Category Archives: LEGO Star Wars

The Darth Mall

One of the great things about LEGO is the opportunity to be silly. And it doesn’t get much sillier than ridiculous puns.

I’ve joked about our local shopping centre being “the Darth Mall”, usually around Christmas when it really is. So when considering whether to get the Duel on Naboo set with birthday money, I had to have a go at building it for real.

The thing is, C-3PO and R2-D2 make a far better pair of shoppers than Darth Maul.

Obviously there’s not a lot to say about this sort of creation, but I’m quite pleased with the shopping trolley.

Building Together

All three of my kids love LEGO, but of the three of them, my son is probably the biggest fan.

One of the main ways we spend time together, in fact, is building together, though it often deteriorates into him providing the ideas and direction and me making it work the way he wants it to be. Of such collaboration have many dragons and mechs and Ninja machines been built.

This was a different kettle of sushi.

Father-and-son building time

He’s a fan of the Star Wars Microfighters game on LEGO.com, and so when he asked me to build him a TIE fighter microfighter I smiled and said “You’re a good builder. You can build it yourself”.

So he did. Then he had me build the X-Wing, which is obviously an AFOL’s creation on the Microfighter theme rather than a nearly-six-year-old’s, but allowed him two ships to have a battle with.

And really, X-Wings are hard. I remember that from my own childhood before there was a set for that.

A few days later I came home from work to discover that he’d made this lovely little charging/refueling/repair station all by himself. No help with the concept, nothing. Absolutely brilliant!

Of course, it’s a bit more rainbow than I’d have tolerated even as a six-year-old, but that’s at leas partly a legacy of my wife. A non-builder with the attention to detail that makes a really superb brickfinder, she had no patience at all with his Daddylike early insistence on everything being the right colour as well as the right shape and carefully wore down his resistance to the Rainbow Warrior concept.

I’m particularly fond of the crates of tools, but the whole thing oozes brilliance.

So I’m trying something very difficult. I’m trying to stop my itchy AFOL builder’s hands from taking over and let him build his own stuff.

…And I thought they smelt bad on the outside!

With this model I return to something I usually seem to enjoy: small models.

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Luke Skywalker riding a tauntaun is hard to pull off at minifig scale; at least, when you don’t have a proper tauntaun. I’m fairly happy with how this built one has turned out.

You’ve got to admire a creature that can handle Hoth’s extreme cold better than an unmodified speeder; remember that when Luke didn’t get back to Echo Base, they couldn’t go and look for him in their speeders because of issues with adapting them to the cold.

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We see that even tauntauns can keel over and die of hypothermia, but the fact that you can take a tauntaun out into weather that will ground a speeder is impressive. Hardy little beasts, these things are. And they don’t need much in the way of support infrastructure the way machines do.

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It’s actually one of the better features of the original trilogy. High-tech blasters and space fighters work alongside domesticated animals, which are used in the sorts of situations in which you’d be likely to find them: poor, lower-tech regions and situations in which you might not want to reveal your presence with too many high energy signatures.

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Anyway, here’s Luke on a tauntaun. Enjoy.

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Prey of the Wampa

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Star Wars‘ own Abominable Snowman, the Wampa, obviously, is native to Hoth. My guess is that it preys on wild tauntauns and whatever other lifeforms Hoth manages to support.

If its approach to Luke is at all typical, it’s an ambush hunter that has the interesting habit of bringing excess food back to a suitable ice cave and hanging it from the roof by freezing its feet into the ice.

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Also, it’s apparently none too concerned whether its prey is fully dead before dragging it home either.

If the legs seem familiar, it’s because I modified them slightly from the ice mech. They seem to work even better here.

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I think I’m most pleased with the horns. The forward-curving horns of the original are difficult to reproduce well in LEGO bricks, but I’m quite proud of what I’ve managed here. They’re technically coming from a little low on his head, but we ca work with that. Actually building these creatures isn’t easy, you know.

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I’m not sure if those legs aren’t actually too big and powerful, but you never really get a good profile of the creature in The Empire Strikes Back, so I’m declaring artistic license to interpret it how I like. Powerful legs for a short dash or pounce from ambush would fit the Wampa’s shown lifestyle.

What with me moaning last time that most Star Wars creatures aren’t all that well-thought-out, the Wampa’s one of the better ones. It actually feels like a real(ish) creature.

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“Oh No! A Rancor!”

As superb as the Star Wars universe is for the designs of its vehicles, characters and sentient races, its alien animals leave something to be desired. The asteroid creature from The Empire Strikes Back is probably the worst offence against reasonable alien biology (it lives in vacuum. Obviously it doesn’t need to breathe. But how does it survive? What does it eat? How does it move from one space rock to the next? And I don’t even want to get started on the improbabilities involved in its finding a mate), but very few of the creatures are all that well-designed.

The Rancor’s one of the better ones, if you discount the improbability involved in it acting (and possibly looking) like a troll. A biped that’s obviously not built for running, like most of the Star Wars bestiary, it’s designed simply to be monstrous. This accounts for almost every one of the Star Wars bestiary, from Naboo’s gargantuan monster sharks to the Dianoga from the waste compactor (which preys on our fear of snakes) to the Acklay (impalement) to the Rathtar (tentacles and bizarrely abnormal motion).

Anyway, I looked at my organiclike ice mech and thought to myself, “you know, I bet I could build a Rancor.  Build one, that is, not buy a giant-sized minifigure equivalent.”

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I’m not sure whether my Rancor or LEGO’s own large minifigurelike moulding is a more accurate size representation of the creature that Jabba keeps as an entertaining way to dispose of unwanted guests.  But LEGO building is typically a little flexible as far as scale goes.

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Now, the Rancor is obviously carnivorous, but even though it’s a biped, it doesn’t seem like it’s built to run down its prey. In Return of the Jedi, it lurches around the dungeon slowly; it does not leap or run. This suggests a scavenger, but. A scavenger of that size ought to have no problems with a little bone. Also it’s slow-witted enough not to try to use its hand claws to dislodge the bone from its mouth, and most scavengers are fairly smart (look at rats). Of course, its hands are huge compared to its mouth, but the fact that it has gasping hands at all suggests a level of intelligence that it doesn’t actually seem to display all that much. On the other hand, though, devouring surprised victims in an enclosed space doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.

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I suppose, too, it’s possible that this is a lamed or crippled specimen. It seems to have enough predatory instinct to kill, which suggests a hunter rather than a scavenger, but its slow forward speed combining with arms definitely designed to grasp and hold throw interesting light on its potential wild lifestyle. If it’s a lamed example, though, that makes more sense. As a pit beast in Jabba’s palace, it doesn’t need to move fast; perhaps it was intentionally lamed to prevent its escape.

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It could also be a specially-developed animal specifically created to serve as a gladiatorial opponent. Star Wars’ biotechnology doesn’t seem as advanced as all that (you get the impression that Kamino’s cloners are unusual), but if the technology exists, the Star Wars galaxy is the sort of place where it’s going to happen.

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Anyway, here’s my version of the Rancor, complete with a pseudo-Luke Skywalker for it to attempt to devour. Lloyd’s hair isn’t quite right for Luke’s, but in some ways it actually seems closer to Mark Hamill’s actual haircut than TLG’s. Go figure.

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Anyway, here he is. I hope Malakili would approve.

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Mr. Damien Thorne’s Counter-Gravitational Steam-Velocipede

The Counter-Gravitational Steam-Velocipede

The Counter-Gravitational Steam-Velocipede

A younger scion of the celebrated Thorne family, Viscounts Bunkervale, Mr. Damien Thorne follows in his father’s footsteps as a card-carrying member of the Royal Society of Engineers. His patented counter-gravitational system utilises magnetokinetic effects to repel the force of gravitation, allowing his personal steam-velocipede to levitate at up to eighteen feet above the surface of the ground.

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The steam engine that powers his invention uses the energised-coal process of steam generation perfected by his father, the invention of which prompted Her Majesty to create him Viscount Bunkervale. The energised-coal process allows far greater efficiency in steam engines, with the result that bunkering requirements have been vastly reduced.

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Her Majesty’s Armed Forces have expressed interest in Mr. Thorne’s counter-gravitational engines for a series of scout vehicles for the Army, but as yet his own steam-velocipede is the sole operating example of the mechanism, which not only provides the levitative force but also serves as a propulsive system. By changing the configuration of the counter-gravitational field, the vehicle can be flown forwards, bank, turn, climb or dive (within the limits of the field’s operation). Flying backwards, while technically possible, is not recommended due to the dangers this poses to both bystanders and the operator.

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This creation, obviously, has a great deal of Star Wars speeder bike in its ancestry. That’s fine; plenty of other people have built steampunk speeder bikes before me.

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But we can do better with the description than “This is a steampunk speeder bike. Isn’t it cool?”. And if that gives it a startlingly different official pedigree than merely being a steampunk version of a Star Wars gadget, well, there’s not much wrong with that, either.

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The leafy green backdrop was actually built before the tumbledown urban one, but then I decided that green and growing was less in keeping with the steampunkery of the subject.  So I built this instead:

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Steam Wars

Microscale Star Wars steampunk. I love LEGO.

Steam AT-ST

Steam AT-ST

Stam AT-AT

Steam AT-AT

                          I started out just seeing if I could build a semidecent steamAT-ST at a scale at which the white ice-cream-ball elements work for steam clouds. This (to the left) was the result.

Ok, the feet are too big and the legs attach in the wrong place. Work with me here; it’s hard to model something that small and still end up with something vaguely realistic.

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Then I decided to build a steamAT-AT at the same sort of scale.

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They aren’t quite at the same scale as each other; the AT-ST would have to be about two thirds its present size for that. But the pairing sort of works.

SteamAT-ST feet would feel like a better visual fit, but the mechanics wouldn’t work with some of the structural decisions I made elsewhere in the model. But the whole looks suitably steampunky while remaining recognisably an AT-AT.

All-in-all, an enjoyable bit of microscale work.

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