When I first saw images of the new 10497: Galaxy Explorer, while preparing for LEGO Con, I found myself both a little excited and apprehensive. Excited because, like many LEGO Space Fans of a certain age, this set told us that the LEGO Group recognises the importance of Classic Space to its older fans, and there had been so much clamouring for proper Space Sets: sets not tied in with different third party licences like Super Heroes or NASA, and not linked into the increasingly complicated lore behind Monkie Kid and Ninjago. We have seen sets buying into the idea of Classic Space – exploration, team work, free of conflict – in LEGO City over the years, BUT while there might be ‘equivalent’ sets, they strive to be too realistic- insisting on putting visors on every helmet, windows and air lock doors on the moon base and insisting on astronauts only being able to drink a cup of coffee when in their standard overalls. So, to see the look of Classic Space preserved and revisited is more than welcome.
But why was I apprehensive? This set, as well as the 10405 Lion Knights’ Castle, are being released ostensibly as the result of a fan vote, held to select an Adult Focussed Set, in the context of the LEGO Group’s 90th Anniversary. The last large model set produced on the basis of a Fan Vote was the LEGO Star Wars UCS Republic Gunship. At 68 cm long, and with a wingspan over 70 cm, the set demonstrated that just because it can be fun to build, it can be a challenge to swoosh and an even greater challenge to store! This new model is said to be 1.5 times the size of the original 928/497. How will this affect its swooshability?Swooshability is, I am sure you will agree, a key point to consider when evaluating any spaceship made out of LEGO.
I was also apprehensive after the way that The LEGO Movie Tie in, Benny’s Spaceship Spaceship! SPACESHIP!!!, ultimately devolved in to a slapstick lampoon of everything that Space Fans held dear, or at least their 9 year old selves. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun, It certainly was. Just that if the Original Icon is going to be revisited, it will be with the degree of love and reverence that the original fans regard it.
Now, the original model is not without its flaws – the relatively flat, plate based construction of the wings is essentially laid out before being secured in place by other elements. It is a little large, in my opinion to be swooshed comfortably around the living room by a grown man: I can only begin to imagine how a 9 year old in 1979 might have found it: Perhaps this is why the set came with some baseplates (sadly, long discontinued) as well as a small moonbase. Neither are included here: will this matter? Let us embark on the journey, and see what we find.
The box of the set shows us an image, almost replicating the box art from 928/497, of the ship flying up, tilted slightly towards the viewer. The name Galaxy Explorer is written in light azure in the upper, left-hand corner, where previously we might have seen the words LEGOLAND Space System. And instead of a moonbase, a small droid is revealed. Not quite the same, but still steeped in nostalgia, from 1987, the final year of regular LEGOLAND Space sets. There is one final thing that I though could have sealed the AFOL Experiecnce with the box: bringing a fliptop lid to the party. Instead, it has the regular ‘punch-out’ tabs that we see so frequently. At least this will give us a bit of a 70’s big set building experience.
Inside, we have 9 numbered bags (1-9!) and an 8×16 tile. IS there a hitherto unrevealed diplay plaque? Or is this just a way to get the black tile into the online ordering system next year, allowing fans to order multiple ‘UCS’ plaques for their models? Tile shall tell, as we move throught the process.
The instructions feature the same image as the box: the viewof the ship flying above a platet, with a robot and 2 spacemen on the planet’s surface. The back cover presents us with the Classic Space logo on a star field. Inside, we get a word from 3rd generation owner, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, who was running the company at the time of the release of the original 497/928. We get a succinct primer history of Classic Space figures – branded with the red spaceship circling a moon.
Moving on, we get some comments from Design Master Mike Psiaki, highlighting the greter size of this model, as well as the availability of instructions to build updated versions of 918 and 924 – instructions will be available on LEGO.com, after release.
The set is consists of 9 colours: Blue, Red, Yellow, Black , White, and medium stone grey, as well as transparent red, green and yellow. With the exception of the stone grey, which replace light grey around 2004, the other colours represent the colour palette that was avilable back in 1979. We have a colletion of technic bricks, connectors and a few axels. There are a multitude of grey plates, included 35 wedges, waiting in the wings. Regular bricks are predominantly blue, while Transparent yellow brings us the dual canopies, as well as some cabin portals. I will not go into close detail to look at these elements. I was surprised to find no thruster/ loudspeker elements in, but it appears that there might be a particularly clever alternative.
We have 4 minifigures: 2 red and 2 white, just like we had back in 928. However, we also see a revival of the droid last seen in 1987 (set 6809). Compared with the original, there are internal changes with the torso, as well as thickening of the chinstrap on the helmet, lest we develop an army of ‘Benny’s’
The robot is constructed simply enough, and the striped slope brick is typical of the brick decoration seen in the 80’s.
Now, often in my Rambling Reviews, I will bring you a blow by blow descrpition of the build. Today, I feel torn. Suffice to say, this is one of the most sublime building experiences that I have ever had. Perhaps it is the nostalgia, perhaps it is the subject matter, perhaps it is just apparent that this set is a labour of love on the part of those responsible for bringing it to the market.
If you don’t want any spoilers – stop now. 5/5. If you like Classic Space, you will love this build. Even if you don’t love Classic Space, you will enjoy the build. It is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest Icons of the LEGOLAND era of set design, and an appropriate set to be part of the LEGO Group’s 90th Anniversary celebrations.
I may have wept for joy while building it.
Until next time, Play Well! [If you want to see more, read on after this image of the finished set.
Alert: Spoilers Follow
Have they gone?
I wasn’t kidding. This set has rocketed into my top 5 builds ever – a list which includes, in no particular order, the Ideas Treehouse, the Saturn V Ideas set and the Creator 3in1 Majestic Tiger. The remaining place is a tough call, but is probably the Space Scooter from 1978. For nostalgia’s sake, and sheer swooshability.
But I digress. Let us return to the early stages of the build:
Bags 1 & 2
We start off with a frame for the base of the build. Unlike the original, where the wings were constructed by layer upon layer of plates, we begin with a Technic core, which will be encased by the plates and tiles. we also lay the foundations for the landing pads, which will ultimately be rounded square tiles, from LEGO Super Mario, mounted upside down.
As we move into Bag 2 will place a layer of plates underneath the frame. At this point, it is still lacking a little sturdiness. We also lay the foundations behind the slope that we see in the cabin of the craft: We take a slightly sloped row of bricks, and attach it towards the front of the model, and place some elements around the front end. At this point, it can be raised up and down, with the rear end still sitting free. I’m sure we will secure it a little later. The cabin wall is surrounded at the front, allowing it to be built over as we proceed. is enclosed at the at this point. The landing gear are also completed. they fold in and out easily, and provide stable support to the craft.
In these bags, we set out to build the wings, and then begin the process of surrounding the edges of the wings with a tiled trim.
The edging of the wings borrows a lot from the 1989 Batwing:the edging consists of a one stud thick row of SNOT bricks, featuring occaiasional gaps. These gaps bind a stud with handle, which is attached to a brick with stud on the side/lamp holder or headlamp brick. These elements can rotate, to forgive a multitude of geometrical sins. Or even allow them.
Cheese slopes mounted on a plate attach to the SNOT bricks (studs not on top); while 2xn tiles run along the top of this row.
In Bag 4, we take a different tack for the leading edge of the main wings, using the aframe element to attach the SNOT bricks to the 45º wing edge. 2×2 wing plates and 2×2 tiles (right angle triangle) are used to form and fill the angles between these elements shrouding the edges fo the wings.
The front of the Explorer uses a similar technique to cover the edges as the rear, but also introduces a hinge element – so we have 3 different techniques used for 3 differently angled edges.
We start bag 5 by building a forward gun/scanner emplacement. Back in the day, this was made using the wheelbarrow handle elements. This time, it appears to be a part of the ship that you should not stand in front of!
However, majority of bag 5 is spent filling in the top of the spaceship’s wings, predominantly with plates of varying proportions, and it was good to be reminded of some of the basic principles behind the uses of triangles.It would not be Classic Space without some black and yellow stripes on the wings: these stripes are tiled.
We complete the winge edging, and it all falls into place so nicely. The sides of the cabin have now been buried in the superstructure at the front of the craft, and we have some seats as well as steering wheels.
We now turn the ship around and start work on the garage. We not only have a gate which drops, but the 8×16 tile we had been wondering about earlier now comes to the fore. We add storage lockers with mysterious black tanks (M-Tron? Blacktron? A secret agency, who employs such advanced technology that when you put on black tanks, you can consider you entire figure covered by a black nano suit? Perfect for Covert operations). We add beds to the cabin (complete with roon for the air tanks) as well as antennas, and other struts to the wings, on which the engine nacelles will be mounted.
Moving forward, we start to enclose the main cabin: first we install the computer screens – full of shoutouts to the past:
Looking at the front screens, we have several tiles, which are mounted on an angle to the screen: the one on the left is clearly based on a classic screen from the 70’s, while the larger screen on the right seems to have the ship involved in a game of Asteroids (For yongsters playing at home, this was a video game released by Atari in 1979, and installed in arcades and fish’n’chip shops around the country.). The score of 497 is a callback to the American number for the original Galaxy Explorer set.
In between these screens is an updated version of the print once used in spaceships around the M:tron and Blacktron II era.
Finally we get around to installing the name brick. LL928. Back in the day, this was a 1×4 brick. In keeping with an enlagement factor of 1×5, this is now a 1×6, with larger printing.
We also tile up the front of the cabin: Unlike the 6x3x1 slopes used back in 1979, we have the Classic Space logo printed on a 2×4 tile. I dream of this tile becoming more freely available, to add to my brick badge in the future.
We install further computers and scanners in the rear cabin, and now we discover a threat to our team the triforce of Blacktron I: is this a sign of sets to come? One could only hope. But I suspect I will be disappointed. If nothing else, this would be brilliant for Space Police MOCs.
We install red running lights, as well as yellow windows in a 2 panel frame. From here, we build an airlock door, between the rear cabin and what will become the garage.
But before we finish the bag, we tile up the top of the cabin, and create a nifty element, which puts studs facing in opposite directions: This then provides the hinges for the 2 large canopies:
The Airlock slides open and closed, and is fairly secure.
This penultimate bag brings us the garage and tailplane for the ship. Built on hinges, there is some clever gapwork that brings us a brick built arrow, matching up with the printed element used, back in the day. Each door has a clip for a tool: Radio and Spanner. Just like the original.
Now, ther original ship also had a thruster element present on the rear cabin. Rather than use this element, it is replaced with a brick built version: again, functionally scaled up.
The 2 thruster complexes attach to the garage doors, which hinge ouwards. In a massive improvement over the original version, the doors are secured by internal bar and clip arrangements, rather than a tile across the tailplanes.
The appearance of the tailplane, built of two 6x8x1slopes will probably disappoint some purists. I think it is an interesting solution, but feels a little out of place, as if it is talking a different design language. I wonder if people will set out to customise this tail plane, to suit their personal vision?
And now, it looks almost complete.Unfortunately, it is not going anywhere without some engines.
Our final bag brings us a means of propulsion. We start with the main engins on the rear of the carft. In the original, these are held in place using brackets, and after 40 years, a stern look will result in the cones dropping off, so I am glad to see a technic pin solution employed here.
These are substantial thrusters, employing wheel hubs and grey washing tubs, before having a soothing transparent red dish attached at the back.
Mean while, we have 2 pods that click onto the wings. Are they fuel tanks? I always imagined they were, but the image on the box of our astronauts using these as ridable pods confirms their propulsive power.
And finally, we build our little mood rover: unlike previous versions, this one has a headlight. I especially appreciate the fact that this buggy has red wheel hubs, albeit of a different design, like the original.
Overall, this is a big ship.
Here is is next to the original 928…
This is a big model: with 1247 parts, it has around 4 times the elements of the original Galxay Explorer. Measuring over 50 cm long, and around 30 cm wide, it is a hefty build, but can be carried readily in one hand, by the wings. There is so much room in the cabin, we can have our minifigures act out what we could only imagine they were up to: scanning, exploring, defending, searching… all great options. Even sleeping or drinking thank heavens the robot is carrying out drink waiter’s duties.
.I have to say, the build experience is brilliant. I enjoyed every moment of the build – part nostalgia, part neat techniques, part anticipation of what comes next. the instructions were clear, but on some steps, there was the chance to place 10 or more elements, and remain uncertain about whether you missed one, or got it wrong, only to discover it in 3 pages time. This is part of the joy of this set. Unlike many other sets I have looked at recently, the instructions dont patronise you with one or two elements per page. This treats you like an experienced LEGO builder (but don’t worry if you are not, everything is clearly explained, and before long you will be building as if you were back in the eighties)
I am happy to give this set 5 Arbitrary Praise Units.
Even though the size is a little impractical, this is part of the appeal: I am bigger now than I was when I was 10. It is only fair that this model is bigger than the one from 1979, too. The wings are so rigid that it is relativelt easy to swoosh with confidence.
The easter eggs, referring to the previous model, as well as other space themes made me smile, and the elements in the set are crying out for further creativity. I look forward to getting another copy of the set to build a moonbase with, while plans are also afoot to build a landing pad in some shape or form.
The moonbase and plates were an integral part of the original set. Does it matter that they are not included here? I am grateful that this set is less than $200AUD/99.99USD. A moonbase would have changed this… besides you may have already picked one up in LEGO City this year.
There is one other issue, which is important to note: when I tried to pick the ship up by the cabin, some bricks started to loosen: the wings are structurally solid, and are the best surface to grip the ship by, should you choose to swoosh it around. Swooshability Achieved!
For the price, this set offers a great building experience: It kept me busy for a couple of evenings, but could have just as easily be drawn out over a longer period.
As I said…this is a great set. One of my favorite builds ever, and one I am looking forward working with in the future.
10497 Will be released on August 1st, 2022.
I’d love to know what you think of this set:Have you preordered one (in selected markets: sorry UK)? Will you get one? Or several??
Leave your comments below, and until next time:
This set was provided by the LEGO Goup’s AFOL Engagement team for review purposes. All opinions however, are my own.