LEGO® Set Review: 6987 Message-Intercept Base
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Space System / Blacktron

Message-Intercept Base (us)
Base de contrôle (fr)
Galax-Palast (Black Space) (de)
Base «Black Star» con centro operativo (it)

Ages 9-12 / 562 Pcs
29 page manual: 3 models, 41 (base) / 7 (buggy) / 17 (ship) steps. ©1988
Price Range: US$54.99 (bought for US$150 at auction)
Special Features / Compatibility
  • Octagonal Corridors
  • Last LEGOLAND Space set to feature a crater baseplate
  • Extra Elements
    • Can't say - set was used
    Decals: None
    Scale: Mini-Figure
    Errors: None

    A wonderful set. Worth buying at auction prices if you're the sort who's willing to do that, both for its intrinsic historical Blacktron coolness and because it's just a lot of fun to build and admire.


    6987 Blacktron Message-Intercept Base is the large space base in the original Blacktron line. The color scheme is black and gold (gold being my keyword for deep transparent yellow). The set is accented with opaque yellow plates and ruby (transparent red) highlights.

    The base is simply ... big. Of course it does not cover as much area as a monorail set, but discounting monorails it is the biggest space base yet released by The LEGO Group. It covers two 10" baseplates, and covers them pretty thoroughly. It does not look sparse, or dinky, unlike most space stations before or since.

    On one flat baseplate sits a large hanger structure. The hanger is raised on a number of stilts / struts. This is overlooked by a control tower with a big (4x1x2) gold window piece and roofed by a gold 6x4 plate. A short ladder leads up to the tower.

    The hanger is shielded by two large dome wall pieces that lift up and spread out by a geared mechanism.

    On the second baseplate (a crater baseplate) is a smaller moving structure bristling with antennas and a large radar dish. Let’s call it the Sensor Dome - it's a two-story control tower shielded by with a giant quarter-dome piece. A minifigure sits on a swiveling chair on the top story. This entire structure moves back and forth, operated by another geared mechanism. As is the norm for LEGO sets, the ‘hand of god’ must place the figure in the control chair as there is no ladder to provide access to the 2nd story.

    The Sensor Dome is joined to the Hanger by an ‘s’ shaped corridor. In a nice design touch, portions of the corridor lift up on hinges to reveal the interior of the corridor.

    A small spaceship with gull wings sits inside the Hanger. A small rocket-propelled ‘moonbuggy’ patrols the base.


    For me, this set was a Holy Grail of Space sets. I define such a set as one that's hard to find, quite good, an excellent addition to a collection, but perhaps not as overwhelmingly good as the fuss made over them in auctions would indicate.

    The problem with reviewing such a set is that the supply of these things is very limited, and therefore quite difficult and probably expensive to find. If you want the flagship Blacktron set, it's a must-have. But it's a holy grail, which means it's rare, expensive, and perhaps not worth the trouble. Sometimes they get auctioned off for $200. $200 can buy a LOT of new LEGO. It could probably buy you six of the 6958 Explorians Android Base with about 2000 pieces, including 6 clear-blue giant dome corners and 12 white dome walls. You don't need an MIB to build neat things. But if you have the collecting bug, you probably already lust for this one. I certainly did.

    This is a set I deeply regretted not buying when it was originally released. The Blacktron line was a key reason I broke free of my Lego Dark Ages, but I missed out on the MIB. So I'd been watching these occasionally come and go in auctions, but never seriously considered getting one -- the prices were out of my league.

    But in one auction in particular, an MIB with photocopied instructions and a missing crater baseplate was going pretty cheaply, so I got my heart set on it. When Janice Tomer entered the auction, I dropped out, figuring she'd ruthlessly crush my bids. Apparently everybody else felt the same way - nobody competed against her, and she won with her first bid! Grrr. :)

    This made me go "Arrrgh" and I went through a severe amount of moping. This caused me to adjust my thinking about the set. I resolved to set my maximum ceiling higher, and went after the one in Roy Gal's auction more aggressively.

    When the set arrived at my house, I spent my first day just admiring the designs on the back, playing with the pieces, etc. I'd judge the set to be a real winner just on those two features alone - great pieces, and a great set of brain-frying designs on the back.

    The next day, I built it. It took about four hours, with a lot of interruptions and distractions. I purposely left the pieces unsorted (not my normal behavior) to prolong the building process. There's only one 'first time' for a new set. :^)

    Once the set was built, I had a lot of fun playing with moving gadgets, whooshing the spaceship around, driving the moonbuggy around, etc. I was irked by the fact that I couldn't get the hanger doors to close completely. I've dismantled and rebuilt this section a few times to get a smooth operation.

    The spaceship included is cool! It's small (about 40 pieces) but quite nifty. It has what I'd call gull-wings that can be raised or lowered. It looks heavily armed - like a fast, mobile gunship. A light, fast, and deadly attack craft. Groovy! If I had a web-page, I'd put a picture of this spaceship up so other Space fans could try to make it, perhaps in Unitron colors. It relies on a really strange windshield piece that wasn't used again in Space sets until the Unitron Base was released in 1995. (I should have mentioned this in the 'elements' portion of the review - the piece looks like this:

    (2 wide, four bricks tall, 2x1 studs on top, sits on 2x1 studs on bottom. Found in transparent blue in the Unitron base.)

    The moonbuggy is fun, sitting on four solid rubber balloon wheels. 'Buggy' actually doesn't cover it -- this thing looks like a space commando jeep - lightly constructed but menacing and fast. It's fun to roll around, and cleverly designed. It's just a bare handful of pieces, of course, but a lot of fun. Stick the phaser bazooka on the side of the buggy and its intrinsic commando look makes even more sense.

    And the base ... the base would make an excellent staging ground for a pitched ground and space battle. Corridors to chase figures through; moving parts to blow up; etc.


    Set Rating:Excellent

    6987 contains a large number of interesting elements of the sort I really like - big dome pieces, corridor pieces (including the rare inner-and-outer-corner pieces, etc. These pieces make an Excellent addition to a space-fan's collection.

    As usual, you wind up wishing you'd gotten MORE ... more dome pieces, more corridor elements, etc. Which could be remedied by buying more of them, if this set was still in production ... sigh. About the only thing holding me back from saying this was a must-have for piece fiends is that (a) it's hard to get and (b) you need two to get a full complement of the groovy pieces. For example - you get THREE of the gold outer-corner corridor pieces. Why not four? But the pieces are wonderful nonetheless.

    Model Rating:Excellent

    You get a large, complicated base, a must-have spaceship (surprisingly cool for such a small craft), and a clever moon-buggy. The pieces fit together in that inimitable Blacktron fashion -- you can tell the designers were LEGO geniuses, putting pieces together in novel and clever ways.

    Not that I'm a Blacktron sycophant - I can tell you a lot of things I don't like about some of the Blacktron sets. Ask me about my love/hate relationship with the Invader someday. But to me, these sets represent a high level of design competence that has never been surpassed in more recent Space sets. And this, quite simply, is the best base The LEGO Group ever made for the LEGOLAND Space System.

    My primary quibble with the design - the moving Sensor Dome is gratuitous. It doesn't really need to move. It would make more sense to have moving radar dishes on a stationary building than to have stationary disks on a moving building .... And although I accept 'hand of god' designs from LEGO, I'd be thrilled if teleportation wasn't necessary for a minifigure to move from level to another in parts of the base.

    The sheer size of the set is impressive, making it a good display model. The spaceship that comes with the set is supurb. The alternate designs on the back of the box are nothing short of breathtaking - more beautiful designs by a team possessing great creative prowess. One alternate design is a huge 'big brother' to the 6876 Blacktron Alienator and needs to be seen to be believed. Another is reminiscent of the Blacktron II 6981 Aerial Intruder. Any of the alternate designs would have made an Excellent set in its own right.

    Playability Rating:Very-Good

    The set has lots of positive points. Good models, neat 'gimmicks,' awesome little minifigs, a large supply of interesting elements.

    From a 'gee whiz' perspective, the moving parts of the base are impressive, but the moving Sensor Dome possesses somewhat dubious long-term play value. There's only so many times a kid would be willing to turn a handle to extend and retract the Sensor Dome structure. However, these moving parts might excite a child's imagination to try to make other structures with moving parts. I tend to thing of moving parts like these as clever feats of engineering for adults to admire, rather than an essential component of a toy. (Janice Tomer, who bought one of these for her kid, might have a different perspective).

    A few minuses keep me from listing the Playability as Excellent. One is that, when all is said and done, it's a base, and I think most kids would rather swoosh a big spaceship around than play with a base. But maybe that's just a personal bias. But I think a child would get more let's pretend value out of a good old Galaxy Explorer or an M-Core Magnetizer than out of a base. On the other hand, this set could make a good nucleus for a space port, and your spaceships have to land somewhere. And, as I mentioned above, a thing like this would make a good staging ground for a LEGO space battle of the Star Wars-ish 'the stormtroopers invade' type. In the end I'd expect that the base would be quickly dismantled and lots of other interesting structures would arise in its place. The ship is cool enough that the kid might keep it built and whoosh it around for hours.


    The set is notable for its use of octagonal corridor elements and large dome pieces. These elements were brand new back in 1988. A giant gold dome corner is joined by two black dome walls. Two of the rare inner-corner corridor elements are included (in black) as well as three gold outer-corner pieces. 6 black and 3 gold corridor wall segments complete the corridor.

    Also of interest are two large pylon elements of the sort used in monorail sets. These pylons were also introduced in 1988, although featured more prominently in the Futuron monorail released that same year.

    Two long yellow rail elements (not train rails - theses are 1x16 plates with indented with regularly spaced holes; these holes can be gripped by a toothed gear for movement) are used in conjunction with two special 'geared tooth in a brick' elements to raise, lower, or extend portions of the base.

    The set bristles with a large panapoly of antenna and 'spacish' elements. A large black 8x8 radar dish is joined by two yellow 4x4 dishes, nine 2x2 ruby dishes, nine ruby antennas, and numerous ruby 1x1 cylinders.

    Three yellow hoses add the typical Blacktron flair, as do two 3x6 double-wing pieces in yellow. This is one of two sets to feature a 4x6 gold plate (also found in set 918).

    Minifigure tools in the set: a wrench, a walkie-talkie, a big phasor-bazooka/"camera", and a black metal-detector (usually in grey).

    Decorated elements: The set utilizes several black 2x2 and 1x2 slope bricks decorated as computer keypads with rows of yellow and orange buttons. Four 1x2 and two 1x2 yellow tiles provide more keypads.

    Historical note - the Blacktron line was interesting in that it was released in two consecutive years. 1987 saw the introduction of two spaceships and a wheeled ground vehicle. 1988 saw a 6876 Alienator as well as the Message-Intercept Base.

    What makes the '2nd year sets' interesting is that, while sharing a common theme and visual appeal, the 2nd year sets use elements not available the year before - specifically the octagonal corridor and dome elements. Check the canopy of 6876 Alienator, released in 1988. As a canopy it uses an octagonal corridor element which was unavailable the year before. This is a nice design touch that has since been used over and over. It's also one that might have fit in well with the prior 1st-year sets.

    I think it's interesting that radically new elements were integrated into an existing line with great success and thematic unity. Or were they all designed at the same time, but with the new elements forbidden from the first year sets for production reasons? I'd love to know .... I like to think that the first year sets were designed separately, and it's interesting to ponder how they might have differed had the new elements been available a year earlier.

    Reviewer Information
    Reviewer Name Age (at review) E-Mail WWW Favorite Product Lines/Themes
    Jeff Thompson 28 --- Space, Castle, Pirate

    I am primarily a set collector concentrating on Space and Castle, but am also very element-oriented, with a strong interest in collecting new and unusual pieces to build large creations of my own design.


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