Tag Archives: Lego

Space Trek

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.

Space Trek. Or, “what a blending of Star Trek and Classic Space might look like”

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?”

Starfleet runabout? NCS lander? Yeah, something like that.

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.

If your planet has breathable atmosphere, do you actually need a spacesuit?

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.

I have no idea what this guy’s little sensor doodad is, but I like it. That’s a new fuel rod the blue-shirted woman is carrying.

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.

Payload bay isn’t as big as I’d like, but we’ve got so much built at the moment that I’m almost out of bricks.

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).

Fuel rod recharging station. Too many of my female heads are Light Flesh skintone white, but this is one of a few I have that isn’t.

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.

Pointy-eared Space Elf driving the lander, not-a-Rodian-honestly in the white shirt with the life sensor, and Captain Tea-Earl-Grey-Hot in the back.

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.

Final view of the whole scene

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.

On the Final Frontier: USS Navigator NCC-1105

USS Navigator NCC-1105

The Federation starship USS Navigator NCC-1105 was a Gemini-class long range exploration ship from the early 23rd Century. Notable for its distinctive twin saucer sections, the Gemini-class was the last gasp of Starfleet’s early period of experimentation with starship configurations that produced the Daedalus-class.

The Federation being composed of several different starfaring races each with their own ideas about how ships should be designed, there was naturally a lot of give and take over design philosophy. Vulcans and Andorians being unwilling to use one another’s ship designs, the human starship design philosophy eventually prevailed as being a compromise everyone could live with, despite the fact that Terran shipbuilding was a couple of generations behind that of the other founding Federation races.

It should not be supposed that the humans of the late 22nd Century were unaware of their technological inferiority compared to, say, the Vulcans. Technology-sharing in this early period, however, was somewhat reluctant, and the effects of ship configuration on warp field geometry were less than fully understood even by more technologically advanced species. In addition, most other races’ research engineers tended to assume the configurations which they were used to, so that Earth-based Starfleet’s Starship Design Bureau could not simply adopt an Andorian or Tellarite warp drive wholesale without re-engineering the whole thing from the ground up to account for Terran configurations.

Accordingly, there was a certain amount of experimentation on the part of Starfleet R&D to find the “best” configuration for efficient warp field geometry, and many of these experiments found their way into production as NX vessels. A few of these proved interesting enough to make it all the way into true Federation starship classes, and the dual saucer Gemini design was one of the most promising of these.

Designed to replace the Daedalus-class in the long-range exploration role, the dual saucer was intended to combine the greater internal volume of the Daedalus with the more optimal warp configuration of the saucer shape. Development began in the early 2180s, but owing to political dynamics within Starfleet R&D the first prototype USS Gemini NX-1100 was not completed until 2197, one year after the decommissioning of the last of the Daedalus-class.

For most of the 2180s, sections of Starfleet’s exploration division were in the grip of a coterie of Daedalus enthusiasts led by Admiral Rafael Cruz. Advocates of the spherical primary hull’s greater internal volume over the now-conventional saucer, they were willing to put up with the lower sustainable warp velocities that a sphere configuration ship could produce, in order to maintain the greater living and working space that they felt was psychologically necessary for long voyages. Admiral Cruz refused to authorise construction of any Starfleet exploration ship that was not designed with a spherical primary hull.

The dual saucer design was developed by Andorian Captain Hyel Tashar of Starfleet R&D, in order to try and work around Admiral Cruz’ stubborn adherence to the sphere design. However it was not until the Admiral’s 2189 retirement that construction of the prototype was ordered.

3-view drawing of the Gemini-class explorer ship USS Navigator
Internal MSD drawing of major ship systems

Following successful builders’ trials an initial flight of six Gemini-class vessels (including the prototype NCC-1100) were ordered by Starfleet exploration division, who were by now desperate for any vessel that could replace the decommissioned Daedaluses in the long-range explorer role.

The Gemini design was a very successful one in terms of its fitness for its role, as the ship’s paired 89m-diameter saucers provided a substantial amount of internal space for a ship so much smaller than classes like the NX and Constitution. This allowed the Gemini­-class to incorporate large amounts of laboratory facilities and crew amenities in quite a small hull footprint, making them highly sought-after vessels by Starfleet captains of explorer ships.

Side view

The Gemini-class’ downfall in terms of ship lineage sprang from the same root as its success. The dual saucer section added a level of complexity that resulted in elongated construction times for the class, and three similarly-sized single-saucer ships could be constructed in the time it took to produce two Geminis. Given the increasing tensions with the Klingon Empire throughout the early 23rd Century, Starfleet was more interested in numbers of hulls as a deterrent to Klingon aggression rather than in the particular qualities of the Gemini design. The class remains the only dual-saucer production design in Starfleet’s history.

Top view

USS Navigator NCC-1105 was the last of the class to be constructed, and commissioned in 2219 according to the Terran calendar. She performed admirably in several three-year long range exploration missions between the 2220s and 2250s, pushing the boundaries of Federation explored space into the Beta Quadrant.

USS Navigator bridge and senior officers.
L-R: Rigelian ship’s doctor, Xindi-Primate communications officer, Andorian helmsman, Human captain, Human first officer/tactical offcer, Human science officer, Tellarite chief engineer

For the time period, USS Navigator had an extremely diverse crew, with humans, Andorians, Tellarites, Xindi and vulcanoid Rigelians among her senior officers and other species including Vulcans and Denobulans among her extended cadre and enlisted crew. Such a mixture was highly unusual, with most Starfleet vessels of the period having much more monolithic complements, and the fractious, at times tempestuous nature of Navigator’s crew gives testament to the reasoning behind it. The Federation was still a relatively new idea and most personnel of the united Starfleet had little experience in ongoing day-to-day cross-species relations. The divergent outlooks and thought processes of the various races frequently resulted in friction as they rubbed up against one another, and most captains sought to minimise such conflicts for the sake of smooth operations. It is undoubtedly thanks to the pioneering work of crews such as that of the USS Navigator, however, that the great experiment of the Federation has been such a success.

The ship’s complement of six shuttles – two Type A warp-capable shuttles and four older-style short-range shuttlepods – were named after rocket engineers and developers: the Korolev and the Wheeler were the two warp shuttles, and the shuttlepods were the Von Braun, the Goddard, the Tsilkovsky and the Shawyer.

Specifications:

  • Length: 222.25m
  • Beam: 94.3m
  • Height: 48.6m
  • Decks: 15
  • Complement: 280 officers, crew and researchers
  • Inservice Date: 2197-2244
  • Speed (old scale): Warp 5.8 (cruising)
    • Warp 7.2 (maximum safe speed)
  • Weaponry: 8 single-emitter phaser turrets
    • 1 forward photon torpedo tube
  • Defences: Deflector shield
  • Auxiliary craft: 2 Type A shuttlecraft
    • 4 short-range shuttlepods

~~~

And so we come to Federation ship design.

Given that most of my favourite fan-designed ships are the weird ones which totally shuffle the usual Federation ship-design deck, it’s probably inevitable that any design of mine will not be a completely standard Starfleet model. I confess to feeling somewhat straitjacketed by the standard Federation design philosophy; after a while I have to throw my hands in the air going “Arrgh! They all look like the Enterprise!”.

I’ve chosen the pre-TOS, pre-Discovery era in which to place this ship, because it makes sense to me that any weirdly divergent configuration would belong to either that era or the late-Voyager Prometheus/Steamrunner/Saber time period. And I cordially hate all of those ships I just named. Yes, including the USS Prometheus with its silly cool-when-you’re-six “multi-vector attack mode” that I just can’t take seriously. I don’t even much care for the Akira-class; as far as I’m concerned it’s an okay ship, but the NX-01 improved and fixed the design and made it great. Also placed in that earlier time period because Enterprise was probably my favourite incarnation of Star Trek (even if no other Trek fan seems to give it the time of day. What gives, people? Enterprise was cool!).

These are the voyagers of the starship Navigator…

The dual saucer design makes a lot of sense to me, and I really like the way this has turned out. It’d be a superb ship for extended-duration missions and exploration, and it looks so much better than Discovery (in my admittedly biased opinion) that it’s not even funny. I’d command one of these quite gladly.

In fact, that’s where the USS Navigator comes in. I figure she’s my ship in the Star Trek universe. From the time period before the Voyager-era “point the tricorder at it and say the technobabble incantation” approach to problem-solving, because latent realism.

Naming the class was easy. Gemini was fairly obvious for a sort of conjoined-twin ship (though it was almost the Lewis and Clark-class after the American Western explorers, until I decided there were already way too many US-centric references in Starfleet nomenclature). Naming my ship was much harder, because most of the good names either sounded too warlike (Trafalgar, Lionheart, Black Prince) or were already taken (Atlantis, Excalibur, Argonaut, Neptune), or just didn’t seem quite right for my ship (Patrick Moore, Francis Crick, Mwenemutapa). A search of Memory Alpha (Trek’s canon wiki) and Memory Beta (Trek’s non-canon wiki) revealed no USS Navigator, however, so that’s what she’s called.

The shuttlecraft are named after: Russian chief rocket designer Sergei Korolev, British rocket engineer Roy Wheeler, American rocket inventor Robert Goddard, German rocket scientist Werner Von Braun, Russian rocketry pioneer Konstantin Tsilkovsky and British electromagnetic propulsion (=RL impulse drive) inventor Roger Shawyer. Because coolness. And a Black Arrow reference.

I’ve got a nicely diverse crew because that makes things interesting; the Starfleet ships we’ve seen have really been unfeasibly dominated by humans. I’ve yet to see a Starfleet guest ship commanded by an Andorian or a Tellarite, for instance. In the bridge model, I have an Andorian helmsman (how I wish there was a proper Andorian hairpiece element with the antennae!), a Xindi-Primate communications officer and a Rigelian ship’s doctor (front left). The Rigelians (not to be confused with the reptilian Rigellians) are vulcanoid inhabitants of Beta Rigel V, a lot like the Vulcans except they don’t practice the suppression of emotion. It seemed a good justification for that elf hairpiece – obviously something vulcanoid, but Vulcans themselves wouldn’t do anything so illogical as to dye their hair purple. And the Chief Engineer (other side front) is my take on a Tellarite with LEGO elements.

TLG aren’t going to do it any time soon, obviously, but I’d love to see a whole Star Trek theme some time.

Having created a nonstandard design for that early a period in Trek internal history, though, I had to explain why such a logical development for extended-duration missions never got put into more extended production. After toying with the idea of a structural defect caused by the cumulative effects of warp on the second saucer arrangement, I decided I didn’t want to afflict my ship with something like that and cast around for an alternative explanation.

The dual saucer is going to add complexity to the design and make the class take longer to build, and that gives me a decent explanation. In fact, it’s the same explanation for why I hate the Prometheus: unnecessary complexity. For the same amount of resources and time I could build you six smaller ships, each one at least as capably as any of the silly Prometheus section-ships, without the need for them to combine. I could then send a squadron of four against each of your Prometheus-class ships and still retain two for other duties.

With respect, though, I submit that the dual saucer is way more logical than a ship that splits into three. It’s just a matter of wiring in all those extra rooms and labs, not a major engineering challenge on a par with building a paper bridge to span the Grand Canyon. Also, the dual saucer actually has a real use and purpose, whereas I’m of the opinion that a ship that splits into three doesn’t really. Just send a squadron of normal ships!

I’m sure some hardcore Trek nerd is going to whine that “this isn’t how the Federation do things”, or even more probably, that I’m playing fast and loose with established canon history. I’m okay with this; please, tell me everything that’s wrong with it as a design. I think it works. It’s surprisingly balanced, it looks like it fits within the established tech base and stylistic preferences (even if it pushes the boundaries of accepted style) and I think it’s a reasonable development in the period where Starfleet were still settling on their default ship design. I figure the Daedalus-class came after the NX-01 (not before, as most Trek fans seemed to think when Enterprise aired the “first saucer”). There’s no reason it should be a case of “Right then, saucers only from here on out” after the introduction of the NX-01; with humans so far behind the Vulcans and Andorians technologically, they’re going to try a few different things while they figure out what works best, even after the formation of the Federation.

It even obeys Roddenberry’s Rules of Starship Design in a way that an awful lot of more recent Trek ships don’t (Defiant, Magee, etc): paired nacelles, at least 50% line-of-sight from nacelle to nacelle, front of nacelles visible from the front aspect of the ship, bridge on top of the saucer section. Even despite that being a silly location for a ship’s bridge.

She’s still something of a work-in-progress as I work her up from a cool design sketch to a LEGO model to a fully fleshed-out design, but what do you think of my ship?

Miss Scarlet in the Library with the Spanner

Miss Scarlet in the Library with the Spanner. Wrench. Whatever.

August brings the biannual DFWLUG 1:1 build contest, which I dislike and am no good at. You’re supposed to build a life-size LEGO replica of something or other, and everyone else brings these really creative cameras and boom boxes and lightbulbs and whatnot.

Last time I brought an R2-D2 PEZ dispenser. Not my best showing in a LUG contest, but I just have little to no inspiration for this kind of build.

This time, again I’m casting around looking for ideas and coming up with zilch. I could reprise my cockatiel build, but I’m sort of uninspired for that. And I honestly can’t think of anything else.

One week to go and still no inspiration for anything at all, much less a contest-winning build, I decided they could stuff it. Politely. I don’t want to build a 1:1 creation. The peasants are revolting.

Now, normally, me being me, that line would be followed by “Let them eat Space!”, but not this time. Most of my grey is in use on my Martian Fighting Machine and a slew of Star Trek builds, and my son’s using a lot of our blue on a giant Nerf logo. Besides, what inspired me all of a sudden was Cluedo. Or Clue, as it’s called in the US.

My elder daughter is a big fan of the game, but I’m afraid the set we have has dispensed with all the formal titles and made them look like teenagers (No more Colonel Mustard or Reverend Green or Lady Peacock), and it has one of the weird updated boards that’s more like a modern house than the 1920s-ish Agatha Christie mystery-esque original layout. Gone are the Conservatory, Billiard Room, Ballroom and Library, in are the Garage, Bedroom, Bathroom and Courtyard. More accessible to a modern kid, I suppose, but the old period floor plan makes much more sense as a murder mystery location. Weirder still, there’s an entirely new alternate board on the back of the slightly conventional one, depicting an entirely new seaside promenade location.

Mmm, interesting idea, but no. It does beg the question of possible franchise tie-in boards like Monopoly has, though. You could easily do a Hogwarts-based one (Hermione Granger in the Room of Requirement with the Cursed Necklace”?), or a Star Wars one with different planets and locations (“Boba Fett on Naboo with the Lightsaber”).

Anyway, for this build we’re using the traditional board and the proper titles of the characters.

So, Miss Scarlet in the Library with the Spanner. We can flex as far as “Wrench”, seeing as how it’s always been that in the American edition, but none of this modern teenage house party nonsense.

For Battle Born

Qor-class Battlecruiser of the Imperial Klingon Fleet

The Qor (“Battle”)-class Battlecruiser is an intermediate capital ship design used by the Klingon Empire. In service beginning in the early 2300s, the Qor-class built on the success of the long-serving K’t’inga-class, but at a scale more comparable to contemporary Federation and Romulan ships.

With a length of 342.9m, the Qor-class was still smaller than the Federation’s large explorer ships, but this mostly reflects a difference in role and design philosophy. Whereas the Federation tend to favour very large, luxuriously-appointed vessels with a more generalised role – explorers that can be pressed into service as capital ships – the Klingons favour a more directly military approach to their ship design, and their ships are built expressly for combat and generally more powerful on a ton-for-ton basis. In addition, Klingon military tactics tend to favour smaller ships for highly mobile, slashing attacks using the spatial equivalent of light cavalry squadron tactics.

The Qor-class was designed by the House of Martok as a new battlecruiser design intended to supplement and replace the aging K’t’ingas and D7s of the Imperial Fleet. Due to the aforementioned steady increase in the average size of Federation vessels, the basic K’t’inga hull plan was scaled up to make the incorporation of new technologies easier. This necessitated a thorough redesign, however, and the class is its own design rather than just a scaled-up D7.

The initial run of Qor-class ships offered the Klingon commander vast increases in effective combat power, but the early ships were troubled by a poorly-designed new warp system that never produced the higher warp velocities it promised. The House of Martok lost some standing over this, and the Qor gained a reputation as having “disappointing” performance, even though it was an increase over the K’t’inga in almost every respect.

Following the strengthening of the Federation alliance and new technology-sharing agreements, the Qor-class were upgraded with improved warp reactors and control suites, which allowed the ships to finally achieve the Warp 9.4 that the original engines had so confidently promised.

Specifications:

  • Length: 342.9m
  • Beam: 281m
  • Height: 109.5m
  • Mass: ~1,980,000 metric tons
  • Decks: 36
  • Complement: 620 (plus up to 600 ground troops)
  • Speed: Warp 8.7 (original engines) / Warp 9.4 (2250 refit)
  • Armament: 8 disruptor cannons, 2 pylon-mounted heavy disruptors, 2 torpedo tubes (1 forward, 1 rear-firing; upgrading to 2 forward, 1 rear in refit)

~~~

The obvious solution to the problem of Star Trek’s ridiculous paucity of Klingon ship designs (and consequent insanely long service lives for the ones they do have) is to build some of my own designs.

This one’s supposed to be an intermediate step between the TMP-era K’t’inga and the TNG Vor’cha, obviously borrowing heavily from the D7/K’t’inga design but evolving it in a sort of TNG-esque direction. Sort of the Klingon version of the Ambassador-class.

The “poor warp system” of the writeup is supposed to be a kind of nod to onscreen Trek canon, even though I’ve been forced into the opinion that at least some of the visuals are lying to us (the Bird-of-Prey size paradox, for instance, makes no objective sense at all and I discount the visuals of the ~330m BoP of TNG).

Anyway, my thinking is that if the ships got a reputation for disappointing performance, it might explain why we’ve never seen any until now.

Still, this ship would make far more sense than the ~330m Bird of Prey that TNG blessed us with, and way more sense than still using TMP-era K’t’ingas in the Battle of Deep Space Nine. That’s about a hundred and fifty years of service life for the same hull design, and as I’ve said, there really does come a point at which “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” no longer holds water.

Today Is A Good Day For Blatant Stupidity To Die

One of the most irritating things about Star Trek canon is its diktat that the Klingons are just fundamentally conservative when it comes to ship design, using the same designs (with incremental updates) for decades if not centuries.

Gilso’s Klingon fleet chart from daftworks.co.uk, using DS9 Technical Manual specifications which may or may not be accurate (there are issues). This is it for canon Klingon ships in the entire century and a half between the TOS series and the TNG movies. Five ship classes 😛

Respect to them for endeavouring to explain the nonsense that we only ever see 5 Klingon ship designs in the entire TOS/TNG/DS9/Voyager period (plus another two or three in Enterprise, and discounting J.J. Abrams’ reboot and the supposed “Klingon” designs from Discovery), equating to 6-8 ship classes because stupid modelling decisions (see last time for my rant on the B’rel/K’vort inanity). But “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” only goes so far. There comes a point at which an old hull and layout simply can’t accommodate the new and improved technologies that have been developed since its inception, leaving your fleet at a serious tactical and strategic disadvantage.

Besides all that, between all the incremental advances in technology crammed into the same hull (even if it’s a new hull on the same basic design), over time standardisation in your fleet is going to suck, as newer builds theoretically in the same class will end up with vastly different capabilities than older construction. When this involves engines, it means your “same class” of ships are going to have different sustained speeds, making fleet manoeuvres artificially laggy because you have to move at the speed of your slowest vessel.

That the Warrior Race would be okay with this beggars belief, even if Imperial science is a bit lacking compared to the Federation or the Romulans. They’re warriors, not morons. They like to operate their ships in squadrons (we see formations of three ships a lot), so this is not something their typical tactics can work well with. And I’m really not convinced that the Klingons are as primitive as it’s claimed. They did discover the warp drive considerably before humans, after all.

My preferred take on this apparent lunacy is that the Klingons “really” have numerous other ship classes that we never see. Maybe since the Federation are a bunch of nonaggressive pansies (and allied in the TNG period), they feel okay about dumping all of their older, obsolescent ships (like aging B’rel and K’vort classes) along the Federation border. Maybe those classes are all that were in range to muster for the Dominion War; that plus injudicious camera angles would explain the absence of anything else from the Klingon attack fleet there.

Anyway, I firmly believe there are numerous Klingon ship classes we’ve never seen, including any number of more experimental-looking designs.

Tik’leth-class experimental fast battlecruiser

Like this one.

I’m calling it the Tik’leth-class, after the Klingon longsword mentioned in beta canon, (probably a far better aggressive weapon than the almost solely defensive bat’leth). Four warp nacelles because I liked that feature of Picard’s old Stargazer, but in a much more typically Klingon configuration. Armed to the teeth because Klingons, I’m figuring this as representing a semi-experimental class, a little shorter than a Vor’cha-class but much wider and beefier.

Aft aspect. Lots of impulse power there, and presumably at least a couple of banks of disruptors and torpedo tubes for when you’re fighting someone that can manoeuvre.
Top view. The nacelles are definitely TNG sort of era, but that heavily rigged neck looks a little crude or unfinished. Ergo, experimental ship.

Since it has four warp nacelles, it should have power to spare and be at least as fast as anything the Federation can muster prior to a Sovereign-class, and that power ought to let it incorporate some massively powerful disruptors. Hopefully ones with all-around firing arcs, since canon Klingon ships exhibit a major deficiency in rear-firing weapons. I reckon they’d beg, trade or steal the specs for the quantum torpedo from their Federation allies, so the IKS Tik’leth would probably get refitted to use those, too.

Top-front view.
This is probably the view you don’t want. Klingon ships typically have really huge frontal armament.

tlhIngan maH!

“We are Klingons!” K’t’inga-class Battlecruiser

Probably my favourite of the extremely limited number of Klingon ship designs in the primary canon, the venerable K’t’inga-class was the larger Klingon battlecruiser type seen in movies such as Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (as opposed to the small Klingon Bird of Prey seen in movies like The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home).

A victim of the same conceptual nonsense that produced the B’rel and K’vort classes, the K’t’inga was basically a rescaling of the D7 used in the original series, with added detailing.

The B’rel/K’vort idiocy is one of the more irritating bits of canon developed to explain lazy model selection in the TNG television series. When the Klingon fleet was reintroduced onscreen to TNG, it was with a brand-new ship model: the Vor’cha-class Attack Cruiser. The B’rel Bird of Prey model from the TOS movies was still seen alongside this one, though; evidently still in service just like the antique Federation Miranda-class from the same era. Except with one difference. Evidently figuring that fans wouldn’t care about the Klingon fleet (wrong), they used the same Bird of Prey model to represent at least two vastly different sizes of ship.

This is just lazy model selection pure and simple (especially since they already had K’t’inga and Vor’cha models available), but is “explained” in Trek lore by the creation of the visually identical but much larger K’vort-class (I hope it means “mistake” in tlhIngan Hol).

The D7 upscaling that produced the K’t’inga is marginally less annoying, because the design was already intended as a relatively large ship. The original Constitution-class’ opposite number, the D7 was the standard “Klingon ship” in the TOS era, unlike the B’rel, which represented a relatively tiny “Scout-class” vessel and makes no visual sense as a ship of comparable size to the Galaxy-class Enterrprise-D.

Anyway, catching up on all the movies I missed when I was working stupid hours at my previous job, I have now come to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. And may I say what a little tit the J.J.verse’s Kirk is. The prime timeline’s Kirk could be an annoying pillock at times, but he’s got nothing on the rebel-with-a-spaceship Kirk of the Kelvin timeline. Still, it inspired me to build a Trek ship: my favourite vessel class from the Klingon Empire, (primary timeline).

Later I may have a go at the Kelvin timeline’s D4-class Bird of Prey from Star Trek: Into Darkness, but their D4 isn’t an especially Klingon-looking ship. A bit too Romulan-looking in overall configuration, though it does manage to have an “ancestral-to-the-B’rel” look about it despite that. At this time, I have other build priorities.

Technically the D7/K’t’inga should have a more nearly spherical lower forward hull section rather than the hemisphere I’ve built, but this is as close as it gets in bricks. So here she is, ready to kick some Federation and/or Romulan butt for the greater glory of the Empire.

Horsell Common and the Heat-Ray

Ulla!

This isn’t my first Martian Fighting Machine build, but inspired by GunnBuilding’s latest series of Martians, I decided to give it another go.

Normally when I build, I’ll get something basically complete and then tweak it a little over the next several days as it sits on my display shelf. It’ll generally only be minor tweaks, though; I tend to build all in one go even with large SHIP-class builds.

This time, I did quite a bit more tweaking than usual, reworking the legs once and completely rebuilding the head twice. The final result might be my best tripod yet, and it’s certainly the most book-accurate one, to the extent of incorporating the carrying basket on the back (which isn’t something you commonly see).

Now with ulta-accurate prisoner carrying basket!

It’s not the most completely stable of builds with all those joints in the legs, but the multijointedness would give the Fighting Machine a more flowing, cephalopoid kind of a gait that seems in keeping with the Martians’ squidlike physiology. And it does stand up, even on surfaces with little to no “give” or friction, like my display shelf. A real-life Martian Fighting Machine walking on spikes like that would drive its feet into even cobblestone roads with every step.

Heat-Ray on the left of the cockpit (operator’s POV), Black Smoke dispenser on the right

I’ve tried to incorporate all the details H. G. Wells described in the original work, though he’s frustratingly vague about certain fundamental design aspects (like the shape of the vehicle’s main body, the nature of the “hood” under which the Martian operator sits, how the legs actually attach and so on). This version has several previous media tripod designs in its ancestry, but neither the 1953 manta saucer nor the 2005 tripod included the basket (well, the 2005 version kind of did, but not with any prominence), and even Jeff Wayne relegated the carrying basket to the Handling Machine in the art from his musical version. For a long while I considered his tripod the definitive version, but these days I prefer something a little more sinister. The Jeff Wayne tripod was plenty sinister enough when I was a kid, but these days I can’t help but see a fat, long-legged tick or wingless cartoon mosquito when I look at it.

What I’m using as my Martian pilot isn’t big enough for the book’s description of the Martian being “the size of a bear, perhaps”, but this weird mould (apparently of some unknown Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thing called The Kraang) looks nearly perfect for the cephalopoid, brain-dominated Martians. Easier to fit into a workable Fighting Machine build than an octopus, too.

The Kraang: A near-perfect WotW Martian.

Anyway, this is my latest take on the epic alien walker that is probably the ultimate ancestor of them all: the Martian Fighting Machine.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius Defence Mech

I think this is a much better mech than last time’s SPARTVS design, but interestingly enough I have far less to say about it. It’s weird how that works sometimes. I was perfectly satisfied with the SPARTVS until I built this Sagittarius mech, but now that I have this to compare it with the SPARTVS seems a bit clumsy and clunky.

To me, this looks like a sort of light aerospace defence mech, which makes the name “Sagittarius” (“Archer”) very appropriate. Interestingly, though, that wasn’t the origin of the name.

With those long legs and splay-toed feet, I thought it had a rather ratite look. For the uninitiated, “Ratites” are a bird family, including all the extant large flightless birds (ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries and kiwis) plus the non-flightless tinamou and a number of extinct birds including the moa of New Zealand and the elephant bird of Madagascar. Anyway, it was nearly the Ratite-class, but that didn’t seem right for what was obviously a military design, so I cast my mind around for something similar but a bit more predatory.

Aha! Secretary Bird!

Secretary-class works even less well than Ratite-class, but the scientific binomial name of the Secretary Bird is Sagittarius serpentarius. And Sagittarius being a constellation as well as a genus, and meaning “Archer” to boot, that worked doubly well for a space defence walker.

S.P.A.R.T.V.S.

The SPARTVS walker

The SPARTVS (“Spartus”; “Synergistic Piloted Assault Robot Tactical Victory Suit”) mech is a twin-crewed close-quarters combat mech developed by Cyberus Industries of Titan, a subsidiary of TransOctan. TransOctan is one of the oldest transcorporate entities in the System, and though its power has fluctuated relative to the other feudal-capitalist giants like Bencom and Lagrange-Lunacorp, it remains one of the major powers, and one known for a certain ruthlessness.

Twin-crewed bipedal mechs are not common even in the System, but Cyberus Industries of Titan seem to specialise in them; the SPARTVS is not the first such mech to come out of the Cyberus manufactories beside the Vid Flumina.

The SPARTVS was designed as an enforcement mech for quelling labour riots, so its first factory-default standard model featured neural stun batons to be used in the lower pair of hands, and sleepgas dispensers fitted to the upper arms. However, TransOctan corporate security forces requested a change to monomolecular-edged cutting blades in order to deal with unrest in the volatile Mercury solar farms, where rioting workers had access to Mercurian-environment power armours like the so-called Hellsuit.

The Mark 2 SPARTVS mech incorporated the requested changeout of stun batons for monomolecular cutting blades, and also replaced the upper sleepgas dispensers with hydraulic claws. Smaller sleepgas dispensers can still be fitted to the four upper arms, but the SPARTVS is mostly deployed against exo-suited rioters or spacesuited Blacktron agitators where sleepgas is ineffective.

~~~

And so we return to Classic Space, and the inverted-moral-polarity world of the System, in which the Blacktrons are the good guys and the Classic astronauts represent various corporate factions of the ruling Dark Side Ayn Randian hypercapitalist dystopia.

It’s been a while since I generated a proper backstory for one of my NCS creations, and with something as unusual as a twin-crewed NCS combat mechsuit it seemed like a good opportunity to rectify that oversight, as well as to return to my favourite dystopian take on the Neoclassic Space shared universe. And I got to come up with a new acronym for its name, which is always fun.

You really don’t see a lot of mechs with multiple crew; the whole point of giant humanoid walkers is that they’re supposed to be intuitive to control by a single pilot. If you’re going to build a walker with more than one crewmember, it’s usually going to be more like an AT-AT or a chicken walker and less like a humanoid. “Legged vehicle” rather than actual mechsuit.

However, if you can separate out your crew control roles, or possibly link both pilots together (perhaps with control cables plugged directly into their brains), there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t. Besides, it lets you do things like four-armed mechs that actually might have a hope of being controllable without AI running half of it.

Also, unusual design concepts are like crack for me. I’m hopelessly addicted.

I suspect that the “Synergistic” part of the name acronym means that the pilots are hardwired into the control systems, but it’s possible there’s some sort of holographic control interface instead. It’s the future; maybe people have implanted nanocomputers that interface directly with the brain for information networking, hard-drive memory support and control of personal peripherals. That would also explain the absence of any kind of visible controls for a lot of NCS hardware; they’re controlling it via implants.

Iron Mongery

Obadiah Stane’s Iron Monger armour

Who’d have thought that I’d be happily building MCU stuff related to Iron Man?

For a whole complex of reasons (mostly amounting to “I find Tony Stark difficult to relate to”) Iron Man’s one of my least favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes. I never read the comics he was in, not his own book nor the West Coast Avengers that he led when I was reading Marvel comics in the ‘90s, and so I have little background knowledge and nostalgia for the character. All I can draw from is the modern big-screen incarnation, and not all of that because I skipped over Iron Man 3.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t dislike the character. I enjoy watching him interact with the other heroes in most of the ensemble movies, and even in Civil War I get where he’s coming from despite the fact that I think I agree more with Captain America. It’s just that a solo Iron Man film is usually just a bit too much unleavened Tony Stark for me.

That being the case, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking I’d be slow to gravitate towards Iron Man builds. However, I don’t especially like most of the grimdark incarnations of Batman either, but that hasn’t slowed me down from building the occasional take on the Batmobile or other Bat-vehicles. Here I am building an Iron Man-related build.

Obadiah Stane’s Iron Monger suit from the first Iron Man movie is noticeably bigger than a regular-sized human. Since the Mark 3 Iron Man armour is represented in LEGO as a minifigure (as are most of the various Tony Stark armours), the larger size of the Iron Monger brings it into “something to build” territory rather than “custom minifig”.

Obadiah Stane… sort of

This version is obviously too big. Approxinmately twice the height even of one of the LEGO big ‘figs like Hulk and Thanos, it’s way out of proportion to a minifig-sized Iron Man. However, the LEGO Group themselves bend scale all the time for the sake of their builds, and in multiple themes. Official LEGO Droidekas are well known for being drastically larger than they ought to be, whereas even as large a set as the Death Star is demonstrably too small. I’m not one of these expert specialist mech architects, and I don’t know how to build much smaller than this and still have it look like the beefy, bulky suit of MCU Iron Man’s first villain.

I think my favourite part of this is the shoulder-mounted hydraulic pistons. A feature of the Iron Monger you really have to include if you’re building it, they’re not easy to do and tend to restrict the movement of the arms. I’ve done what I can, but these do have a tendency to disconnect in certain arm positions.

I’m also rather pleased with the multiposeable fingers. Those rounded 1×1 plates with the bar allow the fingers to splay, giving a much more naturalistic range of hand motion. Okay, my Iron Monger doesn’t have elbows or knees, but it looks reasonable despite that. The helmet even opens up to reveal Obadiah Stane (approximately) behind the mask.

It’d be nice if there was a way to reproduce a range of horizontal movement in the mask, but there’s no way to make the head turn with this construction technique, and anything else would spoil the look.