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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blacktron: 6876 Alienator

Ever since I was young I've always replicated, or otherwise co-opted the Alienator design into my creative slump builds.

You may be thinking... wait, but you were reviewing Battrax next... well, and how long ago did I say that?  long ago.  Which is why I'm trying to jump the slump with the fabulous styling of my favorite robot.

Back in my 10's and teens I would rebuild the Alienator in Ice Planet 2002 colors... near as I could get it. (because I had Ice planet pieces) Alas I do not have pictures of most of those.  of course... they would look kind of like Bill Toenjes: Ice Planet Alienator, but less exacting to the color scheme and with part subs for the ones I didn't have... like camera bricks and rocket tips.

There is a photograph, for which I've made a phonecall, of one such Alienator along with a fire engine red remix of a Thunderfoot Launcher... made from Firestation pieces and sundry others. -12 hours away and not easily accessible.  If I get it I'll leave it here.

I would hazard that this is my favorite small set I didn't own as a kid... and replication is my way of showing a peculiar amount of love.  I worked off of a 1x1/2 inch image in one of those vintage brochures... and since Blacktron works in well... Black, there was much guesswork for such a small vehicle, mine may have been more elaborate than necessary, but in approximating the style I followed up with my own takes on the subject matter.

I built this during college with a small scrappy collection of things I'd purchased while away from home.  I've always been excessively proud of it.  I only wish the canopy was Trans yellow, and I'd had the correct man at the time.

My fueler variant always struck me as being less interesting.  I built it for the colors and to do some small scale thinking after a building drought.

More pictures of these 2 Alienators

And this was my Futuron variant from that time I reviewed Cosmic Laser Launcher... give me 6 turntables... I dare you, see what I do... anytime anywhere.


This model was released as part of Blacktron's second wave from 1988, it included the transparent yellow half-octagon window which was an '88 addition to the Space toyline and incorporated it as a neat expansion into the Blacktron design ethos.

So, where do I take you from here?  This one's special in its own small way, it was the final main Blacktron set I picked up and the second to last 260 set I needed to acquire.  I did not mean to get it last, but that's how it happened... excluding acquisition of Meteor Monitor and its collection.

Here we have a walking tool container with a removeable head/wingless spacecraft, and two dishy lasers.  Plus it's got two rockets to the rear for stepping up to speed.

But my favorite part of this model has always been the stooped cab forward look and the fact that it moonwalks like Michael Jackson.

The cab pairs very well with the main body to give it that nostalgic 80's new school look that followed Classic Space.  The mandibles give the nose a simple, yet distinct hint of menace.

Released from the rear, the small craft seems a bit minimalist... I can't really see it flying solo, but a quick jettison to escape those pesky justice enforcers might be in the cards.
There are locking motorboat engine hinges to keep the window down.  The driver controls are adjustable; push walk, push walk, push walk... my arms... who designed this thing!

Thanks to the technic brick it can pair with some of the other Blacktron sets, which I'll elaborate on in another post.

The Headless container provides storage for Blacktron's special Alienator goodies, yellow weapons... or tools.  The lid tucks in just a smidge too tight for my liking, but it does snug in flat across with a prodding nudge.

The cap is connected via the classical 2nd gen, 2 and 3, finger hinges.  I was very excited by the arrival of the click hinges in 1999 as a new piece, right up until I realized they were an evolution in the hinge system and not an addition to the options.  Long term I think click hinges were a good call as they give the models a more precise movement and function, but these old hinges were and are great for tight close fitting construction.  Still, I've seen these wear loose and break, but I've never experienced a click hinge failure.

"Honey colored weapons!  These violent delights have violent ends." -Fryer Lawrence, the Blacktronian Idealogue who Shakes Spears.

The rear container body can also pair with other Blacktron cockpits, but the scale is just a teensy bit undersized relative to the other sets to convince me it's a good pairing.  Again, I'll elaborate later.

More recently I became aware of one distinctive unique part hidden inside.

The yellow robot arm.
There's only one of these in any set, and it's this one.  If you want to build a robot... better head to Bricklink for spares, or go find a second Alienator.

The yellow torch: This has shown up in a few other places, but it's also a one off color for Blacktron and the space theme in toto.  16 are spread across 6 sets, good density, and the last appearance was in a Spider Man 2 licensed Jack Stone style set.  The modern unridged torch has an altered shape and a poor color selection so far, but has a more durable tube face.  I've had one of the older parts splinter from ridgeless 1x1 cones getting pressed in too far so the update was probably a necessity to meet updated toy code requirements... but I prefer this older one for its textured look.

More regular special elements consist of

2 Black Rocket Tips... they were in Classic Space and a few other later space themes, but relegated to only Alienator for the Blacktron run.  It's shown up more recently in Lord of the Rings licensed sets and for a space age element... is very good at helping to exude a sense of dark sorcery and existential dread.

The remaining elements are common enough that I'll dispense with special comments.

2 round 2x2 black bricks.  I would have expected more of these, but there are only 2.

1 4x8 black plate.  This has a decent spread across the space themes, but only makes one appearance in Blacktron.

1 2x2 round plate in the color black

6 Yellow base turntables. Why yes, these are Alienator specific in Blacktron.

Alienator presented as a full complement of play elements.

The model offers some tantalizing alternatives which put its bigger brother Invader to shame.
via Moctagon Jones

I like the leftward spaceship, but none of these can be faulted for failing to inspire fun times ahead.  The picture of the Alienator seems to be the box's play feature indicator.  If there's one aspect to the Blacktron boxes I don't love it's how much of the box was taken up with explaining the toys functions rather than showing off more rebuild ideas.

The base of this one stumped me momentarily.  I don't know if I got it right, but I liked how it turned out.

The landing gear has some small claws to terrorize Futuron, grab their stuff, and do sample collecting on the lazy moondust gathering days.

This walker is low slung and more of a shuffler.  The rockets sway left and right which is a bit funky, and the tank on back doesn't entirely succeed given how empty the back looks.  This one looks pretty good but leaves plenty of room for tweaking.

I was expecting to like this one a little more than I do.  The base was wider than I thought it would be.  The proportions didn't reveal themselves in these images until I started putting the ship together and realized what I saw in my mind was not what I was holding in my hand based on what I thought I was copying from the picture.

Here's a little model from me.  The angled castle wall pieces were my inspiration to build a space age castle wall.  If any nefarious interplanetary outfit were to build a castle on the moon... it would be Blacktron.

Blacktron sentry post

I mostly took a cue from my memories of building alternates with 6059 Knight's Stronghold; that was my castle in childhood.  And then I gave it a Cylon face window

I had one piece left over after I was done.  the 2x2 black brick with technic pin.  Make way for his most villainy-us emminence the Blacktron dood.

Final opinion: I like this set just as much now as ever.  It's a functional vehicle with kinetic play action, it has a hold to hide weapons, and the cockpit can jetison for a quick escape.  It's my favorite Lego robot.  biased... of course... this set has imparted its technical aspect into my creative DNA.

Score: A
Pros: Walking system, plenty of turntables, yellow minifigure tools, uncommon yellow canopy, Blactron minifigure, lots of rebuild potential out of the box: spaceships, robots, scooters, castles, etc.
Cons: No computer tile, no Blacktron triforce print anywhere.

And now, I have one more thing.
Here's the full moonwalker range for your casual perusal.

These units were built with the classic turntable configuration of which I'm an enthusiast.

1985: Walking Astro Grappler.
This one has a strange cockpit design, a proboscis claw, and a rear jet design ripped from 6825 Cosmic Comet.  It was the first of these walkers and has the distinction of being straight up weird.

1986: Alien Moonstalker, aka Thunderfoot Launcher
This rocket toting dinobot is the largest of the moonwalkers with a tweaked system sporting a hinge between the 4 lower turntables to make a bigger walking impression by imparting a wiggle.  Instead of a proboscis, this one reuses the Grappler's snout design to give the Sauropodobot a tail.  The first time I saw this model was in a library book about the Lego company; probably the World of Lego Toys.  It was what inspired me to build my fire-engine red thunderfoot launcher.

1988: Alienator stoops and hunches.  The cab forward design gives it a menacing posture relative to the others.  Before I ever got mine I convinced one of my cousins to reassemble his from his older brothers pieces; he didn't have the yellow weapons, but later found them at a thrift store.  I remember specifically riding my bike to a thrift store just to hunt for old Lego because of his success; it was a complete failure.

1991 Sub Orbital Guardian from Blacktron II shrinks down the cargo hold into its fixed tail laser turret/signal tracking array.  The design looks like a helicopter... that walks away.

And the following robots adapted the system by utilizing technic 'tile and pin' plates with the studless beams.

1997: Of all the walkers this Roboforce Robo Raider is by far the most robot design of the batch... It sports a flying head like Thunderfoot Launcher and Alienator.

1997: Roboforce Robo Raptor brings back the dinobot asthetic of Classic Space's Thunderfoot Launcher complete with a moving lasergun tail update.  It's got claws and a turning head with a face full of lasers.  This made a huge impression on me back when I first saw it on a store shelf... I've even built it with a cousin who got one for Christmas a long time ago.  That was one of the years I didn't get any Lego for Christmas... oh how I burned with envy.

1999: Rock Raiders Granite Grinder.  Oh, shoot, I forgot to include this one in the initial writeup.  Rock Raiders was a theme that really got my hopes up in preliminary pre-release photos.  I really wanted the rollcage cockpit.  But over the long passage of time the theme hasn't aged well.  Teal is rare and hard to use given the limited part palette, Many of the special parts were large, chunky, and clunky. The minifigures were excellent for the time period and are still quite distinctive.  This moonwalker comes with the chrome-plated drill.  The Chrome pieces were nice new, but brick swishing in buckets tended to make them turn flaky and reveal the milky plastic beneath if young builders weren't careful.  I still kinda like the Rock Raiders gritty look, but they did not come out during a high point in the brick's development history.

2001: The first Star Wars AT-ST was the first moonwalker I ever picked up for myself.  It showed up during my paperboy era which spanned 7 years.  You'd think it was the worst toy ever to read the set reviews, but I've always liked this AT-ST the best.  It's the last of the Moonwalkers and as such has got as much Lego space pedigree as Star Wars looks in its overall design.  This was also the last set to sport the canopy extender piece first seen on the Blacktron Battrax and Futuron Monorail.  Like I said; this one has Space pedigree in its bricky bones.

Until next time, the Cure-all Pill

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Futuron 6953: Cosmic Laser Launcher: The other three box alternates

I feel like there have been a lot of breaks in posting recently... Anyhow, to ensure I get back to the usual business of reviewing Blacktron models I'll get down to the remainder of Cosmic Laser Launcher's alternates all at once because I have pictures and they've been ready for a month.
At some point I also want to update the main post... it's looking worse for wear as I've continued improving my methods.

So Alternative 2... because I did one already.

Cosmic Bottle Rocket tracking HQ

As you can see I added an, in set, technic axle to make the rocket look like it's propelling upward, and I assume the little car will help the station track the rocket's trajectory.  This feels like massive overkill for the hobbyist pursuit of toy rocket launching.

The main base has some catwalks and computer terminals as well as two movable antennae, but the lack of interactive bits comparable to the scale is just a bit dampening to the otherwise attractive layout.  I like the curved bricks for texture... they remind me of the radar dish flourishes from 6990.

The Car has a massive footprint and a hefty tracking radar which spins to improve signal reception.

While I like the conceit and see potential in this wheel configuration it just doesn't look very good, or offer good play value for its size.  It also doesn't turn well when moving on a flat surface.  

While I'm on this alternative... have you ever played with model rockets, they're a lot of fun... kinda like fishing, once you launch the rocket in the air or cast the lure in a rocky river, you might never see your lure or rocket again.  Also brambles.

I prefer spending my time and money on Lego... sure, you may lose these things too... but at least you can check the vacuum cleaner bag, I still remember finding my clear diver snorkel mask in there when I didn't even know it was missing... save!

Bricklink Entry: Diver Mask Clear if you've never heard of these sets... they were cool, I still have the 6555 Sea Hunter because that's the kind of pocket change I had back in my day.  My sawfish sharks nose was one of my bro's chewtoys sadly... so it's a bit nicked in the nose.

Where was I?  Oh yes, and the point of that thing about hobby rockets is that I don't much care for hobbies where things going missing is an essential part of the experience.

My boy scout buddies and I did recover some of the rockets, and I have a crazy memory about a guy recovering my favorite lure from the river by casting his line with precision into the Thornapple river... like this guy was a pro or something... he did it in one try.  And I never let my dad borrow that lure again.

Alternative 3:

An oven shaped robot with mitts for hands and Rudolph the rednosed biplane.

This spaceship is OK... I kinda like the other one from the back of the box more, but... there's some good stuff here.  The main ship uses the two weird space panel windows in trans blue.  By my own opinion they're kind of an awkward shape and thus begging the question; what should I build with them?  And the biplane rigging is essentially built up via the angled girders. These girders get you some height very fast; 5 bricks worth.  The girders are the only way to make a model like this from the set, the supply of bricks is minuscule.

You may have noticed the robot head snugged into the back there... I modded the design to carry it.

Here's the the way the box alt is built.

 And I changed very little.  See the 2 2x4 slopes... note the altered positions and that's it.  Now there's room for the robot.                                                                                                                                  

And it looks like this in the back.

 It actually stays in too.  Now you have a robot transporter!

The robot is assembled much like the Cosmic Laser Launcher's toaster oven rocket.

The robot's head doesn't move, but the arms do.  Though, they're kinda... I'm sure I could've modded something for the bot to hold... but I didn't and he isn't built right now.  The hands aren't very interesting... moving on.

The spaceship has a good look, I think a beefier substructure could improve the overall feel.  The models construction options were hampered as always by Futuron's plate dependent construction ethos.

So, that's it for the second alternative, Overall, I think this one came out looking pretty good, it's not a pretty model, but it's adaptable and provides some fun possibility's which encourage ongoing ideas in the pursuit of improvement.

Alternative 4:
This model is very tall, and quite under built. The central platform can move to the left and to the right, and at first I didn't really know what to make of this base.
Like a bridge over lunar craters, I will... ahem, moving on.

Not much to say about the car, it's got a hinged pair of turntables... kewl.  What's up with that?

The platforms have some sensor arrays, and two console centers.  

So I did this.
Spaceship Repair Station
You know what they say... use your head and while you're at it lay a spaceship on me.
It's absurd and I like it.

I chose 6886 Galactic Peacekeeper because it was the only set that fit... I think 6875 Hovercraft had an engine conflict underneath.  So it missed the repair appointment.  You could always use it to repair your own design.  I went with the shiny and familiar option.

Overall, with this, no mods needed, change to the repair tower I declare this alternative my favorite; It's still in need of some major structural improvements.  Look at those girder stacks; more can be done to make this base look really cool.

I don't think Cosmic Laser Launcher was made with finished looking alternatives in mind, all of these models felt like table-scraps.  They're occasionally brilliant for exploring what's possible, but sorely lacking in fit and finish.

Until next time, The Cure-all Pill