Retro Review: 10123 Cloud City

Back in 2003, when the world was flat, LEGO gave us their biggest playset ever and the opportunity to recreate our favorite moments from The Empire Strikes Back, with all kinds of fun features and new minifigures.

Floating in the cloudy skies of Bespin, the mining colony that was owned and administered by Lando Calrissian, collected tibanna gas from the lower atmosphere while the circular city used repulsorlifts to stay within the thin breathable layer of air. Famous for its architecture, casinos, nightlife and unique views, the city was a popular tourist destination too.

Being a large set with an abnormally high (for the time) piece count, and a higher-than-normal price tag, LEGO initially kept this as their own in-store/shop@home exclusive (dubbed direct-to-consumer or D2C)

Released mid-September in Europe and early October in North America, a slot that is still used to this day to launch large LEGO Star Wars sets, it still sold well enough that LEGO extended production on it and kept it stocked until early 2005, and retired it in 2006.

Measuring more than 25″ (63 cm) in length and using modular sections that allowed a flow-through of play, it was a set of first: printed arms, non-Caucasian skin tones, the carbon freeze chamber, and a dual-colored cape. Nowadays it’s the exclusivity of the four unique minifigures that has put this set on the grail list of many LEGO Star Wars collectors.

10123 Cloud City

Travel to Cloud City! Han Solo and Princess Leia have journeyed to Cloud City only to discover it is an Imperial trap! Now Luke Skywalker must challenge Darth Vader to try and save his friends. Based on one of the most famous locations from the original Star Wars™ trilogy, this set is the perfect addition to your Star Wars collection! Recreate your favorite moments from Star Wars™: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, or create your own thrilling adventures!
  • More than 25" in length!
  • 7 mini-figures including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Boba Fett™, Stormtrooper™ and the all-new Lando Calrissian™
  • Four separate play areas including Landing Platform for the Twin Pod Cloud Car™ (sold separately as item #7119)
  • Full Action Play: Blast Luke through the window! Drop Han into the carbonite!
9+698--101238$0.14
Ages Pieces VIP Points Item Minifigures Value

Aimed at the 9+ market and requiring between three and four hours to assemble the 698 pieces, the build is made up of four bags. As was normal for the time, the first bag contained all the minifigures – a practise that was phased out when it was realised that this was too much of a draw for thieves. The second bag contained the dining room, the third the carbon freeze chamber, and the processing vane control room, gantry and landing pad are in the fourth bag.

More or less central to the build is the dining room where Lando’s duplicity was revealed in The Empire Strikes Back.

Using white and tan elements, set designer Bjarke Lykke Madsen did a great job of replicating the soft hues of Bespin’s decor, while angled bricks and round tiles do well to soften the section’s lines. A dining table and chairs fill the bulk of the floor space, a very Cloud City-like sculpture can be rotated to raise the door and set back against the wall is piece of art to add a touch of flair to the room.

Behind the door is the landing pad – also known as Platform 27 – that the Millennium Falcon was guided to when Han sought safety from the Empire.

Its large footprint, which is further increased by the walkway leading to it, is not quite adequate to accommodate 4504 Millennium Falcon (which was pictured on the rear of the box even though it wouldn’t be released for another ten months), though there’s plenty of room for either 7119 Cloud Car and 7144 Slave I.

Set to the right of the dining room is the carbon freeze chamber that saw Han Solo the best one-liner in the history of romance before he was encased in carbonite.

Predominately made of black and dark gray bricks, with translucent bright orange pieces used to accent the dark nature of the carbon freeze chamber, the industrial aesthetic is well replicated. A small control panel to one side of the central pulley mechanism, which allows a platform to be lowered and raised so that the Han Solo minifigure can be swapped out with the Han Solo in Carbonite element (the same printed piece that came with 7144 Slave I), finishes off the section.

The third room, to the left of the dining room, is the processing vane’s control room where Darth Vader unleashed the power of the Force in an attempt to batter a determined Luke Skywalker into submission.

A combination of rounded elements and darkly-colored angular pieces, the gloomy control room has multiple play surfaces and features. Just like the duel that played out in The Empire Strikes Back, the room has key action features, included segments of wall that drop forward and a platform with a hinged window that gives access to the iconic gantry.

The final section is the gantry and sensor array balcony where the most famous – and misquoted – scene in all of the Star Wars movies took place. Stretching out on a thin platform of bricks, and encased by flexible hoses for handrails, is the reed-like sensor array – made of a stack of tubular pieces – that Luke found out his heritage, lost a hand, and plunged to an uncertain fate.

On top of having minifigures of Darth Vader and a Stromtrooper, 10123 Cloud City included the ultra-rare open-vested Han Solo minifigure that first came out in 3341 Star Wars #2 three-pack from 2000, Lando Calrissian with realistic flesh tones, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia depicted in their iconic Bespin attire and the Boba Fett minifig had unique detailing printed on its arms and legs.

Though all five sections fit together in a modular fashion, there is no flexibility in rearranging the rooms into the more sensible order that allows play to move (right to left) from the dining room, to the carbon freeze chamber and the control room/gantry, and the landing pad sticks out like a sore thumb.

Often mistakenly included in the Ultimate Collector Series subtheme because of its exclusive nature, it steadfastly remains a System subtheme set, though while it might lack the branding of later Master Builder Series subtheme sets, it can certainly be considered the forerunner of this series.

Looking back at this set, which took 15 years to be re-imagined as 75222 Betrayal at Cloud City, was a flashback in instruction layout, building styles and minifigure design and a lesson in the changing expectations of LEGO Star Wars fans who originally balked at its US$100 price tag, which was considered exorbitant at the time.

Collectors wanting to own 10123 Cloud City are going to have to either get lucky or spend a pretty penny, because the rarity of the Boba Fett minifigure has pushed the set’s value on secondary market sites – like Bricklink and eBay – into the stratosphere, with prices in excess of US$5000 not being uncommon for sealed boxes.

Entertainment Earth

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