by Matthew Thompson
The Excavation Searcher is part of the Life on Mars theme and was released back in 2001. It includes 471 pieces and was sold for an MSRP of $50 back when it came out. Along with three Martian minifigures it features a large scorpion-like vehicle and a small base all of which can be seen above.
These are the three minifigures. From left to right that is Pollux, Canopus and Vega. As you can see, Life on Mars‘ Martians aren’t your typical minifigs. I rather like the unique head shape and there are some neat prints on them including all kinds of masks, hair, spots and eyes. One from another set even has freckles! I don’t care for the bodies as much as the typical minifigure builds though. They are kind of lacking that classic LEGO charm because of it and doing things like sitting them down is a little more difficult. This is usually handled by attaching their hands to some sort of bar and just bending them into place. They aren’t quite as poseable either. While I prefer the way themes like Galaxy Squad and Atlantis handled their alien and fantasy creature minifigures, these are still a unique addition to my collection which I can appreciate. I imagine their slimmer body size might have made it easier to create the pod transport system featured in fellow Life on Mars set Aero Tube Hangar.
The real meat of this set comes in the form of the titular Excavation Searcher. This large vehicle features claw and laser arms in the front (one might possibly be a scanning device I suppose) and a tail that acts as a crane in the back giving it a scorpion-like design. There are quite a few neat features packed into the Searcher. If you look underneath the middle section you can see something hanging below.
It is this little speeder-type ship. Unfortunately the printing is a little messed up on the hood piece, but it is a nice small ship and I like how it hooks into undercarriage of the larger vehicle.
Here is a closer look at the crane which has a lot of mobility. You can use it to pick up these rocks. In the background you can also see how the bars for the rock storage open up.
Maybe the best part about this set is the versatility. It breaks apart, so both pairs of legs, the body and the front cabin can be separated and put together in different ways. Above you can see a mech variant. It didn’t take any rebuilding, just snapping the sections apart and then putting the cabin onto the front pair of legs. It makes for a solid mech and instantly has some swivel action up top because of a piece that sits on the legs in any form.
There isn’t much to complain about for this part of the set. The legs are a bit repetitive to build I suppose. And more so if you delve into the theme since a couple of other sets, two mechs not that dissimilar to the one shown here, have legs very much like the Searcher’s four. But that is only a tiny complaint.
The final portion of the Excavation Searcher set is this base. Nothing too special here. You can drop the rocks in where they will slide/roll down the ramp and into a little bucket. The Searcher can “plug” into the front there. One interesting thing about it is the fact that it fits into Life on Mars‘ largest set, the aforementioned Aero Tube Hanger, at the end of one its pod transport tubes. And that is part of the theme as a whole. Just like I made a mech from the Searcher by swapping some sections around, you can mix and match different modules to create various setups. Admittedly that leads to a lot of color clashing, something that doesn’t really fit my tastes for display, but I imagine it being a lot of fun for younger builders who want to play around with them. The different combos mean new things to play with without rebuilding anything from scratch.
I think the Excavation Searcher is a great set and my favorite based on what I was able to rebuild from my Life on Mars collection. The main draw is definitely the Searcher itself. I love the ability to quickly create different setups and looks due to the modular style of the build. The orange and tan color combo is an odd one. It isn’t particularly vibrant like a lot of space sets, but it works well and in my mind fits into Life on Mars‘ focus on exploration over combat. It strikes me as a good look for a more work-focused vehicle like the Searcher. Overall I had a blast rebuilding this set.
Be on the lookout for more LEGO posts soon and thanks for reading my first review!