The B-wing fighter is one of the last few remaining original trilogy and one of my favorites. I don’t think there are many space ships in science fiction that boasts a design where the ship revolves around the cockpit. It sounds completely off the wall and wholly unnecessary considering the size and shape of the ship that would do said revolutions. I didn’t care, it was a fascinating concept with an equally fascinating design. It wasn’t on screen for more than a few seconds during Return of the Jedi; it probably had the least amount of screen time compared to the other Rebel fighters. No matter, I still liked it. And I was absolutely giddy when I found out it was getting the UCS treatment. My affection, however, may have set me up for disappointment.

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I had the opportunity to do an early build and review of the ship. The build happened a few weeks ago, the time-lapse video of which I’ve already posted. It was not my intention to wait this long to write the review but it’s almost better this way since I’m not writing during the post-build afterglow. I can really examine the ship objectively after all the excitement has faded.

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The B-wing is very symmetrical in shape, consisting of two S-foils, a central wing, engine hull, and a rotating cockpit. Being as symmetrical as it is, the build process is a little boring but thankfully you can finish the build in under three hours. You start with the main engine hull and build the top and bottom halves simultaneously. You then sandwich them together in a final step. One of the more surprising elements used for the hull were the Hero Factory fists that I tried and failed to take a picture of without having to dismantle anything. I’ve made a notation of it on the flickr photo page. It blends right in with the model and you’d never be able to notice it if it wasn’t pointed out to you.

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After the main hull you move onto the main wing, or “blade” as some refer to it as. I’m not much of a builder but I do know enough of LEGO’s part library to know that there are a few elements that to this day have never been made and should be made, one of which being a plate with studs on top and bottom. And if there is one model that would require the use of a double sided stud plate it would be this one. The main wing is built the same way as the hull, a top side and a bottom side that you attach along the leading edge using the new bracket plates and a bunch of the curved bricks. All of the connection points are along the front of the wing, with a few on the tip where the gun pod goes and a few more at the opposite edge that attaches to the engine hull. There are no connection points in the back and that is where I was afraid the separation would be most obvious. Now, if you’ve ever built long plate formations, you know that the plates have a tendency to curve and the main wing parts were no exception. Still, after joining the two together, they laid flat and still surprisingly, after all this time, held it’s shape.

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The main weapons pod on the end of the long wing is built next. Thankfully, the weapons array isn’t symmetrical which means the designers weren’t being lazy and also included an element I thought I’d never see used alongside cannons and lasers: a whip. That’s right, there is a minifig whip/vine element buried in there. I bring this up not because it’s good or bad, just interesting. I do wish the pod was built with the studs facing the opposite way though more for aesthetic reasons than anything else. The pod is attached to the wing with a surface area equalling 2×8 studs. I kept knocking it off when manipulating the fighter for photographs. I wish there was an axle there instead for more strength and stability.

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After the main wing is done, it’s time to move onto the S-foils. You build each S-foil separately. Since they are mirror copies of the other, it’s possible to build both simultaneously if you’re good at that sort of thing but it’s such a short build you wouldn’t be really gaining that much time. Nothing else noteworthy here but there are a few issues. One is, when not deployed, they don’t lie flat against the main wing. I’m not sure if this is accurate to the movie model or not, but there is a noticeable gap between the S-foils and the main wing. The other is that the wings are one sided, meaning that when deployed you see the underside of the plates that detracts from the overall appearance. This normally isn’t an issue except that the B-wing is meant to be displayed with the S-foils deployed, so seeing the underside doesn’t take any effort. It’s just there, staring back at you. This would have been a perfect opportunity to include a loads of the new upside down tiles to tile over the underside to make it nice and smooth. Lastly, as I was deploying the S-foil, the click hinge plates that serves as the axis of rotation kept lifting away from the main wing.

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After the S-foils it’s time for the cockpit, or what I like to call The-Thing-I-Thought-I’d-Love-But-Hate-Instead. Where do I begin? Okay, how about the most obvious where the canopy doesn’t even open. The canopy piece is held down by a jointed series of plates that curve around the top near the back. It doesn’t even anchor down to any studs. That last part isn’t really an issue, but with no way of opening the cockpit, you can’t even place an undersized minifig B-wing pilot or Ten Nunb into the seat, which is what everyone is going to want to do, including yours truly. Why bother even building a seat and cockpit controls in the first place? It’s aggravating.

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When I first saw pictures of the UCS set, the first thing I noticed was the cockpit. In all previous UCS sets, the starfighter body shapes are easily recreated in LEGO form, but it’s always the canopy that comes under the most scrutiny mainly because they have such unique shapes that they would almost always require new moulded parts. The X-wing’s canopy had a unique mould, which to this day has never been re-used. The UCS Snowspeeder canopy was built from several smaller ones and worked quite well. The B-wing set managed to capture the bullet shape of the cockpit pretty well but the canopy is undersized. LEGO did what they could to bulk it up by having an oversized frame. It may be somewhat passable in its appearance but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

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The rotating mechanism does work but it just doesn’t rotate very smoothly. Like LEGO’s previous incarnations of the B-wing, the cockpit relies on gravity to keep it oriented right side up. And they actually worked for the most part. Either that or my memory is being a little more forgiving. The UCS version does also use gravity, but the rotating action was hampered by the friction of ABS rubbing against each other. There might be a way to separate the planes of contact to remove the friction variable altogether, but the rear of the cockpit pod was so delicate, I didn’t bother investigating as it would have just frustrated me for more .

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I can’t really describe how delicate the rear is. It just seemed to fall apart every time I handled it. The individual wedges clip onto the modified plate with frame, and that whole assembly attaches to 2×2 stud area. There is a bar that extends partially through the assembly that if it went through to the base, would actually provide a much stronger connection. It may be possible to modify it so that it can extend through but at first glance I didn’t see any obvious way to do it.

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Once everything is put together, you build the requisite stand and even that didn’t work very well. The fighter is supposed to be displayed at an angle with the S-foils locked. There is no way to display it on the stand when in flight mode, just attack mode. Say what you will about 6208’s stand, but I loved it and that thing worked really well. There was no way that a similar stand would have worked for this model though. It would have been too top heavy and impractical to display vertically. You could remove the stand entirely but the ship doesn’t lay flat when placed on a surface. It tips back slightly. And there’s no landing gear either to help stabilize when alit.

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While on the stand, the long end tends to come really close to the ground almost touching it. You could change the resting point however to raise the gun pod which I did for awhile. Then I thought I had built the brace wrong so looked over the instructions and it was built correctly. I rebuilt the brace anyway and it seems to display it much better, even if it seemed a little heavier on one side than other. Still, the ship stayed in place, floats above the surface and gives the illusion of flight more satisfactorily. That is one mod I can recommend.

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The stand pretty much determines how the B-wing is supposed to be displayed: with the cockpit on the left side. I do wish it allowed for more options though to give the user the choice on how to display it but they’d have to include another orange circle sticker since you only get three and there are four points where they should go. And if they only included three stickers because they intended to display only one side of the ship, why even bother building the bottom half of the wing? Aside from that, this is probably one set that could have benefitted from a few more stickers to add some details to an otherwise bland grey model.

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Since some time has passed between the initial build and the time I photographed it, there are some quality issues that detract from the set. Remember that curving issue on the two halves of the main wing that I was worried about? Well the main wing is fine, but there are other points where the two-halves approach aren’t working quite so well. There are points of separation that no matter how much I try to rebuild or press together they will not reconnect. Also, the wing and S-foils assembly is so heavy, that it sometimes separates from the hull depending on how its held. I even found it separated after sitting on the stand for a time.

All nitpicking aside and taking the final model as a whole piece into consideration, I ask myself what is my overall impression of the set. Thumbs up or thumbs down? While the build process itself is a thumbs up for its brevity, I’d have to say thumbs down for the final product. UCS sets aren’t meant to be swooshable and instead should be considered large scale models for display only and I totally get that. At first glance, it’s as detailed as a flying wing can get and captures the look and feel of the original ship quite successfully. Look a little closer and you’ll notice the separating seams, a canopy that you can’t even open, and a display stand that has the gun pod touching the surface. And if you’re lucky, your wing assembly won’t separate from the engine hull on its own like mine has a tendency to do. If you can look past those points, by all means, pick up this set; you absolutely won’t regret it. It still makes a nice display piece and in that department it does not disappoint as long as you don’t look too closely at the details. For this builder, however, it’s those details that really bother. Every time I see the separating halves, it serves as a reminder as to what is wrong with the ship. And I can’t help but feel that this set was not ready for prime time and needed to address a few structural issues before going into production. I’ll keep it up on display for awhile but it would be first in line to get dismantled if I need space or some parts from it.

There are 96 pictures in the set. I won’t load up the thumbnails here like I normally would. Instead, I’ll just provide a link to the 10227 B-wing Starfighter flickr set. You’ll have to excuse my lack of a professional, clean white background. Getting the house ready for the new baby tends to shifts things like backdrops to places you can’t for the life of you remember where.

The set goes on sale on October 1, 2012 at LEGO Shop@Home for $199.99.