Returning to Ice Planet, A Builder’s Diary I: Colour and Concepts

Since I wrote an overview of ICE PLANET 2002, I have come to make a realisation: I’ve been a little too focused on news, reviews, and product announcements lately. Not to mention that little podcast thing. Perhaps to the extent that I have started to lose track of what I find to be so enjoyable about LEGO play… the act of creation. I’ve taken a couple of days out from the routine to start playing, designing and MOCing again.

A little while ago, I took a look at the theme ICE PLANET 2002 – a LEGO® space theme from the early 1990s. The theme was set on the Planet Krysto, in the centre of the known Universe. With three different figures, this theme included the first female Space Minifigure, a distinctive colour palette and a return to the values of Classic Space.

I now find myself wanting to explore this world a little further: bringing the United Galaxies back to Krysto, and using this as the basis for some MOCs of my own.

Nearly thirty years have passed since the United Galaxies’ Forces launched their last expedition Ice Planet 2002.

The Odyssey Base has since been abandoned after a computer virus, planted by Spyrius agents, rendered its systems inoperative. The United Galaxies’s rocket research program has been moved to several decentralised locations. A strange, coded signal has been detected coming from the area of the long-abandoned base in the meantime. A code not used by the forces of United Galaxies But from whom, and why? The Space Police say that an uninhabited, abandoned planet is outside their jurisdiction. Others say that the Space Police just want to chase bad guys that they know.

And so a new expeditionary force is set up, drawing upon the expertise of the earlier researchers. Their mission: identify the source of the signal, secure any residual artifacts from the original mission and, finally, establish whether there is any threat to the United Galaxies. If the Union is being threatened, neutralise the source of the problem…with extreme prejudice.

What Defined Ice Planet 2002?

Blizzard Baron: One of the medium-sized craft featured in Ice Planet 2002

In launching a new mission to Krysto, I wish to draw inspiration from the original theme from 1993-94. There were number of things that defined Ice Planet 2002: the distinctive colour scheme, the minifigures, specific elements, unique to the theme, and the nature of sets in the theme.

I found myself wondering,”If Ice Planet were to be produced today, what would it look like? Would it be the same? And what would be different?”

How Have Lego Themes Evolved Over The Last 30 Or So Years?

I am not setting out to ruin childhood memories. I am not setting out to destroy Ice Planet as it was. However, I am looking to create a palette of elements and colours that feel contemporary, are readily available. At the same time, I want them to leave you feeling that a model is very definitely set on Ice Planet Krysto. This is setting up a plan for my own MOCs – something I have not been paying enough attention to in recent years. So, what is likely to have changed in how LEGO themes are put together in the intervening 30 years.

Consider the colour:

Ice Planet 2002 featured a distinctive colour palette: Virtually everything was bright blue, black, white or transparent neon orange. Would we see the same today, as we did back in 1994? I looked back to the past to see how the theme might utilise colour today. Indeed, the LEGO Colour palette has expanded considerably in that time. While a specific space theme might be difficult to follow, the Arctic subthemes of LEGO Town (2000) and LEGO City (2014, 2018) might offer us some clues.


In 2000, the solid colours in use were blue, black, white and bright orange. Transparent blue was the dominant shade used for the windows., Some other transparent colours used for lights and markers. Except for the green parkas, the minifigures were often black and blue, with the Arctic logo printed on the torso. The overall appearance of these arctic figures was similar to the Ice Planet Explorers.

But how did the colour scheme evolve over time? I turned to the palette of the City Arctic themes of 2014 and 2018 to see how the colouring may have evolved over time.


The colour scheme evolved a little in 2014: predominantly orange with both light and dark bluish greys and white for trim. Windscreens were transparent blue. On the whole, while the theme was fit for purpose, the colour scheme did not bring the same sense of the dramatic as that of the original Ice Planet and Arctic sets.


And then, in 2018, the return to the Arctic was a little more colourful: the orange was contrasted by the introduction of dark blue and dark azure. There were still some grey and black elements: predominantly where parts were commonly produced in those colours – such as the skis, Minifigure accessories as well as clips, hinges, ball joints and so forth.

Of course, there were a couple of sets in the 2018 City Arctic series that appeared a little more fantastical. You could probably put them on an alien planet, with a little bit of redesign and set them to work.

So, while I find the colour palette of Arctic 2018 to be more appealing, it doesn’t quite feel suitable for Ice Planet. It’s just a little too orange.

So I decide to introduce dark blue and dark azure, essentially reducing the use of black and blue from Ice Planet2002. I would be happy to use white elements as they were originally, and I suspect some black details will need to remain in use here. I would certainly look to recruit transparent neon orange elements into the build. This latter choice poses a slight problem: It does not, technically, appear in any 2021 sets. I suspect it is being retired after a noble run since the NEXO Knights theme was released in 2015. Further elements appeared in the 2020 Monkie Kid releases. That said, transparent Bright Green has made a resurgence in the 2021 MK sets. Hmmm… I might need to consider an antagonist faction).

Hunting for Elements:

Not all elements featured in Ice Planet are still available. Some redesigned, some functionally replaced, and some just retired.

If any elements defined ‘Ice Planet’, it was the transparent fluorescent orange skis and chainsaw. They not only functioned as heated snow cutters, but they also defined the fantastic nature of the theme. White skis would be acceptable in the reimagining, but have not been seen recently. If I could recolour one element today, it might be the snowshoes – available in bright yellowish-orange. But transparent fluoro orange would be so much better!

Some trans- neon orange windscreens were regularly used in Ice Planet, but the moulds have been well and truly retired. Perhaps some of the elements from NEXO Knights are still available: I will set out to use them as the mainstay of my windows. There is also a 6x6x2 windscreen in this colour, appearing in Monkie Kid sets: it might work well as a windscreen or using 2 back to back as a broad window in a base or space cruiser.

That’s not a chainsaw…”

The transparent neon orange chainsaw was undoubtedly one of the defining elements of the Ice Planet Theme. But the world has descended into madness since then. It is Darker, Grittier, so if you wish to cut the ice, you probably need a more… effective device. I think this Blade No. 6 (Design ID 28683), also used in Monkie Kid, is going to be ideal.

I browsed through the 2020 LEGO Print catalogue, looking out for splashes of transparent neon orange. As I have commented, Monkie kid featured a number of these elements – especially in sets featuring the forces of the Demon Bull King. But more elements apeared in sets from last year’s Ninjago ‘Prime Empire’ wave. I headed off to the LEGO.com parts service, Bricks n Pieces, and started to place an order.

It recently arrived, and I have found myself with many trans neon elements that will be useful going forward. I will also work to liberate some of my other trans neon orange and dark blue elements from around the place. Time dismantle some of my Nexo Classic Space.

Break Open a Box

After going through my old NEXO Knight elements and sending an order off through Bricks N Pieces, I realise that I am short of dark azure. Don’t get me wrong: when I work out what I am missing, as part of a greater good, I will head to Bricklink, but I just want to increase my parts palette to play with: I don’t really do digital design: I prefer to experiment with my bricks in hand.

Again, I head off to the current catalogue and have a look around. Two sets caught my eye: Creator set 31117 SuperBike and LEGO City’s 60285 Sports Car. Both are priced fairly incexpensive and come with many elements that are compatible with the recolouring.

Both sets are reasonably economical to pick up: the sports car is priced at $9AUD at some of our big-box retailers, while the Creator 3in1 set is closer to $22. The bike has lots of wedge plate elements, while the sports car features lots of curved slopes, 1×2 tiles and grille tiles. Most appealing to me, however, is the rear spoiler element. Here is a preview of the elements in each:

60285 offers some outstanding elements in dark azure, black and white, that can be easily used in my new Ice Planet MOCs

There are so many useful elements here, in so many different colours. These sets were interesting enough to build in their own rights but far more fun to pull apart and use for parts.

Finally… a few sets were sitting on shelves, not even getting admired from a distance. One, from the Overwatch theme of 2018-19: 75975 Watchpoint Gibraltar. The primary model in this set is a large shuttle. This ship is predominantly black and white but with blue /azure highlights. I pull it apart and add it to my ‘play box.’

The highlighted elements were new in that set. As you can see, there are many elements of interest to be found here for a fledgling Ice Planet MOC.

In the meantime, I have tackled Bricklink, searching for other trans neon orange and dark blue elements… I’ll post them on the socials when they arrive.

Factions

One thing that has changed over the years has been the inclusion of different factions within sets. Drama was not always obligatory in LEGO sets. The potential for excitement, sure. However, it was only in the mid 90’s that it became apparent that all of the LEGO Policemen were going to need a crook, as seen in 1786 Jailbreak Joe.

The fire department of LEGO Town never had to deal with a flame element. In fact, no fireman appeared in a set with LEGO flame elements before the LEGO City promotional set 2005. That was only available in combination with a kids meal at LEGOLAND Windsor. The next appearance was not until 2008, but there seemed no shortage of flame after the Forest Fire subtheme of 2012!

Likewise, it was not until the appearance of Blacktron that we saw opposing teams in the world of LEGO Space. And except for the Space Police/ Blacktron sets, the Space themes never saw a cross over of figures in the regular sets. You could easily create your own conflict or cooperation, depending on the pending treaties of the day: M-Tron, Ice Planet, Spyrius, Unitron, Insectoids, UFO and Exploriens: none of these appeared in the same set as another faction.

In fact, it wasn’t until the Life on Mars in 2001 that we saw a theme containing both human and alien figures. But even then, they only appeared together in one relatively small set, otherwise, they were in separate sets.

In Mars Mission of 2007-2008, we finally started to see both Humans and their antagonists in the same sets. The few (fantasy) space-themed sets that have existed more recently: Mars Mission, Space Police III and Galaxy Squad, tended to have both protagonist and antagonist in the same sets, but not necessarily with similarly sized vehicles. Alien conquest extended the concept to include the Defence forces, the Aliens and civilian humans. I am not setting out to build a theme – or even design one. Although I might consider the types of models required to make this a fully-fledged theme.

So… Who shall we set up as the origin of the mysterious signals?

We have had multiple Blacktron figures over the last few years throughout the CMF series: perhaps I shall tuck them in here. Recently, I looked at the Venom Head Sculpt set: with so many black elements, as well as neon green, I wondered at the time if it were intended to be a Blacktron/Mtron Parts pack… Perhaps the time has come to pull it apart and make it so.

Let the Building Begin.

I start with two quick and simple exercises: one is to rehash the 60190 Arctic Ice Glider seen above into an Ice Planet craft.

I worked on this while I was still trying to work out the best colour palette that to follow, toying with light azure and bright orange, as well as the trans neon orange. I really like the dark blue landing skis featured here. Some dark blue windscreen elements used in NEXO Knights have been added as stabilisers. The fan has been replaced by a form of a jet engine to push this craft along. I view this as a land vehicle with the ability to take off and fly for short periods at the expense of additional energy consumption. A small Nexo Knights windscreen makes this vehicle suitable for surface work, but not necessarily extra atmospheric travel. Perhaps I will update this to my planned colour scheme as I progress.

A few weeks go by, and sets are pulled apart, and Bricks N Pieces arrived. I decide to take on a small one-person craft, somewhat akin to the classic Ice Planet Blizzard Baron: It is an enclosed ship with tilted wings. I owe its design in part to that of a Vic Viper and also the Rebel’s Snowspeeder. By no means complete, and need some further attention to the tail end: feel free to offer criticism, suggestions and encouragement. This ship is not a final model: but really a way to help me get back into free building after a period away from my own builds.

I fully expect to dismantle these craft a dozen times in the next few months, as I set about building some additional models to capture the spirit of the theme. But for the time being, we have them started. Now, we have some pilots in the photos above, but are they the best folks for the job?

Minifigures:

I have to admit, the original trio of Ice Planet Minifigures are hard to beat. Their distinctive uniforms, with the Commander easy to identify, the Ice Planet logo and remarkable heated visors. I have been exceptionally fortunate to secure 3 figures in excellent condition. Still, I don’t think it is reasonable to expect to get hold of many more without an extraordinary investment. As such, I am looking for a team that will bring the theme into the 21st century.

I am still looking for an ideal Minifigure: should they be heavily armoured? Helmeted? In full EVA suit? Some trans neon orange visors were found in Ninjago: I put an order in for some with the rest of my Bricks n Pieces.

I am happy with our helmet options, sourced primarily from the 2019 LEGO City Space sub-theme, but not quite sure how to proceed with the rest of the figures at this stage. Will I ultimately move towards a custom torso? Should it be blue? White? Azure? Orange? Or something else? Perhaps I can dream that there will be some Ice Planet tribute coming up in the Collectible minifigures? We have had plenty of Classic Space, Space Police, Blacktron and other space explorers over the years.

The mission is poorly defined: we need some scientists to determine the source of the signal, some search and rescue types, in case it is a genuine distress call, and possibly some security types, in case there is a significant security threat. As for the personnel…Ice Planet was the first space theme to feature a female protagonist. I feel we need an equal balance of men and women in the crew. And perhaps an alien. Surely the Alliance cannot just be made up of humans?

In the meantime, I shall make do with some random fig-barf, sourcing components from other figures in my collection, and having no feat should the time come to mix and match the arms, hands, hips and legs. I am not yet entirely happy with them all. Some of the figures provide design challenges for various vehicles. I welcome suggestions for ways in which this might progress. But we might need a droid to help out with heavy lifting, so I’ll throw one of these in too. These are all just ‘sketch figures’ looking for a starting point in staffing my spaceships.

First Draft of Neo-Ice Planet Fig-Barf

After about 3 iterations to get this result, I am satisfied with for the time being. The use of azure arms with dark blue gloves seems more effective than white arms or gloves. The 2018 Arctic torsos were initially a concern for me, with their material folds. Still, they work reasonably well when tucked underneath the shoulder pauldron (as with the alien), or the EVA helmet/air tank. I would prefer a more specific print, perhaps with a neo-Ice Planet logo visible in the gap.

The visor works well unless you are trying to take good photos of the underlying faces. It is a shame that they cannot be raised, like the classic Ice Planet ones. The new space helmets used in the LEGO City: Mars Mission feel fine. I really like the new ‘Classic Space’ torso, which has featured in LEGO Creator 3in1 space sets in 2020 and 2021. The gold accents feel great, but the white arms are a little bright: I found some azure arms and dark blue hands – and I think this torso is almost perfect. Especially when performing a little manipulation with the legs: silver hips with dark blue are pretty effective (the silver legs are from Cyber Drone 31111). The inverse seems to be a reasonable solution too. The Alien’s legs with knee pads are from the hockey player in the series 4 collectable minifigures (8804-8).

These will serve as placeholder/template figures. I like to imagine that the Ice Planet Team belong to the same overarching organisation as the Classic Space. No need for names just yet. Or rank and role. Let’s give it some time to come together. Do you have any compelling names for the members of our team? Why not write them in the comments below!

Third, but unlikely to be final draft of my Neo Ice Planet Fig-Barf.

That’s All… For Now.

It feels as though I have made a start towards creating some new Ice Planet material. I am not the first to do it, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the last. In the meantime, I have blown the creative cobwebs out of my head and started to think about some of the problems designers face. These problems include maintaining a fresh contemporary look, paying appropriate respect to the sets of the past, making the most of the new elements in the LEGO palette, and the expanded colour palette.

There are so many things I have not entirely thought out yet. But that’s fine: I’ve only just begun and wanted to share some of my creative processes to date. It also helps me to be accountable to myself going forward.

My future plans within this theme include a small base or temporary encampment for our expeditionary force, a surface rover, and a larger transport ship. And more figures. And then, there is the Mystery. I might have aspects of that already thought out, but it would not be much of a mystery if I were to tell you.

This is unlikely to be a project for LEGO Ideas: I don’t want to have to try too hard to sell it, and I am looking at a series of models – more like a theme. However, Pirates of Barracuda Bay has demonstrated the market for a large playset based on a Legacy? Foundation? Classic? Theme on LEGO Ideas. I just don’t expect to produce something that will have that level of support. Might it be a topic for Tongal World Builder? I guess it could be. I am not planning to develop it entirely as a world/theme at the moment, but again, reinstating dicontinued themes is outside the purview of the platform. (Not familiar with Tongal/LEGO Worldbuilder? It’s a bit like LEGO Ideas, except where your Idea is more like a theme than a set. This is, in fact, a gross oversimplification. But you can read about it here. )

After a prolonged period of absence, getting back to MOC building has been a psychologically reinvigorating activity. I feel as though I am clearing out mental cobwebs and moving forward. If you are a fan of Ice Planet 2002, or space sets in general, I would love to know how you might adapt the theme, within the confines of pieces we have available today. This is a project for my enjoyment, but hopefully some of you will enjoy coming along on the journey.

I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way. I will be thinking about (but not necessarily building) several things. These will include a landscape, in the absence of those fabulous ’90s extruded vacuum moulded plates; what sets go towards making up a theme and translating those classic sets to a contemporary parts palette. I might extend from thinking about them to writing! If you are interested, I’m likely to update my progress on other platforms, rather than here. Thses platforms might include Instagram (@ramblingbrick) or the Extra Pieces Podcast – my collaboration with Jay’s Brick Blog- so feel free to follow us on those platforms. Leave your comments below, and until next time… Play Well!

Crisis on Krysto: The Beginning

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