Saturday, July 30, 2011
Despite a few technical difficulties, my Star Trek Collectibles Panel for the Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention here in Nashville seemed to be a success! Thanks to everyone that attended... And my apologies if you didn't walk away with a freebie! Once again, I can't say enough good things about the kind folks that contributed extra items to the stack of giveaway goodies I passed out at the show: Marian Cordry with CBS, Zach Oat from Diamond Select Toys, and my buddy Chunky B from Eclectorama! You guys rock!
Friday, July 29, 2011
My fourth blog entry is now up over at Star Trek's official site! In this installment, we complete our 3-part journey into the world of Remco/ AHI toys by looking at some of their 1970's releases. Check it out if you get a chance- A Collector's Trek 4: Remco Toys Of The 1970's
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Figure Name: Original Spock
Manufacturer: Playmates Toys
This Spock was released carded as part of the Playmates Star Trek 2009 6" figure line.
The Rundown: Well, I've held off on doing this for almost 2 years now, but I really feel that my time has come. I just gotta face the music... take it like a man... rip that band-aid off with one quick pull. That's right folks- It's time to start spotlighting the Playmates 2009 Star Trek line.
Why have I waited so long to do this you ask? For starters, I've always wanted this blog to really stick to items related to the original series and the first seven feature films. The 2009 film is a little tricky. While part of me wants to separate it into its own segment of Trekdom, the other part of me wants to acknowledge it as a part of the classic canon... especially with the inclusion of Nimoy's Spock. I needed to let this inner argument gestate for a bit before I really opened the door to the '09-inspired merch. The second reason is a bit easier to explain... For me, the Playmates 2009 toys just didn't seem all that great. With a different scale and style than the previous Playmates Trek offerings, I wanted to give myself some time to get to know these guys before committing my opinions on them to the blog.
But like I said... That time has come! And what better place to start than with the guy that ties it all together- The Original Spock! Let's take a gander at him!
Playmates released 3 differently scaled lines of figures for the Star Trek 2009 movie: A 3.75" line called the "Galaxy Collection", a 6" line dubbed the "Warp Collection, and the 12" "Command Collection". I compromised with myself and went with the 6" version of Spock for this first foray into spotlighting the line.
We'll start at the top of the figure and work our way down. The head sculpts of the 2009 Playmates product are WILDLY hit-or-miss, with some featuring decent likenesses and others... not so much. Spock here is one of the better efforts, with a head that bares a pretty solid likeness to the elder incarnation of everyone's favorite Vulcan.
As we move down, it becomes obvious that these aren't your daddy's Playmates Star Trek figures. While the old line sometimes had issues with properly scaling the heads to the bodies, the '09 line does a nice job of balancing proportions. The upper body articulation is nice as well, with a large range of movement in the arms and a hidden torso joint supplying a large range of posing options.
Here's where things start to fall apart unfortunately. In order to hide the torso joint, many of the 6" figures feature rubbery coverings over a buck upper body. The material used here seems more durable than the stuff used on the Art Asylum figures, but it also feels REALLY gummy on this Spock due to its thickness. The body sculpt itself is pretty "soft" overall as well, giving the figure a somewhat cheap appearance when compared with other contemporary figures made in the 6" scale.
My biggest gripe on the figure though has to be the hip joints. While the arms feature a wide range of movement, the hip articulation is relegated to a simple T-joint... meaning he can sit down and that's about it. I could almost forgive this if the legs were at least posed a bit further apart, but they aren't. Spock is perpetually stuck with his legs fairly close to each other, severely limiting his poseability. Even the V-joint hips of the 90's figures worked better than this... and I hated those V-joints.
Accessories: Spock includes an interchangeable hand and a black figure stand. While I understand that Spock didn't really use any weapons in the film, I still feel Playmates cheaped out here. Why not stick a vial of "red matter" in with him? That would have been pretty cool.
While the '09 Playmates line as a whole isn't all that great, this Spock at least has a few good things going for him. The head sculpt is strong, the articulation is at least half-decent... and it's Leonard Nimoy's Spock! If you are thinking of trying this line out (especially at the current closeout prices nationwide), Original Spock might be a good place to start. Using him, you can decide if you have need for the many, or need for the few... or just the one. See what I did there? Yeah, that was a TWOK reference. Kudos to me!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Item Name: Romulan Bird-Of-Prey Keepsake Ornament
Hallmark released this ornament as part of their 2011 keepsake assortment. Here's the back of the box if you care to read it-
The Rundown: As the old saying goes- Third time's a charm! After the mediocre showings of the first two 2011 Hallmark ornaments, I'm happy to tell you that I saved the best for last. This year's ship entry, the Romulan Bird-Of-Prey, definitely rules the roost amongst his 2011 brethren... but that isn't really saying much, is it? Let's take look at her and see if she is actually worth plunking down the money for.
The first thing you may notice when getting your BOP out of the box is how "smooth" it is. The ship lacks the intricately sculpted lines and details seen on some of Hallmark's recent ship offerings, like 2009's Klingon Battle Cruiser and 2010's "JJ-Prise". There's a reason for that though: The TOS Romulan Bird-Of-Prey isn't supposed to have hyper-detailing! Duh. Take a look at this picture of the shooting model-
Now look at the ornament-
Not only did Hallmark maintain the integrity of the shooting model by not adding silly things like unnecessary gridlines, but they also did an incredible job of recreating what small details were visible on the original prop. Compare the number of "portholes" and their placement between the two pictures. Go ahead. I'll wait for ya. Done? Yeah, they match pretty darn well, don't they? Good job Hallmark!
Of course, the most integral element to a good Bird-Of-Prey replica is the fowl decoration located on the underside. I have zero complaints with Hallmark's rendition here. The paint lines are nice and tight, with no mismatch between the pattern and the coloring. I also have to give them kudos for incorporating the battery cover into the tail feather portion of the image. Pretty sneaky sis!
Speaking of the batteries- The Romulan Bird-Of-Prey is part of the "Magic" series of ornaments... meaning you're going to get some kind of electronic feature built in. Press the button located on her top side, and this happens:
Pretty sweet, eh? Not sure how well it translated in the video, but the nacelle lights are SUPER bright. Some folks may have issue with the color chosen for the effect, but I personally dig the blue. It looks really sharp. Oh.. and I actually had no idea that the front part lit up until it started blinking. Excellent work all around!
At $32.95, the Romulan Bird-Of-Prey is the most expensive of this year's Hallmark Trek offerings. Thankfully, it also happens to be the best of the bunch. If money isn't really a factor, but you only have room on the tree for one 2011 Trek ornament, make it this one. It really is quite cool, and it would look great hanging near the original Enterprise (if you have that golden oldie). With the high price, you may be tempted to wait out the inevitable post-season clearance, but I have a feeling this one will be the first one to "disappear". After all, it is a Romulan Bird-Of Prey... Ya get it? "Disappear"? Because it can cloak! Ha!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Item Name: Spock Star Trek Legends Ornament
Hallmark released this ornament as part of their 2011 keepsake assortment. For your reading enjoyment, here's the back of the box-
The Rundown: Remember back in 1999 when you went to see "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace"? You went in with these huge expectations, thinking the movie would be the greatest thing since the Ewoks battled on Endor. Turns out it wasn't. Turns it out it kinda sucked. Fast forward three years... Your standing in line for "Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones", absolutely sure that the mistakes of the first prequel will be erased with this outing and you'll look back and laugh at the early antics of Mr. Binks. Yeah... that one ended up stinking too, didn't it? Well, that's pretty much how these 2011 Star Trek ornaments are turning out as well. Yesterday, we looked at the "Mirror, Mirror" ornament, which was kinda poopy. Today we turn our attention to this year's Spock ornament... which unfortunately isn't that great either.
Spock is the second release in Hallmark's "Star Trek Legends" series (following last year's Captain Kirk). The "Legends" series is basically Hallmark's way of getting another run out of the original series mainstays, with a different character ornament slated for release each year. Like I said in the Kirk spotlight- I am all for "do-overs" on the TOS guys... but only if they do them better than the first time around. Judging by these first two "Legends", it doesn't seem like that is going to be the case with this series.
That's not to say that Spock is a downgrade from the Kirk ornament. Spock is definitely superior to that frankly abysmal release... but he's still not that good. At first glance, he seems prefectly fine; A standard Spock holding his tricorder. But get a little closer...
...and things start to get a little funky. And not a good kind of funky. The bad kind. What is going on with that face? Is he smiling? Is this supposed to be from "This Side Of Paradise" or something? Maybe Hallmark anticipated that your tree was going to be filled with those weird muppet-spore-plant things so they went ahead and sculpted him all happy-like. Either that or it's just not a very good sculpt. I'm going with the spore idea.
The rest of the body is a contradiction in accuracy. For example: The tricorder features a really odd smooshed-down sculpt, but then small details on the uniform like the rank braids and delta shield are done incredibly well. It's kinda like eating a worm and finding an apple inside.
And since I mentioned it on Kirk, I feel it's necessary to bring it up here too- It's very difficult to get Spock standing without support. I had about 15 unusable pictures of Spock falling over when this shoot was done. He's not nearly as unstable as Kirk, but he definitely isn't meant for displaying on a shelf. Yeah, I know he's just an ornament... But I do like to display mine on the off-season, so his wonky feet frustrate me.
If you were waiting for me to lift this review back up with some hidden bit of awesomeness lurking within this release, you're going to be disappointed. Scroll down. Yep. This is the last paragraph. The only truly good thing I have to say about this guy is that he's fairly cheap. At only $14.95, Spock is the most affordable of this year's ornaments. My experience over the weekend showed me that the low price is definitely going to help this one for awhile, as my Spock was the last one in the store. It's just a bummer that he isn't a little nicer for that price. As it stands now, you'd be better off buying Hallmark's old Spock ornament... which is exactly the same thing I said about the Kirk release. Kinda funny that product released over 15 years ago is making modern day releases look useless in comparison. It seems as if the "Legends" line is turning out to be the ultimate "Captain Dunsel" of Star Trek ornaments...
Don't worry... We're ending strong with this one, as it is easily the cream of the crop this year. ;)
Monday, July 18, 2011
Item Name: "Mirror, Mirror" Keepsake Ornament
Hallmark released this ornament as part of their 2011 keepsake assortment. For your reading enjoyment, here's the back of the box-
The Rundown: So... how was your weekend? Mine was good. Did some work around the house, spent $80 on ornaments, had some family fun time... ya know, the usual stuff. Wait- $80 spent on ornaments!?! In the middle of July!?! That's right folks! In case you forgot, Hallmark premiered their new ornaments this past weekend. So if you buy their new releases each year at the earliest possible moment like I do, then you have three brand spankin' new ornaments to rush out and drop 80 smackeroos on! This year's Star Trek ornaments all focus on TOS, with a Romulan Bird-of-Prey in the ships series, a standard Spock figure continuing the "Legends" series, and a "Mirror, Mirror" ornament figuring into their "Magic" releases. Today, we'll be taking a look at the "Mirror, Mirror" release.
Recreating a pivotal scene from the classic episode "Mirror, Mirror", the ornament features Spock and McCoy moments before the Vulcan initiates a mind-meld with the good doctor. It's a great scene from a great episode; Definitely worthy of the ornament treatment.
The ornament stands at just under 5" tall, with each figure coming in at under 4". Hallmark has done some great work at even smaller scales than that, so I expected the work on these guys to be pretty sharp. Unfortunately, the sculpts just aren't as strong as they should be. McCoy is definitely my favorite of the two, but he isn't without problems. While the sculptor did a decent job of capturing McCoy's likeness, the face just doesn't convey the bewildered look that Bones had during the scene. He almost seems happy, like he's kinda looking forward to the meld... which is weird.
"Evil" Spock fares even worse in my eyes. The head sculpt doesn't bare much resemblance to Nimoy, and the body has almost cartoonish proportions (particularly the arms). Not only that, but details like the chest adornments on both figures are simply painted on instead of being sculpted. Bummer. Now it may sound like I'm being a tad harsh on this release, especially given the fact that this is a fairly small ornament... but after having recently spotlighted the much smaller "Wrath Of Khan" ornament, I expected cleaner work from this one.
I was pleasantly surprised when I turned the ornament around though! The back wall of the ornament features the "Terran Empire" logo... of which I am a big fan. ;) Nice touch Hallmark!
Of course, since the "Mirror, Mirror" ornament is part of the "Magic" series, there is an electronic feature built into this release. Press the button at the base and you get treated to a line of dialogue from the episode! Check it out:
Pretty cool, eh? Sadly, there is only one sound effect though. Sure, that's all you need for the scene, but I still feel like they could have put another line or two in to really spruce this one up. I do continue to be impressed by Hallmark's sound chip work though. They always seem to hit the perfect balance between volume and clarity. Oh, and just like the releases of the past few years, "Mirror, Mirror" runs on batteries, allowing you to use it as a display piece during non-seasonal months.
While it does have some sculpting issues, the "Mirror, Mirror" ornament still makes a cool display piece from one of Trek's all-time great episodes. What hurts this one though is the price- At $29.95, slight drawbacks like a weak sculpt and a solitary voice clip make dropping the money down on this release a bit painful. I hate to say it, but you may be better off waiting for the inevitable year-end clearance on this baby. Unless of course you have no patience like me... Then you're screwed.
Did he fare batter than "Mirror, Mirror"?.... Come by tomorrow to find out!
Here's all the extras from the Sci-Fi Channel Special Edition of "By Any Other Name". George Takei explains his early hatred for Walter Koenig in this one...
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Item Name: Star Trek Trading Cards
The Rundown: Released 10 years after the show premiered, the Topps Star Trek trading card set proves just how popular the series became once it hit syndication. What other shows could manage to get a card set produced 7 years after they ended? None, that's how many! (No, I can't back that up with any factual evidence... it just sounded good.) And with only the bizarre 1967 Leaf set preceding it, the Topps 1976 cards really set the bar for all the following Trek card sets throughout the years. So how good is it? Let's check it out!
The basic card set consists of 88 cards. They follow the familiar trading card form: Picture on the front, information on the back. While the pictures on the front may seem a little fuzzy by today's standards, you have to keep in mind that this set is 35 years old now. That's well before the days of digital mastering...
A wide variety of photography is used for the fronts of the cards. From shots of the main cast like the Spock seen above...
...to alien creatures that you may have only seen quick glimpses of in the series...
...and even beauty shots of the enterprise shooting model. Topps did an amazing job choosing some of this imagery way back when. Judging by the shots used, I'd say somebody on the card design team had to be a Trekkie. Who else would include cool close-up pictures like this shot of a cordrazine-crazed McCoy-
What a great card! Imagine taking that to a convention in the 70's and having De Kelley sign it for you. In hindsight, the whole set seems to have been tailor made for convention-goers seeking autographs- Very portable, with a wide variety of the cast featured.
One of my favorite aspects of vintage Topps cards has always been the captions used on the card fronts. Topps had a talent for making even the most innocent of scenes exciting with their clever captioning. Take the shot above for example. We all know this scene from "The City On The Edge Of Forever": Kirk and Spock are stuck in the past and must steal a few clothes to blend into their surroundings. Well, Topps just upped the ante by taking our intrepid heroes on a "Visit To A Hostile City". Scary!
Each cardback features a short snippet either explaining an element of the show, synopsizing an episode, or giving behind-the-scenes details. While only 41 episodes are covered here, the inclusion of production details more than makes up for the missing shows. The set is also one of the first official products to tease the release of a Star Trek motion picture... a full 3 years before it hit theatres!
So that covers the basic cards... On to the stickers! Inserted at 1 per pack, the 22 sticker set probably drove fans a bit crazy. Nowadays, it's simple to complete a card subset thanks to ebay and online card shops. Back in the 70's though? The best chances you had were trading with buddies and a few hobby shops here and there. Completing a full set must have been a regular Kobayashi Maru...
I'll bet it wouldn't have been so bad had the stickers not been so freaking awesome looking! The space back drop, the sweet character shots, and the colorful outlines add up to some seriously retro-cool adhesives. Oh...and a little tidbit for ya: The stickers really prove just how much Spock eclipsed Kirk in popularity, with Kirk appearing on a measly 3 stickers versus Spock's 7 spots!
So there ya have it... Is it an awesome card set? Yeah, pretty much. The cards themselves are pretty solid overall, the stickers are nifty, and the product is a great reminder of Trek's popularity explosion in the 70's. The real question though is if you need it now. With most dealers wanting $100 or more for a full set with all 22 stickers included, this is one product that may only appeal to the hardcore 70's Trek or trading card collectors. That's a real shame, as the set is cool enough to warrant inclusion in everyone's collection. Makes me wish that Rittenhouse could do a spruced up reprint of it, maybe using cleaned up imagery but maintaining the 70's feel. They could even include some fresh gum, as vintage 1976 gum isn't as tasty as you might think...