In 1993 the fledgling toy company Vivid Imaginations secured the rights to produce toys based on Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, aiming for their release to coincide with the BBC repeat run scheduled for that autumn. Despite the odds being against them, they were successful in getting their Captain Scarlet toy line of diecast vehicles, plastic Cloudbase and six action figures onto shelves in just eight months. The line was a massive success, with the Cloudbase toy being one of the most popular toys that Christmas. Further releases (including four more action figures and two scale vehicles for them to ride in) also appeared alongside a smaller line of toys released to coincide with the BBC repeats of Joe 90 the following year – but a much larger (and brand new) Anderson production loomed on the horizon.
Space Precinct looked to possess all the qualities of a sure-fire hit, and one that would be of great interest to merchandisers. Anticipating this, Vivid Imaginations’ managing director Nick Austin reached out to Gerry Anderson with a view to ensuring his company be given the licence to produce toys and games based on the show – and his request was granted. Vivid were also able to liaise closely with the production itself, being granted access to reference materials that would help ensure their merchandise be as accurate as possible to the show itself.
Featuring facial sculpts by artist Paul Gillingham, the Space Precinct action figure line encompassed an impressive twelve characters standing 3.75″ tall; two versions of Lieutenant Brogan (one with and one without his jacket), Officer Haldane, Officer Castle, Officer Took, Officer Orrin, Captain Podly, Sergeant Fredo, Slomo, the Cyborg, the Snake, and Morgo. All of the human and alien figures featured nine points of articulation (neck, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees) while Slomo featured three (neck and shoulders), and each character came with a relevant accessory or two – including an ID card! Prototype images of the collection featured slightly more detailed paintjobs than seen on the final figures, plus a version of Haldane in his uniform shirt (the final figure would feature the character wearing his black patrol jacket) as well as different artwork on the packaging of the two vehicles produced in the same scale.
An electronic police cruiser toy was the highlight of the collection, designed in the same scale as the figures similar to the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle and Angel Interceptor released in 1994 to accompany the Captain Scarlet figures – but unlike those toys, Vivid would not have to deform the original design of the police cruiser in order to achieve this, and the result was a toy that retained the proportions of its television counterpart as close as possible. Capable of holding four characters, just like on television, Vivid also added a ‘secret rear seat jail compartment’ for prisoners – an idea never seen on screen but one which makes perfect sense, and is somewhat reminiscent of the one seen in Beezle and Fredo’s cruiser in the Space Police Reloaded pilot film.
Batteries provided the cruiser toy with electronic lights and siren noise (although not one heard on the show), and it also featured three detachable landing legs, making it perfect for operations on the ground or in space – as well as those inevitable crash landings! As if aware that young police cadets might be inclined to fly their cruiser by hand, it also sported a useful retractable ‘flying handle’ vaguely resembling a grab that might be lowered by Thunderbird 2! In keeping with the cruiser from the series the toy also featured retractable rotating cannons – but unlike the ones seen on television, which were concealed beneath the front of the cockpit, these were positioned above and behind it.
For those who either couldn’t afford the cruiser, or who wanted to call in some backup, Vivid produced a DCPD bike based on the pizza delivery bike seen in the episode Double Duty. This police bike featured rotating ‘hover wheels’ and a spring-firing ‘laser cannon’ missile launcher on the front, and was produced to scale with the figures – although it was only capable of seating one. In a generous concession to Vivid Imaginations considering it would never be seen in action it was agreed to sneak the bike into the series in order to justify its place in the toy line, and so the vehicle was briefly seen in the cruiser bay in the episodes Takeover and Friends.
The figures were available in various offers at the time, including through Panini, Kelloggs, and promotional collections released by Vivid themselves. Those who purchased the cruiser from Woolworths received a bonus in the form of an Officer Orrin pack-in figure – albeit one lacking the I.D. card that came with the carded figure. Additionally, a 12” figure of Lieutenant Brogan was also produced in regular uniform and sporting his gun and multi-com.
Sadly, Vivid’s Space Precinct merchandise line would not continue beyond this initial run. A Zil hand puppet had reached the prototype stage and had even been announced in promotional material, but would never be produced as poor sales of Space Precinct merchandise sealed the fate of the action figure line. It’s easy to imagine a smaller second wave of figures might have at least been under consideration; if so, Officers Romek and Carson would hopefully have made an appearance, and possibly Beezle, as well as a jacketless Haldane or a jacketed Castle and Took, and maybe one or two more guest aliens and villains. (It’s difficult to see that Sally, Liz or Matt Brogan action figures would have held much appeal to collectors or fans, except those wishing to re-enact bitter family arguments). However, the initial line-up of twelve figures was at the time the largest yet seen for any Anderson merchandise range, and shows the extent of the confidence that Vivid had in the series and their product.
In later years Nick Austin would lament the fact that the Space Precinct toy line was not a commercial success, but thankfully the company would enjoy future Anderson success in the early 2000s with toys based on more repeat runs of Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet. For Space Precinct fans, Vivid’s range of action figures was then and remains one of the best toy lines based on any Gerry Anderson series – and is still highly desired by collectors today, with the Fredo, Orrin and Morgo figures being among the harder items to find. The large assortment of characters and reasonably impressive likenesses, coupled with a police cruiser toy that didn’t have to compromise its appearance in order to be produced in scale, gave many young Space Precinct fans hundreds of hours of enjoyment re-enacting their favourite episodes and inventing new ones!