Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is perhaps the most popular Star Wars film but this is not reflected in the number of sets released which is fewer than those of the other Original Trilogy films. Furthermore, the variety of sets is remarkably limited and many locations, vehicles and characters have not been represented for over a decade or are absent from the range altogether.
With so many potential sets and minifigures to explore this might be the longest 'What's Missing?' article yet so read on and see whether you agree with my assessment of the LEGO Star Wars range based on The Empire Strikes Back.
The destruction of the Death Star has only increased the threat of the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance is forced into hiding on the frigid world of Hoth. The movie begins there as an Imperial Probe Droid lands on the planet in search of the rebels, one of thousands which have been dispatched across the galaxy. Luke Skywalker mistakes the droid for a meteorite while out on patrol but is attacked by a Wampa before he is able to investigate. The Probe Droid has been included in five sets since 2007 but its design has not been perfected and I would be quite pleased to see an improved model in a polybag at some point.
Hoth dominates the selection of sets based on The Empire Strikes Back but the Wampa has only appeared twice, most recently in 75098 Assault on Hoth. Underground locations such as the Wampa's cave are notoriously difficult to render in LEGO but I think 8089 Hoth Wampa Cave and the latest effort are fairly impressive.
Luke has received very little formal training but his strong connection with the Force allows him to escape from the Wampa's lair and he stumbles out into the snow before collapsing. There the spirit of Obi-Wan appears before him and instructs him to go to the Dagobah system in search of Yoda, a Jedi Master who will able to train him further in the ways of the Force. Han Solo emerges from the blizzard riding a tauntaun as the spirit disappears and Luke falls unconscious. The tauntaun collapses due to the cold, forcing Han to ignite Luke's lightsaber and slice open the tauntaun's belly. Luke is kept warm inside while Han erects a shelter and the heroes wait for rescue overnight.
This scene is among the most famous across the entire saga but it is difficult to imagine LEGO producing a Tauntaun which can be sliced open as we see in the film. The Snowspeeder, on the other hand, is one of the most prolific LEGO Star Wars models. It has been seen in a total of fifteen sets at various scales while Zev Senesca, the pilot who finds Luke and Han the next morning, has appeared on three occasions.
Luke's injuries are severe but he is healed in a bacta tank and soon returns to full strength. Echo Base has featured in several sets but the medical centre only appears in 7879 Hoth Echo Base. The absence of the medical centre was one of many disappointing aspects of 75098 Assault on Hoth and I do not think a set based on the bacta tank alone would be very successful so hopefully a much better model of Echo Base will appear at some point in the future, although not for a few years.
Han's criminal past continues to make him a target for Jabba the Hutt and he decides to leave Hoth in order to repay his debt to Jabba. Leia urges him to stay, claiming that he is an asset to the Rebellion and denying that she has any personal attachment to the smuggler but the issue is quickly resolved as a Probe Droid comes within range of Echo Base and discovers the shield generator. Han and Chewbacca ambush the droid but not before it is able to relate its findings to the Empire.
Admiral Ozzel doubts the validity of this evidence but is ignored and Darth Vader sets the Imperial fleet on a course for Hoth. It is surprising that Ozzel has never appeared as a minifigure given his prominent role in the film and I would be delighted to see this rectified at some point, perhaps alongside Captain Needa. Both officers incur the wrath of Darth Vader and are accordingly executed by the Sith Lord.
The rebels rush to abandon the base as the Empire approaches, loading equipment onto a fleet of GR-75 Medium Transports. This vessel appears fairly briefly but is one of very few vehicles from the Original Trilogy which has never been recreated at any scale in an official set! Its curved hull is not particularly well suited to a LEGO model and could probably only be represented accurately at a large scale which may be why it has not been included in a set. I am not convinved that the GR-75 transport is sufficiently popular to warrant a substantial set but a polybag might be possible.
The energy shield neutralises the risk of orbital bombardment and the Empire is therefore compelled to land a group of AT-ATs and AT-STs on the surface, with hundreds of Snowtroopers in support. 75054 AT-AT is an excellent set in my opinion but one still has to wonder why we have not seen an even larger model of the famed Imperial Walker as it would be ideal for a minifigure scale UCS set. It is also a shame that we have only seen one Snowtrooper battle pack and I would welcome a new set containing three of the more recent Snowtrooper minifigures alongside an AT-AT Driver.
Echo Base is heavily fortified with a network of trenches and turrets and these gun emplacements have often formed the basis for LEGO sets. The DF.9 anti-infantry turret has appeared several times, most recently in 75098 Assault on Hoth and 75138 Hoth Attack, but the conical shape of the housing has not been recreated satsifactorily. However, there is little improvement to be made upon the 1.4 FD P-Tower turret found in 75014 Battle of Hoth and I am still left bewildered whenever I look at the design from 75098 which is totally inferior to that which preceded it.
The rebel defences are no match for the firepower of the AT-ATs and they are quickly overwhelmed, forcing the troops into retreat as Rogue Squadron flies into battle overhead. Luke Skywalker leads the group but their swooping attacks are unsuccessful due to the thick armour which envelops each of the Imperial walkers. The Snowspeeders instead deploy their tow cables in an attempt to trip the oncoming walkers and this proves more effective but at great risk to the pilots as many craft are shot down, including Luke's Snowspeeder at the head of the group.
Luke is able to destroy another AT-AT from the ground but the battle is already lost and he escapes in an X-wing while Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO leave Echo Base on board the Millennium Falcon. The design of the minifigure-scale Snowspeeder has undergone relatively little change since it was first released in 2000 but the latest addition to the range is certainly the best. Nevertheless, there are still some possible refinements to be made.
Almost every scene on Hoth has been represented in at least one set but I think there is plenty of room for improvement. 75098 Assault on Hoth was a nice idea but the execution was indisputably awful so it might be interesting to see a second attempt, although not for several years. Hopefully the set will include a Princess Leia minifigure on that occasion. Until then I am satisfied that Hoth can be left alone in favour of the many other scenes from The Empire Strikes Back which have hardly been represented at all.
Most of the surviving rebels are able to regroup but Luke leaves for Dagobah with R2-D2 and the Millennium Falcon is separated from the fleet as the hyperdrive is damaged. Han, Chewbacca, Leia and C-3PO flee into an asteroid field but are tracked by a squadron of TIE Fighters. The Falcon is able to shake off the Imperials but they are forced to land in a cave and Darth Vader's pursuit is frustrated once again.
Meanwhile, Luke arrives in the Dagobah system but crash lands on the swamp planet. He soon encounters a tiny creature who eventually reveals that he is Yoda and they begin training together, making full use of the difficult environment. These scenes are among the most famous in the entire film but we have only once visited Dagobah in a retail set: 4502 X-wing Fighter. Yoda's hut has the potential to become an excellent set in my opinion so it is unfortunate that this has not been exploited in the last few years.
Luke's connection with the Force is obvious but Yoda worries that he might be drawn to the Dark Side and he is tested in the Dark Side Cave where he fights a short duel against a vision of Darth Vader. Luke defeats Vader but is shocked to see his own face beneath the Sith Lord's helmet and realises that he might become like Vader unless he is able to control his emotions. This abstruse moment is not particularly well suited to a LEGO set but its importance is such that I think the Dark Side Cave is required to complete a model based on Dagobah.
Han and the crew of the Millennium Falcon remain trapped in the asteroid field while Luke trains. TIE Bombers are dispatched to carpet bomb the asteroids in the hope that this will flush out the rebels but without success. It is astonishing that the TIE Bomber has only once appeared as a minifigure-scale model and we are certainly in need of an updated model, particularly given the exceptional popularity of this famous TIE variant.
Repairs to the hyperdrive continue as the Empire searches the asteroid field but their task is simplified when Han realises that the Millennium Falcon has actually landed in the mouth of a Space Slug rather than a cave! They flee the Space Slug as its jaws close and this moment has been captured quite effectively by the exclusive 6176782 Escape the Space Slug.
The fleet of Star Destroyers continues to track the Millennium Falcon and are joined by a group of bounty hunters who are contracted to capture the rebels alive. Zuckuss and 4-LOM are unfortunately absent from the roster of LEGO minifigures at the moment and it might be difficult to fit them in a set given their brief appearance. However, promotional polybags would be ideal for these popular characters.
Han searches for a suitable place to land and repair the Falcon, eventually settling upon Cloud City which is controlled by an old friend of Han named Lando Calrissian. This opulent resort is woefully under-represented across the LEGO Star Wars range and it is difficult to see why as there is the potential to produce a brilliant playset which could contain a selection of excellent minifigures. It seems inevitable that we will soon see a large Cloud City set but 75137 Carbon-Freezing Chamber will have to suffice until then.
The Millennium Falcon touches down on a landing platform and the crew are met by the dashing Lando Calrissian as they arrive. He appears friendly but the rebels are disturbed to find that C-3PO has been damaged and is almost scrapped but for the intervention of Chewbacca. Their concerns prove founded as it is revealed that Darth Vader has beaten the Millennium Falcon to Cloud City with the help of Boba Fett and has been lying in wait for them. He hopes that Luke will sense that his friends are in peril and that he will be drawn to Cloud City where Vader can freeze the Jedi in carbonite for transportation to the Emperor.
This process is successfully tested on Han Solo and his frozen form is handed to Boba Fett who leaves to collect the bounty from Jabba the Hutt. Lando did not agree to this and decides to help Leia and Chewbacca as they attempt to rescue Han, but without success. Instead they flee the city, with R2-D2 joining them, but find the hyperdrive still deactivated and are chased down by a squadron of TIE Fighters. Most of these scenes only appear in 10123 Cloud City but I hope that we will soon see them again in an even larger set than that from 2003.
Luke senses that his friends are in danger and leaves despite Yoda's warning, just as Darth Vader planned. Darth Vader is informed of Luke's arrival and waits for him in the carbon-freezing chamber. The two draw their lightsabers and begin to fight a duel which takes them through a maze of maintenance tunnels, culminating on a narrow platform far above a deep air shaft. Luke fights competently but is eventually bested by Vader, losing his right hand and his lightsaber in the process.
Darth Vader senses the conflict within Luke and seizes the opportunity to announce that he is Luke's father. This news leaves Luke devastated but he refuses to be seduced by the Dark Side and instead drops into the abyss, eventually coming to rest on an antenna which hangs beneath Cloud City. This is one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history and it is astonishing that it has only been seen in a single set, further demonstrating that a large model of Cloud City is perhaps the most obviously missing set from across the entire Star Wars saga!
Luke reaches out to Leia and she senses his pain through the Force so instructs Lando to return to the city. She spots him hanging from the antenna and he is brought on board the Millennium Falcon through the dorsal access hatch. Meanwhile, R2-D2 is able to reactivate the hyperdrive and the rebels escape to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet, leaving Darth Vader empty handed once again.
The Rebel Alliance has been shattered by the Imperial onslaught and Han has been captured by Jabba the Hutt. This leaves Luke, Leia and the droids to wonder how they can challenge the might of the Galactic Empire which now seems unassailable.
As usual I am going to conclude by pitching set descriptions for three sets which I think would adequately complete the Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back range. I have used some artistic license where necessary to create what I believe to be plausible sets and tried to spread them across various price points.
75218 Mission to Dagobah - £49.99, $59.99, €59.99 - Luke Skywalker (training), Yoda, R2-D2 (muddy), Darth Vader.
- Search the swamps of Dagobah for a mysterious Jedi Master!
- Remove the roof to access Yoda's hut and discover his hidden lightsaber.
- Activate the light brick to recreate the warm glow of the fireplace inside Yoda's hut.
- Enter the Dark Side Cave and rotate the wall panel to reveal Darth Vader.
- Remove Darth Vader's helmet to uncover Luke's face.
- Includes Yoda's hut, Dark Side Cave and four minifigures!
75219 TIE Bomber - £59.99, $69.99, €69.99 - TIE Fighter Pilot, Imperial Navy Helmsman, Admiral Ozzel, Captain Needa.
- Crush the Rebel Alliance with the TIE Bomber!
- Seat the TIE Fighter Pilot at the controls.
- Open the loading hatch and place the bombs inside.
- Twist the dial to launch the proton bombs individually or switch to carpet bombing mode and release all three at the same time.
- Fire the spring-loaded shooter.
- Includes TIE Bomber, three proton bombs and four minifigures!
75220 Cloud City - £249.99, $299.99, €299.99 - Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Chewbacca (C-3PO backpack), R2-D2, Lando Calrissian, Lobot, Bespin Wing Guard (x2), Willrow Hood, Ugnaught, Darth Vader, Lieutenant Sheckil, Boba Fett, Stormtrooper (x2).
- Escape the clutches of the Galactic Empire on Cloud City!
- Open the dual cockpits of the Cloud Car and seat the Bespin Wing Guards inside.
- Touch down on the landing platform and activate the sliding door to enter Cloud City.
- Turn the dial to move the conveyor belt in the smelting room.
- Visit the dining room and encounter Darth Vader!
- Lock the rebels in the prison cell and help Chewbacca rebuild C-3PO.
- Pull the lever to drop Han Solo into the carbon-freezing chamber and freeze the rebel hero in carbonite.
- Travel between different levels of Cloud City using the turbolift.
- Help Willrow Hood evade the Empire and hide rebel data in the apartment.
- Fight a lightsaber duel and smash through the window using the breakaway function.
- Display the model from the front to show the detailed exterior of Cloud City and the landing platform or turn it around to play inside.
- Includes Cloud City playset, Cloud Car and sixteen minifigures!
Let me know whether you agree or disagree with my suggestions in the comments below and post your own ideas.
Also, if you have not taken a look the five previous instalments then you can do so by following these links:
- What's Missing? The Phantom Menace
- What's Missing? Attack of the Clones
- What's Missing? Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- What's Missing? Revenge of the Sith
- What's Missing? Star Wars Rebels
- What's Missing? A New Hope
The penultimate 'What's Missing?' article, focusing on Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, will be published on the 28th of August and the series will conclude with Star Wars: The Force Awakens next month.