Thursday, December 01, 2005

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 19: Playsets for Action Figures: The 1970s

Action figures need somewhere to live. That's just a fact of life. I mean, you can take 'em outside to explore "real" terrain on location (and risk soiling their spiffy uniforms...), but at the end of the day, you want your plastic figures to have a place to hang their hats.

And that's one reason why I've always loved action-figure playsets. Also, of course, if we're talking about TV/movie related playsets, these toys tend to recreate the sets of favorite productions. In other words, the bridge of the Enterprise on Star Trek, the Death Star in Stars Wars or the like. It's not a lot of fun owning action figures and having nowhere to billet them.

The first playset I ever was given (and which I still own...) was indeed Mego's Starship Enterprisee bridge playset from the year 1976. This blue-hued set housed the tall Mego Star Trek figures from the 1970s (Kirk, Spock, Scottie, Uhura, "Bones" and "Klingon"), and featured a lot of goodies for intrepid and youthful Trekkies, including a helm console (with two stools...), a changeable viewscreen display, and, of course, a Captain's Chair. Of course, the best feature in this set is no doubt the spinning transporter beam! Plug a figure in to the transporter chamber, spin the switch, and press a button (red or green...) to beam that crewman down!

And where, pray tell, would you beam that landing party down to? Well, one option was Mego's "Mission to Gamma VI" playset, a recreation of the stone God Vaal from the second season Star Trek episode, "The Apple." This unique set, molded in sandy-yellow and green, came with a trap door at the foot of the monument and a two-story cave interior that is so cool you have to see it to believe it! Unfortunately, I know longer either the trap door or the backing behind Vaal, or even the alien accessories. Heck, at least I still have part of this toy. I can take solace in that.

As a kid, I also loved the Space:1999 Moon Base Alpha playset from Mattel, also released in the mid-1970s, and featuring a "control room and launch monitor center." Unlike the Star Trek bridge, this Main Mission Playset came with decals depicting actual clips of Eagles and space battles from the show, which to me made it seem more authentic. The 1999 playset also comes with a central "star flash" computer which, I suppose, tries to ape the look of Alpha's comm-post computer pillars. Okay, I'll buy that. This set housed the three Mattel action figures from 1999 (Commander Koenig, Victor Bergman, and Helena Russell) and also nicely provided them authentic-looking minimalist furniture (a chair and coffee table...)

I also collected Planet of the Apes playsets from Mego over the years. In its heyday, Planet of the Apes toys were very popular, and I had the treehouse and other neat stuff. Today, I'm left with the Forbidden Zone set (a broken down thing called "Judson's Garage") and a few accessories like the catapult and wagon. But damn, you can't touch this stuff on E-Bay. It's too bloody expensive.

When Star Wars arrived in 1977, action figure playsets went into overdrive. I don't think I could possibly list all the ones I've owned, played with and enjoyed over the years. But let me try: there's the Death Star, the Rebel Attack Base on Hoth (from the Empire Strikes Back) and the Ewok Village from Return of the Jedi, just to name three. But Kenner also released a Droid Factory, the Mos Eisley Cantina, the Star Destroyer bridge (replete with Darth Vader's cubicle...), and even Yoda's house on Dagobah (complete with quick sand!). At one point in time, I owned all of these sets, though I pretty much played them out until they were trash.

The year 1979 brought Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Mego released another Enterprise bridge playset, this time for the 3 inch figures from the movie. Alas, this flimsy plastic toy was not very well constructed, and was held together only by little adhesive squares that lose their "stickiness" after awhile. You can see pictured what's left of mine. It ain't pretty. There were always rumors of a "Vulcan shuttle" playset to attach to this bridge, but I've never seen it. Not on E-Bay. Nowhere...

Mego also built a similarly crappy set for the 3 inch Buck Rogers in the 25th Century figures. It was called the Starfighter Command Center, and it too was made of flimsy plastic, those bloody adhesive squares and decals. Still, I love this playset, despite its generally poor construction... I just can't help myself.

Anyone out there collect playsets for their action figures? Which ones did you have as a kid, and do you still have 'em?

1 comment:

  1. I still have Castle Greyskull and He Man,Beastman,Man At Arms,Skeletor,and Fakor.All from 82-83 series.