Thursday, 21 May 2015

Old School TIE

Given the recent release of the Ultimate Collector's Series TIE Fighter (you can read my review of the set here) I thought I'd mark the occasion by going back to the early days of the LEGO Star Wars theme and taking a fresh look at the first non-variant TIE Fighter that LEGO ever produced, Set 7146 TIE Fighter from 2001. Interestingly, LEGO had already released two TIE variants by the time that Set 7146 appeared on shelves - Set 7150 TIE Fighter and Y-wing from 1999 included a TIE Advanced, while Set 7181 TIE Interceptor from 2000 was one of the very first Ultimate Collector's Series sets that LEGO ever produced.

The box measures about 7.5" (19 cm) wide and 11.5" (29cm) tall, with a depth of approximately 3" (7 cm). The front of the box (above) is dominated by an image of the TIE Fighter complete with motion blur, superimposed on what I assume is the surface of the Death Star. The 2001 LEGO Star Wars logo can be seen top right, although it's unfortunately partly obscured by the price label on my copy (£18 from The Entertainer, if anybody's interested). The set's two minifigures can be seen alongside the TIE Fighter's display stand bottom right; the TIE Pilot looks surprisingly jovial considering that he's about to go into battle in a ship without a shield generator..... The two minifigures make a further appearance on the back of the box (below) where they're shown building the TIE Fighter and also piloting a couple of alternate builds.

The box opens by way of a pair of thumb tabs. In addition to the 171 pieces needed to build the model the box contains a single folded instruction booklet and a pair of folded advertising leaflets. The set doesn't include a sticker sheet.

The instruction booklet is A4-sized which means it has to be folded in half in order to squeeze into the box. It's 16 pages from cover to cover, with a full 3 pages taken up by advertising for a host of Star Wars sets released between 1999 and 2001. You can see an example below, with the rest available to view on the Gimme LEGO Flickr stream here.

In addition to the 3 pages of adverts in the instruction booklet, my copy of the set, which was bought from new back in 2001, includes a couple of advertising leaflets. One of the leaflets features a Star Wars 2002 teaser on one side which you can see here and advertising for other 2002 themes plus assorted bits and pieces on the reverse, while the second leaflet features advertising for LEGO's short-lived Life on Mars theme on one side (picture below) and a mixed bag of LEGO themes, video games and on the other.

The set contains two minifigures - a TIE Fighter Pilot and a Stormtrooper. The version of the TIE Fighter Pilot included in this set can only be found in one other set, Set 4479 TIE Bomber from 2003. Time really hasn't been kind to this minifigure - the helmet's features are extremely poorly defined, so much so that I wondered whether my copy of the minifigure had somehow melted in storage.... Compare and contrast with the most recent version of the TIE Fighter Pilot here from Set 75095 TIE Fighter which picks out the helmet's features via use of silver print. Beneath the helmet there's an unprinted brown minifigure head which has only ever appeared in 3 sets. The torso, which isn't back-printed, has graced a number of TIE Fighter pilots, TIE Interceptor pilots and even a TIE Defender pilot, until as recently as 2012. The legs are unprinted and generic.

There have been many different versions of the iconic Stormtrooper minifigure. The version included in this set has also appeared in 3 other sets. The helmet looks like the same basic element as the TIE Fighter Pilot helmet albeit in white, but the black printing makes a huge difference to the definition of the features. There's an unprinted yellow minifigure head underneath the helmet. The back-printed torso has appeared as part of numerous different Stormtrooper minifigures - 13 according to Bricklink - while the unprinted white legs with black hips have been a part of literally hundreds of minifigures.

Once the minifigures have been assembled its time to get to work on the TIE Fighter itself. The cockpit and wing struts are assembled first. It's pretty tight in the cockpit - there's barely room for the pilot in there and no flight stick, but at least there's a printed control panel. The trans-black printed windscreen is fairly uncommon, having appeared in only 6 sets including this one. The windscreen lifts up via a hinge plate in order to provide the pilot with access to the cockpit. The cockpit roof is covered by a dark grey printed 4 x 4 inverted dish which has only ever appeared in 3 sets in this colour.

The wings are next to be built. These feature crude blue detailing on the outer surface which is supposed to approximate the spokes radiating out from the central hub to the edges of the wing. I've never understood why LEGO used blue elements for wing detailing in this and other early TIE Fighter sets; thankfully they switched to light grey in more recent sets which seems to be a much better reflection of the subject matter. The central wing hub features a light gray round 2 x 2 tile printed with the Star Wars Imperial logo which has only appeared in a total of 5 sets in this colour.

The wings attach via pins protruding from a pair of modified 2 x 2 bricks on the wing struts which insert into the base of an inverted 65 6 x 6 x 2 quad with cutouts on the inner surface of each wing. This forms a reasonably robust join, certainly strong enough to tolerate some fairly enthusiastic swooshing.

A display stand (below) completes the build. The centrepiece of the stand and the element which takes the weight of the TIE Fighter is a dark grey 2 x 2 x 10 vertical support girder which has appeared in a total of 7 sets in this colour. A light grey 12L flexible hose with tabbed dark gray ends provides some nice decoration at the front of the stand.

You can see the completed TIE Fighter resting on its stand in the pictures below. Like its pilot, time hasn't been particularly kind to this model which looks a bit crude and untidy, with more than a hint of BOLOCs about it.... The blue detailing on the wings is particularly nasty. That having been said, it's all very well being critical 14 years after the set was released, but I don't recall having been too disappointed when I first got it. Life, and LEGO, moves on.

As is the case for the UCS TIE Fighter, the ship is perched on the display stand rather than attached to it. There's a 2 x 2 round tile on top of the stand which slips into a shallow recess on the underside of the TIE cockpit. This allows the ship to rotate on the stand, while still supporting it reasonably securely. You can see the finished model on its display stand below accompanied by the two minifigures.

I photographed Set 7146 with the recently-released Ultimate Collector's Series Set 75095 TIE Fighter to try and convey a sense of scale (picture below). There's clearly a substantial size differential, although it's still hard to believe that the Ultimate Collector's Series version contains fully ten times as many elements as its baby brother. The jarring blue detailing of the smaller set stands out like a sore thumb against the UCS version - honestly, what were LEGO thinking?

Set 7146 TIE Fighter contains 171 parts and was released in 2001 at a recommended retail price of £17.99 / US$ 20.00. It's long since been superceded by a number of superior versions, notably 2012's Set 9492 TIE Fighter, so it isn't really a "must have" unless you're a collector. Prices are modest - at time of writing you can get a pre-owned complete, boxed example of the set from Bricklink for as little as £25 plus shipping, and a new, sealed example can be had for not much more than that. They also come up fairly regularly on eBay so you shouldn't have any trouble tracking one down should you decide to take the plunge.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Leaps and Bounds

Having posted an update on my MOC City layout last time out (you can read it here if you missed it) I'm willing to bet that there are a few sceptics out there who predicted another 2 year wait for the next installment.... I can't really blame you, to be honest - my track record on this project has been pretty abysmal - but on this occasion I'm delighted to prove you wrong. Truth be told, I actually couldn't wait to start working on it again, and despite a busy last few weeks since I last wrote I still managed to carve out a few evenings to dive back in and make some progress. OK, so perhaps not exactly leaps and bounds, but tangible progress nonetheless.

The obvious place for me to focus my renewed construction efforts was the front left corner of the layout which was looking decidedly bare, consisting as it did of just a bunch of dark bley baseplates held together by a few lengths of 9V track and a sprinkling of 1 x 2 and 2 x 2 dark bley tiles. As you can see in the pictures above and below (click to enlarge) I started out by finally completing the job of boxing in the track loop with light bley bricks to a height of 3 bricks. While this might not seem like a significant milestone, given my pitifully slow rate of progress to date - almost four and a half years to get to this point - it's still probably worth celebrating....

That minor milestone having been achieved, I continued to lay down successive layers of light bley brick, increasing the height of the inner and outer walls on the left side and front left corner of the layout to 7 bricks. It was a repetitive task but therapeutic nonetheless; people talk about being 'in the zone', and so far as building with LEGO is concerned I reckon that simple building tasks like this are about as 'in the zone' as it gets - you rapidly slip into autopilot and it feels almost hypnotic at times. Certainly the time seemed to pass very quickly.

The volume of brick needed to build on such a scale is considerable and easily underestimated, but having initially sketched out the design on LDD I already knew what would be required and had long since sourced the necessary elements - you can see some of them bagged up and ready to be pressed into use in the pictures above and below (click to enlarge).

Encouraged by my progress I pressed on and eventually got as far as raising the whole left side of the subterranean level of the layout up to full height (below - click to enlarge) before calling it a day. All that's left to do now is finish up the right side and then cover the lower track loop with a roof and the visible sections of the subterranean level will be complete. That'll be another milestone worth celebrating as at that point I'll finally be able to start work on the upper level where most of the action will be.

I've also now finished up the left side of the underground platform, thus completing the platform section adjacent to the tracks. I'm clearly not going to be able to fit many minifigures on it, but that having been said, there's probably about as much space on there as on some London Underground platforms so maybe it's more realistic than I'd anticipated....

One thing I've tried to remain mindful of is the question of portability. Sure, a 288 x 160 stud LEGO layout built on two levels is never really going to be truly portable, but I'm nevertheless taking the view that there's no point in just building something which will forever reside in my study unseen by anybody but me and readers of Gimme LEGO.... It's always been my intention to build with a view to eventually displaying the finished layout at events, and so to this end I'm trying to address potential portability issues as they arise rather than trying to figure it all out at the end.

A good example of this is provided by the underground station platform above. I figured that this would need to detach from neighbouring sections in order that it could be safely transported. It soon became evident however that the way I'd designed it in LDD would necessitate me literally breaking it apart for transportation and then having to rebuild it at my destination. I therefore needed to devise a different way of joining the sections together which would enable the platform to detach in a non-destructive fashion and I arrived at the solution below (click to enlarge).

As you can see from the picture above, the main platform section is attached by way of Technic pins and detaches with a minimum of fuss. The arch overhanging the front of the platform is part of the inner wall enclosing the track and will eventually help to support the roof and the structures above. When the platform section is attached, the lower aspect of this arch rests on a 1 x 1 tile which is part of the outer wall of the detachable platform section; this will help to support the weight pressing down on the arch while still allowing the detachable platform section to be easily removed.

So now there's finally somewhere for the minifig residents of my City layout to catch the train; my minifig alter ego seems to have missed this one, but there'll be another along in a minute....

Friday, 20 March 2015

Back on Track!

Long-time readers of this blog might recall that ages back I posted a number of entries about the design and construction of my own LEGO City Layout. The first time I posted about it (here) was way back in November 2010 when, while suffering from LEGO withdrawal after a few days away from home, I'd fired up my laptop, loaded up LDD and started to play around with a possible design. As described in that initial post, what I had in mind was a city layout on two levels, with a subway train running below ground and a cityscape on the upper level featuring an outer oval of railway track enclosing a central area. The central area would be filled with roads lined with modular buildings and hopefully some structures that I'd designed myself, plus some railway sidings and a small railway tunnel running through a LEGO rock formation. The upper level would be landscaped so that it didn't just look like a bunch of baseplates chucked together with a few buildings on top, and the icing on the cake would be to make the whole layout modular so that it was feasible to deconstruct, transport and reassemble it for the purpose of displaying it at events.

Over the subsequent weeks and months the basics of the design gradually came together in LDD as you can see from the June 2011 LDD screengrab above (click to enlarge); many of the original concepts, such as a train layout on two levels and a tunnel on the upper level running through a rock formation, were included in the LDD design. I also started to think about how I might integrate my modular buildings into the layout as you can see below (click to enlarge).

As the design continued to take shape it was time to turn my attention to the question of where in my house I could build my layout. I wanted it to be a permanent fixture that I could work on over time and enjoy, and ideally it needed to be in a location where it would remain undisturbed and unmolested when I wasn't working on it. I eventually identified an area of around 1.25 metres x 2.5 metres in my study; suitable tables were then identified, purchased, constructed and installed in the designated space (picture below), at which point the process of sourcing the necessary LEGO elements to build the layout really began in earnest.

LEGO elements for the layout soon started to arrive from Bricklink sellers and elsewhere, at which point building could begin. There were predictably a few changes of plan along the way; I toyed, for instance, with the idea of linking the upper and lower loops of track (more details and video here) but quickly discounted that notion when it became clear how much space that would require; I also decided to ditch road plates for brick-built roads to save on space and because I thought brick-build roads looked a lot better (details here); finally, I decided to electrify the subterranean track loop using LEGO's 9V train system when it became evident that I wouldn't be able to control trains remotely on the enclosed lower loop using a Power Functions remote control due to an absence of 'line of sight' (details and video here). Slowly and painstakingly, my layout started to materialise as you can see in the picture below.

There was a problem, though. If you compare the earlier photograph of the empty tables taken in June 2011 with the picture immediately above which was taken in April 2012 you can see that the area around the layout was gradually filling up with LEGO sets as all my available LEGO storage space had become exhausted. And as you can probably imagine, as my collection expanded further, the problem worsened, with more and more floor space taken up by LEGO sets. It consequently became harder and harder to physically get to the layout to work on it, and eventually all available space around the layout, and indeed on the tables themselves, became filled with sets piled one on top of another. It was obviously impossible to continue, and thus all building ground to a halt until a storage solution could be found. This really wasn't as straightforward as it might sound, and I soon realised that for the adult LEGO collector who's in it for the long haul, storage might just be the biggest, and potentially most expensive, challenge that they'll face in respect of their hobby. Suffice to say that the complete lack of progress on the project since the last update I posted in April of 2012 is entirely down to me grappling with the storage issue.

Challenging though the problem was, I had no choice but to get to grips with it, partly because I wanted to continue building my layout, but more importantly because my wife wasn't willing to tolerate my LEGO collection taking over the whole house, which it eventually would have done. So I had to bite the bullet - I identified an external storage solution, came to terms with the associated costs, and commenced the task of sorting through all my sets. Those sets which I considered to be the core of my collection - Star Wars and a few other licensed themes such as Indiana Jones and Harry Potter, modular buildings and other Exclusives, space-related sets (vintage and more recent), plus a variety of other favourites - remained at home while everything else was carefully catalogued, packed into numbered, double-walled boxes and placed into secure storage over a 6 month period. What I'll do with all the stored items is another important question, of course - if our much-discussed house extension ever materialises then it'll all come back home, but otherwise..... Even so, one step at a time - the task of identifying non-core items and duplicate sets, cataloguing, packing and storing is now nearly done, and it feels good. For the sake of posterity I'm a little frustrated that I didn't take pictures when things were at their worst and the layout was completely inaccessible, but I at least remembered to take the "work in progress" picture above - better late than never; admittedly much of the work had already been done by that point and I was on the home straight, but at least it gives you a flavour of how things were. A few weeks on from then and I'm finally organised and ready to crack on, as you can see from the picture below.

So, the wheel has gone full circle and I'm basically back where I was a couple of years ago, albeit better equipped to accommodate any further expansion of my LEGO collection but also definitely more restrained on the aquisitions front.... And to all those patient and intrepid souls who've continued to e-mail me since my last update in April 2012 and ask when I was going to post a progress report, I salute you - those reminders definitely helped to push me along, and I hope that this post provides an explanation of sorts.

So now we're all caught up and it's high time to get building again. Next time I post there'll hopefully be some real progress to report on this project, so stay tuned!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Jango Unchained

As some of you may have seen, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release copy of Set 75060 Slave 1 at the tail end of last year which I built and reviewed over at Brickset. This Ultimate Collectors Series version of the ship is the latest and greatest in a long line of Slave 1 iterations released by LEGO over the years. The vast majority are versions of Boba Fett's Slave 1; these are most readily identified by their green and dark red or brown colour scheme, and by my reckoning LEGO have released at least seven versions of Boba Fett's Slave 1 not including advent calendar builds since they kicked off the Star Wars theme in 1999 (make that eight if you include the bag charm released back in 2008). In marked contrast, Jango Fett's Slave 1, which sports a predominantly white and dark blue colour scheme, has received far less attention from LEGO. Not including advent calendar builds, I'm aware of only two LEGO versions of Jango Fett's Slave 1 - the System scale Set 7153 Jango Fett's Slave 1 from 2002, and Set 4487 Jedi Starfighter & Slave I which is a 53-piece mini building set from 2003. I therefore thought I'd shine a light on the larger of these two sets and dig out my copy of Set 7153 Jango Fett's Slave 1.

The rather cramped box art (above) features the LEGO Slave 1 model emerging from what looks like an asteroid field; I assume that this is a nod to the dogfight between Jango's Slave 1 and Obi Wan's Jedi Starfighter over Geonosis which featured in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The front of the box bears the LEGO Star Wars logo in use at the time plus an 8-12 age recommendation, the set number and the set name in a stylistically-consistent font. The back of the box (below - click to enlarge) features multiple panels. Some of these panels highlight play features of the set, while others showcase a couple of rather eccentric alternate builds, advertising for a number of 2002 LEGO Star Wars offerings, and movie stills of Jango Fett and a youthful Boba Fett.

Opening one of the end flaps reveals a sturdy brown cardboard inner box which encloses the contents of the set and slides out. My copy of the set came with an approximately A4-sized double-sided advertising leaflet, a single instruction booklet and six bags containing LEGO elements. Five of the bags are opaque and numbered from 1 to 5, while the remaining bag is smaller, transparent and not numbered. You can see the business side of the advertising leaflet below, featuring a silhouette of Obi Wan Kenobi wielding his light saber while a LEGO version of his Jedi Starfighter streaks across the corner of the page. I've also found this flyer in a couple of other larger 2002 Star Wars sets, although it wasn't in the smaller 2002 sets that I checked while writing this review.

The flip-side of the advertising leaflet (below - click to enlarge) is rather less impressive, featuring a decidedly lacklustre selection of 2002 products from other themes such as Racers, Sports and Bionicle as well as panels advertising a couple of Playstation 2 LEGO tie-ins and LEGOLAND. If that's really the best that the company could offer in 2002 in terms of other themes and products then it's really no wonder that the business was in the doldrums around that time.

Moving swiftly on, you can see the front cover of the single instruction booklet below. Like the advertising flyer it's approximately A4 size, and contains a total of 52 pages including the front and back covers. The cover art is identical to that found on the front of the box, although the landscape orientation of the instruction booklet suits the image better, making it look much less cramped

A total of 46 pages are occupied by building instructions. Advertising for a selection of 2002 LEGO Star Wars sets occupies a further four pages of the booklet and you can see one of the ads below (click to enlarge). I always get a nostalgia kick out of looking at advertising materials for long-retired sets, and if you do too then you can find the rest of the ads from the booklet here.

There are a quite a few hard-to-find elements in this set and you can see a selection of them in the picture below (click to enlarge). A total of ten elements are exclusive to the set, including the dark blue 8 x 2 x 2 curved slope and printed left and right 8 x 3 x 2 open wedges; it's interesting that we get printed elements in this 2002 System set but have to make do with stickered body panels in the UCS Slave 1 set. Other exclusive elements include the dark grey round 1 x 1 brick with fins and modified 4 x 6 tile with studs on the edges, the sand green 6 x 1 curved slopes and left and right 6 x 2 wedges, the white 6 x 1 curved slope with control panel print, and the yellow printed 1 x 2 tile with chevron print. Marginally less rare are the 2 x 3 x 2 dark grey cupboard door, the left and right 8 x 3 x 2 sand green open wedges and the ribbed tan hose which have only ever appeared in this set and one other, while the dark grey 4 x 4 x 4 container, webbed 6 x 6 dish, modified 2 x 2 plate with pin and Technic driving ring extension in the top right of the picture plus the tan Bionicle foot wedge have only ever appeared in 3 sets. All elements in the picture, including the big trans-black curved windscreen, have appeared in 5 sets or less.

The set contains just two minifigures. Jango Fett is exclusive to this set, which is reflected in his high aftermarket value. The somewhat crude torso print is highly reminiscent of that sported by various versions of Boba Fett up until around 2009, albeit it's silver printed on a dark grey torso rather than green printed on light grey. It's the same story with his helmet, which appears to be a recoloured version of that worn by pre-2010 versions of Boba Fett. Although his legs are entirely generic in design, they're nevertheless exclusive to this minifigure by virtue of their unusual brown and violet colour combination.

You can see Jango from behind in the picture below. His torso doesn't feature any back-printing, but that's not of any consequence here since his pearl light grey rocket pack dominates the view and completely obscures the back of the torso. The rocket pack is moulded in one piece along with the helmet and again looks identical to that sported by pre-2010 versions of Boba Fett apart from the colour.

You can get a better look at the one-piece helmet and rocket pack via the side view below, plus an alternative view of the helmet print. I was somewhat surprised to discover that this is the only LEGO minifigure which has violet arms. Unlike the celebrated Cloud City version of Boba Fett there's unfortunately no printing on the arms, or indeed on the legs.

Jango's helmet can be removed to reveal his face (picture below) which is created by way of a yellow face print on a black minifigure head. This printed head is unique to the Jango Fett minifigure. I've always felt that the face print gives him a slightly creepy, ghostly appearance, and I seldom remove his helmet. The hair is provided as part of the set.

The other minifigure is a youthful Boba Fett. Once again this minifigure is unique to the set. While his hair and unprinted short medium blue legs have appeared in other minifigures, the printed medium blue torso and perhaps more surprisingly the head with "Straight Small Smile and Black Curved Eyebrows Pattern" are both exclusive to this minifigure.

As you can see from the picture below, there's no back-printing on the torso. While the back of Boba's head is obscured by his bob hairstyle, I can confirm that there's no alternate expression printed on there.

And so on to the Slave 1 build. Maybe I'm going soft in my old age but for the first time that I could remember I was caught out by the lack of part call-outs in the instructions - on a couple of occasions I moved on to the next step of the build having failed to finish the previous step. Anyway, my recent daliance with the UCS Slave 1 meant that I had a distinct sense of deja vu as I embarked upon this build. First to be constructed is the base of the ship and the cargo loading area. Despite the 13 year difference in release dates between Jango Fett's Slave 1 and the recent UCS version the older ship employs a number of the same building techniques as its UCS cousin, notably extensive use of wedges and curve bricks of various types to recreate the distinctive shape of the base. The cargo loading ramp hides a secret compartment containing 3 unprinted trans-neon orange minifig heads which I assume are supposed to be seismic charges or bombs of some description. These can be ejected from the underside of the ship as we'll see later.

With the base of the ship completed the next job is to assemble the simple gravity-driven mechanism which keeps the cockpit area and wings horizontal regardless of whether the ship is docked on its base or upright in flight. The white Technic axles you can see emerging from either side of the ship in the pictures below (click to enlarge) are part of this mechanism and provide the attachment point for the wings. The dark grey hinged plates flush with the hull on either side of the ship open to reveal a pair of compartments each of which contains a retractable missile launcher that you'll see in a later picture. The sides of the hull are gradually built up during this stage of the build, and a rudimentary cockpit is constructed featuring a number of printed elements.

The next step is to construct the wings and attach them to the protruding Technic axles as illustrated in the pictures below (click to enlarge). On each side of the ship the point where the wing attaches is enclosed by a large black cowl bolted on to the hull. The wings make ingenious use of the tan Bionicle foot wedges that I mentioned earlier on in my round up of parts of interest.

Things are also going on underneath the ship during this stage of the build. Most notably, what appears to be an escape pod is quickly assembled and slides into a slot in the underside of the ship where it's held in place by a magnet. The underside of the escape pod looks similar to a dark grey 4 x 4 plate and can be seen in the picture below surrounded by seven trans-neon orange boat studs. The magnet is strong enough to hold the escape pod securely in position, but not so strong as to make removal difficult. Earlier on I mentioned a secret compartment beneath the cargo loading ramp containing what are presumably supposed to be seismic charges or similar; you can see towards the bottom left of the picture how the underside of the ship opens up to allow these to be dropped.

You can see a close-up of the escape pod below. A few of the elements highlighted earlier in my description of parts of interest are used in its construction, notably the dark grey 4 x 4 x 4 container and a couple of 1 x 4 x 3 2/3 trans-black hinge panels. There's a magnet in a holder attached to the top of the escape pod; this as previously described holds the pod inside the body of the ship, and also allows it to be easily removed if desired.

We're on the home straight now. The canopy is attached at this stage, after which the rear section of the body is assembled and bolted on, and then we're done (pictures below - click to enlarge). All told it's a pretty quick and straightforward build, and I reckon the finished result is a pretty good likeness at this scale; OK, so the canopy seems a bit too large and some of the angles and curves aren't quite right, but all things considered it's a decent effort.  While I think it's fair to say that many of the older LEGO Star Wars sets really haven't aged that well, this one has definitely stood the test of time better than most in my opinion.

The ship incorporates an impressive number of play features, many of which you can see in the picture below (click to enlarge). The canopy can be removed and replaced fairly easily to provide access to the cockpit; it's actually held in place by clutch alone but the ship can be happily swooshed without it falling off. Then there's the previously described feature whereby the wings and cockpit automatically rotate so as to remain horizontal regardless of what angle the ship is at; notably, the all-singing, all-dancing UCS Slave 1 set can't accomplish this feat.... There are a whole host of hatches and compartments which can be opened to provide storage space or reveal weaponry, principally a pair of retractable missile launchers, and further firepower is provided by a pair of twin blaster cannons which can rotate through 360 degrees. Finally there's the aforementioned escape pod which can be effortlessly jettisoned and subsequently reattached.

I figured that some readers might be curious to see how Jango Fett's Slave 1 compares with the recently released Ultimate Collectors Series version of Slave 1 so I photographed them together as you can see below (click to enlarge). There's no doubt that we've been spoiled by the spectacular UCS version which I think improves upon the older System scale versions in many ways. The canopy's the right size, for a start, and I think it nails the various curves and angles far better as you'd probably expect at this scale. That having been said, Jango Fett's Slave 1 scores points for having printed parts rather than stickers, not to mention the ability to automatically keep its cockpit and wings horizontal. Size-wise the UCS version is about 50% bigger and it contains around three times the number of pieces.

Set 7153 Jango Fett's Slave 1 contains 360 pieces and two exclusive minifigures and was released in 2002 at a retail price of £44.99/US$50. A complete, boxed example will cost you nearly twice that now on Bricklink, although you may find one cheaper on eBay if you keep your eyes peeled. It's still worth picking up in my opinion, if you can stomach the cost.