A regularly updated blog about my vintage Kenner Star Wars toy collection. Some stuff that I've recently acquired; some stuff that I've had since I was a kid. Some rare, some common, but all sharing the warmth, charm and character of the "first generation" of Star Wars toys - the ones we played with as kids in the late '70s and early '80s.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Darth Vader's Star Destroyer Action Playset

One of the oddest playsets in the vintage Kenner line has to be the Star Destroyer playset. As we will see below in a review of the play features, this is a toy that doesn't seem to be able to make up its mind as to what it is. Is it a vehicle? maybe - it has "landing gear", and a handle underneath that the child on the box illustration appears to use to make the ship "fly". But it is obviously far too small to be a Star Destroyer, or even a reasonable representation of the bridge of one. Is it a playset environment? maybe - it has several different elements - the command pit, a space for Vader to communicate with the Emperor, and his meditation chamber - but these things were all very separate sets in the movie. And what is up with the Death Squad (pardon me, "Star Destroyer") Commander hanging upside down from the ceiling???

Obviously you know a toy is gonna be super-cool when it has pictures of bounty hunters on the box.

Box reverse has line drawings illustrating the various play features. Vader's meditation chamber closes down and lights up red, Vader bows before the holographic "Grand Vizier" (Emperor?), action figures duck out the escape hatch (into outer space??), Vader rotates around on his platform, bow cannon rotates and makes "laser clicking sounds".

Little kid flies the playset through outer space. Like I said, weird.

As usual I've set up the toy to replicate the box photos, down to the DSC hanging from his ankles. I know, super-nerd.

Vader describing the job to the assembled bounty hunters. But where are Zuckuss, 4-LOM and Dengar???

"You are free to use any methods necessary but I want them alive - no disintegrations!"

"Hey, what's up with Death Squad Commander?" "Oh, you know, just hanging around as usual."

Of course there are pits on either side of the bridge for doing "Empire stuff".

Crazy-ass gun mounted on the bridge of the Star Destroyer (?) It can be removed remotely by a lever underneath the toy, and makes clicking sounds as it rotates.

Inquisitive stormtrooper checks out the secret escape hatch. "Hmmm, I wonder where this leads to?"

Rear view of the playset. Note the back door openings that lead to...?

Hologram of the Emperor slides down to allow Vader to communicate with him.

This sequence shows the different positions for Vader's meditation chamber. First open (above)...


Pushing the button on top of the central part activates the red light. It's actually pretty cool.

I used to think that this toy was pretty lame, and actually posted as much on Rebelscum. But the more I thought about it, and especially after I got one and put it together, the more I think that this set is pretty cool. Not so much maybe for its play value, but for how much is crammed into it. Bounty hunter meeting space? Check. Man-cave for meditating with a funky red light? Got that. Command pit for doing Empire stuff? Yep. Secret escape hatch? Commune with the Emperor? Big-ass laser cannon? Pegs for hanging dudes upside down? Got those too.

And it flies.



  1. Just discovered your blog while searching for a photo of the box for this set. Just took mine out of storage after 30 years or so. I MUST find a spare Death Star Commander to hang from the the ceiling!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mike. Great to hear that your own Star Destroyer is about to be re-commissioned! ;-)

  2. just found a box of my old toys in my moms basement this was in it in pieces thanks to your pics I found all the pieces and got it back together thanks

  3. That's great, John! I love to hear this kind of story.

  4. Mine never had the "hologram" part. I've never been able to tell what it was supposed to be. I can see the "static" in the plastic, but is there a face??

  5. Thanks for all the info about this, I just got one and this totally helped me find what was missing from it. Thank you again for your information...

  6. Oh and G-Dawg, if you're still wondering, I can't see a face in the hologram piece. Just a funky kind of engraved/embossed pattern,

  7. I saw a guy on YouTube hold an Emperor figure behind the hologram piece, so when you looked through the front of the plastic it made the figure look all red with wavy lines -- like a hologram! Maybe that was the intended use, and Kenner simply failed to communicate how to use it properly?
    Thanks and love the blog, I just found it!

    1. Thanks for the comment Digby and glad you're enjoying the blog! Interesting about holding an Emperor figure behind the red holo piece... I don't think that this was Kenner's intention at the time though, since this toy came out several years before the Emperor figure was ever produced. Kenner copywriters even referred to the character on the box as the "Grand Vizier"!

    2. Aw yes, good point! Still I might dig out my old Star Destroyer and try it sometime, it really looked cool.

      This might also explain why the Death Squad Commander is hanging upside down--- he's not being punished, he's doing maintenance! They are after all in an asteroid field where it's hard to get a clear signal. Maybe DSC is holding the antenna, like I had to do in the 70s with my dad's TV "rabbit ear" antenna to get a better picture to come in?