QESB - Unpacking My Closet: It Figures


Captain’s Bog: Stardate 42218.8

For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid collector of action figures. From He-Man, ThunderCats and Star Wars in the 80s, to the prolific Star Trek action figure line of the 90s (with well over 200 characters…most or all of which I have), to my current collection of figures on display. Suffice it to say…I have a LOT of action figures.

There’s a great series on Netflix called “The Toys That Made Us” that talk us through the phenomenons of Star Wars toys, He-Man and She-Ra, Barbi, and G.I. Joe. I highly recommend it. Anyone in and around my generation will definitely recognize some fo their childhood in this unexpectedly interesting docu-series.

One point they make that I completely identify with is one reason for the popularity of these toys. To paraphrase: These characters and universes are completely fictional, so when you can give a child (grown-ass man) a physical, tangible way to interact with this imaginary world, it can give them a great deal of joy.

This has never been so true for me as it has been with almost any iteration of a Star Trek toy, ever since I was introduced to Star Trek: The Next Generation when it debuted in 1987. Back then, a company named “Galoob” made ten action figures; six crew and four aliens. We found all six crew members easily at Kay Bee Toys, and collected a second set when they went on clearance. The aliens I never got until I was older and the internet was invented.

The line failed, but by 1991, TNG had grown considerably in popularity and Playmates Toys rocked it out! Multiple versions of each crew member, tons of aliens, plus the crews of the original series, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. I had them all proudly displayed in my room in high school. I would even bring a few with me to class from time to time. It was kind of a social experiment. I would watch how different people would interact with them. A few boys made them fight each other. One girl actually played out her teenage relationship drama. Good times.

My most recent collections on display included some very beautifully sculpted, carefully detailed, more collector-base figures. They are beautiful and I love them all. But I realized something yesterday that gave me pause. With a handful of exceptions, many of these collections celebrated films or series that were 20-30 years old. Aliens. Ghostbusters. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even the excellent DST line of Star Trek figures, the characters themselves are not new. 

As I unpack my mental closet, I have decided that those figures, however cool, are looking in the wrong direction. With one shelf of limited characters from Star Trek as my exception, who will soon be replaced (I hope) with characters from the current Star Trek: DIscovery, I will be aiming to display only characters from current series. They will remain displayed as an inspiration of the work I hope to be doing. The figures that represent the past will be carefully put away. The past was great inspiration, but it is time to be present so I can focus on the future.

And hopefully someday make enough money to have a home with an office where all my toys can live.