Star Trek Discovery Michael Burnham and Saru 12″ Figures
Star Trek Discovery is midway between its fourth and fifth seasons, and I’m still not sure what it wants to be, and I suspect I have that in common with its behind-the-scenes talent. It’s a masterpiece of praiseworthy representation, and while critics all too frequently insist it would make Gene Roddenberry turn in his grave, I think Roddenberry would be just fine with the show’s optimism and its “let’s all just get along” ethos, particularly in its last three seasons. But since season one it has been narratively scattershot and, much like Star Trek Voyager, seemingly desperate to flee from its original premise.
That premise, devised by Bryan Fuller before he abandoned the series over creative conflicts with the studio, was exciting: Michael Burnham, a human Starfleet officer raised on Vulcan, commits mutiny based on her own ruthless logic, resulting in the death of her captain, Philippa Georgiou. Court martialed and initially imprisoned, she’s recruited for a secret Starfleet mission and faces the challenge of redeeming herself and clawing her way up from the bottom ranks of the service. I’d have gladly watched four years of Burnham, forcefully played by Sonequa Martin-Greene, demonstrating her worth, facing down the suspicions of her colleagues, and earning her way back to being a First Officer and more. But the show became more interested in the Mirror Universe, then in Captain Christopher Pike and Spock (which we can thank for the highly enjoyable Strange New Worlds), and then in a universe 900 years in the future in which Starfleet and the Federation have inexplicably survived pretty much intact (yes, I know it’s supposed to be shockingly different, but apart from some floating tables, is it really?).
All this is my way of saying I’m happy to have these new EXO-6 action figures of Burnham and her erstwhile First Officer, the Kelpian Saru played by Doug Jones—because they remind me of Discovery’s potential in its first handful of episodes. Burnham and Saru have remained at the heart of Discovery, and their dynamic has always been one of the most rewarding elements of the show. The figures depict them in their blue, militaristic uniforms from the first and second seasons, with Burnham in her short-clipped, severe hairstyle, looking just as badass as Bryan Fuller’s stated desire to do a Star Trek series starring Angela Bassett (who Martin-Greene strongly resembles) always promised.
A few years ago 1/6 scale figures of Burnham and Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou were promised and displayed as action figures by EXO-6’s Star Trek license predecessor, Quantum Mechanix, but never put into production. EXO-6’s Nanjin Tam has proved determined to up the level of quality on QMx’s approach and so far he’s succeeded. As a rare African American Trek figure (although we will soon see Voyager’s Tuvok, Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko and, we can assume, TNG’s Geordi and TOS’s Uhura eventually) and a female, Burnham is a special challenge, and the execution is superb. Photos don’t do justice to the subtle differences in skin tone and the way Sonequa Martin-Greene’s steely expression is captured; the look is startlingly realistic, particularly given the task of working with the smaller head and lack of hard edges in the female facial structure. The short hair is uniform in color but convincingly textured and lends itself to the molded look quite well. The female body looks athletic but feminine, well shown off by the taut military uniform.
The figure comes with 11 different hands, and four of them are particularly notable: two allow her to grip her phaser pistol with two hands Miami Vice-style, while another two let her reflect her Vulcan heritage with a Vulcan salute, or a Vulcan neck pinch (if only Burnham got the opportunity to do that more than once in a blue Vulcan moon on the show!). The hands themselves are beautifully rendered and painted, and surprisingly elegant.
Burnham comes equipped with a utility belt (helpful hint: it’s taped underneath the container holding the figure and the rest of its accessories) and three slide-on holsters for a phaser, communicator and tricorder. These three instruments are reproduced with EXO-6’s usual remarkable attention to detail: the hand phaser separates from the pistol, the communicator opens, and the tricorder features a tiny hand scanner that slides out from its center. There’s also a phaser rifle, ingeniously designed with three barrels and vented cylinders giving a peek into copper metal inside, all a nice nod to the original phaser rifle from “Where No Man Has Gone Before” but given a modern, black-metal, militaristic makeover. The phaser rifle has a rear stock that slides out and an adjustable front handle.
The one issue with both figures is the delicate vinyl belts, which are connected by a small plastic pin behind the buckle that has to be pushed through a hole in the “leather” belt strap. The only reliable way to do this is by getting a good grip on it with your fingers and applying pressure to push the pin through the belt, but that’s hard to do while the belt is around the figure’s waist and a little maddening to do it while struggling to keep all three plastic holsters from slipping off the belt. The best method is to connect the buckle and belt strap at a 90-degree angle, then carefully slide the belt down into position on the waist.
Special mention has to be made of EXO-6’s reproduction of the Discovery first season uniforms. To me, these never looked especially convincing or comfortable on the show with all their sewn-on gold and silver trim and asymmetrical collars. The EXO-6 reproduction with the side panels of mini Starfleet deltas and delicate, gleaming trim actually looks more real to me than the uniforms worn on the show. Even the transporter pad display pads are upgraded with a Discovery-specific look, adding to the uniqueness of this line.
Burnham was made available almost simultaneously with the Saru figure, and I have to think any collector fans of the show would have to have both. The towering, 13 ¾” Saru makes for a fantastic contrast with the petite Burnham, with more than a 2” difference in their respective heights. Even for critics of Discovery, Doug Jones’ presence as Saru has always been a welcome one—Saru very much seems a classic Trek character.
Physically he reminds me a bit of three-armed Lt. Arex from the 1973 animated series. The scanned portrait of the character’s head precisely reproduces the complex prosthetic makeup worn by Jones, from his elongated skull to the blunt nose, razor-sharp cheekbones and crustacean-like mouth, and the paint application beautifully accents the sculpt’s contours as well as the character’s striking blue eyes.
Saru also comes with a wide variety of hands to gesture or grip his Starfleet equipment (accessories are the same as Burnham’s). Although they’re not quite webbed, the hands hint at Saru’s semi-aquatic origins and even display small, gill-like structures in the palm.
Both characters come complete with black and metallic-trimmed Starfleet boots, and in Saru’s case they are uniquely shaped to the character’s extended, double-jointed feet (actor Doug Jones’ natural height is extended by lifts to create the extra joint and he adopts a distinctive gait to reflect Saru’s alien anatomy). Amazingly, the almost 14” Saru manages to stand and balance quite well on these strangely-shaped feet (Burnham is fairly stable too), although you’re well-advised to keep the figures on their transporter display stands.
While my interest in the show itself has waxed and waned, I love having these figures—they remind me how much I liked the idea of Michael Burnham before she became an all-loving, all-nurturing mother figure. She and Saru make a visually spectacular addition to your collection of sixth-scale Star Trek figures. The EXO-6 Discovery figures are available now and sell for $215 each. They can be purchased directly from exo-6.com. and from Entertainment Earth.
Closer look at Burnham and Saru
Here is a short video giving you a look at the likeness.
More to come from EXO-6
The EXO-6 line of Star Trek figures continues to expand. Two of their latest announcements are figures of Captain Jonathan Archer from Star Trek: Enterprise and Locutus from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Both are available for pre-order. Find out more at exo-6.com.