Much like the Tatooine Skiff, I featured yesterday, this Engineering Playset by Playmates has been on my want list for a long, long while. I've scouted it on Ebay a bunch of times, but a lot of the time, it's loose and the stickers look like they were put on by a maniac, so I've been holding off for the right time. That time happened to be at the Toy Show last week, when I found one that was complete in the box. Granted, The Next Generation Bridge Playset is my true grail from this line, but I thought I’d start small and work up to it. Let’s take a look…
I could have sworn this playset was first released in standard Next Gen packaging, but I haven't been able to back up that recollection. Either way, this one comes in a Generations style box. There's some decent artwork and lots and lots of photos and text about all the features on this little set. In truth, there aren’t really that many features, but the box does its best to call out every little thing, and you get a pretty good idea about what’s inside. I really wish I had taken some shots of the set straight out of the box, but I was so excited to get it together, I didn’t take the time. Needless to say, the set comes with some assembly required, but chances are it will take longer for most people to put the stickers on then it will to throw up the walls and get this baby together. You’ll also need a set of three AA batteries to get the full lights and sounds experience. Thankfully, the entire thing can be disassembled and returned to the box for storage, which is always a plus in my book. I should note here that there are some stray paint marks here and there on the plastic, making me question Playmates' QC on this piece, but it's nothing too bad.
Playmates had to tinker around with the scale a little bit, so what we’re actually getting here is an interpretation of Engineering, but what’s here is very well done. The biggest issue collectors are likely to have is the small size of the Crystal Chamber, but the way it’s tucked inside the separate room it sort of creates the illusion that it’s further away. It doesn’t look all that out of scale until you put a figure right next to it, and that isn’t much of a problem as there isn’t much room for figures in the area where the Warp Core is located.
No, the bulk of the play environment is the area outside of the Crystal Chamber. You get a couple of work stations that will be readily familiar to fans of the show. It’s the area where LaForge and Data usually discover and trigger the Deus Ex Machina that allows the episode to resolve itself in the last five minutes before the credis roll. The control panels are all stickers, which perfectly replicate the LCARS displays from the show and there’s a stool so Geordi can take a load off while working. There is one panel with some actual buttons, which we’ll get to in a moment, and another flip down panel that reveals another workstation off to the side. Two doorways lead into the area with the Crystal Chamber. Sadly, there's no actual window above the main control station like there is on the show.
As already mentioned, the interior area is pretty small, so there’s not a lot of stuff to do in there. The hatch to the Chamber does open and you can put the included Dilithium Crystal inside, which is essentially the same accessory that has been included with a number of Next Gen figures already. The Chamber looks pretty show accurate, and I really like the translucent plastic used for the power tubes.
The lights and sounds are activated by switching the on/off button under the main work station and pressing one of the two buttons on the panel. Pressing one will activate the normal rhythmic pumping of the Warp Drive and a pulsating light in the chamber. The second button will sound alarms and force the pumping to get faster, simulating an impending Warp Core breech. By inserting the included probe accessory (or the tip of a pen or any other pointy object) into the hole on the console, it will trigger the on/off button and stop the breech. It’s both cheesy and clever at the same time. The sounds on the playset are quite good. The lights aren’t bad either, but I do wish they extended out to the power transfer tubes and not just the main chamber. Nonetheless, this thing looks and sounds really cool when it's activated.
No doubt, this piece is a very simple playset, but I absolutely love it. Sure, it would have been cool if Playmates could have worked that big Engineering console table from the show into it, or the wall that has the giant panel with the cross-section of the ship. It would have tripled the size of this set, but seeing as how Playmates designed this one to connect to the Bridge, they could have easily released another Engineering set to connect with this one. But, now I’m getting crazy and I suppose I should be happy we got this one. The dealer at the show had it marked at $25 and since one flap of the box was open, he didn't have any problem with me opening it up and checking that it was all there. I didn’t bother haggling and just added it to my pile. Even when I’ve come close to buying it on Ebay loose, it was about the same amount with shipping, so I was pretty happy with the price. When you look at the travesty of “playsets” that Playmates did for the 2009 movie, one can’t help but look back to something as simple as this piece and yearn for the good old days.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at a sweet Collector Case and some Generations figures.