Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chief O'Brien: He Might Have Been A Pegwarmer, But Playmates Got Him Mostly Right!

The Good: Good sculpt, Good coloring, Decent variety of accessories, Balance
The Bad: Accessory coloring, Slightly overproduced, Very bland facial expression, Chipped paint.
The Basics: A very average action figure, it's hard to get excited about the first Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Chief O'Brien figure.

One of the little bits of trivia about the Star Trek franchise that many people less familiar with the franchise are likely to miss is that with all of the heroes and villains in the Star Trek franchise, the one who has the second greatest number of appearances is actually Chief Miles Edward O'Brien. O'Brien appeared for a few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation before appearing in all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and that gave him a prominence that might surprise fans who note that it took him four years before he even got a first name! But, when Playmates began making their Star Trek: Deep Space Nine action figures, he was one of the natural figures to start the line with.

Chief O'Brien, for those who were not tuned in to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!), was the Chief Of Operations and the only enlisted regular of space station Deep Space Nine. And while every other Star Trek series has had a miracle worker chief engineer, O'Brien was the Chief Of Operations on Deep Space Nine and the Chief Engineer on the U.S.S. Defiant. This was a big step up for him as he was a transporter chief on the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Chief O'Brien figure features O'Brien as he appeared in the first five seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, before the uniforms were changed.


The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1993 Collection of action figures contained nine figures and it focused on the primary command crew of space station Deep Space Nine, with Chief O'Brien being one of the highlights of the collection. Chief O'Brien is a human officer, a married man who is looking at Deep Space Nine as an uncomfortable place to raise his daughter, Molly. O'Brien appears in his action figure debut as an active worker with his sleeves rolled up. He is attired in his black StarFleet space station jumpsuit. This was one of the most common action figures in the assortment and it remains fairly easy to find even now. Still, card collectors helped keep this from being a complete pegwarmer as it features a SkyBox trading card exclusive to the action figure, which made it hunted by trading card collectors as well.

The Chief O'Brien figure is the human StarFleet officer as he appeared in seasons one through five of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, with the black uniform and with a head of curly hair. Chief O'Brien is attired in his black StarFleet uniform with the mustard yellow (for Engineering division) shoulders. The outfit is open at the collar, enough that his lilac undershirt may be seen. The outfit is colored appropriately, including the single black rank pip on the collar of the undershirt.

Standing four and three-quarters inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Chief O'Brien immortalized in plastic. The character is molded with his hands ready to hold most of his accessories in a half-closed position. His legs have a very neutral stance, so this figure stands up and looks like he is ready to be displayed, as opposed to an action pose which made some of the earlier Star Trek figures more problematic for posing in displays. As a result of the neutral stance, Chief O'Brien has good balance on or off his stand (though the stand certainly helps). There is a decent level of uniform detailing, including the communicator pin on the chest being both molded into the figure and then painted on. The sculpting details lessen, though at the hands, where O'Brien has less detailing, including a lack of defined knuckles, though he has faintly molded fingernails.

Chief O'Brien's face is molded in a bland, neutral expression that includes a furrowed brow. He was frequently worried or taxed, so the stressed look to his forehead actually fits O'Brien well. The hair is tough to capture for an O'Brien figure as O'Brien had curly hair, but Playmates made a fair go at it with a wavy, textured look to the molded hair. At least it doesn't look like O'Brien is wearing a helmet.

The paint job is fair at best, especially for the face. The skin tones are monotonal white with no shading or subtlety, outside the furrowed brow. The figure's lips are painted an unnaturally bright pink which looks somewhat ridiculous. As well, O'Brien's eyes are blue with white pupils, which is disturbing. On the body of the figure, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figures seem to have been rushed to market as many of mine, including O'Brien have chipped paint on the shoulders and elbow. Either the paint job was rushed or it chips off the figures, which is disturbing because mine went from their packages to a display with no play in between!


Chief O'Brien comes with five accessories, including the base, some of which had noticeably been recycled from Star Trek: The Next Generation figures. Chief O'Brien comes with a StarFleet phaser, an engineering kit, laser drill and portable fire extinguisher and the base. The Action base is a StarFleet delta shield symbol with the name "O'BRIEN" stuck on it with a cheap, black sticker. The center of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Chief O'Brien's feet! When Chief O'Brien stands flatfooted on the stand, he is stable for balance and has a decent, neutral display appearance. The base is also enough to support O'Brien in more outlandish poses, which is nice.

The StarFleet phaser is the same Type II phaser accessory that came with many of the Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures. It is a 2 1/2" long prop which features the dustbuster-shaped beam weapon with a bright pink phaser beam emitting from it. The phaser has good molded details, down to the different buttons and a display screen, but is light on the coloring details. In addition to not having a black grip, the phaser does not have detailing on the buttons or power indicator, so it is homogeneously silver to the beam, then monotonally pink. O'Brien's hands are molded so he may carry the weapon in either hand.

The portable fire extinguisher is a 7/8" long cylinder attached to a handle which fits into either of O'Brien's hands. The purple plastic device looks like a pretty traditional fire extinguisher and given all of the problems on Deep Space Nine, it is unsurprising that O'Brien comes with just such a device. As one might expect from a toy of a fire extinguisher, this has minimal molded details and no painted details.

The Engineering kit is an inch long by 3/4" tall case which looks like a ribbed briefcase. There is nothing that sets this apart as a StarFleet engineering kit. This case does not open and it only fits well in O'Brien's right hand.

The laser drill looks like a hypospray with a slightly more defined nozzle. It, too, fits only in O'Brien's right hand and it compels the consumer to use their imagination as it does not do anything or have any laserbeam attachments emanating from it. It is pretty well detailed in the molded details, but it is a poor accessory for the coloring as it is a monotonal purple plastic.

This is the unfortunate aspect of all three of Chief O'Brien's accessories; they are molded in an unrealistic dark purple plastic which looks unlike what any of the props looked like on the show. Clearly Playmates went through some effort to sculpt the accessories realistically, but the coloring minimizes the sense of realism and clashes with the coloring of the figure. Chief O'Brien is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is a bit of a drawback for the overall figure.

Even so, Playmates included a trading card unique to the figure from SkyBox which attracted trading card collectors to this figure in addition to toy collectors. The trading card has a shot of Chief O'Brien with a black starfield behind him (this makes for a great card to get signed by actor Colm Meany, who played Miles O'Brien all seven years!). The back has information on Chief O'Brien and it's easy to see why card collectors happily hunted these down!


Chief O'Brien continued a generally high level quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. Chief O'Brien is appropriately stiff, but has decent poseability. Chief O'Brien 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, 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, Chief O'Brien 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, Chief O'Brien is exceptionally stable, even in the most ridiculous poses. He actually looks very dignified and ready-to-work in his neutral display pose.


Playmates seemed to gauge about the right amount of interest for the first wave of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figures, but Chief O'Brien still seemed to be a slow seller of the assortment. Despite appearing on two Star Trek series, Chief O'Brien was still a pegwarmer. As a result, he has not appreciated much since his initial release almost fifteen years ago.

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 49000 figures out there (my Chief O'Brien is #048959!).


The Chief O'Brien figure is a good figure, but in the face of later sculpts, this one is not superlative. Instead, it is average, but those collecting the 4.5" figures, this makes for a worthwhile figure to pick up.

For other Playmates Star Trek franchise action figures, please check out my reviews of:
The Romulan
"Tapestry" Picard
Dr. McCoy in Dress Uniform


For other toy reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing.

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

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