Thursday, March 6, 2014

Undermining Itself With Age: The Chief O’Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform Figure Is Not Playmates’s Finest!

The Good: Good sculpt, Good coloring, Decent variety of accessories.
The Bad: Accessory coloring, Very overproduced, Very bland facial expression, Lacks skin depth and shading, Poor balance, Inability to hold some accessories.
The Basics: The Chief O’Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform was an initially fair figure that has since degraded some.

When it comes to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine action figures, I was initially incredibly biased toward them: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was my favorite series in the Star Trek franchise and when Playmates Toys started the figure line, I was very excited. Unfortunately, when the second line of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figures was announced by Playmates, I was preemptively disappointed (with just cause). Most of the figures in the line were not original; they were reworks of previously-released Star Trek: Deep Space Nine action figures and few of those recycled figures were of interest to me. One of the few I did get enthusiastic for was the Chief O’Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform. The reason I got excited for that figure was that Playmates had released the StarFleet Officers Collectors Set and I was augmenting the display piece with figures in their Dress Uniforms that were not included in the Collectors Set.

Chief O'Brien, for those who were not tuned in to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!), was the Chief Of Operations and the only enlisted regular of space station Deep Space Nine. And while every other Star Trek series has had a miracle worker chief engineer, O'Brien was the Chief Of Operations on Deep Space Nine and the Chief Engineer on the U.S.S. Defiant. This was a big step up for him as he was a transporter chief on the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform figure features O'Brien as he appeared in special episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, most notably “Data’s Day” (released here!) and “Rejoined” (reviewed here!).


The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1995 Collection of action figures contained twelve figures and it was largely made up of guest characters and obscure variants of the command crew of Deep Space Nine. Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform is the human officer, looking just as he did when he was forced to dress up for important events. O'Brien appears in his second release figure (there were two O’Briens in the second line) as an pretty generic gold-uniformed StarFleet officer in Dress Uniform. He is attired in his gold and black StarFleet Dress uniform. This was one of the most common action figures in the assortment and it remains fairly easy to find even now. Still, card collectors helped keep this from being a complete pegwarmer as it features a SkyBox pog exclusive to the action figure, which made it hunted by trading card collectors as well.

The Chief O'Brien figure is the human StarFleet officer as he appeared in the infrequent episodes where O’Brien wore the Dress Uniform, with the yellow uniform and with a head of curly hair. Chief O'Brien is attired in his mustard yellow (for Engineering division) Dress Uniform. The outfit is colored appropriately, including the single open gold/black rank pip on the collar, though there is no physical distinction between the body of this O’Brien and the Data and Geordi in Dress Uniform figures (save the pips).

Standing four and thirteen-sixteenths inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Chief O'Brien immortalized in plastic. The character is molded with his hands ready to hold most of his accessories in a half-closed position. His legs have a fairly straight-legged stance, so this figure stands up and looks like he is ready to be displayed, as opposed to an action pose which made some of the earlier Star Trek figures more problematic for posing in displays. Chief O'Brien has poor balance off his stand, though on the stand, it strangely remains just stable enough to stand. There is a decent level of uniform detailing, including the communicator pin on the chest being both molded into the figure and then painted on. The sculpted details include such finer details as fingernails, but not knuckles.

Chief O'Brien's face is molded in a bland, neutral expression that includes an characteristically furrowed brow. The hair is tough to capture for an O'Brien figure as O'Brien had curly hair, but Playmates made a fair go at it with a wavy, textured look to the molded hair. At least it doesn't look like O'Brien is wearing a helmet.

The paint job is fair at best, especially for the face. The skin tones are monotonal white with no shading or subtlety. The figure's lips are unpainted. As well, O'Brien's eyes are black with white pupils, which is disturbing. On the body of the figure, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figures seem to have been rushed to market as there is nothing truly unique with this figure. As well, the bottoms of the pants lack the piping detail the actual uniform had.

As the figure has aged an issue has surfaced; the O’Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform was made of two different types of plastic. As a result, the torso and chest piece of the figure has remained mustard yellow, while the softer arms of the figure have a yellow that has discolored to olive green. That is a problem for fans and collectors.


Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform comes with six accessories, including the base, some of which are unique to this figure. Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform comes with a StarFleet Type 1 phaser, a StarFleet carrying case, Pattern Enhancer, Cello and boy and the base. The Action base is a StarFleet delta shield symbol with the name "O'BRIEN" stuck on it with a cheap, black sticker. The center of the base has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Chief O'Brien's feet! When Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform stands flatfooted on the stand, he is stable for balance and has a decent, neutral display appearance. The base is not enough to support O'Brien in more outlandish poses, though the figure’s lack of flexibility and articulation to the legs does not allow him to be placed in more than one pose for all intents and purposes.

The StarFleet phaser was a reworked Type I phaser accessory. This version was a 2 3/16" long prop which features the handheld beam weapon with a bright pink phaser beam emitting from it. The phaser has good molded details, down to the different buttons and a display screen, but is light on the coloring details. In addition to not having a black grip, the phaser does not have detailing on the buttons or power indicator, so it is homogeneously silver to the beam, then monotonally pink. O'Brien's hands are molded so he may carry the weapon in either hand, though it is such a clumsy grip that it ends up being wielded more like a sword than a phaser weapon.

The StarFleet carrying case is a tube that may be slung nicely over the shoulder of the O’Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform figure. The tube was 1” long and 1/2” in diameter. It had a thin strap that makes the overall carrying case 2” tall. This is a monotonal red/maroon accessory with a white StarFleet logo silk screened onto it. Outside its coloring, it fits the figure perfectly.

The pattern enhancer is based on the prop used in episodes like “Power Play” (reviewed here!). It is a 2 1/2" tall pole that ends in four feet. It looks much like a model of the Seattle Space Needle with feet. This is a bulkier and less tall version of the actual prop, though it is recognizable for what it is.

The cello and bow are a wonderful accessory for this particular figure; O’Brien played his cello while wearing the Dress Uniform in “Data’s Day.” The bow is a 1 7/8” long stick with a gap in it. The rounded grip fits in O’Brien’s left hand, but the figure lacks the articulation necessary to make it look like O’Brien is actually playing the cello. The cello is a 2 3/4” oversized violin (it lacks the stick at the bottom that cellos have to keep them off the ground). The body of the cello is textured to look like wood, but the accessory is cast entirely in an unrealistic red/maroon plastic.

This is the unfortunate aspect of all four of Chief O'Brien's accessories; they are molded in an unrealistic maroon/red plastic which looks unlike what any of the props looked like on the show. Clearly Playmates went through some effort to sculpt the accessories realistically, but the coloring minimizes the sense of realism and clashes with the coloring of the figure. Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is a bit of a drawback for the overall figure.

Even so, Playmates included a pog trading card unique to the figure from SkyBox which attracted trading card collectors to this figure in addition to toy collectors. The trading card has a shot of O’Brien’s head over the wormhole. The back has a simple checklist of the figures that came with pogs.


Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform continued a generally high level quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform is appropriately stiff, but has decent poseability. Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform is endowed with eleven points of articulation (though the articulation at the groin socket is minimal – only about ten degrees each way of range of motion): knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, and neck. All of the joints, save the elbows and knees, are simple swivel joints. As a result, the neck turns left to right, 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 poseability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform 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, Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform is exceptionally stable, though the legs do not move enough to offer real posing variety. Off the stand, the figure falls over exceptionally easily.


Playmates overproduced the second wave of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figures and Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform was a slow seller of the assortment. Despite appearing on two Star Trek series, Chief O'Brien was still a pegwarmer. As a result, he has not appreciated at all in value since his initial release almost twenty years ago.

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 56000 figures out there (my Chief O'Brien is #055495!).


The Chief O'Brien In StarFleet Dress Uniform figure was an unfortunately problematic figure in terms of grip and accessory coloring, but it has aged poorly with the arms discoloring, lowering its overall value in the long run.

For other figures from this same series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figures, please check out my reviews of:
Commander Benjamin Sisko In StarFleet Dress Uniform
Chief Miles Edward O’Brien In StarFleet Duty Uniform
Lieutenant Thomas Riker
Doctor Julian Bashir In StarFleet Duty Uniform
Jake Sisko
Rom and Nog
The Tosk
Vedek Bareil


For other toy reviews, please visit my Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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