There used to be a time when the Python Patrol were disregarded outright. It was strange since they were army builders in a time of army building mania, but they didn’t seem all that popular. Maybe yellow and red were too gaudy a colour scheme, either way they weren’t talked about often, they were (and still somewhat are) not seen often, and because of the lack of attention on them, I’d never really bothered to put any effort into finding the three ball necked figures.
I saw a Python Patrol Tele Viper for a decent price, and picked it up, I was already buying some other stuff, and felt it would be a good time to buy a figure I’ve never actually owned. I think the original Tele Viper is a pretty decent figure, though somewhat harmed by the obvious late change in neck designs, and honestly my biggest issue has always been the lack of colour that provides any breaks in the figure’s design. Which leads to the the nicest thing about the Python Tele Viper, is that while it might not be the traditional COBRA blue, it does happen to have a much more vibrant and broken up colour scheme. The yellow might be a bit much, but it’s not over powering, and breaks up the grey and provides some separation between the figure’s head and torso, that the original was sorely lacking.
The original Python Patrol sub team, can be split into two camps. The first three, are early molds with like colours but very little in the way of uniformity. The second set of three, are 85-86 era Molds, and feature far more uniformity, without following any actual pattern. With the second set of Pythons, there’s a really decent cohesion between the Viper and Tele Viper (less so the Python Guard). They’re not perfect matches or anything, but the black helmet with red visor and the predominantly grey fatigues allow them to form a fairly uniform squadron, without being too close that they blend into each other. It’s not something that was often done with COBRA army builders, which is understandable from a retail perspective, but in the repaint era there were some opportunities that could’ve been afforded, yet were missed.
What I’d never realized until having the Python Viper and Tele Viper’s standing next to each other, was how similar their uniforms are. Hasbro doesn’t always get the credit it deserves for maintaining an aesthetic amongst it’s figures, not just as an overall toyline, but there were some real examples of going hard to ensure there was internal consistency amongst the two factions. With the Viper and the Tele-Viper sculpts there’s some obvious differences, but those actually go to highlight both the similarities and the fact that the two figures aren’t representing the same role, in regards to combat operations. The colouring has too many differences for it to really come to light with the 1985 and 1986 figures, but the Python scheme really helps illustrate it.
The Tele Viper is an interesting mold, it’s plain but visually appealing enough to be a classic design. The head is probably the biggest source of criticism because it’s such a large one. While I do think it’s too big, the communication gear aspect does skew it a bit, in my opinion. It’s design really shows that Tele-Vipers are not meant to be combat operatives, and the lack of sculpted weapons, show they’re intended to be support staff for the COBRA legions.
I previously mentioned what I felt was an issue with the figure being the late neck design switch. A lot of the 1985 Sculpts look as though they were intended to be swivel necks, like the previous three G.I. Joe series. If you look at catalog photos and the portraits of Vehicle Drivers like Heavy Metal and Lampreys, a lot of them appear to be Swivel Necks. This isn’t just an interesting factoid, it also helps to explain why some of the 1985 figures have odd torsos or heads that seem a little “off”. A friend of mine once retrofitted a Flint torso into being a swivel neck, and it makes Flint’s head/beret seem less lopsided, I feel that the Tele Viper head was probably made a little off-kilter based on the elongation of the neck.
Otherwise the mold isn’t all that intricate, as most of the highly detailed sculpting and telecommunications gear is based on the figure’s head, but the cargo pants and vest look neat, and practical. While I earlier mentioned the similarities between the Tele Viper and Viper, the Tele Viper also has some of the utilitarian design aspects of the earlier 1982 COBRA army builders.
I like this figure, but I purchased him mainly because I had decent squad of Python Vipers, and this version would tie in well with them, plus there was the novelty of buying a brand new to me figure, which becomes harder and harder to do as the years of collecting grow. While I don’t think I like the figure enough to go out an acquire any more of them, but that’s not really a condemnation of the figure, but it’s more that it’s not a figure that would ever have a big enough role in my collection, to require more than one.