Thursday, December 15, 2011

Despite The Scale Issues, The "Runabout Orinoco" Toy Is A Decent One

The Good: Decent light effects, Good sounds, Generally cool sculpt
The Bad: Scale issues, Front windows
The Basics: The Runabout Orinoco is one of the few Star Trek: Deep Space Nine toys on the market and it's a good little ship.

Obviously, I'm a bit of a fan of Star Trek and my favorite of the bunch was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!) was the first Trek series that was created after I was already a fan of the franchise. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and listened to the rumors about the new series and eagerly devoured the first images of the show when they were leaked. And when the show aired . . . I was blown away. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is truly one of those series' that got better and better as it went on.

At the time, I was also a big collector of Star Trek toys, plates and trading cards. So when the very first Star Trek: Deep Space Nine toys were released to market, I was one of the first in line looking to buy. After the initial offering of nine action figures, the hopeful folks at Playmates toys released two larger Star Trek: Deep Space Nine toys to try to capitalize on the success they didn't quite have with the action figures. One of those two toys was the Runabout Orinoco toy.


Runabouts are starships in the Star Trek introduced in the first Episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that are larger than shuttlecraft, smaller than full starships. As a result, they are essentially glorified shuttlecraft and they are treated as almost as disposable as the short-range craft. The toy, then, is caught by a conceptual problem; it is far too large to fit in the same scale as the full-sized starships (see links below), but far too small to be properly in proportion to the 4.5" action figures that Playmates released. This would not be such an issue if it were not for the fact that this toy has seating for action figures.

In general, the Runabout Orinoco is clearly a Runabout vehicle. Playmates deserves some credit for getting the look of the ship right. This toy was designed to appeal to the niche of collectors who liked models, but were not married to the building of models. As a result, the Runabout Orinoco is just over fourteen inches long, ten inches inches wide and just under four inches tall.

The Runabout Orinoco is a standard Federation design for a shuttlecraft-type vehicle. It is basically a race car in space. The mid-aft section has warp nacelles suspended below each side of the starship. Reflecting the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine sensibility of Federation starships, it is a light gray. Because of how frequently Runabouts are used on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it makes perfect sense that this would be in the same run as the station itself.

The hull of the Runabout Orinoco is detailed fairly extensively with hull plating that makes it look much more durable than the smooth lines of a shuttlecraft. Because the ship is designed for space and atmospheric flight, the detail seems to imply that there are safety measures in place - like panels could blow off if necessary. On the toy, the windows are all represented by black plastic, which is disappointing given that the rest of the sculpt looks and is colored well. At the same time, the lack of transparent windows (there are fifteen around the Runabout) would reveal the problems with the scale of the toy as the two forward windows on the canopy would look into a section that fits only a single figure as opposed to the four crew members that usually occupy the cockpit. Despite that, the sculpt is a decent one for this starship.

All of the Federation logos and call signs are decals and the directions are clear enough as to where everything goes. Those who open the toy have about eight decals to apply for the outside and the only one that causes any real trouble is the one on the bottom of the ship that lines up with the cockpit hatch release button. There are an annoying number of stickers for the consoles on the inside of the ship and they are a bit harder to apply. It is irksome that Playmates did not do this for the consumers.

The light effects are decent, contained as they are to the warp nacelles, which are accurate and good. Considering the lack of transparent windows, there are no other appropriate places to be lit on this little vehicle. When either of the two buttons on the top of the vehicle are depressed, the blue and red nacelles light up and that effect is pretty decent.


The toy is outfitted with two buttons on the top and center of the ship which generates sounds from a sound chip. When pressed, the toy emits sounds of: the ship firing its phasers and that of the wormhole opening. The sound of the wormhole opening is a good one - surprisingly long - and it fits perfectly with what the Runabout does, as they are the ships that travel through the wormhole on the series.

For fans of the starships, there is also a rather unsophisticated blueprint of the Runabout included in the box.


The Runabout Orinoco is a starship toy, but it has two openings to act as a playset for the 4.5" action figures. It comes out of the box completely assembled and includes batteries. The front canopy is opened by pressing a button on the underside of the nose section which pops the door, much like the hood of a car. The front cockpit holds a single figure and comes with a seat - with seatbelt - that fits one of the 4.5" figures. After the figure is in place, the front consoles rotate into position to give the figures the look of being able to pilot the ship.

There is also an aft compartment which simply rotates open like a mini-van's trunk door by lifting from the bottom. There is a seat in the back - with a StarFleet seatbelt for putting a figure in facing backward. This allows children who play with the toy to send two people on missions and that's a cool enough idea.

As well, there are little wheels discretely placed in the warp nacelles and under the nose of the vessel to allow children to play with the Runabout on flat surfaces. They can shove the vehicle from a stopped position and make it go to warp and send it sailing a pretty good distance.

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 Runabout Orinoco is a good display piece, despite being horribly out of proportion with every other Playmates toy. As well, despite all of the toy qualities to this toy, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a far more adult Star Trek and the Runabout Orinoco is more likely to be appreciated by collectors as opposed to children looking to play.


The most severe limitation to the collectibility of the Runabout Orinoco as a collectible comes in one of its selling points 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 Runabout Orinoco 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 ship 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 Runabout Orinoco 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 #019110 and so with at least 19,111 of these out in the world, it's hard to consider it especially limited. Moreover, many collectors purchased these and stockpiled them when they were first released, though the market does seem to have gone up on them lately.


I loved my Runabout Orinoco when it was first released back in 1994 and it is pretty impressive how quickly Playmates got the toy to market after the series began and made such a decent ship. As time has passed and I have grown up some, I keep the Orinoco because it is a cool ship and because I still love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The light effects no longer impress me as much and it is a battery hog, so I almost never put batteries in and listen to it anymore.

It's an average toy, but I recommend it for the simple reason that it's good, though buyers who are looking to buy one need to be exceptionally careful about what they are buying. If the seller has left the toy truly mint in box, be sure to have some form of guarantee that if you open it and discover the batteries have bled, you'll be able to get your money back!

Anyone looking for a toy to interact with the action figures for play for missions, this is the toy to do it with!

For other Star Trek toys from Playmates, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Space Station Deep Space Nine
Bajoran Phaser
Shuttlecraft Goddard


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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