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Is Captain Kirk Just Green with Envy?

In 1979, Paramount released Star Trek the Motion Picture.  This was the first film from the Star Trek franchise after Hollywood awoke to the potential of Science Fiction films in 1977.

Since Kenner was making a bundle of money with the toys for Star Wars and Mattel was doing reasonably well with Battlestar Galactica, Mego rekindled their licensing agreements from the small Star Trek figures, to release twelve-inch figures from the new film. These were in addition to the currently popular size of 3 ¾” figures.

The large figures in this set are

Capt Kirk

Mr. Spock

Decker

Ilia

Arcturian

Klingon

The Klingon is the best figure in the set. It has correctly molded boots and molded chest armor with a holster.  His disrupter is a little small (but maybe that is why he is so mad looking?)

Overall, the figures are okay. They have reasonable joints. The costumes are not lavish but acceptable. The figure’s hands are sculpted well but made of stiff polypropylene so they will never hold accessories well.  The heads are sculpted reasonably well for that era of making licensed figures.

It is the heads that are the oddest part.  These heads are made of rotocast PVC, just like the heads on Barbie or GI Joe.  Toy manufacturers usually take care to match colors very well between different types of plastics when they have to match the same colors.  These figures were no exception.

I still remember seeing these on the shelf at a Toys R Us and debating whether to buy them.  The heads and the hands matched well at the time they were launched. There was something about the quality that was turning me off. Ultimately, I only bought the small figures because my income at that time was based on mowing lawns, so I did not have enough funds to buy all the big figures.

Most of the figures from this set now have green/gray faces. It is less noticeable on Spock, but they are definitely a different color now. The factory which made the Mego product, used an inferior colorant in the PVC/Plastisol for the heads. Over time, it changed color to make it look terrible. Most likely, this was due to UV light, the arch-enemy of colorants!

Getting good “color-fast” colorants is more expensive, so someone was shaving some cost on the product.  While I am a big Star Trek fan, I could never buy any of the human figures because the color decay looked so bad.  It is not as noticeable on the aliens, such as the Klingon or the Arcturian. Even a few months back at Coilcon 2019 in Ohio, I had a Captain Kirk in my hand for a good price but could not convince myself to buy it.

Star Trek was not the only line plagued with this issue. The Mego James Bond Moon Raker twelve-inch figures have the same problem.  (Maybe if he wore his helmet in his package he would be oxygen-deprived?)

Sadly, decisions like this are still made as manufacturers can be short-sighted to save a few pennies rather than build lasting quality.   I still use these Mego figures, and the vintage twelve in the Kenner Star Wars figures with the PVC hands/heads melting into the polystyrene bodies (migration of materials) as object lessons.  I show them to the manufacturing engineers whenever they want to use very cheap materials and ignore the collector potential of the product.

Later when Playmates made good quality Star Trek figures, and I had a good job making toys, I could afford to buy most of the large Star Trek figures.

What is your favorite 1/6th scale Star Trek figure?

(Mine is the Playmates Andorian!)

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  1. I see these discoloured heads, and I wonder if the peroxide trick would work. The same UV light that yellows a figure, can whiten them as well. The issue, with many figures (like Kenner Stormtroopers, or Hasbro Storm Shadow, or… other… “storm” figures?) is impurities in the water used in the molding process… after time, even figures kept in darkness can yellow… the process for de-yellowing is a simple one. What I use, for the small figures, is I’ll take them apart, fill a hydrometer (a clear glass tube you can buy at any brewing supply store, or science supply store, used for measuring gravity, or alcohol content) and I fill it with hydrogen peroxide, then I drop the yellowed pieces in, and cover the top with a piece of plastic and rubber band (a mason jar can be used as well, as long as it’s glass, and clear) Then I sit the jar of parts in direct sunlight for about a day. (if your area doesn’t get a lot of sun, you can use a UV “oven” used for curing 3d prints, or UV party lights for about six hours)

    The result is generally “factory new” looking white figures again. Most figures, it doesn’t even effect the paint (and the few it does, it’s only minimal) Basically, the UV light, and peroxide will kill and whiten the impurities, and chances are good, you won’t have to treat them again.

    Though, the trick is hard to do with Mint on Card figures, unless you use that trick that Hot Wheels scammers use to open, and close the bubbles (I forget the trick, but you can see instructions for it on YouTube… some less scrupulous Hot Wheels dealers will open their cars, make it a “custom” reseal it, and try to pass it off as a factory rarity, thus the “scammers” designation, but it’s a great trick for a private collector who need to fix a figure, but want it to still appear MIB for their own personal collections)

    Just looked it up. You use nail polish remover, and that unseals the blister, then when you want to put it back in, you use slightly less nail polish remover, put it back together, and let it set… thus you are using the same glue to reseal it (as long as you never wipe it when it’s opened)