These days, it’s obvious to everyone and their Gornmother that Star Trek is having a moment: Paramount has invested heavily in its flagship franchise to bring us more Trek than we have ever had in such a short period. The only thing in franchise history that really matches this phenomenon is when Trek became a pop culture cornerstone in the ‘90s, leading to spinoffs, countless conventions, and (you guessed it) more toys than you can shake a replicator at. Fortunately, you don’t need a holodeck to relive those good old days: we’ve got the definitive roundup of the absolute coolest Star Trek toys from your childhood.
Classic Star Trek Bridge Set
Playmates led the way when it came to Star Trek toys (they still do, actually), and it was genuinely difficult for us to pick just a handful of faves when almost all of the individual figures kicked so much ass (we’re choosing to forget how awful those phasers were). But for play value and cool factor both in and out of the box, you couldn’t go wrong with the Classic Star Trek Bridge Set.
Part of what made this particular Star Trek toy so cool was that when it came out, there weren’t that many toys featuring characters from The Original Series (the line was mostly dominated by The Next Generation, with okay-ish amounts of Deep Space Nine and Voyager representation). In this playset, not only do we get accurate recreations of characters like Kirk and Spock, but we also get a fun recreation of the original Enterprise bridge. In or out of the box (we recommend “in”), this makes for one hell of a display piece in your nerd cave.
That’s right, Trek fans: we’re doing a deep dive here. While most of the Star Trek toys offered by Playmates were sold in stores, they had a handful of special mail-in figures. And for young Trek fans who spent all their spare time reading various Star Trek novels, no mail-in figures were quite as cool as Captain Calhoun.
If the name of this Star Trek toy doesn’t ring a bell, he is the captain in a long-running series of spinoff novels created by Peter David. He is arguably the most popular and prominent Trek author of this time period, and his New Frontier series of novels belongs on any nostalgic geek’s bookshelf. We would have loved to get figures of all David’s crazy crew (which combined new characters with old faves like Dr. Selar and Robin Lefler), but we’ll settle for having Captain Calhoun mean-mugging us with his scarred face.
When Playmates launched that iconic first wave of Star Trek toys in the ‘90s, fans were understandably taken with the accurate representations of characters like Captain Picard and Commander Riker. For our money, though, nothing was quite as influential as the Borg figure, which brought to life a merciless drone of the Borg collective.
In addition to looking fearsomely cool, this figure had a slightly interactive feature: you could remove its arm, effectively imitating battle damage (set those phasers to “smash,” boys). Old nerds might also fondly remember the old toy line advertisement that pointed out how all these figures were individually numbered…even the Borg, who aren’t known for individuality. It was a cute bit of marketing that signaled something important to buyers: Playmates simply “got” this franchise in a way that earlier companies like Galoob never did.
Star Trek: Generations Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D
In deciding which Star Trek toys from our childhood were the coolest, it was difficult to decide between the many different ships that Playmates produced. They were large and had light and sound effects, and all it took were a couple of them to imitate the cool space battles seen on screen. But when it came to simulating actual battle, our fave ship was the Star Trek: Generations Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D.
The main thing that made this Star Trek toy different from previous versions of the Enterprise is that it featured “blow-apart battle damage” to simulate the damage the ship took from Klingons in the film. With a bit of imagination, though, you could pretend the ship was getting rocked by any number of fearsome alien foes. Or you could pretend it was damaged by the most dangerous foe the Enterprise crew would ever face onscreen: Deanna Troi’s driving.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Space Station
Around here, we absolutely love DS9, and we’re a bit sad that we didn’t get a few more Star Trek toys to celebrate this great series. Fortunately, the toys that we did get were pretty damn awesome. And perhaps none of them were more awesome than the Deep Space Nine Space Station playset that helped you bring this design classic into your home.
As a fun feature, this Star Trek toy includes a miniature Enterprise-D that you could pretend was orbiting or docking with the station. Purists will sniff that it’s not to scale (it should really be twice as big), but we love that Playmates was basically encouraging kids to whip out their Trek Micromachines starships. Just like that, this DS9 playset became the centerpiece of countless battles and killer dioramas.
USS Enterprise-D Transport
Playmates produced a number of Star Trek playsets, but they were often very hit or miss. The Enterprise-D bridge set, for example, looked really cool, but the figures looked damned goofy sitting at their stations. Fortunately, the Transporter playset was an instant hit.
Visually, this Star Trek toy was a great replica of the show’s set, and that alone made it a great display piece. But what made it next level was that, through some simple visual trickery, the Transporter set could make your figures appear as if they beamed down to an alien planet. Kids could have hours of countless fun planning away missions…or just figuring out which redshirts (yes, we know they were gold shirts on TNG, stop typing that comment) would be the first to die on the alien planet.