Thursday, December 08, 2005

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 20: Space:1999 Collectibles!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I really, really love the 1975-1977 British space TV series from Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, Space:1999.

The TV show aired (on WPIX, New York) when I was six and seven years old, and I've just never forgotten it. I've been a "fan" now literally for decades, but the great thing about Space:1999 is that it rewards repeat viewing by featuring several episodes (like "Force of Life" and "Collision Course") that are open to various interpretations. At the time, the genre press had a fit about this ambiguous-style storytelling (this was pre-X-Files...) and reviewers wanted the show to be more like the colorful and comprehensible world of Star Trek, where man had conquered space.

But as I grew up (or pretended to...) and saw the world in shades of gray, I came to understand and appreciate all the wonderful visual and thematic flourishes on the show, until I was no longer a mere "fan," but actually an admirer and critic who would write extensively about the series.

What you may not know is that Space:1999 has always been my good luck charm, not just personally, but professionally. My first published book was Exploring Space:1999 in 1997. My first published article (also in 1997) was about Space:1999. My first sales to Cinescape and Filmfax concerned Space:1999. And my first novel, The Forsaken (2003), is an officially licensed continuation of Space:1999.

I could go on: my first convention appearances were at 1999 cons in California and New York in 1999 and 2000. I've been fortunate enough to interview series stars such as Martin Landau and Catherine Schell, writers like Johnny Byrne, directors such as Kevin Connor, and special effects genius Brian Johnson - all of whom worked on this mid-1970s space epic.

So anyway, as you can tell from this long-winded opener, Space:1999 is important to me for many reasons. It was my love and admiration for that particular program that essentially opened up my writing career at the beginning. My passion for it is what made a John Muir book happen in the first place.

Considering this, I thought it would be appropriate for my twentieth "retro toy" flashback to feature a cross-section of my Space:1999 toys. I know you've already seen some of these items (particularly the big Mattel Eagle, which was featured two weeks back...) but I wanted to feature a gaggle of the toys together (I also did this kind of post for The Black Hole, some months back). Occasionally, instead of picking out a particular toy (like Starcruiser 1) or a particular style of toys (like puzzles or playsets), it's fun to feature a wide variety of items.

Space:1999 arrived on American shores in September of 1975, and the toys, models and other merchandising associated with it came with that premiere. Planet of the Apes, The Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek were popular (and heavily merchandised...) franchises at the time, but several companies also produced Space:1999 items.

Besides the giant toy eagle, my favorite Space:1999 items invariably featured re-creations of the spaceships and locales seen on the show. In this regard, MPC/Fundimensions really did a great job, offering highly-detailed kits of the trademark Alphan spacecraft, the Eagle, and even a giant lunar diorama of Moonbase Alpha (with an enlarged section or "close-up" of Main Mission Headquarters and little eagles to go on the launch pads...).

Another great kit came from the Year One episode "War Games," -- the Earth-built fighter-craft sibling to the Eagle, known as a Mark IX Hawk.

No doubt the strangest kit was one that didn't appear on the show at all , but was nonetheless packaged and sold as a Space:1999 vehicle. This was an alien car (not a moon buggy) known quite simply as "The Alien." The packaging featured stills from the series, but you won't find this (admittedly quite cool...) design on the show. Although I like this model, I would have preferred some kits of the alien crafts seen on the actual program...

As a kid, I also wanted to recreate the adventures of Commander Koenig, Dr. Russell, Professor Victor Bergman, Maya and the like, and therefore I needed some high-tech, "futuristic" accoutrements.

Helping out in this important category, Remco offered a Space:1999 stun gun featuring a "three function actuator" and "realistic space sound." The ad copy said the gun fired a "lazer [sic] beam." I've often compared the stun gun design on Space:1999 to a staple gun, and there's no doubt that this sidearm (along with Star Trek phasers and Logan's Run sandman "flare guns) is one of the most distinctive and easily recognizable in sci-fi TV history.

But if I wanted to head out onto the lunar surface for my adventures (well, my backyard...) I also needed the Space:1999 chestpack radio from Illco. This was a "solid state transistor radio with microphone, space signal morse code button and earplug." It was created to mimic the look and style of the Space:1999 atmosphere suit chest packs, and also bore the logo of the TV series.

If it was a rainy day, I had a wide variety of "stay at home" toys to play with. There were Space:1999 colorforms (featuring a recreation of the Eagle interior inside...not very accurate...), puzzles from HG (three all together, I believe), and a set of trading cards (packs - 10 cents a piece).

And, of course, there were those Mattel playsets and figures, and that giant Eagle. Really, who needed school when you had such a universe of adventure to choose from?

I have many more items in my collection (a little pinballl thingie, action figures, records, comics, novelizations, a water gun and on and on) but this probably sufficient Alphan bling for one day. We all had toys that we loved as kids, and I don't think there
were any that enjoyed more than those from Space:1999.

1 comment:

  1. My brother and I had those space 1999 water pistols, they were soo cool. He also had one of the Eagle toy (not sure which one it was, it has the green cockpit, might have been the one by Dinky Toy). He got this one because he was hospitalized, I was sooo jealous at the time because Space 1999 was my favorite show and in my little kid's head "it wasn't fair". Wish we had kept those toys.