Friday, March 23, 2012

The Proportions Are Slightly Off, But It's Great That There's (Finally!) An Elim Garak Figure!

The Good: Generally good sculpt, Interesting accessories, Decent balance and posability
The Bad: Minor accessory coloring issues, Proportions seem slightly off.
The Basics: Elim Garak is a very good figure of an obscure character from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine who fans waited a long time for!

There are very few recurring characters from the Star Trek franchise that have not been made into action figures, especially when Playmates Toys held the license in the 1990s. But for some of the characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, fans had to hold their breath and wait until Playmates was phasing the figures out before they got some of the best characters made into action figures. One of the characters that fans had to truly wait for was Elim Garak. Garak was one of only two Cardassians who was made into an action figure - the other being Gul Dukat, reviewed here!. And, despite having a head that was slightly out of proportion with the rest of the figure, fans tended to feel that the Garak figure was worth the wait.

For those unfamiliar with the character, the second episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Past Prologue" (reviewed here!) found Deep Space Nine dealing with several wild card elements, one of which was a Cardassian tailor who had remained on Deep Space Nine when every other Cardassian left both the station and Bajoran space. That Cardassian was Elim Garak and he had a sordid history with some clear ties left to Cardassia and rumors that he had been a spy for the Cardassians and was still one. As the years went by, his story was fleshed out and he became one of the most beloved recurring characters on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The 1996 Elim Garak action figure is a fairly good casting for the 5" figure line from Playmates Toys and it fleshes out well the broader Star Trek universe!


The Star Trek 1996 Collection of action figures contained twenty figures from Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the drive for collectors was to find one of the limited "Tapestry" Picard figures, with little attention paid to most of the other figures in the assortment, like Garak. To date, this is one of two Elim Garak figures made, the other being the 9" Garak doll. This Garak was bought up rapidly by collectors and continues to be a decent figure from the Star Trek toy line, boosted in part by Andrew Robinson (who played Garak all seven years) appearing at numerous Star Trek conventions over the year and fans looking for something different frequently getting the figure autographed. As well, this figure was seldom a pegwarmer because it had a collectible trading card made exclusively for the figure by SkyBox. Card collectors hunted the SkyBox card exclusive to the action figure, which helped sell what little stock that action figure collectors did not buy.

The Elim Garak figure is the Cardassian leader dressed in an ornate Cardassian business suit. This was an outfit Garak was seen in frequently from the fourth season on and suits his character well, as he was a tailor. Garak's suit features ribbing, multiple colored panels and a stiffness that makes the shirt look almost like a solid, tubular dress. The outfit is colored appropriately, though there are some bumps and accent pieces on the arms and seams which are molded on, but not painted on.

Standing four and three-quarters inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Elim Garak immortalized in plastic. The face looks like the Cardassian, but it does seem slightly large for the body and the shoulders do not seem in the right proportion, so the figure seems slightly off. The character is molded with his hands ready to hold most of his accessories, each in a half-closed position. His legs have a fairly-neutral stance, though they are spread slightly. He has excellent balance and his pose is appropriate for the character. There is a decent level of uniform detailing, including a lot of fine ribbing to make the costume look both stiff and like an ornate fabric. The sculpting details continue at the hands, where Garak has both slightly defined knuckles and molded fingernails.

Elim Garak's face is molded in an expression that makes him look inscrutable, which perfectly fits the character. The Garak figure is sculpted with the usual Cardassian forehead, eye and nose ridges, but they are cast in a monotonal gray plastic without any painted details. Garak's hair is molded on with feathered molded lines, but no paint accents.

The paint job is average, at least on the face. The skin tones are monotonal gray with no shading or subtlety. The figure's lips are uncolored and Garak's eyes are brown with white pupils, which is par for the Playmates course. The only real problem with the coloring is that the skin tones lack depth and shading to enhance the realism of this alien character.


Elim Garak comes with six accessories, including the base, some of which were recycled for this sculpting. Garak comes with a tape measure, Obsidian Order isolinear rods, a Cardassian phaser, Cardassian PADD and the base. The Action Base is shaped like a Cardassian symbol which is three inches long and looks just like the purple and green Cardassian symbol. The center of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Garak's feet! When Garak stands flatfooted on the stand, he is stable for balance and has a decent, neutral display appearance.

The tape measure seems like it might be a lame accessory, but it fits the character. Garak was shown with a prop which looked vaguely like the tapered, 7/8" long device this figure comes with. The tape measure looks more like an alien tricorder and it fits either of Garak's hands. It has a few molded details that look like buttons, but there is nothing exceptional about this accessory.

The isolinear rods - or optilithic data rods, if Garak from "In The Pale Moonlight" could be believed - are essentially two small cylinders with ribbing on them. The larger one fits best in Garak's left hand and the smaller one fits only in Garak's right hand. These were data storage devices, so this is roughly the play equivalent to an action figure having a flash drive as an accessory, though this does fit the character quite well.

The Cardassian disruptor pistol is three-quarter inches long and is so detailed that it has the tiny "fins" (ridges) along the barrel that one might have thought impossible to make for this scale. Playmates pulls it off, though and even the detailing on the grip is exceptional. There is nothing this could be mistaken for, save a Cardassian disruptor and it fits into either of Garak's hands, though it looks better in his left hand.

The Cardassian PADD is a distinctive Cardassian instrument and one which Garak was shown with many times in the series. Unfortunately, the PADD has all of the appropriate buttons, but nothing to make the screen stand out (like a little sticker, which other Star Trek toys usually have). As a result, this ends up looking like a big blue plastic chip 3/4" long and tapering from 3/8" wide down. This only fits in Garak's right hand and it looks pretty ridiculous there as it is bright blue.

This is the unfortunate aspect of all five of Garak's accessories; they are molded in a terribly unrealistic bright blue plastic which looks absolutely terrible. Clearly Playmates went through some effort to sculpt the accessories realistically, but the coloring guts them of any sense of realism. Elim Garak is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is a serious drawback for the overall figure.

Even so, Playmates included a trading card unique to the figure from SkyBox which attracted trading card collectors to this figure in addition to toy collectors. The trading card is a movie-sized card which has a shot of Garak in a landscape orientation with a blue background. The image is big and clear and this makes for a great card to get signed by actor Andrew Robinson! The back has general information on Garak, but it is still a pretty cool card!


Garak continued a generally high level quality from Playmates, despite having slightly less flexibility than most of the other figures, which pleased collectors and fans alike. Garak is appropriately stiff, but has decent poseability. Elim Garak is endowed with eleven points of articulation: knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, and neck. All of the joints, save the elbows and knees, are simple swivel joints. As a result, the neck turns left to right, but the head cannot nod. As well, 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 poseability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Garak 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!). On his base, Garak is exceptionally stable, even in the most ridiculous poses which the toy may be posed in!


Playmates seemed to gauge about the right amount of interest for 1996 wave of Star Trek figures and Elim Garak sold fairly well, probably because it was the only Garak figure made at the time and he was one of the few aliens in the line. Even now, the figure remains a decent seller as Andrew Robinson continues to appear at conventions and people want something different for him to sign and tend to go for this. It is hard to find a Garak for less than double the original issue price and it would be hard for even an Art Asylum release to devalue this figure, save by getting the proportions right.

As well, 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 26,500 figures out there (my Elim Garak is #026210!).


The Elim Garak figure is a good figure, but it has proportion issues and is light on the coloring details. As a result, this figure comes out a bit closer to average than most fans would like.

For other Star Trek figures from the 1996 line, please check out my reviews of:
Grand Nagus Zek
Commander Worf
Benjamin Sisko As Seen In “Crossover”
Jadzia Dax As Seen in “Blood Oath”
Jem'Hadar Soldier
Odo From “Necessary Evil”
The Hunter Of The Tosk
Jean-Luc Picard As Seen In “Tapestry”


For other toy reviews, please visit my Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing or all the toy reviews I have written!

© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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