For most of the 1970's, one toy company pretty much ruled the action figure world. Its name was MEGO. Headed up by one Marty Abrams, Mego had the action figure license to -- well, almost everything. DC Comics and Marvel Comics were their "bread and butter", but the list of everything else they came up with was nothing short of astounding. Wizard of Oz. Planet of the Apes. The Waltons -- and -- STAR TREK.
Mego produced three assortments of Star Trek based action figures in their quintessential 8", cloth-costumed line of action figures. Mego had long established this format, and it worked superbly well. They designed a basic body mold -- although around 1974 it was completely replaced by a more accurate, more detailed, and better-assembled design -- that could basically be used for almost everybody. The design allowed for a head to be placed in the hole in the top of the body, and then any clothing could then be put on the figure.
There were some mild variances here and there. Super-heroes like the Hulk and the Thing needed special mody molds. There was a "wider" body that could be used for characters like the Penguin. There was an entirely separate female body design that could be used for female characters. And sometimes the body had to be molded in different colors depending on the character. But for the most part, there was a distinct consistency.
And it worked well for Star Trek. In the mid-1970's, no one had yet heard of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise, and even the movie was a pipe dream, although ultimately, Mego would produce a series of 12" and 3-3/4" figures for that in 1979. At this point in time, Star Trek existed as re-runs of the Original Series, and in recent airings of the Animated Series. Star Trek was Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and company. And so was the toy line.
The initial assortment of Mego Star Trek figures consisted of the four most prominent members of the Enterprise crew -- Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, later to be joined by Lt. Uhura, plus a figure of the quintessential enemy, a Klingon. Although plans existed to make figures of crew members Sulu and Chekov, these never came to pass. The other two assortments focused on various alien races. The third assortment, which had among its number the popular Andorian and Romulan aliens, was nearly impossible to find.
Today, although action figures may be more detailed, more articulated, and sometimes better dressed than Mego figures, this company which held sway over the action figure world for so many years, and in so many ways, and might have even helped propel action figures in general to a level of popularity that made the amazing 1980's possible, is still given high marks and a great deal of regard on the part of many toy collectors.
There's an annual Mego Collectors' Convention. There's a very nicely done Web Site called Mego Museum which presents a wide range of information and pictures about all things Mego. Mego's founder, Marty Abrams, participated in a multi-part interview that ran for a great many issues of Tomart's Action Figure Digest some time ago, outlining the long and storied history of the company.
And, of course, no one would question the popularity of Star Trek. The current license holder for Star Trek action figures is Diamond Select Toys, pretty much carrying over the efforts of Art Asylum's work. For some years now, they have been marketing a series of generally nicely-made, highly-detailed 7" action figures, based on all of the existing Star Treks. The figures do not have cloth costumes, but they are usually superb likenesses of the on-screen characters.
So -- somebody in the midst of all of this got the idea to start reproducing the Megos. Would it be possible? It turned out that it was. Recreated from the original figures and molds, and with the approval of Marty Abrams, Diamond Select Toys is presenting a series of "retro" Star Trek figures as close to the original Megos as it's possible to get. And recently -- I snagged the Klingon.
Before I get too much into him, I want to discuss the packaging, something I normally don't do. The front of the package card has been designed to be as faithful a reproduction of the original Mego packaging as possible. Although the six figures shown are different than the original six, consisting of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, the Klingon, the Andorian, and the Romulan, the positioning is as it should be, and the artwork appears to be the same as the original. There are updated copyrights, of course. The back of the package IS entirely different, as one might expect, with a photograph of all six figures, with the caption, "THEY'RE BACK", a more accurate Star Trek logo, and a description of how these figures came to pass. There's also a string of copyrights and company logos across the bottom, including not only Diamond Select Toys, but a company called "emcetoys", whose logo looks a WHOLE lot like the lettering and design style of the original Mego logo.
Now, let's consider the Klingon. This race has had a long history within the world of Star Trek. They were first introduced in the Classic Series, and we knew them best by three representatives who turned up over the course of three different episodes -- Kor, Koloth, and Kang. Klingons appeared to be relatively human in appearance, somewhat swarthy in some instances, and they all seemed to have beards -- except the few females that turned up in a later appearance. They wore black uniforms with high boots and silvery metal vests. They were conquerors, not explorers. They were vicious and war-like, the apparent antithesis of the peaceful Federation. Some, like Koloth, could appear to be both charming and nasty at the same time, at once managing to show congeniality and contempt for the Federation. Some, like Kang, tended to be more brutal, but had a certain sense of honor, and Kang proved he was not above allying himself with humans if there were a greater enemy around.
The Klingons turned up a few times in the Animated Series, but unfortunately, limitations prevented any great character development. The next time the Klingons appeared, if briefly, was in Star Trek The Motion Picture, where we were introduced to an entirely different sort of Klingon. These Klingons were more armored in uniform, and they were less human in appearance, with huge ridges running from the bridges of their noses over the tops of their heads. By the time of the third movie, Star Trek III - The Search for Spock, this look was refined even further. Klingon's now wore thick black uniforms with silver armored tunics, had long, unkempt hair, and huge ridges on their foreheads that went nearly to the tops of their heads, and to their noses. Their eyes peered out from underneath prominent brows. The ridge pattern seemed to be individualistic for each character.
Specifically HOW the Klingons had gone from a relatively human-looking race to these ridge-headed powerhouses between the end of the Original Series and the first couple of movies was never explained, but the ridge-headed look became the standard for Klingons, and became even more enforced with the arrival of the Next Generation, and Enterprise crew member Worf, the first Klingon to serve in Starfleet. Taking place many decades later than the Original Series, the Klingons and the Federation had managed a basic, if occasionally uneasy, peace. Over the course of the Next Generation, and into Deep Space Nine, once Worf transfered to that remote outpost, we would learn much about the Klingon culture and history. Yes, they were a warlike, and sometimes vicious species, and many of them had little use for humans or other species. But they also held to a personal code of honor that governed their behavior, sometimes being likened to that of the ancient samurai of Earth.
Two situations arose, however, over the course of Deep Space Nine, that made resolving the ridge-headed vs. smooth-headed controversy that much more compelling. The three original Klingons -- Kor, Koloth, and Kang -- turned up on Deep Space Nine. They had managed to survive all those decades, and somehow, now had the same long unkempt hair and ridged foreheads! How had this happened? Even more compelling was an episode in which members of the DS9 crew traveled back in time to the days of the Classic Series -- heck, to the Enterprise itself -- and when some of them were in the company of smooth-headed Klingons, looked to Worf for an explanation. Worf said, rather guardedly, that they WERE Klingons, that it was a long story, and not something to be discussed with outsiders.
The situation was ultimately resolved during the run of Enterprise, the "prequel" series which took place even before the Classic Star Trek, and which ALSO presented ridge-headed Klingons. Over the course of the fourth and unfortunately final season, a point at which executive producer Rick Berman had largely turned the series over to one of the head writers, Manny Coto, Coto or someone on the staff decided to resolve the "Klingon problem". As it turned out, the Klingons had experimented with the same sort of genetic engineering that had resulted in a race of genetic "supermen" on Earth decades before. Except for the Klingons, it hadn't worked as well, and between the engineering and an apparent cure, the Klingon race was saved, but left smooth-headed. That's what you get for messing around with genetics.
The rest is speculation, but it's reasonable to assume that for the next several generations, through the time of the Classic Series, the Klingon race was largely smooth-headed, and probably presented this face in their encounters with the Federation, while somehow, the knowledge of how they had once been and how they had become what they were had been either lost or suppressed. One must assume that they still carried the necessary genes for their ridge-headed appearance, even across generations, and that at some point a safe cure for this condition was developed between the end of the Classic Series and the first movie, and would even work on those who had only been known as smooth-headed Klingons, such as Kor, Koloth, and Kang. By the time of the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, apparently knowledge of smooth-headed Klingons had fallen out of the history files. There's probably a few holes in the story, but those Enterprise episodes gave us more than we had.
Now, there are some who might ask, "Why did Star Trek do ridge-headed Klingons at all?" or "Why didn't the Classic Series have ridge-headed Klingons?", but if I start a dissertation on Hollywood make-up technology and television show budgets, we'll never get around to the figure.
And the figure is, truly, a superb reproduction of his original counterpart. In many respects, superior. The paint work on the head is certainly more neatly applied, and I think generally speaking the overall materials used are superior. Granted Mego wasn't trying to create "collectibles" in the 1970's, and that's what this is. You can even reseal the package he comes in (nice touch!).
The head, much like the Mego heads, is -- I think the term is roto-molded. It involves a process other than injecting plastic into two halves of a mold. I don't really know how it works, but it has the advantage of eliminating any trace of seams along the head.
I've always felt that, whether intentional or not, the Klingon head looked especially like Koloth, who was played by William Campbell, with maybe just a little bit of Kang thrown in. Kang was played by actor Michael Ansara. The configuration of the face looks a fair bit like Campbell, and there's jusr a bit of a smirk on the face that Campbell was also very adept at. This is a Klingon who looks like he could be charming even while he's checking the setting on his disruptor.
Now, customarily, Mego put the character copyright information on the back of the neck. This was because most Mego figures used a common body. It had to go somewhere. And indeed, that as been done for the Klingon. But just so there's no confusion with the original, rather than saying "(c) 1974 Paramount Pictures", it now reads "(c) 2007 CBS St." Yes, CBS is now the copyright holder of Star Trek, but if I start getting into how THAT happened between CBS, Paramount, and Viacom, we'll really never get this review finished.
One thing I found interesting about the copyright, though. It's very neatly lettered. I always tended to find the copyrights on Mego head looked as though -- well, while sculpting might have been a specialty of whomever did them, neat lettering wasn't.
The body is a very nicely done reproduction of the original Mego body -- the better one, that is. But even here, there are some differences. The pegs for the articulation points in the elbows and hands are distinctly larger. I'm not complaining. They're probably sturdier. I opted against checking the knee joints because I didn't want to try to pull off the long boots. Talk to me after I get the Andorian. I wouldn't object if that had been overhauled, though. The knee joint on Mego figures was this weird, snap-together, double peg system, that if ONE thing stood a good chance of breaking on a Mego, it was this.
Articulation is excellent, of course. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, watst, legs, knees, and ankles, although the figure is wearing hard plastic boots, so there's not much to be done with the ankles. The plastic seems to be of sterner stuff than the original Megos. The figure feels slightly heavier. I actually still have one original Mego -- Superman -- so I was able to make a few comparisons. The Klingon is slightly taller, although this might have been due in part to the heels in his boots, something Superman's boots do not have.
My one area of concern -- I hope isn't one. A Mego figure of this type is held together by two strong pieces of rubbery plastic that look like a band of rubber with a circle at each end. These are attached to hooks, one leg to opposing arm, and as such the entire figure is held together. Obviously these bands are under a certain amount of strain.
Then again, this Superman figure I've got here has stood unbroken for probably 33 years, give or take. Assuming this Klingon is made of similar or superior materials, what am I worried about? Now, I did have some breakage "back in the day", but I also was able to "restring" them. Granted it's not something I've had to do in 25-30 years, but if I had to -- I'll bet that Mego Museum knows where I can get parts. Let's hope for a long life for this Klingon and any others I bring in.
The back of an original Mego figure used to have embossed copyright information that basically read "(c) 1974 Mego Corp. Made in Hong Kong", etc. The back of the Klingon reads, "emcetoys - Made in China". Just so there's really no confusion here. And I am not unaware of the irony of a figure with a Web Site on his back that's a remake of a figure from a time where nobody even knew what a Web Site was.
The uniform is superbly made. Fabric colors have got to be an almost perfect match. The figure is outfitted in a brown turtleneck shirt with a dark burgundy leather-like vest, with two little gold metal spheres on the top. The shirt/vest even has two metal snaps in the back, just like the original. The only fault I can find in any of this is that the sleeves of the shirt are just a little short. I would prefer if they covered the wrist joints a little more. Then again, some of them might. I really don't know what goes into the production of small clothes for action figures, but I can't imagine it's that easy. The uniform is completed by brown leggings, and knee-high black plastic boots that dip in the back so the figure can bend his knees properly.
Okay, hold it. You may be thinking, "Wait a second -- you said Klingons dressed in black uniforms with silver metal vests, didn't you?" Yes, I did. So where'd this brown uniform come from?
Well, simply stated, it comes from the Animated Series. The animated Star Trek was in full swing about the same time as these figures came out, and for whatever reason, Mego decided to take some of its cues from it. I've always thought that the Capt. Kirk figure looked like its face was based more on the animated Kirk than on William Shatner, and the uniform colors for the Klingons in the animated series were brown with burgundy vests. Who knows? Maybe somewhere in the Empire, that's what they actually wore.
It's not a complaint. Mego took more than a few liberties here and there. You think the Klingon is off, see what they did to the Gorn and the Cheron. Neat figures, but accurate!?
Of course, no Klingon is going to go around unarmed. He comes with an accessory belt that was common to most of the Star Trek figures. It's a narrow black belt with space for a phaser and a communicator. For the Enterprise crew members, these devices were light blue. For the Klingon, they were red. And unfortunately, here is my one complaint with the figure. The accessories are all well made, but somewhere along the way, some measurement got messed up. The phaser doesn't clip into the belt, and I know they did in the 1970's. I sort of wondered why it had been put into place with a little transparent rubber band. It will NOT stay put. I personally recommend either leaving the rubber band in place, or disarming your Klingon figure and putting the stuff in a bag so you don't lose it.
However, this is a relatively minor issue in an otherwise truly spectacular figure. This Klingon is a superb reproduction of a figure from a time that I remember rather fondly. And in fact, in many respects, he's better made than the original. I hope he's as durable. And I am looking forward to the Andorian and the Romulan, who are expected additions to the line. You won't find these figures at the usual retail outlets like Target or Wal-Mart. They're a "specialty" toy. I've seen them in VERY limited supply at places like Suncoast Video and F.Y.E. That's where I got the Klingon, and I think I heard the clery say as I left, "We sold the last Klingon", so I have to believe that these figures are VERY popular. Hardly surprising.
If you, like me, are a longtime Star Trek fan, and have fond memories of the Mego Star Trek figures, then you'll definitely want to give serious consideration to the entire line, and certainly, the KLINGON has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!