The Empire’s ultimate weapon – The DEATH STAR. An armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet… and in 1978, it was the coolest toy in the Galaxy.
I always wanted one. Only one kid in our entire neighborhood had one. It was just a very cool toy. It had plenty of action features, like a working elevator, an “exploding” laser cannon, a retractable bridge with a plastic rope for re-enacting Luke and Leia’s swing across the chasm, and a trash compactor complete with a Dianoga monster and a moving wall.
But don’t take my word for it, check out the vintage Kenner television commercial for it:
Unfortunately, the Death Star was one of the few playsets that Kenner didn’t continue to produce throughout the run of STAR WARS toys and action figures. After 1979 or so, they weren’t on the shelves any more.
Make a quick hyperspace jump 34 years into the future, and I finally scored one on ebay for an affordable $31.00. Based on the photos and description in the auction, I knew it wouldn’t be in the best shape, but it wasn’t bad either. Besides the cardboard side panels, it was only missing the plastic rope, and replacements can be had on ebay. There appeared to be some yellowing of the parts, but that comes with age, and one has to spend a much greater amount of money to get a Death Star without yellowed parts.
The yellowing on the grey floor pieces was worse than I thought it would be, but still totally acceptable considering the price I paid. Overall, the Death Star was in good shape, typical of Star Wars toys from the ’70s. A few of the stickers were loose, the entire toy had dust on it, a few scratches, etc. In addition, one of the support beams was broken off in the roof piece, and the end of the laser cannon was broken (the seller had mentioned both of these in the auction, so it wasn’t a surprise). On the good side, everything worked. The foam “trash” was still intact, the Dianoga was in good shape, the elevator worked and locked on the different floors like it is suppose to.
The first thing we did was wash every part of the Death Star in warm, soapy water. We scrubbed everything with a toothbrush, getting into every nook and cranny to remove dust and dirt. We dis-assembled everything we could without breaking something (35+ year old plastic can be brittle). We then dried everything. We were able to get the broken piece of the support beam out of the roof section and used some ABS plastic weld to glue the piece back together. The barrel of the laser cannon was bent, and using the old boiling water trick we were able to straighten it. We then glued the cannon together with superglue. We also were able to buff out a lot of the surface scratches with some plastic polish.
We then re-assembled the Death Star.
Years ago I found scans of the cardboard panels online and have been saving them for this day. So, after a quick trip to Walmart for some 8.5″x14″ paper, we printed the images and spray-adhesived them to a piece of poster board. They slipped in place perfectly and although the color doesn’t quite match (I may have to fix that in photoshop and re-print the panels) they look great:
We were able to salvage most of the original stickers. A couple simply lifted off without any trouble. We sprayed the back of them with some spray adhesive and replaced them. There did seem to be a few stickers missing, and the center sticker on the “tractor beam control panel” had been placed incorrectly and had to be removed and replaced. I printed a scan of the original sticker sheet that I found online at 12back.com and cut out the stickers we needed. We then replaced the missing stickers.
I’ll be ordering a replacement for the plastic “rope” soon, and that will complete the restoration.
It’s great to finally have this piece in my collection. But the best part of it was spending the afternoon with my son cleaning it up and restoring it!
Here are a few pics of the completed Death Star for your viewing pleasure. Many of these are attempts to re-create the photos on the original box.
Until next time, may the Force be with you!
One more for fun, with a photoshop glow in the light panels behind Luke and Leia:
I’ve had requests for the Death Star panel images. Here they are. Please keep in mind, I found these on the Internet somewhere and I don’t recall where. If the originator wishes them to be taken down, please let me know and I’ll do so.