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Sunday, October 19, 2014

6896 Celestial Forager

As we continue gathering the sets needed to complete 6862 Secret Space Voyager I just want to remind you that the only expensive part of collecting the super model is the ultra rare instruction sheet.

This week's issue of Tow Trucker: Legend of the Wrecker is brought to you by M:Tron.  I'm here to give you a complete breakdown of 6896 Celestial Forager; or as the Brits call it, Astro Wrecker.

The last time I ever saw an M-Tron set on the shelves of a toy store it was this little wrecker, I assume people didn't go sight seeing in Leavenworth Washington to check out old dusty toy store old?  I was holding this 1990 set in 1993.  I grabbed it, told my Mom we needed to get it now, and had to put it back because I could not impress upon her the urgency of finding golden era Lego space yet.

Fast forward to January 2014 and I pulled one down from Ebay used, no box, near mint and basked in ecstasy! Oh, and it came with a gen 2 Space Police set also near mint.  Double wow!  We'll check those out someday I think...but for now, all M-Tron, all the time.

I think Ice Planet was a few months out from making an appearance in '93.  What stands out to me about that time in Leavenworth is that Majisto's Magical Workshop was next to Celestial Forager; talk about an attractive pair.

On to the review!

Celestial Forager is a bit different from the rest of the larger M-Tron models.  It doesn't contain the ubiquitous M-Tron tile, which is in keeping with the other nose cone set in M-Tron; Pulsar Charger.

Instead, it utilizes Futuron era tiles to serve as the controls.  I really like the effect with the Chainsaw body; which was a new piece in 1990.  It gives Celestial Forager its own character much as the steering wheel adds something to Pulsar Charger.  But in this case it looks insanely cool.

The chainsaw body wasn't available in anything smaller until the following year; 1991.
Add those controls to this nosepiece and the result is a spiffy front end.

There are three primary functions in Celestial Forager.  
1.  It can be steered with a cool twisting mechanism that is utilized in both of the larger M-Tron ground vehicles.  This gives the user rigid control of the steering so as to prevent the model flopping about as in older designs.

2.  The crane can be locked magnetically in place, or be raised and lowered.

3.  It can pick up a, all that for one little box?  Huh?  Those be some heavy minerals, yarr!

So the box kinda gives Celestial Forager a grandiose sense of overkill, but unlike Particle Ionizer, which we will discuss later, Celestial Forager can carry practically all of the M-Tron cargo available in the theme.  

Configuration for Vector Detector, Celestial Forager, Stellar Recon Voyager, and Multi-Core Magnetizer
Configuration for Particle Ionizer

Configurations for Stellar Recon Voyager

Configurations for Multi-Core Magnetizer

Visually the back of the model does seem a bit featherweight for something this heavy duty, and it's got a lot of open stud space.  

But wait, what is this?
Oh ho ho!  Another play feature?  You get to decide.

For a space set it's significantly low on lasers of any sort.  Every transparent piece is to the rear of the vessel and indicative of running lights rather than weapons. This wrecker would not be well served to recover downed Futuron vessels in hostile territory without cover from some Vector Detectors, Pulsar Chargers, or Particle Ionizers running scout and guard dog duty.  And that's completely fine.  It's just your friendly neghborhood breakdown service.

It's wrecker-ing time!
What! One trillion wulongs? that's extortion!  
Sorry pal, looks like you should have bought some of our BCC insurance.  That's Black-Tron Calamity Coverage.
Tow trucks are not a regular thing in Space, but so far the Lego company has made two of them. This one's owned by an unlawful type alien.  I have to say, that is one rock'n tow truck.  This is 5982 Smash 'n' Grab from the Space Police 3 product line.  This tow truck needs a cool name though.

That to say, I think Celestial Forager is a much cooler toy when it's combined with something else. Kind of like this set; which I talked about at length here: 6770 Lunar Transporter Patroller.

Celestial Forager has no ultra rare super unique parts all its own, but, there are some interesting bits in here for the purist M-Tron builder.

1, Grey round brick.  This is a common color of an ordinary part.  It's unique in M-Tron.  The color was put out of production by the Lego company when they switched to the Bley colors in 2004.
1, mildly uncommon in old sets, and nonexistent after 97.  Black is the most recent, and most prevalent color.  This part is responsible for some interesting tricks in Golden era Space sets. 

1, uncommon in old sets, and ceased release after 98.  Black is the most recent, and most prevalent color.  This part is responsible for some interesting tricks in Golden era Space sets.
2, we've seen these bar fences previously in Futuron, but we won't see them again in M-Tron.  Somewhat uncommon, Black is in the middle of the chart for color availability.  I had a white one of these ever since I was young...I always did like this part.
4, a few of these grip plates appeared in Futuron, but Celestial Forager is the only M-tron set with it.
Peeron has this part all lumped together, but there are actually two sizes.  I discovered the size variation when someone sent me a Space Police set and the prison wouldn't fit as intended.  The older version's grip comes out one or two millimeters more...allowing it to slide under a tile with space to add a brick on the studs.   
1, Black is actually a surprisingly rare color for this underside pin plate both in M-Tron, and not. Even the second generation mold with holes in the top is rare for this piece.  This might be Celestial Foragers most valuable part.

1, this red 6x8 plate is pretty common, but not in M-Tron.
1, This type one radar dish's circular tube underneath allowed the dish to spin freely on studs when built.  A later version would receive a squared off underside for a straighter connection.  The newer mold is available in more colors and is much more common.  This is practically a necessity in any respectable space theme.  My copy came with the newer version.  Given the condition of my set the mold may have changed in the middle of production for M-Tron.  I have a 1989 set with the older version in similar condition. 
2, as with Futuron this outside corner slope only appears once in its respective theme.  This is a very common color for the piece.
1, very small, very common, this is the first variant of a part the Lego company likes to tweak from time to time.
4, Space Police introduced a new hard plastic wheel type in 1989, and M-Tron continued the trend with a smaller derivation of it.  This hard plastic wheel is the medium size.  When I was a kid...I just thought these were rad awesome!
Boy howdy, it's looking like the end of the review, reckon that means we got some alternates to share; yep.

Here we've got two small spacecraft, a ground rig, and a vehicle.  I like the vehicle, but the ground rig offers more questions than answers.  

For my part I built a small hover mule for ferrying the M-Tron box around.

And then I produced a rocket ship with big engines.

Celestial Forager kindly provided me with an eccentric selection of connection options to get that
afterburner glow.
That is Celestial Forager for you; not quite perfect on its own, but it only just misses its mark.  If you can add a set, or create your own derelict craft for salvage you've got a winner in this tow truck. 

We are now 2/3rds of the way to completing 6862 Secret Space Voyager.  

I hope you've enjoyed this diversion and I look forward to your next service visit.  Make sure to get our Black-Tron Calamity Coverage before your next trip.  Otherwise those repairs could cost ya!  

Final Score: B+
Pros: Great parts, oodles of magnets, excellent functions, well defined model
Cons: Feels incomplete without another set, low transparent part count