Friday 6 August 2021

Eagle Transporter

 Hot on the heels of the Zero X post, here's another Gerry Anderson-themed model. I've shown this one before but I thought it might be worth a post on its own, as it's such a iconic design.

I've loved the Eagle Transporter from the moment I saw it, way before Space:1999 itself actually aired in September 1975.

The series had been in development since 1973 and the marketing push was well underway by the start of 1975, and perhaps earlier. I remember seeing a cardboard advertisement for the forthcoming Dinky models in the toy department of Dan Evans, in Barry, a good nine months or more before the show itself arrived.

I don't think this is the in-store advert itself but it had a similar look, with a line-drawn Eagle rather than  a photo of the studio models or the die-cast replica.

The build-up to the series was also stoked by articles in the boy's magazine Speed&Power, to which I've alluded before (it was where I first read Arthur C Clarke, since they serialised many of his stories). I must admit the concept of the show sounded totally fantastic to an eight-year old already a fan of such Anderson shows as UFO and Joe 90. 

The wait for the series was interminable, but I was also anxious to get my hands on a Dinky Eagle, and it was an equally long wait. I ended up with two, in the end: the metallic green Eagle Transporter, and the (slightly more-accurately coloured) white Eagle Freighter. I won one of them in a competition through Speed&Power, correctly answering enough questions in a space-quiz to be one of the happy victors. I still have both of them, although right now I can only put my hands on the Transporter.

If my memory serves me well, another Eagle appeared at the end of the hot summer of '76, from Airfix. I certainly had one, although it's long since disappeared. It was bigger than the Dinky model and from what I can recall, went together easily.

Space:1999 was not the best science fiction show ever made, with generally awful science and some unsatisfying scripts, but it still looks terrific, had a great title sequence, and the sets and model work hold up very well. The Eagles in particular still look very plausible as an all-purpose Lunar transport, with a modular, skeletal design ideally suited to operations in vacuum and low gravity. The show made them do all sorts of things that didn't really sit well with that, though, including shuttling back and forth from habitable planets with atmospheres, despite the almost total lack of aerodynamics. I always thought the show was missing a merchandising trick there by not inventing a second craft that could go where the Eagle couldn't, but perhaps the budget wouldn't permit it. Incidentally, the second series was never aired in Wales so I've still not seen it, but I gather there were some variants on the Eagle introduced for that season. It was very confusing to get my second Space:1999 annual and see the different costumes introduced for the second run, and wonder why I'd never seen those episodes.

A few years ago a new Eagle model came on the market, from MPC. The is a 22 inch kit closely replicating the 48 inch studio model, and as close to an accurate Eagle as one is likely to get. Just as the model-makers on the series raided Airfix and Revell kits for details, so those touches appear on the MPC kit, just shrunk down by half.

I built the kit out of the box and found it to go together very well. The details are excellent and the worst you could say is that some parts of the assembly are a little repetitive, especially the engine pods and the trussing around the front and back bits. The kit includes two Gemini astronaut figures to go in the cockpit, exactly as per the studio model. I thought about lighting it but decided not to, although I could still get into the cockpit if I changed my mind.

One thing it also replicates is how the design doesn't quite work! The arrangement of the windows on the outside of the Eagle didn't match the set used for the cockpit, and there's no way to have a connecting airlock between the front and the rest of the ship.

As a model of the model, though, it's 100% accurate and far better than the Dinky model. Notice how the trussing on the Dinky moulding is much busier, with diagonal bits that shouldn't be there. Presumably the Dinky model had to be beefed-up to work as a toy. Mine certainly picked up a scratch or two. The Dinky model cleverly makes use of relatively few components, too. I don't have an Airfix one to compare but it would be interesting to see how it fares in relation.

The MPC kit came with a pod, but I wasn't sure whether to go with the red-striped version or the more typical plain white. In the end, reasoning that the model would mostly sit in a glass cabinet with only one face visible, I did red on one side and left the other plain. I had to mask and paint the red as it didn't come on the transfer sheet, which was my one real criticism. It's said that the Eagle sits a bit high on its sprung legs, which is probably true, but I didn't feel like altering them.

MPC sell some expensive upgrade kits to replace some of the plastic castings with turned metal assemblies, but I felt the model was fine enough as it came. They have also done a season 2 Eagle with a docking extension on the pod, as well as the freighter with its nuclear-waste handling pod.

Anyway, here's to the Eagle, one of the better 70s spaceship designs, and one that still holds its own.


  1. The second series of Space: 1999 is being shown on Freeview (The Horror channel). I've think it was a poor effort after the first series though.

  2. I think its reputation is why I've never made any effort to seek it out.

  3. At the time of the show I had some issues with the designs. I don't mean that they're no cool, but it nagged me that the Eagle wasn't launched and not landing vertically. I couldn't accept the need for dual thrusters, where excess mass is a thing.

    I could sort of live with the UFO Interceptors that had the same issue, but UFO was a great show whereas Space 1999 wasn't so great.

    1. I think with both shows you kind of have to ignore the stories and just enjoy the visuals!

      With the Eagles I think we just have to assume that they have an almost magically limitless supply of propellant.

  4. All episodes are now available on Britbox, and I'd certainly agree with the general view that the second series is inferior to the first, at least with respect to the scripts, acting and theme music. (Although I enjoyed it at the time!) Still some good models and sets though. Interesting that you point out the mismatch between the design of the models and the sets, I was always confused by this, even when I was 7.

  5. I have this kit with the metal bits built which I really love (especially the suspension on the landing struts). Eaglemoss is doing a Space 1999 series where they are making small pre-built painted Space 1999 ships that you might be interested in. Eaglemoss usually end up doing some nice books that collect the magazines that explain the design process and some fluff about tech specs (they also do Star Trek, Galactica, Orville, Alien Universe replicas). The MPC Eagle was for a while my collection favorite, but now I have the Randy Cooper Star Destroyer above my desk (lit up with 2000 LEDs) that will be hard to beat. There's a link to my collection off my home page (orinthomas dot com) and I remember back when you were on twitter that you didn't mind the occasional oggle ;-)

  6. Hi Orin - nice to see you. I've seen the Eaglemoss ones on the Gerry Anderson Youtube channel, they look very good. Your Star Destroyer looks ace. I'd love one of those. I was at a convention in Paris a few years back where some guys had brought along not only a beautiful Star Desrroyers, but an absolutely massive Super Star Destroyer, about as long as a car! All lit with LEDS too.

    By the way, the second time I tried loading your website (after visiting Randy Cooper's!) I kept getting a privacy error. Not sure what's going on there.

  7. Thanks Al! Current project is the Randy Cooper Time Train from Back to the Future III. Cooper is also building a Hammerhead Corvette kit from Rogue One which I'll buy when he releases it.

    I hope one day someone will do a decent sized kit of the Blue Goose from Netflix's adaption of your story as that seemed like a pretty cool design.

    (As for the privacy error, I haven't put an SSL/TLS certificate on the home page, so some browsers throw an unencrypted connection error. It's just an old static HTML file with some inline images and isn't running any browser code. I've been meaning to do something about that error but never got around to getting one from "Lets Encrypt".)