Larry the Calamari was one hot (but moist) rebel pilot. He had been through a whole trilogy of X-Wing campaigns and had even been assigned to Rogue Squadron for a while, consistently showing a high level of skill. Throughout these games... er, missions, Larry had racked up a total of hundreds of TIE Fighter kills. Yet, he had a weak spot in his 3-chambered squiddy heart for crushing the TIE, like an eggshell, with it's precious human cargo, a metaphor for us all and the fragile line between safety and insanity in a cruel and uncaring... BLAM! KABOOM! Larry blew the TIE to smithereens. The wings flew off and exploded. Larry loved it when they did that.
For a while, I had a very hard time putting my finger on exactly what it is about this set that makes me consider it the best of 2001. Then I got into a conversation with a friend, let's call him "Mike", about the B-Wing and the Y-Wing.
I think the B-Wing is a piece of crap, and the Y-Wing is a good model, whereas "Mike" (who was dropped on his head a lot as a child) thinks the B-Wing is the better model. "Mike" claims the B-Wing is better because itís a more interesting design, whereas the Y-Wing is sort of boring. I countered with the argument that the Y-Wing actually LOOKS like its film counterpart, unlike the undersized and overly colorful B-Wing. However, to be honest, I don't have every minute detail of Star Wars memorized and just looking like something from the movie isn't enough to make a set great. What does it for the Y-Wing is that it FEELS like the movie. Just holding it evokes a sense of Star Wars.
And so it is with the 7146 TIE Fighter. It exudes Star Wars. Even with your eyes closed holding it, you can tell it's a TIE Fighter. Some people may quibble over the blue highlights (which are a lot more conservatively applied here than in Vader's TIE) or over the incorrect way in which the hatch opens (the windscreen is attached to the hinged roof), but this isn't a scale model, it's a TOY and Lego took a few liberties to make it a better toy. Despite these minor inaccuracies, the size, the scale, the shape, the construction, they all combine to give off this intangible Star Wars vibe that is hopelessly addictive. I cannot put this set down. In fact, I'm holding right now and typing this review with my face.
The construction is that wonderful balance of simple and clever that make official Lego sets so great. They managed to make the body quite small, and surprisingly round, yet strong enough that the weight of the wings doesnít snap it in half. Color is overall quite good (unless you hate the blue highlights) although there are a couple of tan pieces that stick out. The colors look a little jumbled from the back. The wings attach in the same shaky manner as the Vader TIE, which is one of the set's only weak points. I highly recommend building the wing connectors into the body to increase stability. Incidentally, the catalog pictures of the TIE do not do it justice, making the wings look the wrong shape and the body look too wide.
As if the TIE by itself wasn't cool enough, we get two awesome mini-figs and a cool stand. The TIE pilot mini-fig is pretty good, with little silver imperial logos painted on his helmet. He pales in comparison to the Stormtrooper, who is now my favorite mini-fig. I'm really hoping for a Stormtrooper figure pack or something, because I don't want to have to buy 20 copies of this set to load up on Stormies. He is one of few Lego figures with painted detail on the back of the torso.
The stand is a nice bonus, especially since the TIE out of the box cannot stand on it's wings very well. The inclusion of a hose piece on the stand really makes it look like a functional part of the set, like a model of some sort of TIE docking station rather than a stand for a Lego set, like those in the UCS sets.
Another bonus to this set is what it means to the rest of your Imperial fleet. Oddly enough, having this set makes Vader's TIE look about twice as cool. I can't explain why, it just does. I never really thought that much of Vader's TIE until I saw it side by side with this one. Unfortunately the opposite is true of the Imperial Shuttle, which, with its wings up, looks way too small next to the TIE.
It's also fairly easy to build a pair of Interceptor wings to put on the side and BINGO, mini-fig scale TIE Interceptor! If you have spare parts from the Sith Infiltrator, you can build the Interceptor wings. Keep the Fighter wings intact and then take the Vader TIE's wings off and have some wacky mix-n-match action goin' on.
This is an all-around great set and it's so painfully close to a 5 it can spit on 6, but the UCE Interceptor is a 5 and this is no UCS Interceptor. Wobbliness out of the box, minor color problems, and somewhat low rebuild potential mean the best I can give this set is a 4, but it's still a stellar set. It is going to be the first set I of which I have ever obtained more than one copy. It's that good.
And, so with my dazzling point about evoking the movie, I whipped "Mike" into submission and soon he conceded every point about which we have every argued.