In 1979, the post-Star Wars, Glen Larson version of Buck Rogers took the sci-fi world by storm. I was nine year old at the time, and both the feature film and the follow-up TV series on NBC were right up my alley.
The franchise starred Gil Gerard as Buck, Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering, and Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardala. The tone of the enterprise was cheeky and knowing, and the special effects, for their day, were absolutely stellar. Down to the sexy opening credits, the film version played like James Bond in the future, or in space, perhaps.
Accordingly, I was thrilled when I began to see toys from Mego lining the shelves at Toys R Us. Among the first of these was a spaceship toy with a design you never saw featured on-screen: the “Laserscope fighter.”
This sharp-nosed space fighter “with simulated lasers and explosions” featured a cockpit for the 3.5 inch Buck Rogers figures. But more interestingly, it possessed a rear-mounted view screen through which you could track, target, and incinerate enemies.
The box explains: “Look through the view-screen and line up your target, press the switches – see and hear the lasers fire – the target will appear to explode right before your very eyes!”
· Laserscope viewscreen
· Twin stub wing handles
· Telescopic focus control
· Realistic laser sounds
· Swing-open cockpit
· Fits any Buck Rogers figure.
Of course, I must confess that when I was generously given the Laserscope fighter as a gift, I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted the Buck Rogers star fighter, a craft which was featured on the show and boasted an infinitely cooler design aesthetic.
But once I actually got the star fighter for the Christmas of 1980, I could enjoy the Laserscope fighter as a kind of “alternate” ship for the intrepid Buck. The fighter sort of fit with the universe of the TV series, because Buck often ended up going undercover for the Earth Directorate, flying ships of various designs. So it was kind of cool to be able to play out that scenario with a ship other than an “official” one.
Also, if I understand my toy history right, the “Laserscope fighter” was also released in Europe, but as a toy from a different Mego license: The Black Hole (1979).
Of course, the design of the ship doesn’t fit that particular franchise any more than it resembles something you saw on Buck Rogers…