Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Collectible of the Week: Space:1999 Eagle 1 Spaceship (Mattel; 1976)





Long-time readers of the blog may recall that I’ve featured this particular toy before -- on November 24, 2005 --- but sometimes, you have to return to your “greatest hits” and just hope people will be patient with your idiosyncrasies.

And this Mattel Eagle 1 Spaceship (1976) remains my all-time favorite toy, hands-down.  So today seemed like a good time to highlight again, especially for newer readers.  I’ll probably feature it again in another seven years, so be warned.

In part, I favor this 1970s Mattel toy because it comes from my all-time favorite science fiction TV series, Space: 1999 (1975 – 1977). But in part it is also because the toy is downright colossal: over 2.5 feet long, as the box trumpets. 

Beyond these values, the Mattel Eagle also comes apart into a smaller ship, a combination of the command and engine modules.  This aspect of the toy seems very realistic to the series (or “show accurate,” to use collecting lingo) and the modular design of the Eagle (from SPFX maestro Brian Johnson).   The separated command module resembles some of the incarnations we saw of the Eagles in episodes such as “Missing Link” and “Dragon’s Domain.”

The box for this toy noted: “It’s a space vehicle.  It’s a headquarters and living quarters on Moon Base Alpha! With three 3” characters.” 

In the latter case, that means that this Mattel toy came complete with three intrepid Alphans: Commander Koenig (Martin Landau), Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) and Professor Victor Bergman (Barry Morse). 
As a kid, I remember being deeply disappointed that there was no Alan Carter action figure, especially since he was the character most commonly seen piloting the craft on the series.  Anyway, the figures featured the show’s trademark orange space suits, as well as removable helmets and back/chest packs.

Again this just perfect for pretend play: the Alphans could walk in space, or take their helmets off for planetary action.  Just don’t tell the Prometheus nitpickers I took off their helmets in dangerous situations, okay?

On the nose section of the Eagle, the “module hatch” would open and hold two action figures.  Inside the “carrier” section was the passenger section, replete with computer decals, “weapons rack” and “space crane.”  The weapons rack held four stun guns and one laser rifle. “Both side panels” of the carrier would slide open, allowing you access to the interior sections.

I was given this really awesome toy shortly before my sixth birthday, in 1976, by my Mom and Dad.  I remember that I was sort of depressed because my older sister didn’t want to play with me on a Saturday and I had nothing to do.  My Mom noticed I was down in the dumps.  So she led me into my parents’ bedroom and told me to look underneath the bed.  I did, and there was Eagle 1, ready for action!  The surprise gift made my day…and I’ve never forgotten it, or my Mother’s kindness.  She was always doing things like that for me (and still does, for my son Joel, to this day.)

Then, as my real birthday approached, my Mom and Dad took me aside and told me that my Uncle Glenn, who recently passed away, had also bought me an Eagle One toy.  They asked me if I wanted a second one, or something different.

Well, of course I wanted a second one.  The only thing better than having Eagle One was having an Eagle fleet!

That Christmas season, both Mattel Eagles went to forest planets (my backyard), ice planets (on snow days) and other dangerous environments.  I recruited the giant squid from G.I. Joe’s Sea Wolf submarine to serve as the tentacle monster from “Dragon’s Domain.”

Even after Space: 1999 disappeared from the pop culture horizon and Star Wars (1977) took its place, I kept and cherished and played with my Eagles.

For years, I’ve kept and cared for these ships.  The one you see pictured is in relatively good condition.  Inside the box is the one I really played with, and which is…battle damaged, let’s just say.  I do worry about my “good” Eagle simply because it is getting really old.  In less than four years, it will be a forty-year old toy, which I find virtually impossible to believe. 

Anyway, if you look closely, you can detect yellow glue lines on the toy, apparently from manufacture, at all the seams.  These lines are becoming more pronounced over time.   The hull is also yellowing in spots (the dorsal lattice, particularly…).

That’s okay, though. I’m keeping this toy in my home office until I die.  And then I’m leaving instructions to my son that it should be buried with me (along with the box).  Unless, of course, he wants it, in which case I’ll be happy to pass it on. 

I’m still working on getting him to be a Space: 1999 fan, however.  Right now, Joel is totally into Star Wars and we spend several days a week playing on a forest planet (our front yard) with Astromech, Battle Droids and Pit Droids.

I guess, in some ways, things haven’t changed at all.  Maybe Joel will let me work an Eagle in there, somehow.  But R2-D2 will probably get to fly it…


17 comments:

  1. The Eagle One spaceship is the only toy I saved from my childhood, mainly because it was so damned impressive. Sadly, I lost the figures because I didn't care for them at the time. I repainted my MAC Men figures to look like Space:1999 people and even repainted one of their vehicles to look like a Moon buggy. Those I still have. My ship also has those yellowing glue marks, the decals are peeling off, and I broke the door on the passenger compartment some time ago. Still, it sits in my office on top of a cabinet so it won't come to any more harm. I still love this toy!

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    1. Hi Neal,

      I love reading of your love for the Mattel Eagle One, and I'm glad your Eagle is still ship-shape, and on display! What a toy, huh? I still it too. It's gigantic, pretty interactive, interchangeable, and about as accurate as we could expect for the day.

      She's a fine ship, all right...

      Thanks for excellent memories of a great toy!

      best,
      John

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  2. Hi John,

    Cool post. Unfortunately I was kinda too old for this toy. It would have been quite the sight; a 14 or 15 year old playing in a field with a Space: 1999 Eagle transporter. Besides, my AMT Starship Enterprise model kit, although not a toy as such, was my favourite... always has been -- and I had a few of them over my junior years. The first version was the "fully lit" one. I'd stare at that thing, with my bedroom lights off, as it dangled from my ceiling. I guess this 9 year old was boldly going.

    Special times. Childhood's sweetness.

    The "Eagle" was a cool vehicle. It made some design sense (forgetting the business of entering planetary atmospheres, which annoyed me, even when I was 14).

    By the way, that AMT Enterprise kit was pretty inaccurate. Which reminds me: The new 32-inch Polar Lights "USS Enterprise" is coming out soon. Wonderful! The greatest space vessel of all will fly again. I will snap back to 1970, for sure!

    Another excellent post. Keep 'em coming.

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    1. Hi Barry,

      Oh my goodness, I love the AMT Enterprise -- inaccuracies and all -- and probably built that ship five or six times as a kid. Not to mention the times my father built it for me.

      Over the years, I "commanded" the Enterprise, the Excalibur, the Constitution, the Exeter and the Valiant, to name just a few. I always thought it was cool how the decal set came with different ship names and different numbers for NCC designations.

      I have great memories of this model kit, and played with it too, which occasionally resulted in a destroyed nacelle, unfortunately, and an immediate dryd-ocking at my dad's modeling table in our family room.

      I remember distinctly being very, very sick in 1980 (when I was eleven), and watching the Lake Placid Olympics on TV while my (indulgent) Dad built me another AMT Enterprise model kit!

      In 1984, I insisted on a trek to the Smithsonian (and we lived in New Jersey) in hopes that the air and space museum gift shop would have another AMT Enterprise for sale.

      Great comment!

      best,
      John

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  3. Inarguably one the finest toys of the 1970s.

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    1. Hi David,

      Absolutely. 100% in agreement! Awesome toy!

      best,
      John

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  4. Anonymous1:28 PM

    John, like you, I was a boy in September 1975 when Space:1999 premiered and John, like you, it is my all-time favorite science fiction TV series. That is why back in 1998 I purchased your in-depth “Exploring Space:1999:An Episode Guide and Complete History” reference book. I think of it as a text book on the series to teach others that were not fortunate enough to have experienced this series as children during it’s [pre-Star Wars]1975-1977 run as we did. For the second season of the series this 1976 Mattel Eagle toy arrived in stores and my parents gave one to me for my birthday too. Because we were all obsessed with Space:1999, my friends and I created many adventures with the Mattel Eagle. My compliments to your boyhood self John very smart use of the G.I.Joe squid for “Dragon‘s Domain”. John your Mother’s kindness with your Mattel Eagle, like your Father’s time spent model making with you are memories that are priceless and never forgotten. You will always remember your late Uncle Glenn for knowing what you loved and helping you create a two Eagle fleet for countless hours of memories of play. After Space:1999 ended it’s two season run in the spring of 1977, it was replaced immediately by the Star Wars(1977)[no mention of “Episode IV:A New Hope” back then for us] summer of 1977. However back in the late ‘70s, for me, like you Space:1999 still was my dominant science-fiction obsession, playing with this Mattel Eagle continued in which I would eventually encounter my friend’s Kenner Millennium Falcon. His Kenner Han Solo action-figure flew my Mattel Eagle several times. I think your son Joel will eventually grow to appreciate Space:1999 as we did as children. However, we did not have the Star Wars influence to draw away our attentions as he does with all the merchandising still today. Back in my ‘70s boyhood, I remember always going to the toy section in any store my family shopped at to search for what toys and model kits were available. If Space:1999 was still producing new toy merchandising I think it would be easier to interest him. It is awesome that you are playing with Star Wars toys with him, more great memories being created, enjoy this time to recapture your boyhood and share it with Joel.

    Like you John, I still have my Mattel Eagle 1 toy in good condition [albeit with minor battle-damage and yellow glue marks aging] stored in it’s original box too. I agree with you it is amazing to think this toy is almost thirty-six years old. My question is which Mattel Eagle 1 are you guarding with your life&after[as seen in these posted photos] and what was the fate of the other Mattel Eagle 1 in your fleet?

    SGB

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    1. SGB,

      Sometimes I think we truly were separated at birth. We must be about the same age because Space:1999 hit at us both at exactly the right time, and changed both of us, I think, permanently.

      It's funny you mention Han Solo piloting the Eagle. My gosh, that happened with me too. Funny to think about, today...

      I agree with you that I am blessed in my family, up and down the line. My Mom and Dad are tops, and I had a wonderful, happy childhood because of them. It's my deepest desire to provide same for Joel, and I work on accomplishing that every day. Children are special, wondrous creatures, and to see Joel in my home office -- with all these toys -- is always remarkable. In many ways, he is "younger" than I was at five, back in the 1970s. I can't imagine showing him, right now (and he is almost six), "Dragon's Domain." I do have hopes that he'll turn to me one day and ask to watch 1999. So far, we have watched three season two episodes together. I picked action-packed ones: "Rules of Luton," "The Beta Cloud," and "Matter of Balance." Those are a little easier for him to digest than my favorites from Year One, like "Force of Life" (which, admittedly, ends in terrifying fashion...) or "Mission of the Darians."

      I have thought appreciatively of my Uncle Glenn a lot of late, too. He took me to see Star Wars one hot summer day in 1977 as well, and was just a really good guy, and one who left this Earth far too soon.

      It's good to know that you still have your Mattel Eagle, and that, like mine or Neal's, it has traveled a lot of space miles, been on many exciting adventures, and now is on display, safe and sound. This is a great toy.

      The Eagle you see in the photos is my best Eagle. The one still inside the box is much more damaged, and not in such good condition. I've told Joel he can have that one today if he wants it, but even that offer has not tempted him! It is missing a few landing struts and one engine pod, and the cockpit canopy is cracked. So it's Eagle 2 at this point.

      Excellent, heartfelt comment. Thank you, again, for always writing so well and so meaningfully about these programs we both love.

      Warmest regards,
      John

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  5. George1:28 PM

    Another great article John. I chuckled when I saw it, because I remembered your previous article and thought " man, John really does love that Eagle." I wish you would put together a collection of all your nostalgia related articles. I have many of your Horror books, (and the Purple Rain one as well), but would like to see more sci-fi related ones. My best friend had the Eagle ship and it WAS awesome. Do you think you remember it so fondly because of playability, or playability AND a simple act of kindness by your Mom? Many of my favorite toy or book acquisitions as a kid are attached to my parents going a little out of their way to make it seem special.

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    1. Hi George,

      Your comment made me giggle. "Man, John really does love that Eagle." Yes, you're right. I do. Kinda crazy.

      I am planning to put together a book of all my nostalgia articles one of these days, and each "Memory Bank" will add to the final piece. I am also moving into sci-fi related books. I'm going to do a series of review books, starting with my reviews of Dystopian Films, and following up with Aliens on Earth/Alien Invasion Films. I hope to start releasing them bi-monthly by the end of the year, but I'm also working on a graduate program, so the work is behind schedule...

      I think I remember the Eagle for its totally awesome playability, but also for the simple act of kindness by my Mom. It made a big difference to me that day, and I've never forgotten what she did. Like you, a lot of toys and books I connect with my parents doing special things, or special events. (For instance, they bought me a Black Hole Maximillian action figure right as we went to see Kramer vs. Kramer, and I still recall playing with it throughout the movie...).

      Excellent comment, George.

      All my best,
      John

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  6. Anonymous4:09 PM

    What fond memories your post brings to mind. I recall the bitter disappointment when, in the months leading to my birthday in the aisle of (I think A&S) my mother sadly proclaimed that the Eagle was just out of our budget. This was probably not altogether untrue, and $13 for a toy was a lordly sum. On the evening of the birthday, I recall the heart-swelling joy that accompanied that enormous box being brought to the table(I vividly remember the creamy smooth, brown A&S wrapping - store wrapping was yet another unknown luxury). That moment, that gift, remains at the apex of birthday gifts in all the following years of my life. Nothing matches the sweet mixture of utter surprise and joy attending that big lump of injection molded plastic. Mine has fared relatively poorly over the intervening years. A door and most of the windows are gone, a couple of figures remain, one of the nozzles bought it, perhaps the laser rifle is locatable, and yes, the glue is yellowing. But it will ever have a place in my mind - hopefully when dementia or Alzheimer's takes hold, I'll still have that one early memory - that's one I can live in.
    - Howard's Brother

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  7. I remember mine with a certain fondness that fades as you get older, thanx for refreshing the memories!
    Although I loved the show, my mother was really, really into star trek. The eagle fascinated me because I understood (that young) that it's thrusters were more realistic than even star wars or star trek. The only other show I've seen that level of attention to detail was babylon 5.
    I wish I had mine to pass down, I suppose they'll have to be content with my coin collection.

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  8. Wow. I loved mine so much as a child. It was my most favorite toy. Thanks so much for posting the pics. I absolutely love the idea of being buried with it. Too awesome. Great memories. Thank you for sharing this.

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  9. Great memories. My fav toy at about the same age, too. Don't know what finally became of it. Sure wish I still had it. Thanks for posting the memories and the pix!

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  10. Anonymous10:18 PM

    Hi John ( met you at Main Mission 2000 in New York...has it really been 13 years? ). I still have one of these, in very good shape hanging from the ceiling in my 'geek room'. It was one that I got from a collectibles store in the very early 90's to replace my 1976 original that had become so playworn and fragile that I gave it away, after many years in storage ( What a fool I was...I've seen some in worse condition going for whopping prices on Ebay ).

    I cleaned this one up, got some excellent repro decals, and touched up that yellowing glue seam with some off-white water based model paint, so it's not so noticeable. She hangs at a dramatic and rakish angle, swooping down out of the corner to ward off any interlopers. I just love to sit and look at it.

    Dep1701

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  11. Anonymous10:36 PM

    BTW: Should anyone want to see, here's a link to a photo of my Mattel Eagle proudly swooping down proudly: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=404700588459&l=ec5f1b4218

    Dep1701

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  12. I am thrilled to know that other's like myself hold this toy with high regards. It was purchased for my younger brother. When he outgrew it his son played with it, then my son, and now my grandson plays with this toy. I know most true collector's would take it away from my grandson, but the truth is, it's one of his favorite toys, and let's just say that having been piloted by so many of my relatives, it's seen a lot of wear and tear. The decals are almost all gone, the seats and crew are missing, the rockets on the back end have long been lost, but it matters not one little bit to my grandson, the current pilot, who flies it with Star Wars people. Thanks for letting me know that other's love this toy as well as my family has. I saved this toy form the trash on several occasions, and I am proud I did.

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