NCS is about to be showcased in the new book LEGO® Space: Building the Future, which (just in case you missed it) I published a cool little teaser trailer for yesterday. Although I’m yet to see an actual copy, I'm expecting a science fact/fiction narrative that builds on the disparate stories suggested by those original Classic Space sets, all richly illustrated with the exquisite models of Pete Reid and Tim Goddard - as you can see from this exclusive preview image of a perfectly-formed little shuttle; the LL-290.
Pete Reid is big news already this week – his Exo Suit model, which appears in this book, has been selected by LEGO to be the next official CUUSOO model. Of course the LEGO version, due to be adapted by Designer and Mecha master Mark Stafford, will be a different beast… for starters, the non-production parts and the illegal building techniques will need to go… but I’m thrilled for Pete and relieved LEGO have selected Mark to do the official take on it.
Pete lives close to London, in Romford in Essex with girlfriend (and awesome AFOL) Yvonne Doyle, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to quiz him in person about what classic elements we can expect to see used in the Space book, plus some of the exciting rarer stuff. Pete produced several cups of tea and some lovely elements from the array that fills pretty much every room in the house, including the loft.
TJ: How did the book come about?
PR: It all started when Tim Goddard was contacted by No Starch Press, who had spotted his section in DK Publishing’s LEGO Ideas Book. They wanted to know if he'd be interested in doing a Space book. At that point, Tim and I had been collaborating for some time, and he asked if I'd be interested in helping him develop it. I have never replied to an email so quickly.
TJ: That sounds quite different to the 'rules' when we worked on The LEGO Play Book for DK.
PR: It was very different, yes. For that we had to conform to current LEGO standards, using only recent parts and building in a way kids could deal with. The company's worst nightmare is a complaint letter saying Little Timmy didn't have the parts for the model in the book, and had a bad building experience. With the Space book, we were able to fully utilise our collections, and not worry about using parts that were discontinued or of mysterious origin.
TJ: What about Little Timmy? What if he has a bad building experience?
PR: Little Timmy is a child. He's not going to be able to cope with next-level building. We made these models to our own standards of excellence. But any kid who likes sci-fi and LEGO will enjoy the Space book.
TJ: Phwoar. Now Big Timmy is in the mood for elements, and more tea. Let’s go all Old Elementary with some of your favourite parts from the book please Pete. Shall we start with some of the real classics?
Classic SpacemenPR: Getting hold of pristine condition Classic Space guys is a lifelong quest. I've been lucky enough to pick up some really good quality ones over the years. That torso design has stood the test of time, and fills me with nostalgia and enormous wellbeing. Sometimes I think I should get a massive tattoo of the Classic Space symbol on my chest, but it might upset Yvonne.
Once they've been updated to the Neo Classic Space standard, they're my favourite little guys. A fleshie head and modern hair brings them nicely up to date.
Trans-Yellow [BL]/Tr. Yellow [TLG]It's the cockpit colour of choice for NCS and Blacktron builders, but does not age well. I have gathered a lot over the years, but use only the very best condition examples on NCS models. There are a few classic Trans-Yellow parts that are basically impossible to get in new condition. The slightest contact with other LEGO pieces makes them scuffed, it seems.
The 33⁰ 3X6 windscreen (seen at the front here) featured in the three spaceships from the first wave of Space sets in 1978/9 and the last set they appeared in was in 1986, so buying sealed ones would be very expensive - and no guarantee the contents weren't badly scratched anyway.
A good source of cool Trans-Yellow parts is 6987 Blacktron Message Intercept Base, which is the only set with the 3X3X6 convex corner (part 2468, seen on the right of the pic). It's a lovely piece, which I've used a few times.
The Trans-Yellow 3X4 panel (part 4215, seen at the rear) is another much-cherished piece also found in Message Intercept Base, as well as others. The 6X4X2 canopy (part 4474, seen at left) is slightly easier to come by, but the chances of finding mint examples diminish as time passes.
Brick 1X2 with Classic Space logoAnother part that's over 30 years old here, with gold printing that fades at the drop of a hat. It seems the slightest contact messes up the printing, so it's tricky getting hold of good ones. All of mine suffer from playwear, but I love them and will continue to search for the finest examples. They're essential for spacing up a ship or futuristic wall, and came in three colours.
TJ: How about some parts that have different functionality to their modern counterparts?
Old clip light with thin ring
Finger Hingesclick hinge family, with its limited degrees of positioning, was a step backwards. I think the LEGOLAND builders were hit hardest by the demise of the finger hinge. They still use them on Miniland figures.
Old grey pantograph shoe holders (part 2880, see second row from front, on the right) are not in any set. Somehow I have a few, and they're too cool not to use.
Electric Light Bulb coverI've been using 9v domes (part 4773) as eyes on my robots, like this Blip, for a very long time. They survived until 2005 and it’s such a pity they've been replaced with the new Barraki eye (part 58176), which looks similar but doesn't do the same job, thanks to the dirty great 3.18 sticking out the bottom. I can't make Blips with the new ones, not even using Apollo studs, so I'll stick with the vintage ones, thank you very much.
Briefly glimpsed in the Space book is a non-production Trans-Clear light bulb cover. Just think about that for a second... it's a light bulb cover, to change the colour of the light, and yet it's Trans-Clear. They make excellent test tubes for spacey scientists. There are a few available on Bricklink, and they're not too pricey, considering they don't exist.
TJ: So how about some of the more recent rare parts that you love to use?
Black half bushesPR: Two of these were in 7019 Viking Fortress against the Fafnir Dragon, from 2005. So although that’s much more recent, it’s the only time they've ever been available. The Fortress was a big set, over 1000 pieces, but there's only two black bushes plus a spare per set - so it's difficult to get them in the quantity I need. Well, not difficult, but definitely expensive.
This Crusader series mechanoid from the Space book uses four of them. They're such a delicious little detailing piece.
Dark Bluish Gray [BL]/Dark Stone Grey [TLG] Tool Wheel
This pair of HC series mechanoids are full of pure precious. I can't make any more. The dark bley tool wheel (part 6246) was only in 7251 Darth Vader Transformation and an obscure Education set of minifigs, 9247 Community Workers. These wheels go for silly money now. They'll never include them in a set again, as the tool wheel design has been changed this year.
TJ: Why can’t you make any more of these mechanoids?
PR: They also have dark bley taps in their arms, which don't exist at all. If I wanted to use dark bley taps in a new model, I'd have to disassemble these two guys, which is unthinkable. I can't stand it when people are cruel to robots.
TJ: I anticipated there would be some choice non-production elements in your book and you’ve showed us a few already. Let’s finish up with one more of these holy grails please!
PR: There's something undeniably thrilling about using rare and non-production parts. I'm not talking about just hoarding, say, a big bag of bley Falcon rigging for no reason. I prefer to use the precious things in actual models. They can add a unique touch to a model, and elevate it to the next level of awesomeness. It's not a sustainable way of building, but it's nice once in a while.
White Antennae Whip 8LWe used four White whip antennae on Sputnik before realising they were a non-production part. I've no idea where they came from. But Sputnik is one of the models that has instructions in the book and it would be bad form to put non-existent parts in those, so we had to change them at the last minute. It's a shame, they look really good. But we used two on this Voyager model. Sadly there are none for sale anywhere, and I can't remember where I picked them up. So as far as I know they are the only six in the universe, and they are definitely not for sale.
TJ: Thanks for this inspiring glimpse into the back catalogue Pete – and the stuff that fell off the back of a truck - I look forward to seeing these showcased in the book.
PR: I hope you enjoy it. See you soon!
According to Amazon, LEGO® Space: Building the Future has official release dates of October 31 in the UK and November 11 in the US, so there is still time to get it at pre-order prices. Following these links to purchase helps support New Elementary.
Amazon US: LEGO Space: Building the Future
Amazon CA: LEGO Space: Building the Future
Amazon UK: LEGO Space: Building the Future
Amazon DE: LEGO Space: Building the Future (Sprache: Englisch)
Amazon FR: Lego Space: Building the Future (Langue : Anglais)