Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Ferengi: A Good Villain For An Action Figure, Weird Choices For The Sculpt!

The Good: Generally good sculpt and balance, Interesting accessories
The Bad: WAY overproduced, Odd costume choice/terrible scale issues for accessories.
The Basics: The Ferengi is a decent action figure for a toy, but little else given its overproduction and the lack of quality on the accessories.

The Ferengi in the Star Trek: The Next Generation era of Star Trek underwent a few major changes in their characterization and culture. The differences in who they were compared to who they became were so extreme that actor Armin Shimerman, who played both Quark - a Ferengi who was a series regular on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - and one of the Ferengi in the first episode that had the alien race on Star Trek: The Next Generation, mentioned in one of his interviews on the DVDs for the spin-off that he was eager to help undo the damage he felt he did in the way he portrayed the Ferengi in his earliest outing. Regardless, by the time the toy company, Playmates, came along to immortalize the Ferengi in plastic for their wildly popular action figure line, the Ferengi were well-established and recognized in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe.

It is odd, then, that Playmates decided to sculpt their Ferengi based upon the costumes and character concepts illustrated in the first two episodes the Ferengi appear in. Indeed, the Ferengi of "The Last Outpost" (reviewed here!) and "The Battle" (reviewed here!) bear almost no resemblance to who the Ferengi became later on in the series. This is not just a characterization, either. The first two episodes with the Ferengi had the capitalist aliens wearing furs and utilizing weapons like energy whips as opposed to small disruptors and well-pressed suits (of their own cultural design, but obviously fancy). The Playmates Ferengi action figure wears the furs and looks like the savage, not the businessman. One wonders what Armin Shimerman thinks of it!

From the very first line of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures by Playmates, one of the few villains is the Ferengi figure. The Ferengi, along with the Borg and Romulan were the only acknowledged villains in Playmates' early line-up, but they would not be the last. Despite the relative simplicity of the figure, the Ferengi sold because most of the figures in the line were bridge crew characters and as a result the Ferengi offered some obstacle for those who play with the figures to overcome.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1992 Collection of action figures contained ten figures (though the tenth was not released until early 1993) and it focused on the essential characters and villains of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A default villain and a only not a pegwarmer because the whole line was hot, the Ferengi "The Profit-taking Pirates Of The Universe" figure was highly sought-after. Around Christmastime 1992, the first wave of nine of the ten figures were released and initially they were nearly impossible to find. Since then, they were so vastly overproduced as to make them worthless. As a result the Ferengi is one of the most dumped Star Trek: The Next Generation figures and one of the easiest to find now on the secondary market as a result.

The Ferengi figure is the big-eared barbarian-style alien as they appeared only in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here!). The Ferengi has a simple gray tunic, which is covered with a fur that is draped over one shoulder.

Standing four and three-eighths inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Ferengi immortalized in plastic. The character is molded with his left arm extended straight, so the most natural pose for the figure is having Ferengi reaching out as it wields its energy whip with the right hand. There is a decent level of uniform detailing, like the fact that the fur on the waist, chest and boots is molded and textured as well as painted on. Still, some of the painting is sloppy; the eyes are listless and the detailing on the headpiece on the back of the Ferengi's head is under-detailed. Ferengi's face is molded in a sharky, toothy growl and outside the teeth, it lacks much in the way of detail, though there is the tattoo on the Ferengi's forehead to indicate it is a member of the Ferengi military class. The figure includes such important details as the distinctive Ferengi ears and head piece. The Ferengi do not have hair.

The paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic tan and lack any shading or subtlety. The shading in the ears is simplistic (basically brown curved lines) and the eyes are similarly lacking in details. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect. However, here is where the sculpt becomes ridiculous. The arms on this style Ferengi outfit have a black stripe that comes down from the shoulder to the wrist. In order to keep that line lined up with the stripe coming off the shoulder, there is truly only one pose the arms can have. Otherwise, the figure looks ridiculous and posing the Ferengi with the variant arm poses makes the figure look like it is sloppily assembled. Playmates did not appear to consider this when they chose this particular outfit for the Ferengi and ironically, any second season or beyond Ferengi would not have had the same limitation!


The Ferengi comes with five accessories: a Ferengi disruptor, a Ferengi disruptor rifles, a Ferengi energy whip, a dilithium crystal and an action base shaped like a Ferengi symbol. That the Ferengi comes with weapons makes sense only in the context that this is a first season Ferengi; any other Ferengi would likely have come with gold pressed latinum for the realism of it. The Action base is just enough to support Ferengi and is a green Ferengi symbol which is pretty neat. One end of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Ferengi's feet!

The dilithium crystal is a simple translucent plastic crystal much like the outcroppings of crystals in "The Last Outpost." The Ferengi is unable to hold this in either hand, but it rests nicely on the base next to the Ferengi's feet.

The Ferengi disruptor is poorly detailed, basically being a little blue plastic piece in the shape of a disruptor with a beam extending an inch and three-quarters 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 disruptor beam is colored pink, which is appropriate. The figure is able to hold the disruptor (more or less) in either hand. The thing is, the disruptor is ridiculously large compared to the Ferengi's body. Ferengi disruptor pistols are actually quite small and this is ridiculously out of proportion with the rest of the figure.

Similarly, the Ferengi disruptor rifle may be held in both hands or a two-handed grip, but it bears little resemblance to the sleek weapons seen by third and fifth season Ferengi. The thing is, all three of the distinctly Ferengi accessories are molded in a gross pearlescent blue plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. The Ferengi is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is tough to get excited about this.

The only accessory that works with the silly coloring is the energy whip, but even this three-inch curled plastic accessory does not get the coloring detail all right. Instead, it has a solid blue handle where it ought to have been colored. At least the accessory is unique to the Ferengi!


The Ferengi helped establish a new level of quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. Despite being molded in a fairly limited, aggressive pose that looks ridiculous outside the very specific whipping pose shown on the packaging, this is not a bad sculpt of the Ferengi. The Ferengi 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, Ferengi 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, Ferengi 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 Ferengi is virtually worthless. Found loose for less than a dollar these days, this Ferengi 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 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 206400 figures out there (my Ferengi is #206302!).


This Ferengi has posability issues based upon the specific sculpt Playmates went with. Still, it is a pretty neat action figure and if its accessories looked more like they belonged to it, it would be even better. A good toy, but a poor investment piece and only a display item in a household of a true Trekker!

For other figures from the Star Trek: The Next Generation toy line from 1992, please check out my reviews of:
Gowron The Klingon
Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Commander William T. Riker
The Borg


For other Star Trek figure reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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