Tag Archives: Neoclassic Space

“Some People Call Me A Space Cowboy…”

Even awful Steve Miller Band songs can occasionally inspire a LEGO creation.

I know “The Joker” is a very popular song from its era, but it’s never really scratched where I itch, personally. But when the first line came on the radio as I drove to my LEGO User Group meeting, I started thinking about the possibilities. My personal builders’ rallying call is something along the lines of “Space Everything”, so… space cowboys. Literally.

Shootout at the Space Corral

As an Englishman living in Texas, I’m surrounded by cowboy culture. The Fort Worth stock show and rodeo. People who wear cowboy boots. People who wear stetsons. Everybody and his brother’s cousin’s dog in their stupid pickup trucks. People who actually own cattle – in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, which is one of the larger urban conglomerates in the entire US. The whole Western genre. The entire Country music scene. Now, there are a few good Country songs, and I enjoy the occasional Western, but really, the entire cultural landscape is as alien as HG Wells’ Martians tramping through the English countryside.

There are two basic ways of dealing with the alienness: assimilation or resistance. Either you assimilate and learn cowboy, at least culturally speaking, or you return to your cultural roots and become a sort of professional Englishman.

Resistance is not futile.

“Draw!”

A creation like this could be taken as either the product of a final blended assimilation of worlds, or a sort of ironic joke on the whole subculture. In actuality it’s something of both. Merging different genres is something I do, and usually results in an interesting creation, but there’s a certain amount of visual irony involved in the Blacktron vs Space Police shootout, the rover shaped a bit like a stagecoach and the robot cactus. And the horse-shaped antigravity speeders tethered outside the saloon.

 

Mustang speeders outside the saloon

Robot cactus. Because no Western scene is complete without a Saguaro.

Using my two tan baseplates for what I think is the first time (my kids use baseplates a lot more than I do), I started out with the saloon and then expanded it into the stagecoach area. Starting with the Saloon sign and then building a façade like that in any classic spaghetti Western, I initially planned the model structured entirely around the Shootout at the Space Corral, but then the model started to get overpopulated with minifigures as I added more and more, and I realised I had to expand onto another baseplate.

But the resulting two-plate creation was a bit sparse, so I had to build more stuff. This is not a problem.

If I had four or five of the Gungan steeds from the Phantom Menace sets, they’d make a pretty good herd of alien cattle, but I don’t have any, let alone 4 or 5. Thus, the stagecoach rover. Building a rover that recalls a stagecoach was actually pretty fun; you don’t see too many Classic Space stagecoach rovers. I think it’s the elevated driver’s position that sells it; the rover itself isn’t all that stagecoachy otherwise.

The Stagecoach rover. Not a great angle, unfortunately, but the overall shots give the idea. Note the alien prospector in the background.

It might be fun to expand this still further and incorporate a real Space Cowboy herding Gungan steeds, but those Gungan steeds are relatively expensive for what’s basically a single brick, and I have other purchasing priorities.

It’d make a pretty good display, though.

I’m quite pleased with the horse speeders. Loosely based on the Nexo Knights’ hoversteeds, they’re my own design because we only got two of the sets from that theme and neither included a hoversteed that I could adapt. Anyway, I prefer to create rather than copying whenever possible.

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Abugida Spaceport

Abugida Spaceport

From a relatively simple build of a Classic Space Y-Wing, this has grown considerably. The Y-Wing was the initial inspiration, though.

I have to say that the Y-Wing is one of my favourite Star Wars ships. Never mind the fact that it seems to exist only to get shot down by TIE fighters and you’d have to have a death wish to fly one, the heavy fighter component of the Rebel Alphabet Fleet is just as iconic in its way as the sexier and more famous X-Wing. It may have taken until Rogue One for the movies to show one actually shooting anything or doing some damage, but presumably they were doing that damage all along without getting any credit for it. And I’m a sucker for the underappreciated.

LL433 Ypsilon starfighter; ie NCS Y-Wing

This is the LL433 Ypsilon starfighter.

Initially I just did what’s conventional for me and built an angled display stand for it so I could show it in flight. It looks cool that way, but after a day or so of looking at it and anticipating the upcoming DFWLUG meet on the 14th, I thought to myself: “You know, this would be much more impressive with a whole spaceport around it.”

The upright fuel tank and floor grilles were the first things to be built, along with some actual undercarriage for the Y-Wing, then I progressed to a much simpler and smaller version of the back wall and the radar dish.

Placing minifigures around the scene (and I’m so glad I finally have enough of an astronaut corps to build more complex scenes like this) I realized that the pilot would have quite an awkward time of it trying to get into his cockpit.

Mobile staircase? Mobile staircase. This is actually one of my favourite parts of the whole scene, and marks the first time I’ve used those clips to hold a bar at an angle. Somehow I thought it would be a more finicky operation than it turned out to be – one of those AFOL techniques where you merely have to look heavily at it to send elements pinging off into the nether recesses of behind the bookcase. Not so; those clips actually seem to be designed with that usage in mind, and I have to say it looks awesome.

Both Star Wars and the NCS universe (whichever variant you’re in) employ droids for a lot of roles, so I decided my spaceport needed at least one. The tall, pseudo-wheeled robot I ended up with looks rather like the Kaminos had a hand in its design, but it’s more distinctive than the endless procession of armed turtles you sometimes get. No offence to Peter Reid; the turtle droid is a wonderful piece of hardware. But there are so many copies.

Yellow-suited astronaut and K-M1N0 class droid

From there, I decided I needed a refueling/resupply truck, so I built one of those, too, using the languishing trolley wheels element as its rear wheels. I tell you, every last wheel element I’ve used on this build is one I rarely or never (til now) employ on a MOC. For the record, the cylinders with the black stripes around the middle are either antimatter or fusion power cylinders (I can’t make up my mind what level of future tech I’m working with) that go into the rear of the LL433 behind that rear dish. Unfortunately making the dish into an opening door isn’t going to happen, so you’ll have to use that languishing faculty known as your imagination.

Lastly, the overhead crane, because it adds a more three-dimensional, less flat element to my rear wall. And it’s a vital part of any spaceport, even if the LL433 Ypsilon Y-Wing doesn’t have anything in the way of cargo space that would need loading or unloading.

I think one of the most satisfying features of this build for me is the amount of ethnic and gender diversity I’ve managed to incorporate. I need to get hold of some Black Panther sets so I can get some ethnically black female minifig heads, but I’ve got a pleasing array of skintones (including El Mustachio driving the mobile staircase) and more than one female, so I’m happy. The future is not ethnically monochrome.

Komodo

Between single- and dual-crew space fighters and large frigate- and corvette-class vessels is a huge size range which in civilian vessels comprises the larger Courier- and smaller Trader-classes: small-to-medium vessels with between two and twelve crew. Military ships in this displacement bracket tend to have larger crews for their displacement, not having a lot of their tonnage allocated to cargo; the Gunship class bracket typically runs from around four to around twenty crew, which upper limit would typically be considered a small corvette.

The Komodo-class is a small example of the Gunship class, intended to accompany fighters and provide heavier fire support. This is typical of small Gunship design philosophy; larger Gunships act more like extremely light fleet screening elements, with heavy antifighter and antimissile armaments and maybe one or two larger-calibre guns.

The distinguishing feature of the Komodo-class is, of course, the jawlike frontal arrangement hiding the primary antiphoton beam cannon. The jaws are almost purely cosmetic, though the teeth are constructed of high-strength buckycarbon sheathed in titanium and honed to a monomolecular edge, and can be employed as an ultra-close-in weapon system to slice into or crush enemy ship hulls.

The cannon on either side of the “head” cockpit area are heavy plasma beam generators, providing the Komodo-class with its regular forward firepower.

Rear defensive cover is provided by a pair of laser cannon situated in the tail, but the Komodo-class’ primary defense is its manoeuvrability. Featuring a pair of dual-direction vectored thrust fusion drives, the class’ vessels can literaly turn on the spot or fly backwards or sideways at need, making the Komodos more manoeuvrable than many fighters. Indeed, some commands use squadrons of Komodo-class ships unsupported by lighter fightercraft in a fighterlike role; though the acceleration of smaller vessels is almost always greater.

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Okay, the chomping mouth makes no sense from a pure space combat perspective. It’s pure Rule of Cool and pretty in-your-face about it.

Still, it’s one of my favourite parts of this whole ship and provides a nice first use for all those recently-acquired Nexo shield elements.

This started out its life as a Classic Space-themed Komodo dragon mech, and while I was really pleased with the head, the more I looked at it the more I felt like the head was too big for the body and the body just wasn’t cool enough.

I could have reworked the body, but I was unconvinced I could do a good enough job to justify that head, and besides, even the clickstop universal joint hinge I used could barely support the weight.

I decided to take the head and rework it into a spaceship. The class name comes from there, but it was almost the Kronosaurus-class after the extinct marine reptile.

The engines are technically attached with an “illegal” connection: the Technic pin holes in the main hull are just a fraction out of line from the pins that go into them, meaning that the joints are stressed. But for once, I don’t care; the overall look is worth the minute amount of stress and I’ve stressed enough Technic axles with my usual design of “in-flight” model stand that I’m sort of getting inured to it.

Anyway, this is the Komodo. Enjoy.

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…

~~~

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.

Drive Me To The Moon

LL28 Lunar Excursor

Though the System possesses the technology to make surface-repulsor vehicles – skimmers and speeders – practicable as a means of transport, older technologies such as mechs and rovers are still very common on most of the System’s worlds. Surface-bound vehicles are much slower than repulsor skimmers, but their energy usage (and thus operating expense) is a fraction of what a skimmer uses. The profit-conscious transcorporations of the System are congenitally opposed to spending unnecessary credits, and so most of them utilise ground vehicles whenever speed is not a priority.

The LL28 Lunar Excursor is an early-model fast rover built by the Lagrange-Lunacorp Group’s Jupiter Rover Company. Designed as an exploration vehicle for two astronauts in the days before the Blacktron separatist movement began to gain traction, it is usually employed in the post-Blacktron age as a scout/reconnaissance vehicle, as its low-energy power plant can be easily stealthed against Blacktron scanners.

This particular LL28 is an unstealthed example without the scanner-absorbent baffles surrounding the electric drive train and microfusion power plant.

The massive wheels are a feature of most rovers designed to operate away from the roads and paving of Earth and the large L4 and L5 space station colonies, but even on Earth itself, driving a vehicle with “Moon wheels” is something of a selling point.

In the post-Blacktron age, many Lunar Excursors are fitted with laser or plasma cannon as a defensive mechanism, but numbers of unarmed specimens still exist as well.

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I’m rather pleased with the Technic framing of the engine and rear section. Between the radiator vanes and the small spherical reaction mass tank, it actually looks like a semi-functional engine. This is a first for me, as I’m not one of those car geeks that fussily replicate all the intricate details of the Ford Model T’s engine compartment in bricks. I build spaceships. Nuclear rockets don’t have a lot of moving parts, and I can make my interstellar wormhole drives or hyperspace engines or foldspace traversers or whatever look however I like, seeing as how they’re merely theoretical at best.

I need to get hold of a modern yellow helmet to be in keeping with all my other Classic Spacemen of my miniature System astronaut corps, but that’s for the future. If you’re going to use the visors, and I am, the modern helmet design really does look better.

TitanSpeeder

Kronos Colony. Primary outpost of the System on the Saturnian moon Titan and one of the most populous and important colonies in the outer Solar System.

Situated on the shores of the Ligeia Mare close to the mouth of the hydrocarbon river known as the Vid Flumina, Kronos began as a harvesting operation for Titan’s exotic hydrocarbons and nitrogen, but has grown into an important and diverse colony.
Titan’s liquid hydrocarbon rivers, lakes and seas make the usual mechs and rovers less fully useful for getting around, particularly in the polar regions where the majority of the lakes and flumina are. More than anywhere else in the System, Titan’s Kronos colony employs ground-effect speeders for the majority of its local transport.

Recently, rumours of a secret Blacktron separatist base in the Xanadu region of Titan have prompted an increase in patrols, and Keyshawn Friedman and Jan Meyerdahl pilot their R22 Avalon speeder across a spit of land jutting out into the Ligeia Mare. Titan was a big moon, however, larger than the planet Mercury. Surely the Blacktron couldn’t be anywhere close to such a large and important System outpost…?

~~~

Okay, technically I built the speeder and then decided to locate it on Titan, but Titan’s an interesting place to put a Neoclassic Space outpost, and I decided it needed to be done.
All the locations on Titan are real astronomic features of the moon, for added realism. I’m not sure that black is necessarily the right colour for Titan’s liquid methane seas, but it works for modelling purposes.
Anyway, here’s my Titan-speeder.

Space Sphinx

LL-817 Sphinx

No, not the mythological creature. Nor the Egyptian monument. I’ll explain.

The inspiration for this was simply to build a nice, solid Neoclassic Space transport ship, medium-to-large in terms of original set comparisons and carrying at least two crew.

Shape-wise, I had the Cayman somewhat in mind, though this is its own ship and not a stunted copy. Anyway, that’s where the broad-bodied, blunt-nosed look comes from. Enter the Sphinx.

The angled wings are what gave the Sphinx her name. A modern aeroplane with a diagonally-angled tailplane is said to have a “butterfly tail”, but the wide body and stubby wings put me in mind of a rather fat moth rather than a butterfly per se. Something like a hawkmoth, in fact.

The typal species of hawkmoth, the Poplar Hawkmoth (native to my homeland Britain), is in the genus Sphinx, so that’s where the name comes from.

The build itself is fairly conventional, but sometimes that achieves the right look perfectly well. I think perhaps an old-style 4x6x2 trans yellow windscreen element might have integrated better with the rear passenger section, but those things are expensive. I’ve recently upgraded to a better-paying job, so money isn’t quite as tight as previously, but I still have enough poor-person habits of mind that I rebel against the idea of paying upwards of $5 US for a single dinged-up windscreen element.

Look! Undercarriage! 😀

Still, I’m pleased with the overall shape and look of this, far more than the relatively conventional mostly-studs-up construction might suggest.  Possibly one of my better NCS ships, in fact.