Sunday, August 28, 2011

Iconic And Recognizable, The Romulan Is A Villain For The Playmates Next Generation Toy Line!

The Good: Good sculpt, Good accessories, Good balance
The Bad: Vastly overproduced, Coloring/Detail issues
The Basics: A good villain, the Romulan action figure fleshes out (well) the Star Trek: The Next Generation toy line from Playmates.

There are few Star Trek villains that are so easily recognizable that most people in mainstream culture would recognize them as well. The Borg and the Klingons could probably be identified by over half the population, so it was a bit surprising when one of the other - I thought - iconic Star Trek villains was not recognized by my wife. When I took out my Romulan action figure, she said, "Eww, a Vulcan." This led to a disturbingly geeky conversation on the shared heritage of the Vulcans and Romulans but it also led me to the understanding that young people today haven't watched nearly enough Star Trek.

From the very first line of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures by Playmates, one of the few villains is the Romulan figure. The Romulan, along with the Borg and Ferengi were the only acknowledged villains in Playmates' early line-up, but they would not be the last. Despite the relative simplicity of the figure, the Romulan sold because most of the figures in the line were bridge crew characters and as a result the Romulan offered some obstacle for those who play with the figures to overcome.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1992 Collection of action figures contained ten figures (though the tenth was not released until early 1993) and it focused on the essential characters and villains of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A default villain and a bestseller at the time, the Romulan "The Imperialistic Enemy Of The Federation" figure was highly sought-after. Around Christmastime 1992, the first wave of nine of the ten figures were released and initially they were nearly impossible to find. Since then, they were so vastly overproduced as to make them worthless. As a result the Romulan is fairly to find now on the secondary market as a result.

The Romulan figure is the pointed-eared silver-clad alien as they appeared throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here!). The Romulan has a simple purple-gray checkered tunic, which is adorned by a belt and shoulder adornment (what is the proper term for a belt for the chest and shoulders?!).

Standing four and one-half inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Romulan immortalized in plastic. The character is molded in a neutral stance that allows the Romulan to be posed in virtually any way that the joints allow! There is a decent level of uniform detailing, like the tiny Romulan symbols - one of the more complex Star Trek symbols - on the belt and in the center of the figure's chest. Even the pant cuffs are rolled into the boots, which is a great detail. Still, some of the painting is sloppy; the body of the figure has the checkerboard pattern to the uniform, but the sleeves to not have the same pattern. Similarly, while the molded detail of the symbols is well-made, the symbols on the belt and chest are not realistically colored. As well, the figure's flesh is monolithically colored and lacks the appropriate green undertone. The figure includes such important details as the distinctive Romulan ears and forehead ridges. The Romulan also has the moptop haircut.

The paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic tan and lack any shading or subtlety. The hair and pants are single tone without any sense of depth, layering or wear to them. The paint job around the eyes and hair on mine is a little sloppy without clean lines between the hair and forehead. Similarly, the eyes have a chipped look to their paint job and the pupils are white as opposed to black. The uniform is more or less appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect. Still, the lack of the pattern to the sleeves is a problem.


The Romulan comes with four accessories: a Romulan disruptor, a Disruptor rifle, a Romulan PADD, and an action base shaped like a Romulan symbol. That the Romulan comes with weapons makes sense only in the context that the Romulans are adversaries to the peaceful Federation. The Action base is just enough to support Romulan and is a green Romulan symbol which is pretty neat. One end of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Romulan's feet!

The Romulan disruptor is poorly detailed, basically being a little black plastic piece in the shape of a disruptor with a beam extending an inch and five-eights 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. Even the disruptor bolt is the wrong color as Romulan disruptors fire a green bolt! The figure is able to hold the disruptor in either hand and it is in proportion to the rest of the figure.

The disruptor rifle may be held in either hand or a two-handed grip, but it is not a Romulan disruptor rifle, it is a StarFleet one! This black 2 1/2" long weapon is a molded version of a StarFleet disruptor rifle without the proper coloring. Arguably, this alludes to "The Mind's Eye" (reviewed here!) when the Romulans were smuggling fake StarFleet disruptors to a Klingon planet, but a Romulan-distinctive weapon would have been a better accessory.

The only other accessory is a Romulan PADD and this 1/2" choking hazard fits in either of the Romulan's hands and looks good there. It is made of black plastic and is under-detailed, but it has a "screen," which is a simple sticker with a Romulan symbol on it. It looks good in the Romulan's hand!


The Romulan helped establish a new level of quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. The Romulan is endowed with twelve points of articulation: knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, neck, and waist. 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. 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, Romulan 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, Romulan 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 Romulan is virtually worthless. Found loose for less than two dollars these days, this Romulan can often be found for less than $5.00 (which was even less than its original issue price in 1992!). 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 right 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 94,000 figures out there (my Romulan is #093207!).


The Romulan is a good figure for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation and a sensible one for the first line, but it is by no means flawless. Still, most collectors will be happy with it and it is a good one for anyone collecting the 4.5" line.

For other Star Trek action figure reviews, please check out my thoughts on:
Vina The Orion Slave Woman
Esoqq The Chalnoth
Locutus Of Borg


For other action figure 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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