I can’t be the only one who loves a good jigsaw puzzle, right?
Though I don’t put them together nearly as often as I when I was a kid, I still get in on the occasional one with my own children. Right now, we have one on our coffee table: a 1,000-piece doozy that recreates the poster from the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet. Once we’ve conquered that one, we’re taking on the 3,000-piece behemoth that is Dusty Abell’s tribute to Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.
When I was a kid, and even later after I’d reached alleged adulthood, Star Trek puzzles were much smaller and far less daunting. Most were geared toward my pre-adolescent demographic, and usually depicted some crazy scene that had precious little to do with anything ever shown on the original Star Trek series. Chalk it up to the free-wheeling, carefree world of merchandising way back when. A few of my favorites feature wonderfully wacky art that seems at least partially inspired by the animated Star Trek series, and even if they’re not consistent or even (:: gasp ::) “canon,” several of these old puzzles still possess a goofy charm that’s hard to deny. I still have a couple of them, which were among the first puzzles I put together with my daughters when they were younger and still figuring out how to do such things.
Back then, I imagined what the heck was going on in the scenes illustrated by these little slices of quirkiness. Part of me still does, and since I started writing this article while fighting my latest bout of insomnia, I decided to take ten Star Trek jigsaw puzzles from the days of yesteryear, and supply the heretofore unrevealed stories that inspired them.
So, you know... this could get weird. With that bit of warning out of the way, here we go:
“Battle on the Planet Klingon” (HG Toys, 1974): Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy beam down to a mysterious world inhabited by sentient slime that can only communicate with other beings by attaching itself to them (Clinging to them. Get it? Clinging on? High-larious.). This usually ends up with the other parties being suffocated, which tends to be something of a deal-breaker for any sort of diplomatic overtures. It’s a sticky job, which is why you send your best people.
(FYI, the ship’s laundry ended up just tossing these uniforms, because eeewww.)
“The Alien” (HG Toys, 1976): It’s all hands on deck as the Enterprise encounters a mysterious alien vessel adrift in deep space. What at first appears to be an abandoned hulk is soon revealed as the prison for a malevolent entity cast out by the rest of its civilization tens of thousands of years ago. As one might imagine, the alien’s pretty irked about this. Then it escapes its cage, seeing the Enterprise as an instrument of vengeance to be visited upon whatever remains of its civilization and anything else that stands in its way. Kirk even breaks out a phaser rifle, which should tell you everything you need to know about how serious this is, right?
“Alien Dinosaur” (UK, Whitman, 1973): Kirk and the Enterprise discover a remote planet with an “interstellar wildlife preserve.” Collected here are specimens of extinct forms of animal life from worlds across the galaxy, which are viewed and enjoyed by the planet’s richest, most elite citizens. When Klingons attack, power is lost throughout the preserve, and Kirk and his landing party find themselves trapped as all of the animals are released. Ever heard of the “running of the bulls” in Spain? That’s nothing compared to the “running of the triceratops.”
“Kirk Takes A Spacewalk” (Whitman, 1979): Aliens attempting to sabotage the Enterprise have planted anti-matter explosives aboard the ship, and it’s now a race against time to remove the threat and save the entire crew from total annihilation! As Batman could probably have told him in that epic crossover we never saw but definitely should have received at some point, there are some days that Captain Kirk just can’t get rid of a bomb.
“Battle on the Planet Romulon” (HG Toys, 1974): Dinosaurs again? A civilization of advanced reptilians, the “Romulons,” capture Captain Kirk and all of the men from the Enterprise. They’re plans for their hostages are simple, less filling, and taste great. It’s up to Lieutenant Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and the Enterprise women to save the day and prevent Kirk and the others from becoming the interstellar equivalent of chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks!
“The Invasion” (Whitman, 1978): Apparently taking its lead from some of the adventures Captain Kirk and his crew faced in the pages of the old Gold Key Star Trek comics, here we have snowmobiles from another dimension pouring through a rift connecting to our universe. Unfortunately, that link is now the only thing keeping both universes from succumbing to total entropy! As you can plainly see, Kirk reacts to this new situation with the calm and composed demeanor that will one day make him a legend in the annals of Starfleet history.
“Force Field Capture” (HG Toys, 1976): At first glance, it appears that the intrepid captain and his first officer once again find themselves trapped on a primitive planet that seems to take its cues from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Given Kirk’s predicament, I can only guess he’s being prepared as a peace offering for the local deity-slash-supercomputer run amok. I don’t mind saying this particular image is a bit disconcerting, and this picture could’ve been called “Kirk and Spock’s Lost Weekend” for all I know. The 1970s was a great time for all sorts of Kirk/Spock or “K/S” fanfic, and this little gem looks like it might just fit right in.
(FYI? Kirk’s safe word is Corbomite.”)
“Attempted Hijacking of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Its Officers” (HG Toys, 1974): At first glance, this one might seem self-explanatory, but that’s only until you learn that the alien “hijacker,” is really just trying to get back to his home planet because he forgot to set his DVR to record the Meerkat Manor marathon that’s scheduled to run over the upcoming holiday weekend. I mean, sure, I can see not feeling particularly helpful toward a giant alien space cat with a laser pistol if we’re talking about something silly like Finding Bigfoot or The Bachelor, but come on! Everybody loves meerkats. Even Spock thinks they’re kind of cool. After all, he’s the only one who’s even close to smiling in this picture, right?
(Confession: It’s possible this is where the insomnia began to give way to fatigue and hallucinations.)
“Space Cats” (UK, Whitman, 1975): Beaming down to survey a newly discovered planet, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock quickly fall unconscious. They awaken to find themselves tied up and awaiting....what? Who captured them? It can’t be the oversized felines wandering around the area, possessing no advanced intelligence or alien technology, and happy enough to keep rubbing up against Kirk and Spock. Then, Spock sees the old bones and ropes lying on the ground....
(You just know Scotty’s going to be mad about giant space cat hair everywhere.)
“Kirk, Spock, and McCoy” (HG Toys, 1976): Answering a distress call from another Starfleet vessel that’s been attacked by a mysterious alien armada, the Enterprise is thrust into an alternate dimension. There, they discover the fate of all those Sears Portrait Studios that disappeared from Earth during the early 21st century....
Okay, I’m done, now, but even after all of that? I still can’t sleep. Do you have any favorites from this rather oddball offshoot of Star Trek merchandising? If anybody needs me, my daughters and I will be working on that Dusty Abell puzzle.
(Special thanks to Mark Martinez, owner/operator of the Star Trek Comics Checklist website. In a few cases, his was the only place I could find some of these photos.)
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Dayton Ward is the New York Times bestselling author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories, including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often working with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. He's also written (or co-written) for Star Trek Communicator, Star Trek Magazine, Syfy.com, and Tor.com. As he’s still a big ol' geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward.