Ninety screen-accurate figures in the Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation line and not a single Season 1 Riker among them. Sure, there was a Riker in Season 1 uniform but he was bearded, making him specific to Season 2. One bald-faced Riker did see plastic, though: this Cadet Riker from the Starfleet Academy wave. This dude is famous as custom fodder for those collectors who just can't live without Riker from Season 1: just swap the Academy head with the Season 2 head, and you have a beardless Commander Riker, right? Let's find out if it's that easy. Set course for a Retro Toy Review... maximum warp!
StatsYear Stamped: 1996
Price: $4 carded from Big Bad Toy Store
Cadet Riker sports a "Geo-Hazard Suit" that's not canon by any stretch of the imagination. With striped black detailing, calf-high boots, and an arm pouch, Riker looks like he came straight out of a X-Men comic from the 90's. I dig the suit, though; it's dynamic (although I would have preferred a stronger red coloration) and not such a radical a departure from TNG as to make the figure look totally incongruous in a Trek display.
But the real question for customizers is, how accurate is the head sculpt to the beardless Jonathan Frakes from Season 1? The sculpt is pretty good, but it looks more like a teenage version of Riker than the adult Starfleet Commander. The cleft in the chin and the lines on the face have been smoothed out, making him look much younger than he appeared on the show. Since the figure is supposed to represent Riker in the Academy, I understand the de-aging of the sculpt. But that does make things complicated for customizers.
Standard Trek articulation applies here: swivel neck, shoulders, biceps, waist, and hips, with hinge knees. Considering the Voyager figures released a year earlier had additional thigh articulation, Playmates should have done better with Cadet Riker. Regardless, his movement is still better than most of his action figure contemporaries.
Cadet Riker comes with a bunch of nifty equipment, most of which can be added as accoutrements to his suit. Clockwise from left, they include: stand, phaser, temperature regulator, UV light source (the only accessory reused from another figure), survivor pack, and eye visor. Unlike many Playmates Trek accessories that were cast in obnoxious neon colors, these are colored a more realistic neutral grey.
The phaser can be challenging for Riker to hold. You have to perform a delicate balancing act to get it in his right hand, and if you accidentally nudge the figure, the phaser frustratingly plummets to the table.
Riker also comes with an interactive Starfleet Academy CD-ROM... although it's not interacting with anything now considering its ancient OS requirements (Windows 3.1 or 95, and Mac LC-III). I tried installing it on my Mac anyway, but the computer wanted nothing to do with it. Maybe you can install a virtual machine that runs one of those operating systems, but I can't imagine the CD-ROM would contain anything that would make it worth that much effort.
It makes a nice coaster, I suppose.
Four bucks for a carded vintage Trek figure with nice accessories and a free coaster? I'll take it.
Cadet Will is a mixed bag of coolness. The costume is cool, but it's more superhero than Trek. It's cool to get a bald-faced Riker in this scale, but the sculpt is too young to customize into an effective Season 1 Riker. I will say that attaching the accessories to the figure is undeniably cool and something I wish Playmates carried over to other Trek sub-lines.
OverallI originally bought Cadet Riker for customizing fodder, but I don't think I could get past the de-aged face. Not to mention all the hassle that would go along with the customization process: boiling the figures, popping off their heads, whittling down the T-neck so that it can pop back in (assuming it's even compatible), cramming the head into the Season 2 body... and when it's done, the neck would be loose anyway. To hell with it.
Still, I ended up liking the figure more than I thought I would. The sculpt is fun, the accessories are interesting, and the whole package is dirt cheap. Not too bad a figure for Trek fans like me who have exhausted all of the show-accurate possibilities.