While Tonka lifted most of the Gobots line from Bandai's Machine Robo lines they weren't completely adverse to making their own stuff, designing five toys for the line. Due to their experience mainly being with big trucks and the like robots weren't really their strong point, so the American company concentrated on motorised 'action toys' and playsets. Bandai had designed several playsets for Machine Robo but for one reason or another these were all rejected, and in 1984 Tonka released their own Gobots base - The Command Center.

Designed to double-up as a carry case, the Command Center featured heavily as the Guardians' main form of transport in Hanna Barbera's syndicated Challenge of the Gobots cartoon (though only in spaceship and land-walker modes; even then the latter was largely only used as a landing configuration). Bandai opted to use the toy in the European Robo Machine line in order to cash in and released it as the Command Centre (with the electronics removed). I'd love to call it that, but I've sort of set a standard now, so I'll have to go with the colonial spelling. The ship at least got to appear with the English spelling in the Robo Machines comic, though. As an aside as one of the few figures actually designed by Tonka the Command Center is one of the few Gobot moulds currently owned by Transformers manufacturers Hasbro (assuming they haven't let Takara destroy it, of course).


SPACESHIP MODE

The Command Center has three main configurations, though two are the same basic thing. As a spaceship, the Center has a very ordinary appearance. The rear is very boxy (as mentioned, in this mode it doubles as a carry case, as in you don't bother taking figures out when you transform it from base mode - this really isn't recommended in adulthood) and the flat grey adds to the agricultural feeling given off by the thing. The detail moulding is on the low side, and the hinges on the sides and clip on the spine aren't particularly well hidden. Some extensive stickers do valiant work but the large vehicle is pretty uninteresting to look at. It's not much fun to play with either - it can be pushed along on wheels, and the door at the back can open so figures can embark and that's pretty much it. Not a lot to do at all to do, as it's even too large (and flimsy) to fly around.

This mode also has extending legs so it can go into a land-walker configuration (i.e. AT-AT rip-off, as brilliantly ridiculed by fan artist Laurent Libessart ). Well, I say "extending" and "land-walker", but I mean the moulded tracks fold down and clip into place as legs. They don't walk though, and the whole thing looks a little silly - it's a box on sticks. It works in motion (well, the cartoon had a bit of motion in it), and in decent art (like that of Kim Raymond), but as a cheap plastic toy with the ersatz un-jointed limbs with a fixed position, it looks stupid. The thing just looks so undynamic in this configuration it doesn't even work as a display piece.


BASE MODE

The base mode's the best set-up to have this in, but even then it's horridly flawed. Tonka's presumed insistence of having a robot head on the thing (I can't think of many other reasons for passing on the MR Battle Base) gives it a memorable look, though it's undeniably a bit silly-looking - especially with the dearth of other robot features (and least Thruster went the whole hog with what could pass for arms and feet). There are seven 'rooms' inside the base, plus a lift.

Sadly, the whole thing is made out of very flimsy plastic. For example, the lift's manual mechanism causes the whole base to wobble alarmingly, while the platform won't support the weight of a lot of the toys. Most of the rooms don't have much to them beyond the stickers, and the scale's pretty poor - the rotating Strategic Command room and the lower Trauma room are too low for anyone in robot mode to use while the rest of the rooms are a really awkward size - they fit one figure comfortably, but no more without it looking a bit too cosy. Aside from the rubber fuel pumps and medi-scan, there really isn't a lot for the Gobots to do, either. The stickers do add a bit of fun to the thing (the Cafeteria one especially is awesome, as are the mugshots of the lead Renegades) but some more features would have been nice. Nothing super-fancy - just a couple of guns to man, a bed in the Trauma room or a chair in the interrogation room. This is more a display piece in that it's difficult to imagine really getting that much actual play out of it.


SUMMARY

Since getting back into Gobots, most toys I've bought have been pleasant surprises. A couple have been mild letdowns, but I don't think anything's been as disappointing for me as this thing. The frustrating thing is the potential's all here - making the Landwalker legs more flexible, jazzing up the spaceship mode a little, making the toy out of stronger plastic and adding a few more accessories or features to the base mode would make this an essential purchase for anyone even peripherally interested in the line. As it is, I don't really know what to do with mine. It doesn't look good enough to display and it's not fun enough to play with, so it just sits there in its' huge, huge box. A quick nostalgia fix (the Center at least doesn't cost a bomb, even complete; just beware that it's massive and will cost a bit to ship) that soon loses lustre.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1984, Gobots - Command Center
1984, Robo Machine - Command Centre

PARTS:
2 x floors
1 x dematerialisation room floor
1 x interrogation centre floor
1 x scanner
1 x rail
1 x rear hatch
1 x lift platform
1 x fuel hose
1 x fuel hose

WEAK POINTS:
All hinges, lift