Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tough Sell, Even For Fans, "The Menagerie" Ornament Tips.

The Good: Good sound clips, Decent light effect
The Bad: Expensive, Terrible balance, Horrible detailing on characters
The Basics: A bit expensive, underdetailed and unbalanced, "The Menagerie" Hallmark ornament is not likely to be a bestseller, even among Trekkers!

When Gene Roddenberry started Star Trek, one wonders if he had any idea what it would truly become. Merchandised now ad nauseam, even the throwaway episodes seem to have enough meat to them to get them presented in alternative mediums, like action figures, computer games, statuettes or holiday ornaments. I mention this at the outset of my review of "The Menagerie" ornament because this ornament is based upon an episode that was Roddenberry's attempt to get his original pilot seen and the episode is very much a clip show!

For those unfamiliar with the episode, "The Menagerie" takes the original pilot episode, "The Cage" and shows the episode as a series of clips amid a courtroom legal drama featuring Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. In "The Menagerie" (click here for the episode review!), Spock abducts his former captain, Christopher Pike, and takes him to the forbidden planet of Talos IV. Spock is sentenced to death and the reason why comes from showing the events of "The Cage." The reason Spock tried to abduct Pike soon becomes evident, but the reason he is able to is because between "The Cage" and "The Menagerie," Pike is crippled in an accident and left a head and torso embedded in a sophisticated wheelchair that is also keeping him alive.

It is Kirk and Spock squaring off with the wounded Captain Pike that is the subject of the "The Menagerie" Hallmark Ornament. To add extra value to this one, Hallmark provided this ornament with a decent light-up function and a pretty ambitious sound chip.


The "The Menagerie" ornament recreates the moment Kirk and Spock interrogate Captain Pike on what he wants and the wheelchair-bound Pike responds with beeps from his chair. The ornament recreates the scene with the wounded Captain Pike between Kirk and Spock and a small section of flooring cast in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2009, is a mixed bag as it has a very poor and underdetailed sculpt of the characters of Kirk and Spock, but a good sound chip and light-up effect that is likely to please many fans.

Still, Hallmark clearly made an effort on the characters as the people on this ornament are detailed with accurate rank insignia and division badges. Measuring nine and one half centimeters tall, eight and a half centimeters wide and five centimeters deep, "The Menagerie" ornament is a medium-sized Star Trek ornament and with the light and sound feature, it is not the most pricey one at the original issue price of $24.00.

The Hallmark "The Menagerie" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the three officers facing one another with the wounded Captain Pike in the center and Kirk and Spock looking down upon him. The floor is nicely detailed to look like a deckplate. The chair and the officers are generally colored properly, with the bright yellow and blue of Kirk and Spock's shirts nicely contrasting the black of Captain Pike's chair.

However, the heads and faces are mediocre at best, with Spock especially bearing coloring and cheeks that are not accurate for the character. There is no realism to the flesh color and the eyes and this is somewhat understandable given the small scale of the people on this ornament (they are approximately two inches tall). Kirk is actually fatter in the face than William Shatner ever was, making this look like an animated version of the captain. Even Captain Pike is poorly detailed; while his mouth is open and he looks wounded, the ornament does not have the red burns that covered half the character's face.

This ornament remains fairly easy to find in the secondary market, despite the fact that the scene and sound chip are pretty popular, especially in the wake of the cinematic rebirth, "Star Trek", which introduced a broader market to Captain Pike. This one does seem to be adequately produced, if not overproduced for the market.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "The Menagerie" has both a light effect and a sound effect. This ornament operates on an independent battery so one does not need to position it near a light strand on their tree. The light effect only works when the button on the bottom of the ornament is pushed and it is appropriate for the light effect to come on.

That same button, when pressed, activates the sound chip. The sound chip actually contains three different clips from "The Menagerie." Rather extraordinarily, the chip has several seconds of dialogue between Kirk and Spock and Spock and Captain Pike. Pike responds to questions from Kirk and Spock by beeping and causing a blinking light on his chest to light up. Whenever Pike beeps, the light activates on the center of his chest and this is a decent effect!


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "The Menagerie" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "The Menagerie" ornament is a high priced option and one most people will be able to live without. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top center of Captain Pike's head. This is fairly unobtrusive and necessary for the ornament.

Unfortunately, because of how Kirk and Spock are positioned, this is a terribly-balanced ornament. It pitches forward problematically and those who get the ornament are likely to be quite disappointed at how front-heavy the ornament is. As a result, it tips forward and is impossible to keep level without actually sticking it on top of whatever branch is below it.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for my review of that ornament!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships and many of the characters from the franchise and they have all been more mass produced than that first one. "The Menagerie" ornament was a slow sell even to fans and not at all a success among the public at large. There were few fans who bought it and almost no investors or general fans of science fiction picked it up. The relative expense of this ornament makes it a bit stifling for those who are only casual fans. It is still easily found on the secondary market, implying it will be a poor investment piece for some time.


"The Menagerie" may be an iconic moment to Star Trek fans, but it seems that most people have no problem leaving this unbalanced ornament with a minimal light effect on the shelves. Very average.

For other ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2010 "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" Peanuts ornament
Hallmark Gold Crown Reflections U.S.S. Enterprise blown glass ornament
2010 Limited Edition Lando Calrissian ornament


For other ornament reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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