Sometime back, when I wrote and photographed the ToyBox article on Mego’s action figures from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I regretted that I had no way to show everyone the cool – and rare – artifact of that toy line that was the U.S.S. Enterprise Bridge Playset. Now, thanks to a reader of theLogBook.com who kindly provided several photos and information to me, you can see it.
I remember seeing this in a 1979 Christmas “Wish Book” catalog – either Sears or J.C. Penneys – and drooling even back then. Designed by Joe Jennings, Mike Minor and Andrew Probert originally for the aborted TV sequel Star Trek: Phase II, the movies’ Enterprise bridge was a marvel of futuristic, formed-curve architecture and functionality to my seven-year-old eyes. The thought that one could own a little version of this thrilled me even at that age. The reality of it, as it turns out, is a little different.
The thing about all that futuristic, formed-curve architecture, and the fact that the Enterprise bridge was loaded with those gentle slopes and rounded edges, is that it was exceedingly difficult (and therefore expensive) to replicate in miniature with the technology available in the late 1970s. Mego opted to take the practical, but also somewhat cheap-looking, route of vacu-forming two major plastic pieces, with several smaller pieces (railings, chairs, a round door), also vacu-formed plastic, which would snap into place.
Decals filled in for control panels and other surfaces (such as a faux-metallic surface for the raised area near the captain’s chair), and oddly, the outside of the playset in these photos sports a decal as well.
Another strange thing about the Enterprise playset is the number of bridge positions to be filled vs. the number of figures released. Mego passed up the supporting characters – Uhura, Sulu and Chekov weren’t produced, and judging by the alien-filled second wave of figures, weren’t even planned – but the bridge playset certainly seems to have room for them.
In 1979, Mego was up against such well-constructed behemoths as Kenner’s multi-level Death Star and Millennium Falcon playsets, whose interiors were more of an impressionistic interpretation of specific action scenes than they were accurate representations of any particular film set. The Enterprise bridge seen here is in the same category – it’s not a perfect representation of the set from the movie. The round door, for example, would appear to correspond more to the large airlock doors than to anything that actually opens onto the bridge (then again, to do sliding doors would’ve been a headache for assembly, to say nothing of the consumer’s ability to keep the toy in one piece). But perhaps the reason that the Enterprise bridge is just a little bit less exciting than the Death Star is that, while a lion’s share of Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s scenes took place there, not a lot of action took place there. (Aside from the camera tilting and actors pretending to try to stay upright, the biggest action sequence on the Enterprise bridge was the “zapping” of Ilia by an energy probe.)
In hindsight, with the construction of the Enterprise bridge playset, it’s easy to see why this toy has become hard-to-find – it’s probably hard to find intact, let alone in displayable condition. But even so, it’s one of the better attempts to replicate the bridge of any of the starships Enterprise in a small scale – and for once, the lack of color and detail doesn’t work against it, as the environment it represents was actually rather sterile.
Special thanks to Pat Roeling for sending us these pictures; if you haven’t already, you can click on any of them to see the original, full-size photos he sent us.