Sunday, 4 June 2023

Jedi: A Star Wars Toy Story

In this special edition of A Star Wars Toy Story, Nick Smith, our US-based collecting connoisseur, remembers when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi ruled toy aisles a long time ago...

Guest post by Nick Smith

It was 1983 and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was in movie theatres. Almost as exciting as the film were the new toys that came along with it.

I had no qualms about buying Ewoks - Wicket, Logray, Chief Chirpa - before fan wisdom decided that they were uncool. I marvelled at their little plastic outfits and primitive weapons; I could act out their man-eating rituals and pit them against my Biker Scout, who sadly lost his delicate head in a forest accident.

Most of my toys were from Jabba the Hutt’s Palace but my favourite was Luke Skywalker in his ‘Vaderish’ black costume. Sadly, I couldn’t afford a Speeder Bike, a Rebel Transport or the Ewok Village playset, although I did buy a Rancor for my son years later [shame we didn't meet until university in 1993 as I had almost all the things - Ed].

Even in the ‘80s, the number of action figures was becoming unmanageable and I, ahem, ‘borrowed’ one or two from friends to try to keep up. (Don’t worry, I gave them back). But Kenner 'only' released 17 new figures for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, a variety that pales into insignificance compared to what’s on offer today.

Hasbro is still pushing toys to commemorate Lucasfilm’s 50th Anniversary, marked in 2021. These include Black Series figures of a Tusken Raider, an Imperial Hovertank Driver, a Rogue One Shoretrooper, a Death Trooper, Darth Revan and Grand Admiral Thrawn, all 6” tall.

The good news about Hasbro’s deluge of dolls? Tie-ins have been released or are planned for all of the Disney+ live-action shows: The Mandalorian, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor and The Book of Boba Fett.

There’s a ‘Star Wars Publishing’ line, which includes Mara Jade, plus tie-ins with The Bad Batch, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, the 2023 video game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and ‘Gaming Greats.’ Who doesn’t want to own a toy of Lando in his colourful Battlefront II outfit?

In an issue of the Star Wars comic book Infinities, Darth Vader turns Jedi (and white as a pint of milk). The Black Series has resurrected this toy from 2007. A retro collection brings back figures from the ‘70s and ‘80s. So, something to appease every fan, if not every wallet. You can buy ‘Boba Fett’s starship,’ nee Slave One, for a Hutt’s bounty of $200.

Gone are the days when a child could pick up a Star Wars toy for a buck or two. Hasbro has tried to cater to younger, cash-strapped fans with its basic retro figures, running about $12-15 each. The more detailed $25 Black Series is aimed at collectors and Richie Rich kids [that was me back in the day - Ed]. If parents really want to splurge, they can buy Fives from Clone Wars (a Walmart exclusive), the half-a-Han bust from Gentle Giant or a sweet-smelling Ewok from Scentsy.

What will they think of next? Expect Ahsoka tie-ins like an animatronic ‘chatter back’ Chopper, highlighted at this year’s Star Wars Celebration Europe, and a Black Series Cad Bane.

Since demand for toys seems to be increasing with every new streaming show on Disney+ the possibilities, as White Darth Vader would say, are infinite.

What are your memories of collecting original Star Wars trilogy toys? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

LEGO Ideas Jaws

The summer blockbuster season began with director Steven Spielberg's Jaws in 1975.

Jaws fans (myself included) will be delighted that the awesome LEGO Ideas Jaws set featuring Brody, Hooper, Quint and the titular great white shark (Bruce), created by Fan Designer Jonny Campbell AKA Diving Faces, will be released in the future by LEGO.

Jonny Campbell writes: "I built this model because JAWS is my favourite movie. I have a great passion for both LEGO and this movie and I wanted to create my own JAWS set. We reached 10k before, and hopefully we can do it again. We need a JAWS set!"

You can read more about the LEGO Ideas Jaws set here.

In the wake of a global pandemic, adults (myself included) have turned to LEGO for nostalgia and mindfulness. It's worth reiterating LEGO was instrumental in my recovery from a life-changing brain injury in childhood.

What do you think of the LEGO Ideas Jaws building set? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

15 years of Iron Man

Marvel Studios' Iron Man celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian) discuss the film that began Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Read the synopsis:

"In 2008, Marvel Studios released Iron Man, a film that would cement the future of the studio and leave a lasting impact on film and popular culture. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Iron Man was a critical and commercial success, helping to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe."

During an era of middling superhero fare in the noughties, the genre became a multi-billion dollar industry unto itself in the wake of Iron Man's unprecedented success when Disney bought Marvel Comics.

Whilst I missed the first movie in cinemas, it was my inaugural rental from LOVEFiLM (now Amazon Prime). Robert Downey Jr. was charismatic in the lead role of Tony Stark. The movie was a much-needed tonic for my dad and me in the wake of my mum's death in 2007. And we've enjoyed watching the MCU movies together ever since.

Iron Man 3 was arguably the franchise's best instalment! Director Shane Black (The Predator) flipped the tin man on his head in the wake of Avengers Assemble and gave cinemagoers a memorable blockbuster ride with a twist.

Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier remains my all-time favourite MCU movie to date. The upcoming Secret Invasion series on Disney+ channels the paranoia of that standout movie directed by the Russo brothers.

Fast forward to 2023. Phase 5 began with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Since the conclusion of The Infinity Saga, the MCU has struggled to maintain momentum. However, there have been highlights with WandaVision, Loki and Hawkeye and the Special Presentations' Werewolf by Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+.

What are your favourite MCU memories on the 15th anniversary? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 26 May 2023

Marvel Comics resurrects the Micronauts

45 years ago, George Lucas' space opera Star Wars captured my childhood imagination. As such, I devoured everything related. From Kenner action figures to Marvel Comics. It was in the pages of Marvel UK’s making of Star Wars magazine that I saw an advertisement for a new toy line distributed by Airfix.

The interchangeable world of the Micronauts.

The Micronauts, Mego’s rebranded name for Microman in the US, was a storied interchangeable toy line from Takara (the Japanese toy company that would go on to create Transformers).

The 3½ inch action figures and accessories scaled perfectly with Kenner’s Star Wars toys, so they inhabited a shared universe in my bedroom. Ironic, as Mego infamously passed on Star Wars. Incidentally, Mego reused Microman tooling for Disney’s The Black Hole and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century toys, which I also collected.

Marvel Comics released a tie-in comic (reprinted in Star Wars Weekly and Future Tense) following the adventures of Commander Rann (my Xbox Gamertag) and his battle with the evil Baron Karza. The latter, a Darth Vader lookalike, was a cherished holiday gift in 1978.

The original comic book series based on the beloved toy line is being reprinted in partnership between Marvel Comics and Hasbro, which owns the Micronauts brand. The Disney-owned publisher will release an omnibus edition of the original comics in April 2024.

In related news. Rom the Space Knight is also returning to Marvel Comics after four decades.

Could this pave the way for the Microverse to officially appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is more fun than I anticipated on Disney+! Jentorra (Katy O'Brian) is a Micronauts alumnus. And it left me wanting a Micronauts movie in the vein of the classic comic book series I grew up reading! That's another step closer following this surprise announcement.

Will the Micronauts toy line be rereleased on Hasbro Pulse?

In June 2016, Hasbro announced a limited edition Micronauts Classic Collection toy set. The San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) exclusive included three Micronauts: Galactic Warrior, Pharoid and Orbital Defender, and featured packaging artwork by artist Ken Kelly.

What are your memories of the Micronauts? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 25 May 2023

Lower Decks live-action in Strange New Worlds

Star Trek: Picard's third and final season stuck the landing on Amazon Prime and Paramount+. Excitement for further adventures in the final frontier is fever pitch.

Paramount+ dropped an official trailer for the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds featuring a live-action crossover with the animated adult spin-off series Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Read the official series synopsis:

"In series two of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, under the command of Captain Christopher Pike, confronts increasingly dangerous stakes, explores uncharted territories, and encounters new life and civilisations. The crew will also embark on personal journeys that will continue to test their resolve and redefine their destinies."

I have a confession to make. I've never watched Star Trek: Lower Decks but will be streaming the animated series on Paramount+ ahead of the new series.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' second season premieres exclusively on Paramount+ on 15th June.

Are you looking forward to the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Lower Decks crossover? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Game of Thrones star joins Doctor Who

Award-winning actress Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) is crossing galaxies as she joins the new series of Doctor Who. Longtime fans (myself included) will remember Varma played Suzie Costello in Torchwood.

Speaking of joining Doctor Who, Indira Varma says: "I’m thrilled to be in Doctor Who and particularly excited to be crossing cosmic paths with Ncuti, as the Doctor, and look forward to creating interplanetary mischief with him. I loved playing Suzie Costello for Russell T Davies in Torchwood so am thrilled to be entering this world again."

Varma most recently starred in the Star Wars special event series Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.

Showrunner, Russell T Davies says: "I’m overjoyed to be reunited with Indira after our Torchwood days, and this part is truly spectacular! A whole new audience will be hiding behind the settee when the Duchess unleashes her terror."

Doctor Who returns for three 60th anniversary specials, starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) this November on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland. Ncuti Gatwa takes over control of the TARDIS during the holiday season.

Are you looking forward to the new series of Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Star Wars actor Ray Stevenson dies

Actor Ray Stevenson (Thor) has passed away aged 58. Stevenson is best known to Star Wars fans (myself included) as Gar Saxon from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.

Stevenson will make a posthumous appearance as Baylon Skoll in the Star Wars live-action spin-off series Ahsoka on Disney+ later this year. He recently spoke of his excitement during Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Monday, 22 May 2023


LEGO builds on the success of its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Atari 2600 retro-themed video game building sets with PAC-MAN Arcade!

Describing the process of designing the new set, Sven Franic, LEGO Designer comments: “A cultural icon for the past 40 years, it was a delight to bring PAC-MAN to brick life. We are always looking for new and exciting ways to bring classic gaming experiences to life. Our team of talented designers worked tirelessly to capture the essence of the beloved PAC-MAN arcade machine in brick form, from PAC-MAN himself to the colourful, maze-like environment he inhabits. Every detail was carefully considered and crafted, resulting in a one-of-a-kind LEGO creation that captures the magic of the original game while adding a playful new twist and a couple of Easter eggs – in true video game style. We are thrilled to share this incredible build with the world and cannot wait to see the joy it brings to fans of all ages.”

Waka waka waka down memory lane as PAC-MAN turns 43. I remember playing PAC-MAN on Atari VCS with my childhood friend Kevin Simpson!

Adding on the collaboration, Aadil Tayouga, Director of Licensing and Business Strategy at Bandai Namco Europe says: “Bandai Namco and the LEGO group share a lot of common values, notably aiming at providing fun for all people through quality products. In addition to these values, since PAC-MAN yellow was actually inspired by the LEGO Group yellow, it made the connection even more natural. It has been a tremendous collaboration with the passionate teams at the LEGO Group and we hope that fans will enjoy this kit.”

LEGO PAC-MAN Arcade is available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding LEGO PAC-MAN Arcade to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 20 May 2023

Miles and Gwen swing Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings into cinemas this June.

Sony Pictures has released an official clip featuring Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) from the highly-anticipated sequel to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Read the official synopsis:

"Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse." After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn's full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. But when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders, and must redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most."

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the middle part of the Spider-Verse trilogy concluding with Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, and the co-directors have likened it to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

"Across The Spider-Verse is a movie on its own, but it definitely ends on a bit of a cliffhanger,” co-director Kemp Powers revealed. “I think it’s a good cliffhanger. We hope that it’s a satisfying tee-up for what’s coming in the third film, because you want people to be excited about what’s coming next.”

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is my all-time favourite film! Colour me most excited.

Fellow director Joaquim Dos Santos adds, "I was very satisfied after The Empire Strikes Back. And hopefully, this is our Empire."

This weekend I'm going to rewatch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on Sony's BRAVIA CORE streaming service exclusively for BRAVIA XR.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is exclusively in cinemas 2nd of June.

Are you looking forward to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 19 May 2023

Stormtroopers win on Star Wars Day

Micheal Fitzgerald has sent over an update regarding the latest episode in his Stormtroopers fan film series to be released later this year, which won big on May the Fourth AKA Star Wars Day.

Guest post by Micheal Fitzgerald

Stormtroopers wins Best Irish Short Film at the May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival.

The May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival featured the best Irish & International Sci-Fi films in Portmagee, Kerry over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Stormtroopers won a number of awards including:

- Best Irish Short Film
- Best Actress - Carolyn Bracken
- Best VFX - William Beam
- Best Production Design - Micheal Fitzgerald

In the film, an Imperial Base Station is besieged by battleship attack & haunting PTSD within its ranks.

It stars Carolyn Bracken (You Are Not My Mother; Dublin Murders, Balor Hall, The Gone); Pius McGrath (Foundation, The Gates); Peter Cosgrave (Pilgrimage) & Klancy Casey Williams. It is directed by Micheal Fitzgerald (Home & Away; Game of Thrones; Dublin Murders).

Stormtroopers filmed in epic locations including hiking 792m above sea level to film in a dormant volcano in Waterford to diving 30m deep to film underwater in Tipperary while the 32m Large Antenna Array in the National Space Center in Cork doubled as the anchor location for the Imperial Base Station.

The May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival premiere follows up on several Stormtroopers event screenings including:

- Mitchelstown Cave Premiere 200ft underground in the chilled prehistoric caverns in March
- Exclusive Dublin Comic Con Premiere in The Convention Centre Dublin also in March
- National Space Centre Homecoming Premiere in April

For further information, please visit the official site.

Are you looking forward to the next episode of Stormtroopers? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 18 May 2023

The Creator from Rogue One director

Director Gareth Edwards' follow-up to fan-favourite Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is timely! Disney has dropped a teaser trailer for The Creator.

The Creator is a post-apocalyptic tale set in the wake of a war between humans and artificial intelligence (AI). The subject of AI continues to dominate the mainstream media with concerns surrounding unemployment within the creative and tech industries for example.

In the late nineties, I speculated that my online journalist role in editorial and product development could be replaced by AI in the future. At the start of the millennium, the work was outsourced in the pursuit of profit and I, along with my colleagues, was made redundant. The future is now.

The Creator is in cinemas on 29th September.

What do you think of the teaser trailer for The Creator? Is it rehashing established sci-fi tropes or offering a fresh perspective like Silo on Apple TV+? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Indiana Jones on Disney+

Lucasfilm has announced all four Indiana Jones movies will be available on Disney+ ahead of the release of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in cinemas. Not only that, but The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, seemingly lost to the sands of time, will be too.

Back in the early nineties, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles aired on ABC with Harrison Ford making a cameo as the titular adventurer and is notable for featuring an early appearance of Elizabeth Hurley.

I vividly remember watching the pioneering award-winning live-action series on Sky One in the UK and listening to the Varèse Sarabande soundtracks (on a Panasonic mini system) as I toiled away on undergraduate scripts with Nick Smith, wrote essays and read the latest issue of The Lucasfilm Fan Club magazine (rebranded as Star Wars Insider).

Production techniques developed for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles would later be utilised on the Star Wars prequels and form the genesis of StageCraft used in The Mandalorian on Disney+.

Will you be watching Indiana Jones on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Avatar: The Way of Water splashes onto Disney+

Avatar: The Way of Water finally arrives on Disney+ and Max (formerly HBO Max) this June.

The sequel to Avatar has been available digitally since March, but I've waited for director James Cameron's (Aliens) latest blockbuster to surface on Disney+, which will include bonus content featuring filmmakers, cast and crew.

Will you watch Avatar: The Way of Water on Disney+ on 7th June? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

Doctor Who trailer ahead of Eurovision

A new trailer announcing the titles of the three specials for Doctor Who's 60th anniversary dropped before the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, which is being held in Liverpool.

The three titles announced in the exclusive trailer:

Special One: The Star Beast
Special Two: Wild Blue Yonder
Special Three: The Giggle

The Star Beast is in homage to the first appearance of Beep the Meep in Marvel UK's Doctor Who Weekly. It's also the original title for Alien.

Doctor Who returns for three 60th anniversary specials, starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) this November on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland.

Russell T Davies, Showrunner said: “The titles are just the beginning of the Doctor’s biggest adventure yet. Autumn is coming, with three hours of danger, Donna and disaster about to be unleashed!”

What did you think of the trailer and the titles of the three specials? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 11 May 2023

Wes Anderson-inspired The Lord of the Rings

The debate surrounding the controversial use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creative process rages on.

Curious Refuge follows up an AI-generated Wes Anderson-inspired Star Wars trailer with The Lord of the Rings featuring deepfakes of Bill Murray as Gandalf and Timothée Chalamet as Frodo Baggins.

Read the synopsis for Lord of the Rings by Wes Anderson Trailer | The Whimsical Fellowship:

"Embark on a fantastical journey to Middle-earth reimagined through the eccentric and charming lens of Wes Anderson in "The Whimsical Fellowship." This delightful fan-made trailer offers a fresh and whimsical take on the classic Lord of the Rings saga, blending Anderson's signature visual style with J.R.R. Tolkien's epic narrative.

Follow the adventures of Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, and the rest of the whimsical fellowship as they traverse a world filled with pastel-hued landscapes, symmetrical compositions, and quirky inhabitants. Witness the unlikely heroes face off against the dark forces of Sauron in a quest to destroy the One Ring, all while exuding the charm and quirkiness that can only be found in a Wes Anderson creation.

From the quaint and idyllic Shire to the majestic and intricate architecture of Rivendell, "The Whimsical Fellowship" pays homage to both the beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy and Anderson's iconic filmography.

Join us in celebrating the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination with this one-of-a-kind fan edit. Be sure to like, comment, and subscribe for more spellbinding content. Venture forth, and may your journey be filled with whimsy!"

Hugh Howey, the creator of Silo streaming on Apple TV+, speculates entirely AI-generated productions are only a few years away: “We are less than a year or two away from giving AI a film script and then watching that film the same day. Production costs are going to go to ZERO. Within 5 years, great-looking films will be made this way. Within 20 years, almost all films will be made this way.”

Prescient given the current writers strike and we all know what happened last time to Heroes, Lost and Battlestar Galactica!

What did you think of the AI-generated The Lord of the Rings fan film? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 8 May 2023

40 years of Atari's Star Wars

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Atari's Star Wars arcade game.

It's summer 1983, and my family have stopped for a break at Gordano Services, Bristol. Clasping a cherished copy of Peter Davison's Book of Alien Monsters, I wander into a smokey, neon-lit arcade after hearing Obi-Wan Kenobi's digitised voice! A childhood dream of becoming Luke Skywalker and flying an X-wing into the Death Star trench is within my grasp as I step inside the cockpit...

The classic Atari title, with its dazzling vector graphics and use of original music, sound effects and dialogue from Star Wars, was soon followed by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi arcade games.

Star Wars Insider issue #218 features an interview with Mike Hally, project leader on Atari's arcade classic.

“We had a research group led by Rick Moncrief, and a guy on his team named Jed Margolin was developing this hardware called ‘warp speed.’ It was 3D vector hardware that wasn’t really being built for a game, but I took a look at it and thought, ‘Man, this would be perfect for Star Wars.’ So, I worked up a proposal, and Atari approved me being in charge of it,” Hally smiles. “I remember getting to work and being very excited.”

What self-respecting Star Wars fan wouldn't want to pilot an X-wing, dogfight with TIE Fighters and destroy the first dreaded Death Star?

“To me it was really, really simple. I mean, the whole climax of the movie was about Luke Skywalker flying his X-wing, shooting TIE fighters, trying to get down to the Death Star past the gun turrets, and then diving into the trench to get to the exhaust port,” Hally says. “It was perfect for a video game.”

Atari's arcade game spawned clones for 8-bit home computers. I remember playing 3D Starstrike on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum whilst listening to John Williams' Star Wars soundtracks and surrounded by Star Wars toys. Incidentally, Parker Brothers released official Star Wars game cartridges for the Atari VCS. I have fond memories of holding off AT-AT walkers in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with fellow Rebel and childhood friend Kevin Simpson.

What are your memories of playing Star Wars video games? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 7 May 2023

Magic: The Gathering enters the Whoniverse

Magic: The Gathering and Doctor Who fans (myself included) rejoice!

Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, has announced Doctor Who Command Decks, which will be released 13th October in time for the 60th anniversary of the BBC's beloved sci-fi series. More details to follow.

Are you looking forward to Magic: The Gathering's Doctor Who card collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 6 May 2023

Glee and Frozen star joins Doctor Who

From Glee to Frozen and Hamilton to Doctor Who. Award-winner Jonathan Groff is cast in a mysterious role in the long-running BBC sci-fi series.

On joining Doctor Who, Jonathan Groff said: “I am so thrilled to jump into the extraordinary mind of Russell T Davies and watch the incredible Ncuti Gatwa soar in this iconic role!”

Showrunner, Russell T Davies said: “This is an incredible coup, and a great honour, to get such a huge star striding on to our set. So strap on your space boots, this is going to be a blast!”

Groff's no stranger to sci-fi after starring in The Matrix Resurrections.

Doctor Who returns for three 60th anniversary specials, starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) this November on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland. Ncuti Gatwa takes over control of the TARDIS during the holiday season.

Are you looking forward to the new series of Doctor Who? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 5 May 2023

Celebrating Carrie Fisher on May the Fourth

Carrie Fisher, who most famously played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy (in the process becoming my first and greatest silver screen crush 45 years ago), was poignantly remembered on May the Fourth AKA Star Wars Day!

Her daughter Billie Lourd, Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill, C-3PO and R2-D2 assembled for Fisher's Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony.

Hamill read out a note he'd written shortly after his friend's death in December 2016.

“I thought, this is as relevant today as it was when I wrote it,” Hamill said about the note.

“Carrie was one of a kind. She belonged to us all, whether we liked it or not,” Hamill’s note reads. “She was our princess, dammit! And the actress who played her blurred into one gorgeous, fearlessly independent, ferociously funny, take-charge woman who took our collective breath away. Determined and tough, but with a vulnerability that made you root for her and want her to succeed and be happy. She played such a crucial role in my professional and personal life. Both would’ve been far emptier without her.

“Was she a handful? Was she high maintenance? No doubt,” the note continues. “But everything would’ve been so much drabber and less interesting if she hadn’t been the friend that she was. I’ll never stop missing her, but I’m so thankful we had her as long as we did. I’m grateful for the laughter, the wisdom, the kindness, and even the bratty, self-indulgent crap my beloved space twin drove me crazy with through the years. So thank you, Carrie. I love you.”

With my best friend, I met Fisher and Hamill at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016. A kiss from a princess, a hug from a Jedi Knight and tears of joy. It's not every day you meet childhood heroes who turn out to be amazing in person.

Thursday, 4 May 2023

Return of the Jedi on Star Wars Day

Happy Star Wars Day! Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is back in cinemas to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its original theatrical release.

Fans have returned to see it on the big screen making millions of dollars at the box office.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, returns for this extra special celebration. Is the final chapter in the original Star Wars trilogy still as exciting as it was a long time ago...

Guest post by Nick Smith

I sit on my couch in my Darth Vader pyjamas sipping iced water from my Stormtrooper glass, ready to celebrate a big anniversary. 40 years. Four decades of living with a beloved, if imperfect, movie known by millions. A movie anticipated since I breathlessly left a screening of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, wanting to know what would happen next; a movie teased with the working title of Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi.

I was 11 years old when Episode VI of the Star Wars saga was released, a space-obsessed nipper with the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back poster transferred on my favourite t-shirt, a subscription to Bantha Tracks (the official fan club newsletter) and enough pocket money to buy a Star Destroyer playset and a monthly monochrome Star Wars comic.

Speculation in the letters' page of Star Wars Weekly was rife. Was Darth Vader Luke Skywalker’s father? Who was the other hope (Chewbacca, maybe)? Would Han Solo (Harrison Ford) ever be rescued and live happily ever after with the Organa of his dreams?

Three years is a long time for a child and a heck of a long time to wait for answers to those questions. Marvel Comics helped fill those years with exciting new characters like Shira Brie and Fenn Shysa, the original Mandalorian. But as anticipation mounted in the spring of 1983, nothing seemed better than seeing a new Star Wars film on the big screen. When it finally arrived in June, this kid was not disappointed. I went to see it five times, with friends, with family and by myself. I was a happy fan.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had a lot of heavy lifting to do, answering those burning questions and wrapping up the trilogy in a satisfactory manner. It also had to top 1982’s bumper crop of sci-fi films, greenlit thanks to Star Wars’ success – Blade Runner (starring Harrison Ford), E.T., Tron, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. The cream of this crop had a sophisticated edge that would help them stand the test of time. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, with its straightforward storytelling and big happy family of Ewoks, lacked that mature edge.

A rebooted weekly comic was published to coincide with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, reprinting American strips in colour. The technique wasn’t quite ready for prime time and the colours bled over the lines sometimes, and the comic geared more and more towards younger readers until eventually, I stopped reading.

As time went on, the movie itself suffered a backlash – the Ewoks were too cute and commodifiable, the plot was unoriginal (how did they build a second Death Star so fast?), Richard Marquand’s directing wasn’t as nuanced as Irvin Kerschner’s had been for the sublime Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (see Icons Unearthed: Star Wars). Compared to that latter masterclass in filmmaking, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was seen as the weak sauce. I held a torch for it, though, riding a Caravan of Courage through a gauntlet of Sith-worthy negativity [I see what you did there - Ed].

40 years on, I wondered if the film would still hold the same charm it did after so many repeated viewings? Would I still find it as exciting as, say, Star Wars: A New Hope’s dramatic climax?

I chose to rewatch Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in the comfort of my own home, even though it was playing several times a day at my local movie theatres. I didn’t think the rest of the audience would appreciate my clapping and cheering, my Wookiee impressions and my tears at the end.

Yes, I blubbed!

For once George Lucas’ special edition tinkering paid off, showing victory celebrations across the Star Wars galaxy. And that’s how Star Wars: Return of the Jedi works best, as a celebration of the saga, a party for the power of the Force.

There’s a sense of fun throughout, with slapstick moments edited alongside wounded Ewok casualties and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) being deliciously evil. With hindsight, the film’s imperfections add to its charm. The dialogue is repetitive as if it needed one more polish, but Mark Hamill’s performance is so earnest that it works.

The Ewoks build a throne for C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and weapons to fight the Empire in record time, making them perfect candidates for a new HGTV show. Meet the hosts of ‘Flip this Forest!’.

At the village, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) has either brought a dress with her or borrowed one from an abnormally tall lady Ewok. Harrison Ford’s reactions to his furry yub-nubbing co-stars, the revelation that Luke and Leia are related, and to almost becoming an Ewok edible, all make the movie worth a rewatch.

Despite the baggage, the parodies, the criticisms and comparisons, somehow Star Wars: Return of the Jedi succeeds in wrapping up a mythical story and concluding the adventures of Luke Skywalker without getting trite, balancing humour with pathos, light and dark.

Watching it and cheering the heroes on, I feel like a kid again, 40 years falling far, far away...

What are your memories of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 3 May 2023

Wes Anderson-inspired Star Wars

An ethical debate surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is dominating mainstream media as the 'godfather of AI', Geoffrey Hinton, warns of human extinction as he steps away from Google.

Are we facing a nascent moral panic?

From deepfake technology to replacing creatives in the pursuit of profit, AI is deeply embedded in our daily lives. Been using Bard from Google for a few weeks but have no plans to relinquish creative chores to AI (as yet)!

An AI-generated Star Wars fan film, featuring deepfakes of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, has been created in the style of director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and it's gone viral ahead of Star Wars Day.

Read the synopsis for Star Wars by Wes Anderson Trailer | The Galactic Menagerie:

"Welcome to the "Galactic Menagerie," a whimsical and visually stunning fan-made fake trailer that reimagines the classic Star Wars universe through the eccentric lens of Wes Anderson. This enchanting mashup brings together iconic Star Wars characters with Anderson's trademark symmetrical compositions, pastel color palettes, and quirky humor.

Journey to a galaxy far, far away and experience a unique adventure featuring Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and other fan favorites. Watch as they navigate the Galactic Menagerie, a universe filled with eccentric creatures, charming droids, and peculiar locations reminiscent of Anderson's beloved films such as "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Don't miss out on this one-of-a-kind fan edit that celebrates the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination. Be sure to like, comment, and subscribe for more extraordinary content. May the force be with you!"

One fan wrote: “I want to see this so much more than any contemporary official Star Wars project.”

“Wow, I need this in my life – this would be actually fun to watch,” wrote another, while someone else added: “The detail in this is astounding. I actually thought this was a Wes Anderson short. Very, very well done!”

What did you think of the AI-generated Star Wars fan film? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Find the Force with Fortnite x Star Wars

"This is where the fun begins!" Star Wars returns to Fortnite to celebrate May the Fourth!

Read the announcement from Epic Games:

"Running until May 23, 2023, at 9am ET you’ll be able to choose your trainer. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as your Jedi trainers or Darth Maul as your Sith trainer. Use Force abilities taught by one of these lightsaber-wielders to show your opponents the way of the light… or dark side."

I haven't played Fortnite since the last lockdown and will be diving back in on Xbox.

Will you be playing Fortnite x Star Wars? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 1 May 2023

LEGO Death Star II for May the Fourth

LEGO Star Wars celebrates May the Fourth AKA Star Wars Day and the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi with new building sets and related gifts with purchase.

The miniature X-wing is free with purchases of £35 or more. The VIP coin set is free with purchases of £80 or more. The LEGO Death Star II is free with purchases of £130 or more.

For example, the Emperor's Throne Room and Executor Super Star Destroyer sets will meet the threshold for all three LEGO Star Wars gifts available from the 1st thru the 7th of May. I will be ordering these sets myself. Combined with the Death Star II gift with purchase, it's a cool Star Wars: Return of the Jedi-themed collection.

LEGO Star Wars is available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

During the May the Fourth event, new and existing VIP members (myself included) will be able to get Double VIP Points on all LEGO Star Wars sets as well as redeem multiple VIP offers.

Which LEGO Star Wars building sets are you getting? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Star Trek: The Last Generation

In 2017, I wrote about how Star Trek: The Next Generation filled an endless void vacated by Doctor Who in 1989.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was a seminal series foreshadowing technology many of us use daily. From touchscreens to voice assistants... “Alexa, play Star Trek!”, words my younger self never imagined saying for real as I avidly read Marvel UK’s official magazine.

Soon I had a teenage crush on Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes) who vied for poster space with actresses Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth) and Winona Ryder (Heathers).

For seven seasons (across BBC 2 and Sky 1), I followed the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D as I navigated further education. There are too many favourite episodes to list here, but Q Who?, Yesterday’s Enterprise, Cause & Effect and The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 deserve special mention.

Star Trek would spawn further spin-off series including Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. However, none of them would capture my imagination the way The Next Generation did!

When Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) announced Star Trek: Picard, I was hoping to see the old gang reunited for one last epic adventure worthy of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved allegorical wagon train in space.

Instead, we had two mixed seasons of a sci-fi series that didn’t know what it wanted to be - aside from driving subscriptions to the nascent streaming service in an overcrowded market dominated by Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+ (buoyed by iPhone sales) - featuring a cast of characters mostly unknown to fans (myself included).

This wasn’t Star Trek’s The Mandalorian.

So, when the final season of Star Trek: Picard was announced, I was apathetic! After a promising start, I bailed on season two and was done with most of the Star Trek spin-offs (aside from Strange New Worlds). However, something unexpected happened. I started seeing more and more rave reviews for season three and felt it incumbent on me to at least watch the premiere on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

“Computer, play Star Trek: Picard!” And my Alexa-enabled Sony BRAVIA XR TV obliged.

I’d grown up on terrestrial television reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek movies on the big screen. Star Trek: Picard opens with a knowing nod to the franchise’s zenith: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan…

To boldly go in search of Easter eggs.

All the callbacks. All the feels. I was transported back to a time when the franchise was fun, filled with optimism and hope writ large in widescreen. Hearing the iconic music of Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner (arguably underused until now) and Cliff Eidelman heralding the return of childhood heroes left me misty-eyed as the USS Titan left Spacedock in a spectacular homage to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

In the words of Admiral Kirk: “To absent friends...”

A touching tribute to actress Annie Wersching tipped me over the edge, and I was an ugly mess as the end credits rolled! Wersching had played the Borg Queen in season two and was the best thing about it. She passed away from cancer in January aged 45.

Afterwards, I hopped onto social media to encourage friends to watch the best Star Trek spin-off series in decades.

Trust no one.

Amid the homages to the movie and television franchises, there are echoes of the McCarthy era, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Invaders and The X-Files. Oh, there's also a narrative nod to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. And I’m here for it.

The return of Ro Laren was a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Even though it was spoiled by Paramount’s official social media channels. Apologies if you’re only finding out now.

Forbes was excellent as Ensign Ro, who pushed back against Starfleet exceptionalism before defecting to the Maquis, in Star Trek: The Next Generation and later played the nihilistic Admiral Cain in the acclaimed Battlestar Galactica reboot of the early noughties.

Ro is now a Commander, tasked with bringing Admiral Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Captain Riker (Jonathan Frakes) back to Starfleet Command to stand trial for treason in an episode that packs an emotional punch, which I refuse to spoil.

Between the earned fan service and hopes for Star Trek: Legacy from series showrunner Terry Matalas, Star Trek: Picard is a salient reminder of the passage of time and that all things are temporary (alas, as are we). Sir Patrick Stewart and my father are octogenarians, which deeply resonated.

The third time’s the charm for this found family!

Ultimately, Star Trek: Picard sticks the landing with Galaxy-class finesse (carpets included) in a way unimaginable (by this fan) before the third season’s triumphant nostalgia-laden premiere in The Next Generation. Yes, I cried tears of joy (and relief). It was everything.


Have you seen Star Trek: Picard? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Batman returns in The Flash

Warner Bros. Pictures has released a new trailer for The Flash following an overwhelmingly positive early press screening for the upcoming movie.

Read the official synopsis:

"Worlds collide in “The Flash” when Barry uses his superpowers to travel back in time in order to change the events of the past. But when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, Barry becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation, and there are no Super Heroes to turn to. That is, unless Barry can coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian… albeit not the one he’s looking for. Ultimately, to save the world that he is in and return to the future that he knows, Barry’s only hope is to race for his life. But will making the ultimate sacrifice be enough to reset the universe?"

The Flash is exclusively in cinemas on 16th June.

Are you excited to see Michael Keaton (Batman Returns) reprise the role of the dark detective? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 24 April 2023

Hasbro and Mattel merge iconic brands

Toy titans Hasbro and Mattel are joining forces to create co-branded toys and games beginning with Barbie and Transformers (via The Toy Book).

“We are excited to pair some of the most popular brands together for the first time,” says Nick Karamanos, Senior Vice President of Entertainment Partnerships at Mattel. “This collaboration features world-class intellectual property (IP), celebrates the timeless appeal of these brands, and creates unique play opportunities for fans.”

This summer sees highly-anticipated movies for Barbie and Transformers brands.

“With the major theatrical releases of the Transformers and Barbie movies this summer, we’re excited to bring brand-new play experiences to fans, families, and movie and toy lovers all around the world,” says Casey Collins, President, Global Licensed Consumer Products & Business Development at Hasbro. “Working with iconic brands in pop culture truly showcases our strategy in action, as we continue to expand our product experiences for audiences everywhere.”

Is it too soon for a Masters of the Universe/Transformers crossover?

Are you looking forward to Transformers Hot Wheels? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 21 April 2023

Stormtroopers invade National Space Centre

The Mandalorian's third season has concluded on Disney+ with many fans (myself included) feeling bereft without a weekly fix of Mando and Grogu.

However, I was able to pre-order the Star Wars The Vintage Collection N-1 Starfighter from Hasbro Pulse and Micheal Fitzgerald has sent over an update regarding the next episode in his award-winning Star Wars fan film series, Stormtroopers, just in time for Force Friday.

Guest post by Micheal Fitzgerald

The Stormtroopers Homecoming Premiere lit up the intergalactic National Space Centre in Cork on Saturday night.

The NSC 32m Large Antenna Array features as the key location in the new Stormtroopers episode where an Imperial Base Station is besieged by battleship attack & haunting PTSD within its ranks. Stormtroopers also filmed in epic locations in Cork, Waterford & Tipperary, including hiking 792m above sea level to film in a dormant volcano in Waterford and diving 30m deep to film underwater in Tipperary.

It stars Carolyn Bracken (You Are Not My Mother, Dublin Murders, Balor Hall, The Gone); Pius McGrath (Foundation, The Gates); Peter Cosgrave (Pilgrimage) & Klancy Casey Williams. It is directed by Micheal Fitzgerald (Home & Away, Game of Thrones, Dublin Murders), Stormtroopers was made to platform the storytelling and production quality standards of the highly skilled and diverse Cork-based production crew and interesting cast and epic locations.

The Homecoming Premiere was followed by a Q&A Panel with key cast & crew with brilliant audience momentum and interaction.

The last Stormtroopers episode premiered in 2018 and it has earned over 1.3m YouTube views and a number of awards.

The Homecoming Premiere follows the Mitchelstown Cave Premiere 200ft underground in the chilled prehistoric caverns and a full house at the Dublin Comic Con Premiere in The Convention Centre Dublin in March.

The new Stormtroopers episode next makes it Film Festival Debut when it opens the May The 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival in Portmagee, County Kerry at 7pm on May 4th where it has already been nominated for Key Awards listed below.

May the 4th Sci-Fi Film Festival - Stormtroopers Nominations:

Best Irish Short Film
Best Director - Micheal Fitzgerald
Best Actress - Carolyn Bracken
Best Cinematographer - Billy Cummings
Best Editor - Billy Cummings
Best Score - Brian Lane
Best Visual Effects - William Bean
Best Production Design - Micheal Fitzgerald

For further information, please visit the official site.

Are you looking forward to the next episode of Stormtroopers? How are you celebrating Star Wars Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

85 years of Superman

Superman, the fan-favourite superhero character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, appeared in the first issue of Action Comics on 18th April 1938. It is widely regarded as the dawn of the superhero age that continues to dominate popular culture.

45 years ago, I saw Superman: The Movie, directed by Richard Donner (The Goonies), with my parents at the Odeon Exeter. It was the third film in a formative theatrical trifecta comprising Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind! All of which feature inspiring soundtracks composed by John Williams.

It's impossible to overstate how important these movies were/are to me. I was still in the first year of recovery from a life-changing head injury at primary school, which had left me partially paralysed and wheelchair-bound in 1977. Cinema was my fortress of solitude, and silver screen tales of heroism would aid in my resolve to walk again with the help and support of family, friends and amazing healthcare professionals working in the NHS.

My 80-year-old dad and I still discuss seeing Superman: The Movie and Superman II all those years ago. Christopher Reeve will always be the definitive Clark Kent/Superman and Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) was my second silver screen crush after Carrie Fisher (Star Wars).

Whilst at university in the early-to-mid nineties, I discovered Dirk Maggs' Superman: Doomsday and Beyond for BBC Radio 1. I called the BBC in hopes of interviewing the man himself, and an enduring friendship was forged. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was popular Saturday evening viewing - merging heroic adventures with Moonlighting. I had a poster of Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) on my student bedroom wall.

Years later, my mum and I would watch Smallville together until a uniquely medical matter left her with life-changing injuries, requiring 24/7 care in 2003. However, I continued to watch the series as it encapsulated the spirit of hope and selflessness epitomised by Superman.

Happy 85th birthday, big fella!

Monday, 17 April 2023

Andor returns to the Jurassic Coast

The second and final season of Star Wars: Andor on Disney+ is currently being filmed on location (via DorsetLive) for a possible release in the summer of 2024.

Lucasfilm has returned to Winspit Quarry, which served as Saw Gerrera's (Forest Whitaker) secret base in the first season of the Star Wars live-action spin-off series.

Winspit Quarry was used for the classic Doctor Who serial Destiny of the Daleks in the late seventies and Blake's 7 in the early eighties.

Star Wars: Andor is widely regarded as one of the best Star Wars spin-offs ever made, taking the franchise in a darker direction forgoing lightsabers in favour of political intrigue. Andor (Diego Luna) is conscripted by the Empire to help build the first dreaded Death Star that will ultimately kill him. Incidentally, The Mandalorian has embraced politics in the third season of the award-winning spin-off series following the intergalactic duo of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu.

Diego Luna reprises the titular role in the prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, along with series showrunner Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Identity), teased the upcoming season at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023.

Are you looking forward to the second season of Star Wars: Andor on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 14 April 2023

From Wallace and Gromit to Star Wars

Aardman, the award-winning Bristol-based animation studio behind Wallace and Gromit, travels to a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2, featuring nine new short films from nine animation studios, was previewed at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023.

Read Aardman's official synopsis:

"In 'I Am Your Mother' - directed by Magdalena Osinska - young pilot Anni (Charithra Chandran), who is embarrassed by her sweet, but clingy mum Kalina (Maxine Peake), must team with her for a madcap family race at the academy. Along the way, their relationship is tested by the elements, their old ship, other racers... and each other!"

Aardman's animated adventure features Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson), the Rebel pilot who appeared in the original and sequel trilogies.

Speaking exclusively to Empire magazine, the film's director Magdalena Osinska said: “We were looking for some kind of idol that Anni would be looking up to.

"We settled on Wedge Antilles because he fitted in terms of the Star Wars era. Also, he’s done pretty amazing things in Star Wars, but he wasn’t maybe as recognised [for it].

"I think he has more lines in our film than the original Star Wars trilogy. We really wanted to give him the limelight he deserved.”

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 streams exclusively on Disney+ on Star Wars Day AKA May the Fourth.

Are you looking forward to Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 on Disney+? How are you celebrating Star Wars Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 13 April 2023

Star Wars The Vintage Collection N-1 Starfighter

During Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023, Hasbro announced The Vintage Collection N-1 Starfighter!

Read Hasbro's press release:

"This Republic-era handcrafted Naboo N-1 Starfighter has been extensively modified to be a truly one-of-a-kind vehicle for the Mandalorian and his foundling Grogu. Fans can celebrate the legacy of STAR WARS, the action-and-adventure-packed space saga from a galaxy far, far away with this premium 3.75-inch scale STAR WARS: THE VINTAGE COLLECTION THE MANDALORIAN’S N-1 STARFIGHTER and figures inspired by the ship’s and characters’ appearances in STAR WARS: THE MANDALORIAN. This vehicle and figure set features premium detail and design and highly articulated carded Mandalorian figure, a Grogu figure as well as packaging inspired by the original Kenner packaging and branding. Includes vehicle, figure with Grogu, droid socket, 2 stands and 5 entertainment-inspired accessories."

This is a must-have for all Star Wars fans (myself included). However, it soon sold out on Hasbro Pulse and I could not pre-order from any retailer in the UK.

Pre-order from Entertainment Earth (affiliate link).

Have you pre-ordered Star Wars The Vintage Collection N-1 Starfighter? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 10 April 2023

Twenty Years of a Time Lord

40 years ago, I was at Doctor Who’s famous 20th celebration, held at Longleat House over the Easter bank holiday weekend!

At the time, Longleat House was home to a permanent Doctor Who exhibition, which I’d visited with family in the spring of 1981. The exhibition was a formative Whovian experience encountering the Doctor’s deadliest foes (from Daleks to Cybermen), and I remember a helpful shop assistant letting me choose a silver Palitoy Talking Dalek (I already owned the more common red variant).

1983 would be long remembered!

Not only was it the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who culminating in The Five Doctors special in November, but also the epic conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas’ space saga was intertwined with my recovery and rehabilitation following a life-changing head injury in 1977.

Back to all things timey-wimey. To celebrate the good Doctor’s birthday, the BBC announced a 2-day event at Longleat House and we ventured up on Easter Monday (without tickets). Upon arrival, it was abundantly clear that the event was massively oversubscribed, the BBC unprepared for its popularity, and a voice on the tannoy forebodingly announced that unless you had a ticket, you would be unable to enter…

Oh, boy!

In stepped my mum to save the day! She spoke to a Royal Welsh Fusilier (wearing a UNIT badge) and, voila, we’re guests and ushered in with VIP access. What follows remains more of a brilliant blur. From shaking hands with a Cyberman to watching Terror of the Autons (with Jon Pertwee and cast) and meeting Peter Davison to a close encounter with a Triffid, I was in geek heaven. Although I missed out on a souvenir guide, I did pick up a copy of The Doctor Who Technical Manual. Years later, I would discover future friends were there, too.

Sadly, we had overlooked bringing a Kodak camera with us (this was an era before iPhones). This didn’t detract too much and I was able to get an official Polaroid snap outside the TARDIS.

In 2013, I ventured with friends to ExCeL London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Who knows what may happen for the 60th this year!

What are your memories of the Doctor Who exhibition? Were you at the 20th celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 9 April 2023

Return of the Jedi returning to cinemas

During Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023, Lucasfilm announced Star Wars: Return of the Jedi would be returning to cinemas to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

A new commemorative poster has been produced by Matt Ferguson who previously worked on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 2020.

“I’m so happy and grateful to get to work on these movies again, even more so to be given the freedom to continue what I started with Empire,” says Ferguson. “For that poster, a cold mechanical vibe completely takes over the whole composition. But Return of the Jedi is very much the triumph of Luke and the Rebels, so I wanted to have more of the warmer colors coming back into the art, hence pivoting to green with red accents.”

After a 3-year wait, I remember the fevered anticipation for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Impatiently waiting for a mail-away Admiral Ackbar action figure in the months leading up to the conclusion of the original trilogy.

“The artwork should tell a story, so for me it only made sense to give over the composition to those two characters,” he continues. “Will Luke be turned? Is Vader going to overcome the darkness? It’s all about the pull between good and evil.”

Starting 28th April, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi will return to select cinemas in the US, UK and other regions for a limited time.

What are your memories of seeing Star Wars: Return of the Jedi? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 8 April 2023

Ahsoka at Star Wars Celebration

On Friday, Lucasfilm dropped an official teaser trailer for Ahsoka at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023.

Dave Filoni's upcoming Star Wars live-action spin-off series sees Rosario Dawson reprise the role of fan-favourite Ahsoka Tano from The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Ahsoka continues her hunt for Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen), Heir to the Empire. Thrawn is to the Star Wars spin-offs what Thanos was to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Ahsoka was first introduced as Anakin Skywalker's Padawan in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Later, they would clash in Star Wars Rebels when Skywalker succumbs to the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader. There are rumours Hayden Christensen will reprise the role of Anakin Skywalker as he did in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

Doctor Who fans (myself included) will be delighted David Tennant returns in the role of droid Huyang from Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In related news. As previously rumoured, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy announced three new live-action Star Wars movies during Lucasfilm's Studio Showcase. Helming the movies are James Mangold (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny), Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels) and award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Ms. Marvel).

Mangold’s movie will go back to the dawn of the Jedi and Filoni's film concludes the storylines from The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka and further spin-off series on Disney+. Daisy Ridley reprises the role of Rey from the sequel trilogy as she builds a new Jedi Order in Obaid-Chinoy’s film.

Ahsoka streams exclusively on Disney+ this August.

Are you looking forward to Ahsoka on Disney+? What are your thoughts on the three new live-action Star Wars movies? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 7 April 2023

LEGO Star Wars celebrates Return of the Jedi

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 kicks off today at ExCeL London. The official Lucasfilm fan event includes a panel celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

To mark the epic conclusion of the original trilogy in 1983, LEGO has announced new diorama building sets featuring the Emperor's Throne Room and Endor Speeder Chase to relive your favourite Jedi moments.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact that Return of the Jedi has had on popular culture since its release 40 years ago, and it was a real pleasure as a fan to help create these new dioramas that celebrate some of the film’s most iconic moments,” said Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, Design Lead for LEGO Star Wars.

My parents took me to Debenhams for a surprise meet and greet with Darth Vader and Stormtroopers before the release of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi! Afterwards, I chose a Speeder Bike and Biker Scout from Kenner's collection. The dark side of the Force was strong with this one.

“Whether you were in the cinema for Return of the Jedi's original release or came to discover it later, these two dioramas allow builders to recreate and display their own slice of cinematic history - and revealing them to fans, at the same time as many are enjoying Star Wars Celebration, is the perfect way to unveil them.”

LEGO Star Wars Return of the Jedi diorama sets are available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding these LEGO Star Wars Return of the Jedi diorama building sets to your collection? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 5 April 2023

LEGO Star Wars X-wing soars May the Fourth

LEGO has officially unveiled the first Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series (UCS) building set of 2023 in time for Star Wars Day.

The iconic X-wing Starfighter gets the UCS treatment for May the Fourth.

“Whilst this is not the first time we have brought the X-wing Starfighter to brick life, this is the most detailed and I am so excited with the final design. It is such an iconic ship, by designing at this new larger scale we were able to include more specific details such as the thrusters, the cockpit and the wings. We are so excited to now share this with fans.” said Henrik Andersen, LEGO Design Master.

LEGO X-wing Starfighter is available from LEGO AU, CA, UK and US (affiliate links).

Will you be adding the latest LEGO Star Wars X-wing Starfighter to your collection? How are you celebrating Star Wars Day? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 3 April 2023

Secret Invasion has Winter Soldier vibes

Marvel Studios has dropped an official trailer for Secret Invasion on Disney+.

A brief plot synopsis was released alongside the trailer, which reads:

"In Marvel Studios’ new series Secret Invasion, set in the present day MCU, Nick Fury learns of a clandestine invasion of Earth by a faction of shapeshifting Skrulls. Fury joins his allies, including Everett Ross, Maria Hill, and the Skrull Talos, who has made a life for himself on Earth. Together, they race against time to thwart an imminent Skrull invasion and save humanity."

Who do you trust? A sense of suffocating paranoia, a theme explored in Star Trek: Picard's third and final season on Paramount+, has not been seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Following the conclusion of the Infinity Saga, my interest in the MCU on the big screen has waned (like it has for other fans). WandaVision, Loki, Moon Knight and the one-shot specials have been excellent on Disney+. However, I welcome Disney's decision to scale back on too many releases going forward.

Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) joins the MCU in a Disney+ series starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Olivia Colman.

Secret Invasion premieres exclusively on Disney+ on the 21st of June.

Are you looking forward to Secret Invasion on Disney+? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 2 April 2023

Battlestar Galactica at 45

In the wake of seeing Star Wars 45 years ago, I would develop an insatiable appetite for shiny US imports on the big and small screen, cashing in on its box office success.

From Disney's The Black Hole to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The most memorable of which was Battlestar Galactica, released as the first of three feature-length movies in the UK between 1978 and 1980. The BBC's Doctor Who and Blake's 7 were (briefly) sidelined in favour of ITV's big-budget sci-fi offerings from across the pond.

Glen A. Larson's epic television series, following a rag-tag fugitive fleet led by Commander Adama (Lorne Greene) in search of Earth, foreshadowed the long-form storytelling of Babylon 5.

Battlestar Galactica may have been a bigger success had Larson and Universal not been embroiled in litigation with Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox over allegations of ripping-off Star Wars wholesale. George Lucas’ space opera was a distillation of disparate influences from Flash Gordon to Joseph Campbell.

Notably, Star Wars luminaries John Dykstra, a special effects pioneer, and Ralph McQuarrie, a conceptual artist, worked on the fledgling sci-fi series. The following year, McQuarrie's starship designs would also appear in Larson's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Despite being the most expensive series ever made at the time, to save money, Battlestar Galactica reused special effects ad nauseam in later episodes. Larson would go on to reuse Cylon sound effects for KITT in Knight Rider.

At the time in 1978, the 3-part Saga of a Star World was recut and shown theatrically to promote the upcoming series. Infamously, it showed Baltar (John Colicos) being beheaded by the Cylons after failing the Imperious Leader (Patrick Macnee), which confused me as a child when I saw Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack on home video. How the frak did Baltar survive?

Years later, I worked on Dirk Maggs' The Gemini Apes for BBC Radio 4 with Colicos' son, Nicholas, and we talked about his father's iconic roles on Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek.

Battlestar Galactica didn't shy away from darker themes such as betrayal and death. The aforementioned Balter betrayed the human race to the Cylons and Serina (Jane Seymour) died in Lost Planet of the Gods Part 2. At least Athena (Maren Jensen) survived but was increasingly sidelined by Sheba (Anne Lockhart), much to my chagrin.

Where would the explosive space battles be without a bombastic soundtrack underscoring the action? Stu Phillips' music for Battlestar Galactica is memorable and compares favourably with John Williams' operatic Star Wars themes. I adored both soundtracks. For anyone interested, Phillips' recording with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Like Mego, Mattel passed on Star Wars (thereby facilitating Kenner's unprecedented success). Mattel bet on Battlestar Galactica and released a range of merchandise. Exeter's Pram & Toy Shop didn't give up much shelf space, but I did manage to get a Cylon Centurion, Imperious Leader, Ovion, Lucifer and a Cylon Raider.

Growing up, my parents didn't have cable television. So, I only viewed the first movie theatrically, a few of the episodes on HTV at my maternal grandmother's house (Rediffusion television was an early cable provider) and the two 'sequels' on rental video.

During the Betamax vs VHS format war, studios signed exclusive deals with Sony or JVC. Battlestar Galactica was only available on Sony Betamax. Thankfully, an aunt and uncle (who gifted me an Atari VCS in 1980) owned a high-end Sony machine featuring stereo sound, and I was able to watch Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack and Galactica III: Conquest of the Earth on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Teignmouth after playing Pole Position at the seafront arcade.

It would be nearly a decade before I had an opportunity to see the entire Battlestar Galactica series including the risible spin-off series Galactica 1980. The less said about the latter the better. However, The Return of Starbuck, guest starring Dirk Benedict (The A-Team) in the titular role from the original series, is a highlight foreshadowing Enemy Mine.

Ronald D. Moore's (For All Mankind) acclaimed reboot of Battlestar Galactica, one of the first sci-fi series I covered on this blog, ended 16 years ago and was followed by a short-lived prequel series, Caprica.

Much was made of Starbuck's recasting as a female in the reboot - years before Jodie Whittaker would play Doctor Who - and Katee Sackhoff's stellar performance, alongside a fantastic cast, soon allayed any fears. Sackhoff has gone on to play fan-favourite Bo-Katan Kryze in various Star Wars spin-offs including The Mandalorian on Disney+.

The late Richard Hatch, who portrayed Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica and became a childhood hero alongside Luke Skywalker and The Six Million Dollar Man, played Tom Zarek in Moore's lauded reboot. We were friends on social media. Hatch sadly passed away in 2017.

Battlestar Galactica has left a lasting legacy in popular culture from The Big Bang Theory to Portlandia.

What are your memories of Battlestar Galactica? Let me know in the comments below.