Data was one of the most important characters in Next Generation; in fact, it could be argued that Data was even more important than Captain Picard. Not only were there a crapload of Data-centric episodes that dealt with his exploration of humanity, but also Data often played a pivotal part in an episode in some other respect. Turn on any random TNG episode and you'll likely see a malfunctioning Data playing the antagonist (Brothers, Season 4), Data befriending some outcast (Deja Q, Season 3), or Data as the deus ex machina, so to speak, coming to the rescue just in time (The Game, Season 5). Actually, he saved the Enterprise so many times that it's a wonder any starship can avoid destruction without a Soong-type android. Given his popularity on the show, it's understandable that Playmates produced quite a few Data action figures in the 5" scale. Let's take a look, in order of appearance on the show!
Data, Lieutenant Commander (TNG First Season Uniform)Series: 2
Episodes: Seasons 1 and 2
Year Stamped: 1992
If you've been reading the Next Gen tributes here, you likely know the drill with the figures from this "Season 1" wave. Like the others, this Data is designed to represent the character wearing the spandexy (and reportedly very uncomfortable) uniforms from the first two seasons. The parts are reused from the first Data figure below, except the shoulders and neck have been reworked (which also means that the removable panel on the back has been... er, removed). While the collar looks good, the waistline is most decidedly inaccurate: it should be a one-piece suit, not a shirt/pants combo. That sort of inconsistency is what happens when parts are reused!
Data, Lieutenant Commander (1940's Attire)Series: 4 (Holodeck Series)
Episode: The Big Goodbye (Season 1)
Year Stamped: 1995
Here we see Data as he appeared in the Dixon Hill holonovel, The Big Goodbye. Data is missing the pin stripes on his shirt and suit, but otherwise, the figure looks fantastic. I'm a huge fan of period-specific Trek figures, so this Data is not only my favorite Data in the TNG line, but it's also one of my favorite Star Trek figures of all time. Although the hat is not removable, this Data also came with a cool little pistol. And a typewriter, of all things.
Data, Lieutenant CommanderSeries: 1
Episodes/Movie: Seasons 3-7, Generations
Year Stamped: 1992
This is the archetypal Data from the first wave on which many of the Datas in the following waves were based. The entire figure was repainted as Redemption (Red) Data; the legs, arms, and head were reused for First Season Data; and the head was reused for the Dress Uniform, DS9, and First Contact figures. The legs were even reused on the Duty Uniform Picard figure. It's a pretty strong sculpt, so the blatant reuse is understandable. Data's left foot is lifted a bit as if he's stepping forward, which is cool because it's action-oriented without being too action-oriented. It does make the figure a bit unstable, so you may want to keep a combadge stand handy.
Data has a few panels that you can open, one on his forearm and one on his back, revealing his internal robotic circuitry. I'm don't think either panel was shown on screen. Geordi frequently accessed Data's internal workings via removable panels on his head and Data had a telephone in his stomach during a dream, but I think the wrist and back were never exposed in this way. (Presumably, this is because they would have to go through the uniform to get there, which might needlessly screw up a perfectly good costume.) Data's forearm was opened in First Contact, but he wasn't wearing this uniform. Does anybody remember an episode featuring Data opening his back or forearm? (Jason remembers an episode with Data opening his forearm, but restrictions apply; see comments below.)
Noonian Soong, DoctorSeries: 3, 4
Episode: Brothers (Season 4)
Year Stamped: 1994
Although Dr. Soong is obviously not Data, I'll include him in this tribute because he's not only Data's father, he's also played by Brent Spiner himself. This figure represents Dr. Soong in his later years as depicted in Brothers. The figure's sculpt seems to match the on-screen costume well, although you don't get a good shot of the entirety of Dr. Soong's costume in the episode. It kind of looks like he might be wearing socks in the episode whereas the figure is sockless, but who knows? I guess the more important question is, "Who the crap cares about Dr. Soong's socks?!"
Dr. Soong also came with a mini-figure called the "Simulacrum", a creepy little proto-Data. You can check it out over at the Mini-Figure Trek Tribute.
Episode: Brothers (Season 4)
Year Stamped: 1993
Continuing the Data family reunion is his brother Lore, whose costume hails from the same episode as Soong's. As in Brothers, he sports a Pakled uniform but strangely enough, the costume is actually a mirror image of the one in the episode. I wonder if Playmates got a flipped image for reference. Anyway, I think this would be a great base for a Pakled custom, although I don't think any Pakleds in TNG wore this specific costume.
Also of note is the resculpted head, which features a little smirk. Maybe some talented customizer could head swap this figure with the basic, DS9, or First Contact Data to make a movie-era emoting Data.
Data, Lieutenant Commander (TNG Dress Uniform)Series: 3
Episode: Data's Day
Year Stamped: 1993
Yup, it's yet another dress uniform figure using the same old sculpt. This figure is just a Series 1 Data head swapped onto the archetypal Geordi in dress uniform body. As with Geordi, it represents Data in Data's Day, as he appeared in Miles and Keiko's wedding. (I think that's the only time we see Data in a dress uniform, but go ahead and prove me wrong.) The uniform is slightly inaccurate because it's technically a Season 3 dress uniform (see the Riker Dress Uniform figure in his tribute for more details). If you're a TNG completist, you'll see this same body sculpt again and again depicting Riker, Geordi, and Picard in dress uniforms. Honestly, it's one of the most boring body sculpts in the line, so you'll get sick of seeing it quickly.
Data, Lieutenant Commander (as Romulan)Series: 3
Episode: Unification (Season 5)
Year Stamped: 1994
Here we have Data in his Romulan disguise from the Spock-cameoed episode, Unification! Although I love Romulans in any shape and form, the Data and Picard as Romulan figures are stigmatized to me: I remember them both being serious peg warmers back in the day. And I can understand why. Although cool-looking, they're also very simple... and very robey. Back then, figures with long robes had the "salt shaker syndrome", meaning the robe was just one big piece of immobile cylindrical plastic. For these reasons, the Romulan disguise figures were some of my most hated in the toy aisle at the time, but I've recently learned to love them both for what they are.
Data, Lieutenant Commander (Western Attire)Series: Holodeck Series Multi-packs
Episodes: A Fistful of Datas (Season 6)
Year Stamped: 1998
In the episode A Fistful of Datas, Data's program gets scrambled with a holodeck western novel, which results in Data appearing as the villain Frank Hollander. The episode is borderline absurd, but seeing some of the cast in western outfits is a hoot. This figure looks fantastic, but for some reason, is more than a little wanting in articulation. Only the neck, biceps, shoulders, hips, and thighs move (the waist is non-functional due to the coat), which is a significant downgrade from the Playmates Trek norm. Still, it's a perfect companion piece to Sheriff Worf and Durango Troi.
The hat is removable, but it's a little too removable. It falls off at the drop of a hat, so to speak.
Data, Lieutenant Commander (Redemption)Series: 3
Episode: Chain of Command, Part II (Season 6)
Year Stamped: 1992
Behold, the wonder that is Redemption (or Red) Data! The "Redemption" designation is a misnomer; Data never wore a red uniform in Redemption, only in Chain of Command, Part II. Memory-Alpha states that this figure was released as part of a four-figure pack from the JCPenny catalog, which also included Deanna Troi (Duty Uniform), Captain Picard (Duty Uniform) and Ensign Wesley Crusher. (Apparently, it was also a limited single release in Canada.) I don't know what that 4-pack looked like, as I never saw this figure in the catalog back in the day and I haven't seen any eBay auctions of the 4-pack since. Were the figures boxed up together? Connected with shrink wrap? Or just sold together with no special packaging? I don't know.
This figure was allegedly released in a limited edition of 7,000 (which isn't all that rare compared to some other lines). Mine is number 4,097. Although I managed to score this loose sample relatively cheap on eBay, I can imagine the frustration of collectors trying to get complete sets back then. Can you imagine trying to collect all these limited edition figures without eBay or online stores? You'd have to suck it up and shell out whatever exorbitant price a scalper would deign to offer at a convention. Despite the plummeting value of almost all Playmates Trek toys, Redemption Data is one of the few that still commands a higher price.
Data, ProfessorSeries: 5
Episode: All Good Things (Season 7)
Year Stamped: 1997
Here we see a "possible future" Professor Data from the series finale, All Good Things. More specifically, this costume is from the scenes in Data's study in which he wears sort of a casual pajama-looking thing (by the time he gets to the USS Pasteur, he's changed into something completely different). This figure is borderline inaccurate, as the "coat" in the episode had a very complex and colorful design that the toy's monochromatic one lacks. Still, I like the pearlescent finish of the figure's coat, and he has the "skunk" hair which is the most important part anyway.
The head is very similar to the basic Data. At first I thought it was a different sculpt, but the more I look at it, the more I think it's the same.
Data, Lieutenant Commander (DS9 Uniform)Series: 4
Year Stamped: 1994
Like the Dress Uniform body sculpt mentioned above, the body for this Data has a lot of reuses under its belt. First available as the DS9 Series 1 Sisko body, it was reused for both Data and Geordi to depict their appearances in the movie, Generations. It's a great sculpt, though. The stance is neutral, the torso isn't too buff, and the hands are delicately sculpted.
Data, Lieutenant Commander (First Contact Uniform)Series: Target Exclusive Starfleet Command Edition
Movies: First Contact, Insurrection, Nemesis
Year Stamped: 1999
The final wave of Playmates TNG figures included the first and only Data in First Contact uniform in this scale. This wave was released around the same time as Insurrection, so I suppose you could say that it's an Insurrection figure, but it works just as well for any other post-Generations movie. It's just a reworking of the Voyager Tom Paris/Doctor body, adding the characteristic vertical stitching to the shoulders. But a First Contact uniform isn't quite as simple as just recoloring a DS9 uniform and adding vertically-stitched shoulders: it also had a cut down both the middle of the inside shirt and the jacket (presumably for the zipper) as well as stitching that lined the border of the grey shoulder. But it was a valiant try, nonetheless.
This Data came with a Compression Phaser Rifle, which is an undeniably awesome accessory, but also exclusive to Voyager.
Oh, yes! I hate this! It is revolting!That's right, Data, there were also a few rejected figures worthy of your repulsion, as they failed the all-important screen-accuracy test. How did I justify booting them out of this tribute?
- Data, Cadet: This was part of an Expanded Universe sub-line featuring the TNG crew in their Starfleet Academy days, which, of course, was never seen on-screen.
- Data, Lieutenant Commander (Generations): Like many of the figures from the Generations movie wave, the uniform this Data wears is based on concept art rather than the TNG/DS9 uniforms that were actually in the movie.
- Data, Lieutenant Commander (Transporter Series): Another instance of reuse of parts causing accuracy problems, the Transporter wave featured the crew in TNG-cut uniforms with DS9 coloration.
Everybody dies, Data... well, almost everybody.Even though Data bought it at the end of Nemesis, his legacy will live on in his action figures! There were a full dozen reasonably accurate Data figures, but for a character as ubiquitous as Data, there are so many more that could have been made:
- Sherlock Holmes (Elemetary, Dear Data, Season 2): This is probably the most egregious omission. Sherlock Holmes Data even saw plastic as a 9" figure, but never got the cut for the smaller scale for some reason.
- Three Musketeer (Hollow Pursuits, Season 3): It's a shame that Playmates never explored the wacky costumes from this episode.
- 19th Century Attire (Time's Arrow, Season 5): Another episode with great costumes overlooked by Playmates.
- Friar Tuck (QPid, Season 4): Yet again, the awesome costumes in this episode were ignored. Come on, we need a Friar Tuck Data with turkey leg!
- Lore (Descent, Season 6): With all this talk about Data, let's not forget his brother, Lore. Lore had a great costume in Descent, sort of a Borg undershirt with robo-musculature. With this figure the sons of Soong could join together!
Figure Realm: http://figurerealm.com
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Continuing Mission (Pocket Books, 1998)