Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How I missed the "Star Wars" boat

I came to "Star Trek" fandom, and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", having purposely avoided the first "Star Wars" phenomenon.

I remember the huge level of fuss about the coming of "Star Wars": six full months of hearing how it had been a monster hit in the USA, the news reports of lines of fans going around blocks outside any cinemas screening it, and - much later - even the sign that eventually went up outside the Sydney cinema screening it, which read "Our 14th big month!"

Somehow, I also avoided "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", too. (And later, "ET: The Extraterrestrial".) I guess I avoided the first SW due mainly to its hype, and yet I was attracted by publicity for other biggies like "Superman: The Movie", "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (oh wow!!!!!) - and then "Superman II" (a full six months before it premiered in the US).

As a result of TMP, I also got hooked on the then-quite-fledgling "Starlog" magazine. After reading lots of related articles, I eagerly attended "The Empire Strikes Back" in first-run (without having seen "A New Hope"). A friend and I even attended "Return of the Jedi" as Andorians! What fun! Silly film, but the atmosphere of the opening night was great.

It was the "Star Trek" film franchise which continued to be my fandom of choice, and catching up on TOS was a great challenge in the early 80s. The episodes weren't screening on TV, and I had to catch five new adventures at a time, at Saturday Star Trek marathons held at the old ANZAC House in the CBD. (Originally they showed six episodes per month, but I was working in my Dad's bread shop in 1980, and I'd arrive in the city partway through the second episode of each marathon.)

I had no initial comparison between SW and TMP whatsoever. Even though I did enjoy the first two SW very much, and the total ridiculousness that was "Jedi" (still a fun night at the cinema, though), I'd already been enchanted by TMP. I was 21. TMP spoke to me. It was an all-immersing experience. "Star Wars" - even "Star Wars pre-publicity - didn't speak to me; it was just a fun movie I eventually caught on television.

Once I'd found ST fandom in 1980, and caught up on every TOS episode I'd missed, I was part of a large group who went to first night openings of anything science fictiony. With "Star Wars", I'd kinda missed the boat. I was 19, in my first year at teachers college, studying hard, and firmly believed that one ever never went to the cinema alone. Most of my college friends were mature age students, and "Star Wars" never really rated a mention with them.

I've never really even checked the date before: according to IMDb, SW premiered Down Under on 27 October 1977. My family had just moved house, and I was deep into my first practicum as a student teacher: a class of 43 Kindergarten children. Lots of long commuting by public transport, and weekends spent making teaching aids and writing lesson plans. Wrong tme to discover a new SF franchise.

TMP, on the other hand, had premiered the week after my college course finished - and I was a free man! Its gala sneak preview had been a few days before my 21st birthday, and old school friends had been to that screening and couldn't stop talking about it the night of my party. I was inspired!

So much is in the timing, isn't it?

And, as for the SW revival: I had very much enjoyed the theatrical re-release of the first trilogy with their new prints, and new CGI and bonus scenes added. But then came "Episode One: The Phantom Menace". I was there, at a midnight screening (reading a "Star Trek" novel waiting for the curtain to rise).

Ugh! I loathed that movie. From the opening banner scroll that mentioned politics and trade routes, it was s tedious. Ick. "The Phantom Menace" was a mess! Give me "Star Trek" any day.

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture":
I felt like I was in that movie. Hence my first
fanfic featured one Therin of Andor.

(Drawing by Kamu; reprinted with permission.)


De said...

I guess it's confession time: I was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid. Hay-uge. Had the action figures, the storybooks, the bed sheets, you name it.

I didn't really get into Trek until high school. TNG was okay, but it wasn't until the local station began airing repeats of TOS every night that I became Hooked (with a capital H). A love that hasn't waned much since those halcyon days of acne spots and gym class.

I still mostly enjoy Star Wars, but if I'm not quite in the mood for Trek (blasphemy I know), I'm more likely to pull out one of the Planet of the Apes films than a Star Wars film.

Therin of Andor said...

Thanks De! A lot of people can't believe I managed to miss both TOS and "Star Wars".

My grandmother owned the only (b/w) TV in the house in the 60s, and my younger brothers and I watched what she watched. Although we were allowed to see shows like "Batman", "Please Don't Eat the Daisies", "The Doris Day Show", "Captain Nice", "Mr Terrific" and "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" - in glorious b/w - on a Sunday night (if we were very well behaved), she must have watched something else whenever ST was on. (I caught a few TAS in b/w on Saturday mornings, though).

Color TV came to Australia in late 1975, and we got about ten TOS ep repeats to celebrate. TAS was also repeated - during midweek breakfast TV, but I missed many of them, although caught a few I'd previously seen in b/w, which was... fascinating.

But my knowledge of TOS was extremely sketchy. The Roddenberry novelization, then soundtrack, and then actual movie of ST:TMP, just blew me away!

Plainswell said...

I'm surprised you didn't pick up on any of my Star Wars enthusiasm at the time. My first knowledge of the coming Star Wars was a two page colour spread in a magazine. The pictures looked so completely miles ahead of anything that wasn't '2001: A Space Odyssey' I was beside myself with anticipation!

I bought the double LP of the soundtrack (which contained heaps more supercool pictures - you know - the ones you can't squeeze into a CD box :-) and I was in a heaven of self hyping.

My first wife Jeannette (you probably met her at some point) and I, saw 'Star Wars' six times between release and that year's New Year's Eve (the theatre was less than full that night - we sprawled in the middle of the front row with the nearest other person 6 rows back. Bliss!

I vowed I'd get to work on one of the 8 projected remaining Star Wars films. Well, I did get to work in television/video for 20 years, but that SW goal remained unrealised.

Yes 'Phantom Menace' was crap. The last two films were significantly better, but it was too little too late...


Therin of Andor said...

Hi Peter,

Yeah, I can't pin down why I resisted the initial "Star Wars" movie so decidedly.

I'd quite forgotten you were such a "Star Wars" buff, but now that I recall, I do remember writing to you, back and forth, about ST:TMP when you were in Wagga, so I must have known you had the interested in SF movies.

I remember I ran into three teachers from my old high school one day, during the run of ST:TMP, and realised that they'd all been unlikely SW repeat-customer/groupies looking for a new SF movie in which to plant their flags while awaiting "The Empire Strikes Back". (TMP was a great disappointment to them, by comparison, I'd guess.) They mentioned how they had to take the only available seats in the front row of the first SW one night, and from then on headed for those seats every time.

Somehow, I just resisted SW, but I did try out their front row trick for my next few ST movie viewings!