In 2018, many Star Trek fans (me included) found out that the Star Trek toy manufacturer cancelled production of the long-awaiting Discovery phaser toy.
McFarlane Toys acquired the product license for Star Trek: Discovery and the Prime Timeline memorabilia in 2017.
However, just a year later, customers who had pre-ordered the Star Trek Discovery phaser toy found an email in their inboxes saying that deliveries had to be cancelled, without any explanation or reason.
I have done some digging on why McFarlane possibly have cancelled the release of the Discovery phaser, and why they stopped producing most of their Star Trek toys.
Why Did McFarlane Never Produce The Discovery Phaser?
There was huge excitement at the ToyFair in 2018 when I managed to have a closer look at the Discovery phase prototype.
They also showed some of the designs for the packaging, and they also gave a rough indication on general retail price.
The release date at that point was still firmly set for the end of 2018, and I was quite looking forward to seeing it on the shelves.
At the ToyFair in New York, they also displayed new Captain Kirk figures from the original Star Trek series, together with a new figure of Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
These two figures plus the phaser all looked really excellent quality. Particularly, the Discovery phaser promised to be a great prop and accessory for Star Trek cosplayers.
When I took a closer look at the phaser it had some fantastic features, including a rotating barrel that switched between kill and stun. The details were so good that it was so much more appealing than most resin replicas.
Another plus was the price which was set at a fraction of what you’d pay for the Starfleet phaser pistol interactive prop replica from Anovos.
So, why did McFarlane stop with the prototype and never produced these great products?
At first, there was no official explanation on why production never started. Fans who had pre-ordered were just sent an email by retailers that their orders were cancelled.
In the past years, there has been a lot of speculation amongst fans why the production of the phase never happened, and also why McFarlane mostly pulled out of making Star Trek toys.
No Retailer Interest
One of the biggest reason that was later reported by McFarlane Toys was the lack of interest by different retailers.
Apparently, CBS asked McFarlane to produce the phaser, and they had to see the process all the way through to the prototyping stage.
As McFarlane had just acquired the license in 2017, they felt obliged to follow CBS’ request. This put McFarlane’s buying team on the spot.
Typically, a buying team does a lot of research into the interest of a product. They speak to retailers and find retail chains that may be interested in an item.
Then orders need to be secured, and a company can then estimate fairly accurately how many products they need to produce.
They can also estimate any costs involved in production, packaging and shipment.
The research and first prototyping step is not only a lengthy process but it also costs a fair bit of cash, so it’s very unusual when a product doesn’t come onto the market as planned, as so much money has been invested already.
Due to the quick turn-around for the phaser, there was little research time and McFarlane also did not consult with most popular retailers in depth, such as Toys R Us, Target and Walmart.
When the phaser was advertised for pre-sale, it was quickly apparent that there were limits on where the item was allowed to be sold.
For example, online stores had to advise that the phaser could not be shipped to Kansas, California, Connecticut and New York due to firearm laws in these states.
This sort of restrictions makes selling this product very unappealing for online shops and retail stores.
This brings us to our second key reason why McFarlane pulled the plug on the Star Trek phaser.
McFarlane mentioned to some Star Trek press and journalists that they decided to cancel any pre-orders for the phaser because of “federal, state and local regulations around replica/toy weapons”.
They also mentioned that any changes in order to comply with these laws would compromise the integrity of the product.
Lack Of Interest In Star Trek: Discovery
To the true Star Trek fan, this is almost impossible to imagine but there have also been speculations that retailers were simply not interested as much in any toys related to Star Trek Discover.
One of the issues with Star Trek: Discover was that CBS limited the number of viewers who could watch the show because it was hidden behind a paywall.
As viewers had to pay for the privilege of watched the program, this had a huge hit on audience and broadcast figures.
This meant that only around 3.5 million Americans managed to watch it. Although this does seem like a lot to us, in broadcasting terms, this is hardly a big number.
At least not compared to Avengers and Star Wars, both which seem to have much more marketing clout with retailers.
This means that retailers then allocate a lot more shelf space to toys of these shows as they only want to display anything that really sells.
There are three main reasons why McFarlane never produced the Discover phaser. From legal issues based on existing toy weapon laws in some states, all the way through to lack of interest on the retailer side.
Although they have mentioned with the release of their official statement that they will pursue some other opportunities to get the phaser into the hands of fans, this may take some time to sort out.
It’s also important to mention here that McFarlane have not stopped making Star Trek toys entirely. They are still producing their Picard and Kirk figures which have become highly collectable.