'Tell Captain Kagi to ready my shuttle for immediate take-off. I sense Lord Vader is in danger ...'
- Emperor Palpatine
... Funny how the epitome of evil cares so much about his new apprentice. I think it's quite sweet!
The Cygnus Spaceworks Theta-2c shuttle was the immediate forerunner of the beautiful Lambda Shuttle that graces the screen of Return of the Jedi. Newly-crowned Emperor Palpatine's shuttle appears for only a few seconds during the closing scenes of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but even in that brief moment it creates an impression, and its pedigree is instantly recognisable.
I was quite excited to see this craft released as a Lego set - the large passenger space-going vehicles have always been my favourites of the Lego Star Wars range, and I'm a sucker for shuttles . Let's see if this one lives up to my expectations.
8096 Emperor Palpatine's Shuttle
Official Lego.com image
Name: Emperor Palpatine's Shuttle
Theme: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Price: UK £59.99 | US $59.99 | EUR 69.95 - 74.90 | CA $79.99 | AU $109.99
Using his personal shuttle to recover Anakin Skywalker™ from the volcanic planet of Mustafar, Emperor Palpatine™ transforms Anakin into Darth Vader™, as seen in Revenge of the Sith®. Use the transformation bed and medical droid to place the helmet on Anakin’s head complete the transformation.
- Includes 4 minifigures: battle-damaged Anakin Skywalker with Darth Vader helmet, Emperor Palpatine, medical droid, and clone pilot
- Shuttle features folding wings, functioning landing gear, opening cockpit and transformation bed
- Shuttle measures 12” (29cm) long and has a wingspan of 15” (39cm)
Links Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron not yet listed ... Brickshelf
This box is surprisingly wide and shallow, presumably to appear more substantial on the shelf. In keeping with the rest of the summer wave, the logo has the lovely, smart indigo which frames a clone looking to windward against a turbulent sky. The ship is pictured blasting its lasers against a volcanic backdrop; appropriately enough as one of the few times we see the shuttle is over the igneous landscape of Mustafar. The four figures are displayed, along with an inset of one of the play features - Darth's behelmeting.
The rear expands upon the play features: Darth's helmetification is shown stepwise, the landing gear is deployed, the cockpit opened; all framing an open-lid shot of the whole shuttle. You will notice that the box is of the frustrating 'tear-tab' variety, normally requiring a letter-box approach to get the contents out without destroying it; however, you might also spot in the top-right corner that Argos had made a start on destroying it for me. Typically, I didn't notice till I got home.
The top displays the figures in 1:1 scale. The narrow box requires the figures to be rotated 90 degrees; to save you scrolling too much, I've rearranged them into 2x2.
The two instruction manuals share the same front picture: the same as the box minus the insets and wording.
The steps are clear but a little simple, often with only two or three parts per step, but there are piece call-outs and warnings (eg. to make sure you get the correct-sided wing-piece).
The proximity of black and dark bley might make colour differentiation difficult, but Lego have been listening, and no similar parts are found in these colours.
Most of the construction steps are in the first manual. The second, which is noticeably poorer quality than the first (I phenomenon I first noticed in the Emerald Night), contains the finishing steps, the inventory (page 2), and a few adverts:
Note the juxtaposition of the two 2010 logo themes: isn't the blue Summer theme so much nicer than the white?
Fans of the Tt Games Lego Star Wars series beware:
It is coming!
Four numbered polybags fall out of the box:
Bag 1 is surprisingly small, and contains the figures and the cockpit:
The cardboards holds Palpy's cloak; the droid torso is protected in its own little bag. The printed console is the same as that from the V19 Torrent.
The cockpit cover is (I think) the same as the front of the new Passenger Train; the cockpit base is a part I haven't seen before:
Bag 2 is larger, and builds the shuttle base and interior:
There's a daunting number of Technic pins, but the build isn't too fiddly. I like the dark green chairs.
The wings and landing skids come from bag 3:
Bley wing-pieces will always be useful for Star Wars MOCs, and there's a nice number of tiles. I don't think I've built a 2010 set that hasn't contained the new 2x4 tiles.
Bag 4 is sizeable. It builds the roof of the shuttle.
Note the Persian arches, the 1x3 dark red tiles and the transparent orange 1x2 plates.
There are only two stickers for this set, both intended for the cockpit cover:
My box contained two sheets!
The set comes with four figures: Emperor Palpatine, 'Charred' Vader, Clone Pilot (presumably Captain Kagi), and a medical droid:
Only Vader and the clone have back-printing.
Palpy has a new face, with more sunken eyes and a more fearsome scowl than his relatively amiable (and now quite dishevelled) predecessor from 7264 Imperial Inspection, on the left.
He also has a noice silver clasp to his cloak, which gets hidden when he has his hood on. Rather disappointingly, he appears to be wearing gloves - can't keep his lightning-hands under control?
Vader has a lovely Mustafar tan. He looks like he'd be quite comfortable in a Prince of Persia set, albeit having been at the wrong end of Dastan's katana.
The medical droid has been weight-training, by the looks of it. His torso and head are one piece, with delicious printing; he'll be useful for a Hoth base.
Captain Kagi (if that is his name) has a face a skeleton would be proud of (so proud he's wearing shades). His suit is the same as the clone pilots from the latest ARC-170 (right), and similar to the V-Wing clone pilot (left). The helmet mould is the same as the ARC pilot, but with different printing; interestingly, it has the 'broken circle' Republic motif.
See here to compare the helmets.
The bulbous cockpit is built first. It's quite an entertaining little sub-construction, with some interesting SNOT on the sides:
The result is quite attractive, seen here from above-front and below-rear.
Note the two pins that are the only connection to the body; reasonably secure nonetheless.
The body of the shuttle will look familiar to owners of the Republic Attack Shuttle:
You can see that the mechanism for attaching Vader's helmet takes up most of the space, but there are recessed areas for seating two passengers. The wings open with a similar mechanism to the RAS, pivoting on friction pins, but there are ugly holes where the mechanism doesn't sit flush with the shuttle floor.
The landing gear consists of skids made from inverted tiles:
The white plates here are a little ugly, and unnecessary - I don't know why they didn't use grey.
The wings are very well designed: a bilayer of plates, but the use of the wedges is very clever.
Here, the white on the top surface is quite effective, but on the underside is again a little incongruous.
Similarities to the RAS are again apparent in the construction of the roof:
Some ugly-looking Technic widgets are required to form the roof opening mechanism, rear and front respectively:
They aren't too noticeable on the finished model.
The centre wing is an asymmetric assemblage of plates:
Note the four black 2x2 plates with offset hole that will attach the wing to the spine of the shuttle ...
Some SNOT plates and tiles finish off the roof, and we are ready to see the completed shuttle.
The Complete Set
First off, we'll look at the model in 'flying mode'. To photograph it with the wings extended, I've had to balance it on a tumbler.
From this angle, it looks pretty good. The forward-swept wings give it a predatorial look, and the design of the cockpit is simply stunning. Seen from this side, the centre wing looks nice; the white wing pieces at the leading edge are a little odd, but are intended to represent a feature of the real thing, as we'll see.
You can also see how the lasers are slightly tilting inwards; this is caused by the white inverted 2x2 slope obstructing the guns, but the effect is not displeasing.
Viewed directly from the front it looks quite menacing:
The SNOT cheeks of the cockpit are nicely smooth and streamlined.
The rear isn't quite so nice. The designers have captured the two straight engines well, but the mass of technic parts are a little untidy. I don't think there's any excuse for the visible tan frictionless pins here.
The rear laser cannon can pivot left and right, and up and down, using quite a simple technique, but it isn't quite intuitive to handle.
Compare the busy rear of the Theta shuttle to the relative sparsity of the Republic Attack Shuttle's (picture taken from def's review):
Whilst the RAS's rear is simple, if functional, the Theta's is fussy.
From the starboard side, we can see the effect of the asymmetric centre wing. I think the visible plate undersides are a little disappointing, but I can't think of a way of achieving the same effect using bricks.
From this side, we can compare to the real thing:
Notwithstanding that the lighting in this Mustafar screenshot isn't ideal, you can see how the designers have gone to some lengths to recreate the livery of the 'real' shuttle. The white wedge plates at the leading edge of the centre wing are an attempt to recreate the visible stripe; it's not altogether successful. I do like the flashes of dark red, which are authentic; I like to think the shuttle was in the process of having its Republic insignia removed. The 'holes' in the wings are recreated nicely; they should sweep forward more but I don't think that could be replicated in Lego at this scale.
In 'landed' mode, the wings fold almost vertical. You can't overextend the wings in either direction; there are technic axles in the folding mechanism to prevent this.
In this side elevation, you can see how effective the landing gear is:
It sits very stably on the skids, but the ugly white is very apparent. The rear cannon seems to extend uncomfortably far from this angle.
From the rear:
This is definitely not the shuttle's best angle. It looks somewhat squat, and the Technic parts are emphasised without the extended wings.
Hooray for folding undercarriage!
The skids fold back neatly; they are still a little obtrusive when folded, but there isn't space to fold them flush without losing what little interior there is. It's a vast improvement on the fixed white blocks found in the RAS and Imperial Landing Craft sets.
The roof-opening device operates thus:
I've removed the port-side cannon for clarity. It's easy to open, but closing the roof is a bit tricky. Once again, the similarity to the RAS is striking.
Here's how Vader gets his hat:
The helmet is gripped by two rubbery pieces, attached to a Technic contraption that slides on two axles. Push it onto Vader's head, and the head-stud grips the helmet more strongly than the rubber. Finally, you can tilt him upright.
The most fearsome and iconic arch-villain in science-fiction history is created, and says ... 'Is Padme ok?'
You can also see the lightsaber holders in this view.
Finally, a look into the roomy cockpit...
... And Palpy sits in the smallest room in the shuttle, doing his Imperial business. It's a bit of a squeeze to get him in there, and I wouldn't recommend leaving him sat there for long with his cloak on - it'll get awfully crumpled.
It's quite a brave move for Lego to produce a higher-end set from a ship that appears only for a few seconds at the end of a five-year old film. I don't know if this ship does or will appear in the Clone Wars cartoon series, but even if it does the set is clearly inspired by the movie Episode III. It might therefore appeal to older kids for whom ROTS may have been their first introduction to the Star Wars universe, but the attention to detail certainly suggests the designer had AFOLs in mind when creating this Lego incarnation of the Theta shuttle.
On the whole, I think the result is a success. There are problems: the use of colours in an attempt to recreate the livery of the movie shuttle, while well-intentioned, comes across a little blocky; the Technic constructions that attach the roof to the body are fiddly and unattractive; the interior, like its cousin the Republic Attack Shuttle, suffers a lack of headroom and the Vader-helmet mechanism eats up most of the space. However, the overall shape is a faithful representation of the Theta shuttle, which is no mean feat given the vehicle's intricate design; the cockpit section is stunning, and the functions are ingenious and well-realised.
Design: 9/10 Even given my reservations, most notably the incongruous white plates and the holes and lack of space inside, I think a high score is deserved. I really don't see how the designers could have done a better job without the set being a dull grey blob. The cockpit design is outstanding; the landing gear is very welcome, if imperfect; and the very successful RAS design deserves its reprise here.
Build: 8/10 Never tedious, but rarely challenging, the build process is entertaining and rewarding. You are always aware, when putting the sections together, that there will be a final 'coming together' moment. The attachment of the centre wing deserves a special mention as an innovative technique.
Parts: 8/10 There's a good selection of plates, handy for SW MOCs, and the number and variety of tiles is a bonus. I would get more excited about the dark tan tiles, but once you've bought a Prince of Persia set or two they become a bit ho-hum.
Figures: 9/10 Thinking about it, all four of these figures are unique. Palpy has had a face-lift (of sorts!); charred Vader is better (and better tanned) than the 2005 version; the clone pilot has a new helmet print, and OT fans have been crying out for a medical droid for years. The only thing missing is one or two red-marked clones (a shock troopers, I believe) which accompany Palpy on Mustafar, but I can't really complain. [Edit: Palpy is the same as in the 10188 Death Star set - I stand corrected ]
Price: 7/10 I wanted to mark this lower. £60 seems awfully pricey for a mid-range set; the slightly larger RAS was a whole £10 cheaper only 18 months ago. However, the reason for this apparent extortion is the weak pound which has seen a hefty hike on all imported products; the price in the US is $60 which puts it at the usual 10 cents per piece mark. So I'll hold my tongue, and instead direct my anger at Argos for damaging my box...
Overall: average 82% My score: 9/10 This is a great set. Look beyond the odd colours: this is one of those models you'll keep picking off the shelf and swooshing around whilst no-one's looking.
Afterword: I was so impressed by the RAS when it came out, that I used the design to base a model of the Lambda shuttle on. I had hoped that when Lego finally released a decent Lambda, it would use a similar mechanism. I was actually a little disappointed when news came that the offical Lambda would be a UCS; this set has gone some way to make up for that (and I'll buy the UCS Lambda anyway).
Here are the Siths comparing the Theta and Lambda shuttles (my interpretation of the latter):
Thanks for reading! Please let me know your thoughts.