Thursday, 29 May 2008

Liberator Spotters Guide - Part 1

The Liberator from the BBC Sci-Fi series Blake's 7 is, for many a large child like me, one of the most iconic space ships designs in TV history.
Its design history is well documented, having been snatched from under the in-house model-building team's collective noses, especially that of Ian Scoones, by the series Production Designer Roger Murray-Leach. Roger's design for the Liberator, unrestricted by a background in model building, was one of the most alien looking ships of that time. Rogers initial drawings contrasted well with the more earth-bound designs of the other ships in the series. The initial designs were then handed over to external freelancer Martin Bower to make sense of and build. Martin's contribution to the final look and feel of the Liberator has, in my view, been overlooked. Without his detailing the Liberator might never have had the feeling of scale that jumped out from the screen.

It wasn't long before the first replica of the Liberator hit the shops, a small die cast ship from Corgi. A reproduction of this toy was released with a Special Edition of the DVD of the series. Unfortunately some of these are now surfacing on E-bay purporting to be genuine 1977 die cast toys.

There is a simple way to tell the two apart. First of all you'll be hard pushed to find a 1977 version without any scratches or exposed silver metal showing through chipped paint. Also there is often damage to the thin plastic antenna, usually the central one has been bitten off by an excitable child! So if its all shinny and new and it looks too good to be true it probably is. But the real clincher is that the modern version has a blank side on the main hull, where the 1977 version has the words Made in Great Britain.
Also the Corgi logo is different, being lower case letter in 1977 and uppercase on the new version.
You can see this clearly in my comparison pictures of my 1977 version, (on the left), and the DVD version, (on the right).
My 1977 version was very kindly given to me several years ago by Gordon Fraser who has a second one in his collection which is in much better condition than mine.
There was also a colour variant released at the same time. I'm not sure what the thinking behind this was but I seem to remember that it wasn't even branded as Blake's 7 so perhaps it was intended as a generic spaceship for sale in other markets. (I'm just guessing on this.)

Tomy X-Wing Fighter

Star Wars Candy Toy Diorama X-Wing Fighter by Tomy is one of a series of ships and figures released a few years ago. I'm specifically interested in the ships and have managed to find a few of these since their release. The other ships in the set include the Millennium Falcon, Slave 1, AT-AT Walker and a Jedi Star fighter.

I picked this one up recently in Forbidden Planet London. There were a few boxes stacked up by the till so I grabbed this one to add to my collection. I already have the Falcon and the Jedi Starfighter but still need to hunt down the AT-AT walker and Slave 1.

As I've come to expect from these releases the detail is simply mind blowing. The product is made of plastic and sits on its own base complete with fuel cables and other equipment. The wings are closed and the landing gear down.
The detail, painting and weathering is excellent, especially when you consider just how small this model is! My only quibble would be the tiny R2-D2 sitting behind the cockpit. He's so small and looks a bit like a little football. He's a victim of the size of the piece, I'm not sure how it could be improved without breaking your eyes!