Expanding the Playmates Star Trek Universe Through Customization

Playmates churned out a couple hundred or so Star Trek figures back in the day. And yet... it's just not enough. I've been contemplating creating new figures by mixing and matching parts of existing figures (you might think that's cheesy but Playmates did it often enough so that makes it a-okay in my book). I just haven't had the impetus to give it a try. But I got an email recently from Redshirt #7 (aka Redshirt Dan) who sent along a pic of his "Generations Data with Mr. Tricorder" custom. I asked how he did it, and his response was so interesting and detailed that I thought, "Man, this would make a great blog post." So here it is! I also asked him to send shots of his customs and some random body parts so we can see what they look like on the inside. Take it away, Dan!

But wait, before we begin, I guess we'll need this:
Try the following at your own risk. Neither Dork Dimension nor Redshirt Dan are responsible for you messing up your figures, burning yourself all to crap with boiling water, slicing yourself open with an X-Atco knife, or any other catastrophe that might result from your customization attempts.
Okeydokey, let's go!

Dan Explains The Process

To be honest, I was really reluctant to try originally, particularly because I was worried I'd destroy a figure, but then I looked on eBay, and suddenly realized "Why am I worrying? I can get about five in used condition for a few pounds". I'm a big, big, DS9 fan, and with no Vic Fontaine, no Kai Winn, no Damar, no Wayoun, and no crew in the grey uniforms, along with other things such as Riker's ripped uniform and a complete TOS crew in TWOK uniforms, I thought, what the hell! It's worth a try.

Here's how I do it. Before I start, I get my figure, a cup (I have a pint mug that my girlfriend broke the handle off, hence it's become my "boiling pot") an old towel, some gloves to protect my hands, and some cold water readily available. I put some water in my kettle, set it to boil, and wait. Once done, I pour the water into the mug.

Now, I've found that, no matter the figure, it's best to submerge just the head and part of the neck (i.e. on the Data I showed you, around the grey coloring). The reason is that some figures, ones that have been subjected to direct UV light, decolor rapidly. Obviously buying off eBay means you can never know what the figures been subjected to, hence the precaution. I don't know how much longer that means I have to pull at a head, but in my mind, it's better than a complete repaint!

Here's where the gloves come in. I put them on (just some old worn out winter gloves) and hold the figure, head submerged, for 2-4 minutes. Now this is going to sound brutal, but some heads are easier to pop than others. Romulan Picard took four minutes, Soran took two. My recommendation would be to get some cheap figures, the Generations line is a great example in the UK, and have a few practice runs. The Generations figures, due to the articulation, are much easier to pop, hence maybe providing good ground work to build skills upon (at least, that's what I did). The gloves are to protect your hands from the heat for however much time is needed.

Now, once that's done, shake the figure dry and drop him/her into the towel, due to the heat. Quickly, wrap the towel around the body and pull where the head is. Hopefully, it should pop straight out, T joint intact. Watch for water in the body! I've burnt my hands and feet due to water getting into the body and leaking out.

Now, what I'd recommend next is to get the donor body and as quickly as possible screw the head in. If all goes as planned, the head should screw on fine, quickly wash it with cold water to de warp the plastic, and your figure is, hopefully, done!

But some head joints are bigger than others, so it may require you, as a last resort, to trim the T joint base. Words cannot describe how crazy dangerous this is, both for you and the figure. I used to be pretty strong, but due to a recent illness my strength is greatly diminished. As such, I have the strength to remove the head, but not screw it back on. What I have to do, unfortunately, is to get some lab glasses, a craft knife and a very steady hand. I then cut the T joint base, while still warped and malleable, to a roughly triangle shape. This means I can get it in and keep the articulation, but that's just me.

A couple of other things. The first thing is that, if the arms come out, don't worry! The heat will sometimes loosen the arms, and while removing the head you may inadvertently remove the arm/s. Just quickly grab it and screw it back in. This can sometimes be helpful, as the arm joints for all humanoid figures are the same, so far at least, including the spare Borg arms that came with the wave 1 and 2 versions, meaning you can make some interesting assimilated Starfleet, Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, Ferengi and who knows how many other alien figures!

The other is that while most heads have a male T Joint, some don't. Thus far the heads I've found that have an inverse joint are:
  • Wave 1 Worf and all derivatives of him (Klingon armor, shiny Klingon armor, Season 1 etc)
  • Starfleet Rescue Worf and all derivatives (19th Century Generations Worf)
  • Generations Worf and all derivatives (DS9, grey movie uniform)
  • Wave 1 Troi and all derivatives (Red Troi)
  • Blue Sciences Uniform Troi
  • Fistful of Datas Troi
  • Gowron and all derivatives
  • Kurn
  • Seska as a semi restored Cardassian

I believe Dr. Crusher is as well, and one small note. Generations Worf's head is NOT compatible with the Wave 1 Worf, due to the length of the neck. But the Starfleet Rescue Worf is, so you can make a Season 6/7 Worf.

Dan Shows Off His Customs

I just want to say that some, more like a lot, are inaccurate. I mean, I try to make them accurate, but due to my materials and my skills some suffer from "inherited parts syndrome" (i.e. my Season 1 O'Brien uses the Season 1 Picard body, and because most of my "leg popping" skills he retains the wrong legs) and the fact that I, much like Weyoun, have weak eyes, but good ears.

Anyway, I tried to include as many head swaps as possible, to give you an idea of what you can do, though a few painted ones are included (necks, hands, hair, that sort of thing).

Sons of Mogh, Commander Kurn and Worf (Kurn's made from a wave one Gowron and a DS9 Kurn, plus some gold and black paint to tidy up/alternate the uniform). It also shows one of my other big customizing hobbies, painting the multi-colored Trek accessories accurate to screen-used props.

Season 2 O'Brien (Made from a Season 2 Geordi, the arms off the TNG O'Brien, and a tiny bit of flesh paint for the neck).

Benny Russell, I'm currently working on his glasses and his tie pin. (Made from a Dixon Hill figure and a Trials and Tribble-ations Sisko with some blue/yellow and brown paint.)

Commander Shelby (made from a Vash, a Ro, and some yellow paint).

All my TWOK crew so far, missing the official Chekov. Captain's Spock and Sulu are head swaps (Made from two Generations Kirk bodies and a classic Sulu and a classic Spock. Sulu would be better with the motion picture head, but alas I didn't have one at the time.)

Season 6/7 Worf (made from the Starfleet Rescue Worf head and a standard Worf body). Talking of Starfleet Rescue...

Starfleet Rescue Picard (made from a standard Picard head, some black paint, and a Soran body).

Captain Rudy Ransom from Voyager's "Equinox" two parter (made from a Paris body, a Soran head, and some brown and gold paint).

Time's Arrow Picard, or Mr Pickerd. While he's a head swap and a repaint, I remember you mentioning in your tributes you like figures in historical attire (made from a city on the edge of forever Spock, a Dixon Hill head, paint, and a spare Data head). I believe the jacket needs panting, I'll have to check it out.

The rest of them, some better than others, can be found on my Flickr:

Body parts? My friends have call me "the action figure killer" because of all my "on going projects" in my kitchen. So of course I've got stuff to be photographed!

A Soong head, a Sela head, a Romulan Data head, a wave one spare Borg right arm and actual wave one Borg arm, and a TNG operations body, sans arms and head. (Ahhhh! If only I had a Riker body missing an arm, it'd be Schisms all over again!)


Thanks again, Dan! Your figures all look awesome! And be sure to check out his Flickr feed, there's plenty to love there.

DISCLAIMER: All items reviewed on Dork Dimension were purchased by the reviewer unless otherwise noted. The opinions expressed on Dork Dimension are solely those of the author and are presented for entertainment purposes only.