Review: Star Wars A New Hope In Concert

Review: Star Wars A New Hope In Concert

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra was a musical force to be reckoned with at Star Wars A New Hope in Concert.

It took the orchestra just two hours and five minutes on Saturday night to accomplish what took composer John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra eight days in 1977. The NZSO performed the entire score for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope as the 1997 Special Edition of the film played on a bantha-sized screen at the Spark Arena, Auckland. Williams’ score was recorded at Anvil Studios in Denham, England on March 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 and 16.

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power,” explains Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker upon their first meeting in Luke’s memory. “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Old Obi-Wan could just as easily have been talking about the film’s score as performed by the NZSO. For on Saturday, May 4, 2019, this is exactly what the orchestra did with Williams’ score.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo take on the Empire in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

The moment the audience was surrounded and penetrated by the NZSO belting out the Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare audience members were bound together with the orchestra. It was evident with the unified whoops of joy. The audience laughed as one at the bickering droids, expressed sympathy for R2-D2 when he was captured by jawas, cringed at Luke Skywalker’s attempt to shirk work, jumped out of their seats with the attack of the sand people, and on and on it went to the edge of the seat concluding space battle. It was truly amazing how the NZSO managed to turn the 42-year-old film, which I’d wager most of the audience knew inside out, into something seemingly new and fresh.

There were times throughout the night where the NZSO sounded exactly like the recording of Williams’ conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. There were also times where there were subtle differences that only a fan who has been listening to the original soundtrack recording since 1977 would notice. Fifteen seconds into The Princess Appears, for example, there’s an imperfection in the 1977 LP recording that was not reproduced on Saturday night. I bet no one else noticed!

Sometimes it was hard to make out the dialogue because of the music but this wasn’t really a problem as Star Wars owner Disney allowed for that and included subtitles with the print of the film.

Most of the time was entirely possible to forget the music was being performed live, below the cinema screen. But there were a few moments when it wasn’t. Occasionally conductor Hamish Mckeich’s conducting drew the eye, especially in the seconds leading up to the intermission when the Millennium Falcon was captured by the Death Star. It was a joy to behold.

Last night my daughter and I drove 125km, from Hamilton to Auckland, to hear a film soundtrack that I have listened to more than a thousand times performed live to a film I have seen hundreds of times. It was well worth it. I would do it again next year! It was so good that most of the audience remained seated and sat through the credits until the end. What a way to celebrate Star Wars Day!



Doctor Who Fan Art Competition announced

Doctor Who Fan Art Competition announced

TARDISDoctor Who fans are being given an opportunity to see their own art on a Doctor Who T-shirt.

A limited quantity of the winning Doctor Who fan art design will be available for purchase at the BBC America booth at the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con.

Entrants must create artwork that shows the TARDIS and their favourite Doctor, but the work cannot contain other Doctors, companions or adversaries from the long-running television show.

The competition opens on April 17, 2019 at 10pm AEST and closes on May 15,2019 at 10pm AEST.

A panel of judges will select one grand prize winner and four runner-up artists.

The grand prize winner and a guest will receive an exclusive Doctor Who-themed weekend trip to London, which includes:

  • Two nights accommodation and return economy flights from a major airport near the winner’s residence to London, UK
  • Special afternoon tea for two
  • Doctor Who Escape Room activity in Reading, England
  • Exclusive private screening of the fan’s favourite Doctor Who episode
  • Having their artwork printed on limited-edition Doctor Who merchandise sold at San Diego Comic-Con
  • Receiving a goody bag including iconic Doctor Who merchandise valued at approximately $950 (AUD)

The competition is open to legal residents of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), who at the time of entry are at least 18 years of age, or the legal age of majority in the jurisdiction in which they reside (whichever is higher). The grand prize winner and four finalists will be revealed at the BBC America booth during San Diego Comic-Con in July.

Refer to the terms and conditions at for more details.

Links to Official Doctor Who Social Media:

Blu-ray Review – Doctor Who – The Complete Eleventh Series

Blu-ray Review – Doctor Who – The Complete Eleventh Series

Blu-ray Review – Doctor Who – The Complete Eleventh Series

The naysayers are wrong.

Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the Doctor was a remarkable success.

“Overall, Jodi Whittaker’s first series averaged an impressive 7.96 million viewers per week across all platforms,” wrote Tom Spilsbury in the February 2019 issue of Doctor Who Magazine.

“This year’s run of episodes couldn’t quite achieve the highest average of any Doctor Who series this century. The 2008 run still remains the one to beat, with an average of 8.05 million per week.”

In other words new Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chinbnall’s Series 11, starring Whittaker as the first female regeneration of the Doctor, almost beat Russell T Davies’ Series 4, starring David Tennant as the tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as his companion Donna Noble.

Doctor Who The Complete Eleventh Series was the first the whole Gardner family has sat down and watched together and we a loved it.

“I think Jodie is good,” said my eight-year-old son. “She’s different to the other doctors! She is the first woman. I didn’t mind her being a woman. Series 11 is full of new monsters, not Daleks or Weeping Angels like before. We are having a year off  from Doctor Who, Series 12 is coming in 2020, and that’s upsetting.”

My 11-year-old thought Jodie was “good enough” and her first series was “wacky”.

“Jodie is too good for words,” said my 13-year-old son. “She’s just amazing. She’s funny but does it in a subtle way, like when she said ‘can we have the lights and sirens on’ in The Woman Who Fell to Earth.

“Series 11 was an amazing series. All the episodes are really complex and they’re smart. Brilliantly, at the start of the first episode, Ryan is talking about the greatest woman he ever met and you think he’s talking about the Doctor but in the last few minutes it clicks that he was talking about his grandmother Grace.”

For my wife and I, it certainly felt like the Doctor Who cast and crew had ramped things up for Whittaker’s first year.

Every episode felt like a mini-movie, with stellar production values.

At the same time, it felt like Doctor Who had returned to its original, 1963, mission statement in delivering educational time travel stories packed with the truth.

Episodes 3, 6 and 8, Rosa, Demons of the Punjab and The Witchfinders, did just this as they encountered the ugliest of racism in the Deep South of the US in 1955, the Partition of Indian in 1947 and become embroiled in a witch trial.

We particularly enjoyed the new “Team TARDIS” dynamic the Doctor at first described as “my fam”.

The Doctor is the as down to earth as he/she has ever been. Everyone gets a say and everyone is heard. Whittaker proves that she is every bit the Doctor as her predecessors. Never cruel. Never cowardly. Never giving up, never giving in.

Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) and his ‘grandson’ Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) certainly ride an emotional roller coaster.

The Complete Eleventh Series Blu-ray release includes 10 five-minute Closer Looks documentaries. Each relates to one of the 10 episodes. As well as sharing some of the creative processes, these demonstrate what fun the cast and crew had making this series.

There’s also a few short and sweet video diaries made by the cast, but nothing extensive.

There are deeper documentaries: Becoming the Doctor, Regenerating Doctor Who, Directing Doctor Who, Friends of the Doctor, Everything You Need to Know about the New TARDIS, Making the Theme Tune and Best of Social. These have a combined running time of about an hour.

Jodie’s description of her suspiciously Star Trek looking earing, and the colour scheme of her costumes, is particularly illuminating. The earing symbolises the Doctor reaching out to humanity, the costume the colours of the cosmos and the suffragettes.

Something funny is going on with this release too. The audio navigation for Blu-ray Discs 1 and 3 announce that they are lower resolution DVDs, while Discs 2 and 4 are described correctly as Blu-ray.

At its heart Series Thirteen is still about what Doctor Who is always about, a time-travelling alien travelling the universe with friends in a time ship disguised as a police box writing wrongs.

With a vorp, vorp the eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS materialised, bringing hope to all who heard it.

The Blu-ray release also comes with four beautiful art cards.

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 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

Tickets are on sale now. For more information go to

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.

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.



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.



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

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.”


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.



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



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