Blacktron bad, dark, evil, chaotic. Classic Space/Futuron/Space Police good, light, ordered. It’s pretty much standard for interpreting the (lack of) story behind the shared universe of the earliest LEGO Space themes.
But what if we’re wrong? What if the Blacktron are the good guys?
Yeah, they wear black and have ships with slightly sinister-sounding names like “Invader” or “Renegade”, but so what? Batman wears black.
This would make the Space Police an evil instrument of tyrannical oppression, which TLG weren’t going to do back then (still probably aren’t) because they don’t want to be accused of teaching kids that regular street cops are villains. However, we’re AFOLs, and we can do things with LEGO’s products and universe that might not be completely kid-friendly and inoffensive. The idea of a tyrannical government and oppressive police force isn’t a new one and ought not to shock anyone. It’s even been used in children’s literature: CS Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had the tyrant Witch Jadis’ chief wolf Maugrim be “Captain of the Imperial Secret Police”, to say nothing of more recent vintages like The Hunger Games. I think even quite young kids can separate out police in a story from police in real life, especially in a fantastical or futuristic setting, though I can see where a toy company like TLG making their own, non-licensed merchandise with no tie-in to a particular story might not want to go there.
The more I looked at those old catalogue pictures and all the smiling happy faces of the astronauts, the more they looked like Lord Business’ propaganda in The LEGO Movie. Maybe it’s because I spent some time in the former Soviet Union, but I was suddenly struck by a sort of New Soviet Realism take on the old catalogue images, complete with potential sloganry: “Working Together For The Greater Good”, or “Bringing Peace To The Galaxy”, or “Be Happy; You’re In Spaaaace!”. Unhappiness punishable by disappearance.
Developing the idea, I was originally going to call my Classic Space dystopia a “Federation”, inverting the moral polarity of the term that’s been adopted by fans for the Classic astronauts’ political unit ever since Reid and Goddard’s LEGO Space: Building the Future. Possibly before. But when I started thninking about how it might function and what the different suit colours represent (genetically determined caste system?), I had an alternative idea. What if the “Federation” isn’t really a thing at all? What if the different industries that make the civilisation work are divided up between massive megacorporations run by single corporate dynasties – a sort of Ayn Randian hypercapitalism gone horribly wrong, administered by the Yakuza and the Mob, with a Soviet-esque approach to information control? Each suit colour might represent a different megacorporate First Family, with different industrial specialisms; for example the white suits might represent some kind of energy/resource extraction corporation – a TransOctan, if you will – whereas the blue suits might be an information-controlling media and communications giant – Bencom? – that manages the propaganda machine.
Welcome to the transcorporate brightly-coloured tyranny of the System.
In such a world, you can imagine that the Revolution picked black as a unifying colour, and countercultural, aggressive ship names that stand the shiny oppression and corporate propaganda of Dark Side rogue hypercapitalism on its head. The Blacktron movement might be something akin to a political revolutionary movement – not socialism per se, because it’s the future and I’m sure they have new political movements.
I’m trying to write a story set within this universe, something like Peter Reid and Tim Goddard’s Building the Future, but kind of inverted. I doubt the LEGO Group would fully approve of what I plan to do, but there are advantages to having no real plans to publish…
Like Reid and Goddard’s book, but unusually for me, all the action happens within the Solar System. Even as a kid I usually interpreted the Classic Space theme as taking place on an interstellar level rather than merely interplanetary, but the requirements of story overrule. However, my version of the Solar System is a lot more extensively colonised, including outposts on Mercury, asteroid bases carved into the interior of Pallas, nitrogen and hydrocarbon harvesting on Titan, and of course the usual suspects on the Moon, Mars, Ganymede and in orbit.
Earth has an orbital ring (which I may try to build a section of): the Bifrost Ring. I was initially considering multiple space elevators until a friend suggested this concept, and after doing some investigations I have to say I’m sold.
Massive megacorporations control everything, which is less cool, but that’s the essence of this universe. There is a rebellion in the shape of the Blacktron Alliance, because stories thrive on conflict and I’m not going to leave the future in the hands of evil corporations if I can help it.
And the very first ventures beyond the Solar System are taking place: