Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Commander Riker Never Looked Like This! On Their First Try, Playmates Gets Riker Wrong!

The Good: Good accessories
The Bad: Ridiculous accessory coloring, Bad sculpt (in the hair area), Tears in uniform?!
The Basics: What once might have been considered a decent figure, the first Playmates Commander Riker figure looks ridiculous now with its uniform tears.

Creativity is not always rewarded when it comes to collectors and their collectibles. Star Trek fans have a reputation, often deserved, for being meticulous about the quality of their collectibles. Indeed, as a trading card collector, I have been surprised what Star Trek fans consider a variant when it comes to autographed trading cards. Even so, sometimes, they have a right to feel irked about the state of their chosen collectibles and when Playmates Toys started producing the Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures in the early 1990s, they felt justifiably annoyed with the action figure of Commander William T. Riker.

The first Riker figure produced featured a Will Riker who was posed awkwardly - like he was blocking in a football game- and with a uniform that had tears molded into it. The tears in the chest and leg of the uniform bore no special resemblance to anything ever seen in the series and the figure looked ridiculous as a result. The subsequent Riker to correct the costuming errors put Riker in his second season uniform and was essentially the same figure with one leg piece and a chest piece swapped out (reviewed here!). The result is that for a long time, the only Riker figure was a ridiculous-looking one that fans made the first Playmates pegwarmer.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1992 Collection of action figures contained only ten figures and it focused on the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and supplemented the characters with memorable guest stars and aliens. The first series of figures contained a Commander William T. Riker "In Star Trek: The Next Generation Duty Uniform" figure which was widely regarded as completely lame. The Commander Riker figure is the Command branch officer as he appeared throughout the last five season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here!).

Standing four and seven-eighths inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Commander William T. Riker immortalized in plastic, save the costuming details. The character is molded with his left fingers extended straight, so Riker looks like he is running like a football player and stiff-arming a blocker. Riker's face is molded in a determined expression and it lacks much in the way of detail, though the lips are colored pink and the light flesh tones of Riker lack any subtlety or shading. The figure includes such important details as Riker's beard and mustache and the facial hair molded into the plastic, though most of the facial hair detailing is simply painted on. The face and hair lack any sense of realistic toning and this Riker has hair that is short and lacking in any highlights, though it is molded to have Riker's spiky hair bounce. His eyes are appropriately blue, but the pupils are white instead of black!

The tears in the uniform look utterly ridiculous and this Riker looks terrible on such things as the Bridge Playset as a result. The ruined icing on this particular cake is that the tears or burn marks in the uniform are not accompanied by any coloring details on the skin beneath; there are no cuts or such. As a result, Riker looks like he burst out of parts of his uniform more than he was attacked!

The paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic light tan and lack any shading or subtlety. Mine had a little paint blob over one eyebrow, as if Riker had a mole. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect. This includes the piping at the bottom of the pants, which was a nice touch of realism.


Commander Riker comes with five accessories: A StarFleet Type II phaser, StarFleet tricorder, a field kit with detachable analyzer, and an action base shaped like a Federation Communicator badge. That Commander Riker comes with more equipment than weapons makes a great deal of sense, as his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation was that of command, not security. The Action base is just enough to support Riker and is a StarFleet delta shield with a little black sticker that reads "Riker" to help keep it straight from the other figures. The center of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Riker's feet!

The Type II phaser is poorly detailed, basically being a little silver plastic piece in the shape of a phaser with a beam extending two inches out from it. While this makes play easier, it is a tough sell as far as detailing goes. The buttons and displays are molded into the weapon, but it is not colored appropriately. At least the phaser beam is colored pink, which is appropriate. The figure is only able to hold the phaser in his right hand and it is molded for that purpose. Riker's left hand is molded open, so it is only ideal for holding the field kit. In the right hand, he can hold the phaser appropriately and it looks good there. Most of his equipment weapons may only held by his right hand. Unfortunately, there was no way to connect the phaser to Riker's when he is not holding it.

The tricorder is a three-quarter inch gold molded plastic device that fits awkwardly into a holster on Riker's right thigh. This accessory looks utterly ridiculous. It, too, fits only in Riker's right hand.

Then there is the "analyzer," which is what fans will recognize to be a PADD. This flat little piece of plastic has a sticker on it to embody a PADD panel and it fits in the field kit. The field kit is essentially a suitcase with little tools molded into the inside and the PADD fits in. It may be closed and held in Riker's left or right hands. The outside of the field kit has a StarFleet sticker on it.

Unfortunately, all three of these accessories are molded in a strange gold plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. Given that only the right hand can hold most of the accessories, Riker is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is tough to get excited about this.


Commander William T. Riker helped establish a high expectation for quality from Playmates, though many fans were disappointed by the detailing and pose. Despite being molded in a fairly limited, running pose that looks ridiculous when the figure is on the bridge (there was a bridge playset!), this is not a badly articulated version of Riker. Commander William T. Riker is endowed with twelve points of articulation: knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, neck, and waist. 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 poseability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Commander William T. Riker 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, Riker is quite stable, even in fairly ridiculous action poses, making him a great figure for display as well as play.


Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, so this Riker is virtually worthless. Found loose for less than a dollar these days, this Riker can often be found for less than $5.00 (which was even less than its original issue price in 1992!). Playmates flooded the market with these figures and they are almost impossible to use as investment pieces.

That said, at least Playmates tried to make the figures collectible. Each figure has an individual number on the bottom of his left 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 190500 figures out there (my Riker is #190469!).


Devalued from being overproduced and bearing a ridiculous attempt at uniform detailing that made it look like Riker had been in a bar fight, this William T. Riker figure becomes quite easy to pass by. Only fans truly obsessed with Jonathan Frakes will feel the need to collect this one!

For other Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, please check out my reviews of:
The Borg
Captain Picard In StarFleet Duty Uniform
Worf In StarFleet Rescue Uniform


For other toy reviews, please check out my Toy Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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