Star Fleet / X-Bomber PPA Build (a journey of cool discovery and childhood rekindling)


Sr Member
Greetings all.
Long time lurker I guess as I've not posted in a while.
This one is a bit of a story as well as a build process, so here we go.

Back in 1980 a Japanese production company saw the success of Star Wars and wanted to make their own space adventure.
However with lack of budget they could not afford anything live action or animated, so they opted to use marionettes.
Now the beautiful thing about this show is that all puppets were controlled from underneath, so you see no strings.
But most importantly is that this show (known as X-Bomber) was eventualy licensed to broadcast in the UK.
However, as it was all in Japanese they had to do their own audio and music for the release.

Thus was born, 'Star Fleet'.
Broadcast through 82 into 83, but never to be shown again.
The ONLY reason I know the show so well is that my late father had the foresight to tape it from the TV.
Man we wore out that VHS I can tell you.

I won't go into too much detail about the show itself, that's for you to enjoy if you wish to seek it out.
Here is the Wikipedia entry though
But the rumor was, a fire at the studio destroyed all sets and props, thus there were no more made.

It wasn't until 2009 that the show was released on DVD, thus those of us who remember it could enjoy it once more.
Receiving the DVD set for Chrsitmas from my wife, I was able to rekindle my love for the show (as the old VHS is back at my parents house somewhere...maybe). But after digging around online for a bit, I also discovered some really interesting things about the show.

1. Three of the major roles in the UK release were voiced by people who later starred in Aliens.
Mark Rolston (Drake the smart gunner), Jay Benedict (Newts father in the special edition), and Al Matthews (Sgt Apone)
2. A secondary character in the show was voiced by Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter in Star Wars ANH)
3. Brian Maydid a cover of the Paul Bliss theme tune (with Eddie Van Halen) because Brians kids were such fans.
4. In 2022 there was a 40th anniversary exhibit of all the puppets and models put on in Japan.
"But wait, weren't they all destroyed in a fire?"
Turns out they were not all destroyed, and a group had refurbished and/or rebuilt all of the props, puppets, and models they could.
Of course I missed the exhibit (totally would have flown over for it), but my wife found the exhibit book online and had it under the tree this past Christmas.
What's in it? EVERYTHING!!!!!!
Page after page after page of detailed photos of each and every thing from the show and what they had to do to refurb/rebuild it.

So where do I go from here? INTO BUILD MODE!!!
At a prop party this last weekend I had my first attempt at 'PPA' ("Perfectly Programmed Android") using both the exhibit book and low res screen captures from the DVD to build off of a 3D print I found buried online. Of course no one knew what the heck it was :lol:
Turns out the exhibit group had to rebuild the entire thing from scratch (the art director had taken the original with them after filming).
They did a great job, but it's not THAT accurate to the on-screen version when compared side by side.
I believe they had a few versions for filming given some differences between different episodes.

On-screen PPA
PPA screen grab.jpg

Exhibit PPA
ppa exhibit.jpg

The goal is to have it as screen accurate as possible (albeit mostly static) to at least one on-screen version.
Still needs weathering, the paint darkening, the eye piece made, and electronics. But I'm getting there on mine.
He also looks like he's gained a little weight around the middle (happens when in your 40s) so that needs to be trimmed down.
ppa in progress.jpg

I think I found this show mentioned on here one time over the years, but it's just one of those things that came and went.
There are 3D prints of the main ships available online from other super fans, but the lesser known ships I'm tempted to sculpt myself and see how they come out. Now we have really good reference photos to compare to on-screen anyway :)
The X-Bomber would be awesome too!
That's also on my list as well as some of the EDF 'astro-fighters', once PPA is done.
Thanks to a lot of fan investment (and time during COVID it seems), there are some really good prints and models of the main ships out there.
Gary Cass in the UK is the one who offers the best X-Bomber in my opinion.

Also with the help of AI video services, there is now upscaled video (no longer SD) which has allowed me to get a lot more detail of the on-screen PPAs (of which there were two used). So right now I'm working on the weathering (which progresses as the show continues).

With two on-screen props (which differ quite a bit), I've opted to just focus on the one (but taking weathering patterns from both).
The biggst hurdle however, is the eye piece. What is it even made of?
My assumption is a kit bash, so this will have to be a compeltely custom made piece to resemble the one with the most detail.
PPA Eye Piece.png
The audio board is done and (thanks to a recent re-watch with friends) is now full of every line from the character.

So weathering, sourcing and attaching the two antenna, hinging the 'ear' pieces, and then the eye piece electronics (wired up to the audio board) are all that SHOULD be left.

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