Tag Archives: Spaceship

Liberator

“Activate the force wall; clear the neutron blasters for firing”

The Liberator

Though now obscure beside better-known sci-fi like Star Wars, Star Trek and Dr Who, for a certain generation of British science fiction fans Blake’s 7 was unforgettable.

Chronicling the adventures of a band of freedom fighters with an advanced starship from which to fight, Blake’s 7 was a sort of Robin Hood in space, and the Liberator was the crew’s iconic starship.

The original Liberator. One of the most unique starships in any sci-fi TV show

Though plagued with continuity errors by comparison with Star Trek, Blake’s 7 scored over its high-budget American rival in one important respect: its characters and their conflicts.

If you were expecting a Trek-style humanist utopia of morally-advanced beings in brightly-coloured uniforms and miniskirts, Blake’s 7 had all the subtle power of a kick in the teeth. Their Federation was an all-encompassing tyranny complete with information control, kangaroo courts, penal colony planets, drugged populations and fanatical militaro-police agents using cybernetically-rebuilt “mutoid” troopers to hunt down the remaining dissidents.

And the good guys were sometimes just as bad. The eponymous revolutionary hero Roj Blake could be fanatical and sometimes callous, and would not hesitate to stoop to buying the help of organised crime in his crusade against the corrupt, oppressive Federation. His effective lieutenant Kerr Avon was possibly one of the first antiheroes on TV: a man who prided himself on being self-serving and mercenary, who would hit women (this was the 1970s. You didn’t do that) if they deserved it, and whose obsession with logic formed an interesting Dark Side counterpoint to Spock.

If Star Trek was the philosophical offspring of the 1960s’ hippie flower-power era, Blake’s 7 had more in common with the punk movement: dystopian and anarchic.

Flight deck of the Liberator, showing the original crew: (clockwise) Vila, Cally and Jenna, Gan, Avon and Blake. The hexagon of blinking lights is the flight computer, Zen.

The Liberator was a lovely ship, though. Looking from the outside as though it had been designed by angels, it was run by that peculiar British sci-fi institution: a sentient flight computer with enough personality to warrant a name. Zen – his personality matched his name – managed the ship’s flight systems and self-repair system, allowing the crew of six to effectively fight a battlecruiser that was in all probability larger than the USS Enterprise.

The engine section was a weirdly-pulsating glowing green ball, a design that makes just as much sense as the Trek universe’s warp nacelles but makes some people think the back of the ship is the front.

I’ve done the best I can with the trilateral symmetry and the sphere of the time-distort drive, but there are several details I wasn’t able to get right. The ball is technically too big, and try as I might I couldn’t get enough small green and yellow bits in to completely fill the ball.

The backs of the outer pods are square, and the wider forward sections are too short, but this is recogniseably Liberator, bane of the Federation and hope of the inhabited galaxy.

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Dark Pegasus

Believe it or not, this creation was originally going to be a steampunk mech.

Her Majesty’s Aetheric Ship “Dark Pegasus”

I was inspired by the large mechs of the Ninjago Movie to build a big mech of my own with a steampunk twist, using my twin Coruscant planet elements as boilers or fuel tanks.

Alas, actually beginning to build the thing I realised that I wasn’t building remotely big enough and the planet boilers looked oversized and ridiculous.

But modifying the attachment setup I’d intended to use for the planet sections as twin boilers, I found a rather nice-looking claw-held arrangement for a single planet sphere forming under my hands. And while it wasn’t really going to work as part of a steam-mecha, it had “steam-powered space dreadnought” written all over it in large, friendly letters. And who am I to argue with Fate?

Continuing to build, it was obvious fairly quickly that my limited stocks of brown weren’t up to building the size of spacegoing ironclad this was shaping up to be, so I added black into the mix.

Black and dark grey with pearl gold enhancements was the colour scheme I had in mind for the hypothetical “Dark Pegasus” SHIP I’ve been alluding to the planning of for some time now, and I just bought, among other elements, the pearl gold wings I need. Could I really pull it off? Build the SHIP I’ve been contemplating? And as a steampunk build?

Dark Pegasus wasn’t conceived as specifically a steampunk starship, but it always had a definite baroque flavour. How else was I going to get away with the massive painted Pegasus figurehead that gives it its name? But as conceived it was always fairly easily steampunkable. I decided to give it a go.

The placement of the horse element, which I’ve been wanting to use in a spaceship build for years now, moved from my original concept of a bow-mounted figurehead to a piece of decorative statuary atop the main hull. The claw-held planet element prow necessitated some redesign work, but the result is still channeling the same spirit of a large mostly-black spaceship with the sort of approach to decoration that makes a figurehead reasonable.

Many of the other design elements of my original idea find their expression here not substantially altered. The gold wings, reprising the flight membranes of the Sensei Wu dragon in black rather than white, still grace the flanks of the warship. The massive cannons of the ship’s mighty broadside are still the cup-and-ball sponson mounts I had envisaged. Various portions of the vessel still bristle with pearl gold decorative elements: gleaming brasswork enhancing the appearance and potentially the functioning of the ship.

In order to surpass the 100-stud official SHIP barrier, I needed more than just black and gold as livery colours. The dark grey and brown are structural; the latter perhaps signifying a more tarnished bronze, or even wood. Without adding too many colours, I needed to eke out my supply of black elements to achieve SHIP status.

Though I’d initially contemplated dark red as a suitably dark, barbaric addition to the colour palette for the original non-steampunk Dark Pegasus, I decided when it came to it to use dark blue instead. It’s a darker colour than dark red, and the combination worked well for Ninjago’s ghost faction. In lower light conditions it even looks like pure black.

The Revised Steampunk Version of the Dark Pegasus seems to have broken my usual habit of wanting to build a creation all in one session, too. Built over a period of most of a week, it’s all the better for it, as I took several days mentally planning various things out in order to get everything right.

At 106 studs (39 3/4 inches or 101cm) long, Dark Pegasus is my second official SHIP and my first in the steampunk genre. Apparently even in Steampunk I’m still Benny enough that my impulse is to Build A Spaceship.

~~~

Propelled by three aetheric propellers and armed with a variety of heatray weapons, space howitzers and long guns, HMS Dark Pegasus is one of the Minotaur-class fleet flagships of Her Majesty’s Royal Space Navy. Each one decorated with a massive painted steel statue of its namesake, the seven ships of the class serve as flag vessels of the seven principal fleets of the RSN, cowing their adversaries as much with the spectacle of their impressive visual design as with shells and heatrays.

Dark Pegasus’ navy blue trim on her space-black RSN hull paint signifies that she is the flagship of the Sixth Fleet, based in the Uranian planetary sphere and headquartered in Her Majesty’s spacedock in orbit around the moon Oberon.

The underslung shiplike structure is a heavy landing-craft for use on the chill, oily seas of Oberon, enabling supplies and personnel to be easily transferred between the Fleet and the surface.

Most of the Uranian moons have some sort of liquid surface [OOC: at least in the altered reality of this steampunk-space universe], so the maritime form of ship’s boat is the customary type in the Sixth Fleet.

The ball-like structure at the prow of the vessel is often assumed to be decorative, like the similar globe atop the central hull, but in fact both are useful equipment: nodes of the ship’s sphere-penetrating Bassenfeldt drive allowing the ship to pass the aetheric barriers between the orbital spheres of the Sun’s family of planets.

Krystovian Task Force

The Krystovian Naval Command is the spacegoing military force of the independent Stellar Republic of Krysto. Comprising the three systems of Krysto proper, Zycon and Coldstream, the Stellar Republic is one of a number of neutral buffer states between the Federation and the Blacktron Alliance. Krysto in particular is famed as the so-called “ice planet”, but all of the Republic’s worlds are cold planets that skirt the edges of habitability.

Battlecruiser Task Force of the Krystovian Naval Command

The KNC is a surprisingly large and well-equipped fighting force for a mere three-system polity, and though its fleet lacks the dreadnought-class battleships of the major powers, its battlecruiser-led task forces, such as the one pictured here, are capable fighting formations.

KNS Sword of Winter

Frostblade-class battlecruiser

KNS Sword of Winter

The Krystovian Naval Command’s newest starship and largest domestically-built vessel, the Sword of Winter is only the second starship of battlecruiser class to be built in Krystovian yards. KNS Sword of Winter is 10m longer than her sister KNS Frostblade, the extra space being utilised to make the forward power monitoring rooms more ergonomic.

The Stellar Republic’s Vertex Shipyards in Zycon-IV orbit have only recently been upgraded to a size capable of building large cruiser- and battlecruiser-class vessels, and the Frostblades are the firstfruits of the increase in capacity. Before that, all vessels larger than destroyer-class, and some of the KNC’s smaller vessels also, were purchased from other star nations.

KNS Ice Maiden

Refitted Blacktron Werewolf-class light carrier

KNS Ice Maiden

Originally the Blacktron Fleet vessel Nightmare, the Ice Maiden is the oldest ship in the entire Krystovian Naval Command, having already had a substantial service life within the Blacktron Alliance before being sold off to the Stellar Republic and refitted to Krystovian specifications. It is designated a “light carrier” because it is built on a light cruiser-sized hull rather than the battlecruiser- and dreadnought-sized carriers favoured by the major powers.

Ice Maiden is due to be retired once the domestically-produced twin carriers Partridge and Peartree come online, but for now it provides an operational base for 20 domestic Polaris-class space fighters.

KNS Ymir

Jotun-class destroyer

KNS Ymir

Venerable lead ship of the Stellar Republic’s Jotun-class of fleet destroyers, KNS Ymir is considered a “lucky” ship in the Krystovian Naval Command. The Jotuns have been mainstays of the small Krystovian fleet, and until recent expansions were the largest vessels produced in the Vertex yards. However, they are beginning to be replaced by the newer Kalevala-class.

KNS Nordica

Federation Sapphire-class destroyer

KNS Nordica

An ex-Federation Sapphire-class named after the largest continental landmass emerging from Krysto’s iced-over seas, Nordica was built under contract for the KNC by the Futura system’s Futuron Naval Yards. A little smaller than the Jotun-class, several Sapphires were constructed for the Republic while Krysto’s own shipyards were being extended and upgraded. The ships supplement the Jotun and Kodiak-classes.

KNS Snowbird

Icefire-class frigate

KNS Snowbird

The Icefires are the Stellar Republic’s most advanced frigate class, and KNS Snowbird is one of the most recent exemplars of the class. It shares the same vertical orientation as most newer Krystovian ship classes, such as the large Frostblade-class battlecruisers. KNS Snowbird is, of course, much smaller, but can sustain a much higher acceleration than a larger vessel.

KNS Caribou
KNS Narwhale

Mammal-class corvettes

KNS Narwhale (left) and KNS Caribou (right)

The Mammal-class corvettes are another older design. The entire corvette class is being phased out of most space navies as too small to be effective, given that construction of a frigate takes only 125% as long and yields a larger, better protected and longer-ranged ship. Krysto’s corvettes are mostly extensively refitted and less visually alike than their common class designation might suggest.

KNS Caribou is named after the Old Earth creature. KNS Narwhale is named after a native Krystovian species which slides over the ice of that planet’s seas.


I semi-promised more Ice Planet a week or so ago, and what better way to keep that promise than with a whole fleet?

Building a battle squadron for the civilian Iceplaneteers might seem like a bit of a non-sequitur, but people produce M:Tron space fighters and Futuron tanks all the time, so I feel like I’m on safe ground.

Besides, who’s to say the Classic Space theme’s widely-theorised Federation even actually exists? Those early Space themes are, after all, from the age before TV shows and named characters and back-stories for the sets. And I have to say I rather like the idea of Krysto as a sort of neutral Switzerland between the Blacktron and the Federation.

Beowulf’s Bane

Grendel-class Interceptor

A strangely-shaped little space fighter needs a strangely-shaped name, and the monster from the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf seemed to fit the bill. Best of all, with that name it can then be based off a space carrier mothership called Grendel’s Mother.

I’ve been concentrating on microscale ships like the Thunderbolt and the Zycon-IX recently, and it seems like I haven’t built a minifigure-scale space fighter for some time.

The Grendel-class interceptor came about almost accidentally as I played around with a triangular cockpit design. I liked the emerging result enough to put some engines and descending wings on it, and the final ship is as you see.

Though it has a Classic Space astronaut for a pilot, it’s obviously not a Classic Space creation, but that’s ok.

I envisage this as a fast orbital-based interceptor, able to dip down into the atmospheres of planets but designed to dock rather than land. With those big engines out at the craft’s extremities, I imagine it’s quite agile, but it gives the impression of not being a very forgiving craft for rookie pilots trying to manoeuvre.

I don’t have much else to say about this, but I find its unusual shape and verticality quite pleasing.

Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX

I have to confess to an abiding love for the Ice Planet 2002 theme.

You’d think this wouldn’t be something you have to “confess” to, but if you delve around on the Internet, several of the articles written about the 1993/4 theme have seemed to suggest it was somehow unpopular or controversial.

I don’t know about that, but it’s always seemed fine to me. I honestly don’t see what the supposed problem is, and I marvel that what seems like a great theme with a lot of potential only got a single year of run time.

The big set of the theme rejoices in two different English language names depending on which side of the Atlantic you are. In the US, it’s the weirdly-named “Deep Freeze Defender”, a name which always brings to mind the freezer section at Wal-Mart; in my native UK it’s the far more interesting “Ice Cruiser Zycon-IV”.

Old Space theme sets have a long history of transatlantically differing names: the Space Cruiser and Moonbase (UK) was the Galaxy Explorer (US), while the Cosmic Fleet Voyager (US) was known in Britain as the Taurean Ore Carrier.

Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX

Building an update of set 6973, then, I’m blowed if I’m going to name it after frozen vegetables, so this is the Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX.

Peter Reid and Tim Goddard already used “Zycon-V” for their microscale update of the main Ice Planet vessel from LEGO Space: Building the Future, so that was out. And anyway, this one’s bigger, so should have a bigger number.

I picked “Zycon-IX” as the next I-something Roman numeral after IV.

Unlike Reid and Goddard’s Zycon-V (I’m not sure which of them created which of the models in their collaborative book), the Zycon-IX is designed to be able to make planetary landings. This may mean that the Zycon-V is actually bigger than my -IX in “real life”, or it may simply mean that I use a higher tech base in my interpretation of classic LEGO Space themes, and my people can deal better with hull stresses for take-off and landing.

Like them, though, and unlike the original theme, I’ve used trans regular orange rather than its neon version for transparent elements. In my case, this is mostly an issue of element availability. Even with its use in Nexo Knights, there still isn’t all that much available in trans neon orange, and we don’t have very much from the Nexo Knights theme in this household. But I actually like the look of the trans orange, particularly over white.

In sharp contrast to my recent space battlecruisers and dreadnoughts, the Ice Cruiser Zycon-IX is actually entirely unarmed, at least visually. The Ice Planet crew always seemed like a tougher, more rugged bunch than the Futuron astronauts, but even as an original theme they didn’t have a lot of prominent weaponry. They work in an incredibly hostile environment; they don’t exactly need to be shooting at people on top of that. Besides, in the three-way factional split common to most classic Space themes, Ice Planet represented the neutral or “civilian” faction protected from the dastardly Blacktron II faction (and the Spyrius) by the second-generation Space Police. It’s the Space Police that probably have the guns. It might have made sense to give it a couple of anti-asteroid space blasters or something, though, but by the time I realised it was completely unarmed I was 95% done with the construction and there weren’t too many good places left to fit a pulse laser.

Talking about the generation-2 Space Police, it occurs to me that I dislike the Space Police II colours and I dislike the Blacktron II colours. Maybe the LEGO Group were just having a bad time with their Space theme colour palettes. Ice Planet’s the only one from that season that I actually approve of.

Anyway, I’ve chosen to dispense with the original Zycon-IV’s complex modularity; the ship split into four sections and could be rearranged into two smaller vessels. I felt that with the kind of upsized microscale transorbital ship I was building, the modular approach was not going to work as well. If the ship were expected to stay in orbit, it might make sense for it to have at least a couple of dockable landing shuttles, for instance, but given that I intended the whole thing to be able to make planetary landings, I decided to eschew modularity in favour of a more unified construction.

Zycon-IX: Close-up side detail

I think my favourite part is the use of the ice dozer blade element as a radar scanner. I’ve used all three of my Ice Planet logo-bearing elements on this one creation, which may be overkill, but I wouldn’t want to get rid of the scanner. Looking at it, I’m struck by how much the logo resembles a traditional British Christmas pudding, but it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that the Ice Planet organisation did that deliberately, is it? People have all sorts of slightly hokey or humorous logos and mascots; look at the Geico gecko or Ronald McDonald.

I’m also quite pleased with that stand that lets it be displayed flying at an angle. Easy and basic perhaps, but I like the nontypical flight pose.

Presumably there’s some sort of main cargo hatch in the lower hull allowing the various Ice Planet surface vehicles and VX-122 fliers (“Blizzard Barons”, if you insist on the slightly lame American names) to be unloaded onto the surface. It would actually be interesting to see if I could build any of them at an appropriate scale, but I’m pretty sure they’d all be too small by comparison.

Still, maybe I might.

There Be Spacewhales Here!

My son finally decided he’d rather build Batstuff than a spaceship with which to battle my Guppy, so he decided I could break it up for parts after all.

What this means is that I was able to finish out my spacewhale; officially the Cetus-class Dreadnought.

The completed Cetus-class spacewhale

Cetus, of course, was the Ancient Greek mythological sea monster fought by Perseus in order to rescue the princess Andromeda, and it’s from her name (which ought to be Ketos if we dispense with the Latinised version) that we get our modern English word “cetacean”. Cetus is also immortalised in the heavens as one of a whole cluster of constellations relating to the story of Perseus, and I can imagine the various members of the class having names that go either way: constellations or sea monsters. I think sea monsters would be more apt, though, given the cetaceanoid form of my space dreadnought: Cetus, Leviathan, Jormundgand, Ogopogo, Moby Dick

If you’re building a spacewhale, it should result in a good-sized build unless you’re being deliberately ironic, and Cetus‘ 24-inch length is respectable, if not the 37 1/2 inches of true SHIP territory. I’m coming to the conclusion that I can technically build to a 100-stud length, but I need more bricks if I’m going to do it well. Something between 24 and 30 inches is more reasonable for my current brick inventory.

The Cetus actually looks like it ought to measure more than a mere two feet, but that’s what my tape measure says. Perhaps it’s the modified-teardrop shape giving it the illusion of foreshortening.

The sperm whale has the closest body form of real-life cetaceans to that classic “antique whale” look, and it’s a predator to boot, so that’s the model I’ve used for the dreadnought. While it would be fascinating to see a space dreadnought modeled on a Humpback or Bowhead whale, I think I made the right call going with the largest of the toothed whales.

White and dark red have been successfully used as a colour scheme by the Old Republic and the Rebel Alliance for generations now, and they are one of my “doable” large-ship liveries based on household brick availability. I went with it, and though it’s less oceanic than some things I might have done, it still looks pretty good on a whale. Especially with the generally more uniform light grey structural parts.

I think this is one of my most satisfying creations for some time. The ribbed half-cylinder top of the front hull, the greebling, the overall form… The tail’s probably the least pleasing part, and even that’s workable. Not a stroke of brilliance, but workable. Technic wheels like this are about the simplest and most uncreative ways of doing large engines, but at least I have some in grey now; I’m not restricted to Ninjago gold.

The vessel has a decent spread of guns, from the cup-and-ball sponson main guns through the side-mounted turrets and forward-firing fin guns to the upper broadsides, small dorsal turrels and control lever turrets. I’m not even certain whether the control levers are point defence turrets or some sort of antenna mounting, but they could go either way.

That’s one thing this doesn’t have a lot of, actually: visible antennas and sensors. I’m assuming the forward dome hides some sort of sensor array, but apart from that there are only a couple of antennas further back. And any attempt to place antenna bricks on the bow section, for example, would just make it look too whiskery and lose the impact of the whale shape.

Ah, well, who says sensor arrays in the 24th Century (or whenever) can’t be hull-conforming?  There’s also a drop-down ramp for whatever fighter complement it carries, looking rather like the sperm whale’s mouth.

I finished my first multi-day build, and appropriately enough, it’s a whale. Or at least, a Cetus.

Here Fishy Fishy

I do like vertically-oriented ships. They’re almost always awesome-looking; I mean, who couldn’t love the angelfish-like elegance of Babylon 5‘s Minbari War Cruiser? And even the stark severity of Star WarsNebulon-B medical frigate is pretty cool.

I think part of the attraction is that it’s more normal to design and build in a horizontal orientation.

LL394 Blue Guppy

This deliberately piscine spaceship doesn’t have all that much of a vertical orientation compared to something like the Minbari cruiser, but for a minifig-scale ship of its size, it’s far more vertical than most.

I’m not completely happy with some of the studdiness of the sides, but until I get enough blue tile elements to alleviate that problem I’m stuck with it.

I was actually not sure whether to build this as a microscale or at minifig-scale when I began, but the combination of the ovoid windscreen canopy and the rounded top decided it for me. Having said that, however, the idea of a microscale starship roughly based on this sort of shape sounds like a good one.

If the potential microship is a spacewhale, though, this is evidently something smaller.

Given its surface resemblance to that odd 747-derivative heavy transport aircraft, the Super Guppy, I think we have a name…

The Blue Guppy, however, isn’t some sort of transport or shuttlecraft. Despite its harmless-sounding name it’s fairly well-armed, with wing cannons, that spinal mount above, and those twin cones – coilguns? – beside the cockpit.

The sides open up in rather a helicopter-esque fashion, and I suspect that the Blue Guppy’s role is somewhat similar to a Blackhawk or Super Lynx.

I can see a pair or small squadron of these operating helicopter-fashion for ground support and troop insertion, possibly even within atmosphere. Something approaching the Classic Space version of a snowspeeder transport variant.

I remain somewhat dissatisfied with this somehow, but I can’t quite put my finger on what’s wrong with it. Maybe I should have built the spacewhale instead.