Thursday, June 2, 2011

Inaction Figures That Leave Us Wanting Something More: Senator Palpatine.

The Good: Well detailed, Good balance, Interesting accessories
The Bad: Severely limited poseability, Massively overproduced.
The Basics: While it looks realistic and balances well, Senator Palpatine is a tough toy to get excited about, even for fans of the Star Wars saga.

On The Simpsons, there was a parody of The Phantom Menace that illustrated well the deep sense of dissatisfaction with the overbearing political nature of that Star Wars film. Stripped of the fantasy and epic sense, the movie was more a series of fairly lame political machinations that collapsed when anyone stood against them. Of course, it was a cunning power grab that began the downfall of the Republic, but it is still a tough sell to viewers who grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy. So, to make figures of the politicians, even the principle ones like Senator Palpatine, is pretty much bound to only please the serious collectors. And now that the mania surrounding The Phantom Menace is a decade behind us, it is much easier to look at the phenomenon objectively. Let's start with admitting that Hasbro released some pretty lame action figures. One of them was the pegwarmer Senator Palpatine.

Senator Palpatine, who utilizes the trade blockade of the planet he represents, Naboo, to ascend to the Chancellorship of the Galactic Republic in The Phantom Menace (reviewed here!) is essentially a politician. For sure, he is the most important politician seen in the Star Wars Saga, but this is like collecting the "Swiftboat" John Kerry as opposed to the Senator or Presidential Candidate figures of the same. Fleshing out the obscure corners of the Star Wars toy universe, Senator Palpatine impressed few collectors upon his release and now sits dusty wherever toys go unsold.

This 4" Senator Palpatine figure is generally decent, but it is the least inspired of the Palpatine figures. For sure, it fleshes out the full Star Wars universe fairly well, but how many Palpatines can one play with at any one time? As well, posed as he is, this is a figure that is limited to strongly disagreeing with resolutions on the Senate floor and not much more. Ultimately, it ends up as a pretty average action figure who is then hampered by his own costume to plunge his enduring value down.


Senator Palpatine in this form is a blue robed, pointing politician from any of the few scenes he was in in The Phantom Menace. He stands flatfooted with slightly flexible robes and a left hand molded with the index finger extended. He has a slightly furrowed brow and looks all right.

The Senator Palpatine figure stands only 3 3/4" tall, reminding toy enthusiasts and children that you don't need to be all that tall to take over the galaxy if you're sufficiently conniving! Senator Palpatine is appropriately coifed in robes and boots with a friendly uncle appearance to him. This figure is made of a combination of hard plastic - the main body and limbs are solid - and has soft plastic robes. The figure is cast the hard plastic, then colored appropriately.

This toy is a decent sculpt, capturing the facial features of Ian McDiarmid quite well. However, while the robes are detailed with padding and button details, the facial features are slightly simplified and details that later figures would capture, like fingernails, are not cast into this toy.


Senator Palpatine, being a Senator and politician, requires very few accessories. As a result, this figure comes with a Senate Cam Droid and the standard CommTech chip for this series of figure. The Senate Cam Droid is a tiny (5/8" in diameter) disc-shaped choking hazard that realistically recreates the floating droids that capture all of the action of the Galactic Senate when its members debate. This tiny droid is attached (but may easily be detached from) to a three-inch tall translucent plastic base that allows those with even limited imagination to imagine the droid is hovering in midair. On its own, this accessory falls right over, but it may be placed in Senator Palpatine's right hand to appear to be videoing him or whatever he wants it to look at. This is both a pointless accessory and the only one a Senator Palpatine figure could realistically have.

The other accessory is a CommTech Chip. For the "Episode I" figure line, Hasbro toyed with action figures that spoke to those who took them out of the package. Thus, each figure came with a chip that featured an image of the character and a voice chip. When placed on the CommTech reader and read, the CommTech player would play dialogue from Senator Palpatine on it. This chip has such phrases as Palpatine saying "The Republic is not what it once was," "The senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates," and "You see your Majesty, they will elect a new chancellor." Great moments in Star Wars politics!


The four inch toy line was designed for play, but Senator Palpatine is terribly lame in that regard. This is not a literal thing, the Senator Palpatine figure is fairly well-balanced when in a flatfooted position, even though he looks like he is speaking while about to run. Even with the Senate Cam Droid in his right hand, he is pretty balanced. However, moving his feet even slightly out of a flatfooted position completely mortgages his stability. Not to worry, the casting of this figure makes his leg articulation pointless; the stiff vest Palpatine wears under his robe descends just enough to prevent the legs from moving with anything remotely resembling realistic leg movement. This Senator Palpatine cannot kick, but one might imagine moving his legs to stamp in an annoyed fashion.

Despite having the flexible robes, Senator Palpatine is a poor figure as far as poseability goes. He is graced with only six points of articulation and that is a huge letdown considering the overall quality of the figure. The lowered flexibility pretty much mandates collectors pose the figure in very set ways. Senator Palpatine, as an action figure, has joints at the groin socket, shoulders, neck and waist (mid-torso, actually). There is no articulation in the knees or ankles, which matters less considering that the thigh joint can barely be moved. As well, this politician may rotate his full, straight arms, but nothing else. The result is a figure that may rotate slightly and point up and down. Good times for play.


Senator Palpatine is part of the 1998 "Episode I" collection of four-inch action figures. This series of Star Wars action figures was dramatically overproduced and was largely sold in massive clearance bins after the hype over the movie had died down. As a result, Senator Palpatine may be found exceptionally easily even now on the secondary market for less than the original issue price. In other words, this Senator Palpatine is a poor investment and is more ideal for collectors and children who actually want a Senator Palpatine to play with!


Senator Palpatine is a fair idea, poorly executed for play and overproduced for collectibility. If you're buying a lot of figures and there is a Palpatine in it, it might be decent to keep is, but otherwise this is not a Star Wars figure worth going out of your way for. At all.

For other Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace action figures reviewed by me, please check out my reviews of:
Deluxe Darth Maul with Sith Speeder
Gasgano with Pit Droid
Destroyer Droid


For other toy reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

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

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