Binary Sunrise – Star Wars & Me


My memories of my early childhood are hazy. Things half remembered or best forgotten, ‘splinters of the minds eye’ if you will. I recall one thing with crystal clarity though.The first time I saw Star Wars. I was only a year old when A New Hope was originally released in 1977. It wasn’t until ITV premiered it on national television on October 24th 1982 that a six year old Nathan Bean was first transported to the galaxy far far away….

I had an awareness of Star Wars prior to that fateful day of course. Kids at primary school had the action figures,but,having never seen the movie I had no context in which to frame them. Like many of my peers,on an almost genetic level Star Wars was something I KNEW I would be into even before I actually saw it! My Grandma would bring the TV & Radio Times (back then still two separate magazines for the BBC and ITV schedules) round every Friday. As soon as it arrived I would go through the listings with a fine tooth comb arranging my viewing schedule. That week my brain almost exploded clean out of my skull as I saw the cover to the TV Times. The terrifying spectre of Darth Vader dominated that front cover. The moment I saw him I thought he was the coolest fucking thing I had ever seen.  I raced around the house like a whirling dervish desperately petitioning my parents that I’d be a good boy if they just let me finally watch Star Wars, even though it meant staying up past 9pm to finish it. They aquiesced, though I wonder if they ever regretted that decision once they realized how obsessed I would become. radiotimes

That week seemed to drag by so slowly. My excited mind was swirling with possibility as I tried to organize my thoughts of what I knew about Star Wars into some kind of comprehensible order. Sunday night was bath night at our house and whilst normally the prospect of a scrub in the tub was merely the first part of a crappy prelude to Monday morning that included Songs Of Praise, Antiques Roadshow and an early night because of school, however this night was different. Normally I’d do anything to avoid a bath but I wanted to keep my parents on side so I went without a whimper. I was soon hunkered down in front of the TV a good 15 minutes prior to show time in my pyjamas with a cup of hot Ovaltine gripped tightly in my clammy grasp. The lights go down, and the words written in blue fire burning in the darkness appear on the screen ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away……’ then the now infamous opening crawl, yellow writing on a black background, that fanfare blasting loud as shit and you are moshing. No if’s. No buts. You are moshing.

I drank in every word, absorbing the back story carefully, trying to get my head around concepts like galactic civil war, Rebellion, Evil Empire’s, custodians..what? I was six years old for Christ’s sake! I had no comprehension of what I was reading, didn’t matter because the light had already ignited in my mind, just like it had with every other kid that got their dome blown by that movie. I NEEDED to know what all this meant. I was in mate. I was so fucking in.

12250017_1734107256818596_1326118737756615277_nMy senses were overloading as I desperately tried to process this barrage of information but before I knew it the camera had panned away to a distant point, a black star field.  A wild looking spaceship that seemed enormous to my widening eyes comes screaming across the screen, lazers are flickering and exploding, these guys are being pursued, someone is trying to blow them up! But who? What? Why? Oh. Fuuuuuck….. The Blockade Runner was barely onto the screen before the Star Destroyer enters the frame in pursuit and Keeps. On. Coming. The scale of the thing was terrifying to behold, and it’s intent petrified me. Even at that tender age and with no comprehension of what was to come I realized that this was a dire situation indeed. I felt bad for the little guys in the Blockade Runner. I identified with the underdog right from the start.

Recently my friend Don Armbrust and I were talking about the enormous psychological impact of those few opening minutes on a juvenile mind. Insane bombastic music, information overload, wholesale destruction and then some black robot space wizard and his mates bowl in and beat the shit out of everyone on a spaceship. Dudes are getting shot and choked out. There is smoke and corpses everywhere. To analogise using hardcore terms It’s kinda like blindly wandering into your first hardcore show and straight into the pit at an Integrity show in Cleveland back in 1995 just as they kick into Vocal Test. With Stormtroopers. What the fuck man.

The rest of the details need not be recounted here. Chances are if you have made it this far through my dewy eyed ramblings then you will have seen A New Hope many times and if you haven’t, well I am not about to review it for you jackass. This is about feelings and perspective man, about how specific moments combined with a conspiracy of art, circumstance and mood can impact upon you and derail your trajectory completely. Read enough of my bullshit and you’ll discover it’s a theme that crops up fairly frequently.

1959212_1574257509470239_9083024178048881494_nOnce I’d watched Star Wars that first time it was on. An obsession was born, not only with the Star Wars franchise but with anything related to fantasy and space and the principles of universal world building. It wasn’t a giant leap from Star Wars to Fighting Fantasy to Tolkien to Warhammer and beyond. Everything about that movie is pleasing to me. The story, the music, the pace, the distressed aesthetic, but more so the themes of defiance, self belief, failure and redemption. The impact of this film on popular culture and fandom is well documented and there’s no need to detail it again here. For me and so many of my friends Star Wars really is our year dot. The original seed.

Despite the hundreds of times I have seen A New Hope, it’s a film that still has the power to drag me in, hold my attention and stir up some deep emotions within me. And it’s not even my favourite chapter in the series (Empire Strikes Back, obvs). These feelings and connections are common throughout my circle of close friends. It’s one of those primal things that binds us together, that we identify in one another, that provides a flicker of light in a world that all to often seems intent on plunging into the abyss.

At 12.01am this coming Thursday morning, ten of my good friends and I will be seated in a darkened cinema in Leeds. All across the globe, friends and allies will be assembling to do the same.  All of us silently anticipating those blue words burning in the darkness like a beacon that will once again guide us back to a galaxy far, far away…….

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3 thoughts on “Binary Sunrise – Star Wars & Me

  1. This brought back memories of my first viewing of the film, much the same but about 5 years later.

  2. Solid, relatable article. This would probably be my first viewing, too, although I’d have been 5 at the time. I have tickets for the Friday screening of the new movie. It’s a big deal, and will be 32 years since I first saw a Star Wars film at the cinema. I am “a-buzz” or some shit.

  3. like the proverbial scream of “Aleeeeeeex!!” from Jules’ lips I’m fucking moshing.

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