Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Few, The Proud, The Bajorans: Ensign Ro Laren Makes For A Pretty Wonderful Figure!

The Good: Good sculpt, Decent poseability, Generally good accessories
The Bad: Accessory coloring
The Basics: Despite miscolored accessories, this Ensign Ro Laren figure from Playmates is still worthwhile for fans and collectors of Star Trek: The Next Generation toys!

As the Star Trek franchise effectively reboots with the success of the new feature film, it is hard to argue with what made the show worth watching in the first place. For the original Star Trek, it was social commentary. For Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was social commentary mixed with intriguing plots and some interesting characters. For Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it was all about character development and consequences. Star Trek: The Next Generation underwent a fundamental shift in its fifth season shortly before (and certainly after!) Gene Roddenberry died. One of the elements that changed the show was the addition of the recurring character Ensign Ro Laren to the bridge crew.

Ensign Ro was a member of the Bajoran people, a planet that had been victimized by Cardassian genocide. Ro offered a less clean-cut version of a StarFleet officer and her troubled past gave her a sense of conflict that was often lacking from the generally consequence-free main bridge crew. Ro Laren proved immediately popular and as a result, as Playmates continued its Star Trek: The Next Generation toy line, Ensign Ro was one of the highly sought-after figures. And with good cause. This is a pretty wonderful figure . . . so much so, she was released twice!


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1995 Collection of action figures contained mostly repackaged figures and it broadened the line away from the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and supplemented the characters with memorable guest stars and aliens. Some, like Ensign Ro, were simply recarded for the 1995/6 release from the second wave of the 1994 line. This was probably because Ensign Ro was one of the top four Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures fans were desperately hunting and she had been so shortpacked in the original release. The Ensign Ro Laren "Former Bajoran Freedom Fighter" figure was exceptionally popular and has retained her value because there are so few products featuring Ro out there, not to mention so very few Star Trek action figures of female characters!

The Ensign Ro figure is the Command branch officer as she appeared from her outset in the fifth season episode "Ensign Ro" (reviewed here!). This is the essential and recognizable Ro as she appeared in most of the series, with jaw-length hair, as opposed to the tight haircut she had in her final appearance on the show. The figure is a pretty decent likeness, though Ro is smiling and she is a bit more busty in this incarnation. Still, she is quite recognizable as Michelle Forbes's beloved character.

Standing four and five-eighths inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Ensign Ro Laren immortalized in plastic. The character is molded with her fingers closed just enough to hold either of her major accessories. There is a decent level of uniform detailing and everything from the pips to the communicator are appropriately painted and detailed, so she has only one pip, indicating her Ensign rank. Ro's face is molded in a ridiculous smile that is completely uncharacteristic, though the lips are colored pink she has eye shadow on as well. The figure includes such important details as Ro's Bajoran earring in her left ear. The face and hair lack any sense of realistic toning and this Ro has hair that is lacking in any highlights, though it is molded with enough texture so it does not look like Ro is wearing a helmet. Her eyes are appropriately brown, but the pupils are white instead of black!

The paint job is good, but underdeveloped. The skin tones are monolithic light tan and lack any shading or subtlety, though the lilac of the eye shadow is pretty nice. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect, despite the fact that this Ro has more bust to her than the actual Ensign Ro.


Ensign Ro comes with five accessories, plus a pog (later a trading card): A StarFleet Type II phaser, StarFleet tricorder, a StarFleet duffel bag, StarFleet monitor, and an action base shaped like a Federation Communicator badge. That Ensign Ro comes with more equipment than weapons makes a great deal of sense, as her role on Star Trek: The Next Generation was that of a navigator/helmsman as opposed to a more combat or exploration officer. The Action base is just enough to support Ro and is a StarFleet delta shield with a little black sticker that reads "Ro" 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 Ro'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 either hand, though in Ro's right hand the phaser looks much more natural. In the right hand, she can hold the phaser appropriately and it looks good there, but in the left hand Ro is forced to hold the phaser more like a lightsaber! Most of her equipment may be held by either hand or supported in both. Unfortunately, there was no way to connect the phaser to Ro's waist when she is not holding it.

The tricorder is a three-quarter inch dark purple molded plastic device that fits awkwardly into Ro's left hand. This accessory looks utterly ridiculous. It is underdetailed and is pretty much only recognizable to fans of the Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

The duffel bag is perfectly appropriate for Ro, as she had one slung over her shoulder when she arrived on the Enterprise in her first episode. The cylinder is connected to a thin plastic strap which allows Ro to have the accessory strapped over her shoulder. The blue plastic has a white StarFleet emblem silkscreened onto it and it looks good, though it does not open.

As well, Ro comes with a Starfleet monitor, one of the desk computers on the Enterprise. The screen is a simple sticker with a StarFleet emblem on it and it can fit in Ro's grip if she holds it with both hands. It looks strange there, though.

Unfortunately, both of these accessories, like the tricorder, are molded in a royal purple plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. The lame coloring of these accessories robs this Ro Laren figure of even the possibility of perfection.

This figure was rereleased following Playmates's obsession with pogs and this 30th Anniversary Star Trek figure comes with a very nice card that appeals to trading card collectors. Featuring a head shot and upper body shot of Ensign Ro, it has a gold band on the front and the back gives all sorts of details about Ro.


Ensign Ro Laren helped continue a high level of quality from Playmates and she was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. Given her rather neutral pose - she is not molded for anything but standing up - this is not a pretty decent sculpt of Ro. Ensign Ro Laren 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 posability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Ensign Ro Laren may bend or extend at the elbows, which offers a greater amount of movement potential making her one of the more realistic Star Trek action figures to play with (for those who actually play with these toys!).

On her base, Ro is quite stable, making her a great figure for display as well as play. Because of her knee articulation, this Ro figure is perfect for sitting at her appropriate place on the bridge playset, for those who have that!


Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, but by the time it got to this wave, some figures were seriously limited, especially this Ensign Ro! Found carded still in the $15 - $20 range, this is one of the best investment figures Playmates created! There is added value as well in that Star Trek trading card collectors hunt for the figure for the trading card! Despite the fact that this was a re-release of the earlier action figure, Ro has managed to maintain her value!

Playmates tried to make the figures collectible. Each figure has an individual number on the bottom of her 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 2700 figures out there (my Ensign Ro is #002657!).


Ensign Ro Laren is a pretty wonderful figure by Playmates and she is pretty much an essential figure for anyone collecting the Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation line of action figures.

For other figures from this series, check out my reviews of:
Worf In StarFleet Rescue Uniform from "The Birthright, Parts 1 and 2"
Picard As A Romulan
Data In Dress Uniform
Esoqq The Chalnoth


For other Star Trek toy reviews, be sure to check out my Star Trek Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment