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Friday, 8 December 2017

Episode Nothing: the blog about Star Wars in the 1970s is back

Star Wars the first time around, in 1977

It's been a while, but we're back. 

Episode Nothing, the site about the original, unaltered, 1977 Star Wars, and its first release, has returned, with plenty to say about the movie 40 years on.

If you've been here before, welcome back, and please read on for some details of what's coming up. If you're new, here's what it's all about. 

Star Wars as it was in 1977 – the first time around

Star Wars excitement in 1977

When I started blogging here in 2013, I was very well aware that there were already far more words written about Star Wars than any sane person would want to read.

But it seemed to me that there was one obvious subject that was not written about as often as you might think.

It was simply this: The experience of watching Star Wars the first time around. The way it was in 1977. (Or, in many parts of the world, 1978.)

The sequels, the prequels, the "expanded universe", the fan fiction, all had their devoted followings. But all that threatened to eclipse the fact that Star Wars was also the name of a film. An individual film that wasn't originally Episode IV of anything. A film that was limited by the conventions and technology of its time, but which was also unlike anything that the kids of the 1970s had seen before.

Even its creator, George Lucas, seemed to be busy trying to obscure the fact that Star Wars was a film of 1977. 

The addition of the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope was just an early example of the tinkering that the film's writer-director would indulge in over the years. In 1997, he grafted on some CGI technology, and subsequent releases on DVD and Blu-ray contained still more changes. 

The intention was to make the movie consistent with subsequent episodes. But for me, and many others, the tweaks seemed dishonest. They smacked of a futile effort to deny the film's 1970s origins. And they were a distraction from the imperfect but brilliant movie we had seen originally. 

So, Episode Nothing is largely about considering Star Wars as a film of the 1970s.

You might ask why the 1970s matter to an understanding of Star Wars. Isn't a great movie timeless? How much do we need to know about the world of 1938 to appreciate The Adventures of Robin Hood? Would Casablanca be any less great if we didn't know what year it was made?

Fair point. But the better you understand into the world into which Star Wars was released forty years ago, I think, the more you appreciate and admire it.

Star Wars on first release

The Star Wars cast in a 1977 poster

Of course, Star Wars was never just a movie, even in the 1970s.

It was also the biggest pop culture phenomenon since the Beatles 
 and possibly ever. 

Lots of people will tell you that it ushered in the summer blockbusters that we know today, and that it changed the world of movie marketing and merchandising. That's all true, but it isn't the whole story.

Star Wars may have been cannily marketed, and its release certainly gave rise to a huge wave of toys, mementos and collectables, but there was more to it than that.

At the centre of all that hullabaloo was a great movie – something so fresh and exciting that people couldn't resist it. Millions became lifelong fans, while millions more just enjoyed it as two of the most exciting hours they'd spent in a cinema in ages.

The genuine excitement about the movie drove all that merchandising, rather than the other way around. Star Wars was a phenomenon you couldn't ignore, sweeping its way through the public consciousness so that it became referenced, pastiched and parodied everywhere. Even if you hadn't seen it, you could hardly avoid knowing a fair amount about it.

It's that sense of Star Wars as a unique popular even that I've been eager to write about here.

What's coming up at Episode Nothing

A Star Wars teaser ad from 1977

I've taken a break from blogging (largely because of the traditional other commitments), and I decided that I wouldn't resume until I had a bank of good material ready to use.
  • Next week, to coincide with what is due to be Dave Prowse's last public appearance, I'm going to look at the man who was Darth Vader – and consider what he brought to Star Wars that another actor might not have. 
  • In the coming weeks, I'll look at how Star Wars spread around the US over the summer of 1977, before crossing the Atlantic. 
  • I'll recall some other phenomena of 1970s culture that were suddenly pushed aside by this amazing new movie.
  • I'll consider some of the underappreciated people in the Star Wars story. 
  • I'll survey some other key movies of 1977 and how they compared (or didn't) with Star Wars
  • I'll look at a great new book that considers the Star Wars experience in the UK, the country where it was made. 
  • And I'll ponder what hope there might be of ever seeing Star Wars the way so many of us want to  in a high quality presentation of the original, 1977 film. 

Stick with me, follow Episode Nothing on Facebook and Twitter, and comment below. I'd love to hear your Star Wars memories and read suggestions for subjects you'd like me to cover. 

Here's where the fun begins.


Harrod said...

Welcome back! The world has forgotten what it was like when the overwhelming majority of the Star Wars galaxy was dark, unexplored corners. When Darth Vader could be anyone, or anything. And when many, many more Star Wars movies were presumably coming rather than announced just after a successful opening weekend. When there was no internet, and speculation about the attendant mysteries of Star Wars was done on the school bus and in fan magazines which arrived eventually. When the future was a blank slate, and we had our imaginations to fill in the gaps, carrying around our own private sequels informed by our own neuroses and preoccupations. Episode V was audacious and artful enough to wipe most of those self-imagined sequels from our memories. Who can place a value on the loss?

Bring it back! Bring it ALL back!

Rory Cobb said...

Oh I am SO glad you are back and well! I feared something dreadful had happened! I look forward to continued visitng and reliving that special time from long ago!

Darren Slade said...

Thanks so much Harrod & Rory for the comments -- and posted so quickly, even though I hadn't blogged for nearly a year!

Harrod, your vivid description of that era has made me consider writing a blog post about the things that we thought might happen in a Star Wars sequel. Some of the obvious ones (meeting Jabba, a second Death Star) didn't happen in Empire, but did happen in Jedi!

John White said...

Great to see you back!
Yours is the primary Star Wars content I read online.

Obi wrong kenobi said...

A brilliant blog. I was taken to see Star Wars in 1978 as a kid. In the days before video, I spent a lot the rest of my childhood thinking I'd never see it again. It became the stuff of memory, rumour and imagination. Was darth Vader a robot ? Who were the Jedi knights ? What were the "cologne wars" ? The gaps were filled with schoolyard gossip and Kenner toys.

I've just been to see The Last Jedi, and my sudden disturbing lack of faith has led me here - to Star Wars as I'd like to remember it - as it originally was.

Darren Slade said...

Hi Obi Wrong.
Thanks very much for visiting and for your kind comments about the blog.
The Cologne Wars -- I like that!
Sorry you had a disappointing time at The Last Jedi, but glad it brought you here.