Tag Archives: Blacktron

The Black(tron) Knight

The Black(tron) Knight faces off against the fearsome dragon Neoclassica

The combination of futuristic space technology and high fantasy has of course been done before. LEGO has its own slightly cringeworthy Nexo Knights, but even the Star Wars franchise is effectively high fantasy in a tech setting, with its Sith and Jedi wizards and its fighter pilot knights.

I didn’t think much of Nexo Knights’ execution, but the concept is sound. And because it’s me, the high technology in question has a better-than-average chance of having something to do with the Classic Space/Blacktron metatheme.

In this case, I’ve perhaps subconsciously channelled my flipped Brightly Coloured Tyranny take on the original LEGO Space universe, because the knight is a Blacktron and the draconoid (“draco” + “mechanoid”) is in NCS colours. But building a Black(tron) Knight references the Classic Castle prototheme’s original bad guy as well as the Classic Space universe’s primary adversaries.

I’ve wanted to build an updated Neoclassic Space dragon for several months now but not been inspired as to specifics. My original Elemental Dragon of Classic Space was in some ways a markedly different build: more of a blended hybrid between spaceship and creature. This Classic Space dragon being a robotic creature, it skips out on some of the Elemental Dragon’s features, like cockpit and thrusters and the like.

The difference is mostly that the previous dragon was an Elemental Dragon of the “Element” of Classic Space. In view of the weird stuff considered “elements” by the various LEGO themes – lightning, ice (as well as water), sound, mind, amber, love – having an element of Classic Space is not something I consider much of a stretch, but that’s beside the point for this creation. This dragon was created in order to serve as an adversary for the Black(tron) Knight.

The hover horses were one of the few bits of Nexo Knights that I thought were well thought out and well designed. So I decided to make my own version of a mostly horse-shaped speeder; bigger and hopefully more impressive than the Nexo hoversteed. I went Blacktron initially because of the colours of my CCBS elements, but the idea of a Black Knight that’s a Blacktron seemed like a good one. And that meant either a Neoclassic Space or Neo-Futuron dragon, unless I built a second grav-destrier and generated a joust.

I still might; a Neo-Futuron grav-destrier is more probable with my element inventory, or possibly a Neo-Space Police I version.

Until then, the Black(tron) Knight is fighting an NCS dragon and red-spacesuited technomancer.

Technomancer and robofamiliar, space tower, and weird hyperspace beacon monument

The technomancer was an afterthought, actually. As a set, this would be a bit boring without at least one more minifigure, and a pilot for the dragon didn’t seem right this time around. But a high-tech wizard equivalent? That has possibilities…

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The Dark Underbelly of Classic Space

The System. Brightly coloured business tyranny of a half-dozen ruthless transcorporations who dominate and control human exploitation of the solar system.

Bound over to a Dark Side hypercapitalist creed of profit maximisation at the expense of individual lives and freedoms, the System owns everything, dividing up the worlds between the several megacorporate business interests and enforcing their will through both the theoretically independent Space Police organisation and internal transcorporate security forces.

Despite occasional turf wars and bloody takeover battles over the control of their various subsidiaries, the half-dozen major transcorporations collude as much as they compete, with the directorates of Bencom, TransOctan, Lagrange-Lunacorp and the others in full agreement over the basic tenets of their pseudocapitalistic corporate feudalism and its overall expression in the System.

A growing protest movement has emerged, using stark black as a unifying colour in reaction to the brightly-coloured transcorporate liveries used by the major economic players, and bearing a triple-triangle emblem representing the ancient French Revolutionary battle cry of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”. Dubbed “Blacktron” by the Bencom-controlled media outlets (who tried to pin the blame for the disturbances on the TransOctan Group’s takeover of Bencom’s financial subsidiary Atlas Solutions), the protesters are drawn from a cross-section of idealists and radicals across all the major transcorporations up and down the economic ladder.

Ruthlessly suppressed by transcorporate goon squads with the full support of the Space Police organisation whose mission is in theory to uphold the last vestiges of real law in the System, the movement spreads underground by word of mouth, liberated communications and graffiti scrawled on outpost walls, a David-and-Goliath alliance of motley rebels who may be the last best hope of humanity…

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Several of my recent builds have been tied into my dystopian Brightly Coloured Tyranny universe in their descriptions, but this is the first time I’ve specifically built anything that couldn’t be a more generic Neoclassic Space creation.

Since the System is a Brightly Coloured Tyranny, it’s a fairly certain bet that anywhere out of the direct eye of the directorate classes is going to be underfinanced and broken-down, and it’s actually been a lot of fun putting together a ramshackle, tumbledown version of the Classic Space theme. It’s also let me bring in colours that never usually belong in a Neoclassic Space build; most significantly dark grey, but I’m also making judicious use of flat silver and dark tan.

There are quite a few fun little details here. The guy riding the speeder bike looks absolutely terrified of the Space Police officer. The officer does look rather brutal – she’s actually Cyren from the Ninjago theme, and the only yellow head in the entire build.

There’s a security camera on the wall, casting a roving, Big Brother eye over that part of the build. Predictably, it seems in far better working order than the various lighting fixtures, half of which have missing or broken bulbs.

On the middle level are the armed transcorporate goon squads, behind their dehumanising black visors. If the traditional polarity of “Classic Space good, Blacktron bad” is reversed here, then it’s the Blacktron who need the humanising touch of being able to see their faces and the Classic astronauts who need the darkened visors. Or at least the transcorporate security forces.

Down below, it’s a lot more ratty and grim-looking, with dark grey (new greys throughout as usual) predominating and more dark tan. Here are the Blacktron protesters, one of whom is being gunned down by a blue-suited Bencom enforcer. The protesters have homemade signs, both because I’m a cheapskate and because I wanted the look of hand-drawn signs. With one protester down, I figured a little blood wouldn’t be out of place, even if it ups the classification rating somewhat. This is the first time I’ve built anything with bloodstains in it; normally I stay within the boundaries of a Universal/General rating.

The Futuron dude looks suitably horrified at the brutality of the transcorporate security forces; the Brightly Coloured Tyranny universe isn’t a simple case of Blacktron versus the world, but a more complex and nuanced world in which some of the brightly coloured astronauts might be sympathetic civilians, or System partisans, or apathetic, or anything in between.

I’m not sure “I hope you like it” is the right thing to say with a build like this, but you know what I mean. It’s a gritty and dystopian build, but I’m really satisfied with how it’s turned out.

Black Viper

The clean, conventional lines of the Colonial Viper are most unBlacktron, really. However, having built a Cylon Raider (1980s version) in Futuron colours, a Blacktron Viper does complete the symmetry.

This isn’t a straight copy of the Colonial Viper, either the original version or the reboot, but like my Futuron Raider, it’s definitely in the “inspired by” category.

Blacktron I hardware tends either toward the sleek and streamlined (like the Battrax) or the nastily unconventional (cue the asymmetricity of the Renegade); and while this is smooth, the shape doesn’t give quite the impression of sleekness and is certainly a very conventional, hero-type design.

However.

As I’ve been mentioning on this blog, in these parts at the moment the Blacktron movement is a heroic rebel Alliance rising up against the brightly-coloured tyranny of the System and its shiny Classic astronauts (frowny faces punishable by Disappearance). And in that inverse version of the Classic Space/Futuron/Blacktron shared universe, the conventionality of the Viper-esque lines make a certain amount of objective sense.

Or it’s a sophisticated visual irony and the Blacktron are their usual bad selves.

Either way, I built a Blacktron Viper to go with my Futuron Raider. And of course, I had to take a pic of them facing off.

I think that with this creation I’m done with this mini Classic-Space-meets-‘80s-Battlestar-Galactica kick. Though I do wonder whether a Blacktron Battlestar would work…?

Brightly-Coloured Tyranny

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.

Cernunnos-class Blacktron mech

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.

Exploring the surface of Mercury: the “Hellsuit” mech

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:

Orion One transsolar explorer flying by planet Futuro

One Brick On Top Of Another

12×12 is a nice size for a scenery square or room corner. It’s big enough that you can exhibit repeating patterns and really give a sense of a larger area, but small enough to be manageable.

I originally built this to showcase my Classic Space robot George, only to realise that light bluish grey wasn’t necessarily the best background colour on which to display a light bluish grey robot. Honestly, you’d think I was slow-witted or something.

Still, I was quite pleased with my scenery-building, because it’s something I always feel like I suck at or don’t have enough pieces for. And once you have a piece of scenery you can use it for numerous purposes. It doesn’t have to be a display case for any one thing in particular.

 

The three 2×2 jumper plates with which I graced the top of the walls were originally placed there because I couldn’t find enough flat tiles just then, but then I realised that it would be quite easy to build a stackable second storey to be held on those 3 studs.

And thus began the modular stackable space scenery.

The balcony storey came next, because I liked the idea of an upper walkway overlooking some cavernous room of which this is but a corner. At only 3 studs wide, there’s not a lot of room up there, but it does its job. I think my favourite part of it is the handrail, actually.

After that I built a roof, and then, running low enough on 1xwhatevers in light bluish grey for more walls, I decided to shift colours and go to a rough-hewn dark bluish grey mining area.

So now I have 3 storeys of stackable modular space scenery, ready for whatever I want to do with them…

BT322 Wraithgnat

The BT322 Wraithgnat is a compact bike-style antigrav skimmer used by the Blacktron military as a scout vehicle.

Bt322 Wraithgnat speeder bike

Named after a near-invisible biting insect analogue from the Blacktron capital world, the Wraithgnat’s small size means a harder target to hit, but less room for power plant and weapons systems and the like than larger Blacktron speeder bikes. The result is a small antigrav power plant designed more for forward speed than gravitic repulsion, and the Wraithgnat’s flight is incredibly ground-hugging compared to something like the Shadow-Wasp.

In terms of weaponry the Blacktron High Command were less skimping, and the Wraithgnat carries a pair of powerful plasma lances mounted spinally. Shorter-ranged than lasers, they are considerably more powerful, especially in their area effect. Even a near miss from a plasma lance can often knock a small skimmer out of the sky.

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Note the pilot’s legs straddling the machine

I’ve finally used the technique I came up with to make it look like the rider is straddling the speeder bike, and because it’s Blacktron I, therefore black minifigure against black vehicle, it’s difficult to see and almost looks like the rider has no legs.

It’s probably not an original technique; I’ve seen other models with a straddling-figure effect and this was my best guess at how it was achieved.

I rather like the compact look of this speeder bike, and its distant family resemblance to the Shadow-Wasp. That family-cousin resemblance was how it got its name: Shadow -> Wraith, Wasp -> Gnat. The wraithgnat being a creature from the Blacktron homeworld came later.

Gemini Unification

LL/BT5601 Gemini Unification

LL/BT5601 “Gemini Unification” is a rare collaborative project between the Federation and the Blacktron Alliance.

Built as a demonstration vessel by a loose collective of visionaries in both of Humanity’s major interstellar polities, the vessel is a two-crewmember ship in side-by-side configuration, painted in half Federation Space Service and half Blacktron Stellar Command colours.

Crewed for the Federation by Lieutenant Astrid Garcia and for the Blacktron Alliance by Subcommander David Lurgan, the Gemini Unification was intended as a messenger of peace between the two interstellar empires. The project itself was successful as a starship and as a demonstrator of the possibility of peace, but despised by both empires’ High Commands. In an ironic twist, the vessel met its end at the hands of a combined Blacktron/Federation Special Forces operation specifically to take out the ship which both sides saw as an emblem of treason to their side’s cause.

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This isn’t my first dual-coloured Blacktron/Classic Space build, but the previous one was a bit more positive and optimistic.

This far into the New Year and its ongoing political chaos, apparently my cynicism is showing again.

I’m moderately pleased with that cockpit, but the fact that the astronauts have to sit with their heads together like that isn’t what I was really intending. Still, it adds a certain pseudo-romantic tone to the build, so I left it alone. The fact that the only way to fix it would have meant raising the cockpit canopy by a stud’s width has nothing to do with it, no sirree…

Anyway, there it is. A visionary unification project between the implacably hostile Blacktron Alliance and their arch-foes in the Galactic Federation.

Put like that, it’s definitely doomed, isn’t it?