Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Collectible of the Week: Buck Rogers Action Figures (Mego; 1979)

Mego acquired the merchandise license for the 1979 revival of Buck Rogers and used the feature film (originally a TV-pilot) as the basis for its many toy designs.  In past weeks I have featured here Buck’s Starfighter Command Center and Buck’s Laserscope Fighter.

This week, I want to remember the action figures from the series themselves. 

Nine were released all together, including Buck, Twiki, Wilma Deering, Killer Kane, Ardella, Dr. Huer, Tiger man, Draconian Guard and Draco. 

If you watched Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on television with any regularity, you’ll immediately pick up on some of the discontinuities between the program and the toys.  Specifically, Pamela Hensley’s character was named Ardala, not Ardella.  And Kane -- a character played by both Henry Silva and Michael Ansara – was never referred to by the nickname Killer Kane. 

Finally of course, King Draco appeared in the pilot/movie for about twenty seconds and was never seen again on the series.  Not even once.

Despite such problems, I always enjoyed these three-and-three-quarter inch action figures.  They could fit easily inside the Land Rover, the Draconian Marauder and the Starfighter, and in general looked a great lot like their video counterparts.  The figures’ drawbacks included the fact that they came with no accessories, not even laser guns or helmets. 

And additionally, like The Black Hole action figures from Mego of the same vintage, these Buck Rogers figures could break very easily because all their joints were held together by silver pins.  Those pins  had an annoying habit of loosening up or even falling out.

I still remember seeing Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in theaters.  Afterwards, my parents took me to a Toys R Us store to buy me two action figures.  I was able to find Buck and Twiki and was pretty happy about it.  Our next stop was a carpet store and while my parents shopped, I flew Buck and Twiki around the huge store filled with rolled-up rugs. 

In short order, however, Buck’s interior elastic snapped, and the hero came apart into many pieces.  The very first night I had him!  Buck’s “accident” left me only with Twiki…which was a big disappointment.  

The astronaut had survived five hundred years as a popsicle only to spontaneously combust in a carpet store.

When we arrived home, my Dad glued Buck Rogers back together, but the poor guy was never quite the same, being now unable to move his hips. 

How could he teach my Princess Ardala figure how to boogie?


  1. Anonymous12:24 PM

    John I loved the Mego Buck Rogers In The 25th Century toys too as a boy in 1979. However, like you the inferior design of the “action” figures were disappointing. John, your parents treated you to an awesome day seeing the film plus buying Buck and Twiki at Toys R Us. However, you made the boyhood error of taking Buck & Twiki to an extremely hostile environment of the carpet store planet. I had similar problems with these action figures by visiting the dangerous world of the backyard lawn planet. I remember a friend’s father saying Kenner would have made these to last as he performed reconstructive glue “surgery” on several of them.
    I think that the pilot “Awakening” which was first a 1979 feature film release was the high point of the entire series before they changed things for the series. The Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (1979) film established that there was only one Inner City/New Chicago on a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland Earth and Colonel Wilma Deering was top officer in charge of Earth’s defense. The film established that Earth’s defense included a planetary Defense Shield[forcefield] that encompasses the entire globe that not even a Draconian Star Fortress could penetrate. Unfortunately, these were all changed in the series including the ruling computer council that only Dr. Theopolis was kept for season 1 and by season 2 Wilma was reduced to just another crew member on the Searcher.
    I consider both the Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (1979) film and the Flash Gordon(1980) film the best live-action adaptations of these characters. The Filmation Flash Gordon(1979-1981) animated series and late aired (1982) animated pilot film are the best animated adaptation of this character, plus the 1979 animated series action-figures were extremely fun to play with too.


    1. Hi SGB,

      We share a love for those toys, as badly disappointing as they were in terms of construction and durability. I always really loved Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and wanted more accurate toys. I would have loved a Hawk figure, and a Searcher model, among other items. :)

      I agree with you that a great deal changed from the pilot to the series. I had really hoped to see Buck trying to rediscover some of his past by exploring Anarachia, the land outside New Chicago. I think they made a big mistake ignoring that aspect of the character. That said, I understand why the decision was made to take the adventure to outer space. It was two years after Star Wars, and certainly, it seemed like a safe move.

      Like you, I was deeply disappointed with the diminishing of the Wilma Deering character. She started out as a superior officer and a very strong person. And by the end of it, she was just Lt. Uhura or Mr. Sulu, on the bridge of the Searcher.

      Great comment.

      And I also love the Flash Gordon animated series from the same era (and those toys...).