As Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary, there are many surprises and treats in store for Star Trek fans. With a new movie (Star Trek: Beyond) and a streaming series coming in the near future, many fans eagerly wait the next phase of Star Trek merchandise… including action figures. Since they have a long and expansive history, consider this your opportunity to beam aboard and boldly go into the history of Star Trek action figures!
Starting out initially as a manufacturer of cheap toys in the 1950s, Mego jumped into action figures with the classic “Action Jackson” in 1971. Adding the Star Trek license to its already crowded roster of figures (including DC and Marvel superheroes, as well as Planet of the Apes), Mego launched an initial set of eight inch figures featuring Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, and a Klingon.
As time progressed, Mego launched two other waves of eight inch Star Trek action figures, including a Neptunian (an amphibious humanoid never featured on the original series), a Keeper (from the original pilot “The Cage”, which later became “The Menagerie”, a Gorn (from the Star Trek classic series episode “Arena”), and a Cheron (from “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”). A final group of Mego Star Trek figures included a Romulan (from “Balance of Terror”), a Talosian (“The Cage”/”The Menagerie”), an Androrian (“Journey to Babel”) and a Mugato with a green top (“A Private Little War”).
Mego also released a series of play sets to accompany its line of Star Trek action figures, including an Enterprise Bridge playset (including a “working” transporter), as well as the long-sought Mission to Gamma 4 playset (based on the Star Trek episode “The Apple”). Mego also released other toys, including communicators, a Communicator Command console, a Phaser Game, and a Tricorder.
With the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Mego responded with a variety of ship models and 3 ¾ inch figures. Initial figures included Admiral Kirk, Spock, and McCoy along with Will Decker, Lieutenant Ilia, and Scotty. Figures of alien races featured in the film included a Rigellian (who is a mislabeled “Saurian”), a Klingon (complete with forehead ridges), an Arcturan, a Betelgusian, a Zaranite, and a Megarite.
After filing for bankruptcy in 1982, Mego formally dissolved as a company in 1983. However, many of the action figures released by Mego – including Star Trek figures – remain highly sought collectibles, and are worth hunting down. For a broader perspective on Mego’s history and releases, be sure to check out the Mego Museum online.
With the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, another company – Playmates Toys – acquired the license to issue Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures in the early 1990s. As a result, Playmates has released the largest variety of Star Trek action figures and play sets, covering multiple Star Trek series (including The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).
Playmates kicked off its release of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures in 1992. Its inaugural run focused on the entire crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, including Picard, Riker, Worf, LaForge, Troi and Data. Aliens in this original wave of figures included Gowron, the Klingon High Commander; a Ferengi, a Borg, and a Romulan. In 1993, Playmates expanded its range to include a boxed set of figures featuring the crew from Star Trek: The Original Series, as well as secondary Next Generation characters like Lore (“Datalore”), Cadet Wesley Crusher, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Dr. Katherine Pulaski, and Guinan, Locutus of Borg (“Best of Both Worlds”), Ambassador Spock (“Unification”), K’Ehlyr (“Reunion), and “Klingon Warrior” Worf among others.
1993 also saw the debut of action figures based on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, including Sisko, Odo, Quark, O’Brien, Jadzia Dax, Kira Nerys, Gul Dukat, Dr. Julian Bashir, and Morn. Several play sets (including the Enterprise-D Bridge and a Romulan Warbird) were released, and a Star Trek: The Next Generation Collector’s Case.
In 1994, Playmates release a wide variety of Star Trek action figures from a mix of films and series. Ranges and items that were released in 1994 include:
Star Trek: The Next Generation figures of main characters dressed in alien garb, including Jean-Luc Picard and Data as Romulans (“Unification”), LaForge in Turchammer III garb (“Identity Crisis”), Riker as a Malcorian (“First Contact”, not to be confused with 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact), Worf in a Rescue Outfit, as well as a variety of aliens and fan favorites like Reginald Barclay, Q, and Ensign Ro Laren.
One interesting trivia note: 1994 also gave us the first Star Trek/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, with the four turtles dressed in Star Trek: The Original Series costumes. The series included Captain Leonardo, Chief Medical Officer Raphael, Chief Engineer Michelangelo and First Officer Don!
1994 also saw Playmates release a series of figures based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture and a Starfleet: Officers Collectors set.
Star Trek: Voyager made its action figure debut in 1995 with a variety of figures, including Catherine Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Tom Paris, Harry Kim, B’Elanna Torres, Tuvok, the holographic Doctor, Kes, and Neelix. In addition, Star Trek: The Next Generation figures focused on secondary characters like Vash, Dr. Katherine Pulaski, the Traveler, and another Borg were introduced.
As Star Trek entered its 30th anniversary in 1996, Playmates delivered a diverse range of Star Trek action figures from a variety of series and films. These included:
Star Trek: The Original Series action figures featuring Janice Rand and Christine Chapel, as well as Lt. Spock, limited edition figures of Mr. Scott and Sulu, as well as Vina, the Keeper, and Captain Christopher Pike (all featured in the original pilot “The Cage”);
Star Trek: First Contact action figures based on the 1996 movie, including Jean-Luc Picard (both in regular garb and in a spacesuit), William Riker, LaForge, Data, Worf, Troi, Crusher, Lily Sloane, and a Borg Drone.
Star Trek: Voyager figures released in 1996 included Ensign Seska, B’Elanna Torres, Chakotay, and Kazon & Vidiian figures, as well as a 500-piece “limited edition” Trifold Borg available only to licensees.
Following on its current trend of releases, Playmates entered 1997 with the most diverse range of Star Trek action figures released. Rather than breaking down separate ranges, Playmates chose to release figures from all series, including Harry Mudd, Captain Kurn, Mugato, Professor Data, and limited edition McCoy figures. However, in celebration of Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, Playmates released their “Warp Factor” waves of figures.
Playmates’ “Warp Factor One” focused on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”, featuring the main cast (Sisko, Dax, O’Brien, and Bashir) in Original Series garb, as well as Klingon Captain Koloth. Warp Two featured a mixture of characters, including the probe Ilia (from Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Leeta the Dabo Girl (from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and limited edition figures of Jadzia Dax and Neelix from Spencers Gifts. Wave Three included cadet versions of Data and Troi, as well as Mirror Spock (“Mirror, Mirror”) and Edith Keeler (“City on the Edge of Forever”).
Star Trek fans in 1998 received some very special benefits as Playmates created some unique ranges of action figures. Two waves of six inch “Combat Action” Star Trek action figures were released which included Picard, Riker, Sisko, Dax, and O’Brien, as well as Cardassian and Jem’Hadar soldiers. Warp Factor 5 figures included Intendant Kira Nerys, Keiko O’Brien, Borg Queen, Seven of Nine, an Andorian, and Trelaine (“Squire of Gothos”). Playmates also released a series of “Transporter” figures, which were translucent and came with a battery-operated “transporter”-style base. Figures in this range included McCoy, Uhura, Scott, Chekhov and Sulu (exclusive to Target) from TOS, and Picard, Data, Worf, Riker, and LaForge from The Next Generation.
In 1999, Playmate shifted its release of Star Trek action figures, making most of their lines exclusive to certain stores and retail chains in the United States while providing a general (yet limited) release in other areas of the world. Transporter versions of Christine Chapel and Janice Rand were made available to Target stores, along with “Starfleet Command” editions of Picard, Worf, Seven of Nine, Data, Troi, and Riker. (Two “Starfleet Command International” edition figures of Doctor Crusher and Seven of Nine in a blue biosuit were released in Europe and Australia, but were dropped by Target).
However, Playmates’ work began winding down in 1999 as they created special “exclusive” Star Trek action figures for various giveaways. Toyfare Magazine provided opportunities for readers to receive special Tasha Yar, Seven of Nine, and Captain James T. Kirk action figures, while New Force Comics provided an exclusive Kathryn Janeway figure.
Despite being relatively quiet for ten years, Playmates ramped up its efforts with action figures from the J.J.Abrams-produced Star Trek movie reboot, focusing on the main characters (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Pike, Scott, Uhura, Sulu and Chekhov) in a variety of outfits. Although a second wave of figures was planned for 2010, those were dropped as Playmates lost the license. Although Hasbro picked up the license for Star Trek: Into Darkness – and previewed the figures at 2013’s Toy Fair – they opted not to release action figures.
Star Trek’s 50th anniversary will mean plenty of opportunities to explore the wide range of collectibles. Now is your opportunity to boldly go and seek out some great Star Trek action figures, old or hopefully new!