Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From the Archive: Buck Rogers Starfighter Command Center (Mego; 1980)




Last week for the retro toy flashback from the archive, I featured Mego's U.S.S Enterprise Bridge from 1980 and on a similar note, this week I'd like to remember another kindred Mego toy from the same year.

It's Mego item # 85022; otherwise known as the Buck Rogers Star Fighter Command Center.

As you likely recall, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century starring Gil Gerard ran on NBC TV from autumn 1979 to the Spring of 1981. It was a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure and as a kid, I loved every minute of it. How could you not love a series featuring Erin Gray in spandex and Pamela Hensley (showing mid-riff)?  Buck Rogers in this incarnation was like James Bond in space; with neat spaceships, cool sets, and gorgeous ladies. The villains (which included Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar), were also quite colorful.

Of course, I collected all of the Buck Rogers action figures of the day, though even my ten year-old mind rebelled at the lack of care that went into some of the marketing.

For instance, Princess Ardala was called "Ardella" on her action figure card. What, nobody could be bothered to spell check the character's name?

And why market a figure of King Draco, who was barely in the series at all? And Kane (Henry Silva) was called "Killer Kane." He was never called that on the series.  Instead, that name came from earlier incarnations of the space hero.

Anyway, Mego released a whole line of very cool Buck Rogers spaceships and toys, including the Directorate Starfighter (my favorite ship from
the show), the Draconian Marauder (known as a Hatchet fighter on the series...), a Land Rover, and a Laserscope Fighter (not a design from the series). So it only makes sense that the same company would market a place to dock these ships, the Buck Rogers Star Fighter Command Center.

Christmas 1980 was the holiday of Buck Rogers for me. I'll never forget going over to my aunt and uncle's house in Summit, New Jersey and opening toy after toy -- all Buck Rogers models and action figures (though, as I recall, this was also the Christmas of The Empire Strikes Back and my giant AT-AT. But that's another story...).

Here, the toy box suggests: "Issue commands to Buck and monitor his flight pattern with this authentic replica of the Buck Rogers Star Fighter Command Center!"

The toy also includes "2 level deck with radar screens and railings," "Cut-out landing and launch pad for Buck's Star Fighter," and "landing control console for use with Mego Buck Rogers 3 3/4 action figures and all other poseable 3 3/4 action figures."

What remains most interesting about this toy is that what you see displayed on the box is not necessarily the toy you get inside. On the box, for instance, the upper deck of the landing pad shows a chair from Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise bridge. In the actual toy, a different style chair is molded to the deck.

Also, the
decals on the box and the decals of the actual set are completely different. I know now that Mego was juggling a number of "space opera" licenses at the time, including Star Trek, Buck Rogers and The Black Hole, so there may have been some franchise confusion. Just a guess.

This just goes to show you that back in the 1970s and 1980s, even great toy companies like Mego weren't necessarily paying close attention to the exact details of their (admittedly wonderful and now incredibly collectible) products. This isn't really an "authentic replica" of the landing bay on the series.

But that's okay, it's still a fun toy.  And as you can see from the photos, Buck's Starfighter Command Center today holds a cherished spot in my home office, even today.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:09 PM

    John, it is a cool Mego toy even though they should have just looked to the 1979 movie/pilot episode "Awakening" for accuracy of sets replicated to toys. I guess Kenner did a better job with the STAR WARS toys. In 1977, STAR WARS, I always thought that the limited SPACE ACADEMY(1977-78)just action figures without a toy set or Seeker ship to play in. JASON OF STAR COMMAND(1978-80) toys and merchandising was a total lost opportunity too. Mattel did a great job with their SPACE:1999 EAGLE(with action figures) and the Alpha Base(larger figures). The '70s was a great time for toys. :)

    SGB

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  2. The forced perspective is funny - not sure many kids would understand why the launch hole is actually smaller than the starfighter!

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  3. Another great-looking toy that I wasn't aware of until right now! Thanks. I didn't realize that so many Buck Rogers toys were released. I remember watching the show as a kid, but the only toy I ever had was a single earth ship (Starfighter?). It wasn't like the one in the picture on the box for the Command Center. It was made of very cheap and flimsy plastic and smaller than the one in the photo (it didn't open up, ad if it did it wouldn't have been anywhere large enough to fit a 3 3/4" action figure. One other thing was that it was from the time when they designed toys to shoot plastic projectiles, but then those projectiles were deemed too dangerous for kids. My Starfighter had a little red missile sticking out of it, but it didn't come out of the vehicle (permanently attached for my safety). That was SO frustrating (like the Boba Fett figures with the red missile in the backpack which wouldn't launch!).

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  4. @Monster Dad: That safety detail was because an incident happened in which a child choked on a red part from a Battlestar Galactica Viper and died. Things like that do happen, you know.

    I must say, I loved the Star Trek: TNG playsets that Playmates made-now those were great sets. These Mego sets look cheap and thrown together.

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