Along time ago, in what feels like another galaxy, young Master Awdry was quietly getting on about his business. Action Man, a loyal and worthy companion, was deployed on daily missions as diverse as forward observation roles in his scout car or perhaps journeying to the bottom of the ceramic lined bath in Seawolf. Home was a small town in idyllic Mid Wales, but it might as well have been a million parsecs away from excitement and adventure; all that changed in 1977.
I have always been a daydreamer, in fact some might say little has changed, but the ability to withdraw quietly into one’s own space and amuse yourself with fictitious imaginings is, I believe, a great gift. There is no doubt in my mind that the advent of Star Wars brought about a very definite seed change to those thoughts, now whole galaxies were at my disposal, an infinite amount of possibilities to be explored. Rides around the park became dogfights in space as I desperately tried to shrug off swarms of TIE Fighters, the piece of junk that was my second hand bicycle, lovingly restored by my father, was no longer an embarrassment, sure she didn’t look like much, but she had it where it counts, whilst my Grandmother’s bamboo canes took on magical qualities that caused them to hum and crash during lightsabre battles in the garden.
|Treasures from the loft.|
To this new awakening came the introduction of merchandising, something the Awdry household had been blissfully ignorant of up until this point. Imagine, if you will, a time before the internet, YouTube and the power at your fingertips to dial up all manner of information and images. The only way to recapture some of the magic that we had seen on screen was to either go and see it again, and many did, or invest in the merchandise. Favourites included bubble gum cards, stickers, annuals and of course the much loved action figures. These were, quite simply, a revelation and transformed the Awdry toy box. During this period Action Man was initially confined to barracks, but ultimately discharged in favour of the new, compact action figure. Away too went the regiments of Airfix plastic warriors as a different type of Stormtrooper took centre stage. Model aircraft were cut down from their cat gut restraints as spaceships now soared into the skies over a bed, bedecked in matching Star Wars duvet cover and pillow set. The march was relentless, brushing aside all resistance.
I had reached my teenage years when Return of the Jedi, the third instalment, hit our screens. Even with the inclusion of the somewhat bemusing Ewoks it was clear that change was in the air, both on the silver screen and at home. Life was becoming more serious, more complicated and a simple pleasure like spending your pocket money on action figures was becoming harder to justify. Ultimately they were packed away, as if frozen in carbonite, to be released one day… perhaps?
If the truth be told Star Wars was never totally abandoned, just hearing the opening refrain of the Imperial March would illicit feelings of joy and happiness; the certain promise of excitement and adventure to follow. As pocket money was replaced by a regular wage, the occasional action figure would be bought and of course there were the prequels to contend with! So why mention it here? Last summer, and in a fit of shameful, sheer indulgence, I bought into world of Fantasy Flight’s Imperial Assault. This had been on my radar for some time, especially having enjoyed the wonderful X-Wing Miniatures game, but the last thing I needed was to buy into another game system with yet more plastic miniatures.
It was a series of posts made on the thoroughly entertaining 'The Game Cupboard' that caused the already strained resolve to start to crumble; I was weak and most definitely seduced by a stronger force! My initial reluctance to commit had been that this appeared to be a game for two or more players, but Steve guided me, with exceptional kindness, through the possibilities of playing Imperial Assault as a solo venture. Several expansions quickly followed and a wonderful summer holiday was spent battling across the sands of Tatooine or aboard a fearsome Star Destroyer, reunited with the characters from my youth. With the start of the new academic year everything was put away, but the recent release of The Last Jedi on DVD, has seen a further awakening. To that end, I have decided to dedicate the month of May to Star Wars and hope to showcase some bits and pieces that I have finally attacked with the paintbrush. So go strap yourselves in, I'm going to make the jump to light speed!