The icy ground quakes to the 'crump, crump' of the approaching monstrous Imperial Walkers, much like the hearts and minds of the Rebel infantrymen, doggedly manning the Hoth defences, quake at this fearsome sight. Suddenly, a vanguard of sleek, dart-like shapes screams over the trenches from behind them, powering towards the lurching, towering metal contraptions in the distance. A ragged cheer erupts from the trenches: behold! It is the might of brave Rogue Squadron, blasters firing, determined to stop these Imperial invaders in their mechanical tracks. Could the swift, agile David of the Alliance's Snowspeeders possibly overcome the lumbering Goliath of the Imperial AT-ATs?
The opening battle scene of The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most memorable of the entire Star Wars epic. At its heart is the modified Incom T-47 Airspeeder, better know as the Snowspeeder, one of the most instantly recognisable of the iconic Star Wars vessels, and here I bring you a detailed examination of Lego's Ultimate Collector Series version of this classic speeder. Read on, to see how it handles the scrutiny....
Name: Rebel Snowspeeder
Theme: Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series
Years: 2003 - 2005
Price: Originally GB £109.99 | US $130
Current price at time of review: Used £205; $275 - 375 | MISB $355 - 470
Pieces made in: Denmark and only Denmark!
'Shop@Home Catalogue, on January 2005', said:
The rebel Alliance relied on the power of the Snowspeeder in the Battle of Hoth. Now you can create a detailed model of this amazing craft, with this LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series set! This converted T-47 airspeeder features 2 wing-mounted laser cannons, two-man cockpit features controls that move and a rear harpoon cannon. Now £94.99
This was the sixth ship to join the ranks of Lego's UCS collection, and, coming in late 2003, the last before the change from old to new grey. Arriving barely twelve months after the awesome Imperial Star Destroyer, the second largest space-going vessel in the Star Wars universe, this version of one of the smallest craft would have had to work hard to make an impact. Judging by the sale value on the above catalogue extract, I suspect it didn't sell quite as well as Lego might have hoped, though this may be because people's wallets were still smarting from the ISD purchase - I know mine was, but I was lucky to receive this as a present.
The Box - Front
This set hails from the era of blue boxes for Star Wars sets. The sky-blue surround is a good match for the scene: the Snowspeeder shoots across the battle-torn surface of Hoth; a 'real' AT-AT stalks in the background. If you look closely at the top of the box, you can see that the dramatic display continues onto that surface: this is a wonderful touch, and helps to set the box apart from the sea of blue that graced the shelves back in 2003. The Star Wars logo is accompanied by a shining lightsaber motif, in common with the other SW sets from this year; however, unlike the 4502 Dagobah X-Wing, and the 4504 Falcon for example, this wasn't to my knowledge later re-released in a black 'Original Trilogy' edition.
The brandished-lightsaber logo features prominently on the rear, which is used to demonstrate the various features of the built model:
We'll take a good look at these details throughout the review. Note again the smart blue surround, which makes this set unique amongst the UCS range; you might also notice that the 'Ultimate Collector Series' slogan is absent from the entire box exterior.
The box measures in at W 572 x H 381 x D 91 mm, to all intents identically sized to the similarly-priced 10134 UCS Y-Wing (which also sports a similar piece count). In common with all UCS sets prior to the 'tear-tab' era, no cardboard destruction is required to open it - just cut the seals and lift the lid.
The booklet cover is identical to the box front:
It's a single fairly weighty volume, with ninety-four pages of instructions starting immediately on the inside front cover. The rear cover displays the same StarWars.com advertisement as can be found on the back of the UCS Y-Wing manual; you can view the image here. Inside the rear cover is the all-too familiar 'Win! Gagne! Gewinne!' page; there is no parts inventory.
Inside the booklet, piece callouts are clear using on average 15 parts per step. Sub-builds are common, as can be seen in this featured page:
As with all to many Star Wars sets, colour differentiation can be tricky in places, and black and dark grey are the usual suspects. I had to backtrack twice to replace black parts with grey or vice versa; fortunately the errors didn't require too much time to correct.
If you've read my Y-wing review, you might recall that I drew attention to the blue surround of the instruction pages from that set, and how it seemed out of place given the black covers. Here, the page design is very similar (although the background pattern differs) but is perfectly at home with the cover and box livery.
The single decal sticker sheet is printed on transparent plastic. It contains the large UCS display plaque, the cockpit markings, and various little details mostly in orange.
Some strips of orange are used to correct areas where orange pieces weren't available, notably on the airbrakes as we'll see later. Several of the stickers need to be applied across multiple pieces, including (as usual) the display plaque.
Once again I refused to dirty my precious Lego with the evil things. Mostly, the model does well without them.
Grey, dark grey, white and black are the featured colours of this set. There is an enormous selection of plates, including several 'missing-corner' wing plates to make you pine for the lost era of Classic Space. I really shouldn't complain - I spent most of my childhood trying unsuccessfully to create models like this one!
Click the pictures for a larger view.
Unsurprisingly for a relatively 'flat' model, the number of bricks is less impressive, but we do start to see a splash of colour. The unexpected blues and yellows will be hidden in the final model.
There's a large quantity of slopes, including some rare orange ones; the variety of wheels you see will be put to interesting use.
Finally, we come to the small parts and functional elements:
Don't let the friction pins alarm you: there isn't an awful lot of technic in this set. There's a useful collection of grille tiles, clicky hinges and jumper plates, and of course no detailed Star Wars model is complete without telephones, binoculars and 1x1 round tiles.
I've isolated some parts that are rare or unique:
Note the Classic Space cockpit cover, for the only time available in smoke; and these orange slopes are also unique, as is the opaque orange 'police helicopter cockpit'. I like the unusual tubing pieces, even though they are to be found in a few other sets; interestingly, this is the only set to include the 6-long pole in old grey.
Part One - The Body
We start with the very base of the model, a sandwich of bricks between plates:
The 4x4 technic block will become the attachment point for the stand; the brightly-coloured bricks are used for strength and are rapidly hidden away. The black inverted slopes at the rear puzzled me when I first built this, but they form the base of the propulsion unit in what is a simple but clever technique.
Next, the floor of the cockpit is laid down, and the body extends laterally with some grey slopes that will help to support the wings.
The mysterious one stud gap in the walls becomes the insertion point for the grey tubes; they are hardly visible in the finished model and it seems almost a waste of such a beautiful piece. In the second picture you can see the rear 'flaps' - replete with faux-hydraulic detail - which attach via clicky-hinges. I presume they are part of the directional control mechanism in the 'real' speeder.
Next, some yellow cockpit detail is added, and the rear is built up some more. The two 1x4 black bricks in the centre are supposed to be dark grey - this was one of my colour-differentiation errors.
The two cockpit chair seats are placed, the front one at a half-stud offset via jumper plates.
Some rather well-hidden booster rocket nozzles are added amidst the sea of black at the back:
There's a very inspired use of unusual pieces for the controls - the rear is a 'jack-hammer' piece - such as used as the harpoon on the latest System Snowspeeder incarnation - and the front is a metal detector, the archetypal tool of 80's Lego astronauts.
Now the attachments for the wings are added, and the cockpit sides built up further.
The blue technic piece at the front will connect the nose section. At the nearside front is the grey pole that forms the cockpit prop.
Coming to the end of this section, we add a number of wall sections which will allow the wings to sit at an angle without leaving an unsightly gap. The cockpit chair backs are nicely finished in tiles, and the 4x2 studless curved bricks make effective headrests. They are attached, Studs Not On Top, back-to-back. We get a nice view of the harpoon gun here - it pivots upwards and swivels loosely on a 2x2 turntable. For some reason, it reminds me of a U-boat deck cannon.
At this point I was thinking that the cockpit section looks rather deep, and I was worried that the finished model might become bulky and unwieldy; however, so far the build has been a very satisfying, largely brick-on-brick process, with a few little surprises on the way (I was delighted with the chair construction the first time I built it).
Part Two - The Cockpit Canopy
The rear section sits on a 4x8 white plate, and will fill in the missing gap on the body section. A few slopes and the 'police helicopter' cockpit pieces form the rear window:
Note the 1x1 plate with 'ring' attachment that you can see through the window. I didn't know what that's for, but as Inconspicuous has suggested, it might be the rear gunner's targeting system.
The opening forward section of the canopy is formed from plates and windscreens thus:
The windscreen pieces at the side help to simulate the inward slant of the 'real' cockpit, with reasonable success. The two smoke cockpit pieces at the front are covered with plates, so they don't open independently. The smoke hinge plate at the top does open, though I don't think it's intended to.
Part Three - The Nose
The nose section - built separately for connection via friction pins - is itself a traditional construction of bricks on a double layer of plates.
The double layer of blue technic pieces will anchor the section securely onto the body; they are covered with slope bricks which are staggered to replicate the angles of the craft's front end. Having experienced the challenging multi-angled construction of the 10030 Star Destroyer, I was pleasantly surprised that the designer opted for this simpler - but effective - technique here.
Part Four - The Wing
The two wings are almost mirror images, so I have only shown the port one in-build. A double layer of plates is edged with the 'missing corner' wing plates mentioned earlier; the smooth contour thus created is echoed in grey on the lower layer, at a slight offset; you'll be able to see this from beneath later.
On top of this plate bilayer, bricks are added to form the large rearward 'humps', which I understand house the repulsorlift engines. Into this hump will go some greebling detail:
One of the benefits of 'old' dark grey is that it is a colour reminiscent of engine grease - perfect for adding verisimilitude in these situations.
With the greeble plate in situ, we now add the big wheels that form the rear and mid sections of the laser cannon:
Note the black 'holes' in the side of the rear hump - another small detail accurate to the movie design.
The front of the laser cannons is mostly a number of cylinders connected via friction pins; the result is surprisingly strong.
The cover of the rear hump employs the opaque cockpit pieces; note that the orange one isn't wide enough to continue the three-stud wide stripe. This is meant to be corrected with a sticker.
All sections are now ready to be connected together:
The wings are a little fiddly to attach to the body, especially once one is in place. The instructions aren't clear as to where exactly you should place them, although it's fairly intuitive. The advantage of modular construction like this is that it can quickly be disassembled for easy transport, though the sections won't fit back into the box without breaking the body.
Part Five - The Stand
Like the Y-wing, the Snowspeeder is designed to be displayed leaning to the side, and the stands of the two models are identical in design, with only minor colour differences. This uses dark grey grille tiles; that of the Y-wing has medium stone grey ones, and of course the 'feet' are 'old' dark grey vs dark stone grey.
Unlike the Y-wing, the Snowspeeder can be placed on the stand tilted upwards, and it can be used with the X-wing or TIE Interceptor stand, though these stands will complain a little if you do.
The Complete Set
So now we get to put all the sections together and take a good look at this beauty:
Immediately you can see how the wing and nose sections come together to form the distinctive contours of this iconic vessel. Even without the stickers, the characteristic markings clearly relate the model to its on-screen counterpart; the fearsome-looking laser cannons are brought to life with wonderful detail; and the designers have done a good job of rendering the tapering cockpit shape, despite the lack of appropriate pieces. I'm sure the stickers would help here.
Note also the small cockpit air-entry port on the starboard wing, and the minor greebling at the base of the small forward humps.
The sleek lines of the Snowspeeder are vividly apparent in these views from above and below:
If you compare the plan view to the 'official' schematics, you'll notice that the laser cannons are meant to slant inwards, presumably to bring the laser fire to 'focus' at a certain point, but in the Lego version they are parallel. I can forgive this discrepancy, particularly as I had never noticed this feature despite having watched The Empire Strikes Back more times than I can count. I imagine that correcting this would not be easily achievable in Lego.
On the underside view, you can see the pattern of plates on the lower layer of the wings, and also get a glimpse of the fancy tubes as they exit the cockpit area. A few 2x2 inverted dome pieces on the underside allow you to display the model directly on the shelf, should you wish.
My concerns about the sheer bulk of the body section appear unfounded:
The craft maintains a low profile, and ought to be a difficult to target for the clunking AT-ATs to hit. The incredible length of the laser cannon is readily apparent here, and you can see the 'holes' in the side of the humps.
I love this low oblique view, as the speeder may have appeared to the Hoth infantry as it swooped into battle.
Again, you can see that the bulk of the body section is hidden by the majestic wingspan; the inverted slopes make a gradual transition from the streamlined nose to the heavier rear. You can imagine how Luke was able to crash-land without injury - the speeder looks able to slide along the icy terrain. This perspective also demonstrates the angle up the nose section to the cockpit, offering a commanding view to the pilot.
The speeder's small forward silhouette is shown in the following portrait shot:
It's a sleek design, built for speed and agility, but those laser cannons look menacing.
Here you can see how Lego have rendered the rear propulsion system:
Three booster nozzles sit unobtrusively behind the black 'radiator' sections, created with reasonable accuracy from bricks. There aren't as many ridges as there ought to be, and I'm disappointed the designers didn't use jumper plates to offset them, which would eliminate the nasty two-stud gap in the middle. Still, the effect is good.
The rear 'flaps' can be examined in this shot: The faux-hydraulic tubes are a lovely touch, but it's a shame they don't attach to anything at the top.
Compare the rear view to this graphic representation of the Snowspeeder proper:
You can see that the designer hasn't got the heat-sink ridged section quite right; it might have been better to use a number of wing-plates attached perpendicularly to the rear.
Looking at this picture, you'll notice it has grey markings. Although Lego's orange version is perfectly correct, it does mean that it is more likely to be Zev Senesca's speeder (the one that rescues Han and Luke) rather than Luke's, which has the grey stripes. Either the designer didn't realise the significance, or they chose the more colourful option.
Now we'll take a closer look at some of the details and functions.
The first shot below shows the 'roof' of the wing humps open, revealing the greebling detail below. These opening sections act as airbrakes, and I believe they're used to interrupt lift on the wings and thus help roll the speeder, much as wing-mounted spoilers deploy when an aircraft rolls. You may have noticed them in use in the movie. They open to about 60 degrees; the port airbrake is shown here at its limit.
In the second picture, you can see how the grey pole is used to prop open the cockpit canopy. At this angle, probably a bit steeper than it would be realistically, the canopy will stay open by itself; at a shallower angle you'll need the pole, and it'll engage in a number of places. It must have been quite a struggle for the rear gunner to enter and exit.
The cockpit interior is beautifully detailed:
The pilot's foot-pedals are nicely highlighted in yellow, and the metal detector makes a surprisingly good joystick - being made of soft plastic, it's also somewhat moveable. The control panels would undoubtedly look more interesting with stickers applied! The seats, smooth as they are studless, look uncomfortably upright, but I'm sure it would be the work of moments to modify them to a more laidback angle.
Finally, we can take an overall look at the speeder, and with her little sibling 4500 for comparison:
The UCS version is obviously a far more accurate representation; however, what really stands out in this shot is the sheer size of this behemoth. It's huge, and dwarfs the little System-scaled version. At 43cm (17 in) long, the model is approximately 1:10 scale to the intended 'life' size - that's a fantastic achievement, and goes some way to explain why the designer went to such lengths to achieve attention to detail.
She even manages to put the Rebel Blockade Runner - my largest assembled set - to shame:
The RBR is longer, heavier, and contains more pieces, yet somehow the Snowspeeder manages to steal the show. I confess to being rather amazed by her size, building it for the second time, and I don't remember the same feeling first time round; however, as I recall she did sit next to the Imperial Star Destroyer last time.
This side-on view is a good opportunity for a further comparison, this time to an official movie model:
On the whole, the design accuracy is near-perfect. However, as usual, the designer has employed a little leeway in the dimensions. The Lego incarnation is a little longer than it ought to be, and in particular the slope of the nose section is altogether to shallow. This could be a necessary variation, required on order to marry the angles of the wing plates to the nose slope given the available pieces, or it could simply be that the designer preferred it that way. If the latter, I tend to agree; the official model is rather snub-nosed. Others don't, though - I have seen a few complaints about the nose design, and you can see a modified version here (with apologies to the creator).
This is a superb set, despite its few flaws: it is a beautiful rendition of the classic Original Trilogy craft, detailed and accurate, with wonderful display features. It seems to have been largely overlooked in the annals of Lego Star Wars (though at least it got a mention in The Visual Dictionary, unlike the poor Y-wing), and I for one feel it's very underrated.
Design: 18/20 This is eye-candy for the shelf: amazingly detailed, accurate but to within the limits required to keep it looking stunning. It dominates the other UCS sets, being to a scale unprecedented in the UCS line (sculptures excluded). I've had to remove a point each for the rear radiator and the nose shape, but it is with regret, and I will not be modifying mine.
Build: 10/10 A thoroughly enjoyable experience; interesting without being too technical, and with minimal repetition - even the mirrored wings remain fun.
Parts: 9/10 There's a great selection of plates which could be handy for MOCs, and a few rare pieces which might be useful - I'd love to have had those smoke cockpit pieces in my Classic Space childhood. At the time, orange was still a rare colour and seeing large quantities of it was breathtaking for me.
Playability: Not Scored This set is for display, but it's worth a note that you can swoosh this thing around the room - it's nicely balanced - and the functional features such as the opening cockpit and airbrakes could be 'played' with.
Price: 9/10 A very reasonable price to parts ratio, and if I had snagged this for the sale price, I'd have given it a 10. You'd make a nice profit on the second hand market, but I for one won't be selling this anytime soon.
Overall: 92% A high score, but one fully deserved by this amazing set. It's very nearly my favourite of all the UCS sets (the RBR still edges it slightly) and its long years of attic-stored obscurity are definitely over.
Thank you for reading. This is the last in my series of UCS reviews; I hope you have enjoyed them! Please do let me know what you thought of the set and the review.
See a few posts below for a great video of the Snowspeeder by Anio.
My other UCS reviews:
Pre-Academy: Reviewers Academy:
Edited by WhiteFang, 30 March 2010 - 02:12 AM.