Mego was about fun, not accuracy. That’s clear from its U.S.S Enterprise Action Playset. Had I owned one way back when, it would have been big on play value for young me.
But I never got the chance. Mego started producing Star Trek toys in 1975 and I was too young to buy them new. I had to wait a few decades for my playset. The figures and bridge pictured here are the original ’70s versions; not for me the 2008 reissues from Diamond Select.
Mego, founded in 1954, made cheap and unremarkable toys for almost two decades before landing on the idea of producing licensed dolls in the early 1970s. Its first two lines were Planet of the Apes and Star Trek. It made a number of TOS figures, even entirely inventing some characters, and a few playsets. The Mego Museum’s Star Trek page has a good summary. My playset has all the accessories: the nav and helm console, the two stools, the captain’s chair and all three double-sided viewscreen images, and my set came with all the stickers applied. I also have all six of the Wave One figures. I don’t have any of the others.
I also own Kirk and Spock still mint-fresh in their boxes, and for the photo of my playset above I took for inspiration the promo photo from the back of those boxes. I don’t, however, have enough phasers, tricorders and belts to quite do justice to the scene.
The bridge, of course, looks nothing like the real one. It’s not curved, the stations are all wrong, and if you have the characters face the viewscreen then you’re left looking at the back of their heads. And the real bridge did not have a one-person transporter over on the side. Which raises an interesting point: this is called an Enterprise — and not a bridge — playset. This is because Mego crammed different departments into this thing.
Such as the mini transporter room, which is shockingly innovative. Here is the beaming process:
- place a figure in the transporter
- give the spinning knob a quick twirl
- watch as the revolving decals create a nifty illusion of the transporter cascade
- press the green button on the top; the transporter will stop spinning with the figure facing the back
- open the secret flap on the back of the set to remove the figure.
The crewmember has now been beamed down. Reverse the process, pressing the red button, to retrieve him or her from the planet.
Over on the other side is engineering, denoted by a circuit diagram on the wall. That’s it; that’s all of engineering.
Again, accuracy was clearly not Mego’s goal, but kids could have adventures on the bridge, have Kirk call down (over) to Scotty in engineering, beam crew around and, if they wanted, maybe even squeeze a sickbay into the back for McCoy.
The playsets are also great fun for collectors. They were made of thin plastic laid over a cardboard framework and almost all were actually played with, so most units are in poor shape today. The plastic dries up and cracks, the corners get bashed in, and the white carry handle at the top is almost always broken.
All of which makes the pursuit of one in good condition a lot of fun. I bought mine a few years ago from a TOS collector I met on Facebook. It has no tears in the plastic, the handle is intact, the colours are bright and the decals in good shape, and it came with all the accessories. I paid less than $100 and I think I got a deal.
Collectors, especially completists, should know that Mego produced a few batches of these and there are many variations. The furniture came in either blue or yellow and in one or two pieces, there are a number of different boxes, the decals were either on a sheet or already affixed and, the biggest difference, the sets produced for the Canadian and French markets were about 10 percent smaller overall. I own the standard US version.
I spent years searching for a playset in good condition that I could afford, and I worried not at all about which colour the console was or whether the decals had been applied by the factory or a 10-year-old.
My playset sits on a shelf in my Star Trek room, with the figures arrayed as pictured above. I don’t play with them but it’s nice to know that I can, anytime I wish.
Mego created a prototype updated bridge playset that was a little more accurate. It also sported a separate sickbay, although it was positioned as a sort of treehouse over the bridge. Check out this Mego Museum page for photos.
2 responses to “Playing with dolls: the Mego Enterprise Action Playset”
Fantastic post! Thanks for the tour of your Enterprise 🙂 I’m also struck and not a little surprised by how nifty the likenesses of the actors’ faces are – If that Klingon isn’t supposed to be William Campbell’s Koloth, then I’m a Denebian slime devil! Thanks again for a fun start to my morning.
Thank you, Michael, for the kind words.
You are exactly right about Koloth — and I appreciate the Trekkiness of adding a Trouble with Tribbles reference. I actually have Facebook and Twitter posts planned for next week that make the same point about Koloth.
I hope to hear from you again.