During the past year we have been celebrating the 20th anniversary of Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. However that is not the only 20th anniversary that we have had this year. 1999 also saw the first released Star Wars LEGO sets. In the last two articles of this year we take a look back at the sets and compare them to their modern counterparts. In this second part we talk about the sets based on the Original Trilogy.
With only five sets, the pickings for sets of the Original Trilogy were less than for The Phantom Menace, but that is logical considering a new movie always dominates the shelves. However LEGO sure made that the selection for the Original Trilogy sets was filled with all the important vehicles represented. That is, all except for the Millennium Falcon, that arrived for the first time the following year in 2000.
47 pieces – Original retail price: $5.99 US
The smallest set of the entire 1999 line-up still manages to capture the X-34 nicely and would give you the first Luke Skywalker (Tatooine) and old Obi-Wan Kenobi minifigures. And while most of the later versions included the droids, they are strangely missing here. With R2-D2 seen in a lot of sets of that year, he was not really missing, but C-3PO would not be released until the next year with the earlier mentioned Millennium Falcon set.
The landspeeder has been redesigned a total of four times, with the fifth and most recent version being the one from 2017: 75173 Luke’s Landspeeder. While it is miles away from the 1999 version, it is even two studs wider, it actually is a nice mixture of the 2010 (the general build of the model) and the 2014 (color scheme) versions.
Luke (Tatooine) has received quite a few updates over the years. Besides the obvious adding of details, it is the hair piece that is the most notable change throughout the years. It began with a hair piece that was quite the standard for LEGO (Han would get that one also with his first minifigures), followed by a new hair piece in 2007 (which was actually one used for female minifigures), before finally getting in 2011 a hair piece more fitting for his longer windswept hairs as a farm boy.
This year saw the release of the sixth version of Obi-Wan ‘Ben’ Kenobi based on his A New Hope appearance. The Kenobi in 75246 Death Star Cannon may add a cloak and hood to the figure, but in many ways looks still remarkably a lot like the one from 1999, except for a few added details. This figure however is sadly a departure from the printed cloak and leg details that version 5 had. The grey hair piece that was given to all the old Kenobi minifigures was the same one as Luke had, and Han would receive, but whereas those where blond and brown, this one was grey obviously.
7128 Speeder Bikes
90 pieces – Original retail price: $9.99 US
Till 2008 nothing much changed with the various released speeder bikes. The biggest change in the 2008 (and the 2009 release that was changed only slightly from this major redesign) was the use of the CITY 3-wheel ATV chassis as the main body of the speeder bike. Battle droid arms and even lightsaber hilts were also used in the redesign to create individual handlebars. The one item that stayed the same since 1999 in all the speeder bike releases? The triangular traffic sign pieces used as the steering vanes. The spiritual successor of 7128 would be 2012’s 9489 Endor Rebel Trooper & Imperial Trooper Battle Pack, which only had one speederbike and Scout Trooper and replaced the Luke figure for two Endor soldiers (one of them using an Indiana Jones minifigure head). There even is a tree in this 2012 set.
When looking at the variations of Scout Troopers that has come since this set it is noticeable that it wasn’t till the 2013 variant that the legs and arms finally became more accurate (more black then white). This year saw the latest update also of the scout trooper in 75238 Action Battle Endor Assault. Not only is the printing more detailed, but this is also the first time that a new helmet element was created for this minifigure.
While we have had plenty of redesigns for Luke from Return of the Jedi, all of these are based on his appearance after he leaves the Bright Tree Village and thus without his poncho that you can see printed on the Luke from this set. However the set 75094 Imperial Shuttle Tydirium included an Endor poncho for Leia to wear, but one can always add that poncho to the most recent Luke (Jedi) figure to create your own modern update.
To round out this set is also a small tree build that over the years has increased only in size. Like in 75238 Action Battle Endor Assault, in which the tree has a small Ewok hut attached to the trunk.
212 pieces – Original retail price: $19.99 US
This is one of those sets that throughout the years has returned in almost the exact configuration. In 1999 it came out with a turret and minifigures of Luke, Dak Ralter and a Hoth Rebel trooper, which was what was included in the 2004 set also. Like the Anakin’s podracer set this set was also remade this year for the 20th Anniversary line. And whereas the podracer set was not a full copy, 75259 Snowspeeder was, down to including the Hoth Rebel trooper and his radar dish turret.
Luke wears his orange pilot suit, and while technically that suit was different than the one he wore when in his X-wing (different collar), the minifigures have never made that distinction.
Dak Ralter may have been a minor character in the movies, but he has five different variations when it comes to his LEGO minifigure! Most of these however are quite generic. The first three variations sport a standard LEGO minifigure head (first two in yellow, the third in flesh color) and the same body piece with printing that was used for every pilot, including Luke. Dak’s blue Rebel logo on his helmet is the only way to distinguish Dak as an individual character. The 2014 and 2019 variants have his helmet more detailed, and his face more unique, but kept the (newly updated) generic flightsuit body.
The Hoth Rebel trooper is one that has gone through many redesigns, with basically everything changing per variation. First thing to change were the goggles, then the helmet, then the face became flesh colored, then the colors and details of the torso and the legs changed.
It would not be until 2003 that the snowspeeder had an AT-AT to take down.
7140 X-Wing Fighter
193 pieces – Original retail price: $32.99 US
Back in the day 7140 X-Wing Fighter was considered one of the best of the first wave of LEGO sets from Star Wars. And it is easy to see why, with using a minimum of specialized pieces the X-Wing still retains many details and play functions befitting the starfighter. The one odd thing about it was that the color of the starfighter was a light grey versus the white that it should have been and as seen in the later variations. Probably due to this the set was rereleased, without any changes, a couple of years later in 2002 as 7142 X-Wing Fighter. Obviously a lot has been changed if you compare it to any of the four variations that since has been released, with the most modern version being 75218 X-Wing Starfighter from 2018. The set from 1999 came with a Luke and R2-D2, but also with a minifigure of Biggs Darklighter and a Rebel mechanic. Another fun bit of trivia is that the box of this set did not feature the Death Star, as one would expect from a set clearly based on A New Hope, but the shaft in which Palpatine gets thrown in at the end of Return of the Jedi.
The Luke minifigure was the same as the one that you could find in the snowspeeder, and would receive regular updates. In total seven different variations of Luke in his pilot gear has been made.
Biggs has been seen only twice in LEGO, being this very first set (and its 2002 rerelease), but more recently in 2018 as part of 75218 X-Wing Starfighter. This set also gave us the astromech droid of Biggs, R2-Q2 (previously released in an Episode III V-Wing set). Previous X-Wing sets replaced Biggs with Wedge Antilles or Jek Porkins minifigures.
The Rebel mechanic seen in this set reuses the headpiece first introduced in the LEGO Pirates theme. And while the Rebel mechanic was not included in the 2018 set, he did returned in 2000’s 7180 B-Wing at Rebel Control Center. This minifigure also returned more or less (same clothes but with a new head) in 7134 A-Wing Fighter. The A-Wing set from 2006 (6207 A-Wing Fighter) would completely change the mechanic by giving him a flesh head, a helmet and grey clothing.
7150 TIE Fighter and Y-Wing
407 pieces – Original retail price: $49.99 US
The biggest set for the fans of the OT in 1999 was one that included two ships: an Y-Wing and Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter. With the regular TIE Fighter still two years away (first one was 7146 TIE Fighter from 2001), having Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter at least gave the Rebels someone to battle with. This set has been rereleased a couple of times, in 2002 and 2004 with the latter having some color changes only. Talking about colors, before the various different kinds of greys were introduced by LEGO, TIEs like this one of Darth Vader made-do with a combination of black and blue on the wings. Ever since 2007 the Y-Wing was released as a set on its own with the other two updates being in 2012 (9495 Gold Leader’s Y-wing Starfighter) and 2017 (set 75172). Darth Vader’s TIE has only seen one individual release (2009’s 8017 Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter) and has been added in a set with the Y-wing (1999, 2002 & 2004), other TIE Fighters (2004’s 10131 TIE Collection) or the A-Wing (2016’s 75150 Vader’s TIE Advanced and A-Wing Fighter). Comparing these various Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced sets shows just how much LEGO has improved over the years.
Jon ‘Dutch’ Vander has been included in all the OT released Y-Wings, except Rogue One’s 2017 set 75172. This brings him up to a total of three variations. His head piece was the first to include a headset, which was later reused for various Rebel technicians (who differ from the mechanics).
For some reason the first four releases of the Y-Wing included R5-D4, which is a bit weird as that was the droid with the bad motivator on Tatooine. The 2007 version gave us R5-F7, but again that was not the astromech that flew with Vander. R5-F7 flew with Lieutenant Lepira under the callsign Gold Four. But to be fair, this was not a mistake made by LEGO as it has been unclear which kind of astromech droid, and in which color, flew with Vander for a long time. This only changed with Rogue One who identified a silver R2 astromech, R2-BHD, as the droid Vander often flew with like during the mission on Scarif. This droid was included in the Ultimate Collection Series of the Y-Wing (set 75181) along with the latest updated version of Vander.
And of course this set was the introduction of the Darth Vader minifigure, one of those minifigures with so many variations that it could fill an entire article by itself. Most curious of this first Vader figure however was that it included an actual head, which was grey and showed Anakin with his wounds as he would appear in Return of the Jedi. The helmet piece would not be changed until the 2015 update and this two-piece helmet is the one that is still in use.
Join us next year for more in-depth articles and until then: Enjoy Episode IX, have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!