Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Dragon of the Spaceways

Dragon-class Battlecruiser of the Blacktron Alliance

Ever since I built my Elemental Dragon of Classic Space back in January of 2017, I’ve been contemplating a Blacktron counterpart, but so far I haven’t produced. I’ve made a couple of abortive false starts, but nothing that’s actually any good.

This past week, however, it occurred to me that the hypothetical Elemental Dragon of Blacktron wasn’t the only way to combine Blacktronian spacecraft design with the idea of dragons.

Borrowing some of the more ornamented design ethos of the Sunhawk-class (but with a vastly different actual design), this Blacktron battlecruiser was designed around that decorative dragon’s head form of the upper frontal hull and then took in the bat-wing vanes toward the rear. I was initially half thinking about a raised dragon’s tail at the rear as well, but then I built the ship’s engine section a little differently to what I had thought after those rather Y-Wing styled engines took shape, but then I realised that I could still add the tail so I did.

But it didn’t look as good as I had first hoped so I removed it again.

At 32 1/2 inches long (which this handy LEGO stud calculator calls 103 studs), the Blacktron Dragon-class battlecruiser turns out to actually be a SHIP. I was slightly surprised at this because I’d got hold of the idea from somewhere that 100 studs was 37 1/2 inches, not 31 1/2, so some of my previous SHIPs and near-SHIPs get their stud length estimates revised upwards. The horribly designed Liberator is still 101 studs long (I measured that in studs to begin with), and Dark Pegasus clocks in at 126 studs.

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The Blacktron Alliance’s smaller absolute size compared to its sprawling Federation adversary has made it far more aggressive in its interstellar dealings due to its perception of the size disparity as a disadvantage.

When it comes to large combat ships, however, the size disparity tends to go the other way and pile it on: Blacktron spacedoing dreadnoughts and battlecruisers are often more powerful on a class-by-class basis than their putative Federation Space Fleet counterparts, and almost always proportionally larger to make up for the smaller number of hulls that the Alliance is able to field.

Federation officers going toe to toe with Blacktron dreadnoughts often report the ship size disparity to be somewhat intimidating, and it is perhaps due to awareness of this fact that later Blacktron vessels have the designs that they do, a prime exemplar being the latest generation of Blacktron battlecruisers of the Dragon class.

It should be said, however, that the Blacktron Alliance has always had a more flamboyant design ethos than the stark functionality favoured by the Federation (compare the Federation’s Galaxy Explorer class with the similarly-sized Blacktron Renegade), and many observers see the more ornamental design of the Dragon-class as merely a continuation of that flamboyant attitude.

The class is recogniseable not only for the characteristic dragon’s head design of its upper forward hull, but more importantly for its massive spinal graser weapon system. For more conventional weapons, the Dragons are armed with 2 dreadnought-calibre antimatter accelerators and 12 battlecruiser-calibre laser cannons in dual-mounted turrets, backing these up with smaller secondary weaponry serving as antifighter and antimissile defences.

The initial production run of the Dragon-class currently stands at twelve vessels: Jormundgand, Ouroboros, Tiamat, Smaug, Weng Chiang, Mnementh, Gojira, Quetzalcoatl, Night Fury, Leviathan, Kongyong and Strabo.

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Snowbird

VX925 Snowbird

Inspired by the shape of the original 928 Space Cruiser but sized more like the 924 Space Transporter, I’m calling this neo-Ice Planet shuttlecraft the “VX925 Snowbird”.

Having a limited range of available trans neon orange windscreen elements, several parts of this spaceship were necessary adaptations of that original design to what I had available; in particular the two separate compartments.

The overwing engines and cranked-arrow delta wing obviously reprise the 928 Space Cruiser/497 Galaxy Explorer, but on a smaller scale because a lot of my blue elements are still in use on the Auriga.

I guess the VX925 Snowbird would be a sort of slightly larger stablemate to the Blizzard Baron, with a more realistic enclosed cockpit. It’s possibly a bit overengined for its size, actually, so presumably it serves the Ice Planeteers as a kind of fast courier.

Both crewmembers are sporting what I’m considering for an adapted Ice Planet standard gear, adding blue epaulets and replacing the airtanks with a backpack that presumably includes airtanks but which looks much more rugged. Technically I suppose the epaulets ought to desigate a commander, but Commander Bear is still on my list of “need to get this but haven’t yet” minifigures (which also includes Space Police 1 troopers, yellow and black Classic astronauts and the legendary Ice Babe).

Whatever. It was eighty-something Fahrenheit in Texas last weekend, and so I naturally built an Ice Planet spaceship.

NCS’ Wingèd Chariot

Auriga-class Heavy Fighter

The Auriga-class heavy fighter is a transatmostpheric attack craft of the Galactic Federation. Named after the ancient Terrestrial constellation depicting a charioteer, one of the distinguishing visual identifiers of the Auriga is the pair of disclike force shield generators located aft.

It is not every Federation fightercraft that is large enough and has a powerful enough energy plant to operate a force shield generator of this size, let alone mount two of them, and it is this dual shield and its power requirements which make the Auriga so comparatively large a fightercraft. Indeed, Hoplite was considered as a class name, but this would have broken with Federation tradition of naming fightercraft after Old Earth constellations.

The Auriga-class is sparsely armed for all its well-protected nature, but the weapons it does possess are relatively powerful. A pair of 10cm laser cannons form the primary weapon system; these are considerably more powerful than the 5cm mounts usually found on fightercraft, but there are only two of them. Backing these up are up to four standard small-craft torpedoes, usually Mark 7s with proximity-fused plasma warheads or bomb-pumped laser warheads, though occasionally a mix of Mark 7s and Mark 11 Electronic Warfare torpedoes are carried.

The Auriga-class is less manoeuvrable than many pure-space fightercraft designs, but has the advantage that it can freely enter the atmosphere. Auriga squadrons have been known to take advantage of this by entering the outer atmospheric layers of gas giant worlds to hide and ambush aggressors like space pirates or the Blacktron Alliance.

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Something of an homage to the old Minbari Transport from 1990s TV show Babylon 5, my Neoclassic Space version is necessarily smaller but has the same sort of overall shape.

I liked Babylon 5, and I remember the Minbari ships in particular with much fondness. Their transport was almost pedestrian-looking beside their vertically-oriented angelfish-like cruisers and trilaterally symmetrical space fighters, but it still had the same sweeping curves and flowing grace. Compared to the ugly box ships that the human race flew, the Minbari showed you how it’s supposed to be done.

There are some obvious differences, notably the prominent trans yellow windscreen and general Classic Spaceity, but that was the original source of inspiration. I hope you like my adaptation of the basic configuration.

Mynock

As a trained biologist, few of the various Star Wars creatures give me as much pause as the space creature in which the Millennium Falcon hides from the Imperial fleet.

While I suppose a vacuum-dwelling organic creature is theoretically possible, it raises all sorts of questions, particularly given what we see of the thing. Obviously it doesn’t need to breathe, but what does it eat? How does it attract its prey? How does it travel through space? Find a mate? Reproduce? Poop?

I could totally see a solar-powered space-dwelling creature, but this one lives in an asteroid belt at what looks like a considerable distance from its star. How does it get its energy? Organic fusion reactors?

By comparison, the mynocks that inhabit its innards are positively practical. Some sort of parasitic winged lamprey equivalent, drinking power from the space creature and any passing spaceships.

There’s evidently enough atmosphere within the space creature to sustain Han, Chewie and Leia with only a breather unit, so wings actually make sense as a form of locomotion. And maybe they’re not exclusively native to space creature gullets.

I could see them as being some kind of planetary creature that drinks electrical power, probably parasitic on some kind of large lifeform that makes use of bioelectricity. Even on Earth there are several creatures that make use of electricity: the electric eel, the platypus…

All well and good so far, but we also need the proto-mynock to be able to survive for some time in a vacuum. It’s not a vacuum-dweller by design: it has wings. But if it can at least survive vacuum on the outside of a starship for a few days then they could have spread all over the place, “chewing on the power cables”, as Han says. The mynocks inside the space creature would have been presumably brought on a previous spacecraft meal, and now subsist as parasites on the creature itself.

That’s my theory, anyway. Wookiepedia probably has a different one, but Wookiepedia’s xenobiological descriptions offend every scientific plausibility bone in my body, so I’m reluctant to give them much weight.

Anyway, apparently continuing with my reimaginings of Star Wars creatures, I built a large mynock model.

This one’s mostly black, rather than the pinkish shade of the ones from The Empire Strikes Back, so it’s either a related species (like there’s not only a single species of deer or a single species of vulture) or just a reimagining.

Black would make it harder to see in the cavelike environment within the space creature, but if you live in a completely dark cave who cares about vision? Most Terrestrial cave creatures are pure white. Mynocks do have eyes, though, which is an indication that they live in environments other than the dark inside of a space beast. Maybe they’re naturally black, and the ones in the belly of the beast have lost pigmentation in the darkness.

I got the idea to build a mynock from that Bionicle/CCBS tail element. I acquired it at the beginning of the year thinking I might use it on a Blacktron variant of my Classic Space Elemental Dragon or something. Apparently it’s “or something”. Here’s my black mynock, and a few musings about its potential xenobiology.

The Chase

I missed the “District 18” contest hosted by Flickr’s LEGO Speeder Bikes group. I was busy with FebRovery and didn’t really realise it was happening until the month was half gone. And then I was like “District 18? What the smeg is that? Some kind of Halo crap? Nothing for me here then…”

Three days from deadline and with no time to actually build anything, let alone photograph it in daylight, I finally worked out that “District 18” meant whatever you wanted it to mean; it wasn’t a tie-in to some popular game I don’t know.

So this isn’t a District 18 contest build.

It’s similar, though. District 17.5. Area 52. Platform 12 2/3. Whatever.

This started out with the speeder that’s being chased. I wanted to try incorporating a minor trilateral symmetry at the front, though with the rest of the speeder the way it is it gives it a vaguely cobbled-together look.

Having built that speeder I decided to make a whole scene, and it got larger and more complex from there.

The police speeder bike followed after I pulled out TLNM’s Officer Toque in my search for a suitable pilot. Okay, police speeder bike, then. A bit more finished-looking and sleek, with a similar pilot mount.

Neither speeder is really all that and a box of chocolates. It’s the background that makes this. I’m really developing a liking for building ramshackle, tumbledown future-industrial wastelands, and I think this is one of my better ones. Complete with large grey rat, because wasteland.

I’m not certain what the precise story is here. The guy being chased doesn’t have a particularly villainous or criminal look, but neither does the officer look especially like an instrument of state oppression. Maybe the dude did something minor like running a red light or operating a speeder bike with an expired inspection sticker, I don’t know.

At any rate, here they are. A police officer and another speeder bike pilot (possibly a criminal, perhaps an innocent biker in the wrong place at the wrong time) locked in relentless pursuit.

Like last year’s “The Ninja and the Dragon” build, I think the ambiguity helps to sell this. Make up your own backstory and enjoy.

Sarlacc Reimagined

“You will be taken to the Dune Sea, where you will be thrown into the Pit of Carkoon, resting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc. In his belly you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.”

I remember the original Sarlacc. The one before they started messing around with their digital remastering. Before that weird three-way snapping jaw got added in the centre of the Pit of Carkoon.

I’ll grant you that it’s a fairly cool piece of CGI. There’s no doubt but that the modern Sarlacc is a much more actively threatening beast, better suited to engage the fear circuits of modern filmwatchers.

However, there was something subtly ominous about that original yawning pit ringed about with inward-facing teeth, at the bottom of a conical sandtrap over which those unexpected tentacles roved. It didn’t need to snap at you. It was just there, ready to swallow up anyone and anything that stumbled within range. Huge. Deadly. Implacable. Mysterious.

Sarlacc, my version

If other people can reimagine iconic Star Wars vehicles in LEGO bricks, then I surely feel free to do the same with the Sarlacc.

My version locates itself in a rockier area, presumably bedded down in a fissure in the ground. Its tentacles are more cephalopoid than the flattened, elongated meat sacks of the original, equipped with rows of suckers that may well parallel those of the Colossal Squid, bearing rings of razor-sharp shearing teeth, or maybe even their own miniature mouths.

Watch out for the horrible pointy teeth

Like the original, I’ve kept the inward-facing teeth, but I’ve removed the extraneous protruding snapping mouth within. Sarlacc is the ultimate sessile ambush predator; a cross between a sea anemone, an ant lion and a carnivorous plant. Poking its head out to snap at potential prey when something comes by is a sure way to alert them to their danger and make them flee out of range.

My version’s ring of teeth will actually bite down, though. That’s reasonable.

How the Sarlacc attracts prey is an open question. On a desert planet like Tatooine, I’d suggest that extruding just enough moisture to be carried on the wind would be a suitable lure. Everything’s going to be attracted to the smell of water. And along comes a herd of wild banthas, down to the “water”, and into the mouth of the beast. Or maybe just the smell of dying beasts does it, attracting Tatooine’s scavengers the way the La Brea tar pits attracted direwolves.

Anyway, here’s the Sarlacc, as reimagined by me.

O For A Muse Of Fire…

My son wanted to rebuild his prized Green NRG Dragon set, and he made the request that I build a similar-sized dragon for Kai, the Red Ninja of fire.

Kai’s Elemental Fire Dragon

It’s been a while since I built a dragon, and Kai’s my favourite of the Ninja (unless it’s his sister Nya), so I thought I’d have a go.

The Green NRG Dragon has a rather nice scaly belly look on the lower frontal section, and part of my thinking was to see if I could make an extended version of that which would cover basically the entire underbelly. That’s where this model started, and I built it up from there.

Note the scaly belly. Try to ignore the unfinished-looking underwings.

The head is large and impressive, but quite heavy for those poor balljoints and tends to sag if not posed very carefully. Clickstop universal joints would have alleviated this tendency, but they make for a longer and less flexible joint that would have detracted from the look of the build and made posing more of a challenge anyway. I posed its head very carefully.

I liked the “unusualness factor” of the wyvern bodyplan on the Green NRG Dragon, but I prefer my dragons to have four legs, so that’s how I built this one. The front feet look less than fully stellar when he’s posed rearing up on his back legs to expose that snakelike belly, but maybe I could build a set of alternate front feet that are more handlike, and swap them out like the extra stud shooter hand of the Clayface Splat Attack set (replacing that hammer hand).

The head has ended up with rather a Smauglike look, which wasn’t planned but I liked the way it was shaping up so I went with it. A bit nasty-looking for our heroic Ninja, perhaps, but it does work well for a big red dragon.

The last time Kai had an official dragon he had to share it with his sister, so it’s been a while since he’s had his own dragon. And I don’t think Nya’s had a full-on Elemental Dragon of Water of her very own (unshared with her pyrotechnic brother, I mean) yet. We don’t have a lot of Nya’s lighter blue, though, so building her a dragon on this scale would be challenging.