Saturday, August 13, 2011

Commander Riker Arrives Without Rips, But An Underwhelming Rendering For Playmates 1993 Toy Line-up!

The Good: Generally good sculpt and balance, Decent poseability, Cool trading card
The Bad: Drastically overproduced, Hand molding decreases playability, Accessory coloring
The Basics: Still fairly lame, the second attempt at Will Riker falls short of action figure lovers' expectations!

It is amazing how pegwarmers will be repackaged and sent back out into the world to die a second time as an action figure. Strangely, Playmates Toys seems to have nailed their target audience of Star Trek fans with their line of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures because even some of the least popular action figures managed to get released more than once. No, they were not more successful the second time around, but Playmates sure tried and they managed to sell a lot of the same figures to the same people, despite having only one minor difference. Take, for example, the action figures of Commander William Riker. The first release made for Playmates' first pegwarmer when the Commander William T. Riker action figure appeared on shelves with tears (purposely) in the figure's uniform. Playmates tried again in the second series of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures with the "Lieutenant William T. Riker In Second Season Uniform" figure and that was mediocre at best (that's this review!). The thing is, this lame figure was later repackaged when Playmates got into the whole pog craze!

Even so, the second season Commander Riker figure could be worse. It was released twice, at least in Canada in order to promote both the second line of figures (Playmates's second wave of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures was released in 1993 and included twenty-three figures, several of which were re-released in a later line in Canada where the only difference was that the trading card that came with the twenty-three line was replaced with a SkyCap (a pog). The figures inside were identical. For fans of the Playmates Star Trek line, despite its flaws, this might be the best uniformed Riker figure they produced.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1993 Collection of action figures contained twenty-three figures and it broadened the line away from the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and supplemented the characters with memorable guest stars and aliens. Following the disappointing initial release of Commander Riker, the second series of figures contained a Commander William T. Riker "In Star Trek: The Next Generation Second Season Uniform" figure which was generally regarded as a vast improvement on the original and gobbled up by the same collectors who had made the 1992 Riker figure a pegwarmer. Still, they were so vastly overproduced as to make them worthless. This Commander Riker is fairly popular and one that collectors tend to want in their collections, if for no other reason than it looks like it belongs on the Bridge Playset.

The Commander Riker figure is the Command branch officer as he appeared the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here!). This is is essentially the same Riker that was originally made and distributed, but with a new chest. The hands are molded the same way as the original and virtually all that distinguishes this second season Riker from the fifth season Riker is piping on the shoulders of the uniform and the bottom of the pants. Other than that, this is cast and colored identical to the earlier release.

Standing four and seven-eighths inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Commander William T. Riker immortalized in plastic. The character is molded with his left fingers extended straight, so Riker looks like he is running like a football player and stiff-arming a blocker. There is a decent level of uniform detailing. Riker's face is molded in a determined expression and it lacks much in the way of detail, though the lips are colored pink and the light flesh tones of Riker lack any subtlety or shading. The figure includes such important details as Riker's beard and mustache and the facial hair molded into the plastic, though most of the facial hair detailing is simply painted on. The face and hair lack any sense of realistic toning and this Riker has hair that is short and lacking in any highlights, though it is molded to have Riker's spiky hair bounce. His eyes are appropriately blue, but the pupils are white instead of black!

The paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic light tan and lack any shading or subtlety. Mine had a little paint blob over one eyebrow, as if Riker had a mole. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect. This includes the piping at the bottom of the pants, which was a nice touch of realism.


Commander Riker comes with six accessories, plus a trading card: A StarFleet Type II phaser, StarFleet tricorder, a Federation directional U.V. source, a field kit with detachable analyzer, and an action base shaped like a Federation Communicator badge. That Commander Riker comes with more equipment than weapons makes a great deal of sense, as his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation was that of command, not security. The Action base is just enough to support Riker and is a StarFleet delta shield with a little black sticker that reads "Riker" to help keep it straight from the other figures. The center of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Riker's feet!

The Type II phaser is poorly detailed, basically being a little silver plastic piece in the shape of a phaser with a beam extending two inches out from it. While this makes play easier, it is a tough sell as far as detailing goes. The buttons and displays are molded into the weapon, but it is not colored appropriately. At least the phaser beam is colored pink, which is appropriate. The figure is only able to hold the phaser in his right hand and it is molded for that purpose. Riker's left hand is molded open, so it is only ideal for holding the field kit. In the right hand, he can hold the phaser appropriately and it looks good there. Most of his equipment weapons may only held by his right hand. Unfortunately, there was no way to connect the phaser to Riker's when he is not holding it.

The tricorder is a three-quarter inch green molded plastic device that fits awkwardly into a holster on Riker's right thigh. This accessory looks utterly ridiculous. It, too, fits only in Riker's right hand.

Also odd for Riker is the UV source. This one and a half-inch stick looks like the light source used in "Identity Crisis" (reviewed here!) in the show's fourth season. So, it makes little sense for Riker to have it in his second season outfit. At least it can be balanced in the left hand and used either way.

Then there is the "analyzer," which is what fans will recognize to be a PADD. This flat little piece of plastic has a sticker on it to embody a PADD panel and it fits in the field kit. The field kit is essentially a suitcase with little tools molded into the inside and the PADD fits in. It may be closed and held in Riker's left or right hands. The outside of the field kit has a StarFleet sticker on it.

Unfortunately, all three of these accessories, like the tricorder, are molded in a nauseating green plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. Given that only the right hand can hold most of the accessories, Riker is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is tough to get excited about this.

The 1993 line of Playmates action figures also comes with a very cool SkyBox trading card unique to the action figures. The Commander William T. Riker card features a big headshot of Riker with a warp field background that is quite striking. The back of the card has all sorts of vital information on Riker and the figure is highly sought by card collectors who collected the cards and disposed of the figures.


Commander William T. Riker helped continue a high level of quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. Despite being molded in a fairly limited, running pose that looks ridiculous when the figure is on the bridge (there was a bridge playset!), this is not a bad sculpt of Riker. Commander William T. Riker is endowed with twelve points of articulation: knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, neck, and waist. All of the joints, save the elbows, 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. Still, Playmates dealt with this limitation by having a swivel joint in the bicep, that allows everything below to turn and offers real decent poseability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Commander William T. Riker may bend or extend at the elbows, which offers a greater amount of movement potential making him one of the more realistic Star Trek action figures to play with (for those who actually play with these toys!).

On his base, Riker is quite stable, even in fairly ridiculous action poses, making him a great figure for display as well as play.


Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, so this Riker is virtually worthless. Found loose for less than a dollar these days, this Riker can often be found for less than $5.00 (which was even less than its original issue price in 1993!). Playmates flooded the market with these figures and they are almost impossible to use as investment pieces.

That said, at least 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 100,000 figures out there (my Riker is #001566!).


This Riker is a remarkably average, at best, action figure and given that it was essentially a repackage of an earlier, greater failure with one aspect corrected, but many of the same lousy features (and accessories) alive and well with it, it is hard to get excited about it. Still, for those needing a Riker figure and collecting only the old Playmates line, you can do much worse than this one!

For other Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation figures from the 1993 line, please check out my reviews of:
Geordi In Dress Uniform
Ambassador K'Ehleyr


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

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

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