The Inner Life of the Star Wars Fan circa 1981

I’m currently engaged in a major clean out of my apartment to make it suitable for visits by human beings who aren’t absent minded hoarders. This has resulted in the turning up all kinds of treasures that I knew were in here somewhere but hadn’t actually seen for going on 20 years – one of which is the April 1981 issue of Fantastic Films: The Magazine of Imaginative Media.

If you’re a Star Wars fan you will realise that this date is signifigant, as it falls after the release of The Empire Strikes Back, but before the release of Return of the Jedi. This means that the sci-fi fans of the era were dealing with a number of epic cliff hangers – Han and Leia have confessed their love, Han has been frozen in Carbonite and taken away by the mysterious Boba Fett, Vader has made the spectacular claim of being Luke’s father, and there’s a mysterious ‘other’ who may save the day if Luke fails.

Of course we know the outcome to all of these. Han and Leia get together, Luke rescues Han, Boba Fett is just this guy, Vader actually is Luke’s father, and the other is Leia, who is actually Luke’s sister. But fans in 1981 knew none of this, so rumours, theories and speculation abounded.

The World Wide Web being 12 years in the future, the main place that these theories were discussed were in the articles and letters pages sci-fi magazines. And the letters page of Fantastic Films Vol 3 Number 8 contains a doozie of a letter penned by one Mary Jean Holmes of Milwaukee Wisconsin, responding to an earlier article speculating on how the Star Wars saga would conclude. It’s a fascinating look at the state of the fandom in between the movies, so I’ve decided to transcribe it here.

(I am doing this completely without permission and will happily remove the letter if anyone involved with it objects)

Mary Jean Holmes
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Fantastic Films, Vol 3, Number 8, April 1981

Recently, I read Bill Hayes’ article speculating upon possible turns of plot in the upcoming Revenge of the Jedi 1, and had several strong reactions. Although I find his idea of Boba Fett working as an agent in [sic] behalf of the supposedly defunct Jedi intriguing (somehow, one lone knight wouldn’t seem enough to warrant calling an entire film Revenge of the Jedi), I also find some of Master Hayes’ arguments or speculations don’t hold proverbial water.

First off, if he’s going to bother to use quotes at all, he should get them and their sources right. The reference he makes to slavery is from Brian Daley (not Davey)’s Han Solo’s Revenge, not Han Solo at Star (not World)’s End.

The business about Jesus Christ clones is utterly ridiculous, as well as inapplicable to the SW universe. It’s a galaxy far, far away, remember? I’m quite tired of hearing stuff about Christ-figures in various stories. Granted, Ben-Kenobi might be Christ-like, but a Jesus clone he is not. (Jesus Eugenics Development Institute!2 Really!)

There is also the thought that “Obi-wan Kenobi” translated from (I believe) Japanese means more or less “The One with the force” to consider3.

Actually, musing over the idea of Boba Fett as the Other, I came up with a radically different conclusion.

If Fett really has been chasing around the galaxy, pursuing and supposedly destroying Jedi, but in reality collecting them at some undisclosed location for future use, I might buy the assumption. There is support, remember, Vader turned quite pointedly to Fett and said, “No disintegration.”4 Obviously, the man has a reputation for vaporizing his quarry. Perhaps he has been pretending to do so in order to keep them alive.

There seems to be no contradictions to this, except for two fairly minor items: 1.) The Wookiee scalps , which might be fakes he carries around to keep nosy people from looking too closely at him. 2.) The fact that he attempted to shoot Chewie in the carbon freezing room. You can argue off the shot at Luke as a warning, but we don’t know that he was thinking only of warning Chewie. Granted, Vader did stop him, which, if he is conversant with the Force, he might have predicted. Or perhaps he isn’t interested in either Chewie or Leia. But the fact that he tried is a touch disconcerting, especially if you accept the theory that Fett is a good guy working in disguise.5

Even so, one wonders what the blazes he’d want with Han, other than a legitimate bounty to keep the Jedi farm going.

There are theories running around that postulate Han as the Other, arguments with considerable support (if there’s really no such thing as luck, what’s been keeping him alive? Leia might have received Luke’s thought, but how did Han manage to find one half-frozen person in all that wasteland with a malfunctioning sensor? Things like that.) Oddly, we found that the two suppositions don’t necessarily negate one another; to a point, they are mutually supportive. The Other Hope, after all, doesn’t have to be a single person. No one ever said that it was.

But the notion of Fett as Luke’s father is one I simply can’t buy. I’d sooner believe Vader.6 The thought of Luke as a clone is interesting; it manages to keep all the projected tales within the collective title “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker”.7 But how many would there be running around the galaxy? There is support in Luke’s case in novelization of Star Wars: “. . . piloting and navigation aren’t hereditary, but a number of things that can combine to make a good small-ship pilot are. Those you may have inherited. Still, even a duck has to be taught to swim.” Of course, if such things are hereditary, one might wonder if that means Han is a Skywalker progeny as well . . . but that’s off the subject.

The Millennium Falcon was made by the Jedi, huh? That’s a cute idea and obliquely supportable. The business of comparing the word “millennium” and the thousand generation dominancy [sic] of Jedi in the Republic never occurred to me before; the response to Solo’s “You mean you’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?” (“Kenobi appeared amused”) did. There’s also Threepio’s complaint in TESB: “I don’t know where your ship learned to communicate, but it has the most peculiar dialect,” which lends certain credence to odd beginnings for the smuggling ship.

One wonders, however, that if the Falcon was just as fast when Lando owned her as she is now, why Han would lie about having modified her. A boast, perhaps, but one that could easily be caught by their mutual cohorts. A friend suggests the notion that, if she were originally of Jedi-construct, it was another manifestation of the Force (perhaps manipulated by Solo himself, unconsciously) that he merely repaired damage done to her by previous owners. In other words, he simply put it back the way it was supposed to be.

I’ve joked since first reading TESB8 that Jabba would prop up the frozen Han in a corner of his office as a warning to any future employees who might consider welching out on debts9. I’ve never considered it more that a joke. I won’t be the least bit surprised if Han and Boba never make it to Tatooine; it would seem a bit too easy, plot-wise, if Chewie and Co. have no trouble in locating their frozen friend.

Also: Where does Mr. Hayes get this “pirate fleet” nonsense from? From all indications, Jabba employed independent pilots to smuggle for him, not a full-fledged fleet. Any pirate in his right mind would be leery of running in too large a pack; there may be safety in numbers, but the bigger the target, the easier it is to find and hit. Not only that: Han may really be a soft touch, an idealist at heart, but I sincerely doubt that many of Jabba’s cohorts are. The notion of them working in and as a formal government seems not only absurd, but highly unlikely . How many criminals can turn over new leaves so suddenly?10

So Luke hasn’t been offered anything he wants by the Dark Side, eh? Bantha droppings! He most certainly has: revenge, a means of getting back at Vader for what he’s done to him, his family, and his friends. “Don’t give in to hate,” Ben warned. He knew, undoubtedly, that the temptation for Luke to use the Force for vengeance would be great. It still is at the end of TESB. He not only has the deaths of his family and Ben to get restitution for, but the torture of his friends and the possible death of one as well. I admit that he may still want Leia11, but he didn’t seem quite as crushed as Mr. Hayes thinks. “He understood what she was feeling . . .” The disappointment is obvious. The sadness is evident. But the key is that he understood. I find this apparent maturity most important since, by his ability to handle this personal loss, Luke displays that he has, indeed, grown and learned. In losing to Vader, he learned to accept failure, and also realized that he cannot allow it to keep him from pursuing his initial goals. That same maturity might also keep him from pressing a potential romance with Leia. I would like to think that Leia is stubborn enough to remain firm in her choice, now that it’s been made; I would also like to think that Luke’s relationship with Han was sufficiently close to keep him from actually interfering with Leia’s freely made choice.12

Besides, if Luke really wanted Leia13, and really wanted her to love him14, mightn’t it be easiest if he just went about convincing her that Han is dead?

Oh, well. It’s all speculation. I’ve heard more pet ideas on the subject than I care to count. Only time and George Lucas will tell; in this I fully agree with Mr. Hayes: Three years is too long.

1: Revenge of the Jedi was the original name for epis0ode 6 before George Lucas decided that revenge was an unsuitable motivation for a Jedi
2: Jesus Eugenics Development Institute = JEDI, get it?
3: This was an apparently a common rumour but is untrue. “Obi-wan Kenobi” could perhaps be understood as “Sash-woof Sword-Sash” in very bad Japanese.
4: Actually “No disintegrations“, but potato potahto.
5: Spoiler – he’s not
6: Yeah, follow that instinct…
7: The novelisation of Episode IV was originally published as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker. It was released in 1976, several months before the movie and credited to George Lucas, although it was actually ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster.
8: The novelisation of The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut was released in 1980, a month or so before the premiere of the film.
9: Oddly prescient there…
10: It would be fascinating to know what Bill Hayes was proposing here. Jabba running a pirate fleet who turn into a government?
11: Pull up! Pull up!
12: Man was that section rough, knowing what we know.
13: Stop it!!
14: I said STOP!!

So there we have it! Obi-wan as a clone of Jesus, Boba Fett collecting Jedi, the Millennium Falcon as a secret Jedi super-ship and more uncomfortable speculation about Luke and Leia than you can poke a banjo at. Fascinating stuff, and a very nice use of colons and semi-colons, the likes of which is rarely seen in this fallen age. May the Force be with you!

Sleep Deprived Updates

Barely survived the first heatwave of summer. Not that it’s technically summer here until the end of the week. Thank you climate change!

The heatwave lead to sleep deprivation which lead to an odd obsession with Mike Batt’s musical version of The Hunting of the Snark. It’s very good but I’ve listened to it far too many times over the last week, to the point that I’m mentally throwing around casting choices and mumbling fragments of verse under my breath. “But at first sight, the crew, were not pleased by the view, which consisted of chasms and crags…”

This caused me to dig out my copy of the poem – purchased on a whim from Elizabeth’s bookstore in Subiaco in its old location out the back of the markets in around 1990 – and discovering that it’s one of only 1,995 collector copies of the Centennial Edition, published in 1981. I hopped online to check out the value and it’s worth about $100 in good nick – not that mine is in particularly good nick, and I wouldn’t consider selling it anyway. But it’s nice to know that it’s somewhat exclusive.

I’ve also become obsessed with building a 40k scale model of the epic Siegfried Light Tank. I’ve scoured the internet for photos (there ain’t many) and have managed to get a design together for every part of it except the back. I rather suspect I may have to buy one on eBay which while not massively expensive is still a bit of an investment for a tiny piece of metal. And for a model that – if history is any judge – I’ll never get finished. Although maybe if I spend money on it it’ll actually motivate me to finish it. Hmmmm. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Oh, and over the weekend when I was supposed to be getting other stuff done I did an update of my Warhammer 40,000 according to the Simpsons bit of nonsense. The current version is revision 4, but I’m already thinking I need to add the Men of Iron, and know exactly what screenshot to use. In any case here ’tis for your edification and enjoyment.

Warhammer 40,000 According to the Simpsons
Need to add those Men of Iron…

Now that things have cooled down, maybe I’ll be able to get some sleep. I wouldn’t count on it mind you…

No, I DON’T know you!

Today the Scarred for Life Twitter account (@ScarredForLife2) alerted me to the existence of this 1973 TV advertisement for the UK’s Vauxhall Motor Company.

I can’t (between bouts of horrified weeping) but wonder if this… “character” shall we say, had an influence of the Owlman sightings that started three years later at Mawnan Old Church in Cornwall. Compare the following drawings by witnesses…

For the record I find the eagle owl hypothesis fairly convincing, but seeing things like… that… on TV could well have an effect when confronted by something large, scary and bird like.

The Lord President can do Whatever he Damn Well Pleases

Andy Bell, Lord President of Gallifrey

I was quite startled this week to discover that Erasure’s synthpop classic about Timelord on Dæmon violence in a Chinese garden – Always – was not recorded as I assumed in about 1983, but over a decade later in 1994 when I was apparently so confounded by my first year at university that it completely passed me by.

I could make some snide comments about being behind the times, but when you consider some of the other music being released in the early to mid 90s, determinedly clinging to the styles of the 80s seems quite sensible. Also they threw a bar of 5/4 time in there which is the kind of tricksy musical tomfoolery I’ll always support.

Temperatures plummet when the giant Dæmon appears. This makes perfect sense if you’ve watched episodes 21 to 26 of Season 8 of the original Doctor Who
The Lord President of Gallifrey can’t fly? The Lord President of Gallifrey can do whatever he damn well pleases!

Family and Friends and Nuclear Apocalypse

White people in a white room…

At 80’s end did Channel 9,
A brand new drama show decree,
With plots to rival Ramsey Street,
Knock Summer Bay from off its seat,
Atop the ratings tree,
And there was Abigail there, and Rachael Beck,
And Alyce Platt to act did try,
And starlets eyeing record cheques,
To catch the viewing public’s eye…

Back in the year 1990 Australia’s Nine Network was getting a bit miffed about rival TV stations capturing all the ratings with their popular soap operas Neighbours (Channel 10) and Home and Away (Channel 7). So they did the only logical thing and decided to launch their own soap, a saga about rival Anglo and Italian Australian families with a Romeo and Juliet style forbidden romance named Family and Friends.

(Channel 10 also had E Street, but more about that later)

The advertisements for Family and Friends mostly consisted of the cast standing in a white room gurning at the camera, but they managed to capture my attention nonetheless by the simple expedient of playing Kate Ceberano’s Brave over the top, which was – and still is – a fantastic song, as you discover for yourself below.

They did not of course incline me to watch the show, teenaged me having far more interesting things to do with my time, and it seems their effect was similarly poor on the rest of the Australian population as the series turned out to be a ratings disaster, surviving only three months before being axed – its cast dispersing to roles on its rival soaps and leaving the saga of the Rossi and Chandler families forever incomplete.

This impressively stark failure however sparked an idea in my mind, an idea that has lurked in the deepest caverns of my memory for over 30 years. An example of what the young people today would refer to as ‘trolling’ although back in the ancient days of the 90s we would have simply called ‘a prank’, and it is this idea I share with you today.

Create a brand new soap. Hire staff and writers and a cast, get production underway, and start a major advertising campaign about the hottest new drama series to hit the airwaves – possibly using a Kate Ceberano song to catch people’s attention if you think that’ll help.

Premiere the series and let it run with the standard kinds of plots you find on the streets of Erinsborough or the sands of Summer Bay. Build up an audience (hopefully) and get established as a part of the TV landscape.

Then after four or five months, with absolutely no warning, have – in the space of a single episode – World War III break out, the town get nuked and everyone die, followed by an announcement that that was the last ever episode.

Yes, it would be an incredibly expensive prank to pull, and – particularly in our modern age – difficult to keep a lid on before it happened, but can you imagine peoples’ reactions? The viewers’ heads would implode!

Anyway, the reason I mention all of this is because I recently became aware of the final episode of British TV series Byker Grove, a teen drama set in the northern English city of Newcastle, which finished up in 2006.

This man is a Geordie

(I was vaguely aware of Byker Grove prior to this thanks to occasional online references to the startling facial hair of one of the characters, but couldn’t have told you anything else about it. Oh, and it’s apparently the origin of Ant and Dec, who I understand are like a British version of Hamish and Andy, and equally as annoying, for whatever that’s worth.)

Anyway, it seems that someone at the Byker Grove production offices back in 2006 was having thoughts about TV finales similar to my own, as the final episode of the show featured the cast realising that they’re characters on a fictional TV show, an attack by a tyranosaurus rex, a Neverending Story style nothingness consuming the world, and a last ditch “save the youth club from the developers” plot which culminates in said youth club blowing up, killing everyone who hadn’t yet been eaten by the dinosaur or consumed by the void. Now THAT’s television!

I don’t think anything on Australian TV has ever come close to that level of blatant and wonderful insanity, although the final couple of seasons of the aforementioned E Street had their moments (see, I said we’d come back to it). In an attempt to prop up falling ratings the writers introduced such elements as werewolves, angels and a psychic serial killer named “Mr Bad” – which shamefully just isn’t the kind of thing you see in Neighbours these days. I mean what’s Harold up to? Is he even still in the show? Could they bring him back as a Vampire? Now that would get me watching!

And to finish off with here’s the song Wait by Gyan which I include because it came out about the same time as Kate Ceberano’s Brave and I always used to get the two confused, and it’s a great song, and I have no other idea how to end this post.

Close Bitnami banner