was .
    No. Playmates seemed to abandon the 5" scale right after the main Voyager stuff was done. They eventually got out a 7 Of 9 and a couple of others in 5" but they switched to that stupid 6" scale, and spent most of their efforts on revisiting old characters.
    I would sooner gouge my eyes out with a heated spoon than watch Jem. I consider it to be a terrible cartoon. There. I said it.

  17. #17
    grumpy old dragon scott metzger's Avatar
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    I was majorly into this line back in the day. The 5" line was an odd hybrid, with the very toyish bodies and the dead on head likenesses, but somehow it worked. And I doubt we will ever see such a roster of characters made again in any scale. I still have the Classic Series set with the cardboard bridge out on display because it works so well as a de-facto playset. And the TNG bridge is an amazing set.

    My favorites, though, were the 9" figures. Same amazing likenesses, but with more realistic proportions and well done cloth costumes. And that line had a pretty wide roster of characters, as well, and, honestly, they still stand up pretty well to similar offerings today.
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  18. #18
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    The line did die off too early. We never got female changeling, Weyoun, Starfleet Nog, Kai Wynn, nor a fair chunk of Voyager's later characters- looks like Voyager only got 15 main toys, followed by 2 others in a later generic branded series, then a couple of exclusive 7 Of 9 releases. No female Q, Quinn or Q's son.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Checking eBay, it might be cheaper to buy figures in carded lots than individually- sellers with larger lots ask less per figure and shipping is usually factored in. Some figures that sellers ask $15 for on their own might only be $5 as part of a lot. But buying lots offers a problem- you might get 3 figures you want, and a bunch you don't want.


  19. #19
    Heroic Warrior Kreann'ot's Avatar
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    My first job in 1994 was working at a Toys R Us. Being a huge Star Trek fan, I bought a bunch of these. I do have one shelf on a bookcase with some open figures that I still like, but I also have two rolling tubs of carded figures under my bed, that I have no idea what to do with, lol. They'll probably be there forever.
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  20. #20
    Heroic Warrior Croaker's Avatar
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    I love this line!
    It kept me into collecting back in the day.
    I still have virtually all of the figures - and they are on display. (I didn't buy the Voyager figs because I didn't enjoy the show)
    The bridge set is a really nice piece.

    What killed the line is when they tried to do the limited set - only 1701 pieces - of Tapestry Picard, Yest ent Yar and Barclay (?).
    All the collector's threw up their hands in exasperation knowing that they would not ever own it, and the serious collecting stopped.

    Still love them and I try to pick up the few remaining pieces I don't have at shows.

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  21. #21
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    The first of a batch I ordered on Amazon last week arrived today, and I got 4 more at the comic shop. I have 3 more showing up tomorrow, and just ordered one more.

    I will have to limit to 5 shelves, unfortunately. One for each show's main cast, and a 5th for villains and supporting characters.

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  22. #22
    Heroic Warrior King Gilskull's Avatar
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    I grew up on this line. My favorites were Picard in his standard uniform (not the jacket one) and Q in his judge robes. I still want to get that bridge one day.

  23. #23
    Heroic Warrior CrashWatchman's Avatar
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    I love the Voyager line... just missing a Bellana Torres and 7 of 9.

  24. #24
    Angast's #1 fan Bonehead's Avatar
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    I collected this line back in the day but the impossible to find exclusives killed this line.

    The Tapestry Picard figure comes to mind instantly. Also the limited Tasha and Barclay figures which screwe over fans. Playmates just made too many mistakes and interest in the line dwindled quickly once fans saw how Playmates went back on their word. By the time Playmates tried to rectify the problem by putting out the 3 pack of these super rare figures, no one wanted them.

    I had a complete collection of the 9" figures up till a few years ago but sold them when someone made me a crazy offer. I regret it to this day but I needed the money to fund a few Hot Toys figures. They were really great and featured pretty accurate sculpts considering the time they were produced.

  25. #25
    Shivering Isles resident diosoth's Avatar
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    I don't get the deal with the 1701 figures. Picard was the only one of the bunch that was really important, and he used the cheapo Generations Kirk body which had no articulation. Tasha Yar was in the season 3-onward uniform which she never wore(it was supposed to be Yesterday's Enterprise, but the details are apparently wrong), and Barclay wasn't really Barclay since it was a hologram malfunction from a Voyager episode.

    I could grab the 3-pack version for $20 shipped, but I don't want Picard, and I can get the better versions of Tasha and Barclay on their own for less.

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