An Unexpected System Problem: What I learned from 71204: LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level Pack

Public health advisory: This post contains extreme trivia regarding illegal connections for various LEGO pieces.  And Doctor Who. Whilst all care will be taken by the author, the rambling brick accepts no responsibility for the exacerbation of any obsessive symptoms that develop after reading this article.  You have been warned.  And yes, I’m feeling fine, thanks. But perhaps I should get out more!

I like Doctor Who.  My first exposure was on a black and white television in country Victoria, sometime in 1975.  Episode 3 of Planet of the Spiders. Pertwee’s swan song.  Four weeks later I had my first experience with Tom Baker: the end of episode 3 of Robot.  Hat. Scarf. Teeth.  Between this, and an early reading experience based on a seemingly infinite collection of Target novelisations I was hooked(before downloads, legal or otherwise, blu-ray or DVD, we had VHS and Betamax video tapes.  These did not yet exist.  The only economical way to re-experience Doctor Who was through reading books, frequently written by Terrance Dicks as well as other writers, that documented the Classic version of the Television Series. Books are what we used to read before audio books did the process automatically for us…)

Should I even tell the English readers of this blog that in the late 70’s through to the end of the Sylvester McCoy run, Australians had Doctor Who on television, around 6:30, Monday to Thursday? For most of the year.  We experienced repeats.  Mainly Pertwee, T Baker, Davison repeats, but repeats nonetheless.  You didn’t even need to read the novel to know what happened if you missed the first broadcast. No. I shouldn’t tell them.  That would be cruel and unusual. And then they’s mention our last Ashes defeat. Repeatedly.

IMG_8812Fast forward forty years, and the news breaks on LEGO Ideas: after years of an inferior brand having the Official Doctor Who Construction Toy License, there is now to be an official LEGO set.  Released in time for Christmas 2015, it featured the TARDIS, the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi versions of the Doctor in minifigure form, along with Clara Oswald, a Weeping Angel and a Dalek.  This occurs almost in parallel with the release of a Doctor Who Level Pack for LEGO Dimensions, a ‘toys to life’ video game, that only appears to cost $AU125…but really costs much much more.  This pack features Doctor Capaldi, the TARDIS and K9.  Then there came a Fun Pack featuring a Cyberman and a Dalek.  Possibly the only time ‘Fun’ and ‘Cyberman’ can be legitimately combined in a sentence.  Daleks had previously appeared in the phrase: ‘Hours of fun with this new Remote Controlled Dalek.’

This is not a thorough review of that Level pack.  It’s not even an attempt at a review with a significant word count.  I will say that it is fun. If you like Doctor Who and have Dimensions, you should get it. If only for what happens when you use the Doctor in normal game play after playing through the Level.

But this is not that story.  This is a story about table scrap and and a serendipitous discovery.

For the Doctor Who fan who has inadvertently stumbled onto a LEGO blog while googling Doctor Who, table scrap refers to the collection of pieces left on your work surface after you have assembled your LEGO set.

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So, after assembling the Doctor, K9, and the TARDIS, I had a few pieces left over. Included here are some 1×1 round plates, some 1 x 1 square plates, a lever and a sonic screwdriver.  The Sonic Screwdriver caught my attention.  It had been subject of a review on New Elementary in October 2015, which showed some interesting alternative uses.  I looked at the end of the end, and noticed it was slightly tapered.  In the middle of it’s shaft, it features the standard 3.18mm ‘mini figure hand clutch section’ but the end was a little narrower.  By chance, I picked up the 1×1 square plate. Like most plates, this piece has a recess into the back of the stud.  I pushed the tapered end of the screwdriver into this recess and it gripped.  Firmly.  I picked it up and waved it around, and it stayed connected.  Result.  I haven’t seen this written up anywhere prior to June 10 2016, so I would like to claim credit for this technique unless you have already seen it used.  Please let me know. I am happy to give credit where credit is due.

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The Twelfth Doctor ponders an illegal connection.
Now, how consistent is this feature?  I wasn’t sure. So, after removing the Sonic Screwdriver from the square plate, I try to fit it into the equivalent recess behind the stud on a round 1×1 plate, and other plates.  It is unable to get a grip in any way.  It appears to be too small, but I cannot get a good view with my stubby adult thumbs in the way to confirm this.

 

Now this was interesting.  Normally the quality, and the geometry involved in different parts of lego is so consistent that you may expect a degree of predictability with these things. So I looked for ‘other small things I might wedge into other pieces’ amongst my table scrap and found the lever: it is and interesting piece in that it doesn’t fit the standard lego shaft model, to allow firm grip by a minifigure.
This doesn’t fit into the square plate IMG_8819recess, but does fit into the recess on a round plate. This could potentially be used to set some building  with a slight diagonal offset. maybe not strong, but it supports its own weight.   It could be an interesting way to build a flower.  IMG_8823Perhaps I’ll try it sometime, or perhaps you could. This does appear to be dependent on stressing the head of the lever.  I could get it to work with my opaque 1×1 round plates, but (of the available table scrap) only make it work with transparent red, and not transparent light blue or transparent clear of the same piece.  Transparent pieces tend to be made of polycarbonate, rather than ABS, the typical plastic used in lego bricks. Polycarbonate is a more rigid plastic than ABS.

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I may or may not have seen this technique before.  I just don’t know.  I won’t leap to claim credit as quickly here!

Neither the sonic screwdriver, or the lever, fit into the recess behind studs on a 2×4 plate.  IMG_8828So were these plates subjected to an aberration in design, or was it to ensure that the pieces were strong enough to survive the constant joy of being connected and separated?  The fact that the lever attachment doesn’t fit into ALL 1x1round studs suggests that there are some material issues in play here.

I don’t know: if you have this insider knowledge, I would love to know about it.  Please share, either in the comments below or on the Rambling Brick Facebook page.

Both of these connections demonstrated here would be considered ‘illegal connections’ by the LEGO group – they will never appear in any set – but they can be useful to get that interesting look in a model of your own creation.  Jamie Berard, a senior designer at LEGO, has produced a presentation called “Stressing the Elements.” It provides a great discussion of what makes a connection legal or illegal.  It’s out there on the inter webs for you to find.

For now, I hope you have enjoyed this investigation of the seedy side of table scrap. Have you found any poorly documented techniques for connecting pieces of dubious legitimacy? What’s your favourite?

Play Well

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