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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blacktron: A grandiloquent history

The Dark is Rising, the era of exploration ended... they come from the shadows, recesses and crevasses of the distant unknown edge of space.  Those strangers to peace imparted the end to the happy joyful times when scooping up a sample for analysis led to no greater conflict than who got to do the analysis; red or white.  Now there is no red and white.

Now there is only fear.























1987 was marked by a swift departure from the white, blue, and grey of Legoland Space.  A few Classics struggled across the threshold in January, but Blacktron was at the door and knocking.  Harbingers of the end.














They came in waves, first the advance guard: Invading Renegades struck swift like Bats making traks outta hell.























Then they planted their towers, building a dark fortress upon Futuron's Cosmic Laser Launch site. Their colonies towered over the lunar surface like sorcerous strongholds, privy to the knowledge of others divined by crystal radio.



The once bustling moonscapes grew desolate and quiet.  Alienating ruins of a bygone time lay forgotten.  New discoveries were just around the next star system but no longer; now only darkness stalks the craters.









In that twilit hour, a new dawn emerged, in an era of rising conflicts, new alliances formed amid the wreckage of the old galaxies.  The peaceful explorers joined hands with a defense force and mechanics squad to withstand their own untimely doom.

To face off against this combined advance of shadow new roles were devised...

Rebuild the civilian facilities better, faster, and stronger.






















defend the planets from those who would destroy the new outposts.

















Whatever Blacktron breaks must be restored, so their grip of fear will break like chaff on the threshing floor.

















The forces who fought for our future came together to survive, but never grasped peace for long.  The names change, but the conflict never dies.





Saturday, March 26, 2016

Arrested Development

Space Police ended the era of strong multiyear theme support in Space... It lasted 1 year for 1989 and received a 1991 minifigure release in Space Minifigures.





















The sudden burst of new elements from 87-88 began to taper off and in some ways Space Police was mere distillation of the prior two years.  Space Police offered refinement whereas Futuron redefined the ground rules of leg godt.

In many ways Space Police was merely a continuation of Blacktron and Futuron's eternal fracas, a justice force assembled by the Super Sentai Futuron to handle the incessant destruction and deception wrought upon them by the erstwhile borgmind collective that is Blacktron.

Blacktron: A force for nefarious schemes, far more fearsome than any assemblage of putty patrollers, shooting truer than the best Stormtrooper marksman... the final boss after you finish the game.

These guys.
















It all stands to reason: to fight Blacktron, you must enlist your best forces.  Space Police are those forces; they are the elites of Futuron.
















I doth ramble...

All assemble.

The Most obvious big deal of '89 was this tranparent red window-

The Classic Space Window served in good stead from 1983 til 1989, In 6990 the hinged classic spaceship window was at its zenith, but in 89, Space Police debuted a reinvention of the window... transparent red, a color which would remain unique to the Space Police, stylish and sharply angled, sweeping out farther forward than its forbears

  
-And the reinvention of the Wheel.  Prior to this component all wheels were made of a soft pliable rubber or plastic.  This hard plastic tyre was wider, and almost as tall as three of the biggest wheels in classic space laid on top of eachother.  The hard tyre was soon to be just the beginning of a new phase in Crater Crawlery.
Beyond the forward thinking pair of components the 86/7 9V lighting system received a few light covers designed with greater impact in mind.  

This computer light cover in particular has remained a unique component of Space Police and as it stands now, always will.  Its chances of appearing elsewhere weren't helped by the set specific print in it.

Slightly better distribution was afforded to this light distributor bar.  It appeared in a Construction set alongside Space Police and made it through to '93 before ceasing distribution.  













Wow... short list... I told you they were distilling down the existing flavors... I meant it.

But a theme needs prints, and Space Police gave a much better showing than Futuron on that front.

These elements were new prints conceived for Space Police.

We begin with the almost ubiquitous slope: distribution 8.  It features in 5 of the 6 Space Police sets.  To the best of my knowledge it did not appear in any service packs which is rare for a printed slope from the '80's.

This part appeared in the same era as Classic Space, but you wouldn't know it... Futuron made good use of it in Cosmic Laser Launcher, Blacktron utilized it in Message Intercept Base, but Space Police left their mark and made the part one of its own: Distribution 6 each.  Each variant appeared side by side in 5 of the Space Police sets and no service packs.

These 2 prints were applied to the 1 year old convex corner space walls.  Left and right side prints, I appreciate the attention to detail, and the fact that these aren't stickers.  These appear in the one set lacking a slope print, a worthy trade-off I think. Distribution 1 each.  Of the SP prints these are my favorite.  But its the same print?!?  Yeah I know, but that wall though.

Last but not well, yeah actually, least... the longways red arrow with silver border: distribution 3.  This is one of the era's famous indicator prints... action, pull here for the wow factor.  This print appears in the hard to come by SP-Striker and the U.S. distribution Space Lock-Up Isolation Base.  Not the rarest arrow print, I'm sure Interplanetary Rover and Invader can attest to that, even so the designers sure weren't giving them away... this was also never released in any service packs.







New recolors, these existing pieces expanded their pallette for new theme options.

The recent electronic 9V system got a blackbox.  perfect for those light up blacktron visions of grandeur you'd been envisioning in '87 and '88.












The 9V system also received two black recolors of the existing circuit plates.
This 1x2 black element would remain unique.

While the 2x4 version would see a slightly more plentiful release










It's a hard world out there pursuing justice. so Space Police were afforded rose colored glasses to help them see the galaxy in a more positive light.  The color went dormant after the 91 Space minifigure pack vanished and only reappeared for Space Police 3 as part of wave 2 circa 2010.  This was the only truly new component for a spaceminifigure in 1989.







Classic Space's transparent yellow 1x6 tubeless brick was treated to a transparent red rendition.  This element also appeared in a parts pack before quickly fading into the out of production category.









Once again, an exclusive theme specific canopy extender found its way into the theme's lineup.  Every 260 theme had a color variant of this, it came to be a defining component of the '87-'90 period.









The 1988 Blizzard Blazer snowplow relinquished its yellow plow to the distant reaches of space for new purposes.







The radar rectangle array was born.  Later appearances of the part in space would sport a print upon them.










Alongside the printed versions, this '85 element, 3 tall 2 wide hollow brick, debuted in black yet again.  Blue narrowly missed out being a new addition, appearing in one town set the year prior.

Helicopters and Airplanes first sported this inverted slope element in '85 on their rears.
  Space Police spun the element right round to go down beneath fine and elongated chins.  The inverted black and blue wedge variants were all new for '89.  This part heralded the red canopy's coming shape half a decade before its arrival.











The blue variant is rarer than black, sporting only a third of the release spread afforded to black.  A redesigned version of the element has appeared, but hasn't released either of these colors with the new reinforcement in the three hollow studs.












A new color appeared for this wing element that had appeared in 1972.  Oldschool.  It was black of course.  This component was phased out by 2004 in favor of the 1999 X-wing wing which was more user friendly for building, but had less character to its trailing edge.... since then an even larger double wing element has superseded some use of the star wars wing in larger scale airplanes notably the period from 2006-2010 before receiving an update of its own in 2013.










This young 2x12 plate appeared in '87 in yellow for one fabuland set called Lucy Lamb's Bedroom.

Space Police received its own blue version circa '89.











The 1987 quarter octagon plate went blue.
Likewise, the 1987 sideways 3 fingered hinge plate turned out a blue variant.

The '88 prefab walls exploded forth from within Mission Commander.  Multiple new colors were launched.  This blue wall remained unique to Mission Commander, and sported a spread of 4.


















The Transparent red wall variant had a great supply in a very tight spread.  12 parts across 2 sets.  Prefab wall focused moonbase building was no sweat if you tracked down the two largest space police models.


















The '88 corner prefab wall appeared in transparent red and got a minuscule run of 2, this is a really attractive color for the part,  It was an exclusive for the Mission Commander.


















Additionally, Mission Commander held exclusive rights for the black corner prefabricated wall.  This is the same element as the printed version from the print section.  there were four black unprinted corner walls in the theme.



















Finally, Mission Commander delivered yet another exclusive color in the prefab wall line up.  Blue inside corner.  4 supplied.  Suffice to say, compared to Futuron's cheaper availability and slimmer selection of prefab walls, Space Police offered a bonanza, but only to the deepest pockets.

There were a few modification to existing minfigure components.
The Blackshirt from Futuron swapped in white hands, 

The black hips sported white legs.  These pants became the defacto space pants from 1989-1991 and then appeared again on the blacktron Future Generation spacemen in Space Police 2.  Space Police 1ended single tone pants use in space.  after their arrival, every space theme had two-tone pants excepting some Blacktron stragglers that slipped their clutches into '91.
In 1999 the Space Police pants became the official pants of most brickbuilt scouttroopers, stormtroopers, and clonetroopers in Star Wars through 2013, after which point the leg printing foreshadowed in 2005's Imperial Inspection took over.  
I hope you've enjoyed this inspection of Space Police's specific contributions and unique additions. I'll see you soon with something that isn't Space Police or Blacktron.

Sincerely, The Cure-all Pill



Saturday, March 12, 2016

Idea Book 260 You're Under Arrest edition!

Bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Three themes down and 1 to go... that will be the sum total of 260, and then... who knows what will happen?

This journey down memory lane is brought to you by the idea book I received from my best friend as a youngster... I think his family picked it for me because it was cheap... costly mistake ;)























Space Police made out like a bandit in this idea book.  ,

Check out that monorail... it has a few miss-chosen colors, but that is fair compensation for disassembling 6990.  There's even a tower with a lift to go ride it

A truck roams the horizon as the search tower guard and his sentry spot something threatening this little outpost.

And here are the instructions.  We see several items from the prior page as well as a few extra vehicles... and a suspicious looking Monorail passenger.  

The rover from page 1 is present, you can see a double cell build, there's a light up truck, and in the foreground a space scooter zips by.  I wish the scooter had a bit more clarity.  You can see the robocop putting one prisoner in while another looks to make a break for it.
Here's the tower from the main page, and the little rover we'll build.

This tower, seen from the front page, has a lift to get up to the base level.  It resides on the old fashioned crater plate... which is still one of the best plate molds ever made by the Danish toy manufacturer.  Space walls, raised girders, antennae... it looks like a fun quick build.  The spaceship in front of it carries a jail cell and uses a tiny wheelwell plate for the radar.  Overall very nice.

This is just all the part goodness... black space wheels, corner quarter domes in transparent red, a radar dish... lovely.
The Police cruiser and Robot require a distribution of parts from all the Internationally released Space Police models.  i.e. No need to break apart Lock Up Isolation Base for this rundown.  

1.

2

4

1

2

4

1

1









3

1

2

1

6

2


1

3
1
1
1

1
1

1
2

2
 2


First up... Robocop, with his toothy grin and flashy taser.  He'll scuttle about and make a great sentry

Play elements are spare.  His eyes can look up, he can swivel his head, and the arms can swing in and out.  As a brick built bot it's decent... He's the right size for the intended play interaction, if a bit chunky by modern standards.

The Police Cruiser is on par with Message Decoder.  It lacks logos or insignia, but does carry around a Prisoner, albeit cabled in, rather than jailed.  


The model has more in common with Classic Space sets such as Surface Transport than it does with the main models from Space Police.



Of course, robocop wants to ride too.  

If you look at the car as a robosentry transporter it makes just a bit more sense.  He's wobbly, but snug.  In fact, I'm sure the Blacktron guy doesn't mind sharing... just this once.

Two whole builds and some swank looking concepts.  I won't deny the appeal of this police lineup given the book ideas.

On the whole the section for Space Police has some cool vintage concepts which look decipherable.  I only regret the lack of any big ships or rovers.  In the effort to make sure kids could actually build these things the designers made everything small, spare, and skeletal.   The goal here seems to encourage disassembly, get kids started, and then cut them loose to build more impressive ideas of their own accord.  That aside... I wouldn't mind seeing the designers cut loose and really outdo themselves, but in this book that doesn't really happen for Space Police; on the plus side the Space Police monorail is the book's best lunar model by far.

Static crackling
Do ya wanna break a moonbase? It doesn't hafta be for fun, we could do it while we're on the clock, near sector spock... there'll be nowhere to run! We can mess things up for Futuron, con those M:Tron, and fight off the Space Police... do ya wanna break a moonbase, it doesn't hafta be a moonbase..... 

Go away Blacktron... 



ok bye...