One of the most influential and best-selling science fiction books came out in 1965, Dune. Frank Herbert dreamed up a new universe where he could explore philosophies of politics and social dynamics. Instead of most science fiction novels, the universe of Dune had rejected the use of robots and other “thinking machines”. Instead, the advanced society was built upon the heavy use of a mind-altering and life-extending drug, melange otherwise known as “the spice”.
Through the spice, most humans improved their vitality so that they survived for hundreds of years. With excessive use of this drug, some users gained such mental awareness that they became clairvoyant and precognizant. Thus, the Spacing Guild was able to create a space-fairing society with heavily, mutated Guild Navigators mapping the way. While these beings had their entire body modified by the Spice, most users only gained one side-effect: their eyes would be discolored and changed to blue.
Aside from the drug’s addictive nature and ability to physically alter the body, there was one other major issue with the drug. The Spice only originated from the planet Arrakis, as a by-product of the native sandtrouts. Since all of society depended on it, wars were waged over the control of Arrakis.
The world of Dune was also beset by a shadow society that plotted to create the ultimate being. The Bene Gesserit filled their organization with powerful women who acted as spies and influenced the politics of the Empire. Their members had mastered the Weirding Way and The Voice so they gained more power. They even had control over their bodies such that they could choose when to get pregnant and what gender the child would be.
Despite their status, the Bene Gesserit sought to create the ultimate power, a male member of their ranks who would become the “Reverend Mother Superior”. They spent generations manipulating the genetics of ruling lines to prepare for the emergence of this being. They also seeded the prophecy of the savior that would restore Arrakis to a green planet for the Fremen. Despite all of their schemes and careful planning, they could not prevent one of their members, Jessica, from giving birth to a son, Paul Atredes.
Thus, the plot of the first Dune book revolved around Paul Atredes, who survived the assault that murdered his father and decimated the House Atredes. As he found safety amongst the native Fremen, they began to believe that he was their destined savior. Thus, he helped them launch a Jihad against the Empire and the house that had taken out his family, the House Harkonnen.
Frank Herbert wound up writing 6 books for the Dune franchise before he passed away in 1986. However, the story did not end with his passing. His son, Brian Herbert, picked up the story in 1999, using notes left behind by his father. With the help of Kevin J. Anderson, there have been 21 additional novels that have expanded on the universe. Though not all novels have been written by this pair, Brian Herbert has steered the official narrative up until the present.
At the height of Dune’s popularity and in the wake of the Star Wars-fueled Sci-Fi boom, Universal Pictures bought the rights to adapt Dune into a motion picture. David Lynch’s take on Dune came out in 1984, introducing many audiences to the franchise. While the movie was 137 minutes long, it could not cover the full scope of the novel. So, it still felt a bit rushed.
Accompanying this Dune film was a toy line from LJN, which is best known for its ThunderCats toy line. The classic Dune toy line featured six action figures with “Battle-Matic” action features. There was Stilgar the Freman, Paul Atreides, Baron Harkonnen, Feyd, Rabban, and a Sardaukar Warrior. To activate the “Battle-Matic” action, players either pushed a button on the wait to activate a twisting action or pressed a lever on the back for the arm action.
Aside from these action figures, there were also multiple vehicles. LJN created three small vehicles: the Sand Roller, the Sand Tracker, and the Sand Crawler. Each of these smaller vehicles had the same 4-wheel drive found in LJN’s Rough Riders toys. They also created the massive Spice Scout vehicle. Despite the size of the Spice Scout, it only could hold one action figure.
LJN also created a massive poseable Sand Worm toy. This toy could easily tower over the rest of the action figures, similar to the beasts from the books and the film. Otherwise, two electronic weapons allowed players to role-play as either a Fremen or a Sardaukar soldier.
While David Lynch’s movie flopped in the theaters, other directors attempted to adapt the material from the novels. In 2000 and 2003, the Sci-Fi channel produced mini-series for both Dune and the Children of Dune. Dune made a proper return to theaters in 2021 when Denis Villeneuve presented his vision of the book. Unlike the original movie, this new movie gave the narrative enough room to breathe by only presenting the first half of the story. Thus, audiences will be able to watch Part II of Villeneuve’s take in 2023.
The new cinematic take on Dune inspired a new toy line from McFarlane Toys. This new toy line featured five action figures. There was one 12” figure of the massive Baron Harkonnen. Meanwhile, the other 7” scale figures were of Lady Jessica, Stilgar, Duncan Idah, and Paul Atredes.
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