The show was developed with the help of the Young Astronauts’ Council with the original intention of sparking young viewers’ interest in the U.S. NASA Space Program. However, Starcom did not get much of a chance to make kids want to join the space program as it was cancelled off the air after one brief season. It was revived for a short run in the early 1990s, but no new episodes were aired.
The plot was classic Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers fare. The evil members of Shadow Force, led by Emperor Dark, were trying to take over the cosmos, and it was up to Starcom to stop them. Young hero Col. James “Dash” Derringer, an ace Starcom pilot, was the star of the series, and several of his teammates were family members. He was also backed up by the resourceful ace pilot John “Slim” Griffin, whose niece was yet another Starcom pilot. Other heroes on the Starcom side included Col. Paul “Crowbar” Corbin and Admiral Franklin Brinkley. The show had very high quality production, with top notch animation for a series cartoon, and relatively mature subject matter and dialog.
Together, the members of Starcom fought Dark’s legions of robotic minions, flying into battle in a fleet of advanced spacecraft.
Like many 1980s toys, the Starcom line was developed as part of the merchandising for a cartoon.
Starcom: The U.S. Space Force debuted on television screens in 1987, and the toy line hit stores around the same time. There was plenty of variety for the pint-sized empire builder to choose from: the complete series of Starcom toys offered 23 figures, 6 playsets, and 13 vehicles on the Starcom side, while the Shadow Force was represented by 15 action figures and 11 vehicles. The action figures were two inches tall and came packaged with a backpack, a weapon, and identification cards that explained who they were and what their equipment could do. Like the figures, the vehicles and playsets benefited from a sleek, attractive design.
The most unusual aspect of the Starcom toy line was its use of Magna Lock technology. The action figures had tiny magnets implanted in their feet. Not only did this allow them to stand on the vehicles and playsets without falling off, but it also activated devices in the playsets. For instance, if one placed a figure in the elevator of the Starbase Station playset, its Magna Lock magnets would cause the elevator to rise to the top by itself. On the same playset, if one put a figure within a cannon, the Magna Lock magnets would activate a mechanism that made it turn and fire its rockets.
The vehicles and playsets also delivered Power Deploy features, which uses automatic wind up mechanisms that allows them to perform multiple actions all in a touch of a button, without the use of batteries. For example, with the touch of a button, the Starcom StarWolf unfolds its front, and both its wings. All in all, they offered plenty of moving parts (hidden compartments, cannons, folding wings, etc.). The Starcom toys represented one of the best action figure lines of its time, offering handsome designs and a variety of features that did not require batteries or electric power, all at a reasonable price.
Starcom toys never caught on in the U.S. due to poor promotion and the fact that its parent show only lasted a year in syndication. They were discontinued after two years but ended up doing very well in Europe, where both the show and the toys continued to be popular long after the American toys. The toys were successful and hugely popular in Europe and Southeast Asia only after coming under the production and promotion of Mattel. That company removed the US flag and NASA details from the Coleco originals and launched the toys with a second line of promotions in the early 1990s.
Today, Starcom toys remain popular among collectors due to a combination of slick design and unique features.
X = RAILGUN; XX = PARTICLE-BEAM WEAPON; XXX = ANTI-ARMOR WEAPON