Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oh, You Sad Things! The Borg Make For An Awkward Ornament With The Borg Cube!

The Good: Generally good sculpt, Good balance
The Bad: Light and sound effects could be better, Sculpt could be much more realistic and intriguing.
The Basics: One of the essential vessels in the Star Trek franchise, the Borg Cube makes a substandard Christmas ornament, disappointing many loyal fans.

It is tough to take something like the feared and dreaded Borg and screw them up, at least for Star Trek fans. Sure, Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!) and Star Trek: Voyager managed to completely gut the uber-adversary from the franchise by having the Borg witlessly having them time travel and having frequent encounters with the (ugh) Borg Queen. But it is truly hard to screw up the power, majesty and horror of the Borg ship. Still, Hallmark managed to do that (more or less) with their Borg Cube ornament, a good idea for the general populace, but a real letdown for the die-hard Star Trek fans.

For those unfamiliar with the Borg Cube, 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 "Q-Who?" (reviewed here!), the Borg Cube instantly made an impression. The Borg Ship is a simple cube, completely lacking in aesthetic, it is the ultimate in practical design. In fact, in addition to not worrying about aerodynamics (there are no such concerns in space) the decentralized design is also defined by a lack of walls. A close inspection of the surface of a Borg Cube reveals the same tubes, conduits and corridors as much of the inside! 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 mediocre version of it.


The "Borg Cube" ornament faithfully recreates the famed Borg starship in solid silver and black plastic. The ornament, released in 2000, is a disappointing work, at least for fans, as it is lacking in some significant surface detail and is a bit off in its coloring. The Borg Cubes traditionally look darker in the series and the lighter color does make it seem more flashy than coolly menacing, as it is intended to be. Measuring two and one-quarter inches long by two and one-quarter inches wide by two and one-quarters inches tall, the Borg Cube ornament is one of the essential Star Trek ships and many fans of the ship and the franchise paid their $24.00 before giving the ornament a closer look. But the discerning collectors at the time waited and those who waited seemed generally pleased; despite the initial buy-up by the rabid fans who would buy anything Hallmark put out, there were plenty of Borg Cubes left at the end of the season to be bought by the more discriminating collectors (who might buy the crap, but want to get it cheaper!).

The Hallmark "Borg Cube" 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. Like most of the previous Star Trek ornament releases, this one has the date stamped (or, in this case, molded into) the bottom of the starship. This ornament plugs into the standard light strand of Christmas lights in order to light up.

The Borg Cube is detailed adequately, at first glance. Five of the six sides, in fact, are virtually identical - save the top where the brass loop for hanging is embedded. However, loyal fans of the series who pay attention will note that the coloring is off and the surface markings have a very limited sense of depth. Yes, they are detailed, but in a very shallow way. 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 Borg Cube is a pretty easy ship to get right in that it is a solid color and given that the nature of the Borg cube is a decentralized block, this is adequate for most collectors' needs.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "Borg Cube" has a light and sound function. Like the best, Star Trek ornaments the Borg Cube both lights up and plays a sound clip. It has a five inch cord that is attached completely to the underside of the ornament. This green electric cord is embedded into the bottom aft corner 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 "Borg Cube." The light effects on this starship ornament is remarkably simple; There is a central white light inside that causes the ship to glow a vague whitish color. This is where the ornament begins to fall down. The color the Borg Cube glows in the series is green. There is a faint, greenish glow from the energy conduits in the Borg Cube and that is not captured in this ornament.

As well, there is the sound effect. The Borg speak with the one voice of the many assimilated, speaking in a cold, horrifying union. So, whenever they have spoken (pre-Star Trek: First Contact) they have been menacing in their absence of emotion. Hallmark gets the tone right. Kudos to them for that. But their message is one that is just awful. The ornament says "We are the Borg. Enjoy your holidays. Resistance is futile." Yeah, not the spirit of the Borg to wish one happy holidays. Yes, I get that it is a holiday ornament, but fans would have been just as happy with a truly Borg message ("Holidays are irrelevant, you will be assimilated."); blending the Borg and the holidays just makes for a bad move in my book.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Borg Cube" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimateStar Trek Christmas Tree, the "Borg Cube" ornament is an essential piece. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the Borg Ship, 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 hovering, ready to lock on a tractor beam and assimilate other "Star Trek" ship ornaments!


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 "Borg Cube" ornament was a minor 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 a number of other Star Trek ship ornaments.


Fans of the Star Trek franchise, the Borg and the Borg Ship specifically are likely to be largely disappointed by the Borg Cube ornament; it is a bland recreation of one of the most original and intriguing 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
2003 Scorpion Attack Craft
1998 U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E
1995 Romulan Warbird
1994 Klingon Bird Of Prey
1993 U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D
1992 Shuttlecraft Galileo


For other ornament reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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