Star Trek XI New Toys: Design Critique

Posted by Michael Pinto on Mar 4, 2009 in Hobbies and Collections, Star Trek |

Star Trek Movie Enterprise Vehicle

The new Star Trek film will be hitting theaters in May, but early signs of merchandising are already appearing. Playmates has just introduced a line of toys which will be hitting the streets this month. So far we’ve only seen a trailer for this film, but these toys give us a first real glimpse into the look-and-feel of the film. It’s important to remember that the original Star Trek series was a real breakthrough in terms of production art — a spacecraft no longer had to look like a rocket or a flying saucer, so there’s a real tradition that’s at stake here. That and frankly if Paramount wants to reinvent the franchise they’ll have to top the amazing work Lucas has been doing these past couple of years with Star Wars.

Our critique starts with the Star Trek Movie Enterprise Vehicle shown above. The industrial design reminds me a bit too much of the first Star Trek movie from 1979 which wasn’t my favorite version of the ship but does show that they’re staying true to form. My only complaint warp engines feel a little bit heavy on the front, although it’s hard to tell if this has been exaggerated for the toy. So my grade for the new Enterprise is a C+.

Star Trek Movie Enterprise Bridge Playset

Next up we have the Star Trek Movie Enterprise Bridge Playset. At first look it’s a bit of an eclectic mix, but I think it sort of works. There’s a nice mixture of old and new as the chairs look like something from the original series but the viewing screen seems like something from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I wish I could get a better look at the captain’s command chair, but the control panels that I do see bring me back to the old show — so my grade here is A-.

Star Trek Movie Electronic Phaser

On the Star Trek Movie Electronic Phaser we’re at a bit of a disadvantage because we can only see the side view. My problem with this phaser is that it looks a little bit too retro from the 50s color choices to the Buck Rogers grill. In fact the design looks like two toys kitbashed together and feels more like something wed see out of a Duck Dodgers cartoon than “space the final frontier”. I’ll have to see what they use in the film, but frankly this phaser is a failure to me so I’d give it an F.

Star Trek Movie Electronic Communicator

I hate the top gap in the flip panel on this Star Trek Movie Electronic Communicator — if the top of the communicator is exposed why even have a flip open mechanism? Also the Federation decal looks a bit corny too, but I’ll give them some benefit of the doubt on this one so I’ll go with a C+.

Star Trek Movie Electronic Tricorder

This Star Trek Movie Electronic Tricorder reminds me a little bit too much of the first iMacs from ten years ago! It lacks a certain amount of detail, but it’s hard to tell if that’s just a bad toy design or reflects a lack of attention to detail in the film. To me it’s essential that a Tricorder have some sort of small video screen and here we just seem to have a bunch of blinking lights. It’s not a total failure, but it’s not a success either so I’d go with a C-.

Star Trek Movie Transporter Room Playset

This Star Trek Movie Transporter Room Playset looks like a disaster — if I was a kid I wouldn’t want this under my Christmas tree! The bottom of the transporter looks fine, but the top looks goofy. Now this might be the fault of the toy design and may not reflect of the show, however until I see better I’m not impressed so the transporter is awarded an F.

No I know you’re thinking that I’m being too critical — but it’s not good enough for these toys to be just good enough. The franchise is at a weak point and this is the time to win over a new generation of fans. These toys need to be cooler than any Star Wars toys that you’d come across and frankly these don’t do the trick. Mind you that Playmates is aimed at a younger audience, but that audience is going to even be pickier than old fanboys because the toys have to work as toys first and then compliment the show.

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