A little while back I covered the Star Wars Action Fleet Rebel Base Playset, and it’s about time I did the same for the Empire’s base. Behold, the Death Star!
Like the Rebel Base, the box features a kickass piece of art from legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. I’ve said it before on this site, but I miss the days where toys packaging came adorned with handpainted artwork.
The set comes with six mini figures, Darth Vader, Emperor’s Royal Guard, Emperor Palpatine, Death Star Gunner, Imperial Pilot and a Stormtrooper.
I’m not sure if it’s because this set has remained sealed for over twenty years until I got my hands on it, but the limbs on these figures were stiff. I finally managed to get the Stormtrooper to move his arms, but I had no luck with Vader. It feels like the paint has kind of glued his legs and arms in place. His helmet is also supposed to be removable, but that’s stuck in place as well.
The Death Star unsurpisingly resembles the Death Star when the playset is closed. I’m not overly struck on the cannon sticking out of the center of the Death Star’s dish. The Rebel Base also had turrets, but they weren’t to the detriment of the overall look of the playset. But it is what it is.
The Death Star doesn’t unfold quite as neatly or as easily as the Rebel Base, with some of the platforms needing to be secured in place. Despite this, it’s a helluva fun little playset.
Some of the colour choices on this set are a little weird. Neon orange on the crane, and cables moulded onto the base don’t look very Empire-y, but seeing as this toy came out in the ’90s, I’ll give this a pass. Neon was in every toy aisle back then, so I have to accept that it managed to spread to a galaxy far, far away as well. Anyway, here’s some of the features of the set.
As you can see, the Death Star has a working elevator. The downside is that as soon as you move it, whoever is positioned inside it falls over. A little peg or something to keep figures in place would have been neat, but it wasn’t to be.
Vader’s Meditation Chamber!
Although we never saw the Dark Lord of the Sith chillin’ in a meditation chamber on the Death Star like he did aboard his Star Destroyer, this incarnation of the planet-slaying space station comes equipped with one, perfect for pondering dark side things, taking a nap or to just have a private little cry-wank over Padmé. The one downside is that the version of Vader that comes with this set is ready for combat and is wielding his lightsaber, which makes fitting him inside the chamber a little tricky. It also doesn’t make much sense why they included a Vader who was clearly ready for combat with his lightsaber ignited, when all he can really do is sit in his meditation chamber.
TIE Fighter docking platform!
This is probably the least impressive feature of the entire set, mainly because I’ve never seen a TIE fighter docked on a weird little scaffolding looking platform. The platform can fold down to close off the hanger entrance as well, but the crane mechanism which attaches to the platform needs to be removed in order for it to properly close shut. Behind where the TIE is situated is a gunner seat for you to place a figure, with a cannon located on the overside. It’s fine, but I think the Rebel Base did a much better job with the positioning of cannons than the Death Star did.
Like the Rebel Alliance base which came with a “bonus” X-wing Fighter, this set comes with Darth Vader’s Advanced TIE Fighter, which features battle damage to the wings, which the usual version of Vader’s TIE does not have. The rear opens up to reveal the TIE engines, which is a neat little feature. Although you never see any inner workings of the TIE in any of the movies, I like stuff like this. The original Kenner 1978 Landspeeder vehicle had a pop-open bonnet, allowing you to see wires and gizmos printed onto a sticker (sadly the Palitoy version released here in the UK lacked this feature). To actually be able to see the Twin Ion Engine (TIE) that powers this iconic vehicle is cool as hell.
Probe Droid Launcher!
Okay, so I can’t really speak too highly of this feature. Basically, an Imperial Probe droid sits inside a clear pod which can be fired from a spring launcher located on the left side of the playset, behind the elevator. Only my version had a broken pod which just would not clip into the launcher.
If this pod wasn’t still sealed in the original bag, within the orignal unopened box, I’d be a lot more understanding. As it is, there wasn’t even the broken off piece inside the bag this pod came in, so it was obviously damaged in the factory. The odd thing is how clean the break looks, almost like the peg has been cut off with two snips of some plastic cutters. I did initially wonder if the pod had been intentionally broken because of this, maybe the pod launching feature was too powerful and to stop kids from being blinded by an airborn probe droid, the pod was intentionally sabotaged. This probably isn’t true though, and I’m probably talking crap. Regardless, the end result is that no probe droids will be discovering Rebel bases anytime soon.
Emperor’s Viewing Platform
Atop the space station is a little viewing platform, perfect for Palpatine to sit and be a complete and utter evil bastard. The throne rotates so that Palpatine can do his best Ernst Stavro Blofeld impression. Other than that, there’s not much more to say about this part of the Death Star. One thing I would have liked is another Royal Guard. I gather that Galoob were probably expecting kids to buy other figure sets to compliment the playsets, but it feels a bit lacking without two of the crimson robed menaces standing guard over the galactic dictator.
Like the Rebel Base, the Death Star also features a couple of seats for Imperial Gunners to sit and rest their legs. I didn’t end up taking a picture, but this console is situated right next to the firing turret, which is in the center of the Death Star dish on the overside of the set.
So them’s all the main features of the set. Is it a fun little playset? Definitely. What it lacks in screen-accuracy, it certainly makes up for in playability, even with my version which featured a broken Probe Droid launcher. Obviously, the set is going to be more fun with extra figures, so I’ve added a few figures and a Millennium Falcon to make it more akin to the original Death Star, although the inclusion of Palpatine and his Royal Guard suggests this is actually the second Death Star, which the Falcon never docked on. Oh well!
The one thing I’m really not keen on is the aesthetic look of the playset from the exterior. Where the Rebel Base looked awesome from both inside and outside, this just seems to be lacking something. I’m not sure if it’s just because it doesn’t look round like how the Death Star should be, but there’s something just unsatisfying about it.
That said, this Death Star can still be picked up fairly cheap, so if you’re wanting one to display or to let your kids enjoy, it won’t break the bank and is perfect for some micro-scaled adventures.
I’m not sure how to end this review, so here’s another little oddity. When I was applying ths stickers, I noticed that the instructions that show where to place each sticker for some reason the place to put the 11th sticker hadn’t been printed onto the instructions, so you can see someone has had to write with a biro where it should go. I love things like this, the little cock-ups that occur, and the ways that they counteract them.
Sure they could have printed more instructions, but back then they could also just get someone to manually draw on “11” and a line showing where it’s to go. I recall as a kid that I once had Pokémon bean-bag toys, and on each tag was written “Pokémon Beanie” or something like that. Only other versions I had bought had the “Beanie” part scrawled out with a permanent marker, which I’m guessing was down to legal threats from TY, who did Beanie Babies. Again, this might not be true, but it was certainly around the time of the Beanie Baby craze, so it seems like a logical step that would be taken so as to not have to recall thousands of Pokémon dolls.
So there we go. More Star Wars to come soon, because I enjoy playing with Star Wars toys.