Released in 1986, I must have seen Flight of the Navigator at least a hundred times. Admittedly, none of those hundred times were recent. If I get any facts wrong in this post, blame a combination of faded memories and the fact that I wrote it at 3:30 in the morning.
The synopsis, as I remember it: A sentient alien ship kidnaps a kid named David, and drops him back on Earth several years in the future. He hasn’t aged a day, leading his grateful but confused family (and everyone else) to wonder where he was and what might have happened to him. We later learn that the ship (“Max”) had good intentions, and was only helping David realize his destiny to become some kind of outer space pet collector. (That’s not quite it, but it’s close enough.)
My memories of the film are scattered but strong. Sarah Jessica Parker with a tuft of pink hair. Cherry Coke. The guy from Shock Treatment playing “Dad.” An alien that was pretty much a big pile of breathing snot. And I think some kind of robot mailman?
I realize that I’m doing a terrible job of pitching this movie, but that’s not why I’m here.
I’m here to gush about David’s toys.
NASA takes an interest in David, because he’s obviously had a funky experience deserving of their prodding. Unfortunately, at the behest of a scientist played by Howard Hesseman (!!!), NASA treats David more like a lab monkey than a special guest.
That’s neither here nor here, but now we’re getting to the point. To make David feel more comfortable (and less imprisoned) in his new NASA “apartment,” they stuffed it with everything a boy from 1986 could have possibly wanted.
See that giant spaceship doll up there? That was only the beginning!
It’s like a spread straight out of an old Toys “R” Us commercial. Everything from G.I. Joe to Transformers! David had too many bigger concerns to really care about the toys, but the rest of us sure did. Flight of the Navigator is a film with dozens of unbelievable visuals, but this simple shot of a toy-topped bed stands toe-to-toe with every last one of them.
Here’s a breakdown of the best treasures. I’m leaving out one or two things, either because they’re too hard to identify or because I don’t care about baseball gloves.
#1 – Audio Cassette Player:
I’m not sure if that’s really what it is. The shape and color does seem very familiar, and it’s quite possibly something much more interesting than a tape player. Please correct me if you have the smarts.
#2 – Radio Shack Constellation Finder:
My older brother was an astronomy hobbyist, and he totally had one of these. It was a blue, battery-operated “dome” with an assortment of oversized slides that let you shine imitation constellations right on your bedroom ceiling. I later inherited it, but by then it was just a hunk of plastic with no battery cover or slides. I recall using it as a swimming pool for Skeletor.
#3 – Something from G.I. Joe:
While clearly a G.I. Joe vehicle, the shot isn’t clear enough for me to say which one. I want it to be the original Cobra H.I.S.S., but from what I can see of the box, that isn’t it. I take solace in knowing that nearly every G.I. Joe vehicle was worth playing with. There’s no way that toy was a dud.
#4 – Felix the Cat:
I had this doll! Well, sort of. It wasn’t technically mine — he just kinda “belonged to the house.” Felix used to sit in our living room rocking chair, and he was the only one who did. That chair was made of ridiculously hard wood, and it only existed so that human asses could have a common enemy.
#5 – Mini Basketball:
Perhaps I should’ve gone with the Blu-ray for this exploration; the shot is a little too blurry for me to pinpoint the identity of THAT BALL. From what I can tell, it’s a Nerf-esque (or possibly Nerf-proper) miniature basketball. I’m just not used to seeing them sold without a cheap hoop accessory.
#6 – Transformers Shrapnel Figure:
YES! The Insecticons were some of my favorite characters from the G1 Transformers era, both on the cartoon and as toys. With a few twists and turns, Shrapnel changed from a robot to a deadly stag beetle! Additional shots of David’s room implied that he actually received two of these figures, which makes sense, because Shrapnel was known to clone himself on the cartoon! I can’t stop using exclamation points!
#7 – Tomy “Space Turbo” Game:
This was a electronic tabletop game, in the vein of Coleco’s miniature arcade “cabinets.” Click here for some Australian guy’s video review of the thing. The game looks sort of Tron-like, both in design and gameplay.
#8 – Radio Shack R.C. Porsche 935:
Just one of Radio Shack’s thousand radio controlled cars. They were all basically the same. Personally, I always went for the red Corvettes. Of the many radio controlled cars I once owned, I’d estimate that 80% of them met their makers by way of driving into puddles. It was so bizarre. Pair me with an R.C. car, and puddle death was never more than twenty minutes away. Even when I was inside.
Beyond the “bed spread,” there were even more toys hiding in David’s room. In particular, the area near the television was another treasure trove. Some of these were even trickier to ID, but here’s what I found:
#1 – Knight Rider Car:
I can’t find an exact match of the packaging, but it’s definitely KITT from Knight Rider, likely made by Hot Wheels or Ertl. I can’t tell if it’s a “plain” car or one of those “pull-back” versions.
#2 – A-Team Van:
At least, I’m pretty sure that it’s the A-Team van. On the package, I see a big “A” and a character who is possibly Mr. T. On the other hand, the car’s coloring and the hint of its shape doesn’t seem to mesh well with the A-Team van. I could be completely wrong about this.
#3 – Radio Shack “Space Voice” Toy:
The Space Voice toy consisted of headphones with a microphone attachment, wired to a speaker that looked like a generic Autobot. When you spoke into the mic, your voice boomed out of the robot, sounding all electronic and weird. “Voice altering” toys were always neater in theory, but at least this one looked cool.
#4 – Space Shuttle Toy:
I’m only mentioning this to highlight the overall bulk of NASA-related toys, books and doodads peppered all around David’s room. They’re too numerous to list, but it was as if Howard Hesseman raided the Kennedy Space Center gift shop in his sneaky effort to numb David’s suspicions. Gotta say, it would’ve worked on me. Hesseman could’ve kept me here for months without complaint.
#5 – Chess Game:
When I was a kid, our family had this garishly enormous chess set, large enough to double as a coffee table. The wooden pieces were between 5-7” tall, with neatly carved features and green felt bottoms. I guess it was expensive, because I used to get in so much trouble for treating that thing like an action figure playset. Hell hath no fury like a brother who can’t find the black rook. (I always loved the rooks. Those cute little castle tower bastards.)
Again, David never showed much of an interest in the toys, aside from the initial wide-eyed reaction that betrayed his inner conflict over really loving the gifts but not wanting to give Creepy Hesseman the satisfaction. Maybe he thought the room worked on the same principles as Pleasure Island? Play with Shrapnel for too long, and the next thing you know, you’re a screeching donkey, spinning helplessly in one of those horrible astronaut balls.
Besides, David would end up with something so much better than any of these toys – and he didn’t get it from stupid Howard Hesseman.
Come on, there’s no way I can write about Flight of the Navigator and not mention the Puckmarin.
The last surviving member of his distant species, the Puckmarin is just one of the many awesome aliens living on the spaceship. He and David form an immediate bond, and at the end of the movie, when everything’s back to normal and the events of the film are at least partially retconned, David discovers that the Puckmarin stowed away in his schoolbag. Now he’s his to keep!
I’ve often written about how I grew up wanting my own Gizmo. That’s true, but I wanted a Puckmarin even more. It’s just about the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. He was kind of a cross between a bat and a spider monkey, with huge green eyes, a cheerful disposition, and the ability to make me unreasonably jealous of fictional characters from thirty-year-old movies.
I still want one.