Toy Tribute: William T. Riker

Next up in the Star Trek: TNG Archive is everyone's favorite first officer: Riker, William T! I always liked Riker but he often seemed to be the Trek equivalent of a wallflower, standing in the background just watching the action go on around him. I think that's because his role changed over the years from its initial concept. At first, Gene Rodenberry was really pushing the idea that the Captain of the Enterprise is so important that he should stay on the ship instead of leading dangerous away missions. You see that a lot in the first few seasons, with Riker playing the action hero on the away team. But as the series continued you see more of a concentration on Picard in heroic situations, which, of course, meant that Riker's initial role became redundant. So much so that his solution of saving the Enterprise from collision with the USS Bozeman by decompressing the main shuttlebay was rejected countless times and was eventually accepted only when Data had definite proof that his own solution sucked. (If you've seen Cause and Effect, you know what I'm talking about.) But Riker was a fun character anyway and he had some pretty cool action figures in the Playmates TNG line. Let's check them out... in the order in which they appeared on the show, of course! (Note: Many of the Rikers are shown with a customized phaser so that the phaser blast doesn't get in the way of the figure.)

Commander William T. Riker (TNG Second Season Uniform)

Series: 2
Episodes: Season 2
Year Stamped: 1992

This figure represents Riker as seen in the Second Season, in his original collarless skin-tight uniform. Unfortunately, Playmates didn't want to spring for a new head sculpt so we never got a beardless Riker from Season 1. Come to think of it, Playmates didn't want to spring for much new here at all, as the head, limbs, and waist are all reused from the first Commander Riker (seen below). The limbs are particularly awkward because the first Riker had "battle damage" that is unpainted in this one. The only new part is the torso, and I don't think you can even call that "new" because its sculpt is just slightly altered from the first figure. Still, it does a reasonably effective job of capturing the look of the Second Season's costume.

Commander William T. Riker

Series: 1
Episodes: Seasons 3-7
Year Stamped: 1992

Behold, the sculpt on which virtually every other Playmates Riker is based, one way or another! This figure is one of my favorite TNG figures of all time. I love the Playmates caricaturization of the actor's likeness, not to mention the fun action stance and cool battle damage (which is painted, unlike the other Rikers that use its parts). Clearly, Playmates was on board with the concept of a "hero" Riker who leads away team missions. This sculpt (and its derivatives) is also one of the few that can actually hold a phaser in the proper manner. Unfortunately, its painfully specific pose restricts your display options.

Commander William T. Riker (Dress Uniform)

Series: Starfleet Officers Set
Episodes: Sarek (Season 3)
Year Stamped: 1993

There seem to be four different versions of the dress uniform in TNG:
  • Season 1: This costume has a gold band that extends from the neck across the shoulder and down the torso, with a slight collar and tight leggings. 
  • Season 2: This one is pretty much the same as the first, except the collar is more substantial and the gold band stops as it descends from the shoulder when it reaches the colored portion of the uniform. 
  • Season 3: The third version tweaks the Season 2 design by losing those goofy tight leggings in favor of the standard Starfleet uniform pants. 
  • Season 4+: This version of the uniform slightly modifies the Season 3 design by terminating the gold band at the shoulder before it descends at all. 

The figure above sports the Season 3 design because it has standard Starfleet pants and a gold band that ends at the colored portion of the uniform, which means that it probably represents Riker as seen in the episode, Sarek.

This same body sculpt was also used for dress uniform figures of Picard and Data, which is disappointing because it doesn't accurately reflect Riker's taller stature.

William T. Riker as a Malcorian

Series: 3
Episodes: First Contact (Season 4)
Year Stamped: 1994

Here we see Riker in alien disguise from the episode, First Contact, in which he spies on the Malcorian civilization and is exposed when he is sent to a hospital for a critical injury. This figure does a great job of capturing the look of Riker in the episode, down to the creases and hemlines on the costume. The unique blue color of the costume is also fun and helps to make the figure stand out on a Trek display... even though the face sculpt looks less like Jonathan Frakes and more like Chuck Norris.

Lieutenant Thomas Riker

Series: 3
Episodes: Second Chances (Season 6)
Year Stamped: 1992

You might recognize this dude from the Retro Toy Review I did last year. Yup, this is the "rare" Thomas Riker, one of the shortpacked figures that Playmates thought would breathe new interest into the line. Instead, that shortpacking just alienated many collectors who thought that they would never get a complete collection. Combine that with the juggernaut that was the new and burgeoning Star Wars toyline, and Trek's days were numbered.

Anyway, this Thomas Riker is just a repaint of the Commander Riker from the first series. Unfortunately, the battle damage isn't painted, which makes it look a bit weird. And Tommy from the show had a fuller beard and differently styled hair than the normal Riker, which isn't reflected in this figure because its head is reused.

Admiral William T. Riker

Series: 5
Episodes: All Good Things (Season 7)
Year Stamped: 1995

Here we see Riker as a curmudgeonly old jerk who puts a damper on Picard's adventure and gives Worf the cold shoulder in All Good Things. At least he's in command of a cool upgrade of the Enterprise D.

This figure seems to be a pretty faithful reproduction of Admiral Riker's look in the episode. The collar is missing the gold highlights but that's about it. The face sculpt is pretty much dead-on and is more realistic than the caricatures of the earlier Rikers.

Commander William T. Riker (First Contact Uniform)

Series: Target Exclusive Starfleet Command Edition
Movies: First Contact, Insurrection, Nemesis
Year Stamped: 1999

This last Riker comes from the final wave of Playmates 4.5" Trek figures. This wave featured the crew of the Enterprise as seen in the movies First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis. Actually, they were really just slightly resculpted versions of the Voyager figures. In Riker's case, he reuses Chakotay's body, which has been modified at the shoulders and upper chest to include the creases of the First Contact uniforms.

Quality control for this wave was all over the place. I had to buy two samples of this figure to get one that was acceptable. My first for whatever reason had two left arms (seen above). Although I couldn't see the defect in the auction pictures, it was carded so I assumed everything was cool. But as you can see, there's no way it can be properly displayed. I might be able to get away with displaying a figure with two left legs (you would probably only be able to tell if you looked at the soles of the feet), but the defect is much too conspicuous on a figure with two left arms. So I had to buy this Riker again... and I was sure to ask the seller if it had all its parts in the right place.

There is something damn odd going on here.

Considering my requirement for figures in the Next Generation Archive to be reasonably screen-accurate to a TNG episode or movie, there are a few Playmates Rikers that don't quite fit the bill.
  • William Riker, Commander (Transporter): The Transporter series featured figures in uniforms that are cut like TNG but have the coloration of DS9 (i.e., colored shoulders on an all-black jumpsuit). On one hand, Riker does wear a DS9 uniform in Generations, but since the figure is repainted from a TNG sculpt, the collar fails the accuracy test. 
  • Thomas Riker (DS9 uniform): This figure fails on a couple levels. First, Thomas Riker in the DS9 episode in which he appears, Defiant, never wears a DS9 uniform (which would exclude him from this tribute anyway since it wouldn't be TNG-specific). Riker does wear a DS9 uniform in Generations, but this figure sports the gold Support Services uniform, not the red Command uniform that Riker wears in the movie.
  • William Riker, Cadet: The Starfleet Academy series depicted the Next Gen cast as cadets. Most of this wave is nothing more than Expanded Universe nonsense, but the Cadet Riker figure bears special notice: it depicts the character sans beard, which would be great for customization. Put the Cadet Riker head on a Second Season body, and you have a passable First Season Riker.
  • William Riker, Commander (Generations): This figure, seen above, is based on concept art from the movie. According to the book Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Continuing Mission, this style was approved for the movie but was dropped at the last second so as to not confuse the audience with too many new elements. Presumably, Playmates designed its figures based on that concept art, but was unable (or unwilling) to redesign the figures for the release of the movie. This Riker is notable for another reason: its upward-turned hand makes it one of the very few TNG figures that is able to hold a phaser effectively.

I may be surrounded by insanity, but I am not insane!

And that's it for the Rikers. I'd say that Playmates explored Riker pretty effectively. I can't really think of that many depictions of the character that were screaming to be made. Although Frame of Mind was perhaps Riker's most famous (or infamous) episode, I can't say I would want an Asylum-Action Riker figure. Maybe the dress uniform from his marriage in Nemesis would have been cool. And I definitely would have liked to see First Season Riker. But other than those two, I'm pretty happy with the Riker assortment we got.


Figure Realm:
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Continuing Mission (Pocket Books, 1998)

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.