Thursday, 21 February 2019

Lost Post: The Toys That Made Us

LOST ARTICLE....sometimes one just slips the net - here's a mini review of the "recent" show looking at Trek toys that I somehow missed publishing...

Already one of my favourite Netflix series, The Toys That Made Us opened up its four episode second season with a corker.    

Not particularly known for its toy lines, Star Trek has a rich history of merchandise and with the online streaming service now showing every televised minute of the franchise its fitting that Star Trek gets to sit alongside luminaries such as Transformers, GI Joe, Lego, Hello Kitty and...erm...Star Wars.   

The toy lines have an incredibly bizarre history as the show explores from the 1960's era of AMT model kits, re-stickering existing unrelated items with the words Star and Trek through to the 70's period of flashing light helmets and the important Mego figures then on into the 80's Galoob figures (and all their errors!), the phenomenal success of the Playmates range in the 1990's and cruising to the Diamond Select, Eaglemoss and MacFarlane licences of the 21st Century.

The Toys That Made Us displays a somewhat colourful picture of the past to Star Trek merchandise. It seems that the companies responsible for producing the goods couldn’t time releasing their ranges with the franchise’s highs for many years and the quality was varied especially in the early days.  Add in a flying Enterprise, tanks and even freezicles and you can see a franchise being plundered in any way possible no matter the accuracy and quality.

For an overview,  talking heads come from the former head of Mego, the Tenuto family, the Trimbles, Doug Drexler - but noticeable through absence are any faces from Eaglemoss (Ben Robinson) when the show heads into the realms of The Official Starships Collection and the future of the franchise in toy form - although I might disagree with calling that collection a toy?! In addition, there's not even a mention of the Micro Machines starships from the 90's which reflects the fact this is much more tied to the history of Star Trek action figures rather than ships and playsets which get the occasional aside.

There are more than a few memories in there for myself as a collector since the 1980's but it's what's not mentioned that really isn't explored as much as it could have been. There are not only some stupidly off the wall ideas that actually made the production grade but what of the cancelled Galoob second wave of toys or more recently the axed Diamond Select Deep Space Nine waves? Hearing about what happened to cause these "failures" would have been a great addition although I might suspect it's down to the matter of timing that the licence holders have been getting wrong for decades. There is mention of the "1701" collections that meant collectors were scrambling for a limited number of items to complete their sets and which inadvertently was a factor that made sales crumble.

It's amazing as well, considering how precise fans can be around screen accurate replicas how much has been produced "cowboy" style or with some major tweaks to make it highly cost effective with one of those being the mix-and-match creature parts pressed into service for the brown-skinned Mego Gorn figure.

This is perhaps one of the more prominent The Toys That Made Us because it focuses on a franchise that is blindingly present but yet really failed to make a significant dent on the market when it comes to kids toys. Look at the other names in the series and all of them have reached silly heights of popularity whereas Star Trek has trundled along in the background, some might say, for many years just keeping itself above water and paddling for dear life.

Each of the lines has fallen foul of some error along the way which has caused them grief but the show looks positively to the future with the continuation of the JJ reboot and the launch of Discovery providing not only a new range of potential toy lines but (and unsaid), a whole new generation of buyers too.

Interestingly this is one series of toy lines that seems to admit it's appealing to an older generation of collectors rather than children playing with them which has led to the need for superior accuracy on all levels and an adherence to canon rather than continuing to stick new labels on other toy lines. Maybe there could have, ironically, been a little more detail in each of the sections covered but there is only a 45 minute run time for each episode of the series which might prove to be the restriction.

How I managed to miss publishing this so long ago is a total mystery but hey, this is a great episode that fills in some gaps and shows that Trek's merch history is certainly eventful. 

Definitely worth checking this one out on Netflix as soon as you can!

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