(written from a Production point of view)
Mego Toys (pronounced MEE-go) is popularly known as a major producer of licensed action figures during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Based out of New York City, the family-owned company – founded by David and Madeline Abrams – began to produce "dime-store" dolls and other toys in 1954. Beginning in 1971, when son Marty Abrams was appointed CEO, Mego created the first 8-inch action figure called Action Jackson to compete with Hasbro's well-established G.I. Joe line.
Under the auspices of Abrams, Mego successfully branched out into pop culture, and produced the World's Greatest Super Heroes line of licensed DC and Marvel comic figures beginning in 1972. TV and film-based toy lines, such as Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, and Wizard of Oz, were added soon after and also became popular Mego products. Having succesfully turned the initially small family business into a multi-million toy company, Marty Abrams is considered as the "father" of the modern action figure by toy experts. (The Toys That Made Us)
Star Trek releasesEdit
After Star Trek: The Animated Series had premiered in 1973, CEO Abrams was approached by his key employee Neal Cublin, who suggested to add Star Trek to the company's toy lines, as he had noticed that Star Trek had made a spectacular come back in syndication with the new animated series to boot. Not only that, but he had also observed that there was virtually no real Star Trek toy merchandise on the market at the time to cater to the needs of the growing fan base. Abrams sent Cublin to the Paramount Publicity Department to find out if a license could be acquired, and was pleasantly surprised when Cublin returned with a US$5,000 contract. (The Toys That Made Us)
By 1975, the company began to produce a line of Star Trek action figures, play sets and other toys based on Star Trek: The Original Series, which, as expected, became hugely succesful. These were the first action figures ever produced for the franchise, with a for the times surprising level of accuracy, and in the end the US$ 5,000 Star Trek toy line deal grossed the company US$50 million, much to the glee of Abrams. "You can imagine the joy we had on that one!", he stated years later. (The Toys That Made Us) This had been a prime example of how the franchise viewed their property at the time by treating "(...)the whole idea of Star Trek licensing and merchandising with immense disdain", as author Stephen Edward Poe had put it. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, pp. 45-46)
In 1976-1977, Abrams declined to bid on the license for Star Wars toys, purportedly for the reason that his company was only interested in television based properties. Like all Hollywood movie studios with him, Abrams vastly underestimated the impact of the first Star Wars movie and its massive success of both the movie itself and the resultant toy line which had gone to Kenner Toys. The success of the latter had a profound effect on Mego as sales dropped from a 75% male market share to 30% almost overnight, with turnover likewise dropping from US$150 million to $50 million, leaving the company in dire straits. Stated Abrams, "Star Wars put a dagger in the heart. We just couldn't figure a way how to pull the dagger out and heal ourselves up fast enough." (The Toys That Made Us)
It was with Star Trek: The Motion Picture – itself a direct result from the success of Star Wars – that Mego two years later perceived a chance to regain its fortunes by producing new, movie-based 3¾-inch action figures, 8-inch starships, and assorted toys in 1980. However, the movie became a disappointment, and as a direct result the hoped for toy sales based on The Motion Picture did not materialize either. Already in financial troubles, Mego declared bankruptcy in 1982 and finally closed their doors in 1983, amidst tremendous legal tormoil, which resulted in Abrams being convicted and incarcerated on several counts of fraud and obstruction of justice. (The Toys That Made Us)
The first Star Trek action figures ever produced were initially released by Mego in 1975, stood eight inches tall, and were fully articulated with cloth replica uniforms and miniature accessories. Most were good likenesses of the show's characters while others were obvious "rush jobs" or re-sculpts of figures from other Mego toy lines.
In total, fourteen figures in three "waves" were eventually released by Mego between 1975 and 1978. The second and third "Aliens" waves are the hardest to find, with the Romulan and Andorian from Wave Three considered to be the rarest of all.
In 2007, EMCE Toys began to release faithful reproductions of many of Mego's 8-inch Star Trek figures and have supplemented the line with several new additions. The USS Enterprise bridge playset was also re-released. EMCE Toys' "Star Trek Retro Cloth Figures" and the playset are distributed by Diamond Select Toys.
Wave One figuresEdit
This wave originally consisted of these five figures:
- Captain James T. Kirk - with belt, phaser, and communicator
- Mr. Spock - with belt, phaser, communicator, and tricorder
- Mr. Scott ("Scottie") - with belt, phaser, and communicator
- Dr. McCoy ("Bones") - with belt, phaser, communicator, and tricorder
- Klingon - with belt, phaser, and communicator
Later, as part of the same set, Mego added:
Wave Two figures ("Star Trek Aliens")Edit
- Neptunian (lizard-like aquatic alien with scales and webbed wings; never appeared in Star Trek) - no accessories
- The Keeper (actually more styled after Balok's "puppet" in a white robe) - no accessories
- The Gorn (in fact, a brown re-cast of the Marvel Heroes' LIZARD figure head on a Planet of the Apes "soldier ape" figure body) - shares the accessories and uniform of the Klingon figure.)
- Cheron (presumably styled after Bele; entire body and costume is half-black/half-white) - no accessories
Wave Three figures ("Star Trek Aliens")Edit
- The Romulan - with gold "vac-metal" helmet, black belt, and "Klingon red" phaser and communicator
- "Talos" (Talosian in yellow jumpsuit with black collar and orange boots) - no accessories
- Andorian (in standard Andorian outfit as seen in "Journey to Babel") - no accessories
- Mugato (oddly CLOTHED in green top which may have faded to yellow and black belt and red pants) - no accessories
Figure playsets and accessoriesEdit
In addition, several playsets and accessories were produced for the figures:
- U.S.S. Enterprise Action Playset - a mock-up of the Enterprise bridge with Captain's Chair, Navigational Console, two "Crew Seat" stools and "spinning" Transporter; doubled as storage case for figures
- U.S.S. Enterprise Action Gift Set - essentially the above playset with the original five "Wave One" figures (no Uhura)
- Mission To Gamma VI - the rarest of the playsets; recreation of Vaal from "The Apple"; came with four generic alien figures
- Telescreen Console - a tabletop game that doubled as an "add-on" piece for the Action Playset; game screen with Captain's Chair and Control Lever
Star Trek CommunicatorsEdit
Sold in both a boxed set and a carded "blister pack", this was a pair of walkie-talkies styled after the communicators seen on the original Star Trek. They were molded primarily from blue plastic, with a button-release "cover" that flipped up like the antenna grid on the original prop.
Command Communications ConsoleEdit
Super Phaser II Target GameEdit
This was a "role playing" toy that consisted of a light-emitting "Super" type 2 phaser (an enlarged, bulkier version of the standard type 2 phaser) with a "sonic buzzer device" that fired at a "target reflector badge" depicting a Klingon D7 class cruiser. Firing at the badge's large red target reflected the light back to the phaser, activating a buzzer.
Star Trek TricorderEdit
This was an actual, functioning portable tape recorder made to look like a tricorder prop from the show. Like the communicators, this was molded primarily from blue plastic. It had a flip-up top that concealed the dial that controlled most of the recorder's functions, as well as the volume control. The tape compartment was located directly below. The unit came with a cassette tape containing 30 minutes of audio from "The Menagerie, Part I" and "The Menagerie, Part II". The other side of the tape was blank, allowing the user to create their own audio recordings.
Star Trek Phaser BattleEdit
Similar to the "Telescreen Console" marketed with Mego's original Star Trek action figures, this was a tabletop game unit that allowed the player to attack alien ships. Gameplay was a little more complex that the Telescreen, as there were more controls (especially dual buttons for port and starboard shields) to use, as well as a larger playing screen and a "digital-style" scoreboard.
Star Trek Educational ToysEdit
Mego marketed a line of educational Trek-related toys which included an Intergalactic Projector (a home planetarium projector), a Crystal Radio set, and other "build-it-yourself" scientific toys.
The company advertised a tribble toy but it is doubtful that it ever reached production.
In 1980, Mego released three starships seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, though distribution was widespread only in Canada. The refit USS Enterprise was released exclusively in Canada by Grand Toys. The ships measured about eight inches long and included a stand.
Interactions with pop culture productionsEdit
In the Star Trek parody and pop culture-referencing television sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Mego Star Trek action figures have made appearances on a few occasions. This comedy series is centered on four science nerds who are rabid fans and collectors of Star Trek, science fiction, and comics memorabilia.
Mego toys appeared prominently in the "The Transporter Malfunction" episode in which central character Sheldon Cooper and his roommate were given a rare, mint-in-box (a condition highly valued in toy collector circles) Palitoy "Star Trek Transporter Room Playset" as a gift by their attractive female neighbor. This toy is a variant of Mego's "USS Enterprise Action Playset" and was seen as a generous gift indeed as this UK-exclusive version is considered to be exceptionally rare. 
Sheldon initially refused to play with it to avoid diminishing its perceived value but he quickly yielded to temptation, goaded on by his Mego Spock action figure which had started to "speak" to him. Spock's voice was performed by Leonard Nimoy. Sheldon accidentally broke the toy then surreptitiously replaced it with his roommate's. Later, in his fevered, guilt-ridden imagination, Nimoy's "Mego Spock" chastised him for his dastardly deed and subsequent refusal to own up to it. His initial resistance caused Sheldon to be attacked by a Mego Gorn figure in a nightmare and he finally confessed his guilt to his roommate.
The reference itself became featured in the "Star Trek" episode of The Toys That Made Us.
The items used in the episode were taken from CBS Consumer Products archive. CBS is not only the broadcaster of The Big Bang Theory but is also the owner of the Star Trek television franchise.
Further reading Edit
- "Collectables: Mego Action Figures", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 2, June 1999, pp. 88-89