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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Ross
    November 26, 2014 @ 2:36 am

    I didn't have a huge number from this set, being more into the later Playmates Toys line (And also, at the major gift-giving holiday at the end of 1987, there was another TV-tie-in toyline that was a lot more glam), but I do very distinctly remember the hand phaser from this set. The wiring inside broke within a few months of me getting it, and a year or so later, little me, age eleven or so by then, decided to solder it back together. I did get it working (I believe it just broke again within a few months), but a blob of molten solder caught me on the back of my right middle finger and left an oval-shaped scar which is still visible today.

    I guess I also remember the 6-inch die-cast Enterprise, because it had a tendency to drop the LUDICROUSLY HEAVY saucer section on your foot if you had the audacity to try and play with it.

    (The 4-inch one you could win from a Cheerios box was more playable. I got mine by trading a Wesley Crusher to a friend who had a crush on him)


  2. Daru
    December 11, 2014 @ 2:58 am

    Things like these are indeed modern totems, and even though there may well be a reasonable argument to be made for the problems with the production methods, this takes nothing away from the direct, tactile experience of playing with them.

    Play is so important and still undervalued in our culture, it's a doorway to the deeper imagination, helps through roleplay with our ability to deal with life and as you say above, ignites our creativity. I'm going to mention Joseph Campbell here (not in the context of his unfortunate delving into the idea of the 'mono-myth', but his work that I love, The Masks of God) – in his fist book in The Masks of God trilogy, he discusses play and relays a story where a young child is playing with matches to create a fairy tale and freaks out, saying that one of the matches was a witch – for her the match actually became the witch. This for me is the power of the imagination that can really come to life when playing with such so called toys and figures – giving us experiences that can extend all of the way into our adult life and shape who we are.

    "… Star Wars is incredibly kid friendly. It's got distinct and iconic Good Guys and Bad Guys, incredibly flashy and iconic setpieces, most of which involved myriad variations on Stuff Blowing Up, and a ton of memorable and beloved characters, creature designs and settings…"

    I played as a kid with Star Wars toys and figures – mainly for the reasons above. And despite giving up interest in them in my teens, for the ideas I suggest, I think that the experience of this form of play has carried on in my life in other ways. Look forwards to hearing more on your ideas around Totems.


  3. Daru
    December 11, 2014 @ 2:59 am

    Rats, meant to say 'first' above, ah well!


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