My first love was Star Wars

My first love was Star Wars
Darth Vader attempts to lure Luke Skywalker to the dark side in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

What child of the 1970’s didn’t love Star Wars?

We saw Episode IV: A New Hope at the cinema when it was just called Star Wars. I grew up in the UK so we had to wait until December 1977, seven months after the US release, to see it. I was just five-years-old, but still remember the scene where the plucky droid R2-D2 is ambushed by Jawas. Utini!

We had Star Wars toys, my first was a Stormtrooper action figure, games in the playground, we all wanted to be Luke Skywalker, and read along books and tapes, I had Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I also collected adaptations of the Marvel Comics stories Droid World, Planet of the Hoojibs and The Ewoks Join The Fight!

The thing that reeled us in as much as George Lucas’s narrative and the galaxy of special effects was composer John Williams’ indelible scores. Once you had heard it for each film you could never forget it. The Star Wars Main Title Princess Leia’s Theme, The Little People Work, Cantina Band, The Last Battle, Throne Room and End Titles are all indelibly etched into pop culture. Then the public psyche had to make way for The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme),  The Battle in the Snow,  Yoda’s Theme,  The Asteroid Field and The Duel.

I’ve bought, and still own, various copies of the classic trilogy’s scores over the years. I recorded the vinyl to cassette tape and promptly wore them out in the gatehouse at Appuldurcombe House, Wroxall, Isle of Wight, where I had apprenticed myself to custodian Peter Wilkinson. Only Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were out in Britain in 1982 so we had a double album and single record to enjoy.

Peter loved classical music so I got away with the many plays of these records, and Peter saw it as a chance to introduce me to the classics. Holst: The Planets Suite, Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture and Vivaldi: The Four Seasons came thick and fast. But we regularly returned to Star Wars.

I was working one day in the ruins, before the Great Hall was re-roofed in 1986, mopping the marble floor. I had smuggled Peter’s cassette recorder down to the house and placed it in the fireplace. There John Williams’ score was booming out. It went quiet for a moment, during the track Land of the Sandpeople, before exploding in a cacophony of percussion. Of course the percussion rang out just as a visitor entered the hall. You would have thought that I had attacked her with a gaderffii stick, the traditional melee weapon of the sandpeople, from the look on her face.

Later I got the scores on CD, special collector’s editions and finally the Star Wars Special Edition releases.

Of course, later, I turned into something of a professional fan. I wrote for Star Wars Magazine, Star Wars Insider, the Star Wars Fact File and Star Wars: Build The Millennium Falcon (that won a Disney innovation award).

I proofed Star Wars actor Michael Sheard’s book, The Memoirs of a Bum Actor, and advised him on its content and style. He played Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back and, more frighteningly, Mr Bronson the deputy head teacher from hell in Grange Hill.

So, I was very excited to learn the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will present the Star Wars:  Film Concert Series in a series of New Zealand venues over coming months.

The Star Wars: Film Concert Series features screenings of the complete films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live to the films. The concerts will be led by NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich.

Fans will be able to experience the scope and grandeur of these beloved Star Warsfilms in a live symphonic concert experience, as the Star Wars: Film Concert Seriesdebuts Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert at Spark Arena in Auckland and Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert at Spark Arena and TSB Arena in Wellington. The schedule is below:

28 April, 1:00pm & 6.30pm TSB Arena, Wellington – The Empire Strikes Back

4 May, 7:00pm Spark Arena, Auckland  – A New Hope

5 May, 4:00pm Spark Arena, Auckland  – The Empire Strikes Back

3 August, 7:00pm, Horncastle Arena – A New Hope

Tickets are on sale now. For more information go to nzso.co.nz/starwars

Maybe I’ll see you there at the Auckland performances? Until then, May the Force be with you!

Watch Chris Gardner’s The Worsleys of Appuldurcombe talk.

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Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 10 – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 10 – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Forget epic series finales, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a very personal story for Team TARDIS.

Under previous showrunners Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffat a series always ended with an epic story often featuring the cybermen or Daleks. But Chris Chibnall is not as predictable as that. Instead he chose to write a much smaller story set in the wake of a battle.

Answering a chorus of distress calls, the Doctor and companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz discover a world which has been the site of a terrible battle. They soon find themselves going up against the alien nasty whose actions in the series opener killed Graham’s wife and Ryan’s nan Grace.

Battle 1

For the Doctor it’s all about helping others who are suffering under Tim Shaw, a nasty who steals the teeth of the people he kills, but for Graham in particular it’s an opportunity for revenge.

The dramatic tension in this episode centres around what Graham, the everyman of this TARDIS team, will do if and when he comes face to face with the alien killer. He tells the Doctor that he will pull the trigger if he comes across Tim Shaw. It’s lovely to see her take her expected stand. Pulling the trigger will make Graham as bad as the episode’s heavy, and he’s much better than that.

While Earth is threatened by Tim Shaw, we don’t see the effects of the story on our home planet. More concerning is what will Graham do?

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a compelling episode that has you caring about the characters Chibnall has written.

It feels like we might have to wait for the New Year’s Special to get something epic for Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor to do.

 

SYNOPSIS

On the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos lie the remains of a brutal battlefield. But as the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan answer nine separate distress calls, they discover the planet holds far more secrets.

Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux? The answers will lead the Doctor and her friends towards a deadly reckoning.

 

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Andinio: Phyllis Logan

Paltraki: Mark Addy

Delph: Percelle Ascott

Umsang: Jan Lee

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Producer: Alex Mercer

Director: Jamie Childs

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Star Wars: Film concert series features John Williams’ iconic scores performed live to film

Star Wars:  Film concert series features John Williams’ iconic scores performed live to film
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo take on the Empire in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Film Concert Series features Composer John Williams’ Complete Scores from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, performed Live to Picture by the NZ Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich.

5 December, 2018 — The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will present the Star Wars:  Film Concert Series featuring screenings of the complete films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live to the films. The concerts will be led by NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich.

Since the release of the first Star Wars movie 41 years ago, the Star Wars saga has had a seismic impact on both cinema and culture, inspiring audiences around the world with its mythic storytelling, captivating characters, groundbreaking special effects and iconic musical scores composed by Williams.

Fans will be able to experience the scope and grandeur of these beloved Star Wars films in a live symphonic concert experience, as the Star Wars: Film Concert Series debuts Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert at Spark Arena in Auckland and Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert at Spark Arena and TSB Arena in Wellington. The schedule is below:

28 April, 1:00pm & 6.30pm TSB Arena, Wellington – The Empire Strikes Back

4 May, 7:00pm Spark Arena, Auckland  – A New Hope

5 May, 4:00pm Spark Arena, Auckland  – The Empire Strikes Back

3 August, 7:00pm, Horncastle Arena – A New Hope

Legendary composer Williams is well known for scoring all eight of the Star Wars saga films, beginning with 1977’s Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) for which he earned an Academy Award for Best Original Score.  His scores for Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi each were nominated for Oscars for Best Original Score.

Williams has won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, and 24 Grammy Awards. With 51 Academy Award nominations, Williams is the Academy’s most nominated living person and the second most-nominated individual in history, after Walt Disney.  In 2005, the American Film Institute selected Williams’ score to 1977’s Star Wars as the greatest American film score of all time. The soundtrack to Star Wars also was preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  Williams was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl’s Hall of Fame in 2000, and he received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004, the National Medal of Arts in 2009, and the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2016.  Williams has composed the scores for eight of the top 20 highest-grossing films at the U.S. box office (adjusted for inflation).

The Star Wars:  Film Concert Series is produced under license by Disney Concerts in association with 20th Century Fox and Warner/Chappell Music.

Tickets go on sale from 9am, Friday, 7 December. For more information go to nzso.co.nz/starwars

STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.

About Disney Concerts

Disney Concerts is the concert production and licensing division of Disney Music Group, the music arm of The Walt Disney Company.  Disney Concerts produces concerts and tours, and licenses Disney music and visual content to symphony orchestras and presenters on a worldwide basis.  Disney Concerts’ concert packages include a variety of formats, such as “live to picture” film concerts and themed instrumental and vocal compilation concerts, and range from instrumental-only symphonic performances to multimedia productions featuring live vocalists and choir.  Current titles include the Star Wars Film Concert Series (Episodes IV-VII), Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Fantasia, Pixar In Concert, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Alice In Wonderland, Frozen, Ratatouille, The Pirates of the Caribbean series (Episodes I-IV), and Silly Symphonies, which last year collectively accounted for over 400 performances in many of the world’s top concert venues, including Lincoln Center, Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Tokyo Forum and the Hollywood Bowl. Numerous new concert packages and touring productions from Disney’s portfolio of studios, including Disney’s feature animation and live action studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel, are currently in development.

Attached: two images from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Images can only be used to refer to Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert.  Credit: © 2018 & ™LUCASFILM LTD. All Rights Reserved © Disney

Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope

Film Synopsis

“The Force is strong with this one…”

Set 30 years after Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: A New Hope, the fourth episode of the saga, returns to the desert planet of Tatooine.  A young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) begins to discover his destiny when, searching for a lost droid, he is saved by reclusive Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness).  A civil war rages in the galaxy, and Rebel forces struggle against the evil Galactic Empire, Luke and Obi-Wan enlist the aid of hotshot pilot, Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Joined by the quirky droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO, the unlikely team sets out to rescue Rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and make use of the stolen plans to destroy the Empire’s ultimate weapon.

In a legendary confrontation, the rogue group mounts an attack against the Death Star for a climactic battle with the evil Sith Lord Darth Vader.

Star Wars Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back

Film Synopsis

“You must feel the Force around you…”

The battle for the galaxy intensifies in this thrilling fifth episode of the unfolding saga. As Imperial Forces launch an all-out attack on the Rebel Alliance, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) flee to Cloud City where they are captured by Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) journeys to the mysterious, marshy planet of Dagobah, where the wise Jedi Master Yoda teaches the young hero the ways of the Force.

Little does Luke know that all his Jedi training will be called upon so soon. A stunning revelation– and a seeming life-or-death duel with Darth Vader– await.

 

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 8 – The Witchfinders

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 8 – The Witchfinders

Every once-in-a-while the Doctor is given some iconic words.

Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker was given hers by The Witchfinders writer Joy Wilkinson.

They came when the Time Lord was trussed up by King James I accused of witchcraft.

“We’re all the same,” the Doctor explains to the monarch. “We want certainty, security. To believe that people are evil, heroic. That’s not how people are.

“You want to know the secrets of existence? Start with the mysteries of the heart. I could show you everything if you stop being afraid of everything you don’t understand. If you trust me.”

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It was a wonderful moment full of truth, at the heart of an otherwise predictable episode.

Team TARDIS arrives in 17th century England in time to see a woman ducked for being a witch.

After warning her companions not to get involved in historical events, the Doctor slips off her coat and dives into the pond to try and save the accused.

Before long the TARDIS team is uncovering evidence of alien involvement, and the Doctor is lumped in with the unearthly and lined up for a ducking herself. That’s when Wilkinson’s wonderful words arrive.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils,” C. S. Lewis wrote. “One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

An excessive and unhealthy interest in the devil is precisely the trap King James I (Alan Cumming) and Lady Becka Savage (Siobhan Finneran) fall into in this story.

It’s interesting to note, however, that director Sallie Aprahamian chose to portray these two characters from opposite ends of the spectrum.

If James I is charming, Becka Savage is charmless. The King is funny, the lady of the manor to be feared. Both showed two sides of the same horrible coin.

It took eight episodes to get predictable, which is pretty good going for a show that turned 55 last Friday.

 

SYNOPSIS

In 17th-century Lancashire, the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham become embroiled in a witch trial and the arrival of King James I.

 

CREDITS

The Doctor – Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien – Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair – Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan – Mandip Gill

King James – Alan Cumming

Becka Savage – Siobhan Finneran

Willa Twiston – Tilly Steele

Old Mother Twiston – Tricia Kelly

Smithy – Arthur Kay

Alfonso – Stavros Demetraki

Writer – Joy Wilkinson

Executive Producer – Matt Strevens

Executive Producer – Chris Chibnall

Series Producer – Nikki Wilson

Director – Sallie Aprahamian

Review – Doctor Who – Series 11 Episode 7 Kerblam!

Review – Doctor Who – Series 11 Episode 7 Kerblam!

Doctor Who has got simpler of late.

When the Doctor received a note asking for help with the delivery of a fez, the sender was expected to be someone who had hung out with the Doctor when he had worn a fez.

The 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) sometimes donned a fez, proclaiming “fez’s are cool”. If Doctor Who was still Stephen Moffat’s wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, show the cry from help would have come from one of the companions who traveled with him when he wore a fez. Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song, or Clara Oswald were the only contenders. Shutting your eyes and wishing really, really, hard during the Moffat era might even have delivered Smith, himself, back to the role to be rescued by the 13th Doctor. Now what a story that would have made.

But Moffat’s, predictably complicated style of story telling is out and Chris Chibnall’s much simpler show is in. Although Doctor Who turns 55 on Friday, it’s not a big anniversary year so multi-Doctor stories are also likely.

Kerblam! is a good, old fashioned, whodunit. Once you’ve figured that out it’s a simple guessing game. Simplicity is the name of the game until someone does something to give the game away.

Kerblam is an intergalactic retailer with an army of  delivery droids who can teleport to the parcels destination. Someone at Kerblam’s distribution centre is in trouble and the Doctor and her companions try to find out who by joining the workforce.

There’s no discussion around how the sender of the message knew to send a fez, Jodie Whittaker looks better in one than Matt Smith did, but one must assume that the Doctor must be a Kerblam customer.

Kerblam! is a whodunit of sorts, who sent the message and why do they need help.

The truth is chilling and more than a little sad.

 

SYNOPSIS

A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer, Kerblam.

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
Graham O’Brien : Bradley Walsh
Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill
Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole
Judy Maddox: Julie Hesmondhalgh
Dan Cooper: Lee Mack
Jarva Slade: Callum Dixon
Kira Arlo: Claudia Jessie
Charlie Duffy: Leo Flanagan
Voice of Kerblam: Matthew Gravelle
Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall
Executive Producer: Matt Strevens
Series Producer : Nikki Wilson
Writer: Pete McTighe
Director: Jennifer Perrott

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 6 – Demons of the Punjab

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 6 – Demons of the Punjab

You can’t judge a book by its cover, the old cliché goes. You can’t judge a Doctor Who episode by its title either.

Demons of the Punjab promises one thing, aliens assumed to be demons in India, but delivers so much more.

Yaz begs the Doctor to take her back in time to her grandmother’s early life in the Punjab, the Partition of India in August, 1947, to be precise. There the TARDIS team stumble upon a pair of alien invaders, Almak and Kisar, whose appearance is interpreted as a demonic curse.

The outworking of writer Vinay Patel’s title is right there, as expected, but Patel is much cleverer than all that.

Demons of the Punjab 2

Yaz’s grandmother is living with a secret in the 21st century, personal demons that are uncovered by Yaz’s trip back in time.

But the real demons of the story are not the aliens, but the differences that push Christians, Hindus and Muslims apart in India and Pakistan and lead to murder.

Like Rosa, just a few weeks ago, Demons of the Punjab passes commentary on the human condition and reminds us just how illogical it can sometimes be.

Like the Series 1 story Father’s Day, in which the ninth Doctor takes Rose back to her father’s death. Demons of the Punjab demonstrates how history sometimes has a certain inevitability to it. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

Every one of the TARDIS team leaves this story with anguish etched into their faces. Even the Doctor can’t interfere.

Apart from the Doctor, Graham is quickly becoming my favourite character. There’s a decency about him that reminds me of the first Doctor’s companion Ian Chesterton.

This episode is one of the triumphs of this series ending, fittingly, with a beautiful Indian inspired version of the theme.

SYNOPSIS

India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as India is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they, and what do they want?

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Nani Umbreen: Leena Dhingra

Umbreen: Amita Suman

Prem: Shane Zaza

Manish: Hamza Jeetooa

Hasna: Shaheen Khan

Najia: Shobna Gulati

Hakim: Ravin J Ganatra

Sonya: Bhavnisha Parmar

Voice of Kisar: Emma Fielding

Performance of Kisar: Nathalie Curzner

Voice of Almak: Isobel Middleton

Performance of Almak: Barbara Fadden

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Writer: Vinay Patel

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 5 – The Tsuranga Conundrum

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 5 – The Tsuranga Conundrum

This week’s episode of Doctor Who was about many things, but it’s overarching message was one of hope.

The Doctor and her companions find themselves aboard a hospital ship after accidentally triggering a sonic mine on a rubbish planet. That’s planet full of rubbish rather than planet that was not very good. The ship, on autopilot, comes under attack from an indestructible foe and the TARDIS team must fight for their lives.

Graham, Ryan and Yaz follows the Doctor’s lead as she comes up with a plan. They do so unflinchingly in this episode. Their adventures on screen, and in between episodes, has turned them into her apprentices. They are becoming more like her. We see that as Yaz teams up with an android to defend the ship’s engine room from a strike, and Graham and Ryan help deliver a baby during the crisis.

In short: it’s a good, old, base-under-siege type story introduced to Doctor Who in Patrick Troughton’s time. The Doctor and companions arrive at some sort of base are trapped as they come under attack from a foe. It was such a popular story device back then that it was repeated many times then and in recent years.

Throughout all of this, the overarching theme is hope and the TARDIS team deliver it to the people they encounter in spades.

The Tsuranga Conundrum 1Deciding on a favourite character, this season, is hard. The Doctor, or Doc as Graham calls her, is as Doctorish as ever. Her first female incarnation seems to have more moments of wide-eyed wonder than her predecessors, and approaches problems with a quiet confidence we haven’t quite seen since Peter Davison handed the keys to the TARDIS to Colin Baker in 1984. Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor!

Graham is turning out to be a loveable lad of a grandfather to Ryan, who in this episode espouses the merits of telling the truth at all times. His relationship with the Doctor is warn, and his constant reaching out to his (step) grandson touching.

Ryan is a complex character. More of his tragic back story is teased out in this story. It makes him relatable. It also makes him strong. The way he steps up and encourages the father of the forthcoming baby to be a Dad who is there for his child is heart-warming.

Yas, in this story anyway, feels like the glue that holds the team together. Doing her bit for Doctor and TARDIS team.

The Tsuranga Conundrum, like other episodes of Series 11, is so much more than the sum of its parts. Brilliant.

SYNOPSIS

Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s most deadly – and unusual – creatures.

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien : Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Astos: Brett Goldstein

Mabli: Lois Chimimba

Eve Cicero: Suzanne Packer

Durkas Cicero:   Ben Bailey-Smith

Ronan:  David Shields

Yoss Inkl: Jack Shalloo

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Writer:  Chris Chibnall