Your Star Wars memories: Lee Medcalf - SciFiNow

Your Star Wars memories: Lee Medcalf

That first brush with the Dark Side

The Sixth in our incredible series of Star Wars memories, written by you as a testament to the incredible power of the saga to transcend age, genre and cynicism. If this inspires you to submit your own, check out the details here!

It’s amazing, even now, to think that nearly 34 years later; a trip to Lewisham Odeon on a cold, wet, miserable Saturday afternoon could have had such an impact on my life.

It was January 1978, Christmas had gone though the taste of turkey left over’s were still repeating on me some weeks later. I was seven and even then, an avid consumer of all things sci-fi. Star Trek was doing its usual round of repeats on BBC2 and George Pal’s War Of The Worlds seemed to be on the TV every other week.

One of my favourite shows however, was Chris Tarrant’s Tiswas. It was on that show, a small feature punctuated the custard pie flinging madness about a new film that had been released just after Boxing Day called Star Wars.

The feature was brief, showing a handful of clips, a golden robot, a space hero in a waste coat sitting in a seat controlling a gun and shooting space ships, a young boy with a blue laser sword facing a small robot ball and finally a white corridor and one of the scariest figures I had ever seen clad in black emerging from a cloud of smoke flanked by what looked like white robots.

“That looks good; do you want to see that?”

I turned to see my mum standing there. I had often wondered if mum had liked spaceships and similar. I had, now and again, noticed her watching Star Trek from the back of the living room while dinner was getting ready, but until that point I never really knew. It was in stark contrast to my dad who to this day calls all sci-fi “That made up space b*****ks”

And so it was my mum, my brother and I trudged through a cold wet Lewisham to queue up, along with several hundred others for nearly an hour to get in to watch Star Wars. I was excited, going to the Lewisham Odeon was a massive screen and seeing any film there was an event. Once inside, popcorn duly purchased we sat at the front of the upper circle and waited. The lights dimmed and after an unimpressive slew of adverts for local curry houses the screen went black and then the immortal line in blue appeared on the screen.

“A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away…”

Instantly, I knew somewhere inside me that this was different. If my language had been suitably advanced, the word that might have sprung to mind would have been “mythic”

Sadly, all that did come to mind was something very much along the lines of “oooh”

But before I had a moment to really wonder what was going on…

John Williams happened!

The triumphant Star Wars theme blasted making me jump out of my seat as the logo fell away into space. What was to follow for the next two hours, felt like an extension of that initial shock from the theme’s crashing arrival. I was bombarded with visuals I had honestly never seen before in my life. From the Star Destroyer endlessly rumbling overhead, surely one of the most iconic introductions to any, through to Mos Eisley spaceport, the cantina, the amoral rogue Han Solo with his frankly astounding ship, right through to the epic Death Star battle, the film pummelled me with iconic moments and images that would stay with me for the rest of my life. We left the cinema and I wanted to immediately go back and watch the whole thing again!  Sadly for my mum, the flashing and immense aural overload proved too much and she suffered a massive migraine that would last three days, though it didn’t stop her taking me to see The Empire Strikes Back some two years later.

Even now, the film’s impact on me can’t be overstated. It was those visuals by ILM that encouraged me to start drawing creatures, robots and spaceships developing skills that would ultimately result in my career working for visual FX companies (including a brief yet proud stint alongside Lucasfilm themselves) and in these times when Star Wars is treated with cynicism, I for one will always love it.