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Uhura in Cadet Uniform

Star Trek
by Artemis

If there's one part of the upcoming Star Trek movie I'm still worried about - having now seen some trailers and reassured myself that, yes, Chris Pine does seem kind of Kirkish, Sylar is freakishly Spockish, and the battle scenes are Trekkie-orgasm-inducing - it's Uhura, because she's kind of damned either way. If they remain essentially faithful to her Original Series persona, people'll complain that she's a '60s throwback token woman - to her credit Uhura was always portrayed as very good at her job, but she was, let's face it, the ship's receptionist and besides occasionally singing that was about it for her. But if they beef her role up to make her more modern, and give her a couple of scenes where she can speak up for herself, people'll complain that she's being artificially inflated into Tough Uhura just to satisfy some arbitrary political correctness standard. You can't win, really. Still, maybe they'll pull it off.

Uhura's name means "freedom" in Swahili, her native tongue. An astute communications officer, Uhura is very skilled in xenolinguistics, the study of alien languages. Her sensitive hearing and unique ability to quickly understand and translate a variety of alien languages make her an invaluable asset on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Uhura (who never got a canon first name, but Nichelle Nichols says she's Nyota, which various sources have accepted for want of a better idea) in "Warp series" action figure form - that's the 6" ones - is spot on the standard height for the series, like the others, which suggests that either they've put Zoe Saldana on a box for her close-ups, or everyone just forgot that Nichols' Uhura was 5'5" and somewhat pixieish among all the big burly menfolk on the bridge. This figure shows her in her Starfleet cadet outfit, which consists of a long-sleeved top with a squared off kind of design over the shoulders - a bit reminiscent of the Enterprise jumpsuits, in fact - and a separate plain skirt, slit up both sides to just below her hips. It's the same burgundy as the engineering/security/and-the-rest uniforms, but there's no black undershirt or rank markings on the sleeves, and the Starfleet arrowhead is on the left side of the collar, rather than on her chest. Yes, unless even cadets get ship-specific outfits when they hop on board for a training cruise, the Enterprise's symbol is Starfleet-wide ahead of its time - never mind, temporal fluctuations at work, whatever.

The entire uniform - besides the arms and chunky action boots (no go-go heels for Uhura these days) - is soft rubber, like the tops on the male figures, but in Uhura's case her torso is more a support structure than an actual body in there. Granted Kirk and co.'s musculatures look more like cubist statues than real people, but if you lift up the hem of Uhura's shirt, the waistline inside there is narrower front-to-back than her forearms, and that just ain't right; from the front she's got a nice shape to her, but even with the uniform bulking her out, I don't like how thin she is seen side-on. The sculpt of the uniform is naturally a little softer than you'd get from solid plastic, but the only real flaw to report is a bit of flash around the collar, mucking up the smooth edge of it. If you're insatiably curious, I can confirm that she's boldly going braless, but she's got Barbie-style panties beneath the skirt (which is to say a dotted texture, as well as the hip piece being cast in burgundy rather than flesh tone).

I can kind of see Uhura's face in Zoe Saldana, but oddly, not in any of the movie images I've seen. It's the hair that does it for me - Nuhura's got hers pulled back in a tight ponytail, whereas Nichelle Nichols evidently got more attention from the hair stylist than the rest of the cast put together. Admittedly that looks a bit silly for a professional starship officer to us now, which is probably why it got changed, but they're forgetting that this is the 23rd Century - she's probably got a gizmo in her quarters that she just has to point at her head and it does the hairstyle in three seconds. Since the figure copies the ponytail I don't see a great Uhura resemblance in it, but it's a good Zoe Saldana, with minimalist but attractive paint apps for her facial features - the eyes are especially delicate, but turn out well.

She's got the same articulation as the boys - yay equality - with a swivel at the base of the neck, a shallow two-axis sternum, swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, peg hips, pin knees and swivel boot tops (the legs actually extend into the boots, rather than finishing at a flat boot top, which is a nice touch). The swivel neck is an obvious shortcoming, as are the T-hips, and I've found the sternum more limited than the male version too, with only thirty or forty degrees of swivel in it, and very little forward-backward tilt.

She's got a Starfleet arrowhead base - as a cadet she gets a gold one with a rough texture on the inset surface, rather than the silver-and-command-star version the figures in full uniforms have - as well as a hand phaser, communicator, and the movie's version of the proto-PADD the Original Series used, a kind of electronic clipboard, detailed by way of a glossy sticker for the screen graphics. What she doesn't have is the equipment belt everyone else got, so she's stuck just carrying her junk around by hand.

As an action figure of a female character (which is my quiz show special subject, if you hadn't figured that out by now), I quite like her - her physique is decent (so long as you don't turn her sideways, where she'll disappear like Flatman), her face is very attractive, and if she's not articulated well enough to do anything really useful, she's at least capable of standing around looking interesting. She's okay. But as a Star Trek fan I want better than an "okay" figure - and because of Diamond Select/Art Asylum's efforts, I know exactly what "better" looks like for Star Trek.

-- 05/02/09

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