Sunday, November 18, 2012

Under Cover, Commander Riker Becomes A Cool Action Figure As A Malcorian!

The Good: Good sculpt, Generally cool accessories
The Bad: Overproduced, Very limited appeal, Accessory issues
The Basics: When Playmates Toys ventured into obscure Star Trek: The Next Generation character permutations, "Commander Riker As A Malcorian" sounded good, but could have been executed better.

There are any number of action figures that are likely to appeal only to fans of whatever source material they are based upon, as opposed to general action figure collectors. So, for example, with Star Trek action figures, one has to figure that toys that come from a single episode have very limited appeal to those who are not fans of the episode the figure is based upon. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there were any number of aliens and adversaries that only die-hard fans would want to have in plastic, but before Playmates Toys got to many of them, they began to present action figures of heroes in other forms other than the simple, uniformed versions. One of the figures that fit into a very narrow niche of Star Trek: The Next Generation fans who were still collecting figures in 1994 was Commander Riker As A Malcorian.

The Commander Riker As A Malcorian figure was only the third Riker figure to be produced. Riker As A Malcorian was a follow-up to the earlier Commander William T. Riker action figure (reviewed here!) which was a fairly bland interpretation and recast of the first officer in his uniform. This Riker was released only once, as part of the first and second wave of the 7th Collector's series of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures. This Riker was part of the first release of eight figures and was continued part of the full line-up that was ultimately over twenty figures in the 1994 7th Season Collector Series.


The Star Trek: The Next Generation 7th Season Collection of action figures broadened the line away from the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, at least in their instantly recognizable forms, and was largely composed of figures that would end up as pegwarmers because of the specificity of the toys. Despite the popularity within the culture of Star Trek fans, Commander Riker As A Malcorian was in no way a mainstream success and was exactly the type of pegwarmer that sat around until it was clearanced, after the initial buy-up by fans of the series. This Commander Riker is fairly popular with the fans, but objectively is a rather average action figure from the costume and accessory detailing.

The Commander Riker As A Malcorian figure is first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise "As Seen In The 'First Contact' Episode" in his undercover outfit from the episode "First Contact" (reviewed here!). Only those who have seen the episode are likely to "get" the figure, what it represents and who it is even of, as the face is not Jonathan Frakes's recognizable visage. Still, those who know what they are looking for and at will appreciate that Playmates bothered with making this figure.

Standing four and seven-eighths inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Commander William T. Riker as he was disguised to infiltrate the Malcorian people. The character is molded with his fingers in a half-grip position which allow the figure to hold almost all of his accessories in either hand. There is a fair level of costume detailing, made difficult by the fact that the Malcorian costume is a very simple one. So, while the figure has decent molding elements like the texture to the overcoat and a center tassel/tie on the front of the costume, the coloring detail is simple and monolithic. As well - having seen the actual costume - there is something missing from this interpretation, which is the texture. The weave on the actual outfit had a more open weave/pattern, which is completely lacking from this smooth-plastic costume. Such detailing was well within Playmates's ability given how the company molded the Ambassador Spock figure's costume.

Riker's face is molded with the Malcorian forehead ridges and there is both texture and coloring detail to define those ridges which are the Malcorian disguise. Still, there is a lack of facial coloring detail for this Riker. Even his lips are not pink! His flesh tones 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 paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic light tan and lack any shading or subtlety. Mine had paint blobs at the joints on the costume, which stood out awkwardly. Still, the hand wraps and undershirt are painted well enough to add a nice level of detail that helped to define the character and now the figure.


Commander Riker As A Malcorian comes with five accessories, plus a SkyCap, a collectible pog: A StarFleet Type II phaser, Malcorian syringe, Malcorian medical scanner, Malcorian monitor, and an action base shaped like a Federation symbol. That Commander Riker As A Malcorian comes with mostly Malcorian equipment makes sense, as he had only Malcorian equipment - outside his phaser - in "First Contact." The Federation Action base is more than enough to support Riker and is a gold and blue Federation starfield 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 able to hold the phaser in either hand and it looks equally plausible in either grip.

The Malcorian medical scanner is a 3/4" choking hazard which is a generally faithful replica of the equipment unique to the episode. In fact, Playmates deserves some credit for producing a figure whose accessories necessitated all new equipment, as opposed to simply rehashing the same old equipment with the new figures (which was quite popular with Playmates). The scanner is essentially a flat disc molded perpendicular to a handle and it looks like the device that Riker was scanned with in "First Contact."

Similarly, the Malcorian syringe was another device used on the disguised Riker, as opposed to by Riker when he visited Malcoria III. Still, the inch-long cylinder is a decent accessory which this Riker is able to hold in either of his hands. It is, however, ridiculously oversized in comparison to the syringe Riker was given the Malcorian truth serum with.

The final accessory, the Malcorian monitor is a medical display with lines representing the wounded Commander Riker's vitals. In the episode, this was a wall-mounted device and here it is an inch and a half long by half inch wide hunk of plastic with a sticker representing the panel that the medical display was on. It is not conceptually bad, but given there are so few playsets for the Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures, most fans will be unable to find a way to display the figure with this unique accessory.

Unfortunately, all three of these Malcorian accessories are molded in a dark red plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. Given that one of the accessories cannot even be held, Riker is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is tough to get excited about this.

The 7th Season line of Playmates action figures also comes with a fairly cool SkyBox Space Cap pog/card unique to the action figures. The Commander Riker As A Malcorian pog features a tiny headshot of Riker with a space field that is mostly purple. The back of the Space Cap has a checklist and the character's name, but nothing else.


Commander Riker As A Malcorian helped continue a high level of quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, in terms of posability and general playability. This is not a bad sculpt of Riker as a Malcorian and he is balanced fairly well. Commander Riker As A Malcorian 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! The balance of the figure is improved by the fact that the draping plastic of the toy's shirt inhibits the waist articulation. Riker's legs turn only about thirty degrees at the waist.

Moreover, for use with actual play, Riker As A Malcorian 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 1994!), largely because this figure was from a series that appealed to such a small niche of collectors and Playmates flooded the market with them. 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 18,000 figures out there (my Riker is #017886!).


This Riker is a generally decent sculpt and a good idea, but it is one that appeals to a niche of a niche and it was very much overproduced for the limited potential audience. But Playmates tried and it generally succeeded with the attempt. Still, there was a greater level of potential detailing to this figure that Playmates neglected and as a result, it is one of their more average figures. It's too bad, too; it could have been extraordinary!

For other figures from this series, check out my reviews of:
Ensign Ro Laren
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 toy reviews, please visit my Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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