In the 1990s, Playmates Toys took the Star Trek license and ran with it, creating some of the most iconic, fan-favorite toys in sci-fi history. There were mini-figures and playsets, electronic ships, roleplay items, dolls… and of course an expansive line of action figures in multiple scales. Starting in 1992, this series was anchored by The Next Generation but expanded into Deep Space Nine, Voyager, then-current and classic movies, and more. (Note: if you’re interested in collecting these, they’re really easy to find at conventions and retro toy stores.) Playmates would lose the Star Trek license in 2000, returning briefly for the reboot movie in 2009. Now, what’s old is new again as Playmates Toys unleashes new Trek action figures, and we’re looking at several of them today from the new Next Generation, Classic Movie (Wrath of Khan), and Universe (Discovery) lines!
As you can see from the very first glance at these new figures, they’re modeled off of the original 1990s versions in more ways than one. All of the new lines are in the 5-inch scale (1:14) with “1990s nostalgic packaging” as well as themes, decos, accessories and bases, and more.
Now, these aren’t *just* repackaged figures from 30 years ago, as they feature updated sculpts and articulation. There are also some interesting differences between the different lines internally, some skewing more toward the vintage themes and others more modern in their appearances. Shared between all of these sub-lines are really good articulation (the package says 14 points but I’m counting 13 – no waist), and the same basic Starfleet base that fits their feet.
The figure packaging for the Next Generation and Classic Movie lines are also highly reminiscent of the original 1990s versions, replicating the original look. To put it bluntly, the Next Gen cardback is garish, but still lovable. It’s a blast in the face of late 80s/early 90s color flying in your face with a stylized Enterprise-D at the top, transporter pads beneath the figure, and a ton of branding, logos, and information all over the place. The “35 Years” logo is new, obviously, but the rest matches the original packaging with the character’s name, “bonus” base, and “Starfleet Gear” listing.
The Classic Movie version also matches the ones Playmates did years ago, this time with the original Enterprise, a darker nebula background, “40 Years” logo for Wrath of Khan, and the standard name and “Galactic Accessories” list.
Both of those cardbacks are squarish, while the brand new one, for Star Trek Universe, is more rectangular with interesting cutouts. It’s also way more modern, with a space background, Discovery flying at the top, and a character portrait.
I may not have a ton of nostalgia for the front of these cardbacks, but I absolutely adore the back sides. Again, the TNG and Classic Movie mostly replicate the originals; they both have their respective headline ship at the top, “collect them all” display of other figures in the specific line, a very detailed explanation of the included gear, and a fantastic “clip and collect” biography! Classic, and so cool. There’s even a “Q Code” to collect, which Playmates may one day do something with. Interestingly, the Universe cardback eschews most of that fun, instead just having a basic description of Starfleet and displays of the other series. It’s… fine, but I do miss all of the info and would have liked to see Discovery get the same treatment.
Let’s go through each type of figure, starting with our sole Next Generation figure Data. Judging by the android, the TNG figures harken the most closely to the original 90s figures, and your appreciation of that will depend on your nostalgia for them. I had a handful of the Playmates toys way back when, but today only still have my Commander Riker (seen in the photos) and a larger scale Q. Data has stylized proportions more than any of these other new figures, with a big head, tiny hands, high waist, and chunky torso. It’s not bad, at all, just a bit on the doll side.
Again, even with the vintage style Playmates has updated everything else, and so Data has a nice sculpt with a pretty spot-on face and nice uniform details. Paint application is okay; there’s not too much to Starfleet uniforms beyond the basic color blocks, communicator, rank pips, and neck piping, and Data’s face looks fine.
I’m also a big fan on the articulation here, with more than enough joints to get the figure in lots of poses, though it could’ve been put over the top with a waist joint. And then there are the accessories… oh my, these really take me back. The original Playmates line was full of oversized, often goofy, weapons and other tech with weird colors, handles, phaser blasts, and more.
Next up is the Classic Movie Series, with Admiral James T. Kirk, Captain Spock, and Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I love this movie, so I was already predisposed to love these figures. To my eyes, they’re about halfway between the full retro style of Data and the much more realistic Discovery figures.
The ornate Star Trek II era uniforms are replicated pretty darn well with all the various accoutrements: belt with Starfleet logo, piping, collar, rank insignias, etc. And beyond the jacket both have boots and overlong pants complete with red piping down the sides. Plenty of details here to enjoy, and the paint applications are good. Their head sculpts are pretty good for toys of this size; I won’t say they’re dead on but you know who they’re supposed to be and some angles definitely look better than others.
Oh, and I should note that while Kirk has the standard open hands, Spock comes pre-posed with a Vulcan salute which is cool, though I do wish he came with a swappable regular hand. Accessories are plentiful and fun, and the inclusion of Spock’s radiation gloves is just great.
You can’t have the Wrath of Khan without Khan, and here’s Ricardo Montalban in all his glory. The Khan figure is a little hit or miss. The sculpt captures his iconic and bizarre outfit pretty darn well; there’s the patchwork, shredded sleeves, one glove, belt/harness/fanny pack thing, and necklace with broken Starfleet logo. There’s something about this costume, though, that just doesn’t translate super well into a 5-inch-tall toy, at least in my opinion. The colors clash and don’t work well together, and with everything so hodgepodge it’s hard to see what’s going on from afar.
Then there’s the head. The sculpt is pretty good, and this is Khan’s hairdo in the film so I can’t fault it for that. Unfortunately, the eye application leaves a bit to be desired, leaving him perpetually looking up and to the left. For those little faults, Khan’s accessories are phenomenal! He’s got a standard phaser and the Genesis Control Box is fun, but it’s the prod and bowl of Ceti Eel larvae that really rock.
Last but certainly not least are the Star Trek Universe: Discovery figures. I’m a big fan of this show, and I think these figures are the best of the bunch. They’re the most realistic in proportions, sculpt, and style, and just look great. The Discovery uniforms are visually dynamic with the prominent silver or gold sections and piping, Starfleet logo, and offset central torso line.
But look closer and you’ll see a wealth of additional lines, panels, and more, all replicated on the toys. Burnham has standard human proportions, while Saru is quite tall and thin. I was very pleased to see Playmates accurately capture his Kelpien physiology in his hoofed feet, though they do make standing up the figure a bit challenging without the base.
Both Burnham and Saru have top notch head sculpts, especially for the size of the figures; the former includes her iconic season 1 hairdo and the Kelpien’s unique head shape. These are paired with really good paint applications, and I have to call out Saru’s in particular. It’s got his pale blue eyes and the lines all over his head, even the complex patterning on the back. Even more so than the other series, the Discovery figures have really character-specific accessories. Saru and Michael both have standard phaser and tricorder, but then Burnham has her copy of Alice in Wonderland and Saru has his Kelpien gardening knife.
Overall, I’m really pleased with all of these new action figures. The Next Generation and Classic Movie figures are retro without going over the top (looking at you, ReAction), which is fitting for TV shows and movies that are 35+ years old. Conversely, the Universe: Discovery figures are modern and sophisticated. The only downside to all this is that when they’re all lined up together there’s a noticeable difference in the proportions and styles.
All of these figures are currently available, at MSRP $12.99, along with TNG Riker and Picard. Playmates has lots more on the way too, with Prodigy figures and roleplay and ship toys from across the franchise. As a Trekkie I’d highly recommend my fellow fans check out these figures; see which versions from which eras are your favorite and add them to your collection!
Review and photos by Scott Rubin
Review samples courtesy of Playmates Toys
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