Star Trek: The Next Generation often gets a bad rap for its alien designs. Fans often complain that the aliens were nothing more than normal human schmoes with weird foreheads or noses. While that's true in some cases, there were also many aliens that were innovative and awesome. Playmates only produced a small fraction of the aliens we saw on screen, but the ones we got were all kinds of cool. Let's check them out, in order of episode appearance.
Episodes: The Last Outpost, The Battle (Season 1)
Year Stamped: 1992
We'll start off with the infamous Ferengi! This figure isn't intended to represent a specific individual, but whoever this dude is, he's ranked pretty highly. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion states that the tattoo on the right side of a Ferengi's forehead denotes rank by the number of hashmarks. If I'm interpreting it correctly, the rank tattoo on this Ferengi's lobe denotes him as a DaiMon (Captain) since DaiMon Bok (from The Battle) had the same number of hashmarks.
This figure depicts the Ferengi as they appeared in Season 1 wearing the "Neanderthal" uniform with animal skins. By Season 2's Peak Performance, they had adopted an entirely different uniform that looked like an intergalactic business suit. Although it would have been better in a sense to sculpt the figure in that uniform because it was far more common in the series, I really dig the look of the animal skin.
This figure has two variants: one with black paint apps on the boots and shin straps, and one without. The "white boots" figure (this sample, above) is allegedly rarer, but I doubt it's a variant that people care about anymore since I bought this Ferengi in a lot for dirt cheap.
Mordock the BenziteSeries: 2
Episode: Coming of Age (Season 1)
Year Stamped: 1993
Here we see Mordock from the Season 1 episode Coming of Age. He's not to be confused with the other Benzite, Mendon, even though they were both played by the same actor and look identical. But that can be easily explained by the fact that both Mordock and Mendon were from the same geostructure, so of course they look the same. Um... what?
Anyway, I've always loved the pearlescent skin of this figure and the sculpt rocks. Maybe it would have been cool if Playmates made a Mendon by swapping this figure's head with a Season 1 Starfleet officer and repainting the uniform. On the other hand, do we really need two Benzites in the line?
Episodes: Seasons 2-7
Year Stamped: 1992
If I were to dress up as a Next Generation bad guy, I would be a Romulan. They were great adversaries in that they were sophisticated (unlike the Klingons), reasoning (unlike the Borg), and threatening (unlike the Ferengi). The Romulans first re-appeared in Season 1's The Neutral Zone, although this figure doesn't have the black sash and belt that the Romulans sport in that episode. This figure's uniform matches the outfit of Season 2's Romulans (Contagion), a design that continued into later seasons. All the Romulan uniforms might look the same to the layman, but there's actually quite a bit of variation in the coat and strap colors. It seems like higher-ranking Romulans have darker uniforms and straps, so that might make this guy one of the lower-ranking expendables. Maybe he's the Romulan equivalent of a Starfleet red shirt.
The sculpt is fantastic (check out the Romulan symbol on his chest) and the figure is one of the few that has the hip joints cut in a manner that allows him to sit without doing the splits. More specifically, the butt is wider than the crotch, so the legs shift inward when they're rotated up. Why the other Trek figures don't have this articulation, especially the Enterprise bridge crew, is totally beyond me.
Esoqq (Member of the Chalnoth Race)Series: 3
Episode: Allegiance (Season 3)
Year Stamped: 1994
Esoqq is my favorite Trek figure, and it's easy to see why. One of the largest figures in the line, this is one cool, vicious-looking alien. Not only that, but let's be honest: Esoqq's costume is just this side of flamboyant. And he comes with a ghastly knife. All this makes Esoqq one of the coolest figures of all time.
Back in the day Esoqq was one of the more difficult figures to find on the shelves. I remember seeing one in a toy/comic/collectible store in the 90's with a price tag of $30 (a price that seemed so unreasonable for an action figure at the time). He wasn't as impossibly rare as Redemption Data or the 1701 figures, but I would guess he was probably on par with Thomas Riker in terms of production numbers. My Esoqq is numbered 22,028 so that sounds about right.
If I remember correctly, this sample was given to me as a birthday present by my friend Matt way back in the mid-90's. This is one gift that keeps on giving!
For more on Esoqq, check out this Esoqq vs. Nausicaan death match.
Episodes: Captain's Holiday (Season 3)
Year Stamped: 1993
The Vorgon appeared in the very next episode after the one that featured Esoqq, Captain's Holiday. In the episode we see two Vorgons, presumably a male and a female. Apparently there isn't much in the way of visible sexual dimorphism for the Vorgon race, but we assume that the taller one with the squarer facial features is male. And I assume that this figure represents the "male" Vorgon, given its size and face sculpt. It's too bad this dude wasn't included in a multi-pack with the female Vorgon, along with Vash and Captain Picard in holiday attire. Can you imagine a Picard figure in those shorty-shorts he was wearing?
Sela, CommanderSeries: 2
Episodes: Redemption, Unification (Season 5)
Year Stamped: 1993
Sela, the Romulan daughter of an alternate timeline Tasha Yar, was seen in only two story lines: Redemption and Unification (she was also heard, but not seen, in Season 4's The Mind's Eye). I was never a fan of the Sela character as I found her to be just a way to shoehorn some remnant of Tasha Yar back into The Next Generation after her death. But she still has a good deal of coolness going for her on account of her being a Romulan. And considering how few Romulans we got in the line, I'll take what I can get, Tasha-shoehorn or not.
The figure is reasonably representative of the on-screen Sela, although the squares on her coat are oversized and her straps should be gold. Back in my early collecting years, I had a Sela that was numbered around 3,000, which was about as low a number as I could get.
Dathon, Tamarian CaptainSeries: 2
Episode: Darmok (Season 5)
Year Stamped: 1993
The Tamarian Captain Dathon was central to one of the most memorable Next Gen episodes. What Trekkie doesn't remember the phrase, "Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra"? Playmates did a great job capturing Dathon's likeness, from the spotted pattern on his head, to his costume (with knife sheath), down to the weird extensions on his thumbs. This is a great companion figure for the Picard in Captain's Jacket figure.
Episodes: Tapestry (Season 6)
Year Stamped: 1994
Another alien commemorating a classic episode (Tapestry), Nausicaan was also one of my favorites. Sure, he's kind of a Predator wannabe, but he's awesome in his own way. Like Esoqq, he's a dude with an ugly mug, a bit of heft, and a real hankering for knives.
Tapestry featured three Nausicaans, but I'm guessing that this figure represents the one with the speaking role who asked the eloquent question, "Play dom-jot, hu-man?" Determining the figure's screen accuracy is a challenge because the costume in the show seems to be a confusing mess of different fabrics. The environment doesn't help much either, since most of the Nausicaan's scenes are in that dimly-lit bar. But Playmates seems to have gotten the general idea for the alien.
You can check out more on the Nausicaan in the Esoqq vs. Nausicaan death match.
The TravelerSeries: 5
Episodes: Journey's End (Season 7)
Year Stamped: 1995
The Traveler, Wesley's inter-dimensional mentor, appeared in two episodes that bookend the series: Where No One Has Gone Before (Season 1) and Journey's End (Season 7). His costume is entirely different between the two episodes and it's clear that this figure represents his later appearance. Was his skin really as gray as the figure's, though? It doesn't seem to be, in either episode.
An interesting side-note: the actor who played the Traveler, Eric Menyuk, almost scored the role for Data (The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion). What a weird alternate reality that would have been.
It would seem that we are not completely dissimilar after all...And that's it for this tribute to the aliens of the Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation line! We got a pretty good array of aliens, but I would have loved to have so many more. I'll limit my want-list to the top five. As the quote above from The Chase (Season 6) implies, one of my top figures would have been the Ancient Humanoid (whose species are the ancestors of all Trek humanoids). I would have also loved a couple of those creepy clicking alien abductors from Schisms (Season 6). And only two Romulans in the line just isn't enough, so let's throw in one of the more prominent ones like Commander Tomalak.
I would also have liked to see some of the more monster-ish aliens. The energy creature from El-Adrel IV would have been a perfect compliment to Dathon. Playmates could even cast it in clear plastic to drive home the energy effect. (Ever wonder what the energy creature looked like without all the special effects? The mask was auctioned off a while back, so you can finally see what it looks like in true light.) And probably the most egregious omission was that of Armus, the black slime pit that toasted Tasha Yar. Maybe he could have come with a slime spot as a stand so it would look like he's spilling over your desk. It would have been great to include this figure in a multi-pack along with a Tasha that had that weird spot on her cheek. Or, maybe he could have been part of a playset with actual slime in which you could immerse both Armus and Commander Riker!
Figure Realm: http://figurerealm.com
Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (Pocket Books, 1995)