Written by Suze Kundu


May the fourth be with you

Just because you get science, doesn’t mean you get science fiction, says Sujata Kundu. Although, having recently sat down to watch Star Wars for the first time and found herself in an impromptu marathon, it turns out she likes the genre a lot more than she thought she would.

Star Wars posterA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Well, Cheltenham, actually…

“You teach at Imperial College and you’ve never seen Star Wars?!” one of my students exclaimed six months ago. “I did see that one with that lovely Benedict Cumberbatch in it,” I said. “Star Trek?” “It’s all the same, isn’t it?” He sighed and walked away.

Working in science and knowing about science fiction have become interlinked in people’s minds, yet I’ve reached the age of 32 without watching much sci-fi. In fact, I haven’t seen many iconic, quotable movies and have been known to refer to such franchises as #StarTrekWarGate.

Many friends love Star Wars and have expressed interest in watching me watch them. I’ve been given an approved watching order (“4, 5, 2, 3, 6 – never 1”) and advice on which were acceptable to watch (“There are only three Star Wars movies.) But nothing really made me want to watch them. I was perfectly content in my blissful ignorance.

And then something unexpected happened. I fell in love with a boy who loves sci-fi and he loved me back, so much so he let me watch the Liverpool vs Crystal Palace ‘sportball’ match on Valentine’s Day. I thought it was about time I repaid the sentiment. And so, one rainy Saturday afternoon, we settled down to watch A New Hope, figuring that even if I hate it, at least I’ll understand half the references in Community.

“They mention Luke’s dad, Anakin. Aha! The cute kid from the movie I wasn’t supposed to watch. I feel proud of my knowledge, although express confusion that his father is not Darth Vader.”

Just before we start, I have to confess something. Remember how I was told under no circumstances to ever watch the first new Star Wars movie? Well, one quiet weekend I might have watched half an hour of it before I fell asleep. I wasn’t hugely thrilled but I hoped for good things for that kid…

And so it began.

Princess Leia, one of the only female characters to exist in a galaxy far, far away (nice going, Mr Lucas) is in trouble. Her spaceship has been captured by baddies, run by an Emperor, with middle management provided by a guy in a helmet, and legwork carried out by Storm Troopers. The baddies think plans for the giant pollen grain shaped spaceship they hang out on, the Death Star, are hidden on Leia’s ship. Worried, she sends a message to a friend on a dusty red planet, concealed in a little robot.

Luke, a slightly drippy kid, is living with his aunt and uncle. They mention Luke’s dad, Anakin. Aha! The cute kid from the movie I wasn’t supposed to watch. I feel proud of my knowledge, although express confusion that his father is not Darth Vader. (Even though I had never seen it, I had managed to make sense of that often-quoted spoiler.) In fact, I’d done an impression of the famous “I am your father” in the pub. What I couldn’t make sense of was why they were calling that Anakin guy Luke’s father. I explained my theory to Karl. The look on his face was sympathy. That is an understatement.

Luke’s uncle picks up a couple of sentient robots, the dustbin-Dalek hybrid R2D2, and Shiny Copper Sheldon Cooper, C-3PO. As luck would have it, R2 holds Leia’s plea for help to Obi Wan Kenobi, so he rolls it away, Luke and Shiny Sheldon in close pursuit. They get into a scrape with creatures in dressing gowns and are saved by Obi Wan, who happens to also be a friend of the family, Ben. Obi Wan tells Luke that Darth Vader killed his dad, having used ‘the Force’ for evil and not good. So far, the Force sounds a bit like the Higgs Boson to me…

I feel confused again by the paternity of Luke. Obi Wan Ken Ben Thingy gives Luke his dad’s light sabre. Not light saver, as I thought they were called. I presumed they were like the Deluminators in Harry Potter. I made the obligatory swishy sound of the light sabre. In the meantime, Luke’s aunt and uncle are blown to smithereens by the baddies. I cry.

Luke decides to help Leia. They head to a spaceport where the undesirable hang out in seedy bars and meet diamond in the rough and total dreamboat Han Solo. Hello, Ladies. Han agrees to give them a lift in his retro-chic Millennium Falcon, which really is the stuff of dreams. Lego dreams. As our resident bad boy is in this scene, there is a kerfuffle. Han shot first. When Karl first asked me who shot first, I thought it was a test to see whether I had perfected sleeping with my eyes open. Apparently this is an indication of the version of the movie that you have seen.

Battle of good versus evil begins: The Death Star destroys Leia’s home planet – just to show off. Not cool, people. To lighten the mood, we meet Chewbacca, Han’s furry, gurgling sidekick. While Obi Ben Thingy trains Luke to ‘use the Force’, the Millennium Falcon is captured by the Death Star. Dreamy Han and Drippy Luke rescue Leia but Darth Vader kills Obi Wan who poor Luke has just started bonding with. He really is having an awfully unlucky time.

The Empire Strikes Back posterThey escape – yay! – and come back to destroy the Death Star – woohoo! Much cheering.

So, what happened next? I just had to watch the next instalment, The Empire Strikes Back. Uh oh. Sounds ominous.

Luke trains to become a Jedi, coached by tiny green Yoda. I embarrassingly discover the quote “do or do not, there is no try” was not from Shakespeare. Awkward. Yoda sends Luke into an evil cave. Not that I compare everything to Harry Potter, but this is a bit like when Professor Lupin gets kids to battle their biggest fears which the Boggart turns into. Luke fights Darthy, decapitates him, and sees his own face behind the mask. Creepy! His spidey-sense tingles with trouble and he disappears to help Leia, who it’s totally OK for him to kiss.

We order a takeaway.

Han and Leia escape without Luke’s assistance to find help in the form of Lando, one big bag of sleaze. He betrays them and the baddies freeze Han in carbonite. Leia exclaims: “I love you!” Aw! Han’s response? WHAT?! Even loyal Chewie can’t believe it.

Then comes the father speech. This is all too much to take. Darth suggests they team up and be evil together but Luke says no, despite being a bit pathetic. They have a fight. Luke loses a hand and gets an awesome prosthetic one fitted. Good to see they’re not neglecting their bioengineering skills in this galaxy. Lando decides he has been a bit of an idiot and teams up with Chewie to save Han, who would now make an excellent piece of wall art.

There was only one thing for it. The third DVD makes its way into the player. I accept my fate as a bit of a Star Wars fan. I honestly never saw that coming.

Han has been returned to a giant slug to settle some scores. Through elaborate trickery and gold bikinis, he is rescued, but Leia is trapped. Lando helps Han and all three eventually escape after a bit of a killing spree.

“Endor looks a bit like Surrey, only populated with cute furry Ewoks, which look a lot like baby Chewbaccas to me, but I’m new to all of this, and haven’t learned their Latin species name yet.”

Luke visits Yoda, who is dying. Here come the tears again. Part of me is sad because this is an emotional moment, like when Bellatrix stabs Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter (look, I have read other books, OK?), but also because Yoda confirms the big mystery. Darth IS Luke’s father. And so is Anakin. He isn’t dead literally, just metaphorically. He went over to the Dark Side and became Darthy! I was paralysed with shock. Poor understandably drippy Luke! But worse, Yoda, having previously been a gremlin of few words, drops one last parting bombshell. Luke isn’t the only Skywalker! The timely reappearance of Obi Wan’s spirit delivers the crushing blow that the girl that snogged him in the previous film is actually his twin sister, hence all that Forceyness. Someone give this guy a break…

The Rebels discover Darthy and the Emperor are going to build Death Star II, with added evil. They head to the land of Endor, which looks a bit like Surrey, only populated with cute furry Ewoks, which look a lot like baby Chewbaccas to me, but I’m new to all of this, and haven’t learned their Latin species name yet.

Back on the Death Star, they want to destroy Endor and all the Rebels. Luke has an argument with his dad and the evil Emperor tells him to convert him or destroy him. Luke and Darthy fight with swishy sabres; Luke tells him about Leia, more fighting, then the Emperor has a go. This sets off fatherly compassion in Darthy who saves Luke’s life but loses his own. All the tears! The pair bond, Luke removes Darthy’s mask and they look at each other, eye to eye. There are apologies. I audibly sob.

Return of the Jedi posterMeanwhile, the Ewoks fight with the Rebels against the Empire and Leia finds time to flirt with Han again. There’s a bit of talk about how she loves Luke and Han gets a bit defensive. She reveals that Luke had told her that they were twins. Han is back in the game. More fighting (it is called Star WARS after all). When she releases a kick-ass concealed weapon, he tells her he loves her. There is now only ever one response to that. “I know.” Leia, you legend! I hug Karl, who is wondering what has happened to his previously normal girlfriend, but seems to be keen to embrace the new-found excitement for Star Wars.

The gang congregate for Darthy’s funeral. My final bout of crying. Darthy’s spirit stands side by side with Obi Wan and Yoda as Anakin the Jedi. We knew you were pure of heart under all that PVC.

So, having unintentionally sat through a Star Wars marathon, I admit the Force is well and truly with me. We are attending the Empire Strikes Back Secret Cinema experience in June and I am definitely looking forward to Disney’s take on the next trilogy. So, if like me you’ve avoided The Wars until now, dismissing them as nothing more than a bunch of dated kids’ films, give them a chance, perhaps even today, on Star Wars Day.

May the Fourth be with you.


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Written by Suze Kundu

Suze is a nanochemist, both literally and professionally, and a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Materials. Suze is also a science presenter, and loves dancing, live gigs, Muse and shoes. @FunSizeSuze