Adventures in Off-Brand LEGO: Star Trek’s The Guardian of Forever

Last year, to coincide with Star Trek‘s fiftieth anniversary, Mattel released a line of Star Trek Mega Bloks sets. A few years previous, Hasbro had a line of LEGO-compatible Star Trek KRE-O sets, based on the Chris Pine/Zach Quinto films, and I thought those were well done, even if I did rebuild the miniature Enterprise to make it more Enterprise-like. I saw the Star Trek Mega Bloks in stores last year and was curious about them but hadn’t bought any of them, so when I saw them at Ollie’s on Saturday I went ahead and picked up two, the Guardian of Forever set and the Klingon D-7 set.

I must admit to a certain wry feeling when buying the Guardian of Forever set, knowing that somewhere in suburban Los Angeles, Harlan Ellison was screaming into the night, “I gotcher Scotty right here!” with every set that was bought and built. :)

Of the various off-brand LEGO construction sets on the market, Mega Bloks has been the brand I least like working with. My niece had a number of Thomas the Tank Engine sets that I liked building with her, while my sister and brother-in-law were much less fond of, but those were in a larger-scale format. In the standard LEGO size and style, they have interesting licenses, but the bricks feel strange and don’t always fit together well. Plus, I don’t like their minifigs, which are well off the LEGO norm. (While almost all of the standard LEGO bricks are no longer protected by patent, the LEGO minifig remains patented, so the off-brand manufacturers can do something close… but not too close.)

Still, out of the box and on my desk at the office, the Mega Bloks Star Trek looked right. But what are those two strangely shaped pieces atop the pile…?

It turns out, those two pieces are the baseplate for the set. It comes in two parts and must be connected.

The way the baseplates are connected is a 2×4 brick, and this begins the construction of the temporal donut that is the Guardian of Forever.

Here’s the interesting thing about that 2×4 brick. Until I sorted out these photos to write this article, I didn’t even notice that it has a part number and the word “China” stamped on it. Why is it there, Mattel? Why aren’t the bricks plain?

Why, Mattel? Why?

One arc of the temporal donut is complete. The two 1×4 slanted pieces were a surprise.

While I can’t unsee the word “China” now that I’ve seen it, I will note that I like the way the Mega Bloks pieces aren’t of a uniform color. They look more natural, in a way, because of it.

I had the idle thought, “If only there were some way to illuminate some of these pieces, like Lite Brix.”

The left side of the temporal donut looks simple, but it wasn’t. The instructions were actually a little confusing as it wasn’t entirely clear due to how the instructions were printed which pieces to use for building the middle row, the lower one with the protruding stud. I figured it out more through process of elimination than anything else.

Now the Guardian is finished. I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t suddenly tell me, in a booming and reverberating voice, that it has awaited a question since before our sun burned hot in space.

The “China” thing still irritates me.

Captain Kirk and his valiant landing party are assembled at the edge of eternity!

My issue with Mega Bloks minifigs are two-fold. First, they’re much taller than LEGO minifigs. Second, the way their feet are sculpted, they won’t affix to baseplates and must, instead, be placed on plates like the ones on which they’re standing in front of the Guardian. Their feet should be affixed to the other stud as well, but I felt that one stud was fine and if I had them affixed to the second stud as well then all four men would, like Prince George in Blackadder‘s “Sense and Senility,” face the danger of seriously disappointing their future wives.

The Mega Bloks Guardian of Forever wasn’t a bad set — it assembled in about ten minutes, and except for the problem I had with the instructions there were no glitches. Some bricks may have needed a little more force to snap together, the bifurcated baseplate is a bit strange, but it generally built well and without major difficulty. Mega Bloks still feel “off” to me; the variable colorization is a nice touch, but the plastic feels weird in the hand, maybe a little too scraggy, a little too unpolished.

I guess, based on the fact that I found the sets at an overstock and close-outs store, there won’t be further Star Trek Mega Bloks sets. While I’d put the KRE-O Star Trek sets ahead of the Mega Bloks sets, I’d like to see LEGO-like Star Trek in the marketplace and succeeding.

It could happen. :)

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