Playmates Week (Day 3): Review Of Star Trek Roleplay Toys: Phaser, Tricorder & Communicator

The third day of TrekMovie’ review of all the Playmates Toys for the new Star Trek movie brings us to the roleplay toys. We have detailed reviews with pictures and video for the new phaser, tricorder, and communicator.



As expected the first wave of Playmates roleplay toys are the core landing party kit of a phaser, a tricorder, and a communicator, all based on the props from the new Star Trek movie. All the Playmates toys feature electronic lights and sounds and retail for around $17 each.

Note: This review (and ranking) is solely based on these new items as toys, and not an analysis of the new movie props and their differences with the TOS props.

Phaser (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Toy guns are always a bit disconcerting because they often have to be styled in a way that differentiates them from the real and dangerous varieties. Therefore, the Playmates Toys phaser may be a little shinny for some fans who like exacting details, but it must be remembered that these items are meant for playability and imaginative fun and not as replicas. And, as especially the instance with the phaser, there are considerations a toy company always has when producing what could be mistaken for a real weapon.

Playmates Star Trek Phaser Toy

With these caveats in mind, the phaser is a good toy. Besides being a very good replica (other than the colorization) in size and shape, it includes sound effects from the film. Also, the pivoting feature of the movie phaser is included here in the toy switching from "stun" to "vaporize" settings (see VIDEO below for demonstration). The older fans who get this item to either play with or display might experience a strange mixture of nostalgia (in the that the shape is basically the same as the original 1960s design) and newness (because of the obvious changes).

Top detail on Phaser Toy

One of the neat details about the film that is learned from the phaser toy is that the delta insignia shape has been included in the design. Look below the pivoting buttons and you could see the obvious and cool reference.

Delta shield integrated into Phaser design

Tricorder (5 Stars)
The tricorder toy has many cool features. The way the top of the tricorder opens quickly with sound and lighting effects is almost thrilling and certainly fun. The tricorder includes six sounds when pressing the buttons which also engage coordinated lighting effects. (see VIDEO below for demonstration). For fans used to the TOS tricorder toys, and because of the sleeker design, this tricorder toy is kind of like going from records to CDs.

Playmates Tricorder Toy (closed)

For fun, I brought the tricorder to the college where I teach to show my students before classes started. Most of the students are not Star Trek fans, and some thought the tricorder looked like a MP3 player when I asked if they knew what this was. Interesting, because they are tech savvy, many students had an intuitive sense of how the tricorder would work as a scanner despite not having ever seen the show or the new movie.

Playmates Tricorder Toy (open)

All in all the new Playmates Tricorder toy is a fun item because of its colorful display and play features.

Inside detail on Playmates Tricorder

Communicator (4.75 stars)
Communicators in general are a personal favorite of mine because they are about being social (and for a sociologist, there is nothing more important). The Playmates Toys communicator features a sound effect when flipping open that is infectious to play with. When I shared this item with the college, people couldn’t stop opening the communicator (one person put it to their ear like a cell phone being unfamiliar with how a communicator works yet had fun with the toy anyway).

Playmates Communicator Toy (closed) with holster

The communicator also includes a holder for the communicator that could be worn on any belt. Playmates Toys is planning to include a role playing utility belt in a future wave of toys, but the inclusion of the holder is nice because it allows a role playing fan to have a phaser in one hand, the tricorder in the other, and the communicator clipped to them. Add the clip-on delta insignia that is available with every 3.75" action figure and you are totally ready for ST09 adventures.

Playmates Communicator Toy (open)

The communicator has two lines of dialog from the film. [SPOILER] When pressing the left button, Kirk says "Kirk to Enterprise! We are falling without a chute, beam us up!" while the right button has Spock saying "Spock to Enterprise, get us out now." Pressing buttons also engages the cool lighting effects. (see VIDEO below for demonstration) While it is a bit strange to hear someone else’s voice as Kirk and Spock other than Misters Shatner and Nimoy, this is a fun feature to include on the communicator and it makes sense that out of the three role playing toys, the communicator would have the voices of the actors because you could pretend to be talking to them. It might have been good to include more sound effects, though, for added play value.

Playmates Communicator detail

VIDEO: Role Play Toys
Here is a video showing all three in action.


CONCLUSION + Sociology Lesson of the Day
Interactionist Sociologist George Herbert Mead’s "Game Theory" argues for the importance of play in learning and socialization. The "Play Stage" often involves role playing that not only activates the imagination, but also teaches us to consider the feelings and experiences of others. This could be why role playing toys have always been a venerable brand of fun. In the 1930s, Superman fans could purchase a Superman belt to add their fun. Dressing as cowboys or fairies is a form of role playing. During the 1960s, Batman fans could mimic the Caped Crusader through cowls and Batbelts and 1970s Star Trek fans had their MEGO communicator themed walkie-talkies. The 2000s have everything from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean role playing items. For the new film, Playmates Toys has the trifecta of required Star Trek items: the phaser, tricorder, and communicator. Each item is a very good toy replica of the film’s designs, with a sturdiness and durability needed for role play items. For those looking for inexpensive replicas or costuming items, these are also very nice. Play or display, it is your choice. However, my family would tend to agree with George Herbert Mead: play with these toys. You get to be Kirk or Uhura and that is something George Herbert Mead would have loved.


Playmates Roleplay Toys officially go on sale this Sunday, although some stores are selling Star Trek Playmates items already. They will be available at Toys R Us, Wal-mart and Target as well as other retailer. You can order them now at Entertainment Earth:

NOTE: Some Toys R Us stores have broken the embargo release and started to sell some Star Trek Playmates toys early.

Next up: 6" & 12" figures
Tomorrow we will have an article on all the big action figures from Playmates Star Trek line, and on Friday we will take a look at the new USS Enterprise.

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Nice toy review, John. That phaser looks like it could be fun even for an adult. And methinks you’re a member of SSSI? Nice Mead tie-in.

Wow, not bad.

they look awsome, i would repaint them my self

WHOA!! I hadn’t realized how tiny that Tricorder is – it’s about the same size as the Communicator!! That’s ridiculous, the TNG Tricorders are bigger than that.


I might pick these up.

Agreed – hearing the different voices coming out of the communicator is kinda wierd.. but cool nevertheless!

I wonder if the phaser barrel actually rotates from stun to kill like that in the movie…

I’m especially impressed with the tricorder. Very modern looking. If only someone would really invent one…

And only 2 lines of dialogue for the communicator?!? What the heck man? I mean, the TOS communicator ornament ’09 had about 12-15 lines from multiple characters! Weak sauce.

I think the sound effects are a good middle ground between the classic 60s funky sounds and a modern version. In particular I like the updated communicator opening chirps (I use the classic version on my cell phone actually).

That stuff is cool and all, but I’m not down with the tricorder being so small. I guess they won’t be wearing the on a strap over their shoulder…

Cool, nuanced review. I love that it comes from a sociologist.

I would like free samples, please. For, um, evaluation purposes. Yeah, evaluation purposes, that’s the ticket.


This is the worst time ever to be jobless and poor. :(

So ready to play with my nephews.

Spock sounds kinda weird through the communicator – Tricorder is pretty nifty – I wonder if I could hollow out the case and put an iPhone in it ;)

Is there a type one and a type two Phaser like in TOS? I didn’t see where the small type one would fit into the top of the type 2.
From what I recall the smaller “square” type 1 was used on landing parties more often than the full configuration type 2 in TOS.

I’ll get the phaser, but seeing the video of the tricorder and communicator convinced me not to get them.

#9. Yeah, I agree. Two sounds for the communicator is pretty weak.

Wow very very nice I was going to just buy and display not buy and play these might be fun for my little 2nd cousin’s to play with!

Hmmm. Thought I was going to be bothered by the new design but seems I miss the old sound effects a bit.

J.J., I know you watch these message boards, and I’m here to tell you, I will prostitute and schill for you!!! My Enterprise tattoo and love of your work makes me the perfect pitchman!
I know this movie will open up Trek lore to a whole new audience, and I just wanna help……and maybe get some insider scoop on Lost.

Yeah Toys R US had a bunch of stuff yesterday. These, every 6 inch figure, 3 McCoy dolls, the playsets (about 6 each), the works!

Bought a tricorder and phaser. Wish I hadn’t. Enjoyable for five minutes but I’m 21 years old. I spent 30 bucks on them, will wear to a midnight showing then sell them on EBAY. Still cool though.

Went back today, a mere 22 hours later, to the same store. They were down to two phasers and a communicator, 2 transporters, and one bridge!

Oops. Typo. Bought a tricorder and a communicator, not a phaser

that’s one hideous communicator

I saw the new line of toys at a local Wal-Mart. The 3.75s look alot less like my playmates from the early 90’s and more like the early figures made for the TNG by Galoob! I must admit a child like YES!!! when seeing a new Lights and Sounds enterprise on the shelf.

Question for Anthony: does the comm still have the little thumb wheel on the right side that we saw in the prototype pics? If so, what does it do (if anything)?

Can’t you write a bad review of anything? Just one thing?

Any chance of posting a negative review of the film once it comes out? You know, just to have a balance of opinions out there?

Love the Tricorder sounds! Sounds very Trek-like.

I really like how the phaser module rotates from stun to kill. Very impressive. However, I don’t know if it’s the video or the toy, but the firing effect doesn’t have a lot of “oomph” to it. Hopefully the movie will make it sound awesome.


In case you hadn’t noticed, this article is written by someone OTHER than Anthony. Sheesh.

Well, I can admit when I was wrong . . .

I just got the new Enterprise toy tonight (Surprised to find it!) and . . . I’m very impressed. While I would have of course done things differently, I am now very happy with the look of the new ship now that I have it in my hands and can see it at any angle. From the side, it looks sleek and graceful, yet pays homage to the original. We just got some of the most unfortunate angles in those original pictures. I now count myself as a fan of the new design. :)

I haven’t posted here in ages . . . but I just felt I had to say that.

Now I look forward to the role play stuff!

When is this embargo being lifted with toys r us? My local one only has the ship. Not that I’m complaining…

I totally keep bringing this up, but personally I wish they’d stuck with the TMP-TFF Starfleet insignia, rather than the next gen version (which was also used in the Undiscovered Country)…

Glad I allready have TOS versions of the Phaser and Communicator. I don’t care much for the looks of that phaser, even if you ignore that it looks nothing like the TOS version, it still looks weird. The communicator looks like a splice of the Galaxy Quest comunicator and a cell phone. And I agree #9, only 2 recordings? Surely they use it more than that in the movie.
The tricorder is ok, it still looks sort of Federation-ish, though way to small for that time period.

I looked at these today and was not impressed. Was somewhat tempted by the tricorder, but it looked and felt cheap, even for a toy. The stickers are what really killed it — more detailing would have helped immensely. It’s essentially a plastic box with three lights and some noise. At least it had a decent selection of sounds, which is more than can be said for the communicator.

These pale in comparison to many of the previous ST prop toys, IMO. Even the phaser game from the ’70s had better detailing. I don’t expect prop replicas, especially at this price point, but they ought to feel at least somewhat sturdy.

I suspect this stuff will be hitting in sufficient quantities that it will ultimately show up in the deep discount bin. For now, I’m thinking I’m going to wait it out. Maybe once the movie comes out I’ll feel differently.

“Note: This review (and ranking) is solely based on these new items as toys, and not an analysis of the new movie props and their differences with the TOS props.”

Why not?

I’m impressed. I’m 15 and was considering leaving these for the kiddies, but now I really want that Phaser. Tricorder too.

36. McCoy: Because he is reviewing the toys, not the film.

Oh dear god… “I don’t care much for the looks of that phaser, even if you ignore that it looks nothing like the TOS version, it still looks weird. The communicator looks like a splice of the Galaxy Quest comunicator and a cell phone. And I agree #9, only 2 recordings? Surely they use it more than that in the movie.
The tricorder is ok, it still looks sort of Federation-ish, though way to small for that time period.”

Puh-Leeze, it’s not a time period.. it’s FICTION… you numbskull.. look at what we have now and go from their… 60’s design won’t cut it… get with the program!

39 “Puh-Leeze, it’s not a time period.. it’s FICTION… you numbskull.. look at what we have now and go from their… 60’s design won’t cut it… get with the program!”

These designs don’t look any more modern than TOS.

ok, you’re right it sucks, please don’t go see the movie, and stop posting here, it’s terrible, and it will make you cry.

Thanks, good night.

Ah, to be a child again…
I really envy my little daughter and my nephew!

Crap. Crap. MegaCrap.

Does everything get 4.5 stars or higher? Has Playmates improved product quality that much?

Will the larger figures get 6 stars out of a possible 5 ?

As has been pointed out by numerous other persons, the communicator is sadly lacking in design and audio. For 16 bucks I expect more…

The tricorder just looks like there is little play value there for the money. Will the silver finish scuff, scratch and flake off ?

Just disappointed with lack of time and thought that was put into these toys.

I’m just so freakin glad the new phasers aren’t based off those silly ass dust-buster ones from TNG.

Wonder why they didn’t put an LCD or OLED into the tricorder design, as this seems essential to the function of the tricorder as both a scanner and visual recorder, aka The City on the Edge of Forever.

It does have a sixties feel along with a more modern look – something the designers were clearly seeking to accomplish.

I’m interested in the review posted earlier wherein the communicator of Captain Robau [sic?] resembled the TOS design. I wonder what other throwbacks and nods to the original await? I’d like a crazy panning shot of the bridge zooming in from above, albeit not shakily.

Btw how will this site deal with the inevitable posting of Star Trek to Alluc and the like? How will our tight knit community manage the spoiler issue at this point? Something to ponder.

#44. Now that’s more like it.

And thanks McCoy.

You know what, just watching This Side of Paradise on the PVR and when Spok drops his communicator the closeup shows it to be of such brilliant and sleek design – Apple worthy – it IS a shame it could not be preserved in the new film. It is unfortunate that times must change by definition.

uh…that would be “Spock,” sorry.