- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic book and cartoon characters, companies are bombarding consumers with an incredible selection of action figures. With tongue in cheek, let’s take a peek at some of the specimens worthy of a place in Zad’s “Star Trek” Toy Vault.

Galaxy Series Spock

Playmates Toys boldly goes where it has gone before with its lineup of action figures and toys for the new “Star Trek” movie. A friend of the “Trek” collector throughout the 1990s, the company returns to its role as master toy licensor for the famed Gene Roddenberry-created science-fiction universe.

The core lineup includes 12-inch, 6-inch and 3 3/4-inch articulated action figures. The smallest of the bunch, also referred to as the Galaxy series, features Kirk, Uhura, Sulu, Pike, Scotty and Spock in Enterprise uniforms, the villain Nero, McCoy and Chekov in cadet garb and the legendary original Spock.

Figure profile: From the Playmates Toys Web site (http://startrek.playmatestoys.com) - “The first Vulcan to attend Starfleet Academy, Spock is regarded as the finest officer in the fleet. His father is a Vulcan ambassador, his mother a schoolteacher from Earth. Spock’s Vulcan nature is constantly at war with his human side, and because he never fit in on either Vulcan or Earth, Spock considers Starfleet his true home.”

Accessories: The little Vulcan has 14 points of articulation and sort of looks like his film counterpart (actor Zachary Quinto) - if you squint.

He comes with a second interchangeable hand that flashes the Vulcan greeting, removable utility belt with communicator, phaser and silver Starfleet emblem stand that works better as an icon clipped on an owner’s shirt pocket than as a way to display the figure.

Here’s where things get complicated and potentially expensive.

Spock also comes with “part B1,” a station area (chair and console) that rests on the plastic play mat included in the Bridge play set ($24.99). In fact, each of the Galaxy series figures comes with a piece to add to either the Bridge or Transporter Room play set.

Both dioramas have enough play potential without the extra furniture, but the Transporter Room ($32.99) is easily the most entertaining. It includes a “magical” tube that works with three included AAA batteries. Put a figure in the tube and place it on one of the room’s pods. Touch the Starfleet emblem, a light glows on the figure, the familiar sound effect kicks in, and he disappears. Touch again, and he will reappear.

I’m betting Junior will spend many days beaming while he beams his heroes to imaginative lands. The bad news is Dad must buy 22 figures to complete both play sets.

Price: $6.99

Read all about it: IDW Publishing’s four-issue prequel story Star Trek: Countdown ($17.99, trade paperback) highlights the origins of the film’s bad guy, the Romulan Nero, and features a writing credit from the movie’s director, J.J. Abrams.

What’s it worth: Hasbro holds the prize for the best-looking 3 3/4-inch figures with its Wolverine movie characters. However, it’s nice to see a slightly more inexpensive Spock in the hands of the next generation of “Star Trek” fans. Playmates also should be commended for really bringing a variety of micro play potential into the hands of younger fans.

Of the current Galaxy lineup, I was impressed with the sculpt of original Spock that really captures aging actor Leonard Nimoy’s features.

Strange but cool

A look at more toys and games devoted to the “Star Trek” franchise.

U.S.S. Enterprise (Playmates Toys, $34.99, requires three AAA batteries) - This 15-inch-long plastic replica of the famed ship that took Kirk and his crew throughout the galaxy can rest on a Delta Shield display base (with a ball and socket tip) and sports a detailed paint job.

Press the bridge triggers and lights in the bussard collectors, deflector, warp engine nacelles and exhausts, and bridge glow blue, accompanied by phaser and thruster sounds, depending on the one of four audio nuggets randomly played. The multimedia highlight is the trio of dialogue snippets from the new actors (two from Kirk and one from Spock), interspersed with the effects.

I would expect more phrases and noise for the price point, but its sturdy design looks like it will hold up under the most strenuous of child Klingon attacks.

Starfleet Phaser (Playmates Toys, $19.99, includes two AAA batteries) - What looks like a lame toy laser pistol from the dollar store actually has some play potential thanks to a bit of “Trek” tech wizardry under the hood. Roll a switch, and the effects show begins. Translucent blue and red barrels light up when the trigger is pulled, and each rotates with the flick of a switch to set the phaser to stun or vaporize mode. There are unique sounds for each mode.

Monopoly: Star Trek Continuum Collector’s Edition (USAopoly, $35.99) -The classic property trading board game exposes players to snippets of the 40-year history of “Star Trek” as they attempt to financially conquer the galaxy.

Pewter game tokens of such classic icons as the Klingon blood wine goblet, Vulcan harp, phaser and captain’s chair move across the board filled with prime locations, including Starfleet Command, Cardassia Prime and Andoria. Familiar Monopoly features such as railroads are replaced by legendary spacecraft including the Romulan Warbird and U.S.S. Voyager, while Chance and Community Chest cards become Sensor Readings and Subspace Transmissions.

The artwork is bright and bold with the collection of classic Captains highlighted on the board and plenty of screen shots (a tradition of USAopoly release), along with “Trek” fact nuggets sprinkled throughout the property cards and game box.

A “Star Trek”-specific set of rules offers a variation to action. Basically, roll doubles and receive everything from a temporal rift that allows a token to move anywhere on the board to the chance to become a Borg and attempt to assimilate a rival’s property.

The hard-core Trekker will find the currency labeled as “gold-pressed latinum” disappointing - it looks surprisingly like multicolored paper. Also, there was a lack of inspiration concerning the corner spaces - “go to jail” and “free parking” - and hotels/houses: They all look just like the regular game’s. Highly illogical creative choices, as Spock might say.

* Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages (www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks).

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