Blue

I mostly built this little mech to showcase my newly-acquired blue Classic astronaut.

It also includes several other new-acquisition elements, such as the windscreen and the blue Bionicle-style arm/leg shells, but basically it’s a stage on which the blue astronaut can strut his stuff.

Now, some Neoclassic builders eschew the use of any astronauts except the original red- and white-suited ones. I guess this follows the general pattern set by Peter Reid and Tim Goddard, but even they employ yellow-suited minifigures in LEGO Space: Building the Future, so I see no reason at all to have to follow that arbitrary rule for it to be an “official”, “allowed” Neoclassic creation.

Besides, the Classic Space theme included them, didn’t it?

And anyway, I still don’t have a red or a white astronaut to use.

The question of what the different suit colours represent is one of the most endlessly-revisited questions of the whole theme. With no official story for the theme and no official explanation at the time, it was left up to the individual to do their own interpreting.

Since then, various classification schemes have been floated, one coming from the LEGO Ideas page which is operated by LEGO Group staff, and a different one on the Brickset forum which purports to be from Classic Space theme designer Jens Knudsen.

The fact that both of these have good grounds for being “official”, yet are different, kind of tells us there isn’t an official version and even the LEGO Group of the time didn’t have anything in particular in mind.

To my mind, both schemes have some nonsensical features. “Black astronauts are spies” is my particular “bang your head on your desk” initiator: Spies have their own uniform so you can tell who they are? I ‘ve always thought that black is a very Security colour myself.

The Reid/Goddard scheme has the advantage of simplicity: red astronauts are pilots, white astronauts are ground crew. You can make a reasonable case for this division from the earliest sets, if you’re prepared to classify a lot of the open spacecraft as suborbital “skimmers”, but again, that’s an arbitrary “make it work” fix that is called into question by the names of some sets, like “442 Space Shuttle”.

“Red astronauts are pilots” is borrowed a lot, though, because almost all of the really spaceshipy early Classic Space models included at least one. That makes the engineers the white-suited ones, however, and white just seems a really lousy colour of suit for the grease monkeys. I usually reverse that classification, with the white astronauts being the pilots and the red astronauts being soldiers or engineers.

The yellow astronauts are often assumed to be scientists, again following Goddard and Reid. My first yellow astronauts as a kid came from the 6930 Space Supply Station set; what are scientists doing running the lunar equivalent of a warehouse and pump station? It seems like a waste of talent.  Also, “pilot” red-suits in a ground station?

The yellow astronauts should be something not very cool, because as a kid the yellow-suits-on-yellow-skin made them look too much like they were weirdly naked. With their introduction in the Supply Station, maybe these are the quartermasters’ corps. But it makes little sense for a quartermaster to be piloting the nifty, zippy little Xenon X Craft, either.

However you do it, you’re going to run into nonsense that’s difficult to justify of explain, because I suspect suit colours were really assigned on the basis of “this would be a good set to have this colour astronaut in”.

The green suits from the LEGO Ideas Exo-Suit set are usually assumed to represent mech pilots, but this doesn’t sit well with me. Firstly, “mech pilots” seems wrong when everything else that goes on land has a “driver”. Truck driver. Car driver. Golf cart driver. Train driver. Therefore, “mech driver“, surely?

Secondly, it’s a weird distinction to give the operators of legged land vehicles their own colour suit and is contraindicated by Classic sets like the Astro Grappler from back when green elements came in baseplates and plant parts and that was it.

From the little story fragment in with the Exo-Suit set, I first assumed the green suit indicated that Pete and Yve (the minifigures) were rookies. It was only on connecting with the LEGO community and talking to those who I thought actually knew that I felt constrained to bend to majority opinion.

Having a special colour for rookies makes sense. In the construction industry, we typically mark new hires with some kind of particular mark. In my company it’s a yellow hard-hat rather than a white one. This is because a construction jobsite is a dangerous place and a new hire may or may not have a lot of experience in recognising and avoiding the inherent dangers. It’s a quiet way of saying “let’s keep a protective eye on these guys so that they’ll be around to go home at the end of the day”.

Deep space is at least as inherently dangerous as the worst example of a construction site; it would make sense to mark out the rookies, for everyone’s safety.

But what are the blue astronauts?

Blue astronauts should be something cool, because as a kid I always identified with my blue astronaut minifigure. “Commanders” or “Soldiers” are the semiofficial options, and I’ve already got the black suits as Security forces. The camo effect of black makes better sense than a bright colour like blue, though if that’s the case then they need to make grey suits to be the soldiers.

I like the idea of blue suits being commanders.

You can make a reasonable case for it from inferences from the Classic sets: as far as I can recall no Classic Space set ever contained more than one blue astronaut, and small vehicles like the Astro Dasher would make a pretty good commander’s runabout. The LEGO Group also have a history of commanders or central figures being included in small pocket-money sets: witness the Ice Planet Celestial Sled with Commander Bear.

Besides that, it makes sense for commanders to have their own suit colour. Space is a hostile, dangerous environment; the sort of place where it is vitally important to be able to tell at a glance who is in charge.

Anyway, now I have a blue astronaut again. I’ve actually taken the unprecedented step of placing this minifigure off-limits to my kids. Most of the time I have no problem with the general pooling of the household brick collection, but even with the thicker chinstrap, those original helmet elements are fairly fragile. Not as fragile as the first thin chinstraps, though. Those things had a half-life of about 12 days under real-world conditions.

And I really don’t want my first real Classic Spaceman minifigure acquired as a post-Dark Age AFOL getting lost or stepped on and broken. Those things aren’t all that cheap.

I think the mech would look better with a modern helmet and something other than a classic smiley as a face, but I wanted to show off my new minifigure. And that windscreen element; I do find mechs with properly-enclosed cockpits to look that much more finished, somehow.

I’m looking forward to using that windscreen in plenty more Classic Space-type creations. It’s a nice shape with a lot of possibility.

Right now I’m contemplating a neo-Blacktron Battrax update, for instance. Stay posted…

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4 thoughts on “Blue

  1. Luke Skytrekker

    Man, I needed this. I know that sounds weird, but what got me really into Legos in the first place was researching old retro Lego themes (like Classic Space) as a means of distraction and comfort while bedridden. And, today, I happen to be in pretty low health spot, confined more or less to bed again, and seeing this brought a smile to my face. Thanks, Geoff, I really needed this.
    On the note of the suit colors and what they represent, I happen to have been doing a ton of research on this lately. Admittedly, it was research entirely focused on the Futuron lineup, which is much smaller and therefore easier to analyze in detail, but I’m still highly interested in this subject. I’ve been trying to scratch together a post summarizing my results, while at the same time also describing my Blacktron-Futuron Conglomerate dystopian alternate reality theory. Because everything’s so vague, you can pretty much interpret things almost any way you want, and I happen to want to try to make a dystopian alternate reality out of Futuron. No idea why, I just always have. 😛 I recognize it’s obviously not “canon”—if the older Lego themes can be said to have canon—but I’ve found a lot of “evidence” for my theory in catalogue and box illustrations. You can say it: I have weird hobbies. 😛
    You are actually pretty well-backed up, at least when it comes to Futuron, in using Red Suits as engineers and ground crews. In Futuron, Red Suits only appeared as manning bases and they almost universally carried tools, designating them as engineers. They’re about the only straightforward, easily identifiable suit role in Futuron, but boy are they straightforward.
    Also—though I’m sure you’re aware of this—one “official” suit rank interpretation for classic space does actually cite Blue Suits as commanders, and I’m partial to this definition myself (except in the case of Futuron specifically, where it breaks down), so that’s pretty cool.

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention—awesome mech! 😛 That long-barreled laser gun thing that almost looks like a pike or sword in my eye is a really sweet, interesting weapon. Impressive job creating a unique claw-hand, too. And, as always, huge kudos for actually fully enclosing your cockpit. I could never manage to do that with any of my builds, for some reason. When I made Outmeched way back when, I didn’t even try.

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    1. geoffhorswood Post author

      Thanks for the praise. I’m glad you liked it.
      Futuron do seem to be successors of or related to the Classic astronauts in some way; they use the same symbol and an evolved version of what had almost become standard Classic Space colours. They just have fancier uniform designs.
      I’d be interested to know how you break down the Futuron colours; with no “white suit” equivalents, you have the white-with-colour-x Futuron astronauts. Red, black, blue and yellow is the Futuron astronaut colour palette, right? And the black Futuron astronauts are only distinguished from the early Space Police troopers by the colour of their visor.
      I’m actually doing some further research to see how my classification scheme plays out in the actual sets. All of them. Which sets contain which colour astronauts and what are they portrayed as doing?

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  2. Luke Skytrekker

    Yeah, I’ve always seen the Futuron as the “Second Generation” of Classic Space. Futuron and Classic Space sets were even marketed together and shown working in harmony.
    And yes, red, black, blue and yellow are the Futuron colors. I’ve got rock-solid meanings ironed out for two of them, but the other two are more open to interpretation. And yeah, the Futuron Black Suits are very, very similar to the Space Police, though they do predate them.
    Applying suit classifications to actual sets is always very fun—and very enlightening. With Futuron it’s easier because there’s less sets, but also harder because there are certain illustrations and box covers that kind of throw wrenches into the gears. I personally like to take every scrap of “evidence” I have as being equally important, so trying to come up with definitions that have room for all the exceptions is tricky.

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