Friday, December 23, 2011

One Of The Most Impressive Starships Makes Its Cool Toy Debut: The U.S.S. Defiant!

The Good: Cool sounds, Good light effects, Nice size and sculpt, Stand
The Bad: Minimal light effect, Decals, Scale issues
The Basics: The U.S.S. Defiant, the sleek Federation equivalent of a warship makes for a pretty wonderful, if out of scale, toy from Playmates!

In the Star Trek pantheon, there are some real starships that stand out. The original U.S.S. Enterprise (1701) from Star Trek the original series is pretty much a cultural icon. Most science fiction fans can pick out a Borg cube and recognize the basic design of Klingon ships. But fans of the franchise can easily identify the U.S.S. Defiant, the ultra-powerful starship that changed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from the moment it decloaked in the third season episode "The Search, Part 1" (reviewed here!). It was such a radically different design for a StarFleet ship that it immediately captured the imagination of fans around the world.

It is pretty understandable, then, that when Playmates Toys was busy developing its toy line during the tenth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation that they would release a toy of the U.S.S. Defiant, despite it not being a part of that television series. Easily one of the most anticipated starship toys, the U.S.S. Defiant continued the line of the most neglected Star Trek franchise; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is also one of the last starship toys to be made by Playmates before they lost the license, making it one of the most coveted.


Playmates toys released the U.S.S. Defiant after they had focused on the market for the feature film Star Trek: First Contact. As a result, many fans and collectors were tapped out when it came time to shell out for this ship. These 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 U.S.S. Defiant is just over fifteen inches long, ten inches and a half inches wide and just under three inches tall.

The U.S.S. Defiant is atypical of Federation starship design. As a result, the ship does not have the standard separated warp nacelles, engineering hull and bridge sections. Instead, this is a compact vessel with everything fused into one hull, making it much more agile looking and battle-ready. The midsection has warp nacelles fused into each side of the starship. Reflecting the StarFleet values on starship deign, though, it is a standard gray color. This is actually one of the more intriguing designs for a ship in the Star Trek universe and the way it was highlighted from the moment it first arrived on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine makes it an indispensable Star Trek ship.

The hull of the U.S.S. Defiant is detailed fairly extensively with hull plating that makes it look fortified and battle-ready. Because the ship is designed for warfare, it does not have windows and multiple light sources that needed to be detailed into the ship. This works wonderfully for the fans - and Playmates - because it needs to look like a fortress and this little toy does. The Playmates U.S.S. Defiant captures much of this detailing with precision and an excellent amount of care. This is clearly a Defiant-class cruiser and anyone who has seen the series will easily recognize it from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

It is somewhat baffling, then, that with such attention to detail for the sculptural lines and indentations, Playmates would resort to a decals for the lettering and lines over the various sections of the starship, as opposed to painting it on or making it part of the actual sculpt. This is nitpicky, to be sure, but it is irksome that Playmates did not do the work of applying the decals. There are small Federation symbols, racing stripes and serial numbers along the ship and while they are accurate, they are not the most flattering aspect of this toy.

The light effects are not bad, but they are contained exclusively to the warp nacelles and forward cannon, which are accurate and good. Unfortunately, the aft section has thrusters which are not made of the same translucent plastic as the lights on the nacelles and cannon, so they do not light up. Moreover, the only other reasonable light source; the bridge dome is not lit either. This lessens the overall effect of the lights that do come on when the buttons are pushed.

The only other issue comes in the way it interacts with the other starship toys. The U.S.S. Defiant is a much smaller starship than the others in the Star Trek universe. That it is that same size as the Vor'cha class cruiser and the Romulan Warbird might upset some fans, though I am mostly indifferent to that. After all, all of the ships are being made in about the same physical size, so the scale issues are pretty common the moment they made space station Deep Space Nine the same size as the shuttlecraft!


Fortunately, the U.S.S. Defiant does come with a stand. The Defiant plugs into a StarFleet symbol stand which holds it about a foot above whatever surface the ship 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 U.S.S. Defiant 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 and center of the ship which generates sounds from a sound chip. When pressed, the toy emits sounds of: the ship decloaking, quantum torpedoes, phasers and the red alert klaxon. The best sound is the decloaking 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. the red alert noise is annoying, but it is pretty annoying on the television show, too, so at least it is accurate!

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


The U.S.S. Defiant 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 completely assembled and the battery life may easily be extended by flipping a little button in the battery pack that disengages the light effects.

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 U.S.S. Defiant is a good display piece.


The most severe limitation to the collectibility of the U.S.S. Defiant 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 U.S.S. Defiant 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 U.S.S. Defiant 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 #012266 and so with at least 12,267 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, though the market does seem to have gone up on them lately.


I love my U.S.S. Defiant even now and while I have thinned out my collection of any number of items, I have never considered getting rid of this one! It is a cool ship, from an under represented show and when it lights up and makes its sounds, it takes the person who owns it back to some of the great battles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

It's an excellent toy. 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 wishing they could conquer the galaxy, this is the toy to pretend it with!

For other U.S.S. Defiant products or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine toys, please check out my reviews of:
1997 U.S.S. Defiant Hallmark Ornament
Playmates Space Station Deep Space Nine Toy
Runabout Orinoco toy


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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