Category Archives: Lego Space

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….

Hammer Time

Apparently I didn’t need much of a break to be able to bounce right back into space mode. I’m calling this rather swooshy space fighter the Thor-class fighter, due to its vague resemblance to the Buck Rogers “Thunderfighter”.

It’s in many ways a pretty generic SNOT-built Classic Space space fighter, but I’m rather pleased with the variable-angle wings and the overall shape and heft of it.

There are no major greebly areas or incredible new techniques, but I just like the combination of those aggressive forward-jutting wing prongs and the smooth-yet-layered solidity of the back section behind the cockpit. I could see the Classic Space equivalent of Buck Rogers being quite happy with a ship like this.

Obviously, I don’t have a lot to say about this, but here it is. Enjoy!

Motley Devil

Arrr! Avast, ye scurvy spacedogs!

Space navies aren’t always the only agencies to field armed starships. The Star Wars universe has its smugglers with their armed freighters, and many other universes have mercenaries, privateers and outright pirates.

The inspiration for this spacegoing privateer came from me trying out different combinations of my dark blue and dark red curved shell elements, looking for different ways I might use both together. Combining them in chequered fashion, I was put in mind of a Mediaeval jester’s motley, and I thought the combination had definite possibilities.

Of course, there are very few official space navies that are going to use chequered blue and red as livery colours. Even a putative Croatian Space Service would use red and white, not blue and red. And even fewer would put up with having a warship named Motley Devil.

Therefore, a privateer.

I’m not sure whether this baby is part of a mercenary fleet, a lone-wolf privateer or an out-and-out pirate, but I’m happy to leave that much open to interpretation.

Motley Devil‘s another large vessel. What is it with me and these huge vessels? She’s not as long as Liberator, at a mere 60 studs’ length, but even if she doesn’t remotely qualify for SHIP status she’s got a more satisfyingly interesting shape.

I think my favourite part of Motley Devil is the octagonally-arranged rear hull. Combining the ring of 45-degree angle plates with the central spine was not as easy as it might have been, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

Another favourite part is the jaunty skull decoration on the upper hull. It serves no discernible purpose other than to look cool, but who’s to say a band of privateers wouldn’t individualise the starship that is their home?

Motley Devil is relatively well armed for a privateer; perhaps she’s more of a mercenary than a pirate. I’ve reused those cool ball mounts for the main forward guns, and utilised most of the new elements I bought with SHIP construction in mind.

Those 45-degree angle plates really aren’t designed to have anything connected through the centre of the ring like I have, so there’s a major structural weakness, and it’s an unavoidable one. Still, it makes for a cool-looking ship.

Anyway, enjoy!

Why Wait Til SHIPtember?

Those of you who’ve been following this blog will realise that I’ve been in pursuit of the ability to produce one of the 100+ stud behemoths known as a SHIP for some time now.

I’ve been incrementally coming closer to the magic number, which has seemed like the personal LEGO building equivalent of lightspeed, for several creations, from 50-stud Classic Space reboots like my take on the 6929 Starfleet Voyager to my previous personal best in the “biggest creation” steeplechase, the 74-stud Argonaut-class Explorer Ship.

And I’ve finally broken the light barrier.

LSS Liberator, my first SHIP

Given that the Argonaut was put together while my AT-AT, my 12-year-old daughter’s wonderful ship, my 13-year-old nephew’s 60-stud barge and my 6-year-old son’s four-armed Ninjago Stone Warrior mech were in existence as finished creations, I decided that we really did have enough bricks now to make a serious stab at it.

  

While ordering my nephew some special elements from Bricklink for his just-happened 13th birthday, I put in a bit of an order for myself as well, with SHIP construction in mind. But in actual fact, I didn’t even wait for his birthday when I’d promised to get out the new bricks before I started building. Well, apart from the cup-and-ball sponson mounts, with which I just couldn’t resist arming my battlecruiser.

Most of my large “shell-type” elements are dark red or dark blue, which is why so many of my large creations use those colours. But I don’t have very much else in dark red or (particularly) dark blue, certainly not for building all the superstructure-y bits of a full-on SHIP. So even though my Buck Rogers starfighter is in existence, I settled on white as a third primary superstructure colour. Red, white and blue together works as a main colour scheme even with the addition of two different greys for structural and functional parts (for the illusion of greater depth and greebliness even though my greebling has been really minimal) and gave the SHIP its name: LSS Liberator.

Liberator is a name to conjure with, if you’re a British sci-fi fan of a certain generation. The name of the advanced starship from the now-obscure TV serial Blake’s 7, the original was a fantastic trilaterally-symmetrical space battlecruiser with a mysterious pulsating green ball for an engine. And sorry, Trek, but this is the best-looking TV starship of the pre-1980s era.

Someday I’ll build that Liberator, but it won’t be today.

My own Liberator is “only” 101 studs long, and even that’s a bit of a cheat considering the forward prongs are a whopping 16 studs all by themselves, but I broke the 100-stud barrier and I didn’t use any of the large elements from my last Bricklink spree, so I can do a better job next time.

Already I’m planning larger, more ornate, better-designed SHIPs: Dark Pegasus, which will need considerably more Investment in Pieces for me to build the way it is in my head, and the privateer Motley Devil, which I plan to attempt next.

But as a first step into the world of SHIPness, Liberator‘s not too shabby, I think. At least I avoided Bix Box Syndrome and managed to come up with a marginally interesting shape for it, and did it in a reasonable colour scheme, and did it while my daughter’s ship and my Buck Rogers starfighter are sitting on the display shelf hogging bricks.

But I’ll do better next time, I promise. Even if Motley Devil doesn’t end up breaking the 100-stud barrier (which is by no means a certainty right now) my next SHIP will be better.

~~~

The LSS Liberator is a jumpdrive-equipped space battlecruiser of the human-dominated Star League. Armed with both laser and plasmatic armament, Liberator is fairly typical of medium-range League warships.

Unlike, for example, the OGEL Tetrarchy’s Stellar Legions, the Star League’s Space Defence Force employs mixed batteries of both lasers and plasma cannons rather than lasers alone. This is one of the major doctrinal differences between the LSDF and the TSL, and primarily stems from a difference in the two interstellar polities’ jumpdrives.

Laser cannons are lightspeed weapons: long-ranged and difficult to dodge effectively. However, plasma weapons are considerably more destructive for the same mass of cannon, even though they are short-ranged, STL weapons.

The Star League having better jumpdrive technology and being willing to utilise starship mass for precision jump-point calculation computers, the League Space Defence Force are more apt to attempt to jump in to a much closer range than the Tetrarchy’s Stellar Legions are able to, and close to the spatial equivalent of knife-fight range as quickly as possible.

The OGEL Tetrarchy, on the other hand, tend to stand off and open fire with larger numbers of individually less destructive long-range lasers.

Forward section showing flight bridge and laser cannons

Liberator herself has a primary armament of six heavy laser cannons mounted in individual sponsons on the forward hull, and six heavy plasma accelerators triple-mounted in dorsal turrets, each accelerator having better than five times the destructive capacity of the equivalent laser within its more limited range.

Detail of one of the dorsal plasma turrets

The secondary armament is similarly mixed, with both lasers and plasma cannons in side-mounted turrets, plus there are a number of small missile-defence lasers scattered over the hull.

Central section showing dorsal turrets, secondary turrets and ventral small craft bays

Ventrally amidships are the small craft bays. The ability of an energy-weapon-armed battlecruiser to carry fightercraft is not huge, and the ability of fighter-sized ships to carry reasonably effective weapons is necessarily limited, but Liberator is equipped to operate eight Excalibur-class space superiority fighters (too small to build at this scale).

Aft section showing engines, jump drives and flag bridge

The engine section is aft. Like all Star League vessels, LSS Liberator has two separate drive systems: the metagravity sublight drives, which utilise pseudogravitic forces to achieve a reactionless sublight drive system, and the outboard jump-point engines which generate a form of tame wormhole for point-to-point interstellar jumps.

~~~

Ill tell you something, though. They aren‘t kidding around when they talk about Seriously Huge Investments in Pieces. It’s not so much sheer quantity of elements that kills you, it’s quantity of elements of particular types in particular colours.  One more time, then, in all her glory:

LSS Liberator

In the 25th Century

“In the year 1987, NASA launched the last of America’s deep space probes. Aboard this compact starship, a lone astronaut, Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers, was to experience cosmic forces beyond all comprehension. In a freak mishap, his life-support systems were frozen by temperatures beyond imagination. Ranger 3 was blown out of its planned trajectory into an orbit one thousand times more vast, an orbit which was to return Buck Rogers to Earth five hundred years later…”

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was a feature of my growing-up. Along with Battlestar Galactica (the slightly kitschy 1978 original, not the update) and other various series that piggy-backed on the phenomenal success of Star Wars, these are perhaps the reason I’m such a sci-fi nerd and general Benny clone.

Buck Rogers has a far deeper pedigree than solely the 1979 TV serial, but I didn’t find out about that until later. It’s probably about due for a reboot, in fact. But for at least a couple of years of my childhood, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was required weekly viewing to me.

It helped that it had one of the most pleasingly swooshy space fighters there’s probably ever been, and as the six- or seven-year-old I was, even the cute robot Twiki was charming rather than annoying.

Earth Defense Directorate Thunderfighter

In the post-nuclear war rebuilt Earth of Buck Rogers, the familiar nations have been subsumed into the Earth Defense Directorate, who manage reawaken the cryogenically-frozen Captain and determine to make use of him as an agent due to his skills as a pilot, his general resourcefulness and his unique trait that he is unrecorded in any of the various databases of the surviving human population.

Buck’s obviously Space Shuttle-derived Ranger 3 is not seen again after the opening credits; it’s unarmed, and presumably too primitive. The starfighter of choice is the Earth Defense Directorate fighter, sometimes called the “Thunderfighter”.

As a kid, I remember I had a diecast metal one produced by the Corgi company who usually made toy cars. The Corgi version had a flat metal fin connecting the front prongs, because apparently even in the 1970s you could take somebody’s eye out with that. The fin is actually how I remember the fighter, and it had the added advantage that it looked cool in its own right. In a triumph of imagination over visual evidence, my six-year-old brain even edited the fin into the TV version.

I’m not sure what brought Buck Rogers back into my mind. I think I was trawling the depths of my brain for something to build that wasn’t a SHIP and wasn’t Classic Space or Blacktron, and this is what I came up with. One of the only two ships from that series I can even remember.

At an overall length probably shorter than an F-22 Raptor, the Thunderfighter and its contemporary the classic Galactica Colonial Viper are among the smallest film or TV space fighters, dwarfed by the X-Wing from Star Wars, the Starfury from Babylon 5 and even Star Trek‘s obscure Peregrine. Apparently in the Buck Rogers future, miniaturisation is a highly developed science and fuel tankage isn’t an issue.

Like my Corgi model, and I believe like the ones on TV, my LEGO Thunderfighter’s wings can deploy for atmospheric flight and fold in for space combat. What this achieves in a vacuum I’m not sure, but it’s a cool feature and the fact that I managed to actually build a function like that is something I’m rather proud of. Three cheers for the Technic-incompetent…

My version of the Earth Defense Directorate’s primary spacecraft is a little thicker in the back hull than the sleek, flattened TV version, but getting it down to TV sleekness with as few studs showing as I’ve got left is beyond my current capacity if I’m going to keep that functionality.

Also, the cockpit canopy is traditionally hinged rather than sliding forwards like I remember the “real” ones doing, but the Thunderfighter’s cockpit was fairly heavily framed and my Snowspeeder windshield was the closest thing I have to that look.

I’ve used a Star Wars helmet (from one of the Rebel Alliance or Resistance battle packs I believe) on the pilot, as even though it’s partly brown it’s still the closest match I can find to the open-faced widows-peaked white helmets they wore.

It occurs to me that a Buck Rogers-themed creation might make a good Ideas set, so I might even take the step of submitting this one.

What do you think?