Star Trek began as a failed 1960s television series only to become a cult-classic during broadcast syndication in the 1970s. Success led to an ongoing movie and television franchise, fan conventions, and annual celebrations like National Star Trek Day, which took place this past Wednesday, September 8th.
Eager to ride the wave of popularity, toy companies like AMT, Mego, Milton Bradley, and Remco developed a plethora of Star Trek themed toys and collectibles, of which the following two were my favourites.
SETTING PHASERS ON FUN
Anyone who enjoyed Star Trek: The Original Series or one of its many television spin-offs has undoubtedly had thoughts about commanding their own starship and creating their own adventures “to explore strange new worlds.”
As a child, one of my first “must-have” toys was the USS Enterprise from Dinky Toys and it provided hours of endless creative play.
Originally released in 1976, the company’s incarnation of Star Trek’s flagship space vehicle integrates a removable orange shuttlecraft and rapid-fire “torpedo” defense system into a die-cast metal body. No wonder it was advertised as “the most exciting die-cast toy ever!”
The USS Enterprise model is also notable as a special part of Dinky Toys’ history. In 1934, Britain’s Meccano began producing lines of small-scale, die-cast automobile and truck models. By the late 1960s, competition from Mattel’s Hot Wheels line forced Meccano to diversify and it released 24 die-cast vehicles licensed from television series – including Thunderbirds, Space: 1999, and Star Trek – before filing for bankruptcy in 1979.
BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY
As kids growing up in rural Massachusetts in the ’70s and ’80s, my siblings and I had endless opportunities for outdoor creative play. Our country setting was the perfect backdrop for role-playing with friends. When defending the neighbourhood from a horde of evil Klingons, our communication tool of choice was a Star Trek Communicator from Mego.
Released in 1974, the stylized walkie-talkie resembled the device used on the Star Trek television show. Each one operated on a 9-volt battery and could send and receive voice messages up to 1/4 mile – perfect for alerting your landing party of pending danger. Mego sold Communicators in two forms: a boxed set and a carded “blister pack.”
Key to the cool-factor of the toy were its two-tone blue case, silver and black Starfleet insignia, and a cover that flipped up at the press of a button – just like the antenna grid on the original prop. The Communicator also featured a telescopic antenna, push-to-talk switch, belt hook, and green/red alert signal button used to emit a “twin warp sound.”
LIVE LONG AND PROSPER
Star Trek was what Gene Roddenberry called a “Wagon Train to the Stars”, and it has always offered viewers a hopeful, optimistic view of the future. Over the decades, the Star Trek Universe, including the myriad of toy lines it generated, has inspired countless numbers of children to enter into STEM fields – an incredible feat for a show that was unceremoniously cancelled in year three of its original five-year mission.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.