Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Neo- Neo- Classic Space ?

I've previously waxed lyrical about my love of the classic LEGO Space sets of the late 1970's and early 1980's; Set 928 Galaxy Explorer is one of my all-time favourites, and every time I see that signature combination of blue, old grey and trans yellow it gives me chills !

Set 928 Galaxy Explorer from 1979
I'm far from being the only one who has a thing for these sets, of course. A whole movement, dubbed Neo-Classic Space, has grown out of a desire to update the classic sets for a whole new generation. Some of these Neo-Classic Space creations are truly updates of previous sets, while others have sought to develop the theme in new directions while still retaining the feel and design DNA of the original sets. I've featured creations from one of the main protagonists, Pete Reid a.k.a. Legoloverman, on these pages before and I make no apology for mentioning him again and showing pics of a couple of his superb Neo-Classic Space creations below (click to enlarge).

Pete Reid's Homage to Set 928 Galaxy Explorer
Another of Legoloverman's creations

But is 2011 the year when the LEGO company finally rejoins the party ? I'm referring of course to the new Alien Conquest space-themed sets, which with their predominantly blue, grey and yellow colour scheme, albeit with neon accents and the odd flash of lime green and purple, hark back to the days of Classic Space. LEGO have of course released a multitude of space-themed sets since the late 70's, some of which have themselves become much-loved in their own right and have spawned sequels of their own (such as Space Police). For me, however, none of them have quite captured the magic of the Classic Space sets. Until now, perhaps ? Well, let's see....

Including poly bags and battle packs, ten Alien Conquest sets have been released to date, and I've been attracted to these like a moth to a flame.... Set 7050 Alien Defender was the first of the Alien Conquest sets I got my hands on, managing to grab a couple when Amazon had them on sale at around 35% off RRP a couple of months back.

I'm a big fan of the bright, colourful box art which really stands out on shop shelves, and there's a lovely retro feel to the Alien Conquest theme branding. The box itself has the same footprint as a Star Wars Battlepack, although it perhaps sits a couple of millimetres higher.

The 32-page instruction booklet (below) shares the same cover art as the box. I have an irrational hatred of folded-in-half instruction booklets as the pages always seem to turn themselves over while I'm building; this booklet was a major offender in that respect, and it took a lot of straightening out before I could photograph it. The building steps are clear and easy to follow, with part call-outs for every step and no major colour discrimination issues.

The set features 2 minifigures. The first is an Alien Defence Unit (ADU) Soldier (pics below - click to enlarge) and he's apparently unique to this set. His torso is printed both front and back, and he also has printed legs and a reversible head, to be used when he's stressed, presumably.... For me the most exciting thing about this guy is his dark azure colour. This colour, a striking blue with more than a hint of green, is to my knowledge brand new for 2011 and not widely available as yet, although it has appeared in a few 2011 sets including Sponge Bob Set 3815 Heroic Heroes of the Deep.

.....and back

The other minifig is an Alien Pilot (below) who's also available in a number of other sets. There's no back-printing on his torso, although his legs are printed and his arms are a rather nice (and unusual) magenta colour. He has an interesting rubbery head, not previously seen outside this theme I believe, on the back of which you can see his brain....

Once the minifigs have been assembled it's time to construct the Alien Pilot's ship. This isn't a major undertaking, given that it consists of only 13 pieces.... Small or not, I like it ! Most of the pieces seem to be lime green or trans neon green, and both the design and colours complement the Alien Pilot perfectly. Lime green barbs sticking out of the back add a nice finishing touch.

Next up is the ADU Soldier's vehicle, a heavily-armed buggy of sorts. Again, I love the colours, which are an agreeable mix of blue, yellow and light and dark greys with trans neon orange accents. As well as being deliciously zoom-able, it also features flick fire missiles and a rotating dorsal gun turret. There's also a neat use of dark grey guns as front suspension struts (purely for show, obviously...). Downside is the lack of printed parts; instead we're supposed to apply 5 fiddly little stickers.

And that's it - we're done. This is a cracking little set. At £8.99 for 105 pieces it's hardly a steal, but having picked it up for £6 it felt like a bargain.  I mean, what's not to like ? The minifigs are good (the ADU Soldier's slightly lack-lustre body armour is more than made up for by his dark azure colour) and the vehicles are great, if a little small. There are even 8 extra parts, which must be close to being a record for a set of barely 100 pieces in total. Overall, it's an excellent taster for the theme, and I can't wait to get to work on some of the larger Alien Conquest sets, particularly Set 7066 Earth Defence HQ, which are waiting patiently in the wings until I have some uninterrupted building time.

So is Alien Conquest really the second coming of Classic Space ? Well, it's clearly impossible to tell for sure on the basis of building one small set and just seeing pictures of the rest of the theme..... What I can say for sure, however, is that no other space-themed sets (with the obvious exception of Star Wars) have grabbed me to quite the same extent for a long time. Interesting designs, some great minifigures and an evocative colour scheme are all part of the successful recipe. All that's currently missing is at least one good-sized standalone ADU spacecraft - the Earth Defence HQ set features an extremely nifty Interceptor Shuttle, but this just makes me yearn for more.... LEGO could of course remedy this omission by releasing more Alien Conquest sets in 2011, but the meagre shelf-space being dedicated to the theme in the LEGO brand stores that I've visited suggests to me that we might not get any more sets, which would be a crying shame IMHO.

Classic Space is special to me for more than just the superb designs and colour scheme - it's part of my childhood and thus brings back some great memories. Alien Conquest clearly can't compete with the latter, but it nevertheless seems to be a worthy addition to LEGO's space heritage.

"They came from outer space...."


  1. Dvanes21/9/11

    I can't believe I left all my old space lego with my parents.
    They have no idea where they left it.
    I'm just not sure about this alien conquest theme. It's just a little 'too alien' for my taste (the alien parts anyway).

  2. I gotta say that was a nice write-up of yours. I am not really in favour of the new schemes though - either too "alien" or - with respect to Lego's "Star Wars Stuff" - without inspiration. I would love to finally complete my set of classic space set - there are a couple left to get and post about myself :)