Having complained bitterly about the number of remakes and general lack of originality evident in the LEGO Star Wars line up over the past few years, I was pleased to see something a bit different in the 2012 LEGO Star Wars line up - Planet Sets.
I've been really looking forward to getting my hands on these sets and checking them out, and I recently took the plunge and snapped up Set 9676 TIE Interceptor and Death Star.
The packaging (above) is certainly original; in order to accommodate the Death Star, the box has a hole cut in the front and back through which the Death Star protrudes. This allows the use of smaller boxes and also helps to advertise the contents of the set, although trying to stack the boxes is a pain.... Handy, therefore, that the box features a tab on the top flap, presumably so that retailers can hang these sets from a rail rather than try to stack them on a shelf. Unlike other lower priced sets which generally open via thumb tabs, this box opens at the top and employs tape seals usually used in more expensive sets.
On cutting the seals, it took me a little while to extricate the Death Star without damaging the box. The only other thing in the box was a slim instruction booklet (below).
Surprisingly, given that the set only contains 65 pieces, 24 pages are devoted to the actual building steps. There's also an inventory of parts and 6 pages of advertising, including a nice montage of all the 2012 LEGO Star Wars minifigures to date (below)
The pieces which make up the TIE Interceptor and minifigure are contained within two bags which come sealed inside the Death Star. Truth be told, apart from the Death Star itself, there isn't much to say about the pieces which are in the main fairly unremarkable. A few of them (below) are worthy of mention, however. The printed black 4x4 tile with studs on one edge which displays the set info is of course unique to this set, as is the clear printed 2x2 dish which forms the cockpit window of the TIE Interceptor. The black 2x2 round tile with lifting ring (top right of the picture) is interesting; most people probably won't use it, but if you want to suspend your Death Star from the ceiling, or even from your Christmas Tree, attach this piece to the top, thread some string through the hole and you have a menacing bauble with which to rule the galaxy by fear. Or your house, at least...
The set comes with one minifigure - a TIE Fighter pilot (below).
According to both Bricklink and Brickset, this TIE Fighter Pilot minifigure only comes in two sets - this one and Set 9492 TIE Fighter. I have to admit that this information had me scratching my head at first; as far as I could tell the minifigure was identical to the one contained within Set 7958 Star Wars Advent Calendar. It was only when I removed their helmets (below - click to enlarge) that the difference became obvious...
The figure on the left is from the Planet Set, and the figure on the right is from the Advent Calendar. Other than the lack of head printing, there's also a suggestion that the printing on the Advent Calendar minifigure torso is perhaps slightly blurred and less well defined. I'm not sure if this is my imagination, a slight quality issue with this particular figure, or possibly even evidence of a different place of manufacture. I suspect it's probably just my imagination, but I'd be interested in your thoughts....
Also within this set is only the second official mini version of the TIE Interceptor ever produced, and I'm pleased to report that it's a good 'un. As well as being a nice-looking and swooshable model in its own right, I reckon that it's a pretty respectable representation of the subject matter, right down to the angling of the wings and the new printed clear cockpit window.
And so on to the Death Star (below - click to enlarge). Although it's entirely light bley in colour, it's far from uniform in appearance, sporting surface markings embossed in smooth plastic which stand out against the background which has a rougher texture. There's also the characteristic circular indentation on the upper hemisphere which of course represents the exit point of the Death Star's primary weapon. The two hemispheres which make up the Death Star join together to leave a gap along the equator; I assume that this is deliberate and is supposed to represent the trench within which the climax to Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope is played out.
The final part of the set is a rudimentary stand to which the display plaque attaches and upon which the TIE Interceptor and its pilot are displayed; you can see all elements of the set together below.
I like this set. I think its a neat, original concept which brings together a number of different elements at a relatively low price point. Some have criticised the £9.99 / $9.99 RRP, but there's really no need to pay full price if you're patient - I got mine for 30% off on Amazon, and at £6.99 it's really very reasonably priced IMHO. In terms of the individual parts of the set, the mini TIE Interceptor is nicely realised and probably my favourite part, although the Death Star provides a fun way of storing the pieces when they're not in use and looks pretty good (albeit maybe a little bland) in its own right, And yes - I could see myself hanging it on my Christmas tree !