Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sure, It's Out Of Scale, But It's Deep Space Nine! The Toy Delivers For Fans!

The Good: Cool sounds, Good light effects, Nice size and sculpt, Stand
The Bad: Minimal light effect, Scale issues
The Basics: One of the best Star Trek: Deep Space Nine toys Playmates produced, Space Station DS9 is an awesome sculpt that lacks impressive light effects.

One need not have read a whole ton of my reviews to know that I absolutely love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Easily the smartest, best developed and most consistently great series in the Star Trek pantheon (all the Star Trek: The Next Generation fans lose when it comes to continuity, so don't even pick that fight with me! ;) ), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine presented darker storylines, more intense characters and a group of professional actors that was one of the finest ensemble casts ever assembled.

However, because the show was the most adult of the Star Trek pantheon, it is often the most neglected when it comes to merchandising. The market for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine toys, for example, has - supposedly - been much more limited. At least, that is the theory manufacturers like Playmates Toys live by. Hesitant to tap into that market for fear of failure, they were remarkably conservative with their release of action figures and toys from the show. But with the release of the Space Station DS9 toy, Playmates disproved its own theory. This toy was one of the best sellers in the Star Trek toy line and remains a strong seller in the secondary market now that Playmates no longer has the license to release toys from Star Trek.


Playmates toys released the Space Station DS9 shortly after they released the initial Star Trek: Deep Space Nine action figure line. However, anticipation for the Deep Space Nine station toy was high and many collectors planned on it, resulting in a fairly quick sellout. Say what you will about the buying power of the 12 - 18 crowd, but most of them need to get their money from somewhere and when the adults they usually tap for their c.d.s and movies and cosmetics want something, they can clear the stock like their kids. The adult market that fell in love with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine made this product a sellout and left remarkably few on the shelves for parents to find for their children. The Playmates ship toys were designed to appeal to the niche of collectors who liked models, but were not married to the building of models. As a result, the Space Station DS9 is thirteen inches around for the docking ring and just over six inches tall from pylon tip to pylon tip.

The Space Station DS9 is a Cardassian space station, so it looks unlike any other vehicle in the Star Trek pantheon. Dark gray, round and sprawling, the highly detailed space station stands apart from the Federation ships Playmates had focused on. Made up of interconnecting rings, Deep Space Nine extends out as docking rings, then at three points on its outer ring has pylons that extend up and down like some double-sided bear trap. This is actually one of the more intriguing designs for a ship in the Star Trek universe and the way itwas highlighted in every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!) makes it an indispensable Star Trek ship.

The hull of the Space Station DS9 is detailed fairly extensively with hull plating that makes it look fortified and battle-ready. Because the station is designed for both warfare and commerce, it is supposed to have windows and multiple light sources all around that needed to be detailed into the ship. Unfortunately, in the case of this toy, those details remain pinprick sized dimples around key areas. As a result, Deep Space Nine looks even darker as a toy when the light effects are activated. Other than that, the Playmates Space Station DS9 captures much of this detailing with precision and an excellent amount of care. This is clearly a Deep Space Nine and anyone who has seen the series will easily recognize it from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Fortunately, there is no need for decals with this ship toy, but this tends to force people to look at the toy a little more harshly when it comes to the light effects. The light effects are not bad, but they are contained exclusively to the tiny weapons pylons on the innermost ring. The fusion reactor does not light up (despite the image on the front of the box implying it might or should) and there are no other light sources that make Deep Space Nine look like DS9. The minimal light effects are interesting, but in no way as impressive as many of the other ship toys from Playmates.

The only other issue comes in the way it interacts with the other starship toys. The Space Station DS9 is a much larger vessel than any of the others in the Star Trek universe. That it is smaller than the U.S.S. Defiant or the Runabout Orinnoco, is baffling. To be fair, to be at scale with the original U.S.S. Enterprise toy, a Deep Space Nine toy would have to be about twenty feet in diameter. So the scale issues are pretty much a necessary conceit. After all, all of the ships are being made in about the same physical size.


Fortunately, the Space Station DS9 does come with a stand. Deep Space Nine plugs into a stand that actually continues the shape and form of Deep Space Nine and allows the collector to rotate the station on it! This intriguing stand that ends in a very stable ring, much like the docking ring of Deep Space Nine itself, suspends the station about five inches above whatever surface the station is on. Playmates responded to the adult demand for making the toys more like display pieces when they began to include stands that the starships would rest upon. The Space Station DS9 continues that tradition and it is nice to have a stable stand to suspend the toy upon.

The toy is outfitted with four buttons on the top, near the Ops section which generate sounds from a sound chip. When pressed, the toy emits sounds of: the tractor beam, photon torpedoes, phasers and a ship docking. The best sound is the tractor beam sound; it's quick, concise and an accurate recreation of the sound effect from the show. The sound effects are easily more memorable than the light effects and they make for an interesting selling point and conversation piece.

As well, there is a tiny version of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D that plugs into a special notch on one of the upper docking pylons. It might not sell more of this toy, but it is a nice touch. For fans of the starships, there is also a rather unsophisticated blueprint of the Space Station DS9 included in the box.


The Space Station DS9 is a starship toy, so it does not open up (save the battery slot) and does not naturally interact with the 4.5 (or any other) action figure line. It comes out of the box needing the pylons assembled as well as the innermost ring and Ops station inserted into the centermost ring. These are easy enough to do, but the toy is clearly not meant for tiny children as the Ops portion is small enough to cause trouble for little kids until it is attached. The toy is easy enough to assemble (literally a minute or less to put the pylons and Ops section on). The battery life may easily be extended by removing any one of the batteries (which are housed in each of the three pylon supports, rather ingeniously). This is not a batter hog by any means.

This is a toy that - outside lighting up and making noise - does nothing. As a result, it is a good toy for children who have an imagination. They interact with other children to create space battles or just soar through the galaxy until they are tired out or whatever kids do.

Honestly, this is a toy created with the intent of selling to adults who are into collectible toys. That purpose was mostly met and the Space Station DS9 is a good display piece.


The most severe limitation to the collectibility of the Space Station DS9 as a collectible comes in its selling point as a toy; because the toy comes with batteries and browsers are encouraged by the box to test the sounds, collectors are left with a real dilemma. As most collectors know, almost everything that is collectible is made more valuable by being Mint In Box. The potential consequence of leaving the Space Station DS9 truly mint in box is that the batteries, well after they are dead, will leak and eat apart the starship and packaging.

As a result, many collectors - even those who do not display the station because they want to keep it mint in package - opened the package to remove the batteries. It is difficult to assess the effect this has on the collectibility because these near mint in box ships might well be in better condition than a truly mint in box one which might reasonably have suffered serious damage from battery degradation by this point (especially in more humid climes).

That said, Playmates made the Space Station DS9 more collectible by including a limited edition number on the box to each toy. Then again, they made it less collectible by producing the toy in the volume that they did. My toy is numbered #008688 and so with at least 8,689 of these out in the world, it's hard to consider it especially limited. Moreover, many collectors - who could afford to - purchased these and stockpiled them when they were first released; as a result, the market has gone up on them lately.


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine may have been an adult television show, but when Playmates Toys made a starship toy of Space Station DS9, the adults ate it up. It is a pretty impressive toy, to be sure and likely to satisfy most collectors and fans of the series, despite the lack of accurate or impressive light effects.

For other Playmates Star Trek toys, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Romulan Warbird
Klingon Bird Of Prey
U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701


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

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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