The recent Fan Vote for a 90th Anniversary set that has taken place on LEGO Ideas has reminded many of us of many of the great themes that LEGO sets have explored over the years. While Classic Space, Castle, Bionicle and Pirates were the themes that the public were most fond of, there were a number of other themes that we were reminded of. One of these was Ice Planet 2002: released in 1993-94. My friend Jay, over at Jay’s Brick Blog made an impassioned call for voting for this theme, but alas, it was unsuccessful. But there is no doubt that it is a theme that has its stalwart fans: certainly it has a striking aesthetic,so I thought I would take a closer look, to see what the theme brought to the Space sets at the time, as well as why it might be deserving of some greater love going forward.
Please note: Ice Planet 2002 was released in 1993, at which time I was in my Dark Ages. Playing with LEGO bricks held virtually no interest for me. What I have learned has been from talking to those who were a little more interested at the time, reading catalogs from the period via the Brickset library, as well as purusing the instructions for the sets within the theme.
Ice Planet 2002 appeared in 1993: coexisting initially with Blacktron 2 and Space Police 2. The Ice Planet in question is the planet Krysto. Krysto was at the centre of the known universe, and as such was an ideal vantage point from which to develop an advanced rocket program. Every set seemed to come with a Rocket to launch, or some form of tracking equipment. The UK catalog from 1993 explained the differences and interests of the three competing space factions.
Ice planet followed on from M-Tron and Blacktron II, in its use of transparent Neon materials: this time introducing Transparent Neon Orange/ Transparent Fluorescent Reddish Orange.
Coupled with Blue, Black and White, this theme kept a strong, consistant colour palette, guaranteed to burn a hole in the retina of anyone who stared at it for too long. Especially if they were uysing a blacklight.
The sets did not contain antagonists from any theme but it was implied, from the advertising in LEGO catalogs of the time, that Blacktron Agents had been involved in trying to steal technology from the planet Krysto, where the Ice Planet theme was set. Subsequently, the Agents from Spyrius were also attempting to steal from the IP team…
But What Did Ice Planet Bring To The Table As A Lego Theme?
There are a number of aspects to Ice Planet that make it an important theme in the history of LEGO Space sets.Besides continuing the ‘Neon’ series of themes, begun with M-Tron, and continued in Blacktron 2; Ice planet played on the magnetic legacy of M-Tron; Expanded on the design concepts for Space Minifigures, with the first facial hair, fringes and female faces in the space line.
Finally, Ice Planet was one of the first themes for a few years that almost directly followed the lineup of Classic Space. As a nod to this, it was also the first theme to include blue in its colour scheme since the demise of the ‘official’ classic space range, in 1987.
So, lets take a look at these aspects:
The Minifigure Changes:
1989 had seen a revolution in the development of LEGOminifigures: we saw the first Piates sets – featuring minifigures with facial features, including the first exclusively female minifigure: sporting lipstick, eye lashes and a ‘curved figure’ outline on the torso print. Captain redbeard was also the first Minifigure to have an official name.
In Castle sets, we saw our first female faces in 1990( 6071,6081), while males with facial hair did not start to appear until 1992 – as seen in the Black Knights and Wolf Pack.
The first Space minifigures with more than a smiley face appeared in Space Police 2 (1992-93), where there was a radio headset, as well as eyebrows superimposed. Essentially, the head is unchanged, but varations in Torso design are present.
The three Ice Planet minifigures have similar designs to each other: the commander has a gold belt and collar, while the other expeditioners have a silver belt and pack which they wear, featuring the Ice Planet logo – which is in turn similar to the ‘Classic Space’ Logo. They all wear white air tanks, and a white helmet with a transparent neon orange visor. The commander features white, bushy eyebrows and a mousatche. The male crew member – referred top in one catalog as ‘Krysto Ranger’ – More of a job description than a name – has a white fringe – these white hairy areas are all outlined: a new level of detail for LEGO minifigure faces, at the time. The third member of the team has a red fringe, and pursed lips. ‘Back in the day,’ the commander was occasionally referred to as Commander Bear, but in the game LEGO Legacy: Heroes Unboxed, we have Commander Cold, and the female figure is listed as Doctor Kelvin. She is not just here as a maiden, queen, or henchman, but a valuable member of the team. And only included in the two largest sets.
So we see several Space firsts here: the first Space minifigures with facial hair, or indeed hair detail; the first Female LEGO Spaceperson but, not the first named Space Minifigure. That honor went to Captain Magenta, of the Space Police 2
The figures from Ice Planet were typically seen with transparent neon orange skis, and the Commander is frequently seen wielding a chainsaw blade. The commander was also released in a set with Spyrius and Unitron figures in 1994:
We saw the main wave in 1993, with two smaller sets released in 1994. The sets continued to be advertised in the 1995 catalog.
I find it interesting in this era, that Ice Planet are not released in conjunction with other factions within the set (We often saw Blacktron and Space police appear in the same set – But the Ice Planet team were fairly independent, with the exception of the minifigure box pictured above.That said, until Life On Mars, the majority of themes were dedicated to a single faction – UFO, Exploriens and Insectoids, robotron: there was no real crossover within a theme.
Parallels with Classic Space:
Lasting two years, Ice Planet 2002 saw only 9 sets all up, but parallels can be seen in the original classic space lineup, with perhaps only the 924/487 not having a clear parallel. I find myself also asking if 6834, Celestial Sled, is intended to be a land or air based craft.
The Small Land Vehicle:
The small scooter/shuttle
The land based, smaller tracking vehicle.
A larger tracking vehicle. 6834 seems to incorporate all tracking aspects of 452, while being a slightly larger shuttle that 1711
Both Classic Space, and Ice Planet present us with a rocket launching vehicle, with a computer station
Both have a larger, one man spaceship.
There were, of course, several bases to choose from in the original line up of Classic Space, all built up on one of those great landscape plates. It is quite a simple look, when compared with the massive extruded affair that is the base of the 6983 Odyssey Ice Base/ Ice station Krysto. This plate appeared in alternative colours / printing with Bracktron2 as well as Spyrius themes.
And finally, every theme needs a ‘flagship space craft.‘ Classic space had the Galaxy Explorer. Ice planet had the Deep Freeze Defender.
After Space themes moved on from Classic Space, it was uncommon to find a theme with sets at just about every price point, with both land or space vehicles, as well as a base available. Exploriens (1996) might be a an exception, as might the Mars Mission sets – which also gave the choice of Earth or Mars forces to collect. This lineup was seen again in 2019 with the LEGO City Mars Mission subtheme.
Those 90’s Aesthetics
There is something about the Artstyle on the boxes from the early 90’s. Box Artwork of this era seemed pretty consistent from Space Police (1987), through to Spyrius/Unitron (1996) with ‘3D Neon Sky Grid Graphics’ being a feature of this theme.
The Box artwork is one thing, but I really love the way that the LEGO Catalogs of the time really focus on the stories being told. So, How did the advertisements look? I found some images from the 1993 UK Catalog, as presented in the library on Brickset.com. Let’s celebrate the great design and photography that went into displaying these sets in the catalogs
As you can read in the description of the different factions here, Blacktron is setting out to steal the Ice Planet’s computer and rocket technology. Space Police are setting out to catch them, and are in alliance with the Ice Planet team.
In 1994, we saw a couple of newer sets, a small space scooter , as well as a snow plough type of vehicle: neither of these appear in the 1994 catalogs, however.
At this time, Spyrius have surplanted the Blackton II team as the primary threat to Ice Planet, although they also have their hands full, dealing with the Unitron team as well. Space Police are an ever diminishing presence and by 1996 Ice Planet was gone, replaced with the Exploriens theme. Spyrius was still around, keeping a constant eye open for opportunities to spread their wings, and expand their operations.
I feel that the human minifigures in Spyrius are a backward step compared with the designs used for those in Ice Planet.
The design feels a bit busy to me, but perhaps that is just a function of mid 90’s aesthetics. The Robot character, Major Kartofski, is perhaps a stroke of genius, and has been revisited to an extent, this year, with the robot pilot for the Creator 3in1 Cyber Drone set 31111.
The droid design has changed a couple of times over the years, and has been used in conjunction with themes such as Time Cruisers and Exploriens, albeit not with a Classic Space themed Torso. Could the Cyberdrone pilot be Major Kartofski, travelling incognito? The only limit is with your imagination.
The Legacy of Ice Planet 2002
As an expeditionary force, the Ice planet team were busy developing their technology. If you wanted to incorporate an antagonistic force, such as Sprius or Blacktron, you could. But it was not necessary.
The use of the Trans Neon Orange elements strikes me as being a ‘Future take’ on existing polar exploration equiment, where orange is a frequently used colour. We see similar colour schemes employed in the Arctic themes of 2000, 2014 and 2018, although the proportion of orange elements is much higher in the Earth Based exploration themes.
Looking at the original Arctic range in 2000, the figures owe more than a mere nod to the design of the Ice Planet Explorers
In the most recent Arctic theme, Orange rather than blue and white was the dominant colour; Dark blue was the darkest colour used, and the classic bright blue had ‘slid’ over to azure. Some of the sets from the most recent City Arctic Subtheme look ike they might have better served as part of a science fiction theme, rather than as the realistic City theme.
Of course, the defining colour of Ice Planet was the Transparent Neon Orange. Nexo Knights were a great source of elements in this colour, along with plenty of dark blue, bright blue and greys. Many of the new moulds featured in that theme were well suited to space sets, even though the sets were masquerading as castle related. We saw some new molds in that theme as well: pyramid tiles, axe plates, as well as new windscreen molds, to say nothing of the pentagonal shields that were an integral part of the theme. We also saw the wheel moulds from Ice Planet resurrected, albeit in titanium grey, rather than white.
I am disheartened by the reception that Nexo Knights received at the time, by the AFOL community: It might not have been a good castle theme, and while the vehicles within the set were a little more niche I believe that the sets had all of the elements required to build a good range of Spaceships. Perhaps not so good for a castle, unless you wanted one in blue and orange, but I think it was the closest thing to a Non Star Wars Fantasy space theme that we have had since Galaxy Squad. Back in the day, I opted to use elements from NEXO Knights to revisit Classic Space sets from 1979-1980 – on display here at BrickVention 2018.
More recently, the LEGO City Mars Mission sets from 2019, also paralleled the original wave of Classic Space sets. In those sets, the use of colour might have been different, however the theme tracked the themes of Classic space: Exploration, research and working together. Add a bit more blue, and the rest of the colour scheme might be considered to be quite similar to that of Ice Planet: White, Black, bright (but not trans neon) orange. Was this a 40 year celebration of Classic Space which nobody really commented on? Had the colour scheme been a little more fantastical, it might have been readily seen for what I think it was.
And what about those who might be inclined to MOC in the colours of Ice Planet? The good news is that Blue, Black and White are not going anywhere. The bad news is that after a few years in continuous production, transparent flourescent reddish orange/ transparent neon orange appears to be on its way out, not really appearing in any of the 2021 releases. In 2020, the colour was seen throughout the Ninjago: Prime Empire subtheme, as well as the 2020 Monkie Kid sets. The Demon Bull King, in particular, looks like a great source of elements, and might be worth getting hold of this, and other elements within the theme before they are retired.
Images from the 2021 Monkie Kid sets have left me feeling that time has come to start revisiting Blacktron as a theme. It also leaves me sad that Nexo Knights finished its run when it did: the antagonists forces were starting to develop a black/trans neon green look and left me starting to feel inspired to think about Blacktron craft that never were. (Admittedly, Blacktron 1 was Black/Trans Yellow; Blacktron 2 was Black/White and Trans Neon yellowish green. I wonder if Blacktron 3 might be as simple as progressing to Trans bright Green, Black and White? We have had the opportunity to develop further Blacktron enemies through occaisonal shout outs in Collectable minifigures, as well as Space Police 3.
Where To From Here?
At present, I own no Ice Planet sets.
I have recently purchased the Deep Freeze Defender on Ebay, and am waiting for it to arrive from the UK. I have found a few Ice Planet specific elements (chainsaws, skis and white wheels through a local Bricklink store, but otherwise have a wide range of left over elements from Nexo knights. Many elements have gone into reimagining the collection of Classic Space sets in the Nexo Knights Parts palette. – but after three years, they are still put together. Perhaps it is time to retire a few of those MOCs.
I will see what I can put together from the original range, with the pieces I have. Based on my previous exercise with the Nexo Classic Space, I expect that these craft will start off as slight modifications, with small element substitutions: these will typically be small sets, where I have access to many of the parts, rather than carbon copies. As I go, I suspect models will deviate more and more from the original ones.
Some elements have just not been available for me to use – particularly some of the windscreen elements. Perhaps I’ll present what I have come up with over the next few weeks.
And then the characters: I have lots of spacemen floating around – some from city, come classic, and a few random individuals from in between. I might experiment with some different torso’s and legs, as well as obtain some trans neon orange visors – as seen in Ninjago. They could be quite useful. I might add a creator’s corner to the blog over the next few months. Who knows where it might take me.
And finally, I find myself wondering how Ice Planet might be coloured, if it was to be produced today: I think it is likely that we might see Dark Blue and the Azur shades introduced, as well as a little bright orange. Use trans neon orange where possible. Regular blue would probably be left out. And like Arctic, I suspect a lot of the more specialised elemenmts that were produced in almost every available colour in the early 90’s, might only be still available in light or dark grey – clips, hinges wheels and so forth.
Wish Me Luck. I may be some time.
Are you a LEGO Space fan? How do you feel about Ice Planet 2002? A blast from the past? A rabbit hole that one’s wallet cannot bear to fall down? Please leave your comments below, and until next time,