Finally we find ourselves at the culmination of the Dork Dimension Star Trek: The Next Generation Archive with a tribute to the captain of the Enterprise D and E, Jean-Luc Picard! Picard had a bit of a rough start in Season 1, characterized as a gruff and curmudgeonly grump, but that hard exterior softened in later seasons into a more paternal persona that I often call "Papa Picard". Unlike most of our TV and film heroes, Picard usually solved problems by out-thinking his opponents with reason rather than out-blasting or out-lightsabering them. Since Picard was the captain and arguably the most important character in the series, he got a pretty full assortment of action figures in the vintage Playmates Trek line. Let's check them out, in order of appearance in the Next Gen timeline:
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (as Dixon Hill, grey suit)Series: 3
Episodes: The Big Goodbye (Season 1), Manhunt (Season 2)
Year Stamped: 1994
The first figure in this tribute is Picard as Dixon Hill sporting the grey suit as seen in Season 1's The Big Goodbye and Season 2's Manhunt. The head sculpt is new to this figure, and the likeness is an improvement over the Picard Captain's Jacket sculpt that was the basis for many of the Picard figures. The tie design is closer to Dix's tie in Manhunt than it is to The Big Goodbye, so I guess if you were insanely nitpicky (like me), you could say it's specific to Season 2.
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (TNG Uniform, Season 7)Series: 3
Episodes: Seasons 3-7
Year Stamped: 1993-93
Picard got his share of sculpt recycling, and this Picard in Duty Uniform is paradoxically both the worst offender (in terms of number of figures from which it takes parts) and best execution (in terms of uniqueness of design). The figure is a conglomeration of three different figures: the head is from Captain's Jacket Picard, the torso and arms are from the first series Geordi, and the hips and legs are from the first series Data. Since the figure draws from so many other disparate parts, it has a little more differentiation on the shelf when it's displayed with the other figures. I wish Playmates did this more often. If they're going to reuse parts, at least scramble them with other figures to make the figure look relatively distinct. Unlike...
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (TNG Dress Uniform)Series: Starfleet Officers Multi-Pack
Episode: Sarek (Season 3)
Year Stamped: 1993
What Picard Duty Uniform did right in reusing parts, Picard Dress Uniform did all wrong. As with most other dress uniform figures, this Picard is just a straight repaint of Geordi Dress Uniform. The shorter body size works better for Picard than it does for other characters, but it's still a little annoying to have four different characters of clearly different body types use the exact same sculpt (Picard, Data, Geordi, and Riker).
There are subtle differences in the on-screen dress uniform in TNG (which I go into more detail in the Riker tribute), but it suffices to say that this figure most resembles the variant seen in Season 3's Sarek.
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (as Dixon Hill, brown suit)Series: Holodeck Multi-Pack
Episode: Clues (Season 4)
Year Stamped: 1998
Not all straight repaints are bad, like this Dixon Hill in brown suit. The figure is a simple repaint of the first Dixon Hill, intended to represent Picard's appearance in Clues, and it actually works pretty well. The outfit in Clues is the same as the one in The Big Goodbye except in its brown coloration, so Playmates just cast the same Dixon Hill sculpt in brown plastic, and we have a Clues-specific Dix!
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (TNG Captain's Jacket)Series: 1
Episodes: Seasons 5-7
Year Stamped: 1992
Picard's Captain's Jacket is my favorite Starfleet uniform variant. It looks more adventurous than the normal TNG uniform, like something Indiana Jones would wear if he was in the Trek universe.
It turns out that the costume changed immediately after its introduction (according to Memory-Alpha). The shoulders were leather in the uniform's premiere in Season 5's Darmok, while later appearances featured cloth shoulders. It's too bad; I thought the leather looked so much cooler and more distinctive. Maybe the producers thought that it reflected the lighting too much, which does seem to happen in some shots. This figure's shoulders look like the Darmok style in that the creases are pronounced, but it could serve as either version.
The pants on this costume are also different, with legs that billow out at the end like the vintage Trek costumes. Not only does it look great, it also has elements of Trek history incorporated into it. I'm such a dork for this outfit.
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (as Romulan)Series: 3
Episode: Unification (Season 5)
Year Stamped: 1994
Here we see Picard in his Romulan disguise from Unification (Season 5). The look of the figure works pretty well since the sculpt and paint apps, as simple as they are, are pretty accurate to the on-screen costume. The folds on the front of the robe are more random than they should be. In the show, the creases of the robe had an orderly pattern, but it doesn't detract from the figure too much.
I remember this figure being a huge pegwarmer back in the day, presumably because it suffers from the salt shaker syndrome. The robes are just a solid plastic tube that effectively eliminate the waist and leg articulation. It's too bad Playmates didn't experiment with soft goods... a figure like this would really benefit from a cloth robe.
Jean-Luc Picard, CadetSeries: 1701 Series/Multi-Pack
Episode: Tapestry (Season 6)
Year Stamped: 1994
Behold, the infamous 1701 Cadet Picard from Tapestry! This figure was first released on an individual card in a limited edition run of 1,701 figures. When fans had a meltdown because the limited run made it effectively impossible for the vast majority of fans to collect a complete set, Playmates then released the 1701 figures in a multi-pack. This one is the multi-pack version, of course. Although most Trek figures have plummeted in value, the solo-carded Tapestry Picard still commands a pretty high price. (The multi-pack is effectively worthless.)
You might recognize the body sculpt from Generations Kirk, but it has been slightly altered in that the rank pins on the right shoulder and left forearm have been reworked as Cadet pins. Also, the Service Bar (the white band on the left sleeve that shows the number of years of service) has all the pins removed, as it seems like it does in the episode.
The belt area is a little bit screen-inaccurate, though: the jacket is missing a couple black loops in the front and a red trapezoid-shaped loop in the back through which the belt threads. Also, there are two black lines that should run down the back, and the shoulder strap needs a button on the back. Not to mention the combadge, which needs a starburst in the middle to match the show. Still, these are relatively minor flaws, and the figure does a good job of representing Picard in his Cadet uniform. If only there was a heart-impaling action feature!
Jean-Luc Picard, LieutenantSeries: ToyFare Exclusive Mailaway
Episode: Tapestry (Season 6)
Year Stamped: 1998
And here we see the lesser-known, lesser-desired Tapestry Picard, when he became a Lieutenant in an alternate timeline. This was a ToyFare exclusive that just didn't capture the same rapacious obsessiveness of the 1701 Tapestry Picard. That might be because of the quality of the figure: it's just the same old Picard head on the same old repainted Geordi body. There's not much special going on there, kind of like Picard's alternate life in that episode. I'm not sure how many were made, but my sample is #5,571.
For the nitpickers out there, Picard's pips are off; instead of two gold, there should be one gold and one black pip.
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (as Galen)Series: 5
Episode: Gambit (Season 7)
Year Stamped: 1995
Of all the Picards, I'm not sure why Playmates chose to make this one. I've never thought of Gambit as one of the more iconic episodes, nor do I find this outfit particularly interesting. Still, Playmates did a great job of reproducing the costume.
Jean-Luc Picard (Retired Captain)Series: 4
Episode: All Good Things (Season 7)
Year Stamped: 1995
This Retired Picard from the series finale, All Good Things, sports the last unique head sculpt. (If you're keeping track, the unique head sculpts include: Captain's Jacket, Dixon Hill, Romulan disguise, and Retired Captain... the rest are reuses of the Captain's Jacket sculpt.) This head sculpt is okay, but it's just a bit off. The beard seems too full and the likeness is not quite as good as either the Captain's Jacket or Dixon Hill heads. Regardless, the costume is well-represented and it's great to have a Picard specific to the series finale. Especially considering the other option for an episode-specific figure would be Picard in Captain's Undies.
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (DS9 Uniform)Series: DS9 Series 2
Year Stamped: 1994
The Generations movie line was a debacle (we'll get to that in a bit), but fortunately Playmates released a few figures of the Enterprise crew that were actually accurate to the movie. Picard was one of them, and although his body is just a repaint of the Dr. Bashir body from DS9, it works just as well for his body type.
Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (First Contact Uniform)Series: Target Exclusive Starfleet Command Edition
Movies: First Contact, Insurrection, Nemesis
Year Stamped: 1999
Ah yes, the infamous Starfleet Command wave. This was the only 4.5" wave that featured the crew in the First Contact uniforms, but unfortunately the quality control was abysmal. Considering this was the last wave of Playmates TNG figures, I suppose Playmates wasn't anticipating high demand and wanted to cut as many costs as possible. This Picard's body is actually reworked from the Voyager Paris/Tuvok buck, adding creases to the shoulders and recoloring the collar. I love the additional leg articulation, so I don't have too many complaints about reuse.
Still, this wave is still a little sad for me. Although I (like everyone else) was totally unaware of it at the time because my interests had moved on to Star Wars figures, it makes me wonder what other figures from the TNG movies we would have seen if the line had continued.
By the way, if you're wondering about the production number, it's #9,730. I wouldn't be surprised if the Target Starfleet Command figures were limited to 10,000.
Not good enough dammit, not good enough!
That's right, Jean-Luc... there were some figures in the Playmates Trek line that just weren't good enough (or, screen accurate enough) to be included here:
- Jean-Luc Picard, Cadet (Starfleet Academy): The Starfleet Academy figures represented the characters as youths in the Academy, but since they were never seen on-screen, the line can be considered "Expanded Universe".
- Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (Generations, above left): The Starfleet figures featured in the Generations movie wave wore concept costume not seen on screen.
- Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (Season 1, above right): This figure is just a Frankensteinish mismatching of parts: the head and legs are from the Captain's Jacket figure, the body from Season 1 Data, and the arms from Wave 1 Geordi. Regardless, it would work if not for the horrible inaccuracy of the pants.
- Jean-Luc Picard, Captain (Transporter): The Transporter series featured the characters in half-clear plastic, but the uniforms are off. The shirts are cut like TNG uniforms but have a coloration that is decidedly DS9.
There... are... FOUR lights!Maybe so, but there are at least FIVE additional Picard figures that I would have liked to have in my collection. If you've been reading these TNG tributes, you know I'm a sucker for the crew in period-specific costumes, so I would have loved to see Picard as Robin Hood from QPid, Three Musketeer Picard from Hollow Pursuits, and 19th Century Picard from Time’s Arrow Part II (maybe the packaging could label him as "Mr. Pickerd", as Mrs. Carmichael called him).
Another great figure would have been Kamin from The Inner Light, one of the most popular TNG episodes. But my most wanted Picard would be Dixon Hill with machine gun from the First Contact movie. Of course, he would have to hold the machine gun with both hands. And, although this might make the figure too scene-specific, it still would have been awesome if the head was sculpted with Picard's expression as he screams in blood-thirsty rage while blowing away the Borg.
And that's it for the Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation Tributes! Phew... documenting every screen-accurate TNG figure that originated in the TNG universe was a much more involved task than I was expecting when I started these tributes over a year ago. The most difficult thing was trying to determine how each figure is accurate or inaccurate to what is seen on-screen. I'm really glad I finished them, considering how little coverage the awesome Playmates Trek line gets on the Internet these days. If you want to check out all the ST:TNG Tributes, head over to the Toy Tributes page. And if you need a guide for your collecting, take a gander at my Playmates ST:TNG spreadsheet. Make it so!
Figure Realm: http://figurerealm.com
Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Continuing Mission (Pocket Books, 1998)