REVIEW: STAR TREK EMCE TOYS MEGO-STYLE GORN
The Gorn is one of those characters that just seems to take on a popularity all its own. Introduced one-time-only in the Classic Star Trek episode, "The Arena", this massive reptilian humanoid -- who looked pretty rubber-suit-ish even in the 1960's -- represented one of the wildest alien races ever crafted in the Original Series.
The Gorn had laid claim to a planet called Cestus III, which also happened to have a Federation colony on it -- which the Gorn summarily wiped out. This so enraged Captain Kirk that he pursued the Gorn ship halfway across the quadrant, until both ships came into a region overseen by the mysterious Metrons. They didn't much care for trespassers, so they took Kirk and the Gorn captain and deposited them on a barren planet with orders to fight it out to the death.
Kirk gained the upper hand only by managing to assemble a cannon that looked less like something from Star Trek and more like a prop from another popular TV series in the 1960's -- Gilligan's Island. Nevertheless, the silly thing worked, and brought down the Gorn. When Kirk spared the Gorn from a killing blow with a primitive knife, the Metrons were suitably impressed. They allowed both the Enterprise and the Gorn ship to go their separate ways, and that was apparently the end of it. The Gorn were not encountered again in the Classic Series.
There was a large lizard-like being in one episode of the Animated Series, in an episode called "The Jihad", but it's generally thought that this was not a Gorn. He didn't look enough like one. And who's to say that there's just one saurian/humanoid species in the galaxy?
The Gorn never appeared in Next Generation. The planet that they had claimed, Cestus III, was mentioned in Deep Space Nine. Kasidy Yates, soon-to-be-girlfriend of Commander Benjamin Sisko, had a brother living at a colony on Cestus III. The colony had picked up the long-ignored game of baseball, a personal favorite of Sisko's, and had established several teams. No mention was made of the Gorn. One had to assume that the Gorn had either abandoned the planet sometime during the interval, reached some sort of agreement with the Federation to share the planet, or some of them had learned how to throw a mean fastball.
Not surprisingly, the Gorn never turned up in Voyager. One of them did, however, appear in the fourth season of Enterprise. That season seemed determined to pull out all the stops and bring in as many fan favorites as possible, since it was clear that it was going to be the last season of any sort of Star Trek television. One episode took place in the Mirror Universe, which had captured a 23rd century Federation starship that had slipped through both space and time. The ship had been captured by the Mirror Universe's equivalent of the Tholians, until Captain Archer came along and stole it for his own purposes.
There was a slave crew on board, however, and one of them was a Gorn, who made things unpleasant for Archer's crew for a while. Even the vicious humans of the Mirror Universe were reluctant to go up against a Gorn, and when he finally put in an appearance, this was no slow-moving, rubber-suited, overgrown stuntman. It was a full CGI Gorn, still looking very much like the classic Gorn, but more plausible, and deadly fast. Sadly, he didn't last too long, as the Mirror Universe Archer activated a gravity plate that even the Gorn couldn't overcome, and that was the end of the Gorn. But it was still cool to see a Gorn again.
The Gorn were not even often seen in the various Star Trek comic books over the years, which is a little surprising, since the comic books had the advantage of not having to worry about expensive costuming budgets. However, in the late 1990's, DC Comics, under their WildStorm imprint, did produce "Star Trek The Next Generation: The Gorn Crisis", a hardcover graphic novel that, among other things, sought to answer the question of where the Enterprise, by this time the Enterprise-E, was during the Dominion War featured on Deep Space Nine, without having to answer it with, "Hey, you wanna pay Patrick Stewart's and Brent Spiner's salaries after they've got a couple of movies under their belts?"
"The Gorn Crisis" featured the Gorn, the Klingons, and the Enterprise caught in the middle of it. We were shown the Gorn culture just about as effectively as we were introduced to the Klingon culture and Ferengi culture in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. It was really an impressive book, and the ending was amicable.
Somehow, the Gorn have never entirely left the Star Trek limelight. I saw an advertisement for a T-shirt recently, that had a cartoonish image of a Gorn on it with the caption, "When All Else Fails -- BRING ON THE GORN!" There's just something about these big lizard warriors that could probably kick the collective keisters of most of the galaxy if they wanted to -- Klingons included -- that continues to have a distinct appeal in the Star Trek fan universe.
When Playmates Toys had the Star Trek license in the 1990's, and were turning out figures from every Star Trek that existed at the time, there was a great deal of excitement when they produced a Gorn in the 5" scale -- and it is a very cool figure. They also turned out a Gorn in their 12" scale, which created a lot of excitement and was an extremely impressive figure.
But these were not the first Gorn action figures. And unfortunately, the first Gorn action figure was -- pretty much a disgrace. In the 1970's, the Mego toy company had the license to produce Star Trek action figures -- as well as just about everything else that could be licensed at the time. For the most part, they did a superb job. Their figures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, were all capable likenesses. They went a little out field with some of the aliens. The Klingon, despite bearing an excellent likeness to William Campbell, who had played the Klingon Koloth, was wearing a costume more akin to the animated series. The Mugato looked like a reject from a Planet of the Apes.
But at least the Mugato had an original costume and head. Mego's Gorn didn't even get that level of dignity. When Mego decided to make a Gorn, they took the same head that they had used for their figure of The Lizard, Spider-Man's enemy from Marvel Comics, molded it in brown, which wasn't correct since the Gorn had been an olive green, and dressed it in a Klingon uniform which really wasn't correct. Just to top it off, the figure had the furry hands used for Mego's Planet of the Apes figures!
A little while back a company calling itself EmCe Toys started making really fantastic reproductions of the original Mego Star Trek figures. These had the full approval and blessing of Mego's founder, Marty Abrams. Distributed through Diamond Select Toys, these figures were not of the sort that turn up at Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart. Intended as collectibles, they tended to appear at places that carry "specialty" toys, like DC Direct or what have you, such as Suncoast Video, as well as a number of online merchandisers.
But there was only so far EmCe could take the Star Trek line without expanding on what Mego had done. Mego had done five of the core crew -- Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura -- and several series of Aliens, which had become increasingly scarce with each assortment. Small wonder that EmCe made a priority out of the Andorian and the Romulan, two of Mego's best and scarcest.
Then I heard that they were going to do The Gorn. He would be in the same assortment as the all-new Lt. Sulu figure, someone whom, along with Ensign Chekov, who was also in the works, was never made by Mego. My initial thought? "Please, don't let them retain the same level of authenticity for the Gorn that they have for the others..."
Honestly, I didn't think EmCe would. If they were willing to craft entirely new heads for characters such as Sulu and Chekov, staying within the Mego-style of the figures, then maybe they'd get the Gorn right this time. There was the additional factor that the original Mego Gorn, which I have to say in all fairness was probably the worst thing Mego ever turned out of any of their action figure lines as far as any sort of authenticity was concerned, used a head that started out as another character that EmCe didn't have the rights to. I was surprised that Marvel hadn't pitched a fit in the 70's when Mego used the Lizard head for the Gorn. I would certainly expect them to do so this time around if EmCe had tried it.
Fortunately, thankfully -- EmCe didn't. They got it right. What we have here in the new EmCe Toys' Star Trek Gorn -- is a distinctly Mego-style Gorn that is what Mego should've turned out roughly 35 years ago.
I mean, I know the old saying, "Good things come to those who wait"!
So, what have we got with EmCe Toys' new Star Trek Mego-style Gorn? Well, before I get into the figure, I want to discuss the packaging. I know that's not something I do very often with my toy reviews, but in this case, it's worth mentioning.
EmCe Toys has taken the classic card design for Mego's Star Trek figures, and utilized it to great effect. The logo is the same, the planet and Enterprise on the card art are the same, and even the little circular illustrations of the characters available are the same -- except when you start to realize that some of these are characters that Mego never made. There's the painting for Sulu, for Chekov, for the new Gorn -- and they blend in perfectly well with the classic paintings of Scotty, Uhura, and others. So, how'd this happen? Simple, really. According to reports, EmCe found the original artist, and commissioned him to do some new paintings! Now -- THAT'S what I call attention to detail!
The back of the card shows the figures presently (or soon) available, and discusses briefly the history of Star Trek with Mego, including a photo of Mego founder Marty Abrams.
So -- how's the Gorn? Absolutely incredible. An entirely new head has been sculpted, and my sincere appreciation to whomever sculpted it, because this time around -- this is a GORN! Green skin, the flared ridges on the top of the head and over the eyes, the creepy silver eyes, the fanged mouth, everything is perfect.
The body is molded in green, and what's ironic and funny is that the green is pretty much the same color green that Mego used on the Marvel Comics' Lizard figure. I'm pretty much willing to chalk that up to coincidence -- unless I find out otherwise.
"But wait!" some of you might say, looking at the pictures included with this review. "The Gorn was not that color green in the TV episode. He should be a more olive-colored green!" Well, technically, that's true. But let's keep something in mind here. What EmCe Toys is trying to do with these figures is not create figures that are absolutely accurate to their TV likenesses. If that were the case, they would've trimmed down Spock's jackrabbit-ish ears several assortments back.
What EmCe Toys is trying to do with these figures is re-create the days of Mego, to bring back those likenesses. In the case of the Gorn, I am convinced that what EmCe has done here is to create a Gorn that looks like what the Gorn would've looked like 35 years ago if Mego had bothered to get the Gorn right in the first place. I have little doubt that if Mego HAD gotten the Gorn right, they would've used this fairly straightforward color of green for the big guy.
And the green is certainly more accurate than the original brown. And the structure of the head is so right on the money that I wonder if someone gave the original costume head to the sculptor (assuming it still exists) for reference. It's really amazing.
About the only other lacking detail is scales on the body, but again, this is doubtless an acknowledgment of the intended style of this entire figure line. I can readily live with it. There's a standard body mold that has been pretty much used here, just molded in green instead of flesh tone (or blue, as was the case for the Andorian). At least, the hands don't look furry.
There is one new part, or rather two -- the lower legs. Neither the Star Trek "boot feet" nor the standard human-looking lower legs that are used on some other figures would have been suitable for the Gorn, whose lower legs were as reptilian as the rest of him. Seemingly almost armored knee-caps, ridged skin, and reptilian toes were incorporated into the original costume for the television episode, and they have been duplicated here, and once again, in keeping with the intended style of the entire figure line, to duplicate the look of the original Megos.
How about wardrobe? Here the Gorn really shines -- almost literally. It's interesting to note that the prototype of the Gorn shown on the back shows the figure wearing what looks to be a leather-like tunic. The Gorn on the TV episode had something more akin to a metallic tunic, with large smooth areas interwoven into the design.
I'm not saying I know HOW EmCe Toys managed to duplicate the effect AND stay within the style of the figure line, but brother, did they ever do a good job. The Gorn is dressed in a tunic made out of some sort of woven fabric that has been overcoated with a metallic copper finish that has the details in it of the large smooth areas and the more woven look intermixed with it. It's really an amazing piece of work. There is a black belt across the midsection, attached to the tunic. The tunic is exceptionally well made, and snaps at the top of the back of the collar.
Then there are the gauntlets. The Gorn in the TV episode wore these gauntlets that left most of his scaly hands exposed. The EmCe Toys' Gorn has these two lengths of red leather-like fabric over his lower arms. Honestly, if the EmCe Gorn comes up a little short in one respect, it is these. They look very Mego-ish, but the red is a little too bright. These would've been better off in a darker red or even brown. They seem to be as such on the prototype. But the rest of the figure is so impressive that I find it hard to gripe much.
The painted detail on the head is amazing. The eyes are a very bright silver. The individual fangs in the mouth are painted, with black behind them to simulate the deep mouth. The ridges over the eyes and over the top of the head have been painted a lighter green than the rest of the head, and really serve to bring out the detail.
Articulation is excellent. The Gorn is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, and knees -- just like a Mego figure. I might have wished for ankle articulation, but it might have been difficult with these bulky lower legs, and again, I can't really bring myself to gripe, since they look so cool.
The one thing I don't know is how these figures are assembled. The original Mego figures were held together with two thick rubber bands with loops at either end that attached to hooks in the arms and legs. These held the figure together. It wasn't a bad system for the time, really. However, I would tend to think that something a little more advanced is in place here -- but I really don't know.
One mystery here that may be a factor is the weight of the figure. I still have one original Mego figure -- a Superman figure. He weighs about two ounces. The Gorn weighs about three-and-a-half. Neither of those figures sounds like much weight. But the Gorn is still almost twice the weight of Superman. One might expect better materials have been used, denser molding perhaps -- but I can't escape the notion that there's something about how these figures are assembled. Anyway, I certainly don't intend to disassemble one, so it will have to remain a mystery.
So, what's my final word here? I'm astoundingly impressed. This is a Gorn that I can picture walking up to the Captain Kirk figure and saying, "Surrender, Captain. I promise to be quick and merciful", in that low, growling, hissing voice we heard in the original episode. About all I could envision the original Mego Gorn saying was, "I've got somebody else's head, a Klingon uniform, and monkey hands. I lose."
I've said it plenty of times in this review. This Gorn is what we should've had from Mego 35 years ago. But we didn't. However, thanks to EmCe Toys, we have him now. And I am very pleased to have him in my collection. The EMCE TOYS STAR TREK MEGO-STYLE GORN definitely has my highest enthusiastic recommendation!