Star Trek Original Series
Wave 1

There's a new guest reviewer in town - Jim Alexander!  Jim is covering the new Star Trek Original Series figures from Art Asylum tonight.  Thanks a lot, Jim!

Good Evening. This is Jim from Indiana... longtime reader, first time reviewer. I offered Michael the lowdown on this 5-figure wave because I've been a Trek fan since the show's first season, and have been collecting action figures for almost as long (I started the year after Star Trek first aired with Ideal's 'Captain Action' in 1967). This review is a perfect, er, mind-melding of two of my passions. So if I pick a few too many nits, chalk it up to my being a (go ahead... you can say it...) ‘Trekkie.’

Remember when collectors thought that the Playmates Trek figures were oh-so-cool? Well, if these action figures were the equivalent of Classic Trek episodes, the Art Asylum figures would be ‘City on the Edge of Forever,’ and their Playmates’ counterparts would be ‘The Way to Eden.’ Okay, I’m being to hard on Playmates. Maybe ‘Spock’s Brain.’

Packaging - ***1/2
Like other guest reviewers for Michael’s column, I think of the packaging as the eye-catching eye candy that attracts us to the merchandise awaiting us on the pegs... as well as something that houses the figures only until they’re opened. I’m a collector who opens up the figure, twists it into an appropriate pose, pops it on the shelf or into the display case, and tosses the package. Collector friendly packaging? No. You’ll need an Exacto knife to get into these suckers. But as packaging goes... they’re quite well-designed and very attractive. After cutting one open, you’ll find that overseas factory workers (well it DOES say ‘Made in China’) have nimbly fastened the yellow-and-black iconic Star Trek insignia to the matching bubble detail on the front of the package with no less than 15 pieces of adhesive tape! It’s really no mean feat. The package front boasts photographs of actors Shatner, Kelley, and Nimoy, as well as the TV show Enterprise, set against a vertical rainbow pattern that’s an obvious nod to artist Bob Peak’s movie poster art for 1979’s ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture.’ The standard amount of twist-ties exist to keep our intrepid adventurers held within a force field-like grasp.

Sculpting/Articulation-- Spock ****, McCoy ****, Khan ***1/2, Kirk ***, Uhura ***

As far as I’m concerned, the stand-outs of the set are the ‘Spock’ and ‘McCoy’ figures. I think these two likenesses are spot-on to the actors. Spock’s ears have the correct, delicate ‘upsweep’ which most sculptors get wrong. My single gripe: I’ve never been wild about the split-fingered ‘Vulcan salute’ that sculptors see fit to give most all Spock figures. It was cute the first time. Now... get over it. It’s a one-pose opportunity, and the left hand doesn’t work if the figure is to be posed in ANY other stance than--arm-raised, and ‘giving the salute.’ Another left hand is NOT included for Spock (see Accessories), so this is only one of two pose choices for the figure. The other option is to hide Spock’s hands behind his back, which actually works exceptionally well, as that’s how the character was often known to stand.

Working down from the **** category, the Khan figure is a nice likeness of actor Ricardo Montalban (who first portrayed ‘Khan Noonien Singh’ in the episode ‘Space Seed’). What I’m NOT crazy about is that the figure seems to be a bit lanky. This would-be world conqueror doesn’t seem to have a lot of meat on his bones. What I DO like about the figure is that, while a quick Google search for Montalban’s height yielded only that he was ‘tall,’ it might be a bit of artistic license that the Khan figure is ever-so-slightly taller than the Spock figure--perhaps because Khan was a genetically-enhanced individual. The costume and hair reflect the character’s look in the episode well.

The Kirk figure is nice, but could do with some improvement. I’ve read that Shatner’s likeness is a difficult one to capture because of his lack of distinguishing features. Perhaps so. This one is... middling. It’s an interesting choice to offer the figure in what has come to be known as ‘casual attire’--seeing as this tunic was only seen in a comparatively small number of episodes. (Personal aside: I don’t think that the ‘green’ tunic is any more casual than the standard ‘yellow’ one, but was just a way to tell the ‘good’ Kirk from the ‘evil’ Kirk in ‘The Enemy Within’ episode--and just another uniform variation). All the hands and fingers on all of the figures are very well sculpted--except for Kirk’s right thumb. It looks as if he’s had it broken too many times in barroom fist-fights with the Klingons.

Uhura isn’t a horrible sculpt, but I don’t feel that it captures Nichelle Nichols’ likeness. The proportions are good, the arms are nice and lithe, the fingers delicate, and the legs shapely. It REMINDS us of Uhura, but it doesn’t particularly look like Nichols.

The figures are VERY poseable, but there is a definite ‘sweet spot.’ The well-sculpted wrinkles in their clothes are meant to be posed in one position, and deviation from that sometimes means a clunky-looking cut joint (found mostly on the bicep and calf). I’m not going to count the points of articulation, but I will mention that the biceps, calves, feet, and wrists swivel, and the ankles bend. There is a ball joint in the neck, allowing a wide range of movement. The male Officers’ tunics are made out of a soft plastic. This allows the tunic bottom to properly fall over the top of the slacks. And the figures also can turn at the waist and bend at the chest, which means the fabric (plastic) covering those areas will ‘give’ with the movement, as a shirt would. It’s a nice touch, and if it’s something that’s been done before for a series of figures, then I’M not aware of it. Uhura’s skirt is made of the same soft plastic, and it’s an unnoticeable ‘join’ when butted up against the harder plastic around her waist.

One thing I must mention about the male Officers’ figures is that--each one is a different height. It would have been easy (but incorrect) to have used the same lower-body mold for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. It’s to Art Asylum’s credit that they went the extra mile--and sculpted separate lower bodies. Spock’s legs are the longest, followed by McCoy’s, and Kirk’s are the shortest--just like the actors. Another ‘plus’ is that the tunic braid is sculpted, rather than merely painted onto a flat surface.

Paint -  ***
I’m giving the figures an overall *** for paint application, though some are a bit better than others. McCoy’s hair and eye color seem correct, and his skin tone is a good, healthy color... while Spock’s pigmentation has a slightly different hue, if not somewhere in the vicinity of the supposedly ‘greenish’ Vulcan make-up tint used. The ‘blue’ tunic color appears to be authentic. However, Kirk’s skin-tone is definitely more ‘yellow’ than it should be--especially when compared to McCoy. Khan is somewhat ‘olive’ colored, which can be attributed to his ethnicity. Uhura’s ‘brown’ tone is not too dark nor too light, and her touch of glossy rose-colored lipstick is perfect--not too little or too much. All the eyes in the series appear to be decals, rather than being hand-painted. It works well, and they’re crisp. Each decal is well-applied, has a ‘dot’ of white highlight, and each iris has a different, distinctive color. A VERY nice ‘eye’ for detail (pun intended). Both Khan’s and Uhura’s red uniforms are given airbrushed spots of black to pull out details. It’s only marginally successful, and borders on looking a bit ‘dirty.’ No such paint is added to the Officer’s ‘blue’ and ‘green’ tunics. The ‘gold’ braid paint is sometimes unevenly sprayed. The Starfleet insignias are decals applied over a flat surface; it would’ve looked nicer if they’d been applied over a sculpted/raised area that reflected the shape of the insignia. Except for the flesh tones, most of the plastic/paint used on the figures is a satin finish that contains just a bit of a sheen. The boots are painted in a more appropriate, slightly glossier ‘black.’ Besides the braid ‘issues’, the only other paint-application problem is where the skin-tone meets the hair; sometimes the edge is not as crisp as it should be.

Accessories -  ***
We have the standard-but-welcome Phasers and Tricorders. Each is well-sculpted, and at an authentic size--not too small or too large (as was sometimes the case with Playmates’ accessories). Kirk comes with a Phaser and Tricorder. Spock is given treatment befitting a Vulcan: A Phaser, a Tricorder AND an extra right-handed ‘pistol-grip’ fist. I suspect that McCoy is supposed to come with the same three accessories, though no extra hand came with my McCoy--even though there was a recessed slot inside the packaging for it. Kirk has the two accessories, but does not come with an extra hand. No landing party assignments for Uhura--it seems she’s to be confined to the Bridge, as she is given only a writing slate. A Tricorder would have been appropriate. Khan has a single phaser (a friend of mine suggested that a nice touch would’ve been to have given Khan a ‘crushed’ Phaser--as in the episode). Unfortunately, no figure in this wave was given a Communicator accessory, which, so far, is available only with the San Diego Con Kirk Exclusive figure, reviewed here. The Communicator should have been a ‘gimme’ accessory for this wave. The Tricorders are exceptional, with nice detail and paint application. An excellent choice of materials was made for the straps, which seem to be fashioned out of the same soft rubber as the tunics. Playmates’ Tricorder straps were made of a substantially harder plastic, and were quite difficult (if not impossible) to fit around the figures’ neck and shoulders. Not so the Art Asylum Tricorders. The straps are durable enough to survive a certain amount of wear-and-tear, yet thin enough to hang appropriately.

Also included in each figure's package is a small, plastic Art Asylum/Star Trek 'Collector's Coin.'  At least I guess that's what it's supposed to be.  Each coin is identical; they're not individually-numbered or anything (The design and execution reminds me of the 1967 Transogram Batman Coins that you still see on eBay).  I'm not sure why such a 'throwaway item' is included.  I wouldn't expect anyone to do much of anything with these.  The plastic would have been better utilized for a Communicator--and included with each figure.

Value - ***
Outside of eBay, the only place I’ve seen these figures so far, have been at the local comic shops, where they were priced between $11.25 and $12.95 each. My view is that, you’re paying for the Star Trek license, as well as nicely-sculpted, very authentic Classic Star Trek action figures. I’d be surprised if they were offered at much less than the $11.25 I paid. It IS however, slightly pricier than your run-of-the-mill action figure. I’m a sucker for anything ‘Classic Trek’ and am quite willing to shell out around $12 per for such well-done figures. But, if you’re not as avid a fan, the price-point may be a dollar or two too high.

Overall - ***1/2
I can be picky. I’m a Star Trek fan with an eye for detail. But I’ve always wanted better-sculpted-than-Playmates versions of the Classic cast. And if you’ll pardon my vernacular... these are it. I’ve pointed out some imperfections... but truth be told, this ‘Wave One’ couldn’t be a lot better. They’re just shy of exceptional, and I’m eagerly anticipating ‘Wave Two’ which is supposed to include another five figures--Sulu, Scotty, Chekov, Mirror-Universe Kirk, and Mirror-Universe Spock.

Where to Buy -
The only bricks and mortar stores that I've seen these at is a Meijers for $10 each, although some specialty stores like Gamestop may also have them in.  On-line:

- Time and Space Toys has the convention exclusive yellow shirt Kirk for $22.  Just search for 'star trek'.

- has some of the figures available for $10 each.


Figures from the collection of Jim Alexander.

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