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REVIEW:
STAR TREK DIAMOND SELECT MEGO-STYLE ANDORIAN
By Thomas Wheeler


There is one company that totally dominated the 1970's action figure world -- MEGO! They had the rights to both DC and Marvel Super-Heroes, Planet of the Apes, Wizard of Oz, and a host of other concepts, which they expertly rendered in 8" action figure form, all complete with cloth costumes. To this day, Mego is regarded as one of the finest and most extensive action figure makers of all time.

One of their licenses recently made a return of sorts -- STAR TREK. In the 1970's, Mego turned out excellent renditions of five members of the core crew of the original Starship Enterprise -- Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Mr. Scott, and Lt. Uhura, along with an assortment of various aliens. And therein lies our tale for this review.

There was a Klingon in the first assortment of the Star Trek action figure line. The second assortment featured four additional aliens -- a Gorn, a Cheron, the Keeper, and a bizarre thing called a Neptunian which was clearly made up out of Mego's imagination.

Then there was the legendary third assortment. Two of its representatives were particularly notable -- the Romulan, and the Andorian. Both of these alien races had been established in the Star Trek universe. They weren't something made up just for the toy line.

Unfortunately, the assortment never saw widespread distribution, for reasons I've never been entirely certain of. Mego continued its Star Trek license all the way into the first movie, "Star Trek The Motion Picture". But that third assortment of Star Trek 8" action figures was so scarce, that I doubt I would have even known about it had it not been for a report on the television news program, "60 Minutes", that for whatever reason, and I don't recall what it was, showcased some quick shots of a number of Mego products. One of them was a quick shot of the Andorian and the Romulan.

This would haunt me for years. I never actually saw one in person. I finally did, years later, at a science-fiction convention, and for a time, I actually owned an original Andorian, and an original Romulan. Alas, I was forced to sell them some years back.

Fast-forward to the present say. Diamond Select, current license-holder for "collectible" Star Trek items, especially action figures, has decided to reproduce, as accurately as possible, a number of the original Mego-style Star Trek action figures, right down to mimicking the package card -- although making adjustments on the front for a somewhat different cast line-up, and on the back to showcase the various figures available, and explain the history of the sadly long-defunct Mego Corporation, and mention the fact that these figures, technically produced by a company rather interestingly named "EmCeToys" with a logo that looks very much like Mego's original logo, have the full approval of Mego's founder, one Marty Abrams.

One of the figures they have decided to make part of this new series -- is the ANDORIAN.

I've always liked the Andorians. They first appeared in the Original Series, although they didn't turn up all that often. They were even more alien than Mr. Spock, and yet they still retained a human enough face. They had blue skin, rather bushy white hair, and two antennae protruding from the top of their head, near the back. They were featured prominently in the episode "Journey to Babel", especially.

Little was known about them, culturally. They had a reputation for being a warlike race, but they were members of the Federation. It was thought for sometime, because of the bushiness of their hair covering their ears, that their antennae were in fact their hearing organs. This speculation was originally outlined in a book entitled the "Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual" - a very cool book, but these days, somewhat outdated. It has since been shown that Andorians do have standard ears, so what purpose the antennae have is not entirely known, although they clearly act as some sort of sensor. Cut off one of an Andorian's antennae, and it will grow back, but he's going to be pretty unsteady on his feet for a while.

Andorians got the short end of the stick for years, as far as any official appearances were concerned. They turned up in two of the movies, where they made rather inconsistent appearances. There was an Andorian crewman shown in the crowd in the first Star Trek movie, but he had very small antennae that were closer to the front of his head. There was another Andorian, with a receding hairline, no less, among the Starfleet delegates in the Federation Council chambers in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Interestingly enough, that one had huge antennae.

It was also widely reported that Rick Berman, who sat at the helm of Star Trek for many years, hated the Andorians. He thought they looked silly. You want a blue-skinned alien? Fine. Here's the Bolians. Blue skin, that weird split crest down their head, and no stupid antennae. No Andorians. An Andorian made all of one appearance on Star Trek The Next Generation, for about three seconds, and that was technically a holographic representation, and it didn't even look right. Andorians were occasionally mentioned on Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, but never seen.

Until Enterprise. This prequel series, which technically took place before the Original Series, was, as such, more limited in the types of aliens it could bring in. It couldn't use Cardassians. The Ferengi turned up once, but no one knew who they were and it stayed that way. Technically, this was a chance to bring the two best known alien races of Star Trek who hadn't seen the light of day for years, into modern Star Trek, even if the series itself took place in Star Trek's past. Here, modern makeup and technology could put a new face -- rather literally to some degree, on the Tellarites, and of course, the Andorians.

Fortunately (and no offense to the Tellarites), the Andorians would receive quite a bit of attention over the next few seasons, thanks in large part to the performances of one Jeffrey Combs, who had already well-established himself as a superb actor on Star Trek Deep Space Nine in the roles of the Ferengi known as Brunt, and the Vorta called Weyoun -- once even in the same episode! These were both makeup-heavy roles, as would be getting turned into an Andorian. But Combs was certainly up to the challenge, and the Andorian known as Shran was born.

Some adjustments were made to the design of your basic Andorian, all of them favorable. Their hair was less shaggy. Their antennae were closer to the front of their heads, rising up from subtle ridges on their foreheads. And -- they could move! Star Trek's amazing personnel designed tiny, articulated motors that could be radio controlled, allowing the antennae on the average Andorian's head to move around in a wide range of positions, generally expressing mood.

In the fourth season of Enterprise, by which time Rick Berman had largely abandoned the series, turning it over to writer/executive producer Manny Coto, the Andorians would be a main focal point of a superb three-parter. We would visit their homeworld, Andoria, for the first time. We would learn more about Andorian culture than we ever had before, and of course, Shran was there. Ultimately, Jeffrey Combs' Shran and Enterprise did almost as much for the Andorians as Armin Shimerman's Quark on Deep Space Nine did for the Ferengi, or Michael Dorn's Worf on Next Generation did for the Klingons -- took these aliens from being one-note players and really expanded upon them.

There was some indication that had Enterprise gone into a fifth season, Shran would've joined the crew of the Enterprise. That's how popular the character had become. I would've loved to have seen that happen. Alas, it didn't. Enterprise ended after four seasons, with a series finale, written well in advance of the end of the season by Berman himself, that featured some events that left such a bad taste in a lot of fans' throats, that a couple of long time Star Trek authors got together and wrote an Enterprise novel, "The Good That Men Do", that basically negated the entire mess. I encourage any Enterprise fans to read it.

So the Andorians finally got their due. Not bad given only a handful of appearances in the Original Series, and being almost completely and probably deliberately ignored in the subsequent three television series. And now, the original Mego Andorian, easily one of the scarcest Star Trek figures of that popular run, has returned -- or at least a reasonable facsimile of him. Shall we have a look at him?

Let me say two things about the packaging. First off -- it's designed to be opened and resealed. One does have to cut the outer edge away from the plastic casing, but once that has been done, it's very easy to open the package, remove the Andorian, and reseal the package -- or put the Andorian back and reseal the package. Either way, the package snaps shut again very effectively. If nothing else, it's a good way to keep the package card in good condition, and it is worth saving, given its likeness to the original packaging on the front, and the historical information on the back.

Secondly, there's a little -- bump -- at the top of the rectangular bubble, that rather nicely accommodates the Andorian's antennae. I don't recall Mego doing that, and really, they should have. Mego, not to malign their excellent and extensive product range, had a certain uniformity to it. The males (except somewhat obese specimens such as the Penguin) all used the same set of body molds, differing only occasionally in color used and, just as occasionally, hands. The only real variance was obviously the head that was attached to the body. It was the same with female figures.

The packaging tended to be pretty uniform, as well, at least in basic principle. Although the artwork certainly varied from concept to concept, the basic design of the carded figures really didn't vary all that much. There would be a logo and artwork, generally showcasing the figures in the line, on the left side of the card, and the figure would be attached to the card by being placed into a rectangular-shaped plastic bubble which was then glued to the card. For the most part, this worked.

Unless you had a couple of antennae on your head that added a little over a quarter of an inch to your height. It doesn't sound like much, but there wasn't a lot of extra space in those packages. The days of strapping a figure down with plastic-coated wire twist-ties had not yet commenced. And while generally speaking, the rectangular package was entirely suitable for keeping a standard 8" Mego figure from getting bounced around too much without doing any damage to him in the bargain, for the Andorian, it was a bit of a tight squeeze.

Diamond Select should be commended for this little extra "bump" at the top of their Mego-repro package bubble, that gives that little bit of extra space for the antennae.

The Andorian is molded in an extremely pale blue plastic. Honestly, it's a little too pale, but it is a good match for the blue used by Mego back in the 1970's. I suspect there's a reason it's as pale a blue as it is, and I'll get to that in just a moment.

The outfit that the Andorian is wearing -- well -- it manages to look Andorian, but it's not based on any one specific Andorian that ever appeared in the Original Series. Allow me to explain that remark.

A total of four Andorians were reasonably prominent over the course of the Original Series. The first two were Shras and Thelev. They appeared in the episode "Journey to Babel". Shras was the Andorian ambassador, and Thelev was reportedly his aide. However, Thelev turned out to be an Orion spy, given away when he attacked Captain Kirk, and one of his antennae broke off during the fight, revealing a tiny transmitter.

Shras was rather ornately outfitted, complete with, of all things, a pink feather boa. This probably would've been a little much for Mego to include with the figure, not to mention looking darn silly in with all the other action figures.

The third Andorian that appeared in the series was never named. He was an inmate in an insane asylum where Kirk and Spock found themselves captured for a time. A surprisingly cosmopolitan place, the patients included an Andorian, a Tellarite, and an Orion, among others. This Andorian also had the feather boa.

The fourth Andorian technically appeared in the Animated Series, and was named Thelin. He was dressed in a Starfleet uniform, because he was technically first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise in an alternate timeline that was created when Kirk and Spock were using the Guardian of Forever to visit Orion's past, not realizing that in so doing, they were dooming the younger version of Spock, since the older Spock had technically returned in time to save his younger self from a fatal -- oh, heck with it. I hate trying to explain time travel stories.

I've tended to think that Thelin might have had a bit of an impact on the Andorian figure. Thelin wasn't quite the right shade of blue. He was almost a greyish green. One of the producers of the Animated Star Trek series was actually, by his own admission, somewhat color blind, and given the limited color palette of animation at the time, and limited production values, well... And if you look at the Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock figures, you can see that they almost more closely match their animated counterparts than they do the live actors.

The Andorian figure's headsculpt doesn't really resemble any previous Andorian in particular. Unlike the sculpts of the Enterprise crew, it's not really trying to look like a particular actor. It probably looks mostly like Thelev. It is certainly a distinct headsculpt of its own, not derived from any previous sculpt of anyone else from any other Mego line.

Ultimately, the Andorian figure is dressed pretty much like a cross between Thelev and Shras. He doesn't have the feather boa, but he's not dressed as darkly as Thelev was. Thelev wore a dark green, almost armored vest, and dark trousers. Technically, the Andorian figure has the vest, more like a tunic, made from a leather-like material, but it's more of a tan in color, not dark green. This was actually a little closer to Shras, although the Andorian ambassador's garb was, as one might expect, far more ornate. The silver diamond pattern imprinted around the collar and down the front, however, very closely resembles the same pattern that could be seen on Thelev's uniform.

The Andorian figure's sleeves and legs -- technically it's an entire body suit over which the tunic is placed -- is made from a fairly lightweight, silvery-white fabtic with metallic threads woven into it. It's really quite impressive. What's even more impressive is that Diamond Select was able to duplicate this fabric from the original, over thirty years later. That can't have been that easy. I'd have to stand an original next to this one to be sure, but I did own an original Andorian for a time, and this sure looks like a dead-on match to me. The fabric feels like it might be a fraction lighter than the original, but not by much.

The Andorian is wearing hard plastic boots and gloves, the same tan color as the tunic. Although I don't offhand recall Andorians being in the habit of wearing gloves, they're a nice offset to the tunic. However, if you expect your Andorian to be able to hold anything, you'll have to remove the gloves. The sculpted hands, mirroring the Mego design, dolt have a separate thumb. The hands underneath the gloves should be of the Mego-repro design, and very well made.

Structurally, the body, based on my previous review of the Klingon, who was a little easier to inspect from this standpoint, is a good replica of the original Mego body. There have been a few changes. The pegs that hold certain areas like the wrists and elbows in place are somewhat larger in diameter. Actually, this probably makes the figure a bit sturdier, so I'm all in favor of it. Honestly, I have no idea if the internal assembly structure is identical. The original Mego figures were held together by two rubber-band-like pieces, almost like longated figure-8's, that attached to hooks that went from one arm, through the waist, to the opposing leg. The head just fits in the top and wasn't part of this hold-it-together assembly. It worked, certainly, but I would also like to think that maybe a somewhat more durable internal design has been worked out for these special collectible figures.

The paint work on the Andorian's face is excellent. It's been my experience with these new Star Trek figures that Diamond Select is taking great care to paint the needed details as carefully as they possibly can, distinctly more do than Mego did. But that is to be expected. This is now a collectors' line, not something you're going to find on the racks at Wal-Mart or Target.

The eyes and eyelashes (for lack of a better term) are painted the same brown color as the tunic, gloves, and boots. It's funny, but although this tends to give the Andorian a very limited color palette, it works surprisingly well. The thick black belt he wears around his waist almost looks out of place, but it's a nice accent to the costume.

The one thing that Diamond Select did that I sort of wish they hadn't, but I suppose for the sake of an accurate repro, they had to, was duplicate a mistake that Mego made. They painted the antennae the same white as the figure's hair. Now, maybe it just would've been too much of a hassle, thirty-plus years ago, to block off those antennae. But it certainly would've been possible today. I'd honestly like to know if there was even any discussion about correcting it. For myself, it's certainly something I can correct, assuming I can find a pale enough blue acyrlic, or mix one.

However, all credit where it's due to both Diamond Select, and Mego, for even being able to mold the relatively delicate antennae in the first place. They're thicker than they appeared in the Original Series, but given the different molding method used by Mego at the time, one that didn't really lend itself well to the sort of intricate detailing that is more commonplace today, it's a wonder they got away with the antennae at all.

So, what's my final word here? I'm sincerely delighted to have this figure. The Andorians have been a favorite alien of mine for decades, and it always really annoyed me that they were basically completely left out of Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager. They finally got the respect they deserved in Enterprise, and although those Andorians don't entirely look like this one, and it could be argued that the Enterprise-style Andorians have probably become the "standard" for the species just because of their greater level of exposure, this is still a very cool figure of a somewhat maligned, and much-too-ignored, race within the Star Trek universe, as that race was known to be at the time these figures were originally produced.

The Diamond Select Mego-Style STAR TREK ANDORIAN has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!