Monthly Archives: August 2017

There Be Spacewhales Here!

My son finally decided he’d rather build Batstuff than a spaceship with which to battle my Guppy, so he decided I could break it up for parts after all.

What this means is that I was able to finish out my spacewhale; officially the Cetus-class Dreadnought.

The completed Cetus-class spacewhale

Cetus, of course, was the Ancient Greek mythological sea monster fought by Perseus in order to rescue the princess Andromeda, and it’s from her name (which ought to be Ketos if we dispense with the Latinised version) that we get our modern English word “cetacean”. Cetus is also immortalised in the heavens as one of a whole cluster of constellations relating to the story of Perseus, and I can imagine the various members of the class having names that go either way: constellations or sea monsters. I think sea monsters would be more apt, though, given the cetaceanoid form of my space dreadnought: Cetus, Leviathan, Jormundgand, Ogopogo, Moby Dick

If you’re building a spacewhale, it should result in a good-sized build unless you’re being deliberately ironic, and Cetus‘ 24-inch length is respectable, if not the 37 1/2 inches of true SHIP territory. I’m coming to the conclusion that I can technically build to a 100-stud length, but I need more bricks if I’m going to do it well. Something between 24 and 30 inches is more reasonable for my current brick inventory.

The Cetus actually looks like it ought to measure more than a mere two feet, but that’s what my tape measure says. Perhaps it’s the modified-teardrop shape giving it the illusion of foreshortening.

The sperm whale has the closest body form of real-life cetaceans to that classic “antique whale” look, and it’s a predator to boot, so that’s the model I’ve used for the dreadnought. While it would be fascinating to see a space dreadnought modeled on a Humpback or Bowhead whale, I think I made the right call going with the largest of the toothed whales.

White and dark red have been successfully used as a colour scheme by the Old Republic and the Rebel Alliance for generations now, and they are one of my “doable” large-ship liveries based on household brick availability. I went with it, and though it’s less oceanic than some things I might have done, it still looks pretty good on a whale. Especially with the generally more uniform light grey structural parts.

I think this is one of my most satisfying creations for some time. The ribbed half-cylinder top of the front hull, the greebling, the overall form… The tail’s probably the least pleasing part, and even that’s workable. Not a stroke of brilliance, but workable. Technic wheels like this are about the simplest and most uncreative ways of doing large engines, but at least I have some in grey now; I’m not restricted to Ninjago gold.

The vessel has a decent spread of guns, from the cup-and-ball sponson main guns through the side-mounted turrets and forward-firing fin guns to the upper broadsides, small dorsal turrels and control lever turrets. I’m not even certain whether the control levers are point defence turrets or some sort of antenna mounting, but they could go either way.

That’s one thing this doesn’t have a lot of, actually: visible antennas and sensors. I’m assuming the forward dome hides some sort of sensor array, but apart from that there are only a couple of antennas further back. And any attempt to place antenna bricks on the bow section, for example, would just make it look too whiskery and lose the impact of the whale shape.

Ah, well, who says sensor arrays in the 24th Century (or whenever) can’t be hull-conforming? ¬†There’s also a drop-down ramp for whatever fighter complement it carries, looking rather like the sperm whale’s mouth.

I finished my first multi-day build, and appropriately enough, it’s a whale. Or at least, a Cetus.

Ridin’ Robin

The reason my son wouldn’t initially let me break up the Space Guppy was that he was planning to build a spaceship to serve as an adversary for it and have a battle.

A great idea, and the TIE fighter wings he put on what he did build were well executed, but then he decided he’d rather build something for Batman and Robin, so I was free to break up the Blue Guppy for parts.

I’ll be posting the completed Spacewhale next time, but I wanted to show off the Robincycle my 6-year-old son built all by himself without any help or guidance from Daddy.

My 6-year-old’s Robincycle

In the process, he learned the difference between grey and black Technic pins, and he’s come up with a really nice-looking model.

He left me the Batcycle to do; this is how he likes to build; both together on related projects.

I went with a three-wheeler design that, if it’s rather primitive (for me), was at least completable in about the same length of time as he spent on the Robincycle. And I have to say that cowcatcher in front looks pretty cool.

Anyway, the focus of this post is the Robincycle of my son’s, so I’ll just let you admire his handiwork.

Sneak Preview: The Belly of the Spacewhale

I don’t generally do “work in progress” photos.

No, cancel that; I never do “work in progress” photos.

There’s not usually a lot of point with the way I build. You see, LEGO is a highly intensive experience for me. Once I start building in earnest, my world contracts until it’s pretty much me and the bricks, and minor things like remembering to have lunch tend to fall by the wayside. It’s close to psychologically impossible for me to leave something half-built, so up until now, almost all of my models have been built all in one go.

Oh, I may fiddle around with surface details afterwards, but that doesn’t change the fact that what I’m doing is modifying a finished creation, not finishing something I left half-complete.

There are implications from this, and the foremost is of course that there’s not a lot of point in “in-process” shots when I’ll be taking photos of the finished product by the end of the day. Even my just-SHIP LSS Liberator was built all in one go.

This one was different.

First in-process photo of the forthcoing spacewhale, showing the front and main structural spine.

I’d already planned to actually force myself to stop and take WIP shots, partly because I anticipated that this might actually get up into SHIP range again (It doesn’t. I’m thinking I still need more bricks to be building SHIPs as a regular thing), but mostly because I wanted to be sure I had it right, without the last-minute unplanned lengthenings that pushed Liberator over the 100-stud threshold. I think I’d have made a better starship if I’d have left it at the point of realisation and gone off to contemplate what I needed to do next.

The other main consequence of my particular intensive building style is that all this waiting around for a Bricklink order to arrive so that I can complete my creation that other builders talk about doesn’t happen. If I haven’t got the bricks to do what I initially wanted, I find some way of adapting the design to let me do something I have got the bricks for. Whether that’s impatience or adaptive creativity or a little of both I’m not sure, but there it is. I’d usually rather wing it than slavishly follow a plan, even if it’s my own plan.

Secondary in-process shot showing the forward armoured side panels and ventral hull details.

I confess I did go on to finish this spacewhale build that I talked about last time a lot more after I took these in-progress shots, but she’s still awaiting a few touches, because my son begged me not to break up the Blue Guppy for the parts I needed just yet, and I decided to indulge him.

I did get a post out of it, though, because it gave me this opportunity to talk about the building process.

Stay posted for the full details of the upcoming Cetus-class Space Dreadnought.

Different angle on the stage 2 WIP photos.

Here Fishy Fishy

I do like vertically-oriented ships. They’re almost always awesome-looking; I mean, who couldn’t love the angelfish-like elegance of Babylon 5‘s Minbari War Cruiser? And even the stark severity of Star WarsNebulon-B medical frigate is pretty cool.

I think part of the attraction is that it’s more normal to design and build in a horizontal orientation.

LL394 Blue Guppy

This deliberately piscine spaceship doesn’t have all that much of a vertical orientation compared to something like the Minbari cruiser, but for a minifig-scale ship of its size, it’s far more vertical than most.

I’m not completely happy with some of the studdiness of the sides, but until I get enough blue tile elements to alleviate that problem I’m stuck with it.

I was actually not sure whether to build this as a microscale or at minifig-scale when I began, but the combination of the ovoid windscreen canopy and the rounded top decided it for me. Having said that, however, the idea of a microscale starship roughly based on this sort of shape sounds like a good one.

If the potential microship is a spacewhale, though, this is evidently something smaller.

Given its surface resemblance to that odd 747-derivative heavy transport aircraft, the Super Guppy, I think we have a name…

The Blue Guppy, however, isn’t some sort of transport or shuttlecraft. Despite its harmless-sounding name it’s fairly well-armed, with wing cannons, that spinal mount above, and those twin cones – coilguns? – beside the cockpit.

The sides open up in rather a helicopter-esque fashion, and I suspect that the Blue Guppy’s role is somewhat similar to a Blackhawk or Super Lynx.

I can see a pair or small squadron of these operating helicopter-fashion for ground support and troop insertion, possibly even within atmosphere. Something approaching the Classic Space version of a snowspeeder transport variant.

I remain somewhat dissatisfied with this somehow, but I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong with it. Maybe I should have built the spacewhale instead.

Invasive Species

Xenarch-class Blacktron assault fighter

The Xenarch-class assault fighter is a second-generation Invader derivative optimised for the attack/assault role rather than for space superiority.

The original Blacktron Invader. Source: Brickipedia

Less manoeuvrable than a pure space superiority fighter or even a more generic multirole, the Xenarch has far better armour and much more powerful weaponry optimised for strike missions against larger targets like Federation cruisers or space stations.

Like the ancestral Invader modular multirole, the Xenarch can split into a more manoeuvrable smaller front section and a rear module containing the hyperdrive unit and increased power reactors.

The short Xenarch craft is considerably less effective in the heavy strike role but can be employed as a defensive multirole fighter.

Armed with four high-powered grasers and two forward-firing lasers, the Xenarch is one of the most powerful fighters of the Blacktron Alliance, though its lack of manoeuvrability can be a drawback, and operation without the rear section’s high-power reactor prevents the armament from being used at anything over 67% power.


It occurred to me that a Blacktron space fighter would be a fun build. I haven’t really built one of those since I acquired those three Blacktron astronauts, after all.

Initially I just built the front section, but somehow it looked unfinished. It needed more in the back. Looking at it, I could see echoes of my favourite Blacktron set, the Invader, so that’s the basic design model I used. The trans red plate wings of the original were a feature I always associated with the drive or power systems, so I’ve assumed that’s what they were and built a much cooler-looking modernised system. I’m still not sure whether they’re hyperspace engines or antimatter reactors, but I’m pleased with how they look.

The Xenarch is much chunkier and more solid-looking than the Invader, and seems different enough to warrant a new name, but it needed a name with similar ancestry.

The anemic Blacktron Future Generation line already used “Intruder”, so that was out. I thought about “Secessionist”, “Aggressor” and some other things, but I ended up with Xenarch.

Derived from two Greek words: Xenos, meaning foreigner, and Archon, meaning ruler, it might mean “Foreign Prince” or “Ruler over Strangers”.

And it begins with an X, which automatically makes it cool.

Rear aspect of the shorter Xenarch front section fighter

Rockin’ Out

Rock Monster

It all started with a big club-armed rock monster.

I’m afraid I kind of reverted to type for the big guy, neglecting everything I learned last time I built a mech about frames and advanced joint techniques. But in my defence, to a certain extent a silicon-based lifeform ought to be stiff and craggy, not slender and machined-looking.

And I think even with the limitations of balljoints rather than more complex built joints, I’ve achieved a properly silicareous, animated-boulder look, complete with asymmetrical body detailing and encrustations of lichen.

Having built the rock monster, though, the idea struck me to give him an electric guitar. A rock monster that digs rock music may be a bit obvious, but it’s funny obvious.

Rock Monster Rocker

And naturally, that led to a whole rock band.

The diminutive drummer was next. With that flattened, round head he looks like he’s the same type of rock monster as the big guy. Who I decided was the bassist, because making a rock monster with enough of a mouth to make a good vocalist with the remaining dark grey elements wasn’t happening. The drumkit’s fairly simple but you get the idea, and at this scale it’s not easy to build a drumkit at all.

And lengthening the big guy’s guitar into a bass left an opening for a lead guitarist as the final member of the trio. For the rock guitarist I succumbed to the siren call of part availability and used CCBS balljoint limb struts, despite the rather artificial look of it. I was out of small trans neon yellow elements for eyes, too, so the guitarist’s eyes are pink. Maybe she’s a rock chick, I thought, and promptly built her a plant ponytail. I think she still looks craggy enough to be a living boulder, but perhaps the differences are those of gender. Der Stein; die Steinin.

Lastly, of course, a small group of knightly heavy metal fans (including a goblin and a wizard, but alas, no dwarves or elves because I don’t have any) moshing in the audience. And stage lighting. And speakers.

I had fun building, in other words. I hope you enjoy viewing.

Building Bases

As a follow-up to my Thor-class fighter, Mobile Science Station and Classic Space scout motorbike, I decided to attempt a small base and landing pad.

Ground bases and landing pads and the like are a really unusual building theme for me, because I always feel like I don’t have enough of the right kind of pieces.

The landing pad is a case-in-point. I used up pretty much all of my grey tiles here, and I still had to resort to tan for altogether too much of the landing pad even in its primitive squared-off version.

And I simply don’t possess enough grey to generate a whole planetary surface in that colour. The planet’s tan for a reason. I console myself with the thought of that sand yellow planetary background all the early Classic Space sets depicted in their instruction booklets and promotional shots. I was always a bit baffled as to how this harmonised with the grey cratered terrain we were actually given.

But anyway, I built a base. It’s tiny, the landing pad is way too small for the ship I’ve got landed on it, and it has colour issues between the grey and the tan, but it’s a base.

After I’d already taken the shots with the Thor-class fighter, I found a few more tiles and reworked the landing pad a bit, as you see in the shots with the bike. The Thor-class is fiddly to balance on those landing legs, though, as they aren’t technically attached to anything. So I let the existing photos stand.

Presumably with that giant tank or whatever it is, this is some sort of refueling base. I think my version of the Federation use antimatter reactors for power, which don’t really need much fuel, but maybe it’s liquid oxygen for the air supply or something. Or some kind of reaction mass for the thrusters, if they even still use reaction drives rather than some sort of metagravity or subspace engine.

Anyway, not too shabby for my piece limitations. I’d prefer it if the terrain was a little less studdy, or I had a lot more 1×1 round studs and tiles to strew about the surface, but it works. Mostly.

Rebel Without An Atmosphere

Technically, motorbikes probably have limited utility in outer space. You may be dealing with lower gravity, you’re almost certainly dealing with rugged, unfriendly landforms, and there’s no air to enable your infernal combustion engine to work, so you have to use something like electric power, which just refuses to growl menacingly in that macho, Hell’s Angels kind of way. You can’t feel the wind whistling in your hair when you’re in a spacesuit and there’s no air for there to be wind in. Really, if you’re going to have wheels at all, a buggy is so much more practical.

Nonetheless, have a space motorbike.

It’s built way too low to the ground for practicality on a rugged unexplored planet, and it actually looks like it has exhausts, but work with me here.

Probably those exhausts are micro-probe launchers or something, and maybe it’s for biking on a really flat planet. Whatever. ¬†Space bikes may be technically silly, but I’m sure some future neo-biker will make one anyway, if we ever get out there.

Anyway, I built a space scout bike, and here I am telling you how foolish an idea it is. It’s a relatively small, simple model of a kind I haven’t built all that much recently, and I’m sure others have already built the same sort of thing only better. Still, motorbikes that a minifigure can ride on aren’t the easiest things to construct without making some approximations for the sake of bricks and playability.

Not the Librarian-class…

Blacktron Liburnian-class battlecruiser: front aspect

Liburnian: (n) a light galley-type warship of the Roman Empire.

Having the Blacktron Alliance name one of their ship classes after something Roman is probably wrong. Even in my “Brightly Coloured Tyranny” alternate universe in which the Blacktron are the good guys and the Classic Space/Futuron Federation are the bad guys, the Blacktron represent the forces of freedom from tyranny, and more usually they are interpreted as forces of chaos and revolution.

Given that the Romans were the people that built Hadrian’s Wall with a castle gatehouse exactly every Roman mile whether or not it actually made sense with the terrain, the Blacktron are about as un-Roman as it gets. So maybe the name is a sophisticated irony, given that it’s named after a Roman ship type and the Romans were notoriously poor sailors.

Anyway, this is a microscale Blacktron battlecruiser of the kind I build when I’m not worrying about stud length and trying to build a SHIP. The bifurcated prow put me in mind of a pair of triremes or Ancient Greek warships mated top-to-top with the rams outward, and that’s how it got stuck with Liburnian as a class name.

Still, more aggressive-sounding than Librarian-class, right?

Blacktron Liburnian-class: front/side aspect

I don’t have a huge amount to say about this. It mirror-images almost completely top-to-bottom as well as left-to-right, which helps to give the idea that it’s designed for operating in zero-gravity. It has its armament of lasers and other cannons. I believe the twin red cones in front are spinal-mounted laser cannons, so I guess that makes the side mounts broadside guns. There are twelve smaller laser cannons mounted in four banks of three amidships, and there are four guns or missile tubes of some sort that have a rear firing arc.

That’s quite a lot of engines, and really I’d have preferred four larger ones using 2×2 dish elements in trans red, but I only have two of those and they’re being employed as sensor dishes, or perhaps something to do with the hyperdrive.

Not a massive model, but it looks pretty cool.

She Blinded Me With Science

The Classic Space proto-theme featured all kinds of non-combat land vehicles. Back then, the LEGO Group held a much harder line against violent and combative toys, and Classic Space was all about cooperation and exploration rather than the factions and fighting that characterise practically all of its modern themes (Ninjago and Nexo Knights have their conflicts, Star Wars and the Superhero lines have their good guys and bad guys, and even City has its police and criminals). So there were any number of mobile science labs and seismological research vehicles and satellite tracking stations and the like. It was what they did.

Modern Neoclassic Space creations are often a bit more warlike. Being fan creations, they don’t worry so much about Ole Kirk Christiansen’s dictum that war is not something for children’s toys, so you find Neoclassic Space and Neo-Futuron space fighters and tanks and battlecruisers and the like.

But you also find the science vehicles as well.

Mobile Science Station

This small Mobile Science Station is firmly in that tradition. Crewed by two white astronauts (my research into how the different suit colours were portrayed leads me to believe the white astronauts are primarily scientists whereas the red astronauts are primarily pilots and drivers), it features a bubble-canopied driver’s station and an articulated rear section with an interior laboratory and a dish antenna atop the roof.

I think one of my favourite parts of this is the round entry door to the lab module. It doesn’t fully work; you’d be hard pressed to reach in through it and extract the astronaut. But if you were minifigure-sized it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Also, I finally have some red wheel elements so I can make ground vehicles that are entirely in keeping with the original prototheme. I’m sure if they’d been making the theme a half decade or so later, they’d have had wheel hubs in a colour other than red (grey, most likely), but back in 1978, LEGO wheels only existed in red and the LEGO Group of the day weren’t about to make weird-coloured wheels just for the experimental Space line.

The height difference between the front and rear sections is a little unpleasing somehow, but I think it would have looked worse if I’d elevated the driver’s cab. Maybe I should have widened the wheel base another notch or two.

20/20 hindsight. Next time….