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.