Interest in the possibility of Space travel, and speculation about what might be found, had steadily grown during the period after World War Two. In 1966 the TV series Star Trek was televised; in 1969 the first Moon landing was watched by millions; and in 1977 the first Star Wars film was released.
In 1981, Britains finally followed suit and entered the Space Age. That year’s catalogue proudly announced “Britains Space Series: Introducing Britains in Space. The launch of a superb new series of futuristic models. Each model promises hours of imaginative play value, and linking together they form endless combinations of space stations and interplanetary vehicles”
As the announcement suggests, the focus of the new range was on a set of modular space vehicles. However, these vehicles were to be crewed, and fought over, by a complementary range of figures. Ten years after the launch of the Deetail range, Britains never claimed the new figures belonged to it, but their heritage is clear.
Britains Deetail 9146 Stargards
Year first produced: 1981
L60 x W30 x H60 (max), Plastic 13g (av), Scale 1:32, Features: 2
Like the Deetail figure sets before them, the Stargards consisted of six combat poses. Two are illustrated above. Unlike preceding Deetail figures, they were moulded in fairly hard yellow polythene and are unpainted (except for their heads). They carry stickers on their chests and backs (which may form part of an atmospheric filtration system – see below).
The Stargards appear to be human, and are equipped with rather natty figure-hugging space suits and fishbowl helmets through which their heads are visible. The helmets and heads are removable and swappable. They can carry one or two-handed weapons which are also separate items. Now, they don’t appear to have any air supply, which is obviously because they have an onboard filtration system that can convert any planetary atmosphere into breathable air (and in space, they just hold their breath). No, I’m making that up…
Like all Deetail figures they are attached to a metal base, but in this series the base has changed to a less monolithic structure. The figure can be plugged into it or removed quite easily, without the awkward twisting motion necessary for the Deetail bases, and the connection is more rigid – the occasional problem with Deetail figures that leaned to one side is thus solved. The underside of the base has the following embossed on it:
“BRITAINS”, “ENGLAND” and “C 1981”.
To follow the story of this range, we’ll focus on just the two figures as illustrated. Do you notice something revolutionary? The figure on the left with the hand-blaster is female. This is by no means the first female figure sculpted by Britains, but I think it may be their first woman in combat. Hooray! Space was so modern!
The figure on the right with the ray-gun has a drastically bent right leg, as if he is in the act of kneeling (or falling over). Maybe the ray-gun has a fearsome recoil. Nevertheless, both figures are solid on their bases, and well-sculpted.
In true Deetail fashion, the Stargards were released with a matching set of opponents, set 9150, simply called ‘Aliens’. These are the same figures in black, with different stickers for the torso, a different head and slightly different weapons. Despite having the same bodies, the effect of those alien heads is quite upsetting – are they helmets hiding the alien face inside, or is this actually what aliens look like? Creepy. I like ‘em!
Cyborgs & Mutants
Not content with the possibilities offered by the Stargards and Aliens, Britains decided to take the figures to a new level of slightly daft scariness. The same figures were used again but this time had a peg added to the front and back. In addition to the figures, two sets of 6 assemblies consisting of extra arms and heads were made, in soft flexible plastic. These pieces are attached to the figures by fitting onto the pegs at front and back, and plugging into the head socket.
The 9130 Stargard Cyborgs were obviously meant to assist the valiant Stargards. According to Wikipedia, the word Cyborg is a portmanteau of “cybernetic organism”, which is a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. They look quite fearsome, equipped as they are with a variety of flexible metal arms tipped with a variety of gadgets, whether weapons, tools or widgers that I can only guess the purpose of. But I wonder about the ethics of these figures. Did the humans who presumably form the basis of these creatures agree to the transformation? Are they happy behind those massive metal helmets?
If you thought the Cyborgs were disturbing, then look away while we discuss the 9170 Alien Mutants. Gone are the mechanical appendages of the Cyborgs, to be replaced by a selection of decidedly weird and wonderful organic components that draw their fevered inspiration from the natural world. These creatures may have humanoid bodies, but they also sport reptilian heads, plant-like tendrils, and bat’s wings. This is the stuff of nightmares!
Whether you like these figures is obviously a matter of taste. They are awkward to assemble as the flex in the arms/head assemblies helps to bend them around the bodies, but on the other hand they are prone to pinging off the pegs at the slightest knock. The extra limbs also prevent some of the figures from holding weapons in their human arms. Overall, these figures aren’t subtle. Think 1950s B-Movie science fiction horror and you’ve got the ethos. You’ve guessed it, I absolutely love them.
A Step Too Far
Not content with crafting some of the most imaginative figures ever seen, Britains pushed their luck and introduced a final set in their space saga, the Terror Raiders. It was all a terrible mistake.
I can’t love these figures, they are just too clunky and laughable. Technically, they are interesting as the arms and head attach to the torso with ball-and-socket joints, allowing fairly flexible movement. The legs on the other hand, simply swivel, so all the creature can do is a sort of ungainly bow. Sadly, the 9180 Terror Raiders just don’t cut it.
The Britains space series were withdrawn after a few years. It failed to gather much of an audience, due partly to the lack of a tie-in with any TV or film franchise.
In 1985 the figures were relaunched in new colour schemes. The newly renamed 9200 Forcegards and 9201 Force Cyborgs were made in white plastic, while the 9250 Raiders and 9251 Mutant Raiders were in orange.
There was a large range of space and surface vehicles and other accessories, so I’ll mention just one. The 9110 Space Craft was equipped with a clever clear plastic rotating cockpit, in which two crew-members sat. Whichever way you turned it, the cockpit rotated so that the crew were upright. It reminds me of one of those hamster exercise balls. Enough said.