Star Trek nerds have found themselves in the middle of the fourth age of Trek, and that’s a pretty cool thing, whether or not you like what Discovery, Prodigy and Picard are doing to the canonical world of the future.
While Original Series kids had Mego, and Nu-Trek fans had some boring 3.75″ toys of generic humanoids that were cancelled before the second wave ever came out, fans of the second age of Trek (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and to a lesser extent, Enterprise) had the best possible toys – a wildly expansive wave of 5″-ish figures by Playmates that covered all of the main crew of three separate shows, as well as many villains, aliens, and alien villains they met along the way.
Maybe I’m biased, because it was the first toy line that I ever collected, at two $5 figures for every other week’s $10 allowance. So the 2021 announcement that Playmates would again be handling the newest Trek toys, paired with their recent tendency to re-release classic toys from the ’80s and ’90s, has given some collectors hope that their aging Trek collections might have some long-standing gaps filled in. There’s no great reason that we got an action figure of Jumpsuit Worf, but never a Mr. Mot. The Vidiians were in one episode ever, they got their own action figure. And while Worf’s estranged brother made for a great episode, and a great figure, the the whole Next Generation line ended before it really explored every nook and cranny of the Star Trek universe. Maybe it’s time to remedy that.
Here are the top twelve retro Star Trek : The Next Generation figures that were missing from the original run.
Genesis : Protomorphosis Barclay, Worf, and Riker
Some of the best figures came from Playmates’ boxed sets, which often packed a brand new figure with a cheap repaint that you didn’t really need a double of, as with the Fistful of Datas set, which included a brand new Data as Frank Hollander, and a repainted Worf and Alexander. Regardless of the forced purchase of extra stuff, capturing an episode in one small set of figures is a pretty solid go-to move for the vintage line.
“Genesis” is an episode that needs its own mini-collection. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise get a weird, accidentally-created space disease because of a botched vaccination attempt, and they de-evolve into more primal aspects of their DNA. Riker becomes a savage caveman, Worf becomes some kind of acid-spitting Klingon animal, and Barclay becomes a spiderface, in one of the series’ most gory and wonderful creature effects. It’s a suitably strange filler episode near the end of the series, and a highlight due to its existence as one of only a few departures into Trek-based body horror — the best ingredient in any sci-fi story. Other notable mentions include the Season 1 episode “Conspiracy”, and that time in Enterprise when someone got rocks beamed into their skin.
And since Playmates already made Toxic Crusaders figures, they know gross. And what is this Barclay but a repainted Toxie?
Holodeck Series : Moriarty, Sherlock Data & Watson Geordi
Next Gen had very few recurring villains, and Q doesn’t count as a true ‘villain’ because he’s a lovable scamp with unfathomable allegiances. Sure, we have DaiMon Bok, Lore, and maybe the House of Duras. But one of the best recurring bad guys was Moriarty, who appeared in two episodes (“Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle”), and who had long-lasting ramifications for the rights of holograms in the Trek universe.
Moriarty himself doesn’t really cut the most exciting action figure, you have to remember that Playmates also gave us Vedek Bareil, an entirely vestigial character who held back the progress of Deep Space Nine in ways so bad that they had to murder him so the show could continue. He’s at least as good as Trelane as far as sci-fi Fancy Daniels go, and with him comes the possibility of Holodeck-attired Data and Geordi, the latter of whom got a pretty short shrift when it came to action figure choices. You could get Starfleet Geordis at various ranks, retired Geordi, or a Tarchannen alien. Where’s Cool Beard Geordi? Lute Geordi? Watson Geordi did make it into Playmates’ 9″ doll line, as did Sherlock Data, but collectors know that the heart of the line is in the 5″ figures. It’s also basically the same outfit Geordi wore in “Time’s Arrow”… so can we get a Mark Twain box set too?
If Next Gen has one, singular, awful villain, it’s Armus. And not awful because he did really bad things; just awful because he’s a bad idea. Or maybe just a good idea executed poorly.
Armus appears in the first season episode “Skin of Evil”, unceremoniously kills off a Tasha Yar, and is never seen again. As a concept, the physically discarded evil energy or a race of aliens is pretty cool, and the ramifications of dropping off your emotional garbage on the doorstep of an unsuspecting planet could be pretty intense. But it’s not. Instead, it’s just a droopy, humanoid blob made of Metamucil and printer ink, and Armus doesn’t get too far beyond that.
But sometimes, being terrible makes you iconic, and this is why Armus is one of the great Trek characters who deserves a figure. And without any paint details necessary since he’s completely shiny and black, production would probably be cheaper than normal. Add a goopy splatter of a black base, and you just might have one of the best Next Gen figures ever, without having to make your own out of hot glue and disappointment.
“The Offspring” is probably the saddest Next Gen episode there is. The story concerns the creation and rapid self-destruction of Lal, an android created by Data as his daughter, since Data’s positronic brain is a one of Star Trek’s great unconquerable scientific problems. Well, that and depression (see : DS9’s “Hard Time”, sorry O’Brien).
Lal briefly offered some hope for the Soong legacy, seeing as how the entirety of the Soong family is populated by deranged sociopaths, and offered a window into Data’s quest for humanity. In the end, his brush with being human is left with ambiguous results, as the crew mourns the loss of Lal, while Data immediately returns to duty, unfeeling, which is probably sadder than feeling sadness.
Maybe it’s cheap to make a plastic figure of such an impactful thing, but it’s also an episode with a lot of humor, as Lal attempts to understand humanity just as Data once did: awkwardly. Playmates already made a figure for the elderly Noonian Soong, as well as Data’s brother Lore, so a Lal figure would be a pretty natural next step. Humanoid Hallie Todd form is the obvious first choice, but a naked androgynous robot variant from before Lal chose her appearance would also be pretty great, if only because that brief design was so viscerally unsettling. We can, however, completely forget about the green Andorian appearance she had for five seconds, because that’s some Dr. Seuss nonsense right there. And knowing Playmates, they’d give it a ridiculous pink boa.
“A Matter of Time” is in my top ten TNG episodes too. It’s hard to get better than a time-travel mystery featuring Matt Frewer, who injects as much personality as any Q ever has into a fairly stolid, intellectual series. He’s a weirdo with inscrutable motives until the final chapter of the episode, and even as a basic sci-fi story, it still has some great twists. And he was Max Headroom, obviously. He’s an entertainment icon.
And while it’s true that a skinny human weirdo doesn’t make for the best action figure, in a purely toyetic sense, the Playmates line in general thrived on some pretty “basic” characters with incredible backstories, like Edith Keeler and Vash. As representations of great stories, they’re great little icons. Pack in a bunch of single-color artifacts, as Playmates was wont to do, and you have a figure that still blows Vedek Bareil out of the water. There’s something very cool about having a tiny little solar-system destroying Tox Uthat (the stolen 27th century artifact from “Captain’s Holiday”), so let’s get some more accessories for this time-travelling thief.
Kivas Fajo & Palor Toff
Another villain who tried to kidnap Data for personal gain, Kivas Fajo is also at the center of one of the best TNG episodes, “The Most Toys”, which is essentially a one-room drama with just a few characters and a highly-collectible baseball card. As villains go, Fajo is pretty merciless, and more willing to kill to prove a point than almost any other TNG villain, but we’re still kinda in normal-looking guy territory, which is why he should come with Palor Toff, an alien who looks like an elevator fell on a Piercing Pagoda.
Originally, Fajo was played by David Rappaport, an actor with dwarfism, but Rappaport attempted suicide between filming days and was replaced. The footage exists, and it’s a great version of the same character, and much like the excellent Ralph McQuarrie concept figures in the Star Wars line by Hasbro, this proto-Fajo would also make a really neat figure as part of a set. And it a completely meta sense, a collectible action figure of one of fiction’s great collectors would be pretty great. And if you need a three pack? Throw in the poor lady that he zaps into vapor, or even just a beige-clad display model Data.
A figure of Lwaxana Troi without her loyal Mr. Homn feels incomplete. Actor Carel Struycken appeared in TNG five times, but might be more recognizable as the Giant from Twin Peaks, or Lurch from the ’90s Addams Family movies. It’s hard to imagine Lwaxana without her gargantuan manservant, especially when we were even given a small accessory figure of the Betazoid gift box, played by Armin Shimerman in his second Trek appearance.
Playmates never sprung for any super-sized figures, unless you count the Species 8472 that came in the Harry Kim set, but Mr. Homn is a perfect opportunity to hit Star Trek nerds right in the weirdo zone.
Honorable mentions go to 15 different Q costumes, from mariachi to luau, and Barash, the creepy dollar store alien that kidnapped Riker to be his dad in “Future Imperfect”. Mick Fleetwood’s Antedean fish-head alien is a notable one-off alien, and we’ve also never had a proper Tellarite action figure, even though they were one of the first four alien species to form the United Federation of Planets.
Playmates’ vague July 2021 announcement that they were working with Star Trek again hasn’t been expanded on at all, and not a single prototype has been revealed, though it’s more likely Playmates will be focusing on the disappointing animated series Prodigy more than anything else, since Picard and Discovery both have a few too many adult words to really be appropriate for the toy aisle. But it would be truly nice to see Playmates return to form, like so many other toy companies are doing, just for us aging nerds who’d like to once more feel those old toy store feelings.
All Star Trek show images are copyright their respective owners and presented here for commentary purposes.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.