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Podracer Pilots

SWI: The Phantom Menace
by yo go re

There is no question that a lot of the problems people have with The Phantom Menance are solely the result of them taking adult expectations to a kids' movie. Because if you consider the things the haters love to hate on, separate from whether or not they're part of Star Wars, they're really not so bad. For instance, the reviled podrace scene. A bunch of crazy space-monsters in a car race? That's objectively awesome!

Podracers compete in the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace, a highly competitive and dangerous event held annually on Tatooine. During the race, Clegg Holdfast and Mars Guo crash their Podracers, victims of sabotage by a fellow Podracer. Teemto Pagalies falls out of the race when his vehicle is shot by a Tusken Raider. Dud Bolt tries to eliminate a Podracer but crashes his own vehicle instead. Gasgano is one of the lucky ones to reach the finish line, coming in second place after Anakin Skywalker.

In case you're wondering, Boonta Eve is a Huttese holiday that commemorates the victory of Boonta the Hutt over the Parliament of Moralan, a government that had been encroaching on their territory. So basically, it's Space Cinco de Mayo.

Mars Guo falls victim to Sebulba's own treachery when the cheating Dug pitches a chunk of debris into his engine intake.

According to the expanded universe, Mars here was something of a ladies' man. Or at least a ladies' Phuii, since that's what he is. Phuii are bipedal space dinosaurs, which, again, is awesome! Anyway, Mars hit on one of Sebulba's Twi'lek twins, which pissed off the other racer. This figure was originally released in 2006 as part of the Saga Collection, and this figure is pretty much a straight re-release: no changed paint apps or anything.

Mars is wearing a saucy little off-the-shoulder number. It's brown with thin yellow stripes on the legs and running under the crotch. His skin is pale blue, with darker patches on the neck and back, and more yellow stripes on the arms. He has little red eyes above his droopy grey cheeks. He gets a balljointed head, and swivels for the hips, shoulders and biceps.

The figure includes a black pistol (reused from Durge) and a pair of removable goggles. He didn't wear goggles in the film - it was more like a basketball player's face guard - but maybe that was too hard to do in toy form. All the figures in this set include a vinyl flag, and Mars' is grey with an orange symbol in the center.

With his multiple arms, thrill seeker Gasgano is uniquely suited for the extreme sport of pod racing. Piloting a cockpit pulled by two dangerously powerful engines, he relies on a crew of pit droids to keep him in the race when the action heats up.

Now Gasgano is definitely an old figure - this is the same one that came out in 1999! Now, granted, there really isn't much room for improvement on this 13-year-old toy (of course, as soon as we say that, watch Hasbro announce a Vintage version with balljointed elbows or something). Gasgano is a Xexto, a species with six arms. What's that you say? You only count four? Well, here's a hint: he's standing on two of them. The articulation is about as good as you could expect from a figure that didn't even come out last decade, but in the decade before: he has swivels at the neck and waist, and all four shoulders are balljointed.

These days we'd hope for at least swivels in the gloves and knees, maybe a V-crotch so he could sit and a balljointed head. The upper right arm tends to pop off the balljoint, due to the design of the lower arm, but that's been an issue since the beginning. The original figure came with a Pit Droid and one of those god-awful CommTech chips, but all this one gets is his flag - green with two red pennants above.

Dud Bolt, a shameless toady, is actually paid by the nefarious Sebulba to cause accidents during the race - a job that lands him in a Mos Espa med center.

That bio, by the way, comes from the back of Dud Bolt's 2006 Saga Collection release - he and Mars Guo were in the same two-pack. He's Vulptereen, which means he's got a tubby body, a long spongy snout with six tusks poking out the sides and a feeler on top, big clawed hands and teeny little feet. Like the bio suggests, Dud acted as Sebulba's mid-air bodyguard, keeping other racers off his back and knocking enemies into cliff walls. Then, when he got injured doing just that, Sebulba replaced Dud with someone else, which pissed him off no end.

Dud is wearing an orange racing outfit, which really contrasts against his baby blue skin. His belly is a dark yellow, and the inside of his mouth is pink. All the little bumps and ridges on his head are painted, even if you may never notice them. The apps in general are less "dirty" than they were on the original figure.

We get two accessories: a rifle (again taken from Durge), and a helmet. It's hard to get the helmet to sit properly on his head, until you realize that the "chinstrap" is actually supposed to fit onto his lower lip, which pulls everything into position perfectly. The gun is black with a tan strap, and the helmet is the same color as the suit, with silver around the goggles. His flag is red, with a blue and a black banner above the main body.

Clegg Holdfast is one of the Podracers in the Boonta Eve Classic. Clegg is a journalist for the Podracing Quarterly and enters the races to better cover his stories. His engines are destroyed during the race and he crashes in the desert.

He's a what? What an interesting and completely unknown fact about a minor character from the film! Coming to us live from the 2009 Legacy Collection, Clegg Holdfast is a Nosaurian, a dragon-like reptile species. Space dragons! And despite the fact that he crashed (or more accurately, he was crashed - Sebulba set Clegg's podracer engines on fire) in the second lap of the race, Clegg used his connections to have the official results changed to show that he finished in seventh place. That's some strong journalistic integrity, right there! Well, unless he made the ambulance or whatever spin him around the track enough times to finish; then it might be okay.

Clegg's speckled suit is more tan now than it was in its previous release. His skin is a dusty blue (except for the back of his neck, which is the same color as his clothes), and his horns are a brown-grey. And yes, those are horns, hard horns, not floppy head-appendages like a lot of Star Wars species seem to have.

The figure includes a black pistol, designed specifically for him, and a pair of goggles that are packaged next to him in the box. Getting the goggles on is kind of tough, thanks to the horns: yes, they're molded from soft PVC, but it's still nigh impossible to work the goggles on. Best bet? Pop the head, and push them up from the bottom. The neck is a balljoint, the waist, wrists and hips are swivels. and the shoulders, elbows and knees are injection-molded. He has a white flag with a purple device and a red squiggle.

Proud of his new electro-magnet stabilizer, Teemto Pagalies is entering his barely tested Podracer in the Boonta Eve Classic, believing that it will give him the winning edge.

Oh yeah, that's sure to work out well. Teemto was apparently handsome by Veknoid standards, and was forced to flee his homeworld after turning down a princess's request for marriage. On Tatooine he fell in love with the same slave girl as Mars Guo, and was the one who told Sebulba that Mars was hitting on her, setting off their feud. This figure was originally released in 2002 and has the biggest repaint in this set: he's a darker brown, his cuts are more vibrant, his pants are darker and the fur on his legs is actually two colors instead of just one.

When my buddy and I went to see Episode I back in the day, he pointed out that one of the podracers (Teemto, obviously, but it's not like he had a name then) looked exactly like The Noid. You know, the red, bunny-suited Domino's Pizza mascot? Well, he may not look exactly like The Noid, but he does have an undeniable similarity. Big jaw, rabbit ears, tiny nose, the whole deal. More Star Wars characters need to look like fast food mascots.

Teemto has removable goggles, but no other accessories. His flag is yellow with a grey and red splotch on the edge near the pole. The figure moves at the neck, shoulders, hips and tail, all swivels.

The Podracer Pilots set comes with five bases, a die and five cards for the game that all the Star Wars basic figures have been a part of for a while now. Though all the figures in this set have been released before and are thus reused molds, I only had one of them - so for me, this set was a good deal. It might be for you, too, depending on how many of the figures you already own. Let the haters hate: the Podrace was cool, and getting all these crazy pilots at once is a winning proposition.

-- 04/21/12

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