LEGO 90 Years of Play 40580: Blacktron Cruiser – Classic Space is back in Blacktron [Review]

To celebrate its 90th anniversary, LEGO released some updated versions of classic sets, such as 1978’s Galaxy Explorer. And it looks like the celebration is going to continue into year 91, because for a limited time beginning January 1, 2023, LEGO is offering another classic space update as a gift with qualifying purchases. This time it’s the 6894 Invader set from 1987 that’s getting an update (and a name change), in the form of 40580 Blacktron Cruiser. This 356-piece set will be available free with purchases of about US $190 | CAN $190 | UK £170 or more. Does this set capture the spirit of the original? Is it a fitting companion piece to the 10497 Galaxy Explorer? Let’s blast off and find out.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Unboxing the set and contents

The box for this set is designed to complement the 10497 Galaxy Explorer packaging almost perfectly. The set name is placed in the same retro “LEGOLAND” diagonal yellow stripe, and the same fake moon landscape is present for the droid to explore as the ship soars overhead. The “18 years & up” age statement is even identical, even though this set isn’t nearly that complex. The major difference between the graphics of the two packages is the tilted grid background, which was more in style during Blacktron’s heyday, nearly a decade after the original Galaxy Explorer came out.

The back of the box features multiple panels showcasing different elements of the official build. They’re beautiful shots, but I do miss the days of LEGO boxes featuring alternate builds using the included set’s pieces, and I would have loved to see an homage to that trend in this throwback packaging.

Inside are eight bags of parts, numbered 1-3, a decal sheet, and the instruction booklet. This is where you really start to realize that this set isn’t going to be quite as much a celebration as the Galaxy Explorer’s update. That set included all printed parts and no stickers. And the Blacktron Cruiser instructions contain no info on the original set or any notes about the update process. It’s just a standard instruction book.

The build

The build on this set is about as straightforward as you could imagine. At only 356 pieces, there isn’t much room for creative parts use or clever shaping. Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad build. To the contrary, I had a lot of fun with it. But there’s nothing going on here that would necessitate the “18 years & up” age statement. (Except for perhaps access to the disposable income it would take to acquire it.) The two most noteworthy parts of the build come during the Bag 2 section, when you build the center cargo hold. Four mechanical claws are placed into the back of headlight bricks at an angle to help create the sloped panel shaping that calls back to the shape of the original.

And the lid of the cargo hold is created using an upside-down plate, which allows 1×3 inverted tiles with holes to hold the weaponry.

The finished model

The final ship is comprised of five individual pieces which can be configured in different ways.

The forward part of the ship is a small, one-man fighter craft. The most noteworthy aspect of this craft is it marks the second appearance of the trans-yellow canopy that debuted in the 76832 Lightyear XL-15 set. Like the original Invader set, the wings here are on hinge plates that let them extend out to the sides, although this set uses longer, more narrow wedge plates for the wings. These new wedges complement the upgraded canopy to create a much sleeker-looking craft. Despite the length of the canopy, the cockpit only has room for the single pilot. But there is space to store the included metal detector.

The second part of the ship is the detachable cargo hold, which carries the Blacktron droid, along with its tools and gear, including a box that holds two black ingots. This cargo hold retains the trapezoidal shape of the original set, but is upgraded with some roof-mounted weapons.

While the upper half of the cargo hold had a simple hinged lid on the original set, on this one the cargo hold has three panels that open almost like flower petals.

The one drawback to this new design is that there’s not room for the droid to stand upright. It will have to lie reclined if you want to seal the cargo hold up.

The third portion of the ship is this engine section which contains four wedge panels on the sides than can be pivoted up and down. These panels were simple trans-red wedge plates on the original. Here, the plates are black and outfitted with multiple trans-red tiles, which give them more of a proper solar panel feel. On the original set, the ship’s rear stabilizer wings and thruster were permanently attached to this section (at least, as permanently as any LEGO is ever attached). On this version, the stabilizers and thruster are separate modular piece, allowing for more configuration options than we got in 1987.

While the original Invader made use of Technic to connect the various ship pieces, the modular function of this new version is achieved through a system of clips that connect to the recently introduced 1×2 round brick with bars at the open center. The connections are solid, and all of the various combinations are sturdy and swooshable.

The fully connected ship feels like a throwback to a time when long rockets still felt like science fiction instead of a corporate reality.

The minfigure and droid

Like the 10497 Galaxy Explorer crew, the Blacktron pilot included in this set is a near-exact recreation of the original Blacktron minifigure, which was always one of my favorites. The torso print is reproduced beautifully, and the classic LEGO smiling face, black airtanks, and visored helmet complete the retro look. The metal detector is the new variety, but beyond that there’s only one part of the figure that separates it from the original …

…back printing! I hope the fact that LEGO took the time to design a new back print for this torso is an indicator we’ll see this torso used more than just this one time. Perhaps a prisoner in an upcoming Space Police set upgrade is in the cards?

At first glance, the Blacktron droid might look as authentic to the original as the minifigure, but it’s actually quite a bit different. The head and arms are the same pieces, but the control panel that was used for the torso of the droid in 1987 has been out of production for a while now. The designers managed to capture that same slumped-forward look by using a blaster with studs on the sides and bottom as the core of the droid.

Conclusion and Recommendation

While this set isn’t as grandiose an upgrade as the Galaxy Explorer, it’s full of its own specific charms. As a near 1:1 recreation of the original set, it is bound to evoke nostalgia in the target audience. It certainly did for me. And the multiple configuration function gives this set tons of play value that will delight builders, even if they are too young to remember the original Blacktron. My only real quibble with this set is its gift with purchase status – especially because it doesn’t seem like buying the 10497 Galaxy Explorer will be enough on its own to earn this. They’d make a perfect pair. If this were a $30 set available at regular retail, it’d be a very strong recommend. If you were already planning on some big LEGO purchases in the ballpark of the qualifying price range, you should definitely look into snagging yourself one of these.

40580 Blacktron Cruiser is a gift with purchase of about US $190 | CAN $190 | UK £170 or more. It may also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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2 comments on “LEGO 90 Years of Play 40580: Blacktron Cruiser – Classic Space is back in Blacktron [Review]

  1. Michael Wolf

    My level of nostalgia for this thing was through the roof. Just the minifigure, pricepoint, and swooshability of the original set had me playing with it until I went into my dark ages.

  2. Ecto

    This is great, but I am definitely disappointed the wings aren’t fully transparent red. Could still tile them for the solar panel look.

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