On Contemplating the Martian War Machine

On Saturday, I built the Tripod Invader, one of the sets from the new LEGO Alien Conquest theme which is based loosely on H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and alien invasion B-movies of the 1950s. When I wrote about the set yesterday, I mentioned that I was thinking of modifying the Tripod Invader to be more War of the Worlds-like.

And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.
    — H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, Chapter Ten, “In The Storm”

I kept the idea in the back of my head all day; while some of the creative cylinders were firing on the editorial copy I had to write today, other cylinders were firing on the problem of making a Martian tripod. I wasn’t planning on blogging on the subject of modifying the Tripod Invader, but since I wrote two pages of notes on the matter on the train home this evening, I thought I’d share my thinking.

This is not a detailed plan-of-attack, by the way. I have not opened up the crate of LEGO and dug down into it to see whether or not I have the necessary parts because I’m not entirely sure what the necessary parts are. These are just ideas, and ideas are bulletproof.

  • The Tripod Invader does not stand tall enough. If you look at the vintage artwork, such as that by French artist Alvim Corréa, it’s clear that the Martian war machines are quite tall, perhaps the equivalent of a four or five-storey building.
  • Wells’ Martians were a decaying, lethargic civilization. They would not use purple and neon green on their war machines.
  • The control pod must move independently of the heat ray and black smoke cannon.
  • The tripod needs hoses.

The idea, then, is to take what I have and make it more Wells-like. This seems doable.

The Tripod Invader’s legs can be lengthened; the easiest way would be to adding additional length 8 cross beams to the legs, attaching them together in the same way that tripod’s legs attach to the feet. Bracing them with parallel beams that span the joint would not only make the legs sturdier, it would also give the legs a more pronounced — and entirely appropriate — steampunk appearance.

Jointing the legs as seen in Corréa’s vintage artwork, however, would be foolish; the tripod’s legs are presently sturdy because they don’t move. Jointed knees would only make things more complicated and more likely to fail and/or break.

In short, I intend to leae the legs from the current set intent, merely modifying them to make the tripod stand taller. I think quadrupling the present length is not unreasonable.

As far as colors, blacks and grays and blues are more befitting those keen intelligences of the dying Mars. Neon green will be replaced whenever possible with black, purple with either gray or blue. In reality, this means only replacing the colored bricks on the tripod’s feet; I intend to scrap the command command and laser cannon altogether and replace them with something more distinctly Martian.

With the much longer legs, the Martian war machine’s weaponry will be slung beneath the triple leg joint instead of above it as with the out-of-the-box design, and the hoses Wells describes will be attached to it. The command pod will go above the triple leg joint.

The command pod may swivel. I want it to swivel, but I’ve yet to work out the mechanics that can both rotate and swivel. It may be that creating a command pod that swivels would unbalance the tripod’s legs, especially since they’re going to be so much longer.

A TIE Fighter may be sacrificed to make this dream a reality. It would go to a noble cause, though.

Is there any timeframe for this? No. This week is an unending series of deadlines, this weekend I’m going out of town. Next week, I can sit down, figure what I have (and don’t), and then start making the modifications to make something suitably Martian. :)

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