Sunday, December 19, 2010

Overpriced And Underdetailed, The Romulan Warbird Ornament Is One To Avoid!

The Good: Good sculpt, Good balance
The Bad: Woefully inadequate light effects, Coloring issues
The Basics: Cast in the wrong color, lacking in details and underwhelming with its light effects, there is almost nothing to recommend the Romulan Warbird Christmas ornament.

I have absolutely no problem with claiming to be the Alpha Geek in my life. Yes, I am a proud Geek and around the holidays I get excited because I can show off my geekdom by making up a science fiction Christmas tree. Yes, I am the one for whom Hallmark makes ornaments like the Star Wars "Imperial AT-AT And Rebel Snowspeeder" ornament (click here for that review!) and the Star Trek "Klingon Bird Of Prey" ornament (click here for that review!). But when I set up the tree this year and I had to make some tough choices about what ornaments were hung and which ones I opted not to, I let the Romulan Warbird go unhung.

For those unfamiliar with the Romulan Warbird, this was one of the defining starships of Star Trek: The Next Generation era in the Star Trek franchise. Introduced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Neutral Zone" (reviewed here!), the Romulan Warbird instantly made an impression. The Romulan Warbird has a double hull design, connected by a beak-like bridge section and recessed nacelles and an aft drive section. As a result, the ship looks like a bird with its innards torn out or a skate that has been inflated and popped and frozen in such an exploded way. The starship captured the imagination of fans and was one that made for an obvious choice from Hallmark; it is a shame they produced such a disappointing version of it.


The "Romulan Warbird" ornament faithfully recreates the famed Romulan starship in solid green pearlescent plastic. The ornament, released in 1995, is a strange disappointing work, though, lacking in some significant surface detail and a bit off in its coloring. Measuring six inches long, four and one-quarter inches wide and one and three-quarters inches tall, the Romulan Warbird ornament is one of the essential Star Trek ships and most fans of the ship and the franchise quickly realized that $24.00 was an awfully steep price given the quality of this ornament. As a result, discerning collectors at the time waited and this was one of the first Star Trek ornaments to be bought en masse as part of after-Christmas sales. In other words, it was Hallmark Keepsake's first real Star Trek flop.

The Hallmark "Romulan Warbird" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the starship on its own, as is typical for Hallmark's starship line of Star Trek ornaments. Unlike previous Star Trek ornament releases, this one does not have the date stamped or painted on it. This ornament plugs into the standard light strand of Christmas lights in order to light up.

The Romulan Warbird is detailed adequately, at first glance. However, loyal fans of the series who pay attention will note that the window holes on the ship are missing and while they are a source of illumination in the series, the detailing here is more of a broad stroke, lacking the finer details, including those holes. As well, the Romulan Warbird is slightly off in hue, lighter than the actual starship and this has a finish that is almost pearlescent, which further reduces its appeal to the die-hards. Yes, Hallmark did not make it the precise color and that is a drawback, especially considering how well they did on many of their other ships.

That said, the Romulan Warbird is a pretty easy ship to get right in that it is a solid color, save the Romulan Star Empire symbol at the front crest. This appears on the ornament as little more than a black blob of paint. At least it is in the right place.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "Romulan Warbird" has a light function. Fans of the ornaments might be a little disappointed that this ornament has a light function, but no audio one. Many of the Star Trek ornaments both light up and play a sound clip. The "Romulan Warbird" does not. It does, however, have a five inch cord that is attached completely to the underside of the ornament. This green electric cord is embedded into the bottom aft section and it allows the ornament to be plugged into a Christmas light strand.

Plugging the ornament in (one needs to remove a single light bulb from the strand, then slide the male end from the ornament into the female end on the strand) activates the light effect on the "Romulan Warbird." The light effects on this starship ornament is remarkably simple; the tips of the warp nacelles light up a bluish green. This is where the ornament truly falls down. The forward plasma weapon port does not light up, nor do the tiny windows that did in the show, leaving this ornament mostly dark and . . . a shadow of the great and original vessel from the show.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Romulan Warbird" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "Romulan Warbird" ornament is an essential piece. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the Warbird, which is the most stable point on the ornament. As a result, the ornament, when affixed to a tree with a hook, hangs perfectly balanced from that loop.

This is a well-balanced ornament and even when plugged in to a light strand, it sits flat, looking like it is cruising through the galaxy!


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships from the franchise and they have all been more mass produced than that first one. The "Romulan Warbird" ornament was a colossal failure commercially. Despite the popularity of this starship with fans, the general public which is not as familiar with the Star Trek starships largely passed this one by. The result was that it was overproduced and when dealers and collectors gobbled them up, they became readily available (and still are) on the secondary market, at deflated prices. In other words, this is not an ideal investment piece! As well, many fans will not purchase it because it is not as good as any number of other Star Trek ship ornaments.


Fans of the Star Trek franchise, Romulans and the Romulan Warbird specifically are likely to be largely disappointed by the Romulan Warbird ornament; it is a poor recreation of one of the most original starships and it deserved better treatment from Hallmark.

For other “Star Trek” ship ornaments from Hallmark, please check out my reviews of:
2010 U.S.S. Enterprise (Star Trek refit)
2009 Klingon Battlecruiser
2005 U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A
1992 Shuttlecraft Galileo


For other ornament reviews, please visit my index page here!

© 2010, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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