Monthly Archives: November 2017

Stingship

Federation Scorpio-class destroyer

Modeling your sci-fi vehicles after living creatures is nearly always cool, but the peaceable Classic Space Federation are probably the last people you’d normally associate with the idea of building hardware shaped like a scorpion.

Nevertheless, in a fit of irony I’ve assembled this scorpionoid spacegoing destroyer, and it’s one of the most overarmed spaceships I’ve ever built. Goodness only knows what the power requirements on this thing are when it’s firing all of its guns…

What I’m calling the Scorpio-class destroyer started out as a prospective ground vehicle designed around those front arms. It wasn’t even specifically going to be a scorpion at that point.

It was only after I decided I didn’t like the looks of it as a rover and added the ball cannons that I specifically decided to turn it into a scorpion ship, because those cup-and-ball-mounted guns make wicked legs.

In the past I’ve specifically eschewed the use of the term “destroyer” for my Federation spaceships. It’s always seemed too aggressive and militaristic and, well, destructive. In my version of the Classic Space Federation, larger vessels are typically cruisers and smaller vessels are frigates, both of which terms have enough history as not specifically naval vessel types to sound somehow more peaceable. However, destroyer was really the only choice for a vessel with this many guns on it, so I’ve built my first ever Classic Space destroyer.

With engines that small, I doubt it’s any speedster or hyperagile transorbital combatant, but if its anything like its design namesake it’s at least well-armoured. Warships typically emphasise a maximum of two of the triad of armour, firepower and speed, and I’d guess that what the Federation designers decided to de-emphasise in this particular case was speed.

This isn’t the most adventurous spaceship model as far as technique is concerned, but I rather like it anyway. Who would have guessed that a scorpion would look so good in blue? Or that a scorpion could serve as such a natural-seeming model for a spaceship rather than a surface tank?

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Cave Inimicum

Apologies for the awful Latin pun, but I was running out of creative post names.

Stretching my rockwork and vegetative skills here, I had a picture in my head of a cave with a tree growing over the top of it, and I decided to try and build it.

The result is some fairly decent small-scale rockwork and probably one of the two best trees I think I’ve ever built.

The cave opens up at the back as a sort of play feature (ish), though there’s really not a lot here to play with. There is a fairly large crystal and half of a skeleton back there, though, adding some visual interest.

I don’t have a huge amount to say about this build, but here it is. A small chunk of scenery from someone who seldom builds such things.

Repainting the House Divided

What happens when a red astronaut from the LEGO Classic Space faction and a black-clad astronaut from the enemy Blacktron alliance fall in love?

Repainting the House Divided

This build went through several iterations as I toyed with the scene. It actually started out as a plain Blacktron base corridor scene, though I neglected to photograph it at that point.
The two astronauts already looked as though they might have been falling for one another, so I went with that and rebuilt one end of the corridor in Classic Space LEGO colours and made the astronaut a red one.

The heart followed, making the point clearer, and then, under the influence of a 13-years-married-and-still-gloriously-in-love relationship I decided to make it a bit more domestic.

I’d already thought about calling it “Across A House Divided” or something similar, and I started thinking, “what if that’s their actual house?”.

Ergo the paint rollers. And the icing on the cake is that she‘s getting ready to paint her half in his colours just as he‘s getting ready to paint his half in her colours. That’s what love is like.

Obviously there’s a message here, in our increasingly divided times. With seemingly everything becoming increasingly politically coloured in lurid reds and blues, maybe LEGO’s old smiley-faced, cooperative, friendly astronauts can teach us a thing or two.

I characterised the Blacktron faction as “enemy”, and that certainly seemed in the late ’80s to be the case, from their predatory, slightly sinister ship names (“Invader”, “Renegade”) to the fact that once the Space Police were introduced it was Blacktron astronauts in the jail cells. But even though they were enemies, the catalogues of the day still showed the two factions cooperating and working together in the vital project of colonising the galaxy.

Maybe our current “enemy” divisions into the Red Camp and the Blue Camp aren’t as terrible and world-ending as some people would like us to think. Most of my in-laws hold vastly different political views to my wife and I, but we’ve just managed to make it through a Thanksgiving without a single political argument. For which I am duly thankful, believe me.

But the point is that love transcends all of that. For all that I disagree with the political narrative most of my inlaws have chosen to accept, they are good people. And I’m not going to accept the contemporary myth that says you have to define yourself and everyone else purely in terms of political affiliations.

So slightly unintentionally I seem to have built that in LEGO bricks. Here’s a situation in which the political colours of their surroundings are unimportant beside the love they have for one another. Black or blue-and-grey, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re together.

This isn’t a blog I usually get political in, but the “message” is an important one right now. Thanksgiving has just come and gone, and Christmas is on its way. Maybe it’s time to step back from the brink of metaphysical total war with the opposing ideology and remember that those who hold it are human beings just like us.

Skeleton Crew

Halloween or Día de los Muertos would probably be a more appropriate season for this one than the time around Thanksgiving, but as someone who builds Ice Planet battle fleets at the height of a Texas summer I seem to have a bit of a thing for unseasonal building.

Yes, it’s a skeletal space fleet. I told you everything’s cooler in space.

I’m not sure whether these ships are crewed by the undead or just an interplanetary tribe with a strong skull-and-bones fetish, but if you’re dealing with zero-gravity and vacuum then it really doesn’t matter what your ships look like. After a certain technological point it becomes “why not?”

So, a skeletal fleet.

I built the large ship first and then scaled down, with the tiny vessel next and then the intermediate one that looks like it’s got some Klingon in its ancestry. It’s sort of bizarre how much I want to build with white exactly when my daughter is using most of our stocks of that colour, but bloodymindedness is something of a personal trait, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, it’s a little frustrating. Maybe she’ll let me break up her model soon, and then I can go back to wanting to use grey and blue. Or green; I haven’t used green as a major colour in a build for what feels like ages.

Anyway, enough of my random musings on colour choices! I built a skeletal starship, then turned it into a small fleet. The big ship is called the Orcus, after the Roman god of death; the smaller ships are the Vulture and the Scarab. Don’t ask me to make any more, because I really am out of white now.

Spacedoc

Following on from last time’s Q-Mech and the introduction of my fan-made Neoclassic Space rescue theme Q-Tron, I’m continuing in that line.

One of the obvious needs of a rescue service is some sort of ambulance or medevac vehicle able to swiftly transport injured minifigures to a treatment facility.

Frost’s beautiful space ambulance notwithstanding, I decided that a tracked or even wheeled ground vehicle was probably too slow. His vehicle’s big enough that it might be bringing the treatment facility to the patient, but I elected to go a different route: this is CareFlight in space.

I’ve chosen to use the term “hovercraft” for my antigravity-powered space ambulance despite the fact that this isn’t your mama’s ground-effect vehicle. There are reasons for that; mostly because the old Res-Q theme (1998-1999) had a hovercraft (in the conventional sense) and I wanted to reference it. If it were a Star Wars build it would be called a speeder; other franchises call them skimmers or antigravs; but “hovercraft” seems just as reasonable if you ask me.

For all I know, the twin trans dark blue windscreen elements actually came from a 6473 Rescue Cruiser set; I did get them from Bricklink, after all.

Unlike the Rescue Cruiser, though, the Q-Tron Rescue Hovercraft isn’t actually a twin-cockpit design. I know what it looks like, but the left-hand “cockpit” is actually a patient transport pod with a stretcher.

There’s not much room in there for paramedics to get to work straight away, but this is the future. They probably have medical stasis fields to preserve the patient during the flight. With futuristic medical technology to work with, I’m sure the poor injured Blacktron astronaut will be just fine.

I made good use of some of this household’s Star Wars set elements by making the pilot an alien; also I recombined some red and white Classic asronauts into something that looks like it would pass as a Q-Tron spacesuit. The fact that the Rescue Hovercraft is a single-pilot vehicle doesn’t exactly bode well for that stretcher, but I couldn’t really crowbar a copilot into the right-hand cockpit without causing problems. Star Wars-style miniaturised antigravity to lift the stretcher à la Han-Solo-frozen-in-Carbonite might be a possibility, but the thing has conventional handles. Apparently the future isn’t quite that advanced. The other main option was a robotic medical orderly that could be stored or transported in the back somewhere. The hovercraft’s propulsive system didn’t leave any room for proper hatches, so you have to pretend he goes in there somewhere, but I decided to build Mobot (Medical Orderly Robot) anyway. Zane’s Titanium Ninja head makes an excellent Mobot head (or would if not for the second face on the back), but I wish I had a minifigure of C-3PO’s white colleague from Bespin to be the body. Threepio himself is the wrong colour and battle droids are the only other robot minifigs I have, so I had to adapt a clone trooper body for him.

The twin antigravity spindles use a piece I never thought I’d use in anything other than its designed role: the hemispherical “ball” from the cup-and-ball cannon mounts I acquired fairly recently. But it works quite well, I think. Similarly, the diagonal “wings” at the back started out as a design reaction to the fact that I really didn’t want to break up the Q-Mech yet, and most of our remaining white brick and plate elements are being used by my daughter in a largeish character head build (some kind of animated dwarf skeleton called Sans from something called Undertale, or so I’m informed). That the wings exist at all was a reaction to probably not being able to do it the way I would otherwise have, but I rather like them, and they make a great place for those Q-Tron logos I designed.

Storebought white stickers, a little imagination and a red pen helped complete the Q-Tron look, because if I’m creating an actual fan-made Neoclassic theme I might as well do a thorough job of it, right? Overall it’s not as good as the Q-Mech, but I’m mostly pleased with this.

Q-Mech

Everything’s cooler in space.

This could just about be my LEGO building motto, but it’s nonetheless true. Astronauts are cooler than regular pilots. Star Wars is cooler than Earth wars. Space aliens are cooler than illegal aliens. You get the point.

Anyway, the various classic LEGO Space themes gave us a world where humans are in space, big time. The original Classic prototheme was a sort of semirealistic basic exploration theme; Blacktron gave us a criminal or rebel element; Space Police introduced us to law enforcement in space. M-Tron showed us the world of space haulage, or possibly mining or manufacturing of some form, and Ice Planet gave us arctic research in space. The year-to-year subthematic overlap placed all these incarnations of LEGO Space in the same universe, so it’s quite evident: in the LEGO future, humans are living and working in space.

LEGO City is the modern “real life” theme, giving us brick-built versions of everything from waste trucks to pizza parlors. However, there are plenty of other adjuncts to the modern City and earlier Town themes, such as the jungle subtheme, the airport subtheme and the construction subtheme. Ice Planet’s obviously a prequel of the Arctic subtheme, Police and Space Police go together, and I’ve played with the idea of space construction (witness this spacedozer). The idea of a Jungle Planet or a Modular Space City or a Volcano World space-based subtheme is a pretty good one, but that’s not what I’m doing here.

No, this build takes its cues from a variety of older City and Town subthemes; most notably the Coast Guard and Res-Q subthemes, but with a bit of the LEGO Fire Service thrown in.

I’ve seen excellent models of space ambulances built by other people, and the airport subtheme is cosmicised every time someone builds a starliner or personnel shuttle, but to my knowledge I don’t think I’ve ever seen a space rescue build.

Taking my nomenclative cues (no pun intended) from the old Res-Q line (1998-99) as well as the various classic Space themes, I’m calling my LEGO Space Rescue Service “Q-Tron”.

This, then, is the Q-Mech.

Selecting red and white with trans blue transparent elements and grey structural highlights as a colour palette both high-visibility and distinct from the various early Space themes, I thought about building a large emergency recovery vehicle-type rover with towing hooks and winches and so on, but I really wanted 6-8 large Technic-type wheels and the only colour I’ve got in sufficient quantity is gold. And that doesn’t work with my chosen colour scheme.

So, more or less done with spaceships for the moment, I decided to build a mech instead.

The Q-Tron rescue service mech is a large (ish) humanoid mech able to navigate rough terrain and provide heavy backup for the Q-Tron emergency response teams. Relatively generic and adaptible, the Q-Mech is used in a variety of space rescue roles wherever large amounts of extra strength are required, including moving debris in the wake of planetary quakes or landslides, crash recovery and cavern bracing.

The mech’s clawed hands are capable of considerable delicacy despite their size, and are frequently employed Jaws of Life-style in crash recovery situations.

The Q-Mech contains a powerful onboard atmospheric scrubber and liquid oxygen tank which can be plugged in externally to those of a vehicle or space habitat in the event of an environmental systems failure. The twin nozzles on either side of the cockpit can handle external hoses, though they are multipurpose in design and also function as part of the mech’s fire suppression system.

The vacuum of space serves as an effective fire suppressor for most types of fires, but there are still various chemical agents in use which contain enough stored oxygen to combust even in vacuum.

These deadly “vacuum fires” cannot be controlled with traditional methods of fire suppression, but the Q-Mech uses powerful “dry-foaming” flame-retardant chemicals to encase and absorb the energy of a vacuum combustion event.

I think my favourite part of this mech is the sloping windscreen interface. A little finicky to put together (it more or less exploded a couple of times during construction when I squeezed too hard), it’s one of my better approaches to a mech cockpit. And the nozzles hide the way it’s done quite well.

I think this may be one of my better mechs yet, even though I’m not really using advanced joint techniques on it. I’m not convinced I could scale up the joint techniques I’ve seen to something this stocky and robust. Still, I’m satisfied with the way I’ve disguised the nature of most of the joints.

Because I wanted to show it in action and still had the Black Horus built, I ended up with a situation in which I have a downed enemy Blacktron pilot being rescued by the Q-Tron mech. A little weird, but emergency services people don’t ask you whose side you’re on before they get to work. They just get on with it.

So this is my space rescue mech. I have an idea for a Q-Tron rescue hovercraft (ie antigrav) as well, and I may well build that next. Stay posted…

Just A Cockpit With Engines

Balancing out my last Blacktron space fighter, I decided to build another one in the Classic Space prototheme’s secondary palette.

XK-7 Space Fighter

Then, too, I had some ideas for a double-cockpit fighter with a rear-facing tailgunner, like the Star Wars Rebel snowspeeder.

The execution of the cockpit is fairly old-school and simplistic. I’ll admit it could be better done, but I didn’t realise when I started building how many of the household’s white bricks were in use on a model of the head of a some web-comic character made by one or other of my daughters. I could have gone with regular Classic Space colours, but I don’t have two matching trans yellow windshield elements of any type I wanted to use, so I decided to go ahead and build in white anyway. It doesn’t make that much of a difference.

The mass of cockpit area is pretty extreme on a ship this small, so I’ve tried to go for broke on the cockpit interiors, with actual pilot’s chairs, a rack for the airtanks, fancy controls and computer support. I’m not often this detailed in my cockpit modeling, but with so much of the model the otherwise blandly conventional blue windscreen cockpits, I really had to.

The other place I’ve been really experimental is with the engines. The ship is practically nothing but a cockpit with engines, so there isn’t a lot of other place to do anything, but the twin drives show some semi-experimental down-side-out technique that is a bit fragile but which I rather like the look of.

The wings, similarly, are diifcult to keep in place when swooshing, but I like the way they look.

The undercarriage was a necessity because of the way the engines hang down below the bottom of the cockpit section. It’s a little primitive in front, and a little weird in back, but it does the job of raising the engines off the deck.

All in all, while I’m not quite as satisfied with this as I am with the Black Horus, I’m viewing this as a fairly successful technique testbed.

Unusually for me, it doesn’t have a name. I’m out of inspiration for names (a rarity for me), so this is the XK-7 space fighter. Long live meaningless numbers!