Darth Vader's Star Destroyer Action Playset


Box Front

Box Back (click to enlarge) Box Side (click to enlarge)
Box Back and Side (click to enlarge)

Catalog Entry
Catalog Description:

Darth Vader Star Destroyer. This is where Lord Vader communicates with the Dark Side of the Force. Activate the Force Light in the meditation chamber and Darth strenghtens his dark powers. Chamber opens and closes. He commands from a swiveling command podium. There's a movable laser cannon, a simulated hologram unit to communicate with the Grand Emperor. Push-button escape hatch. Detention pegs to hang any captured rebels upside down, a control room, an assembly area for Bounty Hunters. Plastic. 9x14x12 in. high. Uses 2 "C" batteries. Figures shown not included--see (12) to (16) on opposite page. For ages 4 years and up.
XU 928-0413 A--Delivery weight 3 lbs...18.88

Source: 1980 JC Penney Christmas Catalog

I know a lot of people love it, but, in my opinion, the Darth Vader's Star Destroyer playset was the most disappointing of all Kenner Star Wars toys. I mean, in the film, Vader's personal Star Destroyer was freakin' cool-- it was huge and its engines glowed an evil red. But this toy interpretation of it is just....well, I don't quite know how to describe it. It was shaped sort of like a Star Destroyer, yet it was relatively tiny. And it wasn't sure whether it wanted to be a command bridge, a meditation chamber or a vehicle. And what's with that gun?! It almost looks like something Skeletor would use on the Masters of the Universe cartoon to turn Battle Cat into stone. It also featured a completely pointless "escape hatch." (Escape to where?!)

Anyway, I assume Kenner decided to produce this upon hearing that, in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader would most frequently be seen upon the bridge of his personal Star Destroyer. It was therefore an important playset concept-- sort of like the new Death Star. But the scale didn't really work, and the action features--aside from the light-up meditation chamber--were pretty uninteresting. Still, it was a major part of Kenner's 1980 line, and the most complex playset released under the ESB title.

In contrast to the toy itself, I dig the packaging Kenner developed for it. A sharp red background on the front compliments a nice shot of the bounty hunters on the side. But I have to admit that it's pretty hilarious that a Death Squad Commander figure--one of the Empire's own--is shown being suspended from the "detention pegs." Did Kenner do this because Vader was so mean to his subordinates in ESB, or was it just a mistake? I like to think he's performing some sort of elaborate party antic, or practicing for gymnastics finals.

Prototype examples of the package for Darth Vader's Star Destroyer have surfaced which show the Leia Bespin figure in place of the Death Squad Commander. Whether this version of the box was released to stores is at this point debatable. Some collectors cite the existence of examples bearing price stickers as evidence that it was indeed sold at retail.

Judging by the loose examples (usually incomplete) that can still be found, Kenner sold a lot of these. Unused boxed examples are popular with collectors.

First Issued: 1980 (ESB packaging)
Re-issues: None

Description by: Ron Salvatore
Photo: Ron Salvatore
From the collection of: Ron Salvatore
Country:United States
Film:Empire Strikes Back
Category:Toys / Action Figure Related / Playsets


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