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by Artemis

The AT-ST got a bit of a raw deal, really. As if the AT-AT's thorough domination of the Battle for Hoth wasn't enough, the one feature sequence of an AT-ST in Empire had to be abandoned after the stop-motion shooting was disrupted, leaving the poor chicken walker with just a walk-on cameo in a single shot. And then, when the AT-STs finally got their moment of glory in Return of the Jedi, not only were they set up to lose, but Lucas abandoned the "planet of Wookies" idea and had them lose to Ewoks instead, making the loss that much more humiliating.

Which is quite a shame, since the AT-STs were pretty damned cool. They may have been pwned by the Ewoks before "pwned" even existed, but what kid who had the walking-action AT-ST didn't think it was the best thing ever? I know I did, and the lumbering AT-ATs can go hump each other for all I care.

Anyway, there's a standard-scale Lego AT-ST about, sized to fit its crew of little Lego Imperials - it's a fun set, but at that size, there's only so much you can do. To get an AT-ST worthy of the vehicle's inherent coolness, you have to go bigger, to this "Ultimate Collector's" set, the be-all and end-all of the (admittedly limited) niche of Lego AT-STs.

The walker arrives in a whole bunch of bags - unlike more newbie-friendly Lego sets there aren't any bag numbers, so assembly is really just a matter of tipping the whole shebang out onto a table and getting to work. It's 1057 pieces (or 1058 according to Lego's website, so either I miscounted or they're counting the sole sticker as a piece) so there's a lot of assembly to do between "go" and "woah," and while there are roughly defined "areas" of parts - such as the majority of the legs being separate from the majority of the head - you'll still find yourself hunting across the whole spread of bits now and then for the one piece you need. Luckily (more or less essentially at this scale, unless you like Where's Waldo books and want your Lego manuals to work the same way) each step of construction has an inset box showing the pieces used. And yes, that's "manuals" plural - there's two of them, the first covering everything below the "neck," the second everything above.

Aside from the occasional game of "where the f&#% is that piece hiding," there's nothing really difficult about construction - it's complex but quite straight-forward in its step-by-step manner, and very enjoyable to plod away at while something's on TV in the background (it's no coincidence that I suddenly start buying Lego when Wimbledon's no). Stage one is the legs, done one at a time, but they're perfectly symmetrical, so if you feel like speeding matters up a bit you could easily assemble both legs side by side, just using a single instruction set and inverting anything side-specific.

There's no articulation, aside from the fence-cutter claw housing being mounted on a twin peg joint - with the considerable weight of the completed vehicle, any mobility in the legs has been sacrificed in order to keep it standing upright without risking collapse. The feet are quite nicely formed from standard curved hull pieces, the legs make much use of shallow curved 1x6 blocks and flat-faced 1x8 bars to achieve a similar appearance to the real thing, and the distinctive "Achilles tendon" at the back of the legs is there, represented quite well by a long rod mounted on a hinged assembly.

The "body" features one of the few slightly irksome stages of assembly, with two rows of six "spigot" pieces representing some of the random technological gribblies the Star Wars model crew stuck on - getting them all lined up at exact right angles to the hull takes a bit of patience and a steady hand. But the final effect is both accurate and neat-looking, along with various other bits and bobs, and prominently a selection of tubes on the front, recreating in fair detail the AT-ST's engine block. The AT-ST's design has the legs mounted on articulated sections above the "hips" as well as below, so what looks like a concession to stability over aesthetics (the legs attaching to the body in the middle, rather than at the front where the hips are) is actually design-accurate. The "upper hips," though, are locked in place.

Articulation starts kicking in here though, with the neck joint, a very sturdy arrangement based on a 4x4 block swivel - no surprise, since it has to take the considerable weight of the head. The head's angled sides are recreated quite cleverly, with the front, sides, and back all attaching via various styles of hinges and angled rods, and fitting together quite nicely, with the front and back having angled edges that fit almost seamlessly with the angled sides.

The sides, incidentally, are the other slight irk in the assembly process - getting them onto the tiered rods that hold them in place required striking exactly the right angle, and since the rods are free-floating until the side goes on, you only have your eye and innate sense of engineering to guide you. It's not frustrating though, it just takes a bit of coaxing and prodding to get everything to slide together - once that's done, it's all held together quite stably by a rubber band, and the back and top attach and close up via ratcheted hinges.

The sticker mentioned earlier goes on a 4x4 flat, between the "eyes" - I'm honestly not sure it was necessary to have a sticker representing that particular bit of detail, rather than just approximating it in Lego like everything else, but since it doesn't commit the cardinal sin of Lego stickers - applying across more than one piece - it's no big deal.

The final vehicle model stands 16" tall, which towers over... well, everything - at least, everything in my collection (besides the 1:1-scale mannequin, obviously). In terms of proportions, it takes liberties where necessary - the feet are large, the legs stocky compared to the head, which rests back over the vehicle's centre of gravity, rather than aggressively forward as on real AT-STs. But those kinds of practical-minded changes are nothing new, and certainly most AT-ST toys have done likewise. Nitpicking aside, the walker looks great, and is close enough to scale with Star Wars figures, being about wide enough in the head for two to sit side-by-side (if there were seats in there, rather than a rubber band).

The top hatch opens, on a double-jointed arm - the 8x8 dish is oversized, but necessary to cover the edges of the hatch hole, since Lego doesn't have round-edged flat pieces, and had to make do with 45-degree-edged flats instead. All three weapons are mobile - the cannon mounted on the "chin" angles up and down, while the light blaster and grenade launcher on either side of the head rotate freely. The head, of course, is mounted on the sturdy swivel neck - it's ratcheted, and has two "clicks" of turn to either side before it contacts the tops of the legs, enough for a bit of a tilt but nothing drastic.

The blast shields on the front of the hips, and alongside the light blaster, are all mounted on ratcheted peg joints, but they're not meant to be mobile on real AT-STs, so that's just a matter of the parts used to put them in place. The legs likewise have mobile hip joints, but just because of how they're built - unless you manually tilt it, the body and head will rest back on the upper hips. For such a big, heavy construction, the vehicle is quite stable standing upright.

As a last, cute touch, the set also includes a little signboard, on which - over twelve 1x8 flat-faced bars - a sticker bears a small wireframe image of the AT-ST (the Lego version), along with some basic stats on size, crew, and armament. Here, yes, the sticker's sticking together multiple parts - but it's not part of the main set, and there's really no other way to do this kind of thing, so it's forgivable.

This is a set for real Lego fans - those of us who, quite aside from liking the subject, genuinely enjoy building Lego for its own sake. It's quite an endeavour putting it all together - it took me two hours fifty minutes, pausing only to take photos along the way - but it's rewarding, and when you're done you have a great model of the AT-ST. And, of course, you can pull it apart and build something else - with its impressive size, the walker's accuracy doesn't come at the cost of using lots of vehicle-specific pieces, and broken down into its components, this set could be used to build damn near anything. So long as it's grey, of course. It's not a cheap set - though it can be quite a bargain if you find it on sale - but if you love Lego and Star Wars, you'll love this.


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