Mattah12

UFO theme - Controversy?

19 posts in this topic

Hey guys, first time poster here with a little question for you all.

During the recent resurgence of my interest in all things Lego, I came across the UFO theme (which I dimly recall owning a set of). Now, many sites mention the controversy of the this particular theme but don't actually expand on it or state what this controversy actually is. So I was just wondering if anybody here could tell me?

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It could be related to the sets all using those giant specialized UFO parts for the saucers. Also the aliens are very different than all other minifigs of the time.

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well actually, i was in my dark age when UFO was released, but I remember the display cases at the shopping mall. they were filled with UFO-spaceships and I really really really loved them. As it turned out , i needed 2 more years to break through my dark age, but succeeded in getting all of the sets later on... I never heard of a "controversy" though. Sure, UFO was kinda like "Space, on it's way down in a free fall", nothing close to classic space, blacktron or space police, but still, not that bad... besides, Lego as a company was going down as well, including most of the Lego themes...

the bad things about UFO, imo: 1) horrible printing; 2) (too many?) huuuuge parts; 3) average minifigs (the head was dreadfull) 4) colors were not exciting

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I liked UFO a lot, the massive mothership was awesome and impressive. The designs were a little too busy, but other than that I had no complaints. Really miss the magnet functions that populated this and Aquazone. 1000 times better than flickfire missles!

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Thanks for the imput guys, I guess the large pieces could be seen as detracting from the premise of Lego. I do remember thinking how cool the minifigs were though.

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I have them all as I was still buying LEGO (Not yet in my dark age.) and I do not recall there being any controversy? They did use big saucer sections but other themes have used them so I would not think that was it. I also liked the mini-figs and thought they were some of better designed ones. They certainly looked more alien than anything before them and that was a good thing as far as I was concerned.

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I liked UFO at the time it was released for some bizarre reason. I eventually grew to regret it. It's huge printed elements were always near-useless to me, its minifigures were pretty awful-looking (and not in a good, creepy-alien way, but rather a bad, lines-are-way-too-thin, not-aesthetically-compatible-with-other-LEGO-themes way), and after a few years I realized how boring many of the sets were in terms of construction. It didn't help that the Alien Avenger was on my Christmas wish list for two years, and turned out to be a considerable disappointment once I had it (in retrospect I should have gone for the Interstellar Starfighter, which was more impressive in design and had fiber-optic elements).

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so what actually was the controversy?

Probably that it isn't seen favourably by AFOLs for the reasons mentioned above. I have all the sets (apart from an impulse set or two) and although I actually do like the minifigs (the droids aren't as good as the Insectoid, Spyrius or Explorien droids though) I have to agree that the big printed saucer parts are pretty useless for using in MOCs. The colour scheme in retrospect is pretty in-your-face (nothing unusual there of course) so unless you were a kid at the time of release and are wearing nostalgia goggles, it's hard to like the theme. That's my guess.

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It's a pity the theme's minifigs aren't well liked, looking back on them I think they seem kind of cool. Certainly different, and an interesting change-up of the classic fig.

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Sounds like it's only controversial as the town sets that year :classic: . Looking back at the 1997 catalogue it was a bit of a low point with heavy juniorisation and huge prefabricated parts. I was 9 then and went into my dark ages soon after. If they had sets as good as they do these days I would have most likely kept building a few more years.

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I guess I'm one of the few who enjoyed this theme, for the minfiigs in particular. The sinister alien helmets are great, and the trans-orange minifig heads are a novel idea. Some of the bigger sets are definitely "<insert that tiresome argument>", but the small-to-mid-range vehicles are actually quite nice. I'd encourage all the naysayers to give this theme a second look.

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I guess I'm one of the few who enjoyed this theme, for the minfiigs in particular. The sinister alien helmets are great, and the trans-orange minifig heads are a novel idea. Some of the bigger sets are definitely "<insert that tiresome argument>", but the small-to-mid-range vehicles are actually quite nice. I'd encourage all the naysayers to give this theme a second look.

I liked the helmets and the transparent heads as well, but the decorations on the minifigures really ruined my ability to really enjoy them, main reason being that I felt the decorations were overloaded with detail. Most of the lines were very fine, and some of the figs were so covered in technical gadgetry as to make the torsos feel cluttered. I particularly disliked this guy right here. The one fig I really did like for years to come was Alpha Draconis (the commander), whose decorations were a lot more like what I'd expect of a LEGO figure even if that stippled gradient on his torso didn't really mesh well with the rest of his design.

Of course, the late 90s was a period in which TLG was just beginning to branch out in terms of fig designs, and the UFO theme was far from their first example of over-stretching their boundaries. One only has to look at the Western theme, where one of the bandits and all of the Indians had whites in their eyes and noses. I'm quite glad that in recent years TLG has come to understand the ways their minifigure designs can be made diverse and detailed without losing sight of the simplicity that gives them their iconic appeal.

Edited by Aanchir

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I liked the helmets and the transparent heads as well, but the decorations on the minifigures really ruined my ability to really enjoy them, main reason being that I felt the decorations were overloaded with detail. Most of the lines were very fine, and some of the figs were so covered in technical gadgetry as to make the torsos feel cluttered. I particularly disliked this guy right here. The one fig I really did like for years to come was Alpha Draconis (the commander), whose decorations were a lot more like what I'd expect of a LEGO figure even if that stippled gradient on his torso didn't really mesh well with the rest of his design.

I'll admit that the prints were definitely "busy", but I think it fit the idea of a cybernetic alien race. More to the point, I didn't think they were so busy as to make them unlikable. There was a lot of creativity to be had, and the Warp Wing Fighter is still one of my favorite classic sets.

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I think this was a pretty decent theme overall. The Warp Wing Fighter is arguably one of the best space sets ever, and the V-Wing Fighter is a surprisingly nice small set. The other sets were flawed, but had some unique ideas. I can think of far worse themes than this one, like most of the City lineup in those years.

I like the fact that UFO had lots of printing in general instead of stickers, like many themes did at the time, although they did go overboard with it on the saucer pieces. As for the minifigs, I like the heads and helmets but not the torsos and legs. It's not the fact that they were over-detailed, but the details were not distinctive in any way and you couldn't quickly tell the different prints apart. Many of the other late 90s themes (Insectoids, Hydronauts, Stingrays) had the same problem, with 4 or 5 different torsos that all looked similar.

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Hehe, I'm glad my first ever post here has garnered a good bit of conversation. A quick question, when people refer to 'the dark ages' they are talking about when they stopped collecting Lego, correct?

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Hehe, I'm glad my first ever post here has garnered a good bit of conversation. A quick question, when people refer to 'the dark ages' they are talking about when they stopped collecting Lego, correct?

Yup. :wink:

I, for one, really liked the UFO figures. Especially their helmets.

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Woah! I always had a strange love for those minifigs, got my first few last Christmas when I bought the Avenger Mothership set. In my opinion, the minifigs are awesome, great aliens with some great parts, the start to minifigs with loads of detailed printing (Which has been agreed by most to be a good thing).

Also, though the pieces are very large, I find them very useful, especially when considered that the recent surge of really small pieces you can use on the BURPs of the UFO theme if you're creative enough. :wink:

Maybe the controversy is just that they were the start of the decline of the Space theme. (Unless you loved Insectoids as much as me :grin:)

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Woah! I always had a strange love for those minifigs, got my first few last Christmas when I bought the Avenger Mothership set. In my opinion, the minifigs are awesome, great aliens with some great parts, the start to minifigs with loads of detailed printing (Which has been agreed by most to be a good thing).

Also, though the pieces are very large, I find them very useful, especially when considered that the recent surge of really small pieces you can use on the BURPs of the UFO theme if you're creative enough. :wink:

Maybe the controversy is just that they were the start of the decline of the Space theme. (Unless you loved Insectoids as much as me :grin:)

I agree that the increase in minifigure details in the late 90s was generally a good thing, but it's just that so often TLG went about it the wrong way, as in the Western theme in which many minifigures traded the classic, cutesy aesthetic for caricatures that were grotesque and perhaps even a little racist. The UFO minifigures had a similar grotesqueness, but I suppose part of the reason that it's more tolerable for many people is that they are meant too look strange and creepy. Truth be told, the minifigures themselves aren't what bothers me as much as the fact that it's hard to mix-and-match the parts with other minifigures and minifigure parts from other themes without an obvious difference in detail, even today. The Minifigures theme today does a good job showing how we've moved past many of the excessive details of the late 90s and instead refined minifigures to be diverse, but with a sort of cartoon simplicity that is consistent across all themes.

The same detail argument is part of why I found so many of the actual building elements hard to use again. The extremely awkward shape of those angled wing elements was frustrating enough, but throw on a print emblazoned with giant logos and covered with extremely fine lines and it becomes almost impossible to use in other applications unless you base the model's entire aesthetic on those parts. Granted, some of the theme's specialized elements weren't much worse than what had previously appeared in the Exploriens theme, which I had loved, but I still had a hard time maintaining happy memories of the UFO theme when all I had to remember it by were a bunch of oversized elements, many with specialized prints, taking up space in my storage containers with very little potential for reuse.

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