Sunday, August 19, 2012

The BEST Pre-Autograph Star Trek Trading Card Set: "Reflections Of The Future" Phase Two Cards!

The Good: Excellent images, Some truly great chase cards, Great subject matter, Easy to collect.
The Bad: Chase are a little unsophisticated, Preview cards in common set, Unnumbered card 200.
The Basics: In as close to a perfect set as Star Trek cards got before autographs and costume cards, the "Phase Two" set is a strong common set with wonderful chase cards!

I, as I've alluded to many times in the course of my reviews, have a side business selling Star Trek trading and gaming cards at conventions which keeps me busy some weekends and gives me something to do that is fun and different from the rest of my life. The conventions are a lot of fun and one of the ways I attempt to sell the trading cards (I'm terrible at Sales!) is that they offer a wonderful alternative to 8x10s for getting autographed by the celebrities at the shows. Virtually every star and guest star from the Star Trek franchise has appeared on a trading or gaming card.

In this function, nothing sells itself quite as easily as the Star Trek 30th Anniversary Reflections Of The Future Phase Two set, which focuses on the Aliens and Personnel of the Star Trek franchise! These cards all have wonderful, large images that make them ideal for getting signed, making them highly sought after by people who are neither trading card collectors nor, traditionally, straight out Star Trek fans. Following the same format at the rather successful "Phase One" series (reviewed here!), this set represents the best SkyBox produced before the advent of autograph cards. This 30th Anniversary tribute was remarkably, like its predecessor, including the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, the Star Trek film collections, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the first season of Star Trek: Voyager. This is a remarkably comprehensive set for fans of the entire Star Trek franchise and it is a treasure trove of information and images of the alien races and personnel (characters) of the franchise.

The "Phase Two" set is a 124 card set featuring a 100 card common set and twenty-four bonus cards, all but three of which are available in boxes of the trading cards. The "Phase Two" set was originally released in boxes of thirty-six packs, which each contained eight "Phase Two" cards. There was a manufacturer-created binder that bore the same logo as the box top and those are long since gone from hobby and collectible shops (since SkyBox lost the Star Trek license almost a decade ago). The packs generally had good collation and the basic set and the lower levels of chase cards were easy enough to come by to make them collectable but not so easy as to make one consider them overproduced. With the "Reflections Of The Future" series, SkyBox hit a fair production run. With "Phase Two," the cards hit a demand level that was almost impossible to meet, so these boxes are harder than some to come by.

The "Phase Two" set features the aliens and personnel from the Star Trek franchise in both the common set and the bonus cards. The common card set consists of 100 cards, numbered 101 - 199 with an annoying unnumbered card 200. The common set is broken down with 45 alien race cards, 45 crew member cards, 7 Stellar Phenomenon preview cards, 2 checklists, and the Title Card. As far as the series breakdown goes, this is a remarkably balanced set with 27 Star Trek, 3 "Star Trek: The Animated Series," 10 Star Trek film, 29 Star Trek: The Next Generation, 17 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and 12 Star Trek: Voyager cards. Each card is protected from light damage by a UV resistant coating.

The common card set is a beautiful looking collection featuring digital image captures that allow incredible transfers of the alien and crewmember photographs used to document the subject of the cards. For the aliens, wherever possible, the card front contains an image of either gender of the race and the back has a small image of the other gender! So, for example, card 101 has a Vulcan woman (T'Pau) on the front and a Vulcan male (Sarek) on the back. This is a nice touch. Similarly, most of the personnel cards have a big image on the front of an early appearance of the character and the back has a smaller image of a later appearance; this is most pronounced in the Star Trek images which have each cast member as they appeared during the series on the front and how they appear in the Star Trek films on the back!

The backs are well-written with a great deal of detail (as much as a trading card can carry) on the aliens and personnel. They document the one-hit aliens like the Denevan Neural Parasites and the Mugato as well as the recurring aliens, like Q, Mr. Homn, and the Ferengi. The inclusion of the Vidiians from Star Trek: Voyager is a wonderful (if ugly) way to cap that part of the set.

The character half is an amazing collection that has some of the best, least replicated and most intriguing shots of the characters available on trading cards (or anywhere else!). They include the main cast of each series, as well as the most significant recurring characters. So, for example, Yeoman Rand, Lieutenant Saavik, Guinan, Ro, Dr. Pulsaski, and Rom each have cards! In fact, the only real surprise was that SkyBox chose to include Keiko over Nog!

The common set is somewhat weakened by the last seven pre-checklist cards. These cards focus on spatial phenomenon and basically serve to advertise the "Phase Three" set. One suspects fans would have found the set without nine cards being taken out of this set to devote to the next one and I could easily come up with seven more alien race or recurring star cards that could have been done! This is not enough to knock it out of the niche I usually reserve for absolute perfection. This is, truly, quite close enough for a trading card set, even with the preview cards.

The common cards themselves represent a higher level of quality as - in addition to incredible and rare images - each one is foil stamped with an Alien or Personnel logo to easily differentiate which part of the set one is in. As well, they are all - common and chase - oriented in a landscape orientation, making for wonderful consistency when looking through one's binder.

The bonus cards in this set are easily the best pre-autograph inserts found in packs of Star Trek trading cards. Autograph cards changed everything right around the time the "Phase Three" set was released (the first Star Trek autograph card was in boxes of Star Trek: First Contact trading cards) and these bonus cards still work as something intriguing, even following the high end autograph cards that were on the cusp of creation when this set was released. With the "Phase Two" set, there were twenty-one different bonus cards that could be found in the boxes and an additional three that were either mail-away or otherwise limited release cards. These were not mass produced, which has allowed them to retain some significant value in the marketplace today. While not strictly bonus cards, the Microsoft Network advertisement card and Survey card were plentiful enough that virtually every box had at least one of each.

The first level of chase card was the Doppleganger foil cards. One in every twelve packs had one of nine foil cards that featured popular characters from the Star Trek franchise in forms that were not quite our heroes! So, for example, these nine cards included four characters from the Mirror Universe, including the bearded Spock and Intendant Kira! There are the transporter duplicates of Kirk and Riker, Lore, the retired Captain Picard from "All Good Things. . ." and the Vidiian-split B'Elanna Torres! With rich red Spectra-etched foil backgrounds framing the clear, smooth - slightly embossed - head shots of the alternate crewmembers, these are exceptionally good-looking cards! These cards, numbered F1 - F9, look great in a binder. It takes three boxes with ideal collation to complete this set.

It takes five boxes with ideal collation to complete the Undercover Personnel lenticular set. The nine L cards are a beautiful collection of two-frame image cards which show the popular personnel from the Star Trek franchise as they normally appear, then in one of their undercover roles! This set does not follow any logical order (Chakotay is L5 in the center!), but they look great. The cards include Kirk as a Romulan, Spock as an Iotian and Kira as a Cardassian! This set is so clever that it coordinated the background colors with the colors of the Aliens and Personnel icons! So, for example, the image of Worf has a red background, but when one moves the card and the image changes to Worf masquerading as a Boraalan, the background is green! The images are remarkably clear for lenticular cards!

The final bonus card that might still be pulled from the boxes and packs is a SkyMotion Redemption card (which looks virtually identical to the Survey card on the front!). The Redemption cards have long since expired, but true completists will want them. Redemption cards were inserted into one in every five boxes.

The actual SkyMotion card is a neat card. It is a thick plastic card that when held up to the light and tilted, it illustrates thirty frames of an image! In this case, the image is of Odo morphing for the first time from "Emissary" when he has a mace thrown through his head! In addition to the standard SkyMotion card, that was only available from the use of redemption cards, there was also a double-sized jumbo SkyMotion card which is a bit more clear, though it contains the same image. There were no other promotional cards in this set, making it a surprisingly easy set to complete (and yet valuable nonetheless!).

Boxes of the "Phase Two" cards have retained their value well because the sets and the bonus cards have held their value as well. This is a great set for fans of Star Trek who are just getting into card collecting, because outside of the three cards, everything is in the boxes, if you buy enough of them! Most boxes contain two common sets with a healthy start to a third. And this was a set that had great box design as well (it's a bit bulky for my taste, but it won awards in the industry at the time and the images on them - there are very cool murals under the lid flap - are very creative and cool!) and makes for an all around wonderful release that still holds up in a world of autograph and costume cards. Actually, this set is remarkably balanced because in order to finish the Lenticular set (there are only two of those cards per box) one needs to purchase five boxes, which is the same odds as the highest level of chase card, the Redemption card!

This is a must have for Star Trek trading card collectors!

This set culls images from:
Star Trek
Star Trek: The Animated Series
The Star Trek films
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 1

This is a set of cards I proudly sell in my online store! Check out my current inventory of them here!


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing of the card reviews I have written!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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