Monday, September 2, 2013

Almost Getting It All Right, The 2013 “Arena” Star Trek Ornament Rocks!

The Good: Iconic moment, Iconic music, Generally good sculpt, Excellent detailing on the Gorn
The Bad: Kirk doesn't look quite right, Expensive.
The Basics: Hallmark’s latest diorama ornament focuses on “Arena” and gets everything but Captain Kirk just right!

The Star Trek diorama ornaments usually take a beating from me when I review them. It’s true and I make no bones about it; Hallmark has the ability to create amazing mini-statues with their ornaments and for the last few years, they have cheaped out on Star Trek while at the same time raising the prices of the Trek ornaments. This year, though, they almost justify the inflated price of the “Arena” Star Trek ornament and this is the closest the company has come in years to making a truly exceptional diorama ornament from the original Star Trek.

For those unfamiliar with the episode, "Arena" (reviewed here!), is the classic episode where the Enterprise discovers a Federation outpost slaughtered and they pursue a ship fleeing the decimated colony into uncharted space. There, both the Enterprise and the alien ship are subdued and Captain Kirk is forced to fight the giant lizard Gorn captain in a battle of physical strength and wits. What is supposed to be a battle to the death becomes a lesson in human compassion and ingenuity as Kirk fights for a humane way of life as well as for his own continued existence.

It is Kirk and the Gorn Captain squaring off with one another on the alien planet, Kirk at the mercy of the Gorn as the Gorn prepares to stab him with his rock knife that is the subject of the "Arena" Hallmark Ornament. To add extra value to this one, Hallmark provided this ornament with an impressive extensive sound chip.


The "Arena" ornament recreates the moment Kirk is tripped up by the Gorn (though it does not include the net the reptilian captain used to ensnare him). The Gorn Captain looms over Kirk with his rock knife raised as Kirk kicks back. The ornament, released in 2013, is an immaculate rendition of the original Gorn (not the CG enhanced and recolored version for the Remastered version of the episode). The ornament has great details for the knife, ground, Universal Translators, and the Gorn, but Kirk is somewhat animated in his appearance. Hallmark makes up for that with a great sound chip that is likely to please most fans.

Hallmark clearly made an effort on the characters as Kirk on this ornament is detailed with accurate rank insignia and division badges. Measuring 3 3/4" tall, 3 1/2" wide and 2” deep, the "Arena" ornament is a larger Star Trek ornament and with the sound feature, it is one of the more pricey ones in the collection with an original issue price of $29.95.

The Hallmark "Arena" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the human and Gorn officers facing one another with the Gorn standing and Kirk laying, striking back, on the surface of the Metron’s planet. The ground is nicely detailed to look textured and like sand, which is pretty impressive in this scale.

The Gorn's detailing is immaculate. It includes texturing on the skin for the scaly body of the Gorn and an impressive depth of sculpted and coloring details for the Gorn’s tunic. The eyes look compounded and Hallmark even remembered to include the Universal Translator on the Gorn Captain’s belt. The coloring of the rock knife is even glossy in contrast to the more satin tones of the Gorn’s skin, adding a depth and realism some of the ornaments have lacked. Unfortunately, Captain Kirk is another matter. There is no realism to the flesh color on Kirk and the coloring is oversimplified so Kirk has an annoyingly animated look to him. The fact that his face is not noticeably dirty either is a disappointing failure to detail the ornament as well. That said, the Kirk figure on the ornament includes a well detailed Universal Translator, so they did manage to get most of the details right.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Arena" has only a sound effect. This ornament operates on an independent battery so one does not need to position it near a light strand on their tree. Because there is no special light function in the scene, it makes perfect sense that there is no light effect on the “Arena” ornament.

On the ornament, there is a small button that, when pressed, activates the sound chip. The sound chip actually contains the music from the battle scene in “Arena” as well as the slurps and snarls of the Gorn! While this music is not as distinctive as, for example, the Vulcan battle theme in “Amok Time,” the sounds are authentic and evocative of the moment for the fans who love the episode.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Arena" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "Arena" ornament is a high priced option, but most fans will (truthfully) want it. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the Gorn's head. This is fairly obtrusive, though it is necessary for the ornament.

Despite the loop's position, this is an amazingly well-balanced ornament. It hangs level, so the ground of the alien planet is flat and one has a great perspective of the conflict. The balance being this good is uncommon for this type of Hallmark ornament, so Hallmark is clearly learning from their past missteps in some of their bigger ornaments!


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for that review!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships and many of the characters from the franchise and they have all been more mass produced than that first one. "Arena" ornament has been selling steadily since and this might be one of the Star Trek ornaments that manages to sell out before the holidays. Most fans bought it early and while serious investors might be hoping to get them on clearance, it is doubtful this one will still be available after the holiday!

I’m betting on the longterm investment potential of the “Arena” ornament and advising those who stockpile the ornaments to get this one while they can!


One of the best Star Trek diorama ornaments in years, the “Arena” ornament is a near-miss on perfection, but probably more than enough for the less discriminating consumers to consider a “must buy!”

For other Star Trek diorama Hallmark ornaments reviews, please check out my reviews of:
2012 "An Extraordinary Meeting" Star Trek ornament
2011 "Mirror, Mirror" ornament
2010 "Amok Time" ornament
2009 "The Menagerie" ornament
2004 "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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