A Tribute to the Crew of the USS Voyager (Playmates Toys)


I recently completed my quest to watch every Star Trek episode from every series, and one series that I found to be surprisingly entertaining was Voyager. When it first aired I was totally fried on Star Trek so I just dismissed it, but I’m glad that I finally got around to watching it. Unlike Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, both of which needed a couple of seasons to get their bearings, Voyager hit the ground running. Even the earliest episodes were strong and it was clear that the producers knew exactly what they wanted to do with the series from the get-go. And unlike the other series that lost a bit of the magic in their later seasons, Voyager maintained its quality all the way through. I’d argue that the best of Voyager was never as good as the best of either TNG or DS9, but it was a consistently good Star Trek series, even if it never became great.

Voyager premiered in 1995 and Playmates jumped on the chance to produce a toy line, with the first wave of action figures released that same year. That's right in the middle of the vintage Playmates Star Trek line (1992-1999), about the same time when it hit its peak and started to decline. That, and the fact that two seasons of Voyager aired after the Playmates Trek line had given up the ghost, means that there was a lot of tragically untapped action figure potential for the series.

But what we got was pretty awesome regardless. The Voyager figures had some of the best likenesses of the line and they added much-needed thigh articulation that finally allowed the figures to sit in a reasonable pose. The plastic also seemed to be a little more rubbery than the TNG and DS9 figures, especially in the limbs. They tended to be a little beefier than the DS9 figures (which I think are the most proportionally realistic Playmates Trek figures), but they looked fantastic regardless.

So let’s take a look at the Voyager crew from Playmates toys! To make my life easier, this tribute will cover only the main crew in the “hero” costumes. The Voyager figure body sculpts (or, "bucks") were perfect as base sculpts for all sorts of Starfleet characters so they were reused a lot, even among figures in the same wave. I thought it might be useful to group them by buck and list the other figures that used each buck as a study into the extent to which Playmates Frankensteined their figures. I apologize in advance if I missed a few of the reuses, but I think I got everything. (If I did miss something, please share in the comments below.) So let's start with:


Female Buck




Captain Kathryn Janeway, B’Elanna Torres (Voyager Series 1)
Year Stamped: 1995

The figures in the first Voyager wave were styled after the character designs from the first season, which means that Janeway sports the bun-style hairdo rather than the shorter (and better-looking, I think) hair starting from Season 4’s Year of Hell. Also, B’Elanna has the straight shoulder-length hair rather than the wavy hair that they experimented with in later seasons.



This body was reused for Ensign Seska (not shown), Dr. Crusher in a “Generations movie uniform” which she never wore (not shown), and Starfleet Command Edition Deanna Troi and Dr. Crusher (slightly retooled to represent the First Contact uniform). It’s a good base sculpt with a neutral pose, but the joints in the arms are thin and feel like they might pop off if you’re not careful.


Male Buck A




Commander Chakotay, Ensign Kim (Voyager Series 1)
Year Stamped: 1995

I don’t think Chakotay or Kim had all that much in the way of visual character variation throughout the series, so these figures do a good job of representing the characters from any season. I seem to think that Chakotay is like Riker-tall and that the figure should be larger, but in actuality he's only about half a head taller than Janeway. Like the Janeway buck, this buck has a nice neutral pose, although it seems a bit too bulky for the characters.



This body sculpt was also reused for "slimed" Harry Kim (when he had that gunk on his face after he came in contact with Species 8472), Security Officer Neelix, Captain Sisko, and Captain Calhoun (you know, that dude from the New Frontier books). The buck was retooled a bit for Starfleet Command Edition Riker, adding a pattern to the shoulders so that it could accurately represent the First Contact-style uniform.


Male Buck B





Lieutenant Tuvok, Lieutenant Tom Paris, Doctor (Voyager Series 1)
Year Stamped: 1995

Characters from this buck didn’t change all that much throughout the series either, so the figures work for pretty much the whole show. I guess you could say that the Doctor needs the mobile holo-emitter that he picked up in Season 3 for the figure to really represent his visage from later seasons, but whatever. Speaking of which, the Doctor has become one of my favorite Star Trek figures. The likeness is great and I love the coloration of his uniform. We don’t have nearly enough science-division figures, I think.



Oh yeah, this figure buck was also reused for Voyager Lt. Carey, Projections Barclay, and the Starfleet Command Edition Picard and Data figures.



So what's the difference between the two male bucks? Most noticeably, the A buck is a little beefier and its upper torso has a series of vertical folds. The B buck is a little slighter in build and has a smoother chest. At first I thought that the arms and legs might share some parts, but nope, upon closer inspection, it's clear that both sculpts are entirely unique.


Other Figure Bucks




Kes, Neelix (Voyager Series 1), Seven of Nine (Silver - Target Exclusive Starfleet Command Edition, Plum - ToyFare Exclusive Mailaway, Blue - International Exclusive)
Year Stamped: 1995 (Neelix and Kes), 1999 (Seven of Nine)

Not all the Voyager figures were Frankensteinish body-clones, a few actually had unique sculpts. First up we have Neelix and Kes, wearing their civilian garbs. Sometimes I hate figures of characters that don’t have a standard uniform because it can be difficult to determine screen-accuracy (Quark, anyone?) but fortunately Neelix and Kes are clearly representative of their appearance in the Voyager pilot, Caretaker. Neelix is cool enough (despite the pastel colors), but Kes is kind of a pain-in-the-butt figure… her legs and feet are so small that they can get deformed, which makes displaying her without a stand almost impossible. Even getting her to stand for the fraction of a second it took to snap these pictures was challenging.



Seven of Nine (silver) was one of the very last Playmates Star Trek figures, featured in the Starfleet Command Edition wave in 1999. The figure was rereleased in a plum biosuit as a ToyFare magazine exclusive, as well as in a blue biosuit as an international exclusive (not shown because it's difficult to justify the expense and effort it would take to track the figure down).

Fortunately for Playmates, the different biosuits that Seven wears in the show are all pretty similar so they could get away with reusing the body of the silver figure. The plum and blue figures aren't just straight repaints, though; Playmates also slightly readjusted the collar and worked out the lines in the upper torso to better fit the look of the other costumes.

Playmates had been experimenting with reduced articulation and extreme poses in the late 90’s (the Star Wars Power of the Force 2 line was tearing up the action figure aisles at the time), and Seven follows suit. There isn’t much in the way of movement, but the pose is pretty representative of the character.

And that’s it for this tribute to the Playmates Voyager crew! Sure, Voyager was relatively underrepresented in the Playmates Star Trek line, but we got all the core characters so I'm not complaining too much. Hey, we didn't get any Enterprise figures from Playmates at all, which, regardless of your opinion of the show, is a tragedy for a hard-core Playmates Trek collector. Still, Art Asylum stepped up to the plate and made its own Enterprise figures, and they might make an appearance here soon. Stay tuned!

6 comments:

  1. Playmates really nailed these out of the ballpark when these were made they are all very nice.

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  2. @John: I agree, the Voyager figures are some of the nicest in the line. I would have loved to see upgrades of the TNG crew in this style.

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  3. I'll need to double-check my collection, but I'm pretty sure I missed out on this entire line (except for Tom Paris from the episode "Threshold," which is probably the single most awkward addition to any TNG- and DS9-heavy lineup). Seven in the silver suit is one of the best-looking Playmates figures I've seen, and I completely agree about the Doctor. Good call organizing them by bucks!

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  4. Hey Nathan - just found this site, and as a lifelong fan of the Playmates Star Trek line, I really appreciate the coverage you have given most of the line! Great job!

    You might be interested in a blog I put together a while back, focusing on Star Trek Playmates Ads, prototypes and magazine coverage

    http://upcloseandplastic.blogspot.com.au/

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    Replies
    1. Too awesome! I added your site to my blog link list. Keep up the great work! :)

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