The year 2001 was the third year that Lego released sets based around George Lucas' science fiction fantasy, Star Wars. With the incredible success for the first wave of sets, released in late 1999 to coincide with the release of Episode One The Phantom Menace, Lego's second wave came just over a year later.
There were a total of ten sets released in 2001, and along with regular sets the company also started releasing what it called The Ultimate Collector Series (UCS), larger models that contained more pieces and displayed more details than the standard sets. These UCS sets were sold without minifigures and were designed to be shelf display pieces rather than play sets.
The first two UCS sets were a bust of The Phantom Menace's villain Darth Maul (10018) and a large replica of the iconic original trilogy ship the Tantive IV(10019). Also known as the Rebel Blockade Runner, Princess Leia's starship is the very first vehicle seen in the Star Wars movies (seem in Episode 4 A New Hope) as it flies overhead of the camera view, being pursued by an even larger Star Destroyer. While both Darth Maul and the Tantive IV sold well it is the latter that has earned a place in collector's hearts and is very hard to come by now on the secondary market.
Lego also released two technic based Star Wars sets in 2001, a stormtrooper (8008) and the protocol droid C3PO (8007). Both figures stood about 30 cm tall and had minimal action features. Although Lego released a couple more of these technic figures in later years the line never really took off with collectors and these can still be found for good prices.
The largest regular set released in this year was entitled Watto's Junkyard (7186). With 443 pieces it came with the rare Watto and Aldar Beedo figures that have not come out since this set. Despite the rarity of these two minifigures it had little to recommend it. The next biggest set however remained a popular and sought after set for years after.
The Imperial Shuttle (7166) was very popular with fans and was a nicely accurate representation of the iconic ship from the Original trilogy. The ship also came with two very rare Royal Guard figures that fans clamoured for while the vehicle itself was very playable, large enough to fit figures and nice to fly around the room. The shuttle would come out in two more Lego incarnations in later years.
Smaller sets from 2001 included Droid Escape (7106) which included first appearances of R2-D2 and C3po in minifigure form, an AT-ST (7127) which was a fairly menial design but came with the first Chewbacca figure, a Battle Droid Carrier (7126) and the iconic Tie Fighter (7146) which fans appreciated could match the earlier release of the X-Wing.
2001 was another successful year for Star Wars Lego and paved the way for the 2002 wave which would see the release of double the amount of sets in this franchise, including sets from the latest film, Episode Two Attack Of the Clones.