Playmates Star Trek Gorn and Mugatu Retro Review
Sometimes the figures that are released towards the end of a toy line are some of the coolest. (Star Wars POTF85, anyone?) Maybe it’s because the manufacturer has enough experience to know how to make really great figures; maybe it’s because they’ve already worked their way through the main characters so they can explore fun secondary characters; maybe it’s a combo of both. I'm not sure if I'd say that the Playmates Star Trek line fits that "best for last" mold because many of the later figures were awkwardly kit-bashed together from previous released or "POTF2-ified" with weirdly muscular sculpts. But the Gorn and Mugatu, released only a few years before Playmates ended its Trek run, were certainly some of the coolest in the line. Let’s take a closer look, starting with the Gorn!
The Gorn was featured prominently in the episode “The Arena” in which Kirk has to fight for his life against this reptilian starship captain. Although the creature in the show had a main-in-suit quality, it was still a great alien. This was before the current trend of forcing dinosaurian designs on every reptilian-themed monster, so this guy was actually more like a giant, walking Komodo dragon... with bug eyes thrown in for good measure. It was a fantastic and memorable design.
And the figure does a great job of representing that creature. The multi-faceted eyes, the rubbery skin texture, the connected fingers, even the shiny animal print costume... it looks great. My main critique would be that the musculature needs to be more defined considering how beefy he was in the episode.
Gorn sports swivel joints at the neck, shoulders and hips, and hinge joints at the elbows and knees. Missing are the bicep and waist joints that most of the other figures in the Playmates Trek line have, but I don’t see a problem with the articulation. The main problem is the tenuous grip Gorn has for his rock dagger, which just barely balances in his hand.
Speaking of accessories, Gorn also comes with a communicator, Kirk's improvised cannon, and some diamond projectiles. The diamonds are just screaming to get lost, so I could certainly do without them. He also comes with a trading card and a stand, which is a reuse of the Vorgon’s stand.
But we're not here to just talk about the Gorn, let's also take a look at the 400 pound gorilla in the room: Mugatu! Actually, I think "Mugato" is the official name, but it's "Mugatu" on the package so that's what I'll call him here. Either way, this is the white ape creature from the episode "A Private Little War". He was a bit player in the show, mainly there to give the episode some creature-feature pizzazz to kill time until they got back to the meat of the story. But he was certainly cool enough that he could have had an episode revolve around him.
My impression has always been that the Mugatu costume was an improvisation, as if they grabbed an ape costume they had laying around, added a horn, back spikes, and a tail, and said, "Hey, alien ape thing for Kirk to fight!" I'm not sure if that's really the case or not, but it’s such a wacky design that I have to love it. The figure’s detailed sculpt does a great job of reproducing the face wrinkles and hair of the costume, and the stark white coloration is distinctive. There’s a bit of screen-inaccuracy here, as the hands should only have two fingers and a thumb, and the feet should have four forward-facing digits (judging from the footprint shown in the episode). Like the Gorn, the Mugatu figure also seems like it should have been a bit beefier.
Mugatu’s articulation is limited with only swivel joints at the shoulders, hips, and neck. I don't feel like this figure needs to be hyper-articulated, but it would have been cool if the jaw could open wider to munch on Kirk.
The spikes and tail come separate in the package, so you’ll have some minor assembly to do. He also comes with a flintlock rifle, drum, Mahko root, and Type 1 Phaser, which aren’t really exciting and have very little to do with the Mugatu itself other than the fact that they happen to be in the same episode. But Playmates had a weird obsession with giving its Trek figures as many accessories as possible, regardless of play potential, so there you go. Oh yeah, there’s also a card and a stand, the same stand as Dathon's.
How much can you expect these guys to go for these days? Sellers seem to think that they’re worth more than they are so they have a tendency to set a high opening bid (even though most of those auctions go unsold). It can be a little challenging to find auctions in which a seller prices them low enough to let the market decide the value. These MOC samples were about 4-5 bucks each on eBay, which is less than the original retail price, so don't feel like you need to overpay for them.
So here we have two of the most distinctive aliens in the Original Series, immortalized in plastic with the high quality and fun character typical of the Playmates Star Trek line. I gave each of these guys a perfect 5 score, but I have to make a decision as to which figure is better. And that figure is… Mugatu! Sorry Gorn, but the Mugatu’s sculpt, stark coloration, and weird design make him just a tad bit more distinctive on the display shelf. Also, I just have a thing for ape figures. Scroll down for more pics!