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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blacktron: 6954 Renegade

Have you ever played Star Control II: Rise of the Ur-Quan Masters?  It's a cool game and there's a cloaking ship called  Ilwrath Avenger in the multiplayer that looks kinda like Blacktron's Renegade without the assymetry.  It's kind of awful because the flamethrower doesn't play well against most of the other spaceships in the game, and the cloaking doesn't make up for the weapon's shortcomings, but if an aesthetic could be deadly, then consider the achievement unlocked.

And with no further distraction I present Blacktron's U.S. exclusive from 1987; here's Renegade.

I may be incorrect, but I get the impression that this is one of the more venerated Space sets in the AFOL community, and I didn't really get the appeal just by glancing at pictures.  I was mostly annoyed that it was going to be expensive and I kept putting it off in the acquisition phase, and off... and off.  This and Message Intercept Base were the two sets that caused me to drag my feet on the Blacktron theme until the end. 

Renegade shares some superficial similarities to late era Classic Space sets in the cockpit, but the frame of the spacecraft is a clear departure offering neither a fully detachable rear, nor a solid main structure.  It's not a question of what is the main structure, but more... what doesn't detach from the skeleton of Renegade?  On my first round of photography I forgot a few removeable bits.  They were discovered during disassembly after the first photoshoot was supposed to be done.

I would liken Renegade to a two headed mechanical dragon, except that one cockpit atrophied into a silly robot face.  It's kinda fantasy-esque in a way no other spaceship from the Lego group can evoke.

Here's another view from the short neck robo-faced side.  For uses, I see the robo face as a satellite array, or probe, or smart computer that can take over control of the ship if the cockpit were to detach.

The ship is very long.  And the inclusion of the passenger makes it seem a little bit lopsided no matter where he sits.  He's riding astride a tiny flying platform.  Technically a third Blacktron man wouldn't be out of place in this model.

The cockpit and roboface array can alternate spots, though you do need to swing the cockpit wings forward to snug it in.  It looks more balanced, but the cost is its dashing good looks, I mean evil looks, well... the clean lines are lost.

Essentially everything comes apart, and it can be jumbled into different shapes.
Here's a longer slower looking form.

I've magined one of the rockets to be cargo and reduced the Renegade's power in exchange for expanding its cargo load.  In effect, you can make this a merchant vessel if you add more containers.

The full complement splits up into 4 small vehicles, a platform, 2 rocket stages, a cargo hold, and a satellite array.  I've removed the cargo's two blasters, and there are two more blasters on the small cockpit craft.  A handlebar plate in the back keeps the rear rocket doors closed.

Let's start with the container.  It sports three prints and carries two blasters and a moonrover.  The lid is hinged and the cap is built from two castle wall corners.  The lid can be opened on or off the platform.  This little buggy that comes inside it is 7 studs long.  I've mounted the driver's blaster to the truck to offer a play suggestion.  The yellow grille on the car's front may not seem important now, but it was the first year for the piece, and this car was the only place to find the yellow version of the new element.

Here is the container with the cap closed and one of the blasters attached to the mount point.  The car has two of the yellow dots, for fuel cell texture; they were used as gold pieces in castle sets of the period.

The rover is almost twice as long as the smallest Futuron car and sports 3 times as many elements.

To remove the container a hadlebar must be detached, and the rocket gates caused to swing outward

The container is locked in by technic pins and those same technic elements allow for further modular play.

The container is 1 stud longer than the car inside, which allows for flying platform storage.  Here the container and robo array are repurposed to be a smart depot, a facility to receive and return vehicles to the Renegade by communicating the coordinates.

The platforms have the multidirectional loudhailer/rockets brick.  I'd imagine that these can spin on a dime and make a great escape craft through a killer canyon.  The Blacktron troops are outfitted with blasters from the cockpit this time.

The platform can be flown standing or sitting, might want to sit down for fast escapes, but if you're scouting for outposts or surveying a new moon then standing up may be preferred.

The mobile platforms mount to the mainframe via the same pin on plate element Space Police used later to mount holding cells to their ships.  Sometimes the ships slide right up and off and other times they take the plates with them.  It's a cool mounting solution and an imperfect play feature; at least with aged vintage elements.

The platforms can mount to the mainframe to take flight control and fly the Renegade's exoskeleton as its own ship complete with a pilot and copilot.  This would be a cool way to fly across a moon in style and track down the beacon for that previously conceived smart depot and moonrover.

The back of Renegade's box shows off a few of the combo possibilities instead of alternates.

The roboface array is the weirdest section of the ship and creates the most nonsensical combinations and surprisingly useful structures.  It features one print and a hinge brick.

The 2 rockets are detachable from the main ship.  The red antenna could double as a laser battery if you turn the rocket on end and mount it to a turntable.  As is it's the motive power source to all the combinations which follow and others.  The rocket cones are a rare color, but I tend to favor black and grey

This particular iteration features on the back of the box... otherwise it might not have even occurred to me.  I think it looks like a cartoonishly proportioned deepsea anglerfish.  The Blacktron man stands on the rocket assembly, but it's not very convincing.  The little platforms from the main craft have got to be better than this.

I spun the rocket around and upended the thing to make a more useful and convincing, (to my tastes), satellite tower.  You can set up a small outpost and radio in to Message Intercept Base.

The previous smart depot can mount the rocket assembly to create a smart cargo rocket.

Just fire your trusty rocket through an asteroid field and let the smart computer guide fishbox 3 to the desired coordinates.

The Renegade's Main cockpit is the most attractive stand alone piece of the complex.  The wings swing forward and back.  This triangular sweep is convincing for solo flight and is almost good enough to be its own set.

The pilot exits via the top hatch, and can use one of the mounted blasters during his moon bound sojourn after jettisoning from the mainframe during a freak Space Police fight accident.

The fighter/escape craft can hook up to the rocket assembly to make a submarine shaped fighter rocket.  It's a pretty slick shape.  The designers managed to make the disparate elements all line up neatly and the result is a new and attractively proportioned toy from the bigger spacecraft.

The spacecraft features a very simple console design.  This print, like the other striped bricks is a yellow on black riff from the black on (red,white,blue,grey) prints which preceded it.  It was made to fit the Blacktron color scheme and never appeared anywhere else.

The rocket assembly sports a trans red antenna and uses a space chair to achieve one of the early SNOT techniques.  A robot arm adds some greebling, but the gap between the massive booster and the main unit does strain the limits of believable design.

As with the roboprobe face, the fighter craft can be mounted to the cargo hold and turned into a respectable freighter.

The swing wings look better swung back to match the 6 stud width of the container, and the camera bricks lend heft to the look.

The full Renegade complement contains enough play for one child and 2-3 friends.  I would compare it to a fire station for play value.  It's a set with multiple vehicles, a central unit i.e. the station, and multiple designed in mod options.

As a mercenary fighter for the dark forces of Blacktron, the bearer of the upside down Triforce can hold its own against a Space Police cruiser.  The set is capable of a pincer attack without support from other starships, and can continue fighting after the pilot has made his escape.

Renegade sports one unique print, and an uncommon rocket stage color.

This is the unique element 
2 yellow 2x2 tiles with printed black grille lines.  For its size this is an expensive piece of plastic.  Message Intercept Base has several unique elements... only one of its pieces rivals this one.  Don't drop more than 60-70 on a Renegade without these.

Renegade debuted 2 copies of this printed grille element which was a space theme exclusive in 3 sets and a spare elements pack.  This was an element in my first childhood space set from M-Tron, but for the most part it's colored specifically for the Blacktron color scheme.  Its release period covered '87-'91, but the black on other color print which inspired it covered the period 1984-2003.

2 Yellow 4x4/\2x2 Rocket bases with axle hole.
20 years passed between the 2 sets that have this piece, and it's been almost 10 years since the more recent Mrs. Puff's Boating School set appeared.

Now... there is a catch, this yellow Rocket has an older variant without the axle hole.  You can find it in these other sets.  This no axle hole variant saw use in the earliest waves of Classic Space.  Given the length of time some of these older models were released for there may have been some mold overlap between flat top and axle variants.

These elements are more common, but are specific to Renegade in the Blacktron gen 1 theme.

1 black 1x12 technic brick  This large Technic element first arrived in the space theme in 1981 in 6927 All Terrain Vehicle which shared Renegade's usage of the black color.  The element graced several larger Classic Space sets in the blue color before 6972 Polaris 1 Spacelab debuted the element to the space theme in white shortly before Renegade's release in 1987.  

4 black Loudhailer bricks.  These are very common during the period when Renegade came out, but it's the only Blacktron set with the element.

2 black studless wheelwells.  These were used in Classic Space during the early waves in the grey color, Blacktron Renegade introduced Black to the Space theme, but the color dates back to the first wave of minifigures.  It may be passe for Lego now, but the cars that don't hold minifigures are kind of awesome.  You can really appreciate how the brick evolved in fits and starts making more sense of itself as the toy's individual components were developed.  

4 Black control levers.  This lever first appeared in 1985 and showed up in several classic space sets prior to Blacktron.  For Blacktron, a yellow stalk became synonymous with the theme, but Renengade's scooters were equipped with the black variant. 

 6 Black 1x2 plate with '6 mm' elbow bar.  This element made its first appearance in the 1984 wave of Castle sets.  It first appeared in 2 small Spacecraft in 1985.  The first black elements in Space appeared across 3 sets in 1987.  Every Space theme of 1987 had one set release this element in black.

1 black 6x10 plate.  Renegade was the first space set to release this common part in black within the space theme.

1 black 3x4 slope brick.  The famed Galaxy explorer debuted this piece to space in '79, Renegade was the second Space set to debut this element and the only space set from the golden era ('87-90) to receive the element.  It would start to appear more frequently in the space theme in '93, '94, and '95

2 yellow corner plates.
These elements were new for 1987, Renegade was the only space set and one of three sets to release this new element color.

4 yellow 2x2 round plate with axle hole.  This element was introduced for the 1980 train product line.  It first appeared in the Space theme in 1981 aboard Starfleet Voyager.

1 yellow grille plate without base groove.  Renegade was the very first set to ever sport this element in Yellow, and the element is from the year of Blacktron's release.  The element would later be modified to make removal less difficult; yeah progress!  The yellow color grille appears in M:Tron's lineup via the red racecar in the bonus pack.  

I only built the spaceship from the box.  It's a bit flimsy, and I'm sure I missed something from box to final model.  The robot was hard to see because of all the black elements and I came to dislike it as it was built up, so after gobs of time I busted it up and took a pass.  If you have a box who knows... maybe it will be easier to make out fine details.

This spaceship is very long, and the front is only just attached... heavy play would shatter the nose.

The ship is very wide and suffers a feeling of incomplete structural effort.  Not sure if that was me or the designers who gave it that flimsy quality.

And I built a Classic Space nostalgia imbued work, so this is a MOC that works very well one way, and can do something more, but not nearly as well.

The Spaceship is a subtle nod to Twin Starfire and Cosmic Cruiser.  The little car is based on Surface Rover, and the Droid is from...

A familiar XT-5 spacecraft appears!

XT-5 and Droid redux... which I also did for 6990 back in the day.  I am and always have been a fan of the original, like Alienator from before XT-5 and Droid was something I would build from my parts at any chance I got... mostly because I could and it scratched the unreachable itch to have older space sets in my childhood collection.

The Surface Rover fits, but I would not call it a brilliant design.  It's just a bit too exposed and the cockpit must break off to get it in there... it's a clumsy form of remove-able vehicle play.

Overall I'm quite impressed with the full scope of this one toy which can combine with three other toys to varying degrees.  It's sleek and convincing and full of fun things to do.  It's comparable to Invader and if you want to one example to sample these sets I really suggest going with Invader... but Renegade is better than I anticipated.  Dare I say there is not a bad set in Blacktron's gen 1 bunch... but Renegade really pushed the boundary for aesthetically integrated functions that are fun and numerous

Final Score: A+
Pros: Intense play value as is, lots of special printed elements, 2 blacktron minifigures, multiple toys in one.
Cons: Popular in the collector market, some rare elements have steep aftermarket prices if replacement becomes a necessity-so double check interesting listings for specific prints and elements.

Until next time, Cure-all Pill

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