I hate to begin another blog entry with a reference to Star Wars, but when you’re talking about merchandise based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it is a little difficult to discuss one without mentioning the other. When Star Wars hit back in 1977, retailers and manufacturers alike were caught with their collective pants down. No one in the world anticipated the spending fervor that the sci-fi smash would inspire, which resulted in very little tie-in product being available in stores for the film’s debut. This missed opportunity lead many companies to start looking for the next big thing to pin their licensing dollars on early and then hopefully reap huge rewards in the end. So when the Trek franchise made its first foray into feature films in December of 1979, a gaggle of companies were there with a plethora of product for Trekkies to procure. Many of these items (like the Mego range of figures and the South Bend electronic toys) were excellent and still hold up by today’s standards… but some others were a bit less than stellar. Presented here are a handful of the oddest items to ever carry the Star Trek name:
Instant Stained Glass- Presumably capitalizing on the great stained glass craze of 1979, these trinkets replicate characters and imagery from the film in a transparent format that requires no adhesive. Stick these bad boys to any window and BAM- Instant stained glass! The set of six clings features one sticker devoted to Admiral Kirk, one of the Starship Enterprise, and a whopping 4 transparencies related to Spock (bet Kirk was just a smidge jealous of Spock’s stained glass dominance). Oh, and by the way- I made up the part about there being a great stained glass craze of 1979. I have absolutely no idea why these were made.
Figurine Painting- Perfect for that truly dull kid on your holiday shopping list. I’m not sure how anyone could have possibly purchased these with even the slightest hint of joy. What we have here are little white plastic statues of Kirk and Spock caught in static poses. Pretty boring, huh? Well maybe you’d like to spruce them up a bit with the included assortment of lifeless beige and gray paints. The package states that they are recommended for ages 8-14. Yeah, I’m betting any 14-year-old that got these immediately placed them behind the tires of the family station wagon.
“Authentic” Hand Phaser Water Pistol- Even though phasers are only briefly visible in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and therefore aren’t really deserving of toy treatment, I almost gave this one a pass just because I’m a sucker for phaser replicas. Then I remembered that TMP was a December release. Not exactly the best time to purchase a water gun. Perhaps the packaging should have had a blurb advertising “Pneumonia-Inducing Action.”
Make-Your-Own Costume Book- You really have to see this one to believe it. An entire book devoted to making homemade costumes based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And not just crew uniforms either; this book covers a bunch of the myriad aliens populating the background of TMP as well. So if your lifelong dream has always been to make your own Zaranite costume, then boy do I have the perfect book for you!
I.D. Set- This one is so lame that it hurts. Ever wonder where Kirk keeps his driver's license? Well, wonder no more! The Star Trek I.D. set is the essential accessory for your newly homemade Trek costume. Inside the package you’ll find your official “The Federation” paper ID, a stylish red vinyl wallet, and silver plastic plaque that reads CAPTAIN. All the stuff you need to legally buy Romulan Ale from all those crazy intergalactic bars.
Putty- Yes, you read that right. Star Trek: The Motion Picture Putty. Perhaps the greatest piece of Star Trek merchandise ever made, the TMP Putty has absolutely no basis on anything related to the film. It’s a blue plastic egg filled with putty, plus a tube of solution that enables you to transfer images from your putty to a different surface. I guess that is kind of like a transporter? Wait- That gives me an idea of where the inspiration for this product came from! The putty’s manufacturers must have seen what was left of Commander Sonak after the transporter malfunction and thought, “Hey, that looks like a lot like our putty.” The rest is history.
With the vast amount of Star Trek: The Motion Picture product available, I could probably fill another couple of blogs just based on mediocre TMP merchandise. I won’t put you all through that, though. Instead, next time around we’ll take a look at a truly groundbreaking piece of TMP merchandising… The McDonald’s Star Trek Happy Meal. So grab your napkins, hold the pickles and prepare to beam your stomach into our next tasty installment!
Want to read more from James Sawyer about Star Trek products? Check out his blog - A Piece of the Action.