Your burning questions answered!
Cyberspace, the Final Frontier. These are the TREK TUESDAYS voyages of the website 13th Dimension. Its ongoing mission: to explore strange new stories about Star Trek during its 50th anniversary year, to seek out new angles and new ideas every week, to boldly go where plenty of people have gone before, but in a funky, fresh, interesting way…
Naturally, like you, I was curious how the Mattel people put the whole project together — and how they managed to make those figures look so much like the actors while not losing what makes them so indelibly Barbie. I also wanted to know whether we’d be getting any more characters and whether that Orion slave dancer San Diego Comic-Con exclusive was more Susan Oliver or more Yvonne Craig…
I asked designer par excellence Bill Greening all about it:
Dan Greenfield: How did the whole Star Trek project come about?
Bill Greening: There is a history of Barbie partnering with Star Trek. This will be our third collaboration historically for the Barbie brand. 50 years of Star Trek is a huge deal and Barbie wanted to be part of it! It’s really exciting to bring two such iconic brands together and celebrate a milestone in pop culture.
Dan: You’ve had a really interesting, varied career. I mean, to design Debbie Harry Barbie and William Shatner Ken — that’s range. Where does Star Trek rank in the equation for you?
Bill: I have an affinity for pop culture and the influence it has on our daily lives. Music, TV, movies, etc. Barbie historically is a miniature representation of pop culture. I have lots of Trekkies in my family so it’s an honor to work on a project like Star Trek. I also specifically love ’60s pop culture and sci-fi. The original series is so eye-popping visually, sometimes kitschy and the women are so ’60s chic. What’s not to love?
Dan: These figures look like Kirk, Spock and Uhura but they’re also unmistakably riffs on Barbie and Ken. How do you navigate between capturing, say, Shatner’s likeness and still making him look like a Ken doll?
Bill: Depending on the project, some dolls are painted to likeness using existing Barbie and Ken sculpts and sometimes sculpted to likeness. I think sculpted to likeness is more compelling and collectable. The goal is to achieve the actor’s likeness as close as possible. For the first time we’re celebrating characters from the original cast with dolls sculpted to the likenesses of Captain Kirk, as played by William Shatner; Mr. Spock as played by Leonard Nimoy; and Lt. Uhura, as played by Nichelle Nichols.
Dan: Tell us about your interactions with William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols.
Bill: So far I have not had a chance to meet the actors; fingers crossed there is still an opportunity. We worked directly with the licensing team at CBS to decide on characters, props, etc. We had lots of conversation on details like which hairstyle for Uhura? (Out of three seasons, it’s hard to choose.) Which earrings? (Jade hoops won!) Making sure we have the right colors of red, blue and gold. The Starfleet points on the sideburns of Kirk and Spock. The small pleat of the front cuff of the pants. We know the details matter to Star Trek fans and Barbie fans alike.
Dan: Are you a Star Trek fan? Do you have a favorite episode?
Bill: I love the women of the original Star Trek series. The over-the-top, sci-fi glamor, and the fashion influences of the 1960s. My favorite episodes are Mirror, Mirror just to see Uhura kick butt in her midriff-bearing uniform. The Cage, with green-skinned Vina dancing in her reptilian-inspired costume. Naturally, I love Lt. Carolyn Palamas (Who Mourns for Adonais?) in her pink toga, tall sandals and big blond ’60s hair. She’s looking very Barbie of the 1960s.
Dan: There’s an Orion girl who was available at San Diego Comic-Con. Was there any discussion to have her look like Yvonne Craig or Susan Oliver?
Bill: There is something special about the first of anything, like the Star Trek pilot episode of The Cage. I like that Vina was the first green Orion girl — a character that has reappeared over the years in TV series and the movies.
Dan: What are the chances we’ll see more Trek characters? C’mon, give us Sulu! George Takei in Ken style would be great!
Bill: We don’t have more characters planned at the moment, but considering this is our third collaboration, never say never. Anything is possible with two iconic brands like these. The fan reaction from both Star Trek and Barbie camps has been great. I’m looking forward to all that is in store for Star Trek’s big 50th and I’m glad Barbie is there to celebrate.
For many more pix of the Trek Barbies, as well as pricing info, click here.