Long ago and far away, a company named Art Asylum produced completely under-whelming and over-priced bridge playsets for Star Trek: Enterprise. Unsurprisingly, they failed (despite great acclaim from a few ST/ST:E fans).
When it came time for AA to turn their attentions to the Original Series (hereafter referred to as TOS), they figured that, regardless of the performance of the ST:E bridge sets, consumers/retailers would be eager to get on board for, at the very least, a set containing the TOS captain's chair and an exclusive figure. You see, one of the killing factors on the ST:E line was that each set included a completely identical figure to ones that had already been released. By including an exclusive figure, this time, AA hoped to ensure sales.
They chose what is commonly referred to as "Yellow-Shirt" Kirk, or "Duty Uniform" Kirk as I like to call him. Right from the get-go this boggled the mind.
For a property almost 40 years old, you would think you would want to make product that is as accessible to the general, a.k.a. non-collecting, public as possible. This would clearly indicate including the "Duty Uniform" Kirk in the carded line, as opposed to the "Green Shirt," or "Casual Attire," Kirk that we got. However, AA deemed that he would appropriately belong in the deluxe set, clearly an attempt to further push sales on that set (some might even argue they perhaps were more eager to sell that than the regular carded assortment). Unsurprisingly though, every major retailer passed on the set, making it financially unfeasible to produce. So, what becomes of yellow-shirt Kirk?
By the time the decision was made to scrap the deluxe set, the first series - including "Casual" Kirk - were in production, so there was no feasible way to swap figures here. A problem clearly avoidable, except for the fact that "Casual" Kirk simply should not have precluded the "Duty Uniform" Kirk in the first wave; I can't stress this enough. John Q. Public would far more be interested in buying the "classic," "recognizable" outfit for Kirk, which means the "Duty Uniform." At any rate though, putting him in the first wave was out of the question.
Now, here one would simply assume that he could be easily slid into series 2, but no. The pre-requisite Kirk for series 2 will be him from the bizarro-universe episode "Mirror, Mirror."
But this figure would be utterly pointless and totally un-involving without the infamously goateed Mr. Spock from the same episode. Thus, we have a built-in set, a broken up two-pack, as it were, in the assortment. The sales of either figure would also depend totally on the availability of the other. Thus, AA simply couldn't just swap out the Kirks. Plus, series 2 was probably getting close to production itself at that point, so any line-up changes could have caused in the delay of the line.
Here is where they should have gotten creative, grown some balls, and solved the problem: swap the Kirks and replace "Mirror, Mirror" Kirk with fan favorite malicious alien, the Gorn. If they were able to get this Kirk figure out for the conventions this year, they clearly had him sculpted and ready to go. Thusly, the only hiccup in this plan would be the delay caused by having to sculpt and approve the Gorn. Gorn, though, was originally planned to be part of Series 1 and was ultimately dropped, due to what we can only assume is cost, and AA had already done all the necessary design work for him. Personally, I wouldn't be too surprised if he was even sculpted.
Now, the delay in the line cold easily been explained away by the addition of two highly anticipated figures. Plus, the pushed aside "Mirror, Mirror" figures could become a very cool exclusive or, better yet, the beginning of a series of 2-packs. But, for whatever reasons, none of this came to pass and series 2 remained as is.
AA still wanted to get "Duty Uniform" Kirk out there for us collectors and whipped him up as a convention exclusive, limited to 5,000 pieces. As the plan stands now, if there is a third assortment of TOS figures, "Duty Uniform" Kirk and the Gorn are guaranteed to be in it. However, since of their 6 or 7 action figure lines, only one has ever got a second series, the chances of a third TOS series seems a very off chance. Oh well. At the very least, we should be getting a complete set of the 7 TOS bridge crewmembers in duty uniforms (something neither ST:E or the Nemesis crew can boast), assuming the TOS second series actually comes out.
"Yellow Shirt Kirk" comes with a phaser, a communicator, a tricorder, a phaser-rifle, and an interchangeable right hand. As established on some of their previous product, the intricacy and level of detail on the accessories and second to none, though the standard phaser does seem a little small in scale to me.
On the other hand, a nice touch is the soft removable PVC strip being used for the strap on the tricorder. It really increases the all around coolness of that particular accessory and makes it much more playable. I'm tempted to ask for a tricorder that can close up, but this one is, for all intents and purposes, perfect as is.
The phaser-rifle is an exclusive to this figure, meaning that if Series 3 does happen, it won't be available there, only with this here exclusive. It's a good enough sculpt, but ultimately just as goofy and dated as a lot of the stuff on TOS, unfortunately. The interchangeable hand is almost identical to the one on the figure, but has a larger grip allowing him to hold the phaser rifle. All in all, the accessories are very nice and a pleasant return to early days of AA and the first series of ST:E figures.
As for articulation, we get a whopping 21 points: ankles, top of the boots, knees, lower-thighs, T-crotch, waist, chest (ball-jointed), neck (ball-jointed), shoulders (ball-jointed), biceps, elbows, and wrists. Everything works well and is appreciated. However, the thigh articulation really doesn't do much, in either poseability or playability. Without ball-jointed legs, thigh articulation just really isn't necessary, but I'm not complaining. The ball-jointed chest though... This is some allegedly new-fangled thing AA put together for this series. The torso section of the shirt is cast in soft PVC that hides the articulation, cut at the bottom of the rib cage. A good idea, but no matter how smart or innovative it is, the chest articulation just doesn't work. It's like the hidden articulation on the first wave of ST:E figures, a good idea in theory, but not in practice.
This chest joint just does not have a very wide range of mobility and is pretty tight, taking two well-griped hands to operate it. All in all, though, none of this ruins the figure, only adds to it, but I ultimately can't help but wonder what extra accessories or how much money I could have saved had these "useless" articulation points not been used.
There are no problems with the paint job. There's a nice orange-ish wash over the shirt that brings out the detail. The pants were left alone, avoiding the many problems with the Nemesis figures and their black costumes, and the boots a very nice glossy black. The flesh also appears to be a good two-level paint system, with pale on bottom and tan on top giving a very nice two-tone look to the figure. All the paint is in the lines and there are no splatters or mistakes. Nothing much else to say.
The sculpt is pretty darn good, very wrinkly and detailed. I'm not too crazy about the arms though, as they weren't posed in the best position for the sculpt and seem somewhat ill-proportionate. Also, I would have liked to see the star-emblem on the chest be slightly raised, like the gold around the cuffs, but I imagine there might have been some difficulty getting it to look good with the soft PVC. Oh, and did you want these figures in scale with the other AA trek figures?
In true Art Asylum fashion, TOS has its own scale, independent of those in the ST:E, Nemesis or Borg lines. I guess technically, it's okay because each line (except Nemesis and Borg) take place at different times so these characters wouldn't necessarily interact with each other, but nevertheless, a singular scale would give all the product a unity that would do nothing but help the product sell.
I mean come on, we all saw Generations (unfortunately) and you know that Picard is not half a foot taller than Kirk! No way, no how. All these figures are scaled by computer nowadays anyway, what with two-ups and all, so how damned hard is it to really just give the manufacturer the same requirements for each line? It's not like it's impossible; everyone else can do it! But whatever, it's too late to complain now.
Another problem with the figure is that there are no peg holes. Yeah, you read me, still no peg holes. At least this figure can stand on its own, so it's not really a huge problem, but in today's action figure market it really should just be common courtesy to include peg holes. But as bad as the scale and peg hole issues are, these aren't the biggest problems with the figure: we haven't even discussed the likeness...
The Kirk likeness is by far the worst of the TOS figures. Apparently the likenesses were sculpted by the guy who did those lame Applause rotocast 9" figures in the early '90s and it definitely shows here. Kirk looks like some bastard child of the guy who played the Lion in "The Wizard of Oz" and Stephen Dorf. This lameness is especially highlighted by the great Deforest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy likenesses. Ultimately, the only hindrance to this figure is his face, and I'm sure it will turn off many of the casual buyers out there in the world. But it's not like we have a choice in the matter, as it appears all three Kirk figures have the same head.
If Series 3 does happen, I beg, beg, beg AA to resculpt Kirk's head. Give those of us with this exclusive a reason to buy the new one. Either way, the rest of the figure is nevertheless still pretty darn good, at least compared to the Playmates version!
Does anyone know for sure that the facial sculpt is supposed to be Shatner? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.