Retro Toy Review: Thomas Riker (Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will likely remember the episode "Second Chances" in which it is revealed that Commander Riker has a genetic clone produced by a transporter accident earlier in his career. Then-Lieutenant Riker was assigned to the USS Potemkin, tasked with the mission of exploring an alien planet. Riker beamed down to investigate, but while he was transporting back up, a second annular confinement beam was initiated to adjust for the planet's unique atmospheric disturbances. That second beam allowed Riker to transport back to the Potemkin, but it also created a second, identical Riker, who was returned to the surface. Riker on the Potemkin, unaware of his doppleganger, went along his merry way... until some years later when the Enterprise (along with now-Commander Riker) returned and discovered his castaway twin.

(Side rant: An annular confinement beam "creates a spatial matrix within which the materialize/dematerialize process occurs" [ST:TNG Technical Manual]. Why a second ACB would create a twin is anyone's guess. It's not like there would be any new material introduced into the matter stream, so I don't see where the stuff to create the new Riker would come from. Best not to think too much about it, I suppose.)

Anyway, in the early 90's, Playmates Toys was fond of keeping its fans on their toes with limited-run chase figures. The 1701 figures were the most infamous examples but there were a slew of others, including Lt. Thomas Riker (the name that the twin adopted). For years, Thomas Riker was a Holy Grail of sorts, a figure that I could dream about but never hope to own because of its inflated price driven by its rarity. But recently I've realized that virtually no Playmates Star Trek figure is truly financially unobtainable, so I managed to score a lot with Thomas Riker and Dr. Pulaski for only $10 carded.

You heard that right. The "super-rare" Thomas Riker cost me only $10... less, if you consider that I got another figure in the lot. Sure, Riker's card was mangled, but that price would have been a pipe dream 15 years ago, card or no card. Nor is the price just a "lucky score". I've seen many Thomas Rikers go for a song recently, relatively speaking ($20 or less for a mint carded figure). But that doesn't stop most sellers from insisting on prices of $150 for their "super-rare" Thomas Rikers.

This relates to something that I encounter a lot in my Star Trek and TMNT collecting: seller-driven rather than buyer-driven market prices. Obviously, Thomas Riker is not worth a premium, but sellers still hold onto the hype from 15 years ago that the figure is crazy-rare, and set exorbitantly high minimum bids to match.

But the relatively high production number on my Thomas Riker calls into question the figure's true rarity. Check out my Thomas Riker's number above: 15,582. That's far less than other figures (my Captain Picard has a number of 292,435), but still a significantly high number. The 5" Insurrection figures were limited to just 10,000. And I suspect that the ToyFare exclusives were even more limited (my Tarchannen Geordi has a production number of just 6,418). But none of these figures have the perceived rarity of Thomas Riker. It's all nothing but hype.

So, I cracked this dude open. The card was pretty screwed up anyway, so why not? And, considering how obsessive fans are with keeping the figure MOC, I might have the only loose Thomas Riker in existence, so it's my duty to review it!

Year Released: 1994
Company: Playmates
Size: 5"
Price: $10 for a set of two figures carded from eBay (along with Dr. Pulaski)
Packaging: Carded
Production Number: 15562

Thomas Riker is nothing but a gold-suited repaint of the Series 1 William Riker. The sculpt is identical, which is pretty cool because I love Riker's dynamic, battle-scarred sculpt. And the facial likeness is another one of those awesome Playmates caricatures that perfectly captures the essence of the actor in a cartoony toy.

But reusing parts usually manifests problems in one way or another. In this case, it's evident that Playmates wanted to reuse the Riker body, but didn't want to include the rips on the uniform. The problem is that the ripped sculpting is still there, but the skin underneath the rips isn't painted... which then suggests that Tommy's wearing another uniform underneath this one. Weird.

The reuse of parts also creates continuity problems. Thomas Riker in the show had not only his hair parted in a different direction, but also a fuller beard.

The paint apps are pretty sharp, but they didn't paint the stripes on the bottom of the pants. I'm pretty sure that's screen-accurate for Season 6 uniforms, though. But there is some paint neglect on his back, with the gold coloration failing to continue all the way to the left shoulder, creating a garish black stripe.

Playmates Trek had some of the best articulation of its time, as is evident with Thomas and his 12 points of articulation: swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel biceps, hinge elbows, swivel waist, swivel hips, and hinge knees. The cut of the hips causes the legs to bow outward when he sits, but otherwise, the movement is excellent.

Lt. Riker doesn't come with anything that you haven't seen before, but his accessories are sufficient for his character. (This Thomas Riker has purple accessories; the other variant has red accessories.)
  • Type II Phaser - Although the permanent phase beam can get a little awkward, I like the silver coloration of the phaser.
  • Tricorder w/ Holster - Yup, it's a Tricorder again. Goodie.
  • Duffel Bag - This is a nice inclusion, since Thomas packs his bags and leaves the Enterprise at the end of the episode. (Although whether he had this specific bag is doubtful.)
  • Portable Computer Gear - Okay, I suppose. I imagine he would have had equipment like this while he was stranded on the planet.
  • Stand - The Playmates Trek stands are always cool, as long as they directly relate to the character. And this one does.

$5 for a figure that was hyped to death for its supposed rarity is a great deal. Also, Riker comes with a good amount of accessories for his Starfleet duties. But a perfect score eludes Thomas: I have a few quality control concerns as I noticed a couple of weird notches on his back, along with that ugly paint app error on his back left shoulder.

Although I was bemoaning the hype regarding the perceived rarity of Thomas Riker, I can't deny the fact that the hype created a special feeling of awesomeness when I finally scored one for my collection. Also, Thomas Riker's coolness score is boosted by the Series 1 Riker sculpt, one of the few in the Playmates Trek line that is specifically designed to effectively hold the phaser in a firing position.

But the reused sculpt creates some repetition on the shelf, especially considering the very specific gesture of the Series 1 Riker sculpt.

I never thought I'd be doing a toy review of this figure but dreams can come true, kids! Thomas Riker is a resculpt of the Series 1 Riker, which is awesome because the sculpt is dynamic and fun, but less awesome because it creates some continuity problems. Still, he comes with some nice accessories, and like most Trek figures, he can be bought on the cheap if you're frosty. Also, the thrill of finally owning one of the "limited edition" Trek figures is a great feeling. Unfortunately, it's looking like Redemption Data (the red-suited limited release repaint of Data) is looking much more elusive, but I'm hoping I'll be able to get him one day anyway. And if I do, I'll be sure to free him from his carded tomb, just like I did Thomas Riker!

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.