Friday, December 16, 2011

Leading The Klingons Through A Brief, Violent Period: The General Chang Action Figure Is Cool.

The Good: Decent sculpt, Generally decent accessories
The Bad: Accessory/detailing color issues
The Basics: A good, but fairly average Klingon action figure, General Chang is the only action figure from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Playmates released!

In the realm of Star Trek toys and collectibles, there are few eras or groups that have been exploited less than the characters and situations of the Star Trek films. To be fair, film-based merchandise generally has a ridiculously short shelf life and with current blockbusters lining up to only take a single week at the top of the box office before they are ousted by the next week's planned chart-topper, it is hard to blame the licensees of larger franchises like the Star Trek franchise from being skittish about film-based merchandise. So, when Playmates toys went back and did a whole collection of action figures based upon the Star Trek films, it was a bit of a risk for them. One of the riskiest figures in that line was the General Chang figure.

General Chang, for those who are not so fluent in all things Trek was the Klingon villain of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (reviewed here!). Played by Christopher Plummer, Chang's role in The Undiscovered Country was that of an old war-horse who is unable to accept peace when the Klingon Empire and Federation reach a detente. Chang was a thorn in the side of Captain Kirk, whom he framed for the murder of the peaceful Klingon Chancellor, as well as the creators of The Klingon Dictionary (reviewed here!) who had designed the Klingon language around not having a verb "to be." Given that Chang was supposed to quote Shakespeare's "to be or not to be" soliloquy from The Tragedy Of Hamlet, this annoyed the linguists who had worked so hard on the language. Chang was a risk for Playmates to make an action figure of because he was never one of the most popular villains, like Khan. Still, they pressed on and now over a decade later, this remains one of the more sought-after figures from this particular collection!


The Classic Star Trek Movie Series Collection of action figures contained only ten figures and it was released late in 1995 right before Christmas. This line-up included the General Chang action figure which was quickly bought up and sought by collectors. The entire run of these figures was overproduced, but still the Chang figure seems to have retained his value on the secondary market as it was not as mass-produced as the figures from the main crew.

The General Chang figure is the Klingon general and military advisor as he appeared in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country for most of his scenes, most notably the ones at the film's climax. Chang here is dressed in heavy leather armor with an extended bandoleer draped over one shoulder. His hands are molded to be able to carry his accessories, but only the left hand is closed enough to actually do that, so the half-open right hand is pretty much worthless as far as play goes.

Standing just under five inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Chang immortalized in plastic. There is a fair level of uniform detailing, but to be fair, this was not the most detailed costume the franchise ever saw. Chang looks appropriately bulky from his armor and the molding and paint details of his costume - the seams in the leather armor are all black as opposed to the very dark blue the rest of the figure is cast in - are good and Playmates captures such details as the Klingon script on Chang's gauntlets. Chang's face is molded in a peeved expression, which is character-appropriate. His face possesses pretty decent amounts of details, though his lips are far too pink and noticeable. On the plus side, the forehead ridges are molded in and the eye patch which was screwed into General Chang's skull is present as well. Still the light flesh tones of Chang lack any subtlety or shading and the tiny ponytail on the back of his head looks utterly ridiculous.

The paint job is fair, but the ponytail serves as an excellent example of where Playmates skimped. The monotonal gray/blue hair almost matches Chang's costume! Chang's skin tones are monolithic tan and lack any shading or subtlety. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks decent in that respect.


General Chang comes with five accessories, plus a trading card: A Klingon communicator, a Klingon blaster, a glass of Romulan Ale, a Klingon staff and an action base which was the standard style for the Movie Series collection. General Chang is unfortunately over-accessorized, especially given the way his hands are molded and some, like the staff, make no sense for the figure. The Action base is more than enough to support Chang and offer make the figure a decent display piece. The action base is a 2 5/8" in diameter black stand that raises the figure an additional half inch from the display surface and bears a StarFleet Delta symbol and a sticker at the base with the character's name on it. Near the top of the triangle in the symbol is a peg which fits into the hole in either of Chang's feet!

The Klingon Communicator is a one inch long choking hazard which is surprisingly well-detailed. Unfortunately, by its size it looks more like a Klingon tricorder and it has the ribs and buttons that define the small prop. This is a pretty cool accessory regardless and it offers more play options than just the weapon would.

Chang, of course, comes with a weapon and it is unfortunate that his Klingon blaster does not have a holster or attach to the General's hip in any way. That one must choose between "drinking Chang" and "shooting Chang" is unfortunate for collectors. Still, this one and a half inch gun fits perfectly into Chang's left hand and is very detailed with molded details like the double barrels that lead to the single firing point.

The glass of Romulan Ale is a conceptually decent accessory that falls down in its execution. The glass is simply a plastic flute drinking vessel that is empty and opaque. Nothing makes it "full" of Romulan Ale but one's imagination. This fits in Chang's left hand loosely and wobbles severely because of its shape.

The final accessory makes no sense for the Chang figure and that is the Klingon staff. Klingon Chancellor Gorkon arrives on the Enterprise in the film bearing a giant staff - almost a crutch, actually - made from the tooth or tusk of some giant animal. General Chang did not bear the staff in the film at all. Perhaps that is why there is no way to fit Chang's hand around it in any usable way. One may get frustrated and annoyed trying to balance it between the stand and Chang's right hand, but given how his character does not actually use it in the movie, most collectors will just skip the effort and arm Chang with other accessories.

Unfortunately, all four of these accessories are molded in a gold plastic that is lacking in realistic coloring detail and cheapens the overall appearance of the figure. Given that only the left hand can hold most of the accessories, Chang is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is tough to get excited about this.

The Movie Series line of Playmates action figures also comes with a very cool SkyBox trading card unique to the action figures. The Chang card is landscape oriented and features a headshot of Chang on the bridge of his Bird Of Prey. The back of the card has all sorts of vital information on Chang and the figure is highly sought by card collectors who collected the cards and disposed of the figures. Interestingly, many of the Movie Series figures often had multiple cards in the bag behind the primary card, so it can often save collectors money to pick up the figures that way for the multiple cards!


Chang helped continue a high level of quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. Molded in a stately pose that makes him look dignified, but less active, this is a decent sculpt of Chang. Chang is endowed with eleven points of articulation: knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, and neck. All of the joints, save the elbows, 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 posability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Chang 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!). Unfortunately, Chang does not bend at the waist and because of the costume, his legs only scissor-kick a few degrees open, so the groin socket joint is severely inhibited.

On his base, Chang is quite stable, making him a good figure for display as well as play, so long as one does not try to have him use the staff as well.


Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek figures, but by the time the Movie Series set came along, they were a little more conservative in their production. With this toy line, they incorrectly divined an enthusiasm for main cast figures (in their outfits from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) so villains like Chang were underproduced within the line. As a result, this Chang has actually appreciated! Seldom found for less than $10.00, Chang continues to grow in value as the years pass by.

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 33,000 figures out there (my Chang is #032730!).


General Chang may be an obscure figure from a movie neglected in the merchandising, but Playmates Toys largely got the figure right, making it a decent addition to anyone's collection of Klingon toys!

For other Klingon toys, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek: Generations B’Etor
Playmates Klingon Bird Of Prey
Art Asylum Star Trek: Nemesis Commander Worf


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

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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