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By Thomas Wheeler

It's no secret to anyone that knows me, or has read certain reviews of mine, that one particular practice that I loathe the practice of putting imprintings or watered-down and generally hand-applied extra coatings of dark paint over an action figure to make that figure look somehow "weathered" or "battle-worn".

The one line that CAN get away with it -- to a certain degree -- is Star Wars. No one expects to see a brand-spanking-new Millennium Falcon. George Lucas has stated on more than a few occasions that he wanted to portray the Star Wars universe as a sort of "used" universe, unlike, in comparison, the decided cleanliness of other science-fiction concepts, which at the time pretty much amounted to the original Star Trek and the TV series Space:1999.

Even here, though, the practice of weathering has been used to excess. While I have been very pleased to add a wide variety of Clone Troopers to my collection, I do wish that so many of them didn't come looking so dinged up. Come on, already, they didn't pick up their armor on Kamino looking like that, I don't care where they got assigned later. You want your action figures to look weathered and battle-worn? I can give you some great recommendations for paints, airbrush equipment, and Sharpies. But I'd really prefer it if the toys looked new in package, thank you.

Still, that just hasn't been the case, and there's not a lot to be done about it (although some people have had some luck cleaning their G.I. Joe figures). So you can imagine the sense of irony that I felt when I discovered that one of several versions of a recently released STAR WARS 30th ANNIVERSARY SAGA LEGENDS IMPERIAL SANDTROOPER was to be released -- completely clean! I made it a point to keep an eye out for this figure and snagged him as soon as I possibly could.

Now, admittedly, the Sandtrooper probably has some justification for being a little worn-looking. Tatooine is not a particularly clean planet. I can't imagine that any desert world is. At the same time, the amount of weathering given to Sandtrooper figures over the years has been -- interesting. Sometimes it works. I've seen some that had not an unreasonable amount of tan lightly sprayed on them around their boots and a bit elsewhere on the armor. That makes sense. On the other hand, I've seen some that look like sand-weathering was applied by watered-down paint on a brush.

In any case, what with all the dinged-up, battle-scarred, weather-worn Sandtroopers, Stormtroopers and Clone Troopers that have been produced over the years, there was a distinct irony in the manufacture of a clean Sandtrooper that I was not going to pass by. And to whatever small degree I could make a bit of a statement to Hasbro (and all the other toy manufacturers) by buying this figure and saying, "Yeah, THIS is how action figures should be!", I was more than prepared to do so.

The Sandtroopers are, of course, best known for their appearance on Tatooine in the very first Star Wars movie. They were searching for the escaped droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO. They looked little different than Stormtroopers, except for a large piece of leather-like fabric over one shoulder.

Of course, George Lucas probably had little idea at the time that Star Wars would become as massively popular as it has. And although the Stormtrooper legions are not quite as diverse in appearance as the Clone Troopers -- once again a case of irony in that the movies that featured Stormtroopers, although later in time, were actually produced BEFORE the prequels that were able to take better advantage of available technology -- it has been established through various other sources -- role-playing games, video games, novels, comic books -- that there are a fairly wide range of Stormtrooper specialties -- Sandtroopers, Snowtroopers (who did appear in Empire Strikes Back), Seatroopers, Spacetroopers, etc.

Sandtroopers or Desert Troopers are specially trained divisions of Imperial Stormtroopers equipped with modified armor and equipment to withstand the harsh climates of desert planets like Tatooine. Though their armor is similar to that of a regular Stormtrooper, their suits contain advanced cooling systems, which offers better protection from the relentless heat than standard Stormtrooper armor. Their helmets contain lenses that automatically polarize to protect the trooper's eyes, as well as breathing filters.

Another notable difference is the shoulder pauldron each Sandtrooper wears. These are used to denote rank, with enlisted personnel wearing black pauldrons, while officers wear white and commanders of several units of these elite soldiers wear orange pauldrons.

Additionally, Sandtroopers can operate in hot, wet, tropical environments with slight modifications to their equipment. They are also protected from sand entering the armor.

The weapon loadout for Sandtroopers is much the same as Stormtroopers and includes the standard E-11 blaster rifle or a BlasTech DLT-19 Heavy Blaster Rifle or a BlasTech T-21 Light Repeating Blaster, blaster pistol and Imperial Repeater. They may also carry thermal detonators and other explosive devices.

Due to environments that may be too hostile to machinery, Sandtroopers tend to rely on local domesticated creatures, such as the Dewback, as transport.

The "clean" Sandtrooper I purchased has a white pauldron. I honestly don't know if any other colors were available for the clean Sandtrooper.

The figure is excellent. Although I will confess to a personal preference for Clone Troopers these days, just because I like the design a little bit better (especially of the Episode III helmet) and I like the various divisions and their special markings, I will certainly pick up a sufficiently interesting Stormtrooper, and a clean Sandtrooper certainly qualifies.

The figure used for this Sandtrooper is clearly of the "super-articulated" variety, and I am quite sure it is a Sandtrooper variation of the Stormtrooper that was originally made available as part of the "Vintage Original Trilogy Collection" a couple of years ago. The figure has a 2005 copyright date on his leg.

This Sandtrooper is poseable at the head, arms (outwards as well as forward and backward), elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees (including a swivel), and ankles (including a swivel).

One thing that the Sandtrooper/Stormtrooper has in common with a similarly articulated Clone Trooper is how well the articulation points can be blended in with the armor design. I have seen other action figures which attempt to use this level of articulation, and it just doesn't look as good, because the figure is molded to be wearing a cloth uniform, and the articulation points, especially the mid-torso point, are not easily concealed, and frankly the figure ends up looking like heck.

I'm not saying here that I believe articulation should be sacrificed for the look of the figure. I'm all for excellent articulation. But there are some articulation designs that work better on some types of figures more than others, and sometimes they just don't translate as well. The Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers/Sandtroopers make truly superb use of this particular design. Almost too good. Sometimes you can give yourself eyestrain trying to figure out how well a given Trooper is articulated. Unfortunately, sometimes a less-articulated set of molds still turns up here and there. Don't know why these haven't just been outright retired.

But there's certainly nothing wrong with the articulation of this Sandtrooper. It's excellent. So is the painted detailing, and I realize that it may sound a little odd to be talking about the painted detailing on a figure that I bought specifically because he is not weathered or dirtied, but there are still some detail areas, including the helmet, the black undersuit, and the pauldron. These have all been painted very nicely and very neatly. Star Wars has, on occasion, had problems with paint neatness. But I see no evidence of any problems here whatsoever.

One quick note -- if you would rather have a Stormtrooper, that's easy enough. Just pop the head off (not as painful as it sounds), remove the pauldron, and snap the head back on. Instant Stormtrooper.

The Sandtrooper is better-accessorized than most of the Stormtrooper and Clone Troopers that come along. He has a large backpack which I assume is some sort of portable communications unit. He has a blaster pistol, and another weapon that looks a lot like the gaderffi sticks used by Tusken Raiders. He also has a tiny little white cylindrical something or other that snaps onto the back of his belt and which I STRONGLY recommend gluing into place with as strong a glue as the plastic will abide.

The character profile for the Sandtrooper on the back of his package reads as follows: "Jedi mind tricks often work on the weak-minded. Such is the case when a squad of Sandtroopers asks Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi about the two droids that are with him in a landspeeder. Obi-Wan tricks them into concluding, 'These aren't the droids we're looking for'." There's a photograph of the scene from the movie accompanying the profile.

The "categorized" part of the character profile reads:

Species: Humans from various worlds

Status: Specialized Imperial Stormtroopers

Weapon of Choice: Blaster Pistole, Blaster Rifles

Characteristic: Trained and Equipped for Desert Regions.

Two interesting notes here: That "Humans from different worlds" reference, for one. Although certainly the Empire recruited new personnel over the course of their history, they were also still using Clones, at least if that Stormtrooper with the Jango/Clone head underneath it that I bought a while back is any indication.

Secondly, that "Blaster Rifle" reference. The picture of the figure on the back of the package card clearly shows him holding a HUGE rifle, and there's no sign of the gaderffi stick. And yet there's no way in the world that the slot in the interior packaging bubble where the stick is could accommodate the rifle. Some sort of last minute substitution? Hope Hasbro hasn't lost the rifle.

So, in conclusion -- there are several versions of this Sandtrooper currently available. Most are weathered to one degree or another. And for a Sandtrooper, that's okay, and you may well want that Sandtrooper, and given that the only difference between it and the clean one is the samd-weathering, I can guarantee you'll be getting an excellent figure.

But, if you'd like a Sandtrooper that's a little different, say a Sandtrooper BEFORE Darth Vader dispatched them to the surface of Tatooine, a Sandtrooper who was sitting in his quarters on the Star Destroyer reading the latest copy of "Imperial Times Today" or whatever, then I recommend you be patient and vigilant, and keep an eye out for the CLEAN Imperial Sandtrooper. And just maybe you'll be sending a little message that this is the sort of thing we'd like to see more of in Star Wars and the toy world.

The "Clean" IMPERIAL SANDTROOPER from the STAR WARS 30th ANNIVERSARY SAGA LEGENDS line definitely has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!