Thursday, November 24, 2005

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK 18: Eagle 1 Spaceship (1976)




Simply stated, I have never loved a toy more than I love this one. On December 3, 1976 -- my seventh birthday -- my parents gave me this incredible, large-scale ("over 2 1/2 feet long!") replica of the workhouse spaceship from my favorite TV show, Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's Space:1999 starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.

The toy you see photographed here is the one I have carried with me from New Jersey to Virginia to my current home in North Carolina, for nearly 30 years. Today, it sits proudly on my new glass desk.

This Eagle 1 Spaceship toy is just so much fun, I don't know where to begin. Let's start with the box copy: "It's a space vehicle, it's a headquarters and living quarters on Moonbase Alpha! With three 3" TV characters." Wow. Very fun. And I love the box art too. Brings back a whole era of futurism that doesn't exist anymore. Not grungy (like Star Wars); not pulpy (like Flash Gordon) and not technology unchained (like Star Trek). This is a utilitarian design from a believable extrapolation of the future. Or so it looked in 1975. Just one step beyond the Apollo program, so I hoped.

The greatest thing about this Eagle is that it was really all kitted up, to use a phrase I picked up from Blake's 7. This means that the cockpit "hatch" opens to reveal the pilot seats inside. This means that the two side doors open to reveal a cleverly constructed ship interior with a winch, a gun rack, and two chairs. This means that the space-suited figures of Commander John Koenig, Dr. Helena Russell and Professor Bergman came fully equipped with removable back-pack/chest packs, space helmets, and laser rifles and pistols. There is also a hatch on the floor of the compartment, through which you can lower your people into a "world beyond belief."

And if you longed to play with a different style craft, you could even take this Eagle apart, and make a smaller scout ship, or a "mini-space ship" as the box suggested.

Produced by Mattel, this toy is simply a beautiful design, and fairly faithful to the TV series. My old Eagle is showing its age these days with peeling stickers and yellowed glue marks, but for me, it will always represent my childhood, hours of fun, and "the future!" I used to take this thing out into the back yard at my house in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, or up into the trails nearby. My Moonbase Alpha team would encounter all kinds of adventures. In particular, I always re-created in miniature the scary episode "Dragon's Domain," concerning a cyclopean, tentacled beast which would kill astronauts (and spit their steaming bones out...). I even remember to this day that I used a giant squid from an old-fashioned (large-sized) G.I. Joe submarine playset as my tentacled space monster. Unfortunately, I didn't keep that!

Can't believe the year 1999 actually passed six years ago. For me, this Eagle will always be "the future" and I will always consider this toy the cat's meow. I intend to be buried with it, when the day comes...

5 comments:

  1. John, you should have a look at the customization that Mark Lenon did to his Mattel Eagle.

    http://www.freewebs.com/space1999eagle1/

    Very cool indeed.

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  2. John, how ironic that you posted this on November 24th. On this very day in 1976 my brother received this toy for his 7th birthday. And, while his isn't in the condition yours is, it still remains, with many of its original parts, in the basement of our parents' house.

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  3. Holy Cow - I'm drooling because I just saw the customized (Mark Lenon) Eagle! That is a beautiful job, and it's amazing the changes that wree made to the landing struts etctera. Thanks for the link, RJ!

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  4. Anonymous11:16 PM

    Man, I'm sitting here looking at the Eagle 1 I have and must say I wished mine was in as good a shape as yours... ;-)

    I had a terrible time keeping my toys, especially my space 1999 toys.

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  5. John, I'm right with you on memories. I think my twin brother and I received ours for Christmas and was one of my most cherished toys. I don't know what happened to that original one, but I bought once via eBay last year and am waiting to complete it. My son (8 yrs) is constantly bugging me to let him play with it. As much as I've kept him away from it, maybe I should let it remain true to its purpose and play with him in the back yard... :)

    Best regards

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