As his Lambda Class Imperial Shuttle flew smoothly toward the hanger of the massive Death Star II, the wrinkled face of Emperor Palpatine bent into a cruel smile. Soon the Rebellion would be crushed by the destructive force of this fully armed and operational battle station. Soon, the entire galaxy would be completely under his heel. Soon, he would have absolute power and be able to seek out the one thing he had been searching for ever since he was a lowly senator in the Old Republic. He would be able to find the one thing for which he would trade all his power; the one thing the myriad worlds across the galaxy has been unable to provide him...
He would call it Pup-atine or maybe Darth Fido. He would teach it tricks. He would feed it ground Ewok and buy it a little black cloak. Alas, his ruminations were interrupted as the Shuttle landed and the movie got started at last.
Although the Shuttle was the 2001 set I was most eagerly anticipating, I have to confess to being a little disappointed now that I actually have it. First off, let me clear up a big misconception; despite how gray this thing appears in the catalog, it is, in fact, white...and I'm not even going to start a debate about what color it is in the movies. All I know is that the dark gray shuttle pictured in the catalog looks better than the white one sitting on my desk. On top of that, the shuttle is way too small. Now obviously, Lego couldn't make it full size and the bizarre proportions of mini-figs necessitate scale fudging. Usually it doesn't bother me. What irks me here is how the shuttle is out of proportion with itself, making the body and top wing too small for the cockpit and side wings. This fault is especially noticeable with the wings up, because in this compact form the shuttle is dwarfed by other ships like the X-Wing and Y-Wing. However, with its wings down, it looks quite good.
To be fair, the construction here is quite clever, granting a surprising amount of interior space while maintaining a high degree of stability. The use of Technic pieces in the wings is also pretty clever and it's quite impressive how sturdy the top wing is. Lego gets some bonus points for building in a sliding floor so you can manipulate the mini-figs without having to rip the top off. Speaking of mini-figs, there are four of them. The Emperor, isn't too bad, although his hands and head should've perhaps been white or gray. The Imperial Guards are pretty fierce, although they look kind of dumb without their capes on. The pilot is also quite nice, but giving him the standard smiley head makes him look just a little bit too cheerful at the prospect of chauffeuring the galaxy's most cantankerous Dark Jedi overlord. The mini-figs are certainly one of the set's major attractions since none of them appear in any other sets aside from the Emperor in his little Dark Side figure pack.
As for parts, I always love getting new parts in white because I never seem to have enough of that color. There are no new pieces here, but as I mentioned above, quite a few you probably don't have in white, like the engines and wings and clicky hinges. Also of interest are the two 1x6x5 triangular slopes, the 1x5x6 bricks that make up the bulk of the top wing, and the 6x8x3 canopy. This piece is dark clear, with gray painted on the front, which unfortunately doesn't match the rest of the ship and is a bit of an eyesore. If you're looking for round-topped bricks, this is the set to grab since it's got 18 of them in various shapes and sizes.
All in all, this is a good set, just not a spectacular one. That's unfortunate because many of the other sets in the Star Wars line ARE spectacular. Despite this and all the bad stuff I said about scale in the first paragraph, this set as an unidentifiable visual appeal and is overall an enjoyable build and a fun model. However, a few minor problems and a relatively low piece-to-price ratio so make it a little disappointing. If you're looking to sample the Star Wars theme or are looking for just one 2001 set to put on your Christmas list, I'd aim for the X-Wing or the new TIE Fighter. Although the Shuttle is a GOOD set and of a GREAT theme, it just doesn't live up to the very high standards of the other sets.