Introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, Slave I was the strong, silent and mysterious steed of the saga’s strong, silent and mysterious new character, Boba Fett. In either movie or toy terms, it was a really interesting concept – a ship which, if one looked at it from traditional aerodynamic thinking, looked like it should fly one way, but instead seems to heft itself up on its side to fly in a completely different way. For kids like me who hadn’t grown up with the Apollo program and its completely non-aerodynamic lunar landers, this was a wild concept.
Recognizing that it was one of the few fighter-sized vehicles to have a central role in Empire, Kenner turned Slave I into a well-thought-out, solid vehicle…though perhaps, in the end, the biggest problem with Slave I is that we barely got a hint of what it can do on the screen. To see the ship in its ass-kicking prime, we’d have to wait 22 years for Attack Of The Clones, by which point Boba Fett was paradoxically as young as we were when we first saw Empire. Funny old universe.
The ship’s cockpit wasn’t accessed directly, as with previous Kenner Star Wars ships. Instead, a hinged seat with an external lever could be lowered to admit a pilot (the bed-like seat was specifically molded with a lot of back room to allow for Boba Fett’s backpack, since he’s the most logical choice to sit there), and then raised to show that pilot behind the tinted plastic cockpit.
In order to get even that far, though, an entire corner-shaped panel has to be removed from Slave I’s cargo section. A rounded section of the hull could also be rolled down to serve as a cargo loading ramp; this was a feature seen in the movie (in the scene where the frozen Han Solo is being loaded on board), and while it was neat to see it replicated here, it was completely impractical – the “ramp” was rounded on top, so nothing could actually stand on it. Though not seen here, Slave I included a hollow replica of the frozen Han which could be loaded inside.
The “solar panel”-like wings attached to the ship by clamping onto a pair of smaller paddle-shaped extensions, and could be turned into the landing (flat, parallel with the back of the ship) or flight (perpendicular to the back of the ship) positions. A handle was built into the back of the ship, and it included a trigger that could be used to hold the wings in position (otherwise they’d move freely depending on the ship’s attitude).
It’s a neat enough ship, and indeed Kenner’s durable, compact and mostly functional design survived through the new Hasbro toy line, which reissued it as part of the “Shadows Of The Empire” collection (and later still for Episode II, though I’ll admit that I didn’t buy an Episode II and don’t know if the toy’s design changed by that point). But the biggest drawback for Slave I was that, in Empire, it just didn’t do much – it attached to a Star Destroyer’s hull (woo), silently tracked the Falcon through a stream of trash (woo woo), and then was seen shrugging off blaster fire as it took off with Han inside (boo). But at least, on the big screen and in plastic, it looked cool.