There seem to have been a lot of Star Trek builds from yours truly of late. Two Klingon cruisers, one Federation long range explorer with a rather overdetailed backstory, one bridge module of said overdetailed explorer, and numerous other small builds that I didn’t even bother blogging.
This is not another Star Trek build. Though I’ll grant you it’s similar. Space Trek, or something.
You see, after building that bridge module with the Classic Space torsos representing Starfleet uniform jerseys, I started to think about how similar in ethos Star Trek’s Federation and the Classic Space astronaut corps are. Traditionally, the Classic astronauts come from a “Federation” as well, though I prefer “League” when I’m dealing with the normal upbeat version and “The System” when it’s my inverted dystopia in which the Blacktron are the good guys.
Ahem. Anyway… Both are set in space, at some point in the future. Both portray an upbeat, optimistic view of said future. Both feature brightly-coloured uniforms. Both endeavour to show peaceful exploration and cooperation rather than conflict and warfare.
Of course, Classic Space doesn’t have any real story, whereas Star Trek has 50 years’ worth of complex, dynamic future history and established canon. Indeed, hardcore Trek fans can be some of the most nitpicky continuity-obsessed grumpy old men in all of fandom where their canon and perceived deviations therefrom are concerned.
The tech’s a little different, too, insofar as the LEGO Group ever bothered to define the Classic Space tech base. More or less it was “whatever’s cool for 7-12-year-olds, mostly boys”. With not much in the way of definition to its universe, the question could reasonably be asked: “Was Classic Space a kind of Trek or pre-Trek?”
Before the movies (Star Trek: The Motion Picture released in 1979, a year after the first Classic Space sets hit the shelves), TNG, Enterprise or JJ Abrams’ Kelvin timeline, there was only so much in the way of official canon future history for the Trek universe either, but given the thorny copyright problem that would probably have existed even in 1978 had the LEGO Group openly set their new toy line in the Star Trek universe (even a lot closer to the present than to Jim Kirk) I’d be hesitant to seriously suggest it.
Given the similarity in overall tone and ethos, though, it’s reasonable to guess that Gene Roddenberry and the LEGO Group might have been drinking from the same well. Which is something I hadn’t really considered until now.
There are some differences, of course, particularly in the equipage of the individual explorers. Starfleet’s crews wear brightly-coloured uniforms, but they are daywear, not spacesuits. They deal with Earthlike planets with breathable atmospheres, or the interior of their starship. Up until some of the movies you never even saw a Star Trek spacesuit. Which is a bit weird when you think about it since the whole premise of the show was space exploration.
By contrast, the Classic Space astronauts wear spacesuits all the time, even in what ought to be the pressurised cabin of their Galaxy Explorer-class space cruiser, or (in a lot of fan MOCs) the interior of their giant moonbase. I have to confess that even as a kid this used to bug me, and I always wanted to make airlocks or changing rooms where they could put on their spacesuits for going outside.
If I’d kept buying sets when Futuron came out instead of becoming too embarrassed to buy LEGO as a teen in the ‘80s (back before nerd culture was cool) I’d probably have made the Futuron torsos my day uniforms. Probably modified with a white arm on the left so it looks more like a diagonally-divided bicoloured jersey with an organisational badge. And I’d have kept the plain coloured Classic Space ‘figs as my spacesuits. Alas, it was not to be. And I can’t do that now because I only have two Futuron-style torsos.
Therefore, classic Trek-looking day uniforms. The women are wearing black trousers like the men, because the right elements don’t exist to make Trek-style miniskirts in all those bright colours, and anyway, that seems a little too close to objectifying women. It isn’t the ‘60s any more and we ought to know better. They’re explorers. Dresses of any kind seem like they’d be impractical.
I built the lander first, choosing the white Classic Space colour palette of sets like 6929 Starfleet Voyager (even the set names sound like Star Trek) as seeming to contrast better with the alien biosphere I had in mind for the scene. White also looks more like the tech of the original series of Trek, before Star Wars introduced the “used-future” look with its workaday grime and occasionally clunky and falling-apart high technology. That’s not a Starfleet shuttlecraft, though. I’ll grant you that the engine pods could reasonably be interpreted as warp nacelles, but most of Trek’s shuttles are much smaller than my lander (which I’m dubbing the Endeavour-class). I think it might even be bigger than the Danube-class runabout of DS9, though that probably has more internal room. One of the features of Trek tech is that it seems to exist in hammerspace and operate without noticeable fuel reserves. Of course, some of the Classic Space sets are a bit guilty of that, too, but Classic Space is way less developed than Trek and was designed for 8-year-olds rather than a presumed adult or semi-adult audience.
Anyway, I kept having to rebuild the lander over and over again while I tried to get the payload bay door to cooperate. For a while it just wasn’t working, and I tried several things before I decided to ignore the fact that the curved panels are hinged. I initially had a slightly boxier, more Trek-looking lander in mind, but I think this “evolved Classic Space” look works even better. The lander is almost exclusively SNOTwork, and mostly looks the better for it. With all of my Clue(do) vignettes (initial series of six, of which this was the first) built, finding enough pieces for this was a real stretch. I really need to get more 1xEverything bricks in almost all colours.
This is partly why there’s no more of an interior than you see. The payload bay alone can’t possibly account for all the explorers, but if you assume that there’s more internal space than I actually built it just about works.
The explorers themselves are a pleasingly diverse bunch, including a ‘fig with Elves hairpiece and pointy ears, SW Rodian and Ugnaut crewmembers and Talos from the Captain Marvel set. Among the humans, I’ve got as wide a variety of skintones as I can do, and a semidecent balance of males and females. This, too, is both Star Trek and Classic Space, though they achieved their inclusivity in different ways. Trek, featuring human actors, had a classic original bridge crew including a black woman, an Asian, a Russian and an alien (which was pretty good for the day, though the central characters are still three white dudes), whereas Classic Space used the generic, deliberately neither definitively male nor definitively female, neither obviously black nor obviously white nor obviously Asian or Latino standard yellow smiley minifigure heads. You could interpret them however you liked (though it has to be admitted that the default assumption seemed to be that they were male and white).
Since I use flesh-tone heads for my Classic astronauts even when building them as conventional Classic astronauts, I’m always pleased to get sets with more diverse ethnicity of ‘figs, as it’s easy to get white male faces in large quantities. They come in any Star Wars battle pack set. The future is not ethnically monochrome, and it’s an ambition of mine to have enough minifigs with skintones other than Light Flesh at some point to do this sort of build with a majority of the astronaut explorers being non-white.
I do have a bald white dude at the back with a mug and a teapot, though. This is a sort of Captain Picard joke, even though they look more like Kirk’s era than TNG. “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” ought to be recognisable even to more casual TNG viewers, and it amused me to put him in, though my Picard-alike is in a blue shirt. Of course, blue suits are Command in a lot of interpretations of the Classic Space colours, so that works. Just because they look like TOS Trek doesn’t mean the shirt colours mean the same.
The alien environment uses green as a baseplate colour, which is possibly a bit weird considering that most of the foliage is purple or pink or orange, but it does bring it home to the Earth-trained eye that this is a full biosphere, not just a bunch of rocks. As a backdrop, I think I’ve achieved the right balance between interesting complexity and being generic enough not to detract from the main focus of the build, which is the lander. The white colour of the lander works really well to pull it forward, actually, so even if I’d built it in “standard” CS colours I might have wanted to rebuild it in white.
Anyway, this was a lot of fun to do, blending the worlds of Classic Space and Star Trek, and I think it works rather well. It helps that they’re so similar in tone and ethos, but even without the deliberate Trek blending, if you try to imagine what Classic Space would look like if they were exploring Earthlike planets with breathable atmospheres you’ll probably end up with something similar to this.