My blogging buddy Will, at Secure Immaturity is running a fantastic and highly-detailed retrospective of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 -1999) this week, and I seriously recommend you check it out. Great stuff…and the posts make me re-visit the entire saga, especially after years away from it. My favorite episode of the series, by the way, is “The Visitor,” which is a heartbreaking and intimate story about a father and son, and eminently worthy here of a CULT TV Flashback here at some point.
Anyway, I wanted to join in all this DS9-themed fun, but find myself short of time with another book deadline looming. Therefore, I now offer an extremely shallow post: a small pictorial of my favorite Deep Space Nine toy: The Runabout, by Playmates Toys (circa 1994) .
Back in the roaring 1990s — before I had one child and two mortgages — I had money to burn and I collected everything — and I mean everything — Star Trek related. I collected basically the entire Playmates Star Trek run from its inception in the early 1990s through the heyday of Star Trek: Voyager.
One of the coolest Deep Space Nine toys from this era was a “highly detailed replica” of the “Runabout Orinoco,” a “passenger and cargo transport for space station DS9.”
The large craft could nicely accommodate two Playmates action figures, and had a “phaser activation button” to defend “against hostile aliens from the Gamma Quadrant.”
The Runabout also featured a “wormhole activation button,” which would have really, really come in handy on certain occasions during the series.
The toy also boasted “hinged front and rear hatches” and came with “a technical blueprint.” The toy is pretty large-scale, and also a relatively accurate reflection of the miniature used on the TV series.
My son, Joel, loves it (though he prefers the Galileo 7, for some reason…probably the flip-up missile compartment under the hood…). So yeah, mine is out of the box. I came to a point last year — when Joel became interested in my collection — when I realized it was more important to me that he have fun with my toys than I preserve them “mint” in the box…untouched, but also, essentially, un-enjoyed. Toys were made to be played with…and nothing gives me greater joy than seeing Joel enjoy them.
But overall the Runabout (Danube class) remains one my favorite Star Trek spaceship designs — more than a shuttle but less than a starship. In utility the Runabout was something along the lines of Space:1999 Eagle or a Space Academy Seeker — a kitted-up ship that could navigate deep space or land easily on alien worlds. And unlike the standard Starfleet shuttlecraft, the Runabout was a bit roomier. I even recall a briefing/dining room area (seen in the sixth season TNG episode “Timescape”).
The Runabout reflects how I prefer my space adventuring: a ship without too much firepower and personnel to rely on, so characters on the frontier had to rely on their human qualities, not phaser banks, to survive and thrive.
Later in the DS9 run, the Runabout became less important as Sisko took command of the Borg-busting Defiant. I love the Defiant — an awesome ship for wartime — but I was sorry to see the neat, versatile Runabouts reduced so much in importance.