Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Deja Vu

Having been a keen LEGO builder as a kid, I drifted away from it in my teens, and apart from occasionally dipping my toe back into the water thereafter, I didn't really emerge from my LEGO dark ages until a couple of years back when I received Set 10188 Death Star as a Christmas present. That set remains to this day perhaps my favourite set of all time - it's utterly wonderful - and it rekindled my enthusiasm for LEGO.

Receiving the Death Star on that fateful Christmas morning prompted me to start trying to collect as many of the LEGO Star Wars sets as I could. As I tracked down more and more sets and my LEGO Star Wars collection grew ever larger, a couple of things became apparent.

Firstly, the Star Wars theme is clearly extremely lucrative for the LEGO company. Having exhausted the majority of obvious candidates for sets during the first few years of the Star Wars licence, I suppose the logical step would have been to phase out the theme and move on to something else. But instead we got newer versions of the sets that had come before, sometimes over and over again. For example, we've now had 4 versions of the iconic Slave 1 ship during the 11 years of the LEGO Star Wars licence, and that's not even including mini versions, of which there has been at least 1. And if you think that's surprising, there have actually been at least 5 versions of the X-Wing fighter in 11 years, and that's not including at least 2 mini versions. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Note that I'm not complaining - nobody's forcing us to buy the sets and for reasons I'll go in to, there are often good reasons to keep buying.

Secondly, I have to say that in general, the sets have improved in quality over the years compared with their predecessors. OK, so they've also significantly increased in price, size and complexity, which is obviously not everybody's cup of tea, but on balance I'd rather have bigger, more expensive sets (which is generally what we get) than be asked to shell out for virtually identical copies of previously released sets.

It's not always so clear cut, however. Below you can see 3 of the 4 versions of the Slave 1 ship produced by the LEGO company over the past decade - Set 7144 from 2000, Set 6209 from 2006, and finally Set 8097 which came out just a few weeks ago. You can click on the images if you want to enlarge them for a closer look.

Set 7144 (2000)
Set 6209 (2006)
Set 8097 (2010)

There's not much doubt in my mind that the newer sets are a better representation of the Slave 1 ship from the Star Wars movies than the original from 2000, although they certainly ought to be given the price - admittedly I'm ignoring 10 years-worth of inflation here, but even so the newest version is four times as expensive as the original ! Compare the 2006 and 2010 versions, however, and it tells a different story - they're extremely similar in appearance except for some changes to the colour scheme, and have a similar piece count. In fact, the only major difference is the price - £39.99 for the 2006 model and a whopping £79.99 for the latest version. I do think the minifigures in the new set are superior (the new Boba Fett minifig in particular is superb) but otherwise I actually prefer the 2006 version.

So what's my point ? Well, some may disagree, but I can happily live with remakes providing they're an improvement on what came before. I'm really not a fan of the kind of deja vu that is the new Slave 1 ship, however, particularly when it comes at such a high price....

Thanks to Brickset for the images above.

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