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As Random as a game of Pazzak

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Star Wars Scrapbook: My First Star Wars Action Figure

Star Wars Scrapbook
My First Star Wars Action Figure

Even thirty-seven years later, I can remember my first glimpse of a Kenner Star Wars action figure.  It was at my house in the spring of 1978, with the sun streaming in the kitchen windows. The lawn outside finally a vibrant green after a cold and especially snowy Kentucky winter.  Occasionally, when no one was looking, I would climb up on the avocado green kitchen counter to look into the dark brown cabinet beside the refrigerator.  I don’t recall what I was looking for that day, but I remember vividly what I found while exploring up there.  As I stood up on the counter, I spotted something on top of the refrigerator — a Chewbacca action figure in his transparent bubble on the soon-to-be familiar Star Wars card.  I couldn’t resist.  I had to have a closer look.  Taking the toy in my hand, I looked at the plastic representation of Han Solo’s copilot, comparing his likeness (or lack thereof) to the picture on the front of the card.  “What is this doing up here?” I wondered to myself.  I kneeled down on the counter, holding the treasure in my hands in order to inspect it more closely with help from the bright sunlight coming through the dual windows over the kitchen sink.  I had never seen anything so intriguing in my life.  I wanted to tear open the package and play with the toy, but I knew I had found something I wasn’t supposed to know about, and if I opened it, Mom would know I had broken her rules about climbing up on the counter again.  Exhibiting her psychic prowess yet once more, at the very moment I was returning my discovery to its former resting place, my mother came into the kitchen and caught me red-handed!

“What are you doing up there?” she asked in a tone that revealed she knew exactly what I was doing and what I had found.

“Look what I found!” I exclaimed, my youthful exuberance unable to invent a lie to avoid the trouble that would inevitably follow.  I handed her the toy, an unstoppable smile on my face, and she took it into her hands and looked at it with an feigned expression of interest.

After a couple of moments of my gibbering on and on about Chewbacca, who he was, and why this would be a great toy for me, she reached up to the top of the refrigerator, replaced the toy, and took me in her arms to put me back down on the kitchen floor where I belonged.  She explained to me that I wasn’t to tell anyone about what I had seen, especially my brother, since his birthday was coming in just a few days.  She also sternly warned me not to venture back to look at the toy again, implying that it was for my brother and I shouldn’t spoil his surprise.  She sent me out of the kitchen so she could continue her cleaning in preparation for my brother’s birthday party.

At this point, you need to know that until that time, birthdays had been a relatively minor event in my home.  When one of our birthdays rolled around, after dinner we would have a cake to celebrate with the family.  Once the candles were blown out, a present would be given to the birthday boy or girl, and we would then go back to our regular activities.  This year was going to be different, though.  My mother had explained to all us kids that starting with my brother, each one of us would have a party on our tenth birthday with our friends.  It would be a big event, and my brother’s party would come that weekend.  As excited as my sister and I were about this news, we must have been a little disappointed that our parties wouldn’t come for some years later.  I was somewhat more satisfied about my participation in my brother’s birthday, though, since I now shared a secret about what would most certainly be the greatest gift he would get that year.

The day of the party arrived.  My brother’s friends, mostly his classmates and fellow Cub Scouts, came over to the house, each bearing a gift for the occasion.  It was noisy in the house and out of the house as excited ten year-olds ran amok until the time came for cake, a song, and the opening of presents.  At that point, I watched anxiously from the next room to see my brother’s expression when he saw Chewbacca.  But he never opened any Star Wars gifts.  Chewbacca was nowhere to be seen.  Worried that something was missing, I went over to my mother and started to ask her if she had forgotten the surprise.  Putting a finger to her lips to silence me, she beckoned me and my sister into the den and handed a small gift to each of us.  Knowing that she still always gives something small to siblings of birthday boys and girls when she is invited to parties these days, I can only surmise that she had gotten each of us a gift so we wouldn’t be disappointed seeing our brother flooded with presents from his friends, knowing that we would have to wait years for our own parties.  We opened our packages excitedly, and while I don’t remember what my sister got that day, I remember what mine was…

shazbazzar_ChewbaccaChewbacca.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had inadvertently discovered my own present on top of the refrigerator that day!

What are some of your best memories of Star Wars in your youth?  Comment below or tweet me @shazbazzar #StarWarsScrapbook with your Star Wars memories.

 

Rebels Review: Path of the Jedi

Rebels Review: Did “Path of the Jedi” Just Change a Historical Moment from the Original Trilogy?

Mitchell SteinIt feels good to be back and reviewing these episodes once again. After a fairly short winter hiatus, Rebels is back in a interesting new format. What I witnessed in this week’s episode was something that leaves me with mixed emotions. I found it entertaining certainly, but there are flaws that are just leaving me uncertain of what new direction the show is heading in.  Beware of spoilers ahead.

Like I said, Path of the Jedi is a confusing episode, not just in the story perspective, leaving you just as clueless as Ezra in the hallucination scene, but so much happened in this is episode, and ultimately at the end, not much of an actual outcome exists out of this episode, (or so we may think). So we get Ezra and Kanan going to a secret, ancient, Jedi base, yet another Inquisitor encounter (which actually doesn’t truly happen), and some confusing encounters that really just lead up to the one moment that the entire episode had me devote twenty-two minutes to getting the point across.

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Someone Who Loves You- TWL #115

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Before & After the Special Editions: Blast It Biggs! Who Are You?

Star Wars: Before and After the Special Editions
Blast It, Biggs!  Who Are You?

When we first saw Star Wars in 1977, we heard about Biggs in a discussion around the dinner table in the Lars’ home, but we didn’t actually see him until he was revealed as “Red Three” during the Rebels’ attack on the Death Star at the end of the movie.  Somehow, we always understood that Luke and Biggs were good friends back on Tatooine, even though we only saw them interact over a comlink while in their X-Wing Fighters.  In the battle, when Luke barely pulled up in time to avoid colliding with the enormous space station, we recognized the concern Biggs had for his young friend when he asked Luke if he was “all right”.  He did his best to protect Luke from a trio of TIE Fighters in the trench run.  Then, after no more than a few seconds of screen time in the film, his X-Wing exploded in a ball of fire.  Biggs was gone, and we were left to imagine his and Luke’s history together.

2e78940d865eadcc29227981b00e2b1aAnd imagine we did.  When we read the Star Wars Storybook, we saw pictures of a scene we had never seen.  We saw Luke and Biggs at Toshe Station and read a brief snippet of their conversation there.  When we opened the Star Wars comic, we saw more of the same.  The radio drama provided us with the audio we needed to complete the scene in our minds.  Furthermore, we saw the two friends reunited at the Rebel base before the attack on the Death Star through the same media.  In the days before home video, many of us translated these visuals and words into fully-rendered scenes in our minds, leading some of us to insist years later that we had seen a version of the movie that actually contained these scenes.  We could describe almost flawlessly the scenes we had never seen, filling in the gaps we hadn’t been shown, and building a story in our minds of the friendship of Luke and Biggs.

Others among us who hadn’t seen the comics or storybook became somewhat confused during the dogfight over the Death Star.  Luke, when pursued by a TIE Fighter, muttered to himself, “Blast it, Biggs! Where are you?”  As if responding to his words, “Red Two” drilled the unsuspecting Imperial with shots from his own X-Wing.  The youngest among us wondered whether we heard Luke correctly or if perhaps we had mistakenly saddled the mustachioed pilot with the name “Biggs” and Denis Lawson’s character was actually Luke’s friend from Tatooine.  In Luke’s trench run, the confusion continued as he distinctly referred to each pilot by their correct names.  Which one was Biggs?  Was Wedge someone Luke had known from Tatooine, as well?  If Biggs was Luke’s best friend, why hadn’t we seen more of him?

Star-Wars-X-Wing-Miniatures-Biggs-DarklighterAs the years passed, we all came to understand which was Wedge and which was Biggs.  We heard about “deleted scenes” with Biggs that were extricated from the movie.  We learned the backstory through “making of” documentaries and publications, developed a fondness for Wedge through the next two films of the trilogy, and yearned to know more about the Biggs we never really knew on screen.

And then came the Special Editions in 1997.  Most of the scene with Luke and Biggs in the hangar before the Battle of Yavin was reinserted into the movie, adding depth to the relationship between Luke and Biggs, and making his death more tragic for Luke — adding empathy to Luke’s response to his demise as the young Skywalker continued his trajectory towards the vulnerable exhaust port on the Death Star.  Finally, we were given an onscreen representation of the friendship we had ascertained from various sources.  While we wanted more, there was a feeling of satisfaction in seeing their joyful reunion in the Rebel Alliance.

But we wanted more.  As Star Wars fans, we seem to always want more.  Especially when we know footage exists showing the scenes we had seen in pictures, heard on the radio, and read in books.  Graciously, in the Blu-ray release of the saga, we were given a relatively clean version of the scene on the bonus features disc.  Many of us watched in silent reverence as Luke burst into Toshe Station to find Biggs among his other friends, playing games.  We listened intently as Biggs told Luke about his plans to join the Rebel Alliance.  We took a collective deep breath as we contemplated what we had just seen on our flat screen TVs, having finally seen what we had only imagined.  The long wait was finally over.

The addition of the Luke and Biggs reunion in the hangar to Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition was a welcome addition to the movie we had all known and loved.  It was brief, conveyed the depth of their friendship, and provided gravitas to the trench run scene, as Luke lost another link to his past.  Lucas’s restraint from reinserting the deleted scenes from Tatooine were also the right choice, since they would have slowed the pace of the opening scenes of the movie and added an ultimately unnecessary plot line that would have distracted us from the dangerous situation taking place miles above the surface of the desert planet.  In its treatment of the Biggs Darklighter story, the Special Edition hit the nail on the head.

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Now, we have a unique opportunity to see the Toshe Station scene added to the official story line of Star Wars in Star Wars: Rebels, the animated series on Disney XD.  As this new and exciting series tracks the growth of the rebellion, there is an opportunity for Dave Filoni’s crew to explore the “friends” Biggs reveals to Luke that he met at the academy.  Perhaps he will meet Zare Leonis, a cadet we have already seen in the series.  Maybe he has a run-in with Sabine Wren or even Ezra Bridger, who appears to be exactly the same age as Luke Skywalker.  As the story develops, we might even follow Biggs home to Tatooine and witness (in animation) the joyful reunion of Luke and Biggs at Toshe Station.  These things would probably not occur until the fifth season, but they would be worth the wait because they would establish the widespread growth of the rebellion, connect the new characters with familiar favorites in a meaningful way, and finally give us (onscreen) the satisfaction of seeing Luke and Biggs as the friends we know they are.

Before the Special Editions, we could only imagine.  After a few seasons of Rebels, everything we have “known” may finally be realized.  Only time will tell.