LEGO was a very integral part of my childhood. When I was very young it was always fun to get a new set but it typically lasted a few hours before it was dropped, broken into a million pieces, and those pieces subsequently lost or eaten by the dog. For some reason my dad was also adamant about throwing the instructions away immediately upon completion of the set which made about as much sense as reading the nutritional information on your Taco Bell meal. He keeps black and white CRT TV’s and refuses to throw away a bread tie but he insisted on pitching out every LEGO and NES box and instruction manual I ever got as fast as possible. It’s like he was going for the world record time between opening a toy and trashing its paperwork.
By the time I was about nine years old however I began taking my destiny into my own hands. After watching my stuff get ravaged for years I made the decision to keep almost everything I bought complete. Boxes, instruction manuals, and registration cards were no longer relegated to the trash bin. It was about this time that the Ice Planet 2002 sets began showing up in stores. It’s interesting that a sub-theme of space that was released in 1993 was called Ice Planet 2002. Was an era of global cooling supposed to ravage the Earth creating a second ice age in 2002? Did the Lego group predict that NASA would discover an icy planet and send astronauts there to explore? Like the amount of licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, I suppose the world will never know.
My first Ice Planet set was #6879 Blizzard Baron. It is at this point that I should make a confession. When I was a kid I was such a Lego nerd that I actually knew most of the set numbers in addition to the names. I wouldn’t tell my friends about “the black castle”. I’d talk about set #6086 Black Knight’s Castle. What’s even more alarming is that I didn’t even have to look that up while writing this. I spent so much time obsessing over the Lego Shop at Home catalogs in my youth that the set numbers and names are ingrained in my brain. They are as familiar to me as the Konami code and local time & temperature phone numbers are to others.
The Blizzard Baron was a pretty typical Lego space ship for the time but that isn’t a criticism. These ships were always done really well. For $7.99 you got a nice little fighter ship with a pilot, a detachable satellite, and a chainsaw. That’s right for whatever reason the Ice Planet theme included chainsaws with their pilots rather than laser guns. The artwork always showed these explorers using the chainsaws to cut through thick ice but children are more imaginative. My astronauts used them like the space marine in Doom uses his chainsaw; to dismantle his enemies piece by piece. If they needed a gun I just took the blade of the saw out of the handle. Don’t ask me how that’s supposed to work.
The great thing about sets this size was that it was something you could realistically go home with after a day of shopping with your mom. If you behaved yourself, did your chores, walked the dog, cleaned the house or went above and beyond in some way you might be able to talk your mom into buying a $7.99 Lego set as a reward. They were also the perfect price point to receive as a birthday present from your friends, and they were also within the realm of possibility of buying yourself without having to save for too long. This meant that you could assemble a respectable fleet of ships to rule the skies. Over the years I know I’ve picked up at least three of these.
I got my first one at a Christmas party in December 1993. I can still remember putting it together that December and being pretty impressed with it. I loved the detachable satellite and used it to transmit covert data to my pilot from deep in enemy space. Wooshing around the living room my pilot would finally penetrate deep enough behind the lines to the release point and then the satellite would blast off. It was then that I’d actually woosh around the house with the satellite until I found a suitable hiding place for it to begin making it’s clandestine transmissions. If only $8 could buy me so much happiness today.
The translucent orange pieces were always cool but the icing on the cake were the skis that came with this ship. Not only did the craft take off and land on skis but an extra set of skis were included for the pilot, and they fit on his feet. Again, the possibilities here for a child’s imagination were endless. My pilot must have logged hundreds of miles traversing across the shag carpeting of my living room floor on his skis. Once we replaced that carpet it wasn’t quite as fun but at least I lost fewer Lego pieces in the pile.
LEGO sets were always a great way to jump start the imagination of a child. By picking up a few sets you could fly through deep space, sail the seven seas, put out a fire at the City Hall, enter a jousting tournament, or even have space men infiltrate your castle and have to fight off the pirate squatters that were hiding in the catacombs. There were no boundaries for a child’s creativity.