REVIEW: STAR WARS CLONE WARS BARC SPEEDER BIKE with 501st LEGION CLONE TROOPER
As I have become increasingly interested in building something of a Clone Army from the Star Wars: Clone Wars collection, it occurred to me that an army ultimately does need some vehicles. Fortunately, there was one available, complete with a Clone Trooper of its own. It was a BARC Speeder Bike.
Speeder Bikes aren't anything all that new to the Star Wars universe. We first saw them in the Original Trilogy, in that dizzying chase scene through the Endor Forest in Return of the Jedi. Of course, technically speaking, those movies take place after the Prequel Trilogy, and certainly after the Clone Wars, which take place between Episodes II and III. But who says that Speeder Bikes were a new technology when we saw them crashing into redwoods?
The first thing you notice about the BARC Speeder Bike toy is that it looks to be a good bit larger than its descendant in Return of the Jedi. The basic shape is there, but there are some visible and considerable differences.
I was able to get some information about this particular Speeder Bike from the online information resource known as "Wookieepedia".
The Biker Advanced Recon Commando (BARC) speeder was a powerful speeder bike model used by the Grand Army of the Republic as a reconnaissance craft during the Clone Wars. It was manufactured by Aratech Repulsor Company. A civilian variant, Police BARC speeder also saw extensive use on Coruscant.
Younger than the 74-Z speeder bike employed at the Battle of Geonosis, it was actually more closely designed after the Ripper speeder bike manufactured by Aratech's competitor, Mobquet.
Originally designed for exclusive use by the Advanced Recon Commandos, the vehicle proved so effective that it came to be used by the rest of the army. These speeders were painted in the red-and-white colors of the Galactic Republic.
They were powered by repulsors and a turbine engine mounted on the frontal prong. The speeder was controlled via twin steering vanes atop the bike, and pedals fitted below. Two blaster cannons protruded from the bottom of the forward prong, while two more were fixed on either side of the vehicle's rear.
The speeders were capable of flying at high altitudes and were sometimes used as escorts for LAAT/i gunships carrying important passengers.
Around the first year of the Clone Wars, a variant of the BARC speeder was used by Coruscant Police droids. The only apparent differences from its military counterpart was that it had a dark blue/gray paint job and had flashing red and blue lights near the aft thrusters and stern thruster. Jedi Master Tera Sinube and Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano rode a police droid's BARC speeder to a train station to catch Ione Marcy and Cassie Cryar via homing beacon cleverly placed on Marcy's back by Sinube. Another time when Police Droids rode these was when it appeared Satine Kryze had murdered Davu Golec, and these were used to follow a civilian airspeeder, which the clone shock troopers thought she was escaping in.
Jedi Master Shaak Ti once flew a BARC speeder during the initial stages of the Battle of Coruscant, using it to transport her and Stass Allie to the Supreme Chancellor's residence to see Palpatine to safety. Stass Allie later led a BARC speeder patrol during the aftermath of the Siege of Saleucami, where the Jedi Knight performed reconnaissance missions on the battlefield.
During a mission to capture Shu Mai, President of the Commerce Guild on Felucia, Aayla Secura and Clone Commander Bly were assisted in the assault on the Presidente's headquarters by a squad of 327th Star Corps troopers riding BARC speeders. Aided by ARC-170 starfighters, these elite biker troops defeated Vulture droid starfighters during the battle.
Troops under the command of Jedi Generals Yoda, Luminara Unduli, and Quinlan Vos later rode their speeders into combat on Kashyyyk, moving alongside Infantry Support Platforms and powerful A6 Juggernauts.
Following the war, BARC speeders continued to be used by the early Galactic Empire, although they were seemingly phased out afterward, and replaced with the older 74-Zs for military use
On Kashyyyk, many speeders were left behind, following the formation of the Empire, and were used during the Galactic Civil War by native Wookiees and visiting pilots. Some others, also obtained from Kashyyyk, came into the hands of some spacers for personal use.
I was right about the size difference, too. The BARC Speeder Bike is listed as being about 4.57 meters in length, and given that it's about 2-1/3 times as long as the Clone Trooper figure it comes with, I'd say that's about right. The 74-Z Speeder Bike mentioned is the one best known from Return of the Jedi, and it's listed on Wookieepedia as being 3 meters in length, although there are some larger variants.
The toy has a 2005 copyright date on it, so obviously it has seen prior use, doubtless in the Legacy Collection and it's movie-based precursors, although it might have seen other Clone Wars use as well. I seem to recall a two-pack a while back.
In any case, the two lines are very nearly compatible, although the figures for Clone Wars tend to be taller and more slender in build, and those that aren't wearing, say, Clone Trooper helmets (!), obviously have animated-style faces, which sort of kills the compatibility. However, both lines of Star Wars figures are close enough to make use of the same vehicles, certainly.
The BARC Speeder Bike is about 10-1/2" in length, and although larger than the "Return of the Jedi" Speeder Bike, manages to look more sophisticated, sleeker, and more powerful. Some of the basics are there, including the long front end with a pair of control vanes at the front, a seat close to the back, foot pedals, and handlebars. However, the BARC Speeder Bike has a sturdier frame, especially in the long front section, and a jet intake right up front. There are two additional jets on the sides near the back, and stabilizers in the rear that, at a guess, might well provide a smoother flight.
The BARC Speeder Bike is particularly well arms, as well, with two blaster cannons up front, and two more in the rear off to the sides. This particular Speeder Bike is molded in off-white, and has some silver detailing on items like the blasters, the handlebars, and te foot pedals. There is some dark grey painted trim, as well as some trim in dark blue, mostly ornamental, on the front, sides, and large rear section.
The BARC Speeder Bike doesn't have a lot of moving parts, but it does have retractable landing gear. The original Speeder Bike toy from Return of the Jedi was a little bit of genius in engineering in that it could be rested on the ground on its foot pedals and stay put, even though in the movie it was shown to be capable of hovering even when parked. Toy technology isn't quite THAT advanced yet. The BARC Speeder Bike would not fare well trying to balance on its foot pedals, so there is retractable landing gear in the nose and rear of the vehicle. With these lowered, the Speeder Bike stands perfectly well.
Now, let's discuss the CLONE TROOPER that comes with this set. The back of the package states: "Clone Troopers ride Biker Advanced Recon Commando (BARC) speeder bikes on scouting and escort missions. BARC speeders give the troopers greater range, speed, mobility, and firepower than foot patrols. They prove so useful to elite units like the 501st Legion that they are soon made available to the entire clone trooper army."
Now, it doesn't say that the Clone Trooper that comes with this set is from the 501st. But I'm pretty sure that he is, because his markings are pretty similar. He has blue-striped trim, and those were the colors of the 501st Legion as they appeared in the Episode III movie, Revenge of the Sith, in their assault on the Jedi Temple in the company of the recently converted Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.
Interestingly enough, in real life, the 501st Legion was first canonized into the Star Wars universe in the 2004 novel Survivor's Quest, by Timothy Zahn. This was a reference to the real-life fan organization known as the 501st Legion charity group. Formed by Albin Johnson and Tom Crews in 1997, it was originally composed of members who wore stormtrooper costumes, and has since expanded to include all trooper variations, as well as Sith Lords, bounty hunters, and other villains from the series. It boasts over 3,500 members in 40 countries. The 501st Legion helps coordinate volunteers at Celebration, the official Star Wars convention. The group also has the nickname "Vader's Fist," which was subsequently also made the in-universe designation for the legion.
However, during the Clone Wars, and before Order 66 was given that ordered the Clone Troopers to turn against their Jedi commanders, the 501st likely served as nobly as any other group of Clone Troopers. It's just that when you see that blue trim, you pretty well figure you're looking at a member of the 501st, so I'm more or less figuring that's where this Clone Trooper is from. Wookieepedia has an extensive entry on the group, which I will summarize here.
The 501st Legion, later known as "Vader's Fist" and the Five Hundred and First, was an elite unit of clone troopers commissioned by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine during the Clone Wars that later became a stormtrooper unit. Made up of units like Torrent Company, the 501st fought in many battles, such as the Battle of Teth and the Battle of Coruscant, becoming one of the most well-known legions. In 19 BBY, the 501st became Darth Vader's personal unit as he led them during Operation: Knightfall, in which the clones helped take down the Jedi, whom they believed to be traitors to the Republic.
Following the rise of the Galactic Empire, the 501st transitioned into a stormtrooper unit, like all other clone units. After the Battle of Kamino, the 501st became the last remnant of the Grand Army of the Republic fully composed of clones of Jango Fett.
The legion fought in a number of battles during the Galactic Civil War in an effort to defeat the Rebel Alliance.
Though the 501st was disbanded after the Battle of Endor, Grand Admiral Thrawn would resurrect the name. The 501st was stationed in the Unknown Regions, where they protected Thrawn's Empire of the Hand. Over a century later, the legion was still serving the Empire, now under Roan Fel.
The troopers of the 501st Legion were clones of the bounty hunter Jango Fett, who had been selected by Jedi Master-turned-Sith Lord Dooku to be the template for an elite army. Cloned by expert Kaminoan scientists, the troopers were given top-notch training in many fields, as they were designed to be the ultimate soldiers.
Members of the 501st Legion fought in the Grand Army of the Republic against the Confederacy of Independent Systems in the Battle of Geonosis, the opening battle of the Clone Wars, in 22 BBY. A short time later, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine founded the 501st Legion by moving a number of clones to a secret location on Coruscant known only to the Chancellor's most trusted advisers, far away from the normal training center on the planet Kamino. These clones were given special training by Palpatine's command staff to make the 501st the most feared legion in the galaxy.
The core group of this legion was assigned to serve under Jedi General Anakin Skywalker and Clone Captain CC-7567, nicknamed "Rex." With Skywalker's help, the 501st quickly earned a reputation for incredible victories, often snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Among the 501st's earliest battles was the Battle of Christophsis, where they served under Skywalker, Captain Rex, and High Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi. Based out of Crystal City, the 501st troops managed to recapture Christophsis from the Confederacy, beating back Separatist General Whorm Loathsom's multiple assaults.
Immediately following the Republic victory on Christophsis, the 501st detachment Torrent Company was sent with Skywalker, Tano, and Rex to Teth to recover Hutt crime lord Jabba Desilijic Tiure's son, Rotta, in order to gain access to hyperlanes passing through Jabba's territory for the Grand Army.
Rex, Tano, Clone Sergeant Coric, and six new Torrent Company recruits—Ross, Boro, Joc, Hil, Vere, and Ince—later participated in a routine shakedown cruise aboard Captain Gilad Pellaeon's assault ship, the Leveler, in the Dantus sector. However, their short respite from the war ended when they were called in to rescue the Republic Intelligence agent Hallena Devis, who had been taken hostage by rebel forces in opposition to the Regent of the nearby JanFathal.
At some point later, the 501st's Torrent Company helped to retake the Bothan colony world Kothlis from General Grievous, serving there under Kenobi, Tano, Captain Rex, and Sergeant Coric. Launching from the Republic Star Destroyer Indomitable, Torrent Company joined in the battle to regain control of Kothlis's spynet facility on the planet's surface. Although the campaign was ultimately a success, it saw the unit's greatest depletion and losses since the Battle of Teth.
The legion also participated in "mopping up" the remaining droid forces on the recently liberated planet of Ryloth, helping Skywalker and Tano defeat the droids based out of the ruined city of Resdin. Eventually, Rex and a 501st contingent were sent to reconnoiter Geonosis, where evidence of Separatist droid foundries had been discovered.
In the final days of the war, the 501st was frequently shuttled across the galaxy, often divided into specialized groups to assist other missions. Under the orders of Chancellor Palpatine, the 501st would sometimes operate outside of the usual command structure, with detachments of the unit serving at many pivotal campaigns. In the final year of the war, the 501st took part in several battles pivotal in ending the war. In the Battle of Mygeeto, they were involved in Project Hammertong, a clandestine mission to acquire a power crystal for Chancellor Palpatine, who secretly had plans of constructing a superlaser-armed battlestation. The clones succeeded in pushing back the droid forces, recovering the power crystal, and crucial to the mission, keeping their commander, Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, unaware of their true purpose.
Shortly before the Battle of Coruscant, members of the 501st were stationed on Coruscant, where they were used to carry out security patrols. Not long afterward, the 501st fought in the Battle of Coruscant in an effort to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine from the Confederacy.
After that battle, some members of the 501st were dispatched to Kashyyyk. When they jumped out of hyperspace, they found the planet blockaded by the Separatists. The 501st was forced to punch a hole in the Confederate Navy, which they accomplished along with stealing a set of attack plans for the upcoming battle. They then landed on the planet's surface, where they fought alongside the 41st Elite Corps and Jedi Master Yoda. Following this battle, a detachment of the 501st was transferred to Utapau. They fought with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and helped the 212th Attack Battalion defeat the droid forces there by taking down various CIS gun batteries and destroying an energy column.
As the battle was winding down, a group of clones were taken and discreetly transferred to Coruscant, in preparation for Order 66—a top-secret order given by Chancellor Palpatine which stated that the Jedi had rebelled against the Republic, and needed to be eliminated. On Coruscant, they met Anakin Skywalker, now the Sith Lord Darth Vader, and were given their orders: destroy the Jedi. Though they appreciated the Jedi, their loyalty lay first with Palpatine. Vader led them into the Jedi Temple, ready for battle. Though some held quiet doubts about what they knew was to happen, they did not voice them, and the troopers of the 501st, alongside Vader, succeeded in killing almost every Jedi in the Temple.
The figure is very nicely done. Hasbro has several sets of Clone Trooper molds for the Clone Wars line, and the one that I personally regard as the best has been used here. It us nicely detailed and certainly well articulated. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists (including a back and forth movement as well as rotation), mid-torso, legs, knees (including a swivel) and ankles (including a swivel). The Clone Trooper is one of those few figures that can get away rather well with mid-torso articulation, since it can be worked into the design of the armor. Ultimately, the entire Clone Trooper armor design lends itself well to being incorporated into an action figure, since the articulation points can be hidden in the armor design, especially along the black "undersuit".
This particular Clone Trooper does not have a removable helmet. No big deal there. The Clone Trooper's white armor has a fair amount of dark blue trim on it, including the fin on the helmet, the area around the visor, and broad stripes down both arms. These are all neatly painted. The black "undersuit" details are decently painted, but there's some evidence that they were painted by hand, rather than through proper paint stencils or masks.
I especially appreciate the high range of articulation. There's another body mold out there, that I've encountered all of once, although I suppose it may have seen use elsewhere, that is articulated at the waist rather than mid-torso (not a big deal), but also lacks ankle articulation and the wrists are more restrictive. It's on a figure named Commander Stone, and as pleased as I am to have him in my collection, I sort of hope that particular set of body molds doesn't see widespread use.
The Clone Trooper comes with a large rifle, that's about 2-1/4" in length. The back of the package shows him holding this rifle up while trying to steer the Speeder Bike. This doesn't strike me as an especially bright idea. While he might well need the rifle once he reaches his destination and dismounts the bike, the Speeder Bike has armaments of its own.
So, what's my final word here? This is a cool set. You get an impressive Speeder Bike, and you get a cool and distinctive Clone Trooper, who's PROBABLY from one of the most highly-regarded Legions of Clone Troopers there are out there. The Speeder Bike is very impressive, and the Clone Trooper is highly articulated and very well done. If you're any sort of Star Wars fan, especially of the Clone Wars, you can't go wrong here.
The STAR WARS CLONE WARS set of the BARC SPEEDER BIKE and CLONE TROOPER definitely has my highest recommendation!