Top 75 spaceships in movies and TV part 5
Continued from part 4
20: BTL Y-wing starfighter - Star Wars (1977)| RETURN TO INDEX
It may not be the luckiest ship in the rebel fleet (and it fares little better in the real world) but the Y-Wing is certainly a looker. If it were a woman, it would be wearing a smart hat and Daisy Duke hotpants - it seems to have dispensed with a great deal of essential chassis and protection. What is the point, in terms of aiding propulsion, of the skeletal tubes that run off of the boosters? They can neither direct rocket exhaust nor provide stabilisation in an atmosphere.
For a vehicle with so squat an aspect, it seems rather unfair that it gets hit so much in the Star Wars movies. The Y-Wing is as 'low on the ground' as a drag racer, and seems built to go forward at great speed rather than manoeuvre easily. According to this site, the early Colin Cantwell designs featured a large dome section that would have proved problematic during blue-screen motion-control work.
Lego is very kind to the design of the Y-Wing, whilst the 1983 Kenner Y-Wing sacrifices accuracy for robustness (check out the original wood template for the 1983 RotJ release here). One collector has managed to bag one of the original pyrotechnic Y-Wings for his collection (hey, weren't they all pyrotechnic..?). Here's a nice die-cast promotional Y-Wing on a stand. Revell produced an EasyKit of the BTL starfighter as well. Obviously the Y-Wing is also available as a CGI model, in this case a version by the legendary Don Showater, converted by Mateen Greenway. Al Meerow also produced a well-respected mesh of the craft.
19: The Liberator - Blake's 7 (UK TV, 1978-81) | RETURN TO INDEX
Terry Nation's 1977 space-opera was a cross between Star Trek and Robin Hood, featuring a small band of rebels fighting the oppressive federation in a powerful spacecraft that they stumbled across when they were in a jam. There's certainly an Enterprise aesthetic in the craft, which was designed by BBC design supremo Roger Murray-Leach. Snap off one of those three extended arms, stick a saucer on it and you're there. Nonetheless, it's a cool ship with beautiful forward motion (even with the BBC's limited ability to move it) and the curious addition of a pulsating green orb (originally oval, until that was costed!) at the back in place of conventional booster rockets.
The core ship was built by Space Models in Feltham, and turned over to Martin Bower for finishing (you can read all about Martin's work both on the liberator and other Blake's 7 models at his site). BBC SFX guru Ian Scoones actually did design work on a different version of the Liberator, not knowing that the Murray-Leach design had been greenlit, and commented to a magazine in the 1980s "You can tell a set designer has designed it rather than somebody into spaceships!". But sometimes you need that different point-of-view, and the craft certainly has elegance and grace, in spite of its great mass.
Bower ended up detailing the ship in only four days with pencil, biro, kit parts and plasticard. Unfortunately he was recalled to duplicate all this detail on a smaller version of the ship, when the SFX unit began to realise that the brass-based model was too heavy to be flown on wires! A 20-inch version was subsequently made for longer shots. When the 'hero' version of the Liberator was called into use, it was frequently suspended on a pole, and sometimes this can be seen in shots, depending on the screen contrast when you're watching it. The model would occasionally fall off the pole as well, as shown in blooper reels on British TV in the early 1980s.
If you want to know more about the history of the ship, check out this excellent article, to which I'm indebted for much of the information here.
There's a Lego Liberator so impressive, it must head up this closing section on Liberator hobbyists! Corgi produced a small die-cast toy of the craft in the late 1970s (also available as a limited edition with yellow trim), and Comet output a model-kit in 1990. If collecting the Corgi die-cast, watch out for the slightly-different re-issue that accompanied the DVD release of Blake's 7 in the early noughties, because they're not as collectable. Scale Model Technologies also produced a resin kit, and Titan Find a model-kit.
18: Valley Forge - Silent Running (1971)| RETURN TO INDEX
This ship is truly beloved by fans of true sci-fi movies, mainly because Doug Trumbull's tale of space-ecology is such a treasure. The Valley Forge is one of three ships in the movie that have been chosen to preserve the last of Earth's forestry (Earth presumably uses machines to regulate its atmosphere now, but it's admittedly hard to see the value of sending forests into space at all, never mind far out into the solar system; but I digress...).
The model itself was 26 feet long and took six months to build from custom moulds and 800 bashed kits. The impressive dome-jettison sequences reflected Trumbull's interest in sticking to the NASA aesthetic. The dome couplings were 10 inches in diameter and used mica and compressed air to get that sparkly separation so familiar from the Apollo footage. The sequence where the Valley Forge rides through Saturn's rings was one that Trumbull had not been able to create earlier in his capacity as optical effects supervisor on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Doug Trumbull stored the model for some years, but what survived of it was eventually dispersed to various collectors. One resides in the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. Another was auctioned in 2008. The Valley Forge also turned up towards the end of the 1970s as stock footage to pad out the ragtag fleet in the original Galactica, and is listed with honour among the other spaceships in the fleet.
Since the Valley Forge holds such a fond place in the heart of SF geeks, it has prospered in the hobbyist community. Check out this excellent page, which rounds up various real-world and CGI models of the vessel by disparate hobbyists. Steve Robson's scratch-built Forge is a great effort; Mike Aucott is another who has risen to the considerable challenge of modelling the difficult domes that are the crowning glory of the model; here's a German Lego Valley Forge; scroll down this page to find a downloadable 3D Valley Forge; and here's a resin kit of this classic spaceship.
17: Nostromo - Alien (1979) | RETURN TO INDEX
I should mention, in case there's any doubt, that this entry in the list is strictly about the tug-craft in Alien, not the gothic refinery that it's towing - that's a whole other story in itself...
There's a bit of a 'missing link' in the evolution and progression of fantastic conceptual sketches output at Shepperton during 1978 by Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and the art department of Alien. Though the Nostromo's trademark 'limp-wrist' front boosters turned up in various Ron Cobb drawings (as three of the pictures on this page at John Eaves' website demonstrate), and though the huge boosters that are such a trademark of Chris Foss gradually did begin to emerge, there is practically no conceptual sketch that more than vaguely resembles the final design. The very closest is this one...
It's not all that close to the final look, nor is it known if Cobb was working up a production sketch from a rough physical mock-up, or whether this is straight out of the artist's head. So where did the actual shape of the Nostromo come from, if six months of furious sketching did not produce it under the watchful eye of Dan O'Bannon? I had a chat with Chris Foss about it a few weeks ago, and was surprised at what he had to say...
EXCLUSIVE: Conceptual artist Chris Foss on the Nostromo:
"[Alien producer] Walter Hill was very busy smashing cars up for one of his 'streets' films. He couldn't be arsed - much too busy! He walked in after months of work and just said 'Yep, roomful of spaceships' and just walked out again. So I'd produced design after design after design, and it got nearer production time, so I was hired and taken over to England to do some more designs. "Finally what happened was that the bloke who had to make the [Nostromo] model completely lost his rag, scooped up a load of paper...they had a room full of smashed-up bits of helicopter and all-sorts, and he just bodged something together. So the actual spaceship in the film hadn't anything to do with all the days, weeks, months of work that we'd all done. It's as simple as that... [Ridley Scott] just couldn't be arsed about the spaceship and all that crap. So the poor sod who had to build it said 'Right, fuck that', got himself a whole load of paper, and bodged something together from the bits and pieces of a wrecked helicopter.
"...I was happily beavering away on my designs, and Dan, of course, was practically standing over me - he's probably talked about it!...urging this that and the other, and it all came to nought. [laughs] Many of the designs that I did were actually produced in other films and in other books. So the cover of 21st Century Foss started as a spaceship on Dune, and then ended up as a putative Nostromo design at Dan's behest. They decided they didn't want it. Then, in the end, I used it in another book and it made the cover of 21st-century Foss...
"Well, you know the big [Nostromo] I designed with the bulbous balls and things...? That did make it into model form, and there's a huge model of it - whether it's been cut up or not, I don't know. Believe it or not, it's from a Malibu advert. You had a spaceship building and pulling this planet, which, of course, was in the shape of a Malibu bottle. So they lovingly built my Nostromo for this ad. This was at the end of the seventies, early eighties, and for a long time it was in the foyer of a company called Gray Advertising...!
Click here for the full length, exclusive interview with Chris Foss
Sometimes the web turns up a genuine treasure for the Alien fan, and the web-documentary Alien Makers about the visual effects work of Alien is created by the men who did it! Alien Makers is half an hour of sheer gold for fans, and a sure candidate for inclusion in a future special disc release of the original movie. It also starts out with a superb CGI recreation of the Nostromo heading through deep space, probably done on a $1000 Mac and about as good as anything that Ridley Scott could have hoped for from Brian Johnson's workshop.
The Nostromo is a classic - so utterly replete with detail that it's positively dripping antennae, and yet at the same time brutish, ugly and industrial. Whereas Kubrick would have made the detachment from the umbilicus graceful and elegant, Scott makes it jarring and raw. The one shot that demonstrates more than any the sheer volume of the craft is a close-up on the landing leg as it crushes a rock during the dangerous landing. This is no place for amateurs, no ship for tourists - the Nostromo is strictly about bringing home the bacon, and not in any great comfort either.
As I write, the excellent Eagle Transporter forum is having a few gremlins, but they have a superb post (when the site is working) of behind-the-scenes photos from Alien model-maker Phil Rae. Alien Experience has a link to the piece, so let's hope it's up again soon. For one thing, it's one of the few places I've seen the 'yellow Nostromo' that's so obviously inspired by the Chris Foss palette (grim old Ridley Scott had it painted grey) outside of one out-take on the Alien quadrilogy special edition extras. For more background on the special effects department of Alien, check out this link.
What happened to the ship? Check out The Nostromo: A Restoration Project to not only hear the good news (including how make-up wizard Greg Nicotero brought the Nostromo in from decades out in the rain, before the Prop Store acquired it and began restoration) but find out every last technical detail you might ever desire about the ship, right down to the types of wood included in its manufacture!
It took some time for the craft to hit the modelling and CGI enthusiast world, but it made it in the end. Here's a blister-packed miniature from Starforce (via Brainiac); genius modelmakers Smaller Artworks did a superb recreation of the Nostromo as a custom commission for a client; here's a great build of an early nineties resin kit and an unassembled Halcyon Nostromo (want to see it assembled? No problem). Konami also produced a Nostromo diorama as part of its Alien Trading figures series.
There are numerous 3D Nostromos floating about on the web, many of which are not adequately optimised to load easily (it's a pretty complicated ship), but here's one via Google Sketchup; another in 3DS format; and some blueprints in the works (scroll down a bit).
16: Discovery - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) | RETURN TO INDEX
Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece brought movie SF into the NASA age, with full consultation between Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the most forward-thinking minds at NASA. It was this determination for verisimilitude that gave birth to the kit-bashing era of spacecraft, leaving behind the shiny and aerodynamic movie spaceships of the previous three decades. Function's triumph over form created a whole new aesthetic for screen space-vessels, where unwieldiness and unpanelled technology became the new beauty of space travel.
The central spaceship in 2001, Jupiter mission combines this pragmatism with an amazing sense of theatricality. The crew are just about as far away from the rocket assembly as they could be (something the Apollo 13 crew would have appreciated) in the spherical master module at the front, and the impressive communications disk sits on a mere strand of technology that spans an almost absurd distance between the two sections; with no gravity to create stress, these are non-issues.
The Discovery is graceful and elegant, yet endlessly sinister and unforgiving. In terms of finish, the 11-foot model generated by special photographic effects supervisor Con Pederson boasts a wealth of detail, both taken from available model kits and custom made. Where there are Star Trek-like vast expanses of panelling, these have been carefully detailed to suggest access-panels and assembly points. The ship is flawless.
There is an amount of rotoscope and rostrum work in 2001, but the initial 'hero pass' of the Discovery at the start of part II of the movie was a two take, 'in-camera' affair: in the first pass, the model itself was unlit, providing a matt for a fixed starfield behind, with a second take on the lit model itself. The need for extreme depth of field meant a huge amount of lighting and a very slow pass, with the camera shutter stopped down and adequate time on each frame to register the miniature.
In a 1998 interview with VFX, 2001 Special Photographic Effects Supervisor Con Pederson spoke about the design of the Discovery.
"Since it was logistically very difficult to do an effects film in Hollywood, Doug and I left for Britain. At that time they had in England what was called Eady Plan, which was sort of a subsidy for the British film industry. Under that plan it was permitted only to have 15 or 20% foreign labor. For the next two and a half years, from mid '65 to March of '68, there was only a handful of Americans working on the film. In our case it was Doug (special photographic effects supervisor) and myself, and Harry Lange (production design), who was coming from what was going to become NASA, the place where I was stationed in the Army; the Redstone Ballistic Missile Agency in Alabama. He was one of their main designers. So he and Anthony Masters, the art director, did most of the work in designing the craft and the look of the film."
You can see a small picture of an early, and fairly different iteration of the Discovery here.
In the hobbyist world, there's a scratch built discovery to be seen here, while resin kit versions were produced by Comet, Timeslip Creations, and Lunar Models. Jeffery Wright has a version of the Discovery available, a version for Poser, and you can find Matthew Parker's CG Discovery at the 2001 3D Model Archive.
15: Tantive IV (Rebel blockade runner) - Star Wars (1977)| RETURN TO INDEX
Basically a hammer being hurled through space by an absurd embarrassment of booster rockets, the Tantive IV, or rebel blockade runner, is the first spaceship we see in Star Wars, and it's a dream of a ride. The vehicle type is a 'Corellian Corvette' (it even sounds sexy) in the extended Star Wars universe, and I think one of the reasons the ship appeals so much to modellers is that they can imagine how easy it is to get the rough shape of the front section (two yoghurt pots).
The Tantive is pretty much what the early Millennium Falcon was intended to be, but when a vehicle turned up in Space:1999 resembling the craft, the Falcon's designed changed and the original design assigned to the Corellian ship, and the cylindrical cockpit altered to the far more effective hammerhead configuration. The production model sat at 194cm, a fair bit larger than the star destroyer pursuing it. According to starwars.com, the model contains a nude pin-up for the crew in the cockpit, though this would never have resolved to become visible during shooting.
You can see right inside this vessel in the very exciting Star Wars: The Incredible Cross Sections by David West Reynolds, who describes the least laboursome part of the project at starwars.com. When asked his favourite Star Wars spaceship, Reynolds said:
"The Blockade Runner!...I probably spent about 200 hours looking at the laserdisc of the Blockade Runner scene...Every chip of paint on the Blockade Runner, every scar, is just perfect. I was so happy about the interior because I didn't have to accommodate anything but the film. The film ruled this mock-up!"
14: The Betty - Alien Resurrection (1997) | RETURN TO INDEX
Possibly one of the most under-rated spaceship designs ever, the Betty is the Millennium Falcon of Alien Resurrection, so old that even cloned throwback Sigourney Weaver can only remember seeing one as a kid. Weather beaten, ugly and patched together, it's charm as a spaceship that ignores aerodynamic principle is admittedly a bit undermined when it actually does descend into the Earth's atmosphere at the end of the movie (though the even uglier Nostromo could perform planetfalls as well), but who cares? The Betty is tough, with the hunched shoulders of a mean contender in American football and so much attitude that it hurts.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with two of the people who created the Betty - Matthew Gratzner, miniature supervisor on the show, and assistant art director Bill Boes, who formed the essential shape of the craft:
EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Gratzner and Bill Boes talk about the 'Betty':
Bill Boes: "I don't know if I can take full credit for the design of the Betty, but I was working for the production designer Nigel Phelps, and I was the assistant art director. So I definitely took my directions from him. But I realised the design, I guess you could say, from some of his sketches. I built a conceptual model of it...[Nigel Phelps' kids] had some toys around the house, and I guess [for the Betty's 'arms'] he just glued two things together, a Shogun model and, I think, a sports car, and he gave that to me. From there I helped to massage it into the final look...
"I think we were trying to do something really different and really manoeuvrable, because the script indicated what the ship needed to do...[The Betty] definitely looked like a lobster at a certain point. We were definitely trying to make it very strange, and Nigel wanted to make sure that it looked like the original Alien, both the interior and the exterior. [The cockpit section] was a definite throw-back to the first Alien. If you remember the cockpit from the first film, we definitely looked at that...we wanted to make the rest of it a hodge-podge of pieces, to give the impression that it was definitely something that the inhabitants of the ship were constantly working on..."
Matthew Gratzner: "We came on the show relatively early. The Betty was still being designed at that point. But what [Boes] ended up doing was he sculpted the bulk of it out of blue foam. It was a relatively small maquette, only about seven or eight inches long...He'd used anime model robot bits The engine pods are very obviously like the fore-arms from a Japanese robot. So that's what he used for the maquette and that's what we sort of replicated. There were a lot of 'found' parts that he'd used, which we didn't replicate to the letter.
"...But that was what gave it the shape. And then there was a gentleman by the name of Jim Martin, who's a concept artist and art director as well, and he did two blue-line pencil sketches...It was a mustard-yellow colour with brown, rectilinear...almost zebra stripes. And then it was aged. But what happened was that the director of photography was constantly concerned about the sheen on the model...There was a guy by the name of Rick Fichter, who did Alien 3, too. But he got so nuts about the sheen on [the Betty], he had our painter going back with black mortar tint. It's something you mix into mortar to tint it for grout. This black mortar tint was so heavily caked on that you lost almost all the colour and all the paintwork. If you look at pictures carefully, you can kind of see that there was this zebra-stripe motif on it.
"I brought in a gentleman who worked with us for some time named Eric Brown, who is an illustrator and model-maker, and he did all the blue-printing. And then we kind of filled in all the blanks. Any place that needed detail we would do. We'd find all the pieces, kept the production in the loop with the refining of the miniature itself. "...There were two scales of the Betty that were built. Everything was built for the Betty and the docking bay in 1/32nd scale. The docking bay was about eighteen and a half feet across, and maybe about seven feet tall. The Betty itself was probably about five and a half feet by five or so feet long, and that had a series of stepper motors inside, and chain drives that would drive the engines up and down. It also had stepper motors which would rotate the engine pod, and then another one in the tail, that would raise and lower it. In dock, it sort of 'relaxes'.
"For the close-ups of the coupling arms coming up and grabbing the sides, which are two giant magnetic things, we built an over sized piece at 1/16th scale. It was only a section of the side of the ship, with the cargo bay and a part of one of the arms. That was built as a high speed miniature - that was on our mover and would move up into frame. Then we had the coupling arm sort of grappling against it; that was all puppeteered. We had a sort of electro-magnet in it so that when it came close to the side of the ship, it would kind of grab it. It was kind of cool - just a very simple cable-puppeted thing."
Click here for the full-length, exclusive interview with Matthew Gratzner (Bill Boes chat coming soon), where you can find out what happened to the original miniature and many more details about it.
If you're interested in some behind-the-scenes photos of the Betty's cockpit, you can find some here. In the hobbyist community, Frontier Models do a Betty kit, you can find some plans here, a CG project of the ship here, another here, and a good set of behind the scenes photos here.
13: Moonbase Interceptor - UFO (UK TV, 1970)| RETURN TO INDEX
Derek Meddings' second-in-command Mike Trim is generally credited with the creation of the base-shape of the one-shot missile carriers that launched from SHADO Moonbase whenever the aliens tried to sneak past. At Mike's site you can catch a look at the original designs, along with the many others he contributed to Gerry Anderson output and to sci-fi in general. The interceptor is completely unique as a design, despite sharing some DNA with standard 20th-century fighter planes (in the form of a moulded cockpit on an aerodynamic fuselage), there's no other vehicle around that adopts its front-heavy aspect, or its 'bee-like' method of warfare (one missile launch, and it's defenceless). Interceptors take off in threes from standard-issue Gerry Anderson hydraulic ramps, boast a single booster rocket (with lateral attitude adjustors) and ski-like landing pads, all topped off with an exciting but arguably redundant spoiler above the engine housing.
EXCLUSIVE: Gerry Anderson chats exclusively with us about the UFO interceptor:
"Mike Trim worked with us - he was part of the crew. He designed stuff that at a later date I found out that he had designed, rather than Derek [Meddings]. We were working at such a pace at that time; we were turning in one picture a week - even though we had two puppet units and three special-effects units working simultaneously, it was still a race against time, and we were all madly busy. So some of the detail of who designed what, I missed. And of course some things, when they were originally designed, were not going to be featured that much. There was a description [of the interceptor] in the first script, and as the series began to form, we began to assume that the interceptor was to be a very important space-craft, and we looked to improving it."
Click here for the full-length, exclusive interview with Gerry Anderson. Interview with Mike Trim coming soon!
The interceptor's best-known presence in the replicas market comes in the form of the Dinky Toy version. The original colour scheme (basically 'space'-grey) was considered too sedate for the toy, which was given a lurid green finish that would have made it a bit of a sitting duck against the lunar landscape. The front projectile actually launched, though the 'safe' foam-rubber tip was rather prone to fall away from the missile. The Musayita Interceptor is an alternative that's rather more faithful to the original look of the craft. The Konami interceptor is also highly recommended. Robin and Pauline day have enjoyed recreating the interceptor in various renders at Space City. You can get the craft for Google Sketchup, whilst Geoff Saul and Don Showalter created an absolutely beautiful CGI interceptor (and there's another by Andy Marrs). At least one of the original series models survived the alien onslaught, and was displayed in 2000 at a Century 21 Gerry Anderson convention. Chris Potter also took some nice pics of the original model at a later display.
12: Tie Fighter - Star Wars (1977) | RETURN TO INDEX
Colin Cantwell's design for the Empire's short-range fighters is one of the most distinctive visual motifs of Star Wars. In a decade newly (perhaps foolishly) obsessed with the possibilities of solar power, it seemed at the cutting edge to make that source of energy a part of the craft's design. The shape and dynamic of the craft has pretty much no forebear in any terrestrial technology with the possible exception of marine exploration - it's truly an 'alien' aesthetic, despite the use of solar panels and the cloister-like windows with their primitive support struts. As with the UFOs in Gerry Anderson's UFO, the craft have a distinctive and impressive flying noise, created by Ben Burtt from recordings of vehicles skidding on a wet motorway, mixed in with the braying of an elephant.
The design was modified even in the first film, with the extended lines of Darth Vader's fighter (does this man buy nothing off the shelf?), and the basic Twin Ion Engine configuration threads a multitude of imperial and republic vehicles throughout the six films in the Star Wars saga. But nothing beats the original. This is technology designed to show 1977 audiences that they were in big trouble, as opposed to the noble and classic shapes of the rebellion's X-Wing, which might have fitted in unnoticed to the Battle Of Britain. My only complaint is that I can't really 'see' a TIE fighter landing on those abutting solar panels, and it appears to have no landing gear of any other kind. Are they customarily docked from the beautifully detailed central sphere, as in the stand for the Finemolds model of it? I was sorry to see Vader's modified craft become more popular than the original, which happened more because of the plot of Star Wars, in my opinion, than the merits of the redesign. If you're looking for something even sexier than the TIE fighter, only the TIE interceptor comes close.
In 2008 one of the 18-inch miniatures from A New Hope was auctioned off for $350,000, a sure testament to the impact of the design not only on SF culture but on movie culture.
In merchandising, the ship has proved a firm favourite, and has been flyable in many a game and flight simulator. Icon Authentic Replicas made a nice replica of the original shooting model, and the TIE has even been turned into a pretty decent and practical ariel and a very cool PC mod. CGI enthusiasts are fond of the craft, and many hobbyist versions are available (this one in 3 different levels of detail, for 3D Studio/Max).
11: X-Wing - Star Wars (1977)| RETURN TO INDEX
I almost hesitate to put this above the Colonial Viper in the list. The reason? The extremely spindly nature of the appendages. Any model-making fans of my age will remember well the relative difficulty in getting all the pointy bits to point forward in the AMT kit (as well as that kit's almost unique propensity to disappoint with warped or mis-formed sections), and in battle this seems a bit of a liability. By comparison the Viper is compact and self-contained. Also, any engineer will tell you that the machine with the fewest moving parts will be the most reliable. Ever seen a sundial go in for repair? Therefore the 'un-locking' configuration of the X-Wings seems a risky procedure in the throes of battle. Also, what are 'S-Foils'?
But no matter. This is a massively exciting ship that commands its space and additionally has a beautiful section of panel detail at the rear, as well as a thrusting shape.
Our interview with Star Wars visual effects supervisor John Dykstra goes into the shooting of the ship a little. The famous conceptual art sketches by Ralph McQuarrie can be seen in no great detail at his site. Colin Cantwell and Joe Johnston of ILM worked up the McQuarrie concepts into miniatures, which were built around a hollow core containing servo-mechanisms for the 'S-foil unlocking' action. The model also contained fans to cool its extensive internal lights.
Models, toys and CGI replicas? Forget it. It's endless. Some wonderful lunatics built a 21-foot X-Wing designed to actually fly, for example (though unfortunately the TIE fighters got it), and for $1200, US customers can buy EFX Collectibles' replica, signed by Mark Hamill and scanned from the original model (link is here, but you'll have to click around because - booo!- the site layout allows no direct link). You can see the cute prototype for the Kenner X-Wing fighter at this site. And if you think you can't get the X-Wing in Lego, you must be smoking death sticks. For more details on the extensive merchandising of the X-Wing, check this link.