Of course, I'm biased because this set represents the ultimate in nostalgia for me, but that also brought a huge weight of expectation to this build. Could a modern set really evoke the kind of love I felt for my Space sets as a kid? I was really worried it wouldn't capture the intangible magic of Classic Space and just leave me feeling like it was any other modern-day Space set but in blue/grey/trans-yellow. I'm happy to report that this was not the case at all.
It's massive. It's so freakin' massive. 64 studs long! The advertised piece count is 940, which seems surprisingly low but there are a lot of very large elements in there. It's elegant too - far more so than it appeared from the online pics. And it's jam-packed with design references to Classic Space. The main colour scheme is the most obvious - grey wings, blue body and trans-yellow windows. But the small touches are there too, such as the transparent coloured lights - red on the left, green on the right. The element selection of course plays a big part too, such as the 'loudspeakers' and the ribbed jet engines, and the stickered parts heavily reference designs and fonts from that era. But this is a modern-day set as well, so features a multitude of play functions, weapons, Technic, cool recent parts and indeed some rudimentary greebling.
New Elementary's copy kindly came from LEGO's Community and Events Engagement Team, but reports are coming in of the set already appearing on shelves in some locations. The official release date is 1 June 2014 and the RRP is US$99.99. The US link to pre-order is at the end of this post.
I'll mention interesting parts as I review the build later, but let's first pay special attention to the most exciting elements included in the set.
10240 Red Five X-Wing Starfighter last year. It's gorgeous and sleek and Spacers will feel like they've got several Christmases at once. The main issue you'll have building with it is making your ship large enough to match!
60056 Tow Truck.
2X2 corner tile (Element ID 6065874 | Design ID 14719) of which there are two and, less excitingly, the amended 1X8X2 arch with 'raised' curve (Element ID 6079722 | Design ID 16577). Of even less interest, there's one of those laser engraved tiles printed with a code to use in the LEGO Movie Video Game. I'm at least pleased to report the engraving quality is a lot better than the one I got in an earlier LEGO Movie set.
SNOT capability - it's just nice to have a basic brick in a metal shade. The rear of Emmet's robohead is nice, having only the silver pattern on it - could prove useful. Space Wyldstyle is super cool, with her outfit given a makeover that riffs on Classic Space. Her excellent hoodie piece comes in plain Blue too (Element ID 6078231 | Design ID 15853), which will be much more useful than her regular multicoloured one. Her hair and double-sided head are the same as previous sets. Robo Pilot's (single-sided) face is quite scary, and the Octan logo on his chest unit is cool! Fittingly, his Trans-Red [BL]/Tr. Red [TLG] visor suggests the Space Police theme.
The build kicks off with three small craft; two of which are the same - a little one-person craft in Classic Space colours. The tiny size brought back happy memories of the pocket money Space sets I loved as a child, although I'm not wild on the overall design. The finished vehicle looks nice in profile without a minifig inside, but is a lopsided design with its oversized exhaust. However it has another part to play in this set, which will cast a different light on its design. Parts-wise it's great; it uses a Space seat, and the 1X4 inverted bow that came out in 2013 - in Black, sadly, as I'd have loved to get this in a grey shade, but it looks fine. And of course it uses the Trans-Yellow windshield, which comes with a great sticker of a cross-hair target - but I couldn't possibly add that to such a rare part!
Bag #2 commences the main spaceship, spaceship, spaceship. Just like the ultimate Classic Space ship, 928 Space Cruiser and Moonbase (released as 497 Galaxy Explorer in the US), you gotta put some groundwork in before the really fun stuff starts. But hey, groundwork is fun too in LEGO. Bags #2 and #3 mostly concern themselves with making a massive undercarriage of large Technic and curved undercarriage parts. This is the first hint you get of just how sprawling this monster of a model is!
Towards the end of bag #3 the front is taking shape, with the first of our 2X4 18° slopes with Classic Space logo in place and the nose of the ship built with a good strong technique that should withstand some space accidents. Things start getting really exciting in bag #4, as huge wings slide into the main model using rails and a simple Technic function that controls them is added. The main bridge is really taking shape too, with some cute details.
Book #2/bag #5 kicks off with more minifigures: hooray! Here's Benny. Happily, his face is double-sided with the original smiley face! So along with his airtanks and a walkie-talkie, you can give him the reeeeeal Classic Space look. As ever, Unikitty delivers on thrilling new elements. In her guise of Astro Kitty her feet are 1X1 plates in Pearl Gold [BL]/Warm Gold [TLG] which is new, and a useful match for the very common 1X1 round plate in Pearl Gold. (Her horn is Pearl Gold too, but this is not a new colour for this part.) Her unique tail comes in Blue, unprinted, which should make it much more flexible for other uses. Her cute face peers out of the rectangular visor of a Blue spacesuit and best of all, the 1X3 arch that makes up her body has a little Classic Space logo on one side! It looks a little cramped there, but beggars can't be choosers... Spacers are happy for ANY part that gets a printed Classic Space logo on it. The other nice thing about this element is that Blue 1X3 arches without printing are rare anyway, having only appeared in one set in 1989. As the printing here is only on one side, you'll be able to use the unprinted side in many MOCs.
Back to the build, and wonderfully, the bridge turns out to be octagonal with a hatch to match. There's even some robust greebling on top. By the end of bag #5 the 6X12 canopy is in place, as are the stickered parts with the "LL 929" livery. These are attached to common parts, so there was no difficult application decision for me at all here - Benny HAS to have his LL 929 markings! It's a great shame these couldn't be printed too, but hey.
6807. The cavity gets topped with a folding 6X6 webbed radar dish (Element ID 4211487 4285); a part that just screams Classic Space.
Bag #7 is the final one, so there's lots of fun to finish with. Weapons are added to the wings and the tail and exhaust are completed. The tails have the most gorgeous stickers of all; just a clean Classic Space logo. I was happy to sacrifice the four Blue tail parts; in this instance my main anxiety about applying the stickers was using these gorgeous Classic Space logo stickers when I might want them for something else! But I suspect I may well be buying another copy of this set at some point, or at least more sticker sheets :O)
The final step calls upon the two scooters from the beginning of the build. One wing on each is folded up and they then clip into place on either wing of the main craft, perfectly completing its shape.
What a beautiful end to the build - it wasn't until this point that the wave of relief washed over me; wow, this model is truly awesome! My eight-year old grin spread uncontrollably across my face and I stood up and truly swooshed. And enjoyed the great play functions. And shouted "spaceship!" repeatedly, of course.
I can find little to complain about. Positioning the figs is hard when you have all the canopies and hatches closed - Astro Kitty in particular. But she has a spacesuit on so can sit outside. Always put the cat out. And if I'm being picky; considering how many Classic Space design references they packed into this model, it's a shame there aren't proper bumblebee stripes. These are the small yellow and black stripes that appeared on the wings of the first Classic Space ships - 918, 924 and 928. Benny's Spaceship definitely references this by having yellow as the main colour chosen for "filler bricks" on the interior of the model, and in a couple of points on the exterior. But if I'm putting my purist hat on, yellow should only be used for small little bumblebee stripes.
The age mark on the box is 9-14, so it's not a dull build but it is relatively easy. A couple of steps might trip kids up, but nothing drastic. There are no earth-shattering new techniques, but some very nice effects achieved. It was interesting to see a pulley wheel - that funny little wheel centre that's used on wheelbarrows - get utilised for its ability to do a 180° stud reversal at one point, which may be a helpful new technique for some.
Building the revivalMany FOLs have been shouting for a Classic Space Revival for a very long time, and The LEGO Movie has renewed the desire. Seriously, don't get your hopes up; this set is likely to be the closest TLG ever get to a Classic Space Revival... think of it as a one-set revival. But that doesn't mean us fans can't make a Classic Space Revival! Thanks to this set, not only will a new generation of kids love Classic Space but also TFOLs and AFOLs will have a bunch of excellent Space parts with which to create awesome spaceships. In light of Benny and the forthcoming Exo-Suit set, Jeremy Williams (Bricking It) has created a new Group on Flickr called Out of the Attic where you can upload pics of your original Classic Space sets, or your own new Classic Space inspired creations!
If you're interested in getting into Classic Space builds, the obvious place to start is Brickset, where Huw has handily categorised Classic as a subtheme of Space. If you're interested in going down the very serious purist route with your own builds, check out these detailed Neo Classic Space rules and review the amazing models on this (sadly defunct) site. Flickr is full of inspiration but of course, what New Elementary Classic Space post would be complete without mentioning the inspiration you'll find in Pete Reid and Tim Goddard's LEGO Space: Building the Future?
My thanks to LEGO's Community and Events Engagement Team for providing this set.
70816 Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP! is released on 1 June 2014 for US$99.99.
Pre-order on Amazon US: