First Impressions: 75159 Death Star

Daniel Konstanski gives his reaction to the newly unveiled LEGO 75159 Death Star, explaining why its similarity to the previous set might make sense after all.

The long rumored new LEGO 75159 Death Star has finally been revealed. Constructed publicly in a LEGO Store just down the road from me in Maryland, we now have public photos and I can bring you my first impression of this long awaited set.  The response from AFOLs has been swift, and largely harsh. It appears the general consensus of the community is disappointment. I have been reading phrases like ‘wasted opportunity’ and ‘why did they even bother?’, but I think that is all rubbish – an emotional response to dashed dreams rather than even a most rudimentary analysis of the facts.

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Before I continue let me quickly address the burning question everyone has had since the first whispers of those who had seen the set began leaking out onto the internet. Yes, 75159 is almost exactly the same as set 10188 Death Star which has been available since 2008. That just retired set has been available longer than any other LEGO set I am aware of. The floor plan of 75159 is exactly the same both in terms of the number of rooms and what they are as well as minifigures. As best as I can tell from the pictures the dimensions are also unchanged.

So if nothing is different, why did the LEGO Group do this? That is simple – it was to save cost. The original 10188 was released two years before my oldest daughter was born, and she is 6! There is quite literally an entire generation of kids who have come of age into their prime LEGO collecting years during that first set’s lifetime. Most glaringly, the minifigures included with 10188 were very dated, hailing from a simpler time when figures were much more plain.

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Furthermore, a variety of pieces used in the first incarnation are no longer produced, such as the TIE fighter canopy which made up the back wall behind the Emperor’s throne. It is impractical and ultimately costly to produce figures and pieces for only one set. Molding and printing machines must devote valuable runtime to continue making elements that cannot be spread across multiple products. This is woefully inefficient and that ends up harming the bottom line. The answer to the question of why the LEGO Group did this is financial – parts and minifigures which were once ubiquitous across multiple sets had become exclusive to 10188. The production line needed to be updated so it would run more efficiently and inexpensively, that is why the LEGO Group bothered.

Even if one doesn’t care for the production argument, I still don’t understand the surprise and outrage. Remakes with few changes from their predecessor has been the norm in LEGO Star Wars for a decade.  Take 4504 Millennium Falcon, the second version of that ship that was released back in 2004. The LEGO Group has given us two newer incarnations of Han’s ship since and they have both  been incremental improvements. The basic design, size, and layout of the ship have remained virtually unchanged. Why would we expect any different with the Death Star? The only deviation from the LEGO Group’s standard practice is that they didn’t wait a couple of years between releases, but that makes sense as 10188 was still a popular set with consistent sales. Why wait to continue making money?

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Last, but not least, I would pose this question to 75159’s detractors. What would you have had the designers change? The first Death Star already depicted essentially every room we see in the films. Sure Rogue One: A Star Wars Story may add a new room or two, but that does not a new Death Star make. The LEGO Group was never going to cover the exterior with an outer hull of plates articulated by hinges, that would be cost prohibitive (though I will concede awesome looking).

Bottom line, 75159 should surprise nobody. It is a remake with minor improvements driven by the goal to reduce production costs. Not unlike every other LEGO Star Wars remake over the last ten years. It takes what many already regarded as a perfect set and improves upon it. Provided the rise in price is not astronomical I expect the LEGO Group will continue to have a winner of a set for years to come.

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Images shared at Eurobricks.com by CM4Sci

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3 comments

  1. TheHappyJawah

    Good article (if a bit harsh) but I do not think the set is by no means flawless as many people seem to make out. I appreciate and have even been informing people of the production and inflation argument for this set, but that doesn’t change how HORRIBLY dated this set looks (imagine it on shelves next to the Slave 1). The least they could do is add cheese slopes to the ugly stepped edges!
    As someone who never liked the design in the first place I am disappointed. But I got over it because LEGO is a business and re-making the set made perfect business sense. Maybe they should have announced ages ago the set was a re-make to stop the several month hype train and ultimate disappointment?

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