Friday, November 10, 2006

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 49: U.S.S. Enterprise Bridge (1980)

It must have been 1980 or 1981, I guess; a bitterly cold winter's day as I recall. I was at Englishtown flea market in New Jersey with my family, searching out toy treasures. At that time in my life, that would have meant Planet of the Apes, Star Wars or Star Trek figures, to put a fine point on the matter.

Bundled in a warm winter jacket and sipping hot chocolate out of a Styrofoam cup, my lips shivering, I soon came across a toy that I had never seen before (and have only rarely seen since). And which today, I prize. It's the Star Trek: The Motion Picture "U.S.S. Enterprise Bridge" from Mego Corporation, released 1980. I found it mint in its box at the flea market that day...selling for one dollar. Needless to say, I bought it. (And I still had allowance to spare...)

I've kept this toy with me ever since - during all my geographical moves from New Jersey to Virginia to North Carolina, though the toy box is long, long gone.

And just recently, I bought a new one (with box...) on E-Bay for significantly more than one dollar. Why? I had always promised myself that if I saw another of these rare toys, and it was under a certain price threshold, I would get it, since I had played mine out and all the decals had basically rubbed off.

To explain further about this toy, it is not the famous "spinning transporter" Bridge playset from Mego; from the original TV series. No, this is the movie Enterprise bridge from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The box legend says it all, capturing the glory of this toy: "take command of the helm and recreate all the adventure of the crew of the starship Enterprise."

How many of us X'ers, as kids, wanted to do just that? I know I did, and since the movies were from my era growing up, the 1979 -1991 era, this was the bridge I wanted. The bridge V'Ger's probe attacked. The bridge Kirk returned to after a 2.5 year absence after the five year mission; the bridge from which he faced "KHAN!"

"All scaled for Mego 3 3/4 inch Star Trek crew" figures, this bridge "measures over 24 inches long and 12 inches wide and features" the following: "Working Docking Port," "Helm Control Center," "Navigational Station," "Captain's Chair," "Science Center," Communications Console" and "Authentic Decals."

Trademarked 1980 by Mego Corp, to follow the release of the first Star Trek movie, the box also suggested you can dock this bridge "with the Vulcan shuttle (sold separately)," a toy that to my knowledge was never widely released. So how cool is that? What's really awesome is that the you can see the prototype toy in the picture on the side, if you look closely enough at the side of the box, or at least a part of that Vulcan shuttle. Damn, why didn't they ever release this toy? I want one...

I guess there's a certain kind of kid (a geek?) who would rather sit inside and play with action figures than go outside and throw a ball around, and that was certainly me. But what's even funnier is that the bridge isn't exactly a "hub of action." I mean, it's a place with control panels and chairs where the action figures...sit. When I think of the Star Wars toys from Kenner, I remember the Ewok village, the Death Star (with trash compactor!) the Rebel Hoth base and more...places of action and battle! But then Star Trek was (and is...) for a certain kind of kid too. I mean, I don't want to diss Star Wars because I love it, but the thrill of Star Trek is the notion of a team of people exploring the unknown together. The bridge is the gateway to that unknown, that cosmic mystery. Any kind of alien being or space phenomenon or wormhole could appear on our view screen, and off we go into the realm of the undiscovered, the new, the imaginative.

That's why I guess I'll always prefer Star Trek. Swinging light sabers and blasting stormtroopers is really fun for a while, but Trek is ultimately warp speed ahead into universes unseen and unimagined. A planet of gangsters? A living machine? A Klingon battle fleet? A secret mission into the Romulan neutral zone? Pioneering a new world? From this bridge, (and with the right scale figures...), it all seemed within reach.

Truth be told, this toy is made of flimsy plastic and held together only by tiny adhesive stickers. The controls are just decals, flat and uninteresting. There are no lights, no whirring parts. And compared to Kenner's wonderful (and extremely sturdy...) Star Wars toys, this Enterprise bridge pales in comparison. And yet - again - the child who loves Star Trek knows these things don't really matter. It's what we bring to the human adventure, our imagination, that counts, and this bridge - deficits and all - is still the command center that carries our mental starships into new worlds to meet new life forms and new civilizations...


  1. Anonymous10:32 AM

    I LOVED this post. I never had this playset but I always wanted it. I had the figures though! I most liked what you had to say about Star Trek. You really put into words what's in my heart. Nothing is like Star Trek. I like a lot of things but Trek is in a class by itself. Star Trek is life. It's about everything that truly matters in life. It's about living the human experience. Everything else is just entertainment. With all due respect to Mr. Shatner, Star Trek is a whole lot more than just a TV show.

    Chris Johnson

  2. Hey Chris!

    Thanks for the compliments on the post! With young Joel around these parts now, I guess I've been pondering childhood more than ever lately. I see Star Trek as a great influence in my life; and something very meaningful to me. I suppose this post reflects that to some degree, and I'm glad you liked my observations.

  3. Great post, i got this same set when I was 9 for $.50 on closeout, it was a major score.

    As a kid, I prefered trek and Black Hole to Star Wars, probably just to be different.

    I must have spent 1,000 hours with this thing one winter, how it stayed together I'll never know.

  4. Anonymous8:44 PM

    Can you tell me if this toy came with glue, or did it need glue??


  5. No glue needed, Anonymous, but the top section was affixed to the bottom section with pieces of double-sided foam tape.

    I was revamping my old Geocities site into a new blog yesterday - and I happened to cover Mego's TMP bridge briefly in one of my first new entries:

    I bought mine on eBay in 2001 and am thrilled with it. One day I plan to vamp it up a bit with some detailing.

  6. Anonymous9:13 AM

    I have one of these for sale on ebay.