Friday, June 27, 2008

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 77: Star Trek: First Contact Action Figures (Playmates; 1996)

Today I'm attempting again to work up some 1990s nostalgia (again!) with a look back at the collectible toys from that era. In previous posts, I've looked at Playmates SeaQuest DSV figures and Hasbro Stargate figures from the early 1990s. Today, I turn my attention back to the prolific Playmates company; specifically to the Star Trek franchise as it existed in the middle of the decade.

In 1996, Star Trek: First Contact (directed by Jonathan Frakes) was released and immediately became a big theatrical hit. I can explain why it was so successful in one word: BORG!

No, seriously, First Contact not only featured an interesting and diabolical nemesis for the crew of The Next Generation to combat, it also featured some splendid action scenes (particularly one riveting and anxiety-provoking sequence set on the hull of the newly christened Enterprise E). There are other great moments too, like Picard calling Worf a coward; or risking his life to save Data. The film's ending, with the flight of the Phoenix and the "first contact" with Vulcns is also very uplifting and emotional, especially for dreamers like me. And how can I forget? The film boasts great Goldsmith soundtrack (and main theme). On the other hand, I was less enamored of the film's "comic" subplot, which found Riker, Geordi and others dealing with an often-drunk inventor Zefram Cochrane, trying to prod him into testing his warp ship, the Phoenix. Meh. Today, those latter sequences stick out like a sore thumb and seem really, really lame.

Still, First Contact is likely the highest-regarded of the Next Generation films (and next to Nemesis it is positively golden), and Playmates certainly went gung-ho with a number of high quality toys related to the hit film. There were a cluster of new spaceships to play with, including the Enterprise E, the Borg Orb (which some Star Wars fans complained looked like the Death Star...) and Cochrane's retro-Phoenix.

But Playmates also released a number of new (larger) action figures from the film. This was the first time these beloved characters were seen in their new black and gray ribbed uniforms. On the plus side, these First Contact figures were absolutely beautifully-detailed and authentic to the iflm. On the downside, they were out of scale with the rest of Playmates' exhaustive, amazing figure line (which included figures from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and classic Star Trek). That last bit was kind of a bummer if you wanted your Picards to mingle with your Janeways, for instance. The figures came with phasers, tricorders and the like, but also with a little mini-poster from the film.

Playmates released new versions of Picard, Riker, Data, Geordi, Troi, and Worf, as well as more First Contact specific figures. For instance, Alfre Woodard's character Lily Sloane, got an action figure, as did Cochrane (as played by James Cromwell). My two favorite figures, however, were Captain Picard in his bad-ass space suit (how often do we get to see space suits on Star Trek?) and the very mean-looking Borg soldier. But hey...why no Borg Queen?


  1. Oh, but they did make a Borg the small size, complete wit a head that comes off.

  2. What is so odd is that while Nemesis is probably one of the most terrible sci-fi films (not just Trek) out there, the action figures they had were stunning.

    I guess they used this face scanning technology that made the figures creepy minature versions of the actual people. Very intense stuff. But they didn't make a lot of them.

    I actually didn't purchase any First Contact toys even though I love to collect Trek stuff. I think I felt burned by Generations meager line.