Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Own A Borg Head, Make A Statement About Your (No-Longer-Inner) Geek!

The Good: Well detailed, Looks good, Light
The Bad: Somewhat pointless, Not limited enough, Organic eye is poorly represented
The Basics: Despite the lack of a detailed organic eye, this Borg bust limited edition prop replica sets out to do what it's designed to do well.

For those who might not follow my reviews, I am a huge fan of Star Trek. The franchise is arguably the best science fiction franchise since it began, despite its sub-par incarnations Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise. As well, I have been known to sell Star Trek merchandise, specifically the trading cards and plates. I recently came into possession of a Borg Bust prop replica and decided it was time to review it.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, the Borg are a race of beings that are cyborgs - half organic, half mechanical - that were first introduced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Q-Who?" (reviewed here! ). In order to accommodate the pace and visual demands of a film, the Borg received a significant make-over for the film Star Trek: First Contact (reviewed here!). It was the new-look Borg that persisted in every incarnation that followed, namely Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise. The Borg Bust Limited Edition Prop is a Star Trek: First Contact Borg head, released to give fans of the Borg a chance to own something close to a prop in their own home.

This is just plain silly. Now, usually, I like silly and I love Star Trek, but some of the prop replicas make me wonder what Paramount licensing was truly thinking. This bust is limited to 2500 pieces, which is not a lot for the worldwide Star Trek fan base, but far too much for the section of the fan base willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a prop replica (fans have illustrated an enthusiasm for shelling out thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands for the best Star Trek props from on-set at auction). In other words, while there might be millions of Star Trek fans in the world, there are far less collectors and far less collectors of prop replicas and far less who could afford - in money or space - to have a serious collection of busts like this one.

The Borg Bust is an impressive piece, measuring twenty inches tall from the bottom of the base to the top of the tube protruding from the top of the Borg's head. It is fourteen inches wide at its widest point on the base and ten inches deep from the back of the base to the front (though the nose and eye implant come out almost as far). For something so bulky, it is remarkably light, as it is made out of fiberglass. It's actually a little lighter - without its packaging - than ten pounds. It is remarkably stable, so despite the lightness of the piece it is well balanced such that it will not fall over easily. Between my cats and a decent wind, the Borg bust has never even wobbled.

The Borg bust is the head of a generic Borg, which is fine because the Borg are a pretty generic race, given their nature and their relentless pursuit to assimilate alien technologies. There are three tubes that connect the "skin" to the cybernetic devices like the eye piece and the implant in the neck. The subdermal mottling differentiates this as a Star Trek: First Contact (or after) Borg as it was then that they began using nanoprobes to assimilate crewmembers. The neat effect of the skin mottling makes the bust shockingly lifelike. But easily as cool, the tears in the flesh on the Borg's face and neck where the cybernetic components break up through the skin are remarkably detailed and incredibly creepy.

This is an unsettling piece and it looks terrific the detail that comes at the juncture between the skin and the metallic implants. The neck implant - which looks like the tube is bursting out of the neck and attaching to the eye piece - is ghastly and wonderful. The eye implant is remarkably detailed and likely to give fans an appreciation of just how much work goes into every prop on the series. After all, the detailing of the relief and sutures near the skin will never appear on most people's screens, yet the art department made it so detailed that if they could get close, fans truly could see that level of detail. That is pretty awesome.

If this Borg were on screen, about all anyone would truly notice would be the red LED for the laser beam eye and the holographic eye piece, given how fast Borg move on and off screen in most of their shots. The side-mounted red light that would indicate the laser scanner for the Borg does not light up and the holographic eye is not backlit either. In order to truly appreciate the Borg bust, then, one needs to stick it in a room that is either well lit or has focus lights on the piece because otherwise, the cybernetic eye is simply a dull, vaguely mirrored piece.

The airbrushing to detail the shoulder armor for the Borg bust is extraordinary. It's clear the make-up department went through a lot of effort with this piece to give it a somewhat weathered look and the sense that it is not just monotonally black. The highlights add depth when the Borg are on screen and on the prop, it does the same thing from a middle distance. The look is very realistic and it's pretty incredible how much time and attention went into the replica.

Add to that, the skin sheen. In Star Trek: First Contact, the specifications for a Borg ship are given and the temperature for the Borg environment provided is quite hot (apparently they don't have any realistic energy concerns). As a result, humans often sweat in their environment and the Borg walk around with a light sheen to them. This prop replica has a wonderful, subtle glaze that gives the skin a lifelike quality as far as sense of texture goes and it appears as if the skin would be slightly clammy. It's a brilliant touch and it lends a realism to the piece that is wonderful.

But that leads us to the huge problem with the Borg Bust Prop Replica: the organic eye. The Borg's left eye (right side when facing the bust) is assimilated and covered with the mechanical components of the Borg. The Borg's right eye, which ought to be an organic eye is instead a lifeless socket, filled in with a half-dome of fiberglass. Arguably the reason for this is that on the Borg props that this is a replica of, the organic eye would be a component of the actor and was not part of the make-up department's province. That argument falls apart, though with the Borg.

The Borg are constructed on the set of whichever Star Trek series they are on by combining mechanical props with an actor's face. The skin has make-up on it, but that's all; the Borg are nor like a Halloween mask made of latex fitting over the face of an actor. The moment the Borg bust prop replica was conceived as a project to make a limited edition collectible, the marketing department was talking about replicating something that was never fully a prop; the actor's head! Because all of the skin components (perhaps sixty percent of the surface area of this bust) are all a fabrication for the bust, creating an organic eye would not be betraying the sense of what is or is not real about the Borg head as a prop replica. In other words, the idea that making an organic-looking eye for the Borg bust prop replica would betray the authenticity of the prop replica is bogus because the skin replicated was never a part of the original "prop" either - it was part of an actor's face.

The only other argument for not creating the living eye of the Borg for this replica is that it would be near-impossible to create an eye that both looked realistic and had a deadness to it that evoked the lifeless, automaton nature of the Borg. Given the incredible detailing on this piece otherwise, I find it hard to believe Michael Westmore and his talented people couldn't have found the right balance. It appears they simply did not try and that is a disappointment.

The limited edition prop replica comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Westmore and that's a nice touch. But the individual number just seems somewhat silly as 2500 is not incredibly limited for a piece like this (most fans will not have the available space to properly display it) and I'm not quite sure what the point of the warranty on it is (which has almost certainly expired as these are only available in the secondary market now).

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the prop replicas are like museum piece and this is a nice, generally well-made one. This bust does not light up, move or do tricks. It's the best opportunity the common fan will have to getting something like what was used on the set of Star Trek: First Contact at a reasonable price and for those who want that sort of thing, it's hard to come up with a better gift than this.

But ultimately, it is bulky and the lack of the one eye truly bothers me. I find it almost impossible to recommend even to fans of the Borg. The piece is well made, to be sure, but it's too common to be a true Star Trek collectible and too esoteric to fit most collections, making it an awkward gift. Moreover, the secondary market has illustrated that these do not hold their value well and this bust is often available for less than $100. Still, it seems like that is too much for such a ridiculous - though qualitatively decent - object.

For other Borg-related merchandise or cool Star Trek merchandise, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
2000 Borg Cube Hallmark Ornament
Playmates Locutus Of Borg action figure
Corgi 40th Anniversary Klingon Bird Of Prey


For other toy and gift reviews, please click here to visit my index page!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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