6983 Ice Station Odyssey (1993)
In the early nineties, Lego's final frontier had long ceased to be a domain of simple explorers and researchers. Blacktron had been outed as the bad guys in space and the Space Police had come in to defend the civilian Futurons. Some epic battles must have been waged, because in a matter of a few years, both the Space Police and Blacktron had updated their looks and vehicles, moving on to a second generation of both themes. Futuron had been replaced by M-Tron, a civilian space colony using magnetized mechanical arms and boxes to mine for precious ores.
In 1993, M-Tron was on their way out and the Space Police were set to defend a third group of civilians: the inhabitants of planet Krysto, otherwise known as Ice Planet 2002. The planet was populated by rugged explorers, faced with the challenge of performing deep space research in the barren cold of Krysto. Launching satellites and gathering intel was their main goal, but could they do it without being hindered by the dark forces of Blacktron II and Spyrius?
All mumbo-jumbo storylines aside, the Ice Planet theme was the one that got really got me into space for quite a while. I got a small set as a present from my parents first to get me into the theme, after which they got me this big one. I soon had to have every other set in the Ice Planet line. I nearly succeeded, missing out on only three teeny tiny sets (two of which I wasn't even aware existed until two months ago). Oh yes, and I never got that bitchin' looking Deep Freeze Defender. Hrumph.
This set therefore - which would be the first actual land base in a space theme for quite some time - has been the biggest space set I own ever since and the one around which all my space scenarios have revolved.
The box, courtesy of Peeron.
Item #: 6983
Name: Ice Station Odyssey
Theme: LEGO System / Space / Ice Planet 2002
If you have read any of my previous reviews, you might have read about my ingenious-but-to-die-hard-collectors-no-doubt-cringe-inducing method of storing boxes: cutting them up, pasting the relevant parts onto a piece of cardboard and putting those into a folder that then goes into a larger binder. Well, this box was pretty darn big, so you can forget about sticking the front of it on an A4-sized piece of cardboard.
Instead, I came up with the next best thing: use it as a poster. Because I was that smitten with this set when I got it.
As such, I managed to dig up the front and back of the box, yellowed and dried out pieces of duct tape still attached.
I remember the box having one of those nifty flaps that allows you to survey its contents before actually opening it (which I wish they'd bring back - just pictures like on the latest police headquarters isn't enough!). Sadly, I don't know what's become of the inside of that flap, but I did find the alternate models that were on the back of the box.
Ground-based control rooms, massive vehicles and a giant killer robot. Lego is awesome.
Parts & Pieces
Anyone who's ever built one of those older space themes knows they're pretty monochromatic. So is Ice Planet 2002. The whole set is basically made up of four colors: black, blue, white and trans-orange. There's some grey technic bits and turntables thrown in here and there, but that's pretty much it for deviant colors. You can see the all the parts in this picture: lots of plates, not so many bricks.
Oh yes, and then there's this bit as well:
The raised baseplate with ice print is exclusive to this set.
There's one thing I'm sure you will all like about this set: it's sticker free! In fact, the whole theme was. As a result, there's an array of lovely printed tiles and slope bricks, as well as a very cool looking frozen radar dish.
Notice how the Ice Planet logo is based on the classic space logo
Also included are three magnets, no doubt carried over from the M-Tron days.
Other pieces of interest include 10 big white wheels and a bunch of hinge plates. There's a fair amount of trans-orange pieces as well, including two rare 10x10x12 corner panels. Also, there's a nifty rack and rack winder combo that will be used in the launching rig.
Wheels and hingy bits.
A selection of trans-orange parts.
The rack and winder that will be used for the station's main feature.
Finally, there's some nice trans-orange accessories present as well: a pair of ice skates and a chain saw for each of the three Ice Planeteers.
Coming in a 20-page (counting the front and back cover), A4-sized booklet, the instructions manual is just the right size. The smaller models are all in the first four pages of the instructions, after which the land base is covered in an efficient 14 steps. No ridiculous amount of oddly-shaped booklets back in 1993! The steps are printed over the sandy background you'd find in other space instructions from the time, only here it's given an appropriately blue hue.
The front of the instructions manual replicates the box art.
The back features an alternate image. I never did figure out what's up with those Points seals though.
Smaller models are all in the same booklet.
Due to the large size of the baseplate, each step takes up an entire page.
With the introduction of Space Police II, Lego introduced new faces as well. The classic grin pattern that had been dominant for decades was now augmented with new features like stubble, microphones, or whatever the designers could come up with. The Ice Planet line continued this trend and introduced three new heads, all of which are available in this set.
This gives us our three players: a strapping young lad and a sassy babe as the heroes of the day and a serious-looking mustached base commander the promotional materials dubbed Commander Cool (which, ironically is about as lame a name as you could think of). He also gets a shiny looking gold torso.
There's no back printing, which would be redundant anyway: as space explorer, each minifig is equipped with their own trusty air tanks.
Looking even cooler with their specialised visors down. The antenna is a neat touch as well.
The station's ice babe in full gear.
Rockets and Satellites
As usual, we start with the smallest models in the set. The Ice Station comes with no less than two rockets with satellites to be launched for the explorers' research. The satellites are based on a 4H antenna and make use of a 1x1 brick with studs on all sides.
It's a simple model that you could easily make more of yourself, provided you own the right parts. The trans-orange top gives it that Ice Planet touch.
The rockets are built around a 12-long Technic axle. While this construction makes the rockets a lot sturdier, the main reason for using an axle is so the magnet can rotate on the rocket. This makes transporting it on the magnetized arm we'll build later much easier.
Once again, the trans-orange makes these easily identifiable as Ice Planet models.
The first of the two vehicles is a small sled-like vehicle used by the explorers to quickly track down the rockets that have returned from space and have put their sattelites in orbit. The rockets are then recovered by the second vehicle for re-use. The Ice Planeteers did have some more advanced vehicles for these operations, but of course, you'd have to buy those separately... (Celestial Sled and Ice-Sat V)
The sled in this set is built on two large skis with a 4x4 plate. The rest is put on top in a quick and simple build.
When not attached to the vehicle, these skis offer some gliding fun for our explorers.
A lovely printed Ice Planet logo on the front.
The trans-orange cones at the side could be whatever you want: stabilisers or guns. In my mind, they shot heat rays used to help cut fallen rockets from the ice.
Next up, the little buggy that brings back the rockets is based on a 2x8 plate. Again, a printed slope with the Ice Planet logo goes on the front.
The big white wheels give the buggy its final look. Two small skis are included for the driver to use when arriving at the scene of the fallen rocket.
Of course the buggy can't bring any rockets back without an actual rocket carrier. This 6-wheeled part can be detached from the buggy and is built seperately.
In this underside view of the carrier we can see how the big wheels will be attached using Technic parts.
The completed carrier.
The two models put together make for a nice long vehicle.
The full carrier loaded.
The vehicle could even be used to launch the rockets somewhere in secret...
The Ice Station Odyssey
The ice station itself is built around the large raised baseplate that comes with this set exclusively. Because the baseplate is raised and already such a huge part of the final shape of the construction, you'll spend most of the build putting in smaller layers that make up the finishing touches. Very little of the final model's overall structure is actually brick-built.
The first steps are spent adding some extra supports around the raised part of the baseplate.
With most of the bases in place, you'll find yourself building the model's details fairly quickly. At the bottom of the ramp is a small secured entrance. The barrier made up of four 4H antenna's goes in pretty quickly. It's also at this point that we see the full width of the model as the 16x32 baseplate is added to the base at the side. It provides the base with a nice level area to work on the rockets. Only 4 steps in, the entrance to the ramp is already as good as completed.
Unfortunately, all that white snow has turned slightly yellow over the years.... Gross!
A close-up look reveals an air bubble in one of the antennas.
Apart from adding some more details to the layers already put in, most of the next steps are spent on building the station's launching rig, which is the station's main feature. It's roughly made up of four different elements. First, the bit that makes up the base of the raising contraption consists of a 4x10 plate with a 2x10 plate to hold the rack attached at an offset. It's put in place over the narrow parts of the pit. The 2x10 plate prevents it from ending up in the wider part of the pit and thanks to the smooth ridge at the edge of the pit the whole thing can slide back and forth quite easily.
The launching rig's bottom support with the rack attached.
The beginnings of the launching mechanism put in place.
After this, there is a large satellite dish that will stick out of the back of the station and is presumably used for targeting purposes. Like the other parts, it's a submodel, but not one that gets its own page. It's simply included within the instructions step in a yellow frame (examples of which you've seen above).
A handy bendy part allows for the dish to be able to move up and down later on.
The dish's incline will be controlled by the rack. You can turn the blue round 2x2 brick to move the launch rig back and forth and the satellite dish up and down.
The third part is the part that will hold the actual rocket and move it into its upright position. It too is based on a hinge and it uses two Technic steering links for support.
Like the rocket carrier, it uses two trans-orange hinge panels with arrow tiles and several black plates to hold the rocket. With this submodel in place, the third and last part of the launch rig on the raised plate is finished. We'll get to the fourth element in a bit.
The rocket holder in a half-upright position.
Before getting to that, a final support structure is added before the two large quarter domes are added. While practicality of this design may be called into question, it undoubtedly gives the base a nice sci-fi feeling. Meanwhile, a small construction featuring a 4x4 turntable is put on the construction placed on the lower area of the model. This will hold the last part of our launch construction.
Finally, we get to the last part of our launching contraption: the arm that will lift the rockets to the launch area. This is where the magnets will finally come into play. Two hinge plates form the body of the arm and a rotatable magnet goes on the very end. The part that holds the magnet itself can rotate as well, giving you the opportunity to easily pick up rockets from pretty much any angle.
A small 1x2 plate prevents the turntable from being able to slide off the door rails completely.
With this and the lovely frozen radar dish in place we've come at last to the end of our build.
After the simple build, we're all ready to play. And after only a few minutes it's easy to see: this set is all geared towards playability.
The two vehicles included allow for off-base scenarios, while the three different minifigs give you a nice dynamic in your play scenarios around the base.
With Commander Cool away, the foot folk get their chance to make use of that frozen slope...
...as long as they don't forget to turn off the killer lasers at the bottom of the ramp.
Of course even when your imagination isn't running wild, you can still spend some time just launching rockets. No review of this set would really be complete without a closer look at the whole rocket business, so as such, I present to you...
The launching procedure
One of the explorers fits the primed rocket with a new satellite...
...after which he makes sure the magnet arm grabs on to it tightly.
Now, the next step involves some cheating. If you start like we did above, you'll find the rocket ends up facing the wrong way in its holder. If you start with the rocket the other way around, you'll have to wait putting on the satellite until the nose cone sticks towards mission control, which somehow made less sense to me. There's a place to hold the unused sattelite's in the lower area, so it makes more sense to attach them to the rockets there.
Oh well. Through the magic of editing, we'll skip the alternate steps and just assume the rocket ended up in its launch rig properly...
The arm puts the rocket in place. Last minute tweaks to the satellite may be executed from mission control.
The rocket is raised into place.
With the rocket on its launch pad and the doors back open, the holder can be lowered and the satellite dish can be raised to calculate the rocket's trajectory. Time for the countdown...
The Final Tally
Design: 8/10 Keeping in mind that this set is designed for playability, I think they did a good job. It's an excellent playset with a lot of nice little features, but there's not much in there in terms of build excitement. Almost all the details are added directly onto the raised baseplate. The color scheme is great though.
Parts: 7/10 Lots of plates, not many bricks and not many different colors either. There's a lot of trans-orange parts, which was nice at the time, since it was a rare color back then. Luckily, if you're going to build something there's short of a dozen wheels included so you can make a nice big vehicle. If you're going to do something landbased, you'll probably want to stick to the raised baseplate, but that can be a bit limiting.
Minifigs: 9/10 All of the theme's minifigs included in one set. Excellent. The diversity also helps in creating scenarios: a senior commander, a cocky young explorer and a tough ice babe all together in a single package is a very good move.
Build: 5/10 The launch construction is decent, but most of the time you're just stacking a few plates on a giant raised baseplate. Meh.
Playability: 10/10 Endless opportunities. Mutinies, dangerous launch pits, rockets gone awry, snow storms, stranded vehicles... the list is endless. This truly is a playset and it's wonderfully stocked for it. Just launching a rocket will keep you entertained for a while, but the addition of the vehicles and the diverse cast of characters will soon let your imagination run wild. Great playability.
Price: 7/10 As far as builds go, I think 60 dollars is a hefty price for this one. But as a playset, it's alright. Granted, you do get a large parts selection, but I still think it might have been just slightly on the steep side. The set's great playability balances it out.
Overall: 7.7/10 (average) I'm actually a bit surprised to see the average come out in such a middle-of-the-road score. Before this review, I would easily have given this set an 8 or higher, but I guess the build factors in much more heavily to me now than it did before. If you get this for the build you'll be sorely disappointed. But if you get this for its play value, you'll get your money's worth and then some!