Episode I Vehicle Pack-In
Item No.: Asst. 84135 No. 84141
Includes: Lightsaber, Sith Speeder, launching probes
Action Feature: n/a
Availability: May 1999
Appearances: The Phantom Menace
Bio: Darth Maul is pure manifestation of the dark side of the Force. Ordered by Darth Sidious to destroy the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Maul uses his personal repulsorlift vehicle-the Sith speeder-to carry out his sinister mission. The speeder supports a deployment system capable of launching a seeker droid known as a Sith probe droid. This droid maintains ultra receptive sensor arrays capable of tracking down practically anything. Swift and focused, Darth Maul speeds over the desert sands of Tatooine in search of his Jedi prey; meanwhile, the welfare of the galaxy hangs in the balance. (Taken from the figure's box.)
Image: Adam Pawlus' desk.
Commentary: In 1999 Hasbro wisely made a special Darth Maul action figure as a pack-in to its small Sith Speeder vehicle... which, sadly, would be the only vehicle Maul would get for several years. (The Sith Infiltrator wouldn't make the rounds until 2007. Coincidentally, the figure was reissued along with the new ship.) This particular action figure was easily the best toy Darth Maul you could buy in 1999 and I daresay the best toy Maul you can buy, period. He can stand, sit, and assume a number of action poses courtesy of his jointed knees (still an unusual feature in 1999), plus he has one swivel wrist and one swivel elbow. While other figures had more arm articulation, this figure's cloth garments and added leg articulation gave him more personality and play opportunities than the Maul figures which would come before him or since. There's a reason Hasbro keeps repackaging this 1999 Darth Maul figure-- it's pretty good.
This is clearly a transitional figure, in that period of time when Hasbro was actually quite concerned with vehicle interaction, but before effectively strangling the non-exclusive vehicle market around 2000. With The Phantom Menace, Hasbro developed exclusive figures frequently as pack-ins to its vehicles to ensure a kid would actually have a figure to put in the driver's seat, and, generally speaking, that the figure would fit.
As integration goes, this figure may have done the best job of really working as a toy. The figure could sit in the driver's seat, plus he could store his lightsaber in the steering column. The sculpt was good, but now that it's 11 years old we've seen Hasbro do better. As Hasbro upgrades the Sith Lord, this remains the figure to beat as play features go. The last completely new movie Darth Maul sculpt was developed in 2005 so I have to assume another one is in the works, but at press time I've seen no evidence that one is planned for the vintage line just yet. (Although I do expect to see one.)
Collector's Notes: This exact figure has seen a few resurrections, most notably the 2007 Saga Legends line in which it had slightly different face paint. Neither one is genuinely better, so we'd err toward getting the one with the vehicle. The figure WITH the speeder was included in the 2009 Tatooine Desert Ambush Battle Pack, which you can probably find at a fine closeout store near you.
Day 1,442: December 23, 2010