Monday, September 19, 2011

Bits and pieces

Someone has built a 2-metre Imperial Star Destroyer out of Lego. The 10-year-old Ben would have enthused. The 46-year-old article merely ventures, ‘meh’.

First of all, what can you do with a 2-metre Imperial Star Destroyer? You can hardly hold it in your hands and make it swoop and soar, which is the object of any Lego-created offensive weapon. You could leave it on its table and buzz it with handheld fighters – though very small, undetailed fighters if we’re talking the same scale – which would be a reasonably faithful reproduction of various key scenes from the movies but not much more. And it would be a right bugger to rebuild after the required climactic explosion, which would surely be the point of any attack scenario.

Second, what’s the fun of building it in the first place? From the pictures, it’s obviously a 2-metre Imperial Star Destroyer kit. There are pieces here that could not be meant for anything else. If it had been cobbled together out of standard parts – now, that would be worth noting. But this? Meh again.

In my youth I would often be given a Lego kit for birthday or Christmas. Rarely anything very exciting, at first glance. I would dutifully build whatever appeared on the front of the box, for form’s sake. But then. Ah, then. The name of the game was cannibalisation.

Sure, I would try to model my favourite spaceships and other such machinery. That’s only to be expected. The joy, the triumph was in bending the set pieces to my will. Those 45-degree fins at the front of Fireball XL5? Four-blob roof bricks. They gave the fins a slightly more stepped appearance than Derek Meddings would have recognised but my model was clearly a superior variant.

I think the only model I ever had with one-use only pieces was an air liner. This had two blue, flat, roughly triangular pieces that could only be wings – well, control surfaces of some description. Wings of a small plane, tailplanes of a larger one; maybe the fins of a Stingray-derived submersible. The fuselage of the air liner, being long and thin as such things are, was two or three 8-piece blobs with four windows painted on either side. Now you’re talking! Air liner windows, Pah! They could so easily be the openings of gun barrels, or rocket exhausts, or some kind of grill or just a bit of detail added to make a model look that bit more interesting.

Actually, I did have an electric motor, which very soon failed because I lost the wires that connected it the battery section and then lost the battery section anyway. It was a quite distinct, idiosyncratic shape, not easily adapted to other uses – but on the other hand, it was solid and heavy and so served as the base or chassis for all kinds of construction requiring a solid anchoring.

The standard 8-blob hinge pieces could be retractable landing gear, or supply the elevation to guns, or be landing ramps or hatches or … or anything requiring a hinge. The circular 12-blog turntables could be the attachments for helicopter rotors or gun turrets or a handy twirlable control knob on some gadget of my own devising (possibly a tricorder). There were some designs I never could quite crack – I never did quite master gullwing doors, for instance – and I will admit I sometimes wished they could have made backward-sloping roof bricks, i.e. with the smooth part on the inside. But the joy was in the trying.

It would be fun to cannibalise the many parts that went into the 2-metre Imperial Star Destroyer. It would even be fun, I suppose, to build it once as seen. But that’s all.

And anyway, a Battlestar could whup an Imperial Star Destroyer, any time.

1 comment:

  1. A great post, Ben. Appeals to the inner child.


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