The new Star Trek film is kind of a throwback—it's taking us back to the beginning. Playmates is following along with its 3.5" action figures and playsets. The first two I've seen are the bridge and the transporter room, the two coolest rooms on the Enterprise. Like the movie, Playmates is going back to the beginning, too—with a bridge set that comes complete with a vinyl play mat. Toys used to do this way back, but I haven't seen it in some time.
Laying this large circular sheet down on a floor or table sets up the bridge and allows a kid to lay it out in some kind of order, with the central console containing the captain's chair and the helm, with two free-standing display screens. In front is this huge, curving screen that comes with a nice translucent image to slide in there. It sure looks nice.
But the first thing I'm noticing is something I've complained about since the TV series Enterprise—that things that came before Star Trek are cooler and higher-tech than equipment we see later—and it makes no sense. James T. Kirk's bridge was small and cramped compared to this—and he had a main viewscreen smaller than some of our HDTVs. This thing is as big as Picard's screen on the Enterprise D, and it's curved.
The set comes with a 3.5" figure of Kirk, with a belt containing a holster for a phaser (also included), but that slips down so easily it's embarrassing. The figure actually has some interesting articulation. The shoulders are on ball joints, and the elbows bend, though barely. Hands rotate. One knee bends, the other rotates, and an ankle tilts. Interesting. I don't think I've seen this mix of articulation points before. But I think, for play value, this is actually workable.
The series of 3.5" figures also comes with more bridge stations and chairs, so to complete the bridge you have to buy more of the figures, which you'd want to do anyway, just to get Uhura. (Come on, you know you will!)
The transporter is cooler than the bridge, though smaller. It comes with a mat as well, but this one contains a cool play gimmick—a working transporter. Sort of. You snap the pieces together, and then you take a figure (like, perhaps, Scotty, which comes with the set) and mount him on a small stand. The stand, clear blue plastic, stands on the transporter pad.
Then you take this transporter module (with 3 AAA batteries and a light switch) and lower it over the figure you're transporting. Then you can either push a button on the transporter console across the room or push a button on the transporting pod. Lights light up and sounds play. The figure, which is lit up by the pod, disappears in a trick of reflection. Then you lift the pod up, and the figure comes up with it, having had its base snapped in two clips on the pod. You can then place the pod on a flat surface, push the button again, this time pushing two buttons to the side that release the pod's grip on the figure, and lift. Voila. He's transported.
It's a bit Rube Goldberg, but I think kids will actually have fun with this set. Now if only I had room next to my Doctor Who TARDIS control room ...