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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Death Star playset (Palitoy)

Every collector has a "grail" item - something that they long to have, that just has some special appeal. Usually the grail is rare, and most often it's expensive. For production Star Wars collectors, it can be something foreign, or unusual. For me, this item is all of those things - it's the infamous chipboard Death Star playset.

As you can see from the packaging, this is the Palitoy (UK) version of the playset - it was also released in other markets including New Zealand, Australia, France and Canada. Although we here in Canada were the only market to get both the Kenner (plastic) Death Star playset and this chipboard version, the Canadian card Death Star is even more difficult to find than Palitoy's and I've "settled" on adding this UK version to my collection. But I'm not disappointed - far from it. This is the coolest playset I own, and by some margin at that.

The box is in admittedly lousy condition but I'm happy just to have one with the toy. Even though it's a Palitoy item the box design carries all of the classic Kenner hallmarks - colourful photography, sharp design and that iconic racetrack on the front.

Here it is, assembled. It's actually reasonably challenging to put together, and I wouldn't recommend trying it for the first time without referring to the instructions. The components are a thick card I have heard referred to as "chipboard", combined with some plastic components - the five two-piece base connectors, the trash chute, the top gunner's cockpit and canopy, and the two cannons pinched from the X-Wing Fighter toy. The set also included some small clear plastic figure stands, but these are long gone from my set, which is fortunately otherwise complete.

The detail packed into this playset is amazing. Every inch of the walls is covered with Star-Warsy goodness. Here Darth and Ben battle in front of the trash compactor escape hatch.

"Get in there, you big furry oaf! I don't care what you smell!"
Trash chute drops figures straight into the compactor - complete with moving walls. The hatch at right opens to allow heroes to "escape".

The mirror at the base reflects the walls, giving the illusion of a bottomless shaft. Ben searches for the controls to the tractor beam.

Back to replicating the box shots. One of the rooms represents the Princess's cell. Either that or Vader's bedroom...

The heroes engage in discussion while Ben battles Vader.

The heroes about to be crushed in the trash compactor...

"How you doin'?"
...or is that Luke just taking the opportunity to mack on Leia?

Han takes to the garbage chute as the heroes come under fire from Stormtroopers. What's that Jawa doing on the Death Star?!?!?

Imperial Gunner finds his rightful place, although he wouldn't be released until the PotF line, six years later...

"I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you."
Imperial Gunner looks menacing stalking the corridors.

Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin discuss their nefarious plans.

You gotta wonder about Imperial administration when they have a whole room full of Death Squad Commanders and no actual Death Squads in sight.

The detailing on this toy is just incredible.

Underside of base is decorated with familiar space battle photo as well as photos of the first 12 figures. Canadian version differs in that it has a plain "marbled" looking base underside.

I think I would have blown my brains out with joy if I'd had this set as a kid. The play value and detailing are just off the charts. The only drawback, of course, is that the cardboard construction is far from robust, which probably contributes significantly to the rarity of these pieces... I expect that most were trashed by kids and subsequently thrown away.

Suffice to say, I'm very happy to have it in my collection :-)  Next up, I'll post the Kenner version!


  1. I had this as a kid, was the best Xmas ever!

    Had many hours of fun with it.

  2. Thanks for the comments, guys! It truly is an amazing set.

  3. Had this as a kid...which ever version was release in Australia. My 8th, 9th or 10th birthday present from my grandma. Would have been $50AUD as that's the amount she allowed us to spend when she took us to the toy shop at birthday time. Wish I still had it.

  4. Hi hicbart! Yes, Australian kids got the "Toltoys" version of the cardboard Death Star. You were a lucky youngster indeed!

  5. Just found both version of the Death Star in my attic when moving, not in the greatest condition because of age and being well played with as kids. But still brings back lots of memories.

  6. Just found both version of the Death Star in my attic when moving, not in the greatest condition because of age and being well played with as kids. But still brings back lots of memories.

    1. That's a great find from your childhood, Brian!

  7. A terrific entry, particularly as I'm currently assembling this set from loose parts. Many thanks for the exceptional photography, and your tips at the conclusion of your post are most helpful.

    I actually came to your site after listening to 'Chivecast Ep. 59! So, better late than never! (And Skye and Steve really need to reference your blog more often - it really is terrific.) :)

  8. Welcome to the blog, Johnny, and thanks for the compliments! I'm glad the post could be of some assistance. The Chivecast is indeed awesome and I was recently fortunate enough to be interviewed by the guys in their inaugural "Space Freak of the Week" segment in ep. 81. Hope you can check it out!

  9. What a wonderful playset this is! My box is worse than yours. Real cool photos you got here too! Nice kick from Han!

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  11. Yes, I got this as a 5 or 6 year old and it was amazing!!! this would be Christmas '79 or '80.

    I remember it survived pretty well and I was that sweet spot age to start playing with Star Wars toys right at the beginning when there were only 12 available, and still young enough to enjoy the RotJ releases.

    It did have some glue and tape, by the end, but I played with it until the end.