Star Trek Starship Legends: Klingon Bird of Prey by Diamond Select

Hey guys, I like me my Star Treks. You’ve probably figured that out by now. One of my great collecting regrets was selling off my fleet of Playmates’ Star Trek ships about 10 years back. They were fairly solid representations of the ships and damn if they haven’t gone up in value. Woops. Bad call on my part! Another regret I’ve had was not jumping on board with Diamond Select’s line of starships as they were originally released. Fortunately, that’s no longer a problem, because 2013 is going to see a slew of re-releases of many of the Diamond’s proud fleet of Enterpriseseses, and I’m not missing out on them this time around. But before we get to the Enterprise, we’re going to kick things off with a look at Diamond Select’s newest release, and their first crack at an alien ship: The Klingon Bird of Prey!

This now iconic ship design was first introduced in Star Trek III, it practically starred in Star Trek IV, and it subsequently appeared in every “Original Crew” movie produced since, including Generations. This particular release, however, is based on the ship’s appearance in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. What’s the difference? Christopher Plummer’s goddamn voice, that’s what.

Word is that Diamond has revamped the packaging for this year’s releases, but seeing as I don’t own any of the past releases, I have no frame of reference. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. It’s a freaking massive window box, but with a wingspan of about 19-inches, the box housing this ship has to be big! The front of the package has a kind of weird trident design cut out to show you some of the detail on the ship’s hull. The box’s deco is a blue cloudy-star motif, which doesn’t really fit Star Trek for me, and I would have much preferred the movie font over the old classic font because it just better fits the context of this ship.

There’s a decent blurb about the Bird of Prey on the back, which correctly points out that the configuration of this ship was applied to various classes from small scouts to larger warships. Oddly is proclaims that the BoP was equipped with photon torpedoes, disrupters and… phasers? It’s been a long time since my days of pouring over the stats in FASA Star Trek ship catalogs, but I’m pretty sure I never saw mention of a phaser bank equipped on a Bird of Prey, but I’m guessing that occurred sometime in the Next Gen era. Anyway, it took me a while to get all the twisty wires off the ship and free it from its tray, but I’m very happy that the ship comes in one piece and doesn’t need to be assembled. The stand does have to be fitted together, but it can easily be taken apart and the whole shebang can be returned to the box for storage.

The ship itself is gorgeous. I always used to think the Playmates version looked good enough (well, at least until I looked at it recently), but damn this thing looks phenomenal. There isn’t a square inch of this thing that doesn’t have some kind of sculpted detail. There’s pipes and vents and all kinds of windows. Hell, it’s easy to get lost in the intricate panels of the wings alone. I’ve misspent a lot of time in my youth sketching the Bird of Prey from various movie stills and FASA books and the like, so I consider myself intimately familiar with the design, and this model does it proud. Sure, close inspection reveals a few hiccups, like the hollow pieces on the back by the engines and a little bit of seaming, again on the back, but I’ve got to remind myself, this is a $60 display piece and not a studio model.

The coloring uses a mix of the base green plastic with all sorts of swirly brush strokes to convey weathering, different colored materials and panels. The red feathered coloring on the undercarriage of the wings is particularly nicely done, as is the brushed metal look of the black and silver grills of the engines. The Klingon writing and markings are all tampos rather than stickers, which goes a long way for both durability and realism. I’ve got nothing but praise for the paintwork on this piece. It looks weathered and battle hardened and awesome.

The Bird of Prey design has three basic wing configurations, and the articulated wings on Diamond’s model allows for all three. The landing mode features them raised up above the hull to allow for ground clearance; the cruising mode has them level with the ship’s hull; and finally the attack mode has them angled downward. Each wing moves independently of each other and the hinges are strong to keep them from flopping about. In fact, it takes a fair amount of effort to get them to move. I really dig the way the teeth interlock on the grills when the wings change position. That’s one delightful little detail that I never really noticed about the design.

And let’s not forget the electronics. The ship features lights, sound effects and a slew of General Chang’s hammy quotes from the movie, all accessed by a button cleverly concealed as a tower above the bridge. By holding down the button you can activate a “Display Mode” in which the powerful LED lights will remain lit. The ship has red LEDs in the rear engine and the front torpedo launcher, various yellow LEDs scattered about the ship’s windows, and a pair of green LEDs to simulate the wing-mounted disrupters. The disruptor lights are ridiculously bright!

The lights, sounds and voice clips cycle through randomly as you tap the button. Here’s the complete catalog:

  • Sound Effect: Cloaking Device Activating.
  • I can see you, Kirk. Can you see me?
  • Sound Effect: Torpedo Firing.
  • Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!
  • Sound Effect: Disrupter cannons firing.
  • I am constant as the Northern Star!
  • Warrior to warrior, you do prefer it this way, don’t you?
  • To be, or not to be.

I’m very impressed at how loud and clear the voice clips are. Sure, some may argue that Commander Kruge’s voice would have been cooler, but Chang certainly was a quotable enemy and as I mentioned in yesterday’s feature, he was one of my favorite things about “The Undiscovered Country.”

Ok, so the stand is kind of cheap looking, as it’s all cast in a smoky colored semi-translucent plastic, but overall I still like it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is easy to attach and remove the ship, which was always my biggest complaint about the Playmates ships. This stand has a simple peg that holds the ship securely and simply pops apart when you want to pick it up and handle it. Secondly, there’s no ball joint to fail making the ship droop. Finally, I actually enjoy the fact that there isn’t any flashy paint on the base. It’s a simple sculpted Klingon emblem, which is just fine. The quality of the ship speaks for itself and it doesn’t need to be upstaged by the stand. I can easily understand some collectors taking issue with the quality of the stand, but I’m fine with Diamond putting as much money into developing the ship as possible. The stand is perfectly functional and that’s all that I need.

Needless to say, I’m suitably impressed with my first Starship Legends acquisition. I had very high expectations and the Bird of Prey certainly lived up to all of them. While I will concede that the Bird of Prey has been way overused in Star Trek over the years, I still love and admire the design. I can remember being in awe of it when it first appeared in Star Trek III, and one of my favorite Trek photos has always been a double-page spread (in Starlog maybe?) of the soon to be doomed Enterprise facing off bow to bow against Kruge’s Bird of Prey. Diamond’s release captures all the greatness of this iconic design. It’s both ugly and graceful at the same time and wonderfully constructed. I knew when I bought it that it would probably be stored in the box, but now that I have it, I’m going to have to make room to put it out. It’s just too glorious and epic not to be on display… at least until next week, when my Enterprise-D arrives.

Star Trek Classic Series: General Chang by Playmates

Since tomorrow we’ll be looking at Diamond Select’s take on Chang’s ship, I thought it would only be fitting to end this Trek Trifecta by spending some time on the General himself. Now, I have a real love-hate relationship with Star Trek VI. I won’t bother to point out it was better than Star Trek V because, well what isn’t? But, what I loved most about “The Undiscovered Country” was the Klingons. Not to knock Christopher Lloyd and his fun performance as Commander Kruge in “Search for Spock,” but Star Trek VI was released in an entirely different context. Sure it took place before The Next Generation, but for the first time Original Trek was able to take advantage of the rich characterization that Next Gen wove around the Klingon people and it really showed in this movie, not to mention the great casting. Christopher Plummer as Chang was awesome! David Warner as Gorkon… awesome!! Even William Morgan Sheppard as the Warden of Rura Penthe… awesome!!! The rest of the movie has some real cringe worthy stuff, like the whole Scooby Doo style mystery or any scene with Kim Cattrall. But seeing a great actor like Plummer don Klingon makeup for a Star Trek film really blew me away. And since neither Gorkon nor any of the other “Undiscovered Country” Klingons got figures, we’ll be content to look at Chang.

Chang was issued on Playmates’ “Classic Star Trek Movie Series” card. It’s an attractive card, but the inclusion of the Original Series Enterprise and font is pretty confusing and doesn’t really capture what this line is all about. I can’t recall the movie Enterprise appearing on any of Playmates’ artwork, which is rather a pity because it’s my favorite incarnation of the ship. Anyway, the Classic Movie Series was a scattershot sub-line that seemed to meander around and only offer collectors’ a frustrating cross section of figures from the various films. Case in point: Besides Chang, the only other figure released from “Undiscovered Country” was the shapeshifter Marta. I still find it amazing and insane that we got the entire bridge crew in their Original Motion Picture uniforms, but we never got a full set of the bridge crew in the uniforms they wore throughout the next five movies! Oh, Playmates!

And there is General Chang in all his Playmates glory. He isn’t exactly your typical looking Klingon as he’s bald and has pretty subdued ridges on his head. In fact, he’s easily the most human looking Klingon that we’ve seen since The Original Series. Still, you have to respect the eye patch… that thing is bolted right onto his face and that’s hardcore. The likeness is pretty good for a Playmates 4.5” figure, and the paintwork on the head is solid work.

Star Trek III taught us that Klingons in The Next Gen era wear the same battle armor as Klingons from the Classic Movie time, and yet “Undiscovered Country” went with a costume redesign. The new look is somewhat similar to the more familiar armor, but instead of being metallic, it’s more like quilted leather. Either way, Chang’s outfit is faithfully recreated on the figure right down to his ornately sculpted baldric and horned boots. I should also note that I’m extremely pleased with the proportions on this figure. Playmates didn’t go all wonky and give him a huge head or giant arms. He doesn’t look stylized at all, and there are no pre-posed shenanigans going on either as he features a pretty neutral stance.

Chang features fairly good articulation for the line. The arms rotate at the shoulders, swivel at the biceps and have hinged elbows. The legs have hip movement, which is unfortunately rendered inert by his sculpted tunic, and hinged knees. There’s no waist swivel, but Chang can turn his head.

No Klingon general is complete without accessories, and Playmates packed in a real mixed bag all molded in gold plastic. Hey, gold is better than neon purple, so I’ll take what I can get. Chang has his trusty disrupter pistol, which he can hold ok in his left hand. It’s actually the same mold that we got with Commander Kruge only without the cool add-on stock. Chang also has a communicator and a drinking glass, which no doubt contains Romulan Ale. The most puzzling piece in the assortment is Chancellor Gorkon’s walking stick. Maybe it’s a mantle of office for the Chancellor, but I never saw Chang with it after Gorkon died. It’s only purpose seems to be to mock me, as it will be the closest I ever get to a 4.5” David Warner figure (seriously, Playmates, I would have even settled for a St. John Talbot with a tiny cigarette). Lastly, you also get the very cool figure stand that comes with all the Movie Series figures.

I tend to think the “Classic Movie Series” features some of Playmates’ best efforts in their Trek line and General Chang keeps that tradition rolling along. The likeness is good and the paintwork is solid. In the end, he makes me long for more figures based on the Klingons from this movie and possibly even an assassin in Starfleet Spacesuit. When you think of some of the questionable one-shot figures that made it into the Next Gen figure line, it’s a crying shame that they didn’t treat the Classic Movies to a wider range of releases. But enough lamenting about what could have been, tomorrow we’ll end this marathon of Trek madness and take a look at General Chang’s Bird of Prey.

Extra Bonus: FigureFan Reads His Review Drunk. Wherein I drink, test a new microphone, scold my cat for trying to cough up a hairball, and offer some barely coherent commentary on Star Trek and my own review. This was never meant to see the light of day, but how often do I get a chance to add rare uncovered archival content? Enjoy!