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Chief Miles O'Brien

Deep Space Nine
by Artemis

Well folks, the internet's out this morning, so I guess it's time to review something I know everything about without resorting to Wikipedia every five minutes. Deep Space Nine it is, then.

"When we were growing up they used to tell us humanity had evolved, that mankind had outgrown hate and rage. When it came down to it, when I had the chance to show that no matter what anyone did to me I was still an evolved human being, I failed. I repaid kindness with blood. I was no better than an animal!"

He's being rather harsh on himself there - Miles Edward O'Brien is DS9's everyman, and portrayed by one of their most accomplished actors too, and thus the writers just loved to torture him, to the point where "the torture O'Brien episode" became an official fixture in every season. Kind of like TNG's equivalent "Deanna gets a headache" or "Riker shags someone he shouldn't" episodes, but inclined to produce better acting.

For a common man, O'Brien occupies something of a legendary status in Star Trek, at least among the hardcore fans who knows this sort of stuff - he's the show's equal longest-running character (Worf being the other), having appeared in the first episode of The Next Generation and sticking around all the way to the finale of Deep Space Nine, and he's the only character to have appeared in both TNG and DS9's first and last episodes. He was only a random bridge extra in "Encounter at Farpoint," of course, but since it turned out Colm Meaney could act a lot better than the regular background crew, he got brought back, and given little bits of character development here and there, culminating in major events like his wedding to Keiko Ishikawa in "Data's Day", and his moment in the spotlight in "The Wounded," which also introduced the Cardassians (and the Nebula-class starship, for those who care). So it was natural his name floated to the top when the DS9 producers drew up their list of subjects to be raided from their sister show when they started up.

O'Brien's figure uses the standard DS9 male body, which is a decent enough choice - his physique really isn't different enough from Sisko to warrant a new sculpt, especially with the heavier woollen uniform averaging out their frames. The ribbing on the shoulders is sharper here than on Sisko, so perhaps that was just a production error - O'Brien fits in seamlessly with the other Dominion-War-era-uniform figures, the Daxes and Nemesis Worf. One slight omission is that O'Brien's wearing his sleeves down, which while not an error as such isn't his most typical look - he's often have his sleeves rolled up as he grappled with the unfriendly and unmanageable Cardassian innards of Deep Space Nine.

O'Brien's rank is the subject of much debate among fans - it's kind of the Star Trek equivalent of what exactly Han Solo meant by "under twelve parsecs" - since he was a Lieutenant when he first showed up, then they moved him to the transporter room and the scripts just called him "Chief," leading to the costume department sticking pips on his uniform at random, until finally Worf's father thoroughly muddied the waters by referring to him as a non-commissioned officer, which up until than Starfleet hadn't appeared to have had. DS9 gave him a weird little rank thingy of his own to reflect his status - which, after mentioning various titles in episodes then discarding them, finally came to mean "Chief Petty Officer", though he's still apparently Starfleet's only non-com - and this is the insignia the figure duplicates, very crisply indeed.

There have been other O'Brien figures in the DS/AA line - the original "Trials and Tribble-ations" one, in Kirk-era uniform, and the more recent TNG figure - so this isn't new territory, and indeed the head is a re-use of the TNG one. It's one of the line's weaker efforts, which is not to say it's bad, but the Star Trek figures have a high standard of likenesses, and this one's a bit lacking. It's clearly O'Brien, especially when you look at him in profile, but there's something about the shape of the head that doesn't quite sit right with me - it may need to be a touch wider, although not too much - and the hair seems too sleek and flat to properly represent O'Brien's "white man 'fro," even though that did admittedly change over the seasons. His face is smoother too, and comparing the two I have to say I prefer the more expressive Tribbles version, which gave him deeper worry lines in his forehead and a slightly craggier sculpt overall. This one looks too Next Generation, where the makeup crew has been by and smoothed over his face to look nice and fresh for the camera; DS9 was much more come-as-you-are.

Since the body is re-used articulation is identical to Captain Sisko: balljoint neck at the base, hidden within the collar, balljoint shoulders (three-axis, but twisting is limited by the sculpt), swivel biceps, pin elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, peg hips, pin knees, and pin ankles. It's not as agile as the new Battlestar Galactica efforts, but while it can't quite manage action stances it's quite serviceable for standing around as part of a collection, which is what the majority of buyers probably want anyway.

O'Brien has a fairly standard bunch of toys to play with: two PADDs, large and small, of the techier style DS9 had, a late-DS9 type-2 phaser, and a phaser rifle, the same sculpt as Sisko's but coloured a brighter silver, more like Jadzia's (unfortunately out-of-scale) version. Barring paint they're all re-used accessories from early figures, but that's no great issue - Starfleet gear is Starfleet gear, and while it would've been nice (and in character) to include a tricorder, the PADDs are the important element: technical manuals, without a doubt, for light reading. O'Brien also has one new accessory, a coonskin cap, which would probably seem pretty eccentric for a 24th Century engineer, unless you watched the final season of DS9 and knew about O'Brien and Bashir's obsession with re-fighting the siege of the Alamo in the holosuite. The tail on the cap looks quite good, but the body of it is kind of ordinary, and it doesn't really fit snugly on the head the way the real thing would. Still, that's action figure headgear all over, so as a lapse, it's at least understandable.

O'Brien's not a flashy character - not like fiery cross-me-and-you're-dead Kira, or the invincible Worf, or party gal Dax or shape-shifting Odo or Sisko the badass demigod or... well, he's basically the most ordinary guy on the station. But that's the point of him, and no DS9 fan would want to leave him out of their collection. This figure could've been better - and hopefully someday DS/AA will revisit him with a sleeves-up version, and give the head another try - but it's good enough.

-- 05/08/09

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