It's always nice to be proven right. Ages ago, we wrote an open letter to Art Asylum about their Star Trek toys, telling them that unless they changed the way they did things, the line was going to fail. The fanboys got defensive, shouted us down, claimed we were way off base.
Well, surprising no one, AA changed nothing - after all, we're just toy fans, not marketing experts - and the line nearly failed. At which point they changed the way they were doing things. Hmm, imagine. Trek is back, but no longer is it all failing shows and forgettable movies. Instead, as we suggested, they've switched to the popular offerings, starting with Deep Space Nine.
The Defiant is returning from Cardassian space with the Bajoran Orb of Time. A Klingon named Arne Darvin, surgically altered to look human, has come aboard as a passenger. He uses the Orb to send the Defiant more than one hundred years into the past - near the original U.S.S. Enterprise as it orbited Deep Space Station K-7. Darvin is out to change history, possibly by killing Captain James T. Kirk, who originally exposed him as a spy.
Deep Space Nine was possibly the pinnacle of Trek, mixing challenging geo-political stories with interesting characters and a true respect for the series' history. It's that love that is represented in the first series of DS9 figures. Rather than depicting the crew in their duty uniforms, Art Asylum chose to create figures based on the episode "Trials and Tribble-ations."
The choice makes sense - after seeing how badly the previous Star Trek figures tanked, they needed to be careful with these. By putting them in original series uniforms, AA could use existing molds for the bodies, and get by with just sculpting new heads. Maximum value for minimum expenditure.
The four-figure line is divided among four retailers as exclusive offerings, and Tower Records brings us Captain Benjamin Sisko. Or maybe that's "lieutenant" - not wanting to push his luck and draw attention, Sisko disguised himself as a lower-ranking officer, to better blend into the crowd.
Sisko's looking pretty good in his old-school uniform, which is detailed with the appropriate rank insignia on the sleeves. Yes, back in the day, the Federales didn't have those nifty little pips on their collars, but instead differentiated themselves at their wrists - I imagine fleet admirals would wear the sort of big, frilly poofs seen only on 18th century French fops.
The facial sculpt is good, doing an okay job of capturing Avery Brooks' look. It's not dead-on, but none of the Trek figures really have been. The paint on his beard is really nice, but for some reason, AA gave him distinct eyebrows. If you look at a picture of Avery Brooks, his eyebrows are nearly non-existent; having them this prominent on the figure throws off the appearance. Remove the eyebrows, and the likeness improves drastically.
The body is the same as TOS Series 2 Sulu's, which means Sisko's got a slightly wider stance than most of the Trek toys. His right hand is sculpted to hold the included phaser, while his left is curled into a fist. It's kind of disappointing, since Sulu had two sets of hands, and now there's no way for Sisko to hold his communicator, an accessory that - unlike the phaser - he actually used on the episode. His final accessory is a wedge-shaped tablet, the duty roster he used as an excuse to meet briefly with Kirk before returning to his own time.
Okay, not his final accessory - in a bag taped to the back of the figure's tray, you'll find two tribbles. They're just the little pom-poms that you can buy bulk at any craft store, so if you want to bury your Kirk in a pile of the things, it's off to Ben Franklin or Michael's with you! If you want a more detailed tribble, the little offspring balls that came with NECA's oversized Gizmo should work well.
Articulation is standard for the Trek line: ankles, boots, knees, lower thighs, hips, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders, neck and a Marvel Legends-style torso joint covered by a thin rubber shirt. The paint isn't terribly complex, but it has been applied well. There's a section of the rank insignia on the left sleeve that is the same yellow as the shirt - must have missed its app. Sisko's right knee doesn't line up appropriately with the leg above the joint - wrong shape, wrong wrinkles, everything. No idea what happened, but they're not two parts of the same sculpt.
Art Asylum, as a company, just refuses to give up. When it looks like their DC Minimates C3 sets are dead after just one series, they manage to get cheap, well-made sets onto the shelves at Target. When it looks like their Star Trek line is about to limp off to a quiet, unmourned death, DST strikes a deal to be their distributor. Let's hope more small companies can manage to find the same kind of luck.
What's your favorite instance of Trek time-travel? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.