Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Collectible of the Week: Space:1999 Moonbase Alpha Set (Mattel; 1976)




The year 1976 was America's bicentennial, but much more importantly (!) the heyday of Space:1999 toys and memorabilia. 

Mattel released its three-foot-long Eagle toy in 1976 and also a line of  action figures to go with this play set, the Space:1999 Moonbase Alpha "control room & launch center."  On television, this area was called "Main Mission" and was a colossal, two-level chamber replete with big screen and observation deck.

This toy doesn't quite live up to the impressive set from the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson TV series, but is a lot of fun nonetheless. 

It comes with a cool "Starflash Computer" that "really lights up!" and  vaguely resembles one of Alpha's trademark "comm-posts." 

Eagle-eyed collectors, however, will also notice that the Starflash computer is actually a toy re-purposed from the popular Matt Mason toy line of the sixties.

Other than the Starflash Computer, this set is basically a vinyl mat with  a swivel chair, a console chair and table, TV monitor screens, console readout dials, and vinyl covered walls. 

You could apply decals to the playset, to recreate scenes from Year One of the series.  Most importantly, however, this set was a place where your Commander Koenig, Dr. Russell and Victor Bergman action figures could hang out and fight Planet of the Apes figures, or the aliens from Mego's Star Trek line.

The back of the box described the set this way: "18" x 30" x 11" control room & launch center designed for 9" Space: 1999 action figures. Control panels are printed, label set and instructions included.  Action figures not included. Flasher light "D" battery sold separately."

Today, as an adult collector, I long for a more accurate representation of Moonbase Alpha, one that  captures the minimalist, Kubrickian aesthetic of the TV series a bit more closely. 

But I still have a lot of nostalgia for this toy, in part because I remember seeing it in toy stores back in the disco decade and begging my parents for it. 

6 comments:

  1. Boy, that's a dandy John.

    I love seeing those dolls... I mean action figures. Seriously, they look great.

    I'm so with you. I would love a detailed Moonbase.

    With all of the wonderful diecast Eagles I've collected of late, why not a stellar Moonbase set. That would be a true gift to the Space:1999 and retro science fiction fan.

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  2. Hi SFF:

    Thank you, my friend. I love the 1999 action figures too, even though I would have loved to see costumes that were more "show accurate." Still, the accoutrements (commlocks and stun guns) and facial features are pretty good.

    You're right: with all those great diecast Eagles out there, don't we fans need a place to land 'em?

    Bring on Moonbase Alpha!

    Thank you for the comment, my friend.

    warmest regards,
    John

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  3. Anonymous3:47 PM

    Twice, I've tried to watch the entirety of Space: 1999 on DVD, and twice I've faltered less than halfway through. I find that I just can't connect with the actors' sterile performances, with Koenig's thoroughly unlikable personality and with the HORRID acting on the part of Barbara Bain. I really want to enjoy this series, as I loved it as a kid... what am missing? Why isn't it working for me as an adult?

    --Rich Handley

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  4. Hi Rich,

    I can't say exactly what you're missing, my friend, but I can give you a few ideas about the show that may or may not help

    1.) Don't compare it to Star Trek or other space adventure shows (BSG, Buck, etc.). Space:1999 is a horror show in space, pure and simple. Many episodes are mythological stories recalibratated as futuristic horror tales.

    2. Because of the loose continuity between episodes they don't really demand to be watched in order. Given that fact, I would watch some of the most involving and best episodes first to get you into the spirit of the thing. Go right to "Dragon's Domain" (which provides some background for the characters), then try "Mission of the Darians" and "End of Eternity."

    If you don't like those three particular shows, the series may simply not be for you...and that's okay.

    Obviously, I'm a tremendous admirer of the series, in part because of the cinematography, in part because of the mysterious/terrifying aspects of the program. But I know that not everyone loves the show; just as not everyone loves the new BSG or Star Trek, or whathave you.

    Let me know how it goes!

    best,
    John

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  5. I loved John's summation here Rich regarding Space:1999.

    I'd also recommend FORCE OF LIFE for the Ian McShane performance and another straight up solid story.

    It's clearly a story and an avenue of science fiction/ horror that is cold. There's a sense of disconnectedness about Moonbase ALpha.

    Star Trek and other series feel more connected, save for maybe the new BSG, but SPace:1999 feels emotionally disjointed and there's something very alluring about its approach to human behavior in this way. It's very different and hard to connect to on an emotional level. I think that's part of it too.

    Anyway, I think John's points are terrific and spot on. Just thought I'd add my two cents in case you came back to this post.

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  6. I'm sorry, but this toy, while I would have loved it as a child, does nothing for me as an adult. I will say that I prefer this bridge set to the Mego U.S.S. Enterprise bridge set, which was just plain junk and didn't have anything lighting up.

    One other thing I've noticed-has anybody realized that these figures are the same size as the Mego Space 1999 figures released two years previous to this set and these figures? If so, it seems that Mattel bought the figures (or rather the molds for the figures) from Mego and made the figures as shown here. Either that, or they just brought the Mego figures.

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