Posted by Jeremy on December 5, 2019 at 12:02 AM CST
It's been over 15 years since LEGO released their first UCS Imperial Star Destroyer - and seventh in the Ultimate Collector Series run - so, according to Creative Director of the Star Wars team Jens Kronvold, the time was right.
"The Imperial Star Destroyer is one of the most recognizable and iconic ships. We have made many LEGO versions in many different sizes, but only one time an Ultimate Collector Series model, and that was way back in the year 2002. So we thought it was time for a new and improved UCS version of the Imperial Star Destroyer! We also follow fan media, and we could see that it was high on many LEGO Star Wars fans wishlist."
For the most part 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer was the brainchild of Henrik Andersen, a Senior Designer at LEGO, who had proposed a new Star Destroyer model at a planning meeting during the summer of 2017. Henrik explained that with 2019 being the 20th anniversary of the LEGO Star Wars theme, the Star Wars team "really wanted to base our models on the very beginning, so we wanted to make the models from the opening scene from Star Wars A New Hope , first the Tantive IV (75244) , and now the Devastator (75252) chasing it through the galaxy." and so the Devastator was selected to be the final version.
The new design was given over to Henrik whose pitch to make a model Imperial Star Destroyer that was as screen accurate as possible, rather than revisiting the original 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer which was modelled on screenshots taken from all three Original Trilogy movies, led Henrik on a quest for high-quality images of the models built by ILM in 1976.
With lessons learned from the feedback received about 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer - chiefly that the Technic frame tended to sag after a few months and that magnets didn't have sufficient strength to support the weight of the lower hull plates - Henrik went back to the drawing board and brought in members of the Model, Element and Building Instruction teams to translate Henrik's concept design into an engineering masterpiece that was technically sound, structurally safe, detailed and - most importantly - buildable.
"When designing the Star Destroyer it was obvious from the beginning that it needed a super-strong inner structure, and one way of doing this is to use Technic bricks, in this case, a lot of the very rigid Technic panels and frames was used throughout the spine of the ship. One of the main learnings from the original was to avoid the drooping of the front and to come up with a new way to connect the panels to the superstructure" he explained to Rebelscum.
It was with great excitement that I received a review sample from LEGO. Once I opened the box my emotional state quickly turned into a combined state of awe and dread when discovered how gargantuan a task it would be to complete this alongside my more mundane responsibilities. So, forgoing the traditional suck-it-up-and-build conditions that most reviews are based on, I decided to make an occasion of it and hosted a building party with a small number of friends.
Rather than jump straight to building the set itself - and run the danger of writing a review that was little more than a laborious dialogue of what the build was like and how innovative the use of a frying pan utensil was to replicate the blah, blah, blah - it was the graphics on the box art caught my attention first.
The inclusion of "Ultimate Collector Series" (or "Ultimate Collector's Series if you prefer) in the set's formal title was an exciting sight. LEGO is aware of the ongoing arguement surrounding the definition of the UCS moniker and Jens waded into the debate, saying that "It might not always be totally clear what is an Ultimate Collector Series model, and what is not. The new Imperial Star Destroyer definitely is in that category!! It is a display model on a stand with a data label! The ingredients needed for calling it a UCS model". At last, an official definition.
Even though Henrik and team designed the Devastator, the Imperial Star Destroyer that so dominated the opening scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, the artwork on the box includes a depiction of the Corellian skyline. While designing 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer, Henrik was watching Solo: A Star Wars Story, and after seeing the Star Destroyers being built at the Correllian Shipyards he felt compelled to give the movie a hat tip.
Asked what LEGO thinks of the theory that Ultimate Collector Series box art hide clues to the next UCS set, Jens had a very straight forward message to deliver:
"There are no hidden clues to future models in our box art. We place our models in an environment that makes sense. Sometimes it means that there are other space ships in the background, but it is just part of the setting, nothing else!"
Opening the exterior box - which is the same carton that was commissioned to contain 75192 Millennium Falcon's pieces - reveals four large, white boxes with the same grey lineart that the aforementioned second edition of the UCS Millennium Falcon came with, packed with the 58 bags that contain the set's 4,784 pieces and a fifth that keeps the 440-page, spiral-bound instruction book safe.
With praises for the outside packaging sung, it's only fair to laud the instructions. Printed on a thick paper and bound by a sturdy spiral, this much-more-than-a-booklet is robust enough to survice to the end of the build. And look good doing it too. Inside is not only the graphic depiction of the 1,015 steps that the builder has to progress through but a foreward of introductory material that
Unusually the build goes straight onto the stand, which is as much a part of the model as any other section of the build. There's no more having to cautiously lower the completed - and delicate - model onto a ricket stand. This integrated display stand not only looks like a scaffold at an Imperial dockyard but it's integrated into the Imperial Star Destroyer and gives the display plate and included minifigures somewhere to be.
The inclusion of two rank and file minifigures - an Imperial Officer and Imperial Crewmember - rather than notable characters has raised a few eyebrows in the LEGO Star Wars community. We put this to Madison Andrew OíNeil in the Graphic & Material team at LEGO, who told us that it was important to LEGO that the set's minifigures made sense in the context of the Devastator, whose only named passenger was Darth Vader. And so, rather than adding a Vader minifigure to the set they decided to "breath newness into the characters in this set by introducing updated printing, arm printing, and dual-molded legs that are all exclusive to the Imperial Officer and Crew Member in the UCS Star Destroyer" and so represent the greater variety of officers and crew manning the ship.
The framework received a much needed revamp from the mirrored layers of Technic bricks that the original 2002 model had. The use of the new Technic plates and liftarms in a series of counter-reinforcing triangles means that there is very little sway to the unadorned chassis, and the use of multiple colours means that the build is easy to keep track of.
The first phase of encasing the frame comes with the lateral, greebly-adorned strips that fill in the gap netyween the upper and lower hulls. These are just as monotonous this time around as they were 17 years ago. While much of the set has changed, these have not and getting passed them and onto the hulls is a relief.
After what seems like hours of patiently picking out 1x1 modified bricks from hundreds of other 1x1 modified pieces, the planar regularity of the plates that make up the various hull sections is a fast-paced and progressive reward. The true joy of compiling the hull sections comes with attaching them onto the triangular Technic frame - there's very little to the support mechanism and none of it involves coupling magnets.
One particular design issue that's worth noting is the clip that keeps the tips of the two underslung hull sections together and aligned at the bow. It's odd that the upper hull doesn't have it - because it definitely benefits from this simple five piece addition.
The only deviation that punctuates the addition of the Imperial Star Destroyer's plating is the inclusion of the ventral hanger. This is curiously well adorned - with an almost-art-deco style - considering that 9.9 out of 10 owners will never see it once the completed build is on display. The inclusion of a tiny TIE Fighter makes the inaccessibility of the hanger even more regretful.
The last part of the great grey triangle is the engine section, and the ship's monstrous main engines are wonderfully replicated using conical pieces. It's this area of the model that really gives sense to the scale of the Imperial Star Destroyer, and the power that these engines can deliver is coveyed by the indented nature of the rear hull section - which looks as if the thrusters are pushing themselves in through the hull.
At this point the order of the build takes a topsy turvy turn, and rather than building the structure that sits on the deck from the lowest level up, the instructions jump to the top of the set and have the builder construct the command tower and shield generators. When the UCS Imperial Star Destroyer was first announced by LEGO there was a great deal of speculation concerning an interior. Those that supported the dream of seeing some kind of internal play area pointed toward the UCS Millennium Falcon, released two years earlier.
When the first images came out it was clear that their hopes were not going to be realised. Asked why an interior wasn't included, Jens explained that the decision wasn't design or cost based but down to scale. "The Imperial Star Destroyer is such a big ship that an interior would be totally out of scale. And since this is a UCS model mainly intended for display, we have put all our effort into making the model as cool and accurate looking. Adding an interior, or part of it might have influenced the look and accuracy of the exterior of the model, and we did not want that." In addition, he told us, no internal details of the Devastator had ever been revealed and so including a command deck or the like would have been totally artificial.
The final few steps of the instructions cover the miniature Tantive IV, which is cleverly kept to scale. The amount of detail that this 10 stud long version of 75244 Tantive IV retains is impressive, however it uses building techniques that aren't meant for it to be handled too often so it is a bit structurally floppy. It's best if the Tantive IV is kept parked in the hanger or attached to the bar that lets it travel alongside its captor.
While the finished build is a thing of beauty its used dishwater colour scheme doesn't make it pop like 75181 Y-wing Starfighter, and its regular lines doesn't quite have the desirability as 75192 Millennium Falcon's odd curves, extraneous angles and tacked on tubing.
What is extremely appealing is the asymmetric detail that Henrik has included. The casual observer will enjoy the detailing on the bridge and use combinging studded and tiled surfaces to create texture, it takes a close eye to notice that the UCS Imperial Star Destroyer does not have exact mirrored symmetry. That said, some of the detail is quite geeky and only deep-diving fans might pick up on the subtleties, so unless you've watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story really closely then the inclusion of the axial turbolaser canons will pass you by. If that's the case then you'll be excused for thinking that they are three StarSpeeder 1000s queued up for a Star Tours departure.
My only gripes are rather minor: I am irrationally annoyed that the hinged x-like structure on top of the command tower has been labelled a tractor beam when all other source canon material names it a communications array, and the lifting handle - which can be exposed by removing the tiered superstructure on the upper hull - is in front of the model's centre of gravity, meaning it doesn't balance properly when picked up. Like I said, they are inconsequential grievances.
With a price point of $700 this set is quite a commitment. Though it certainly doesn't pack the same punch as the UCS Millennium Falcon, which is priced $100 higher but is certainly more than 14.3% more impressive, 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer is an extremely enjoyable build and makes for a wonderful display piece. If you are on the fence about adding one to your collection then pop down to a nearby LEGO retail store and see one for yourself. It'll likely change your point of view.
With all the grey elements in the UCS Imperial Star Destroyer set we asked Jens if there would be a world shortage of grey plates and bricks that would prevent LEGO fans from seeing the return of the Super Star Destroyer from The Empire Strikes Back as an Ultimate Collector Series set. "Here at LEGO we have a huge mold capacity! So I donít think we will ever run out of grey bricks." he explained.
Pushed whether there is enough time between the release of 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer and next May, the next UCS slot in the LEGO release calendar, to rebuild their stock of grey elements for an UCS Super Star Destroyer release, Jens cryptically replied "you never know what will happen in the future!!"
Rebelscum thanks The LEGO Group for furnishing the 75252 Imperial Star Destroyer set, as well as Jens, Henrik, Madison and KimT for making this article possible.