Monday, December 3, 2012

Following In The Footsteps Of Lame: "Data As A Romulan" Figure Falls Down (Literally!)

The Good: Good idea, Good general accessories
The Bad: Balance issues, Lame accessory coloring, Very specific and limited, Low articulation
The Basics: Produced at the same time (and bearing the same faults as) the Captain Picard As A Romulan figure, the Data As A Romulan figure tips over and is poorly-articulated.

There are a few Star Trek franchise actors who deserve their fair share of royalties from merchandise that they never were paid for. The obvious people who would cash in if they ever sued (and won) against the licensees would be Michael Dorn, Patrick Stewart, and Brent Spiner. They played Worf, Picard and Data, respectively, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. They played the characters who seemed to be both the most popular and had the greatest number of costume changes in the series. Brent Spiner, who played Data, was especially versatile and action figures of Data were plentiful and popular. Having spoken with him at conventions, he never received nearly as much as he was supposed to for the figures (though he received a lot of merchandise that he was later able to sell at Las Vegas).

The Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan figure was at least the fifth figure to use Brent Spiner's likeness. Data As A Romulan featured Lieutenant Commander Data as he looked when he went, disguised, on a mission to Romulus. This Data 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 Data 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. Unfortunately for collectors, this bears almost all of the same problems as the Picard As A Romulan figure released at the same time.


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, Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan 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 Lieutenant Commander Data is fairly popular with the fans, but objectively is a rather poor action figure from the costume and accessory detailing to the inability to balance.

The Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan figure is the Science Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise "As Seen In The 'Unification' Episode" in his undercover outfit from the episode "Unification, Part I" (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 Brent Spiner's recognizable visage, given that the skintones are darker and the face looks more round than Spiner's usual angular face. Fans are likely to appreciate that Playmates bothered with making this figure, except for the fans who opened theirs up to play with or display the figure.

Standing four and three-quarters inches tall, this is a decent likeness of the android officer Data as he was disguised to infiltrate the Romulan people. The character is molded with his fingers mostly open, which makes it difficult for the figure to hold his accessories in either hand. There is almost no level of costume detailing, made worse by the fact that the Romulan costume is a very simple one. So, this is essentially a big gray cloak with a Romulan-ized Data head on it. The cloak has ripples molded into it and there is minor texturing to it and the hood is molded down, but it is uniformly colored.

Data's face is molded with the Romulan forehead ridges and Romulan ears. There is only the texture detailing on the ridges, no coloring definition along them. As well, there is a lack of facial coloring detail for this Data. Even his lips are not red! His flesh tones lack any subtlety or shading, it essentially looks like he dusted himself in sand - his skin tones are much darker than the usual Data. The figure includes such important details as Data's eyebrows molded into the plastic, though the face and hair lack any sense of realistic toning and this Data has hair that is short and lacking in any highlights. This Data has the standard Romulan hairdo, compliments of a hairpiece from the ship's barber.

The paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic brown and lack any shading or subtlety. Mine had paint blobs at the pointed ears and eyeballs.


Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan comes with four accessories, plus a SkyCap, a collectible pog: A StarFleet type II phaser, Federation tricorder and an action base shaped like a Romulan symbol. That Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan comes with mostly Federation equipment makes little sense, as he used Romulan and Klingon equipment mostly in "Unification." The Romulan Action base is not quite enough to support Data and is a black and blue Romulan bird-of-prey symbol with a little black sticker that reads "Data" 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 Data'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 Data's right hand the phaser looks much more natural. In the right hand, he can hold the phaser appropriately and it looks good there, but in the left hand Data is forced to balance the phaser awkwardly.

The tricorder is a three-quarter inch dark orange molded plastic device that does not fit into either of Data's hands. This accessory looks utterly ridiculous. It is underdetailed and is pretty much only recognizable to fans of the Star Trek: The Next Generation series.

As well, Data As A Romulan 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 cannot fit in Data's grip. The best one can do is have him hold out his arms and balance the monitor ridiculousy on it.

The other two accessories - the tricorder and monitor - are not at all specific to this figure. Instead, they are the same molds of tricorders and monitors used in prior releases. They have the general shape - boxes with buttons - of the proper devices, but are utterly lacking in realistic coloring details or even surface details that have proper buttons or screen displays. Neither of these accessories fit in Data's left hand. All three of these accessories (not the base) are cast in a vile orange plastic that looks nothing like any equipment seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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 Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan pog features a tiny headshot of Data 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.


Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan became one of the first figures to start gutting the Playmates toy line on the quality front. This Data is not a terrible sculpt, but it cannot stand unaided and when plugged into its base it is still strangely top-heavy and tips over unless the arms are kept straightened. Lieutenant Commander Data As A Romulan is endowed with only five points of articulation: elbows, shoulders, and neck. This is hugely disappointing for those used to Playmates's toys usual high level of toy articulation. The stiff cloak, though, makes waist and leg articulation a moot point. There are only the barest hints of Data's boots sticking out from under the cloak, so no leg articulation was needed or practical. 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.

For use with actual play, Data As A Romulan 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!). This articulation, though, is somewhat pointless as it tips over constantly.


Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, so this Data is virtually worthless. Found loose for less than a dollar these days, this Data 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 118,000 figures out there (my Data is #117891!).


Lieutenant Commander Data as a Romulan is a good idea, poorly executed. Barely recognizable as Data, his Romulan persona tips over and is accessorized with ridiculously colored equipment.

For other figures from this series, check out my reviews of:
Commander Riker As A Malcorian From "First Contact"
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 Star Trek figure reviews, be sure to check out my specialized index page for Playmates Star Trek Toy Reviews!

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