Sunday, July 10, 2011

Exceedingly Tippable, Lieutenant Commander Data In Dress Uniform Is Another Playmates Flop!

The Good: Good concept, Recognizable character
The Bad: Paint problems, Balance issues, Poor articulation, Accessory coloring.
The Basics: Lieutenant Commander Data In Dress Uniform is another annoyingly tippable, inarticulate action figure from Playmates that most fans can easily live without.

One of the neat things about going to am insane number of Star Trek conventions and meeting a wide variety of celebrities - instantly recognizable names through extras - is the stories one hears and the sheer volume of merchandise one encounters. In my case, I love the mixing of the two. So, for example, in the last few years, Brent Spiner (who played Data) and Patrick Stewart (who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard) from Star Trek: The Next Generation have had tables set up for them at the annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. There, they (or agents working on their behalf) have made more money by selling off merchandise they were granted as part of their compensation from licensees that they had no interest in. Through some of the actors, stories have leaked about how some of the actors were entitled to merchandise, even when it didn't use their likeness. Ironically, many of these celebrities still - legitimately - kvetch about not receiving appropriate royalties for their likenesses being used on action figures and other mediums or will mention how they have not seen dime one for the royalties they were supposed to received from DVD sales. No actor in Star Trek: The Next Generation had more action figures made of him from Playmates Toys than Brent Spiner. In the third wave of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures, there were three Data figures, including the Lieutenant Commander Data In Dress Uniform figure.

Data, the android officer who worked as helmsman and chief science officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D wore his dress uniform on several occasions, but never so prominently as in the wedding scene in "Data's Day" (reviewed here!). Fans of the Star Trek franchise might well appreciate the Data In Dress Uniform figure, but it is a bit esoteric and this is an exceptionally inflexible figure. As a result, the concept is much stronger than the execution and fans are likely to end up disappointed if they take the figure out of the package.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1994 Series of action figures contained fourteen figures released in the first wave and the Data In Dress Uniform was one from that first assortment. This collection hinted to fans that Playmates was on a cashgrab as it focused more on remaking already released action figures from Star Trek: The Next Generation as opposed to fleshing out more alien races or supporting characters. As a result, there were three Data figures in the first assortment! The Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform is the Second Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise N.C.C.-1701-D as he appeared in the infrequent plots which required him to use a dress uniform. This figure was not as popular as the "Redemption" Data which existed without reason, but was a collector's item, and was also less popular than the Data As A Romulan figure, but it was less common than that one, so this was not a pegwarmer like that more obscure one was.

Lieutenant Commander Data In Dress Uniform appears in the standard Helm, Security and Engineering yellow colored uniform, but in the style of the Dress uniform as opposed to the duty uniform. What this means in most obvious terms is that Data's outfit is not designed to look like a one-piece uniform. Instead, it is a formal gold uniform which has a stiff shirt, almost like a dress that ends right below the groin. Playmates recreates this pretty faithfully with the chest piece being molded as a solid piece.

Standing four and one-half inches tall, this is a generally decent likeness of Lt. Commander Data immortalized in plastic. The character is molded in a stiff, formal pose, though the head is the same head that had been used on prior Data figures. The character is recognizable from his pale android skin and black hair. There is a decent level of uniform detailing, from the communicator on his chest to the extended piping which goes around the whole collar and into the shoulder. As well, the figure includes the pips in the correct place on the shoulder. Unfortunately, on mine the paint came chipped around the Communicator and pips. The figure's eyes are brown with white pupils and there they look somewhat sloppy. As well, the face and hair lack any sense of realistic toning.

The paint job is fair, but not realistic for a human being, which makes sense given the character is an android. The skin tones are monolithic white and lack any shading or subtlety, which works save that the eyes look so sloppily done. There is no shading to the hair, either, so Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform looks like he has a helmet on his head more than he appears to have hair. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect. However, by this time, Playmates eliminated the painting of the piping at the bottom of the figure's pants.


Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform comes with only five accessories and a SpaceCap collectible pog and these are generally good for the figure. The accessories are: a StarFleet desktop viewer, a PADD, a tricorder, a plaque of medals and an action base shaped like a StarFleet Symbol. That Data comes with more equipment than weapons makes a great deal of sense, as he would only wear the dress uniform for ceremonial occasions. The Action base is just enough to support Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform and is a StarFleet symbol appropriately colored in gold and silver-gray. The center of the symbol on the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of La Forge's feet!

The PADD is a flat chip of plastic 3/8" wide by 5/8" long with molded details of a Personal Access Display Device making it look recognizable. It fits in Data's right hand well and it has a sticker where the screen is, so it is recognizable to fans of the show fairly easily.

The tricorder is a three-quarter inch purple colored molded plastic device that fits awkwardly into Data’s hands. This accessory looks utterly ridiculous. The tricorder has realistic molding details, but does not open and close or have any sense of realistic coloring details for the buttons or panels.

The StarFleet Desk Monitor, or Personal Viewscreen, is an odd accessory for this action figure. While Data was frequently seen using one, this is usually seen on desks around the Enterprise, not in character's hands and never while Data was in his dress uniform. With the right arm movements, Data may hold his desk monitor - which looks very much like the ones on the show, save the coloring, and has a sticker to represent what is on the screen - in both hands, but he looks odd doing it.

The plaque of medals is a 1 1/8" long by 7/8" wide flat plastic chip that has a sticker with four (or eight) medals on it in brightly contrasting colors. This is a good concept accessory, but it does not fit in either of Data's hands and ultimately it looks quite ridiculous there because of the coloring of the base. There was a similar prop in the actual show and it was associated with Data, but it was made of hardwood and glass. Playmates truly skimped on this one!

Unfortunately, all four of these accessories are molded in an inaccurate purple plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. Data In Dress Uniform is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is less exciting than it otherwise could be.

The 1994 line of Playmates action figures also comes with a moderately interesting SkyBox SpaceCap pog unique to the action figures. The Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform pog features a tiny shot of Data's head with a space/nebula field background that looks pretty hokey. The back of the pog simply has the name of the pog and a checklist with the numbers for all of the collectible pogs and the figure is highly sought by card collectors who collected the cards and disposed of the figures. Interestingly, many of these figures had multiple cards in the bag behind the SkyCap, so it can often save collectors money to pick up the figures that way for the multiple cards!


Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform came later on in Playmates Toys's tenure with the Star Trek: The Next Generation toy line. As a result, the company was proven and now didn't care about quality as much as it initially did. As a result, they created a figure that had less articulation and poor balance than prior figures. Unfortunately, the figure has no ability to stand. Standing even on his base, Data tips over (this is one of the few Playmates Star Trek figures that actually tips over and takes the base with it! Rather inconceivably this figure appears to be too top-heavy, despite it not having an unrealistically broad chest. Because of the curve of the StarFleet communicator symbol the figure stands on, with one foot plugged into the base, the other is actually suspended awkwardly over the base, causing it to tip. Rearranging the figure becomes problematic because there is no joint in the groin socket (it is entirely inflexible below that "dress!").

This Data figure is endowed with nine points of articulation: knees, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and neck. All of the joints, save the elbows and knees, are simple swivel joints. As a result, the neck turns left to right, for example, but the head cannot nod. Similarly, the shoulders are not ball and socket joints and only rotate, though this limitation is dealt with in the Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform figure by the swivel joint in the bicep.

For use with actual play, Data In Dress Uniform may bend or extend at the elbows, which offers a greater amount of movement potential, though the knee joint is somewhat ridiculous given the lack of flexibility in the groin socket. None of the weapons or equipment fit well in his hands as they are molded almost entirely open. The monitor and plaque of medals are both too big for a single hand. The tricorder and/or PADD may be carefully balanced in his grip, but that falls out when Data falls over!


Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, but by the time it got to this wave, some figures were seriously limited, though the Data In Dress Uniform was not overly scarce. Found carded still in the $10 range, this is one of the figures that did not outright flop in this line. Still, after fifteen years, it is proving to not be an incredible investment by any means. Still, there is added value in that Star Trek trading card collectors hunt for the figure for the Space Cap!

Playmates tried to make the figures collectible. Each figure has an individual number on the bottom of his left foot. In the attempt to make them appear limited, they had numbers stamped on them, though one has to seriously wonder how limited something should be considered when there are at least 45000 figures out there (my Data In Dress Uniform is #044966!).


Lt. Commander Data In Dress Uniform is a decent concept for a Star Trek figure, but the poor execution of the Playmates version makes it very easy for fans and collectors to pass this one by.

For other Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, please check out my reviews of:
Geordi LaForge In Dress Uniform
Esoqq The Chalnoth


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

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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