Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Exceptionally Simple Ship, Exasperatingly Simple Ornament: The 2011 Hallmark Romulan Bird Of Prey Gets It Right.

The Good: Good sculpt, Good balance, Good light effect, Good painted detail.
The Bad: PRICE, Lack of sound effect
The Basics: Hallmark Keepsake cannot be held accountable for the original, simple, design of the Romulan Bird Of Prey, but it can be taken to task for charging so very much for the 2011 ornament version of it!

It was with very mixed feelings that I sat down to consider this year's Hallmark Star Trek starship ornament. I have been collecting the ship ornaments for years and my hope after last year's Enterprise ornament was that the company might finally do a U.S.S. Excelsior or one of the villain ships, like the Romulan ship from the last Star Trek film. So, when months ago it was leaked that the ship would be a Romulan Bird Of Prey, I was already a bit prejudiced against the ornament. But my bias gets pretty much buried when it comes to Ornament Preview Weekend and I went to that event excited . . .

. . . until I got the sticker shock from seeing the price of the Romulan Bird Of Prey ornament. I could live with Hallmark doing one of the most simple, underdetailed ships in the Star Trek pantheon. I could even live with the fact that it had a light, but not a sound, effect. But being asked to shell out $32.95 for it was something I would not bear. I'll go ahead and make a bold statement for Star Trek fans right now: hold off. There will be so many of this ornament left after the season is over that you'll be able to get them for at LEAST half off. No one in their right mind should pay $32.95 for this ornament. Sure, it might be technically flawless, but the price factors in and $32.95 is an insane price for this ornament.

Yeah, I'm going to harp on this a little more here at the top of my review so no one can mistake me for endorsing this ornament, despite the high rating at the bottom. Hallmark released approximately three hundred ornaments for 2011 (not all of them are in stores yet and some are already sold out as they were limited edition offerings) and only 9 (NINE!) are more expensive than this. A tenth ornament, the Star Wars Showdown At The Cantina ornament is the only other ornament priced at $32.95. I'll say it, Hallmark is hoping Trekkers won't notice they're being exploited. Guess what?! WE NOTICE!

For those unfamiliar with the Romulan Bird Of Prey, this was the first major starship seen in Star Trek outside the U.S.S. Enterprise. Appearing only in the episodes "Balance Of Terror" (reviewed here) and "The Deadly Years" (reviewed here!), the Romulan Bird Of Prey was a generally flat ship that had a cloaking device that allowed it to turn invisible. So far, no "cloaked" Romulan Bird Of Prey exclusive ships have turned up, but now that I mention it, perhaps Hallmark will reuse the mold next year and make a transparent version of this same ship (if they want, they could do a three-pack with the Klingon Bird Of Prey and the Romulan Warbird ornaments if those molds still exist). Pursued back across the Neutral Zone, the Romulan Bird Of Prey fired a deadly plasma that nearly destroyed the U.S.S. Enterprise after Captain Kirk and the Enterprise were sent to investigate one of these ships destroying starbases along the Neutral Zone!


The "Romulan Bird Of Prey" ornament faithfully recreates the classic Romulan starship in solid light gray plastic. The ornament, released in 2011 - as part of the show's 45th Anniversary celebration - perfectly captured the lack of surface details of the Romulan ship. This was easy enough to do as the Romulan Bird Of Prey had a rather simple mold and very few details. However, Hallmark created the starship with its back fin, engineering hull (with such details as windows molded into it!) and warp nacelles. Measuring four and five-eighths inches wide, four inches deep and one and three-eighths inches tall, the Romulan Bird Of Prey ornament is one of the essential original Star Trek ships, but even the die-hard fans are struggling to get up the gumption to pay $32.95 for the ornament. Three of the five local Hallmark stores in my area have yet to sell one of their Romulan Bird Of Prey ornaments!

The Hallmark "Romulan Bird Of Prey" ornament is made of a durable gray plastic and has the starship on its own, as is typical for Hallmark's starship line of Star Trek ornaments. The underside of the Romulan Bird Of Prey features the detailing. The Romulan Bird Of Prey is detailed quite well with the painted details. In addition to details molded into the starship, like windows, the front plasma emitter, bolting around the fin and the engine caps which are gunmetal colored, the Romulan Bird Of Prey has a very faithful paint job. This means that the bottom of the starship features the image of a giant orange bird and the top back of the starship features wing details, as if the bird had flopped its wings over. The graphic is very 1960s, but it is very accurate to the original model of the ship.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the "Romulan Bird Of Prey" 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 Bird Of Prey" does not. It does, however, have a battery compartment on the underside that houses the tiny batteries needed to set off the light function. The batteries for this ornament are included.

Pressing the button on the ornament, the Romulan Bird Of Prey's warp nacelle tips light up blue. The plasma weapon emitter also lights up and the batteries allow the lights to shine surprisingly brightly.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Romulan Bird Of Prey" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "Romulan Bird Of Prey" ornament is a decent piece that fleshes out the whole Star Trek universe well. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top, center of the engineering hull, presumably about where the bridge would be.

The location of the loop is the best that Hallmark could reasonably do and it works. Hanging from the brass loop, the Romulan Bird Of Prey hangs perfectly level.


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, Star Trek fans have been exploited annually for their love of ornaments and the franchise with light and/or sound-oriented ornaments, almost all of which have appreciated in value. The Romulan Bird Of Prey shows all the signs of being overproduced, overpriced and trying to maintain a stranglehold on a populace that has largely moved on. Wait until after the Holidays to get your Romulan Bird Of Prey ornament; they will still be available.

All factors suggest this is a terrible investment piece.


Fans of the Star Trek franchise, science fiction, Hallmark ornaments and the Romulan Bird Of Prey are likely to feel severely cheated by the Romulan Bird Of Prey ornament, despite the technical merits that are overwhelmingly in its favor. But $32.95. Ouch.

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
2008 U.S.S. Reliant
2006 U.S.S. Enterprise (reissue)
2005 U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A
2003 Scorpion Attack Craft
2000 Borg Cube
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 be sure to visit my index page for a listing of all the ornaments I have reviewed by clicking here!

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