Make It So: Playmates 2022 Star Trek Universe

September 25, 2022

  Playmates Toys is bringing Star Trek Universe action figures to a peg near you!  Yes, Playmates is back with a brand new line of 1:14 (5″) Star Trek action figures.  Each figure has a MSRP of 15.99, the Enterprise 39.99, and Phaser 29.99.  With the eight figures in wave one hitting store shelves and many more on the way I decided it was time to take a look at this new line.

  After many successful years with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license, Playmates took a chance and expanded into another action figure line.  In 1992, they acquired the master rights for Star Trek. These were not the first toys for the Star Trek brand, but at that time, they were just what fans wanted.  Star Trek fans were blown away in fall of 1992 when Playmates released their first series of their new action figure line.  At this time, Star Trek The Next Generation was in its sixth season and the hit show had built up a large fanbase.  The first releases were all based on The Next Generation and included popular characters such as Captain Picard, Data, Worf, William Riker, Geordi La Forge and Deanna Troi.  They also released some role play toys and ships (not large enough for figures obviously).  Eventually playsets including the transporter would find their way to store shelves as well.

  Over the next seven years Playmates would go on to release the largest, most successful Star Trek action figure line to this day.  Popular characters from the various Star Trek properties found their way into the line, many multiple times.  Even some lesser known, episode specific characters found their way into the line.  For nine years Playmates grew their Star Trek line into one that will probably never be beaten (as far as number of characters, vehicles, etc.)  Other companies have since dipped into the license and produced some nice figures along the way but none have come close to the success of Playmates first run in the 90’s.  Even the original architects, Playmates, tried to recreate their success in 2009 releasing the first wave of a brand-new Star Trek line.  It was a very short lived experiment as the interest and sales weren’t there.

  The past few years have seen a new trend in action figure collecting:  what’s old is new again.  By this I am not referring to the licenses, it’s normal for popular licenses to continue to release new versions of the same characters and properties.  What I am referring to is the look/style of the original toys is back.  Another part of this trend worth mentioning is the packaging design.  Using the original styled packaging or keeping it very close has also proved to be very popular among collectors.  Masters of the Universe Origins, G.I. Joe 3 ¾ O-Ring releases, Transformers Beast Wars, Ghostbusters…the list goes on and on.  Playmates jumped onto the bandwagon by re-releasing the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on individual cards, the Party Wagon, the Turtle Blimp, and many multi-packs of original, re-released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Collectors went on high alert to hunt down these re-releases.  With them being a hit it was time for Playmates to try their luck yet again.

  Now they have (somewhat quietly) expanded the retro trend with a new series of Star Trek action figures that reflect back on their successful 90’s line named Star Trek Universe.  The first wave consists of Data, William Riker, and Captain Picard from The Next Generation, Admiral Kirk, Spock, and Khan from the second Star Trek Movie:  The Wrath of Khan, and Commander Saru and Science Officer Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery.  Also included in wave one are the role play toy phaser and the 18″ Original Series Enterprise with lights, sound and phrases.  How do these compare to the original releases?  I’m going to dive into four new Playmates Star Trek action figures:  Captain Picard, Data, Spock, and Khan.  Here’s a look at them in package in comparison to the original series.

  Before I get into the individual figures, let’s take a look at the basic figure design and some comparisons to the past.  I was lucky enough to receive help from Guinan and Dixon Hill, both from the original Playmates line and released in 1994.  The new line is slightly taller and loses the bulkiness of the originals.  The bicep swivel has been removed but new articulation can be located at the ankles, wrists, and an upgrade to the head.  In the original line, the head could only be turned left and right.  Now the head is on a ball joint, allowing for a wider range of motion.  The plastic used for the figures is a lot different as well.  While the original line used a very hard, solid plastic the newer releases use a plastic that is much softer and lighter.  Although these are in “vintage” style packaging, it’s safe to say that these do not carry that style at all.  The new Star Trek Universe line is closer to the short lived 2009 Playmates line.

  There are other notable improvements besides the addition to the articulation.  The original figures were notorious for using very brightly colored plastics for the accessories.  And the colors very rarely made sense.  For some examples of this see the bright blue gun in the hand of Dixon Hill and the Guinan’s neon orange view screen.  Thankfully, this is gone.  Most, if not all of the accessories have been reused from the original line but now come in colors that are closer to the actual items.  Unfortunately, the beams are still part of the phasers.  That would have been a cheap, easy fix that I think collectors would have appreciated.

 

The new line does come with figure stands like their predecessor, but the two are very different.  While the original ones are more visually appealing, the new basic version works just fine.  I could argue that the new one is better as it’s not as bulky and noticeable.  The individual character names on the stand is gone.  I was never a fan of the names being on the stands because I always felt the stickers and font had a cheap appearance.  My only complaint on the new design is the small, raised ridge that outlines the stand.  This seems unnecessary and can interfere with posing the figure using it.

 

   The last areas I’ll discuss are the improvements in paint applications and likenesses.  Most, if not all of the original line had a glossy finish.  With the new line the high gloss is gone and replaced with a nicer matte paint.  The applications are not perfect: there are definitely small areas of paint mistakes.  But the comparison to the original line is night and day.  The likeness is much better as well.  With all the improvements over the years since the originals were made it would be hard to imagine the likeness somehow getting worse.  But I still feel it’s worth noting: these look way better than I was expecting.

 

  Now that you have a good idea of what this line is all about, let’s look at the figures individually.  Here are some pictures of Data, Captain Picard, Spock, and Khan along with a list of included accessories for each.

Lieutenant Commander Data

  • Diagnostic Testing Unit with Monitor
  • Type II Hand Phaser (with Phase Beam)
  • Tricorder with Holster
  • Starfleet Action Base

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

  • Type I Hand Phaser (with Phase Beam)
  • Padd
  • Personal View Screen
  • Tricorder with Holster
  • Starfleet Action Base

Captain Spock

  • Engineering Tool
  • Starfleet Tricorder
  • Radiation Gloves
  • Starfleet Action Base

Khan Noonien Singh

  • Starfleet Phaser
  • Bowl of Ceti Eels
  • Genesis Control Box
  • Starfleet Action Base

Playmates will expand it’s Star Trek action figure offerings with releases from another line:  Star Trek Prodigy.  These will obviously be based on the animated series of the same name.  The first figures include:

  • Dal R’El figure with Murf
  • Gwyndala
  • Jankom Pog
  • Hologram Janeway
  • Zero
  • Rok-Tahk

Playmates will also offer role play toys and ships in the Prodigy line.  These figures, while under a different name, are the same as the Star Trek Universe releases.  The Star Trek: Prodigy figures are also 1:14 (5″) and include 14 points of articulation.

Will this new line see the same success as the past?  Most likely no, but that’s not saying it will be a complete failure.  The figures are a value for their price, as most can already be obtained under the suggested retail.  They are well made, a passable likeness for the price, and the original style packaging will catch many collectors eyes.  My main question about the future of this line revolves around this:  are there enough Star Trek collectors to keep this series alive?  Trekkies do surround the globe and are very passionate about their fandom but this doesn’t necessarily equate to the toys taking off.  The size of the figures may hurt their marketability too.  Even though there are successful toy lines that are not 1:12 (6″), releasing this series in that scale would definitely have had an impact.  With 1:12 being the industry “standard”, many collectors will pick and choose from various lines of 6″ to add new characters to their collections.  At 5″, they are just small enough to not fit in with the overwhelming majority of action figures.  Like everything else in this hobby, time will tell.