Today, I can hardly imagine a time before any Star Wars action figures decorated the shelves of my bedroom. A time in which Star Wars did not play any role in my young life.
Back to 1977: I was eleven years old when Star Wars: A New Hope arrived in the cinemas. Of course, the movie was then simply called Star Wars and there was no perspective of any possible sequel, let alone a Star Wars: Part II that would totally confuse everyone with the subtitle Episode V.
Anyway, as an eleven year old I already had a profound love for science fiction. If a film like The War of the Worlds (1953), or any film by Jack Arnolds (The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)) happened to be on TV, I was glued to the screen. Star Trek was also a favourite. Luckily my grandmother had a crush on William Shatner, so I was always allowed to come over to watch Star Trek.
I still remember my first image of Star Wars, shown in a film program on TV in the fall of 1977; Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder gliding over a desert landscape. Little did I realise how this image would be the start of an experience that would change my life to this very day.
The funny thing is, today I don’t actually remember much of that first cinematic experience. The actual fandom didn’t really start until I saw The Empire Strikes Back, three years later.
All I remember are two things: firstly: sneaking to the cinema secretly because my parent didn’t allow me to go on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Secondly: the smouldering bodies of uncle Owen and aunt Beru. For a children’s popcorn movie that was a very intense scene, especially forty odd years ago.
So to all you millennials who have grown up with DVD, Blu-ray or streaming services: try to image a time in which you had no opportunity to rewatch a movie after it had left the cinema. Video players and tapes didn’t really arrive until the 1980s.
For us kids there was little to relive the adventure that had made such an impact on our young lives. All there was was the film book and the film novel, which I managed to get hold of somehow. Until, of course, the toys arrived….
A couple of weeks passed since my clandestine cinematic adventure. I was about to go to a friend’s birthday party. My mom gave me some money to buy a birthday present so I first went to the local toy store.
And there, in the toyshop, I saw the Star Wars action figures for the first time. With the birthday present money in my hand my eyes were immediately drawn to the stormtrooper figure. The stormtroopers had been my favourite characters from the start, with their wasp-like helmets. Awesome.
But I imagined that my friend might appreciate the shiny golden droid better, so I bought the first Star Wars action figure: See Threepio (C-3PO), not for myself, but for a friend.
When I came home I proudly showed the present to my mom. But instead of sharing my euphoria she was not amused at all. “What kind of gift is that? Some stupid ugly plastic robot? And for that kind of money? That’s no present to give to a friend”, she argued.
She sent me back to the shop to return the item and buy something more appropriate. “You did save the receipt, didn’t you?” Of course I didn’t. I had no intention whatsoever to bring a Star Wars toy back to the store.
To my good fortune, and a moment in which my life took a new turn, my mom’s solution was exactly what I had hoped for. “Just buy another present for your friend, then you can keep the action figure yourself”. Hurrah!!
And thus the shiny golden droid became my first ever Star Wars action figure. I still have it affectionately on display today, accompanied by his friends from the first wave of Kenner toys.
And my mother? 43 years have since passed and I’m afraid she still hasn’t figured out the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek….
Featured image credit: Mr. Vintage Star Wars