Thursday, August 18, 2005

Retro-Toy Thursday Flashback # 6: Gerry Anderson's Starcruiser 1


In the late 1970s, Space:1999 and UFO co-creator Gerry Anderson and writer David Hirsch contributed "Gerry Anderson's Space Report" as a regular column to Starlog Magazine. As a ten-year old kid, I was a regular subscriber to Starlog and an avid reader of the magazine. In particular, I liked reading about what was going on with Space:1999, and I dreamed of a revival, or in its stead, something new from Gerry Anderson. When issue # 21 arrived in the mail in April of 1979, I was in heaven at what I saw.

Emblazoned on the back cover of the magazine was a huge advert for a spanking new sci-fi model kit/toy from the US Airfix company (P.O. Box 850, Hewitt Texas, 76643). It was called "Starcruiser 1." This "new-snap-together space kit" was an amazingly detailed spacecraft created by Gerry Anderson (copyright Gerry Anderson Marketing Ltd., 1978). Not far removed from the technology of Space:1999, the unique craft was actually four spaceships in one, a heavily-armed (with defensive weaponry called "neutropedos" ) interceptor unit, a command module (where the pilots would sit...), a main unit with seven engines, which housed the top secret "Kryten Reactor," which was powered "by laser-fusion, using pellets of deuterium as fuel."), and a command base (a kind of all-terrain vehicle that could explore a planet surface). Even better, A Starcruiser 1 implicitly promised a Starcruiser 2...

On page 32 of Starlog # 21, all sorts of helpful information about this spaceship design (and model kit) was contained in an article called "The Birth of Starcruiser 1," that came along with an "Interestellar Command Technical Profile" of the ship and crew. In the article, Mr. Anderson explained that with his business partner Keith Shackleton, he had come to understand that the vehicles for his programs (such as Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, and the aforementioned UFO and Space:1999) were popular model kits even in regions where the programming did not air on TV. In other words, kids had a fascination with unique space vehicles, even if they weren't big fans. This gave the Anderson people the idea to market Starcruiser 1, an inventive spaceship design that had no media tie-in, but which nonetheless could be quite popular. It was an original model design, and as anyone who reads this blogs remembers, I had a true love affair with TV/movie model-kits growing up. That Gerry Anderson had designed this special craft just made it all the more appealing to me as a kid. And best of all, I didn't have to limit my adventures to S.H.A.D.O. or Moonbase Alpha. My imagination could man this ship, and create its universe.

But the "Intersteller Command Technicle Profile" certainly helped pave the way for specific and fun adventures with the model by listing a prospective crew, which included Mission Commander, Captain Christopher Stevens, Navigator/Astrophysicist Lt. Andrew Dehner, Medical Officer Dr. Brian Moore, Technical Officer Professor Melita Alterra who was "also responsible for the design and construction of Starcruiser 1." The Head of Intersteller Command was "Commander Edward Damion." I remember many days of play and imagination thinking up what these characters would be like. In my head, the captain and the astrophysicist were romantically linked, and my Professor Alterra was an older guy with a heavy German accent. Commander Edward Damion was the hard-ass superior who would occasionally tag along on Starcruiser 1 for especially difficult diplomatic missions. Not especially original? Perhaps not, but hey, I was frigging ten years old.

Of course, I bought the Starcruiser 1 model (in fact, I've had three of 'em over my lifetime...) at a Toys R Us in Paramus, New Jersey, and to my delight, the directions for the kit also came with a dynamic eight panel comic-strip that revealed A "Starcruiser 1 Typical Mission Sequence" (see panels). Again, I thought it was great that Gerry Anderson was fueling the imagination of his young fans by showing how the ship worked in a prospective adventure, while also keeping the universe "loose" enough for imagination to play a key role. As the last frame of the comic noted, "You can enact the story once you have assembled your Starcruiser kit and then....why not make up a Starcruiser story of your own." That's precisely what I did. For months...


Needless to stay, Starcruiser 1 became one of my favorite kits (and still is...), and I even outfitted my own modified Starcruiser 2 when I bought my second kit. I decaled it differently, painted it, and made it a different design. A year or so later, a actual second multi-unit ship came along from Airfix, called the Cosmic Clipper, and I loved that one just as much. Alas, I haven't seen that one available on E-bay at all in the last several years, but I was able to pick up my third Starcruiser 1 there as a birthday present a few years back.


So in a world where model kits aren't that popular anymore, this week I wanted to highlight one such kit - an original one - that I absolutely loved, and takes me back to the year 1979. This was the era when Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Alien, Star Trek: the Motion Picture, Moonraker, Destination Moonbase Alpha and The Black Hole were all inspiring me to imagine my own adventures in the deepest regions of outer space.

I hope kids today have some kind of toys or kits like these...

3 comments:

  1. Hi John,
    I was surfing around for 'starcruiser' when I found your blog page and would like to give you some info on the model-something I have a passion for just like you!
    The model was actually designed by Martin Bowers then changed by Airfix (something that pissed Bowers off apparently) to be used by Anderson in a TV series called 'Starcruiser'.The series failed to sell,prompting Gerry Anderson to release it here in the UK in1978 then in the US.The US version got a really jazzy paint scheme!I've even been chatting to the guy who did the original artwork contained in the model kit and for 'Look In' magazine where the ship had a comic strip (but I can't find his name at the moment.He found my website,listed below,and contacted me about my work.He liked it,which made me very proud!
    Like you I got the model when I was young,about 13 I think.And I started making up stories.The thing is I'm still at it.My starcruiser stories have fans all over the world.And I've managed to get three models off Ebay.They come up every now and again.Two are unbuilt and the other was assembled to use in the photos for the site.
    Thanks for sharing the love of this underrated ship,you'd be surprised how many did!
    GDW

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  2. Graham -

    I see that Starcruiser 1 spurred your sense of creativity and ingenuity, and that your love of this beautiful ship has become the source of your imaginatings. I think that's so cool. I remember hours and hours as a kid playing with that toy, and forging my own adventures. I checked out your site (and it is now linked on my blog) and it is just fantastic. I'm looking forward to delving into your fiction as soon as I get a chance.

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  3. OMG! You guys are GREAT! I've spent years trying to find the identity of my all time favorite toy. I'm not sure how I came to own the Star Cruiser 1. I'm sure I received it as a gift when I was little (10 or 11 years old) but I never came across the origional ad nor did I know about the planned series. I am happy to know that that the toy that inspired years of adventures for me inspired others as well. I'm even more happy that you gentlemen provided me with a link to my childhood and a way of finding a copy of that toy again. Thanks again!

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