Very British Futures – Kinvig

Characters from show

It’s tempting to describe Kinvig as an artistic imperfection, there to make the rest of Nigel Kneale’s television work look even better in comparison. That would be nonsense of course. Nobody involved in this 1982 ITV sitcom wanted it to be anything other than a great success. It’s a fact that Kinvig was not a successful programme in terms of ratings or on the Audience Appreciation Index. The debate lies in whether Kinvig is an unappreciated rough diamond, a textbook disaster, or something in-between.

Kinvig concerns a lazy repairman called Des whose life permanently stuck in neutral. Apart from his good-natured twittering wife Netta, his only friend is Jim Piper. Des indulges Jim in his obsession with unknown mysteries – UFO’s, Atkantis, psychic powers etc. He’s shaken out of his lethagy when beautiful Miss Griffin enters his life, first as an angry customer, then as a seductive alien who tells him he is the only man who can save Earth from the evil Xux. Or is it all in his mind? (Answer: Yes it is)

If it wasn’t written by Nigel Kneale, the writer of classics like Quatermass and the Pit, 1984 , Beasts and The Woman in Black, it’s doubtful that Kinvig would ever have been released on DVD or enjoy any cult status at all. Who remembers SF sitcoms The Adventures of Don Quick for example, or Luna for example? As it is, of my two guests for this episode, only Charles Auchterlonie had seen it before, whilst Tim Reid came to it completely fresh. Chas and Tim already have an excellent podcast of their own – The Randomiser where they discuss Doctor Who and Red Dwarf. I’m a big fan, as well as knowing them as friends from way back in early noughties of Doctor Who internet fandom. In fact I’ll be guesting on a future edition of their show.

I must take a moment to praise Andy Murray’s excellent production notes and his definitive book on Nigel Kneale’s career Into the Unknown which came in very useful when researching the programme.

Overall, most episodes in this series end up championing the show of the week, but I’ll confess that this episode is a bit of demolition job. Hopefully you will think it is an entertaining deconstruction.

Production Details

Cast

Dennis Kinvig – Tony Haygarth
Netta Kinvig – Patsy Rowlands
Jim Piper – Colin Jeavons
Miss Griffin – Prunella Gee
Buddo – Simon Williams
Mr Horsley – Patrick Newell

Production Design – Michael Oxley
Costume Design – Sue Formston
Written by Nigel Kneale
Produced & Directed by Les Chatfield

You can download Very British Futures from your favourite podcast app. In fact if my podcast is not on your favourite podcast app, let me know and I’ll make sure it gets put there. Or you can listen or download from this very page.

Very British Futures – Kinvig



Very British Futures – Out of the Unknown

Since I started this blog, my Out of the Unknown articles have been the most popular posts, so this series was a natural to cover on the podcast. In fact, making this episode and watching these episodes alongside Stephen Hatcher and Dylan Rees has only deepened my appreciation of this remarkable adult SF drama, as well as my frustration that so many great episodes remain lost.

There have been other good adult SF dramas on television. In the last decade probably the best UK example of a serious anthology has been Black Mirror, but even that thoughtful series can be criticised for being narrowly focused on media matters and its formula summed up as “a new media technology brings out the worst in everyone”. A couple of years ago Channel 4 did a co-production with Amazon Prime, Electric Dreams, adapting stories by Philip K Dick. Some of them were excellent, but Out of the Unknown has such an impressive range of stories and authors, covering genres from comedy to chiller.

I felt the best way to cover this anthology was for myself and guests Dylan Rees and Stephen Hatcher to pick an episode each to concentrate on, as well as a general appreciation. It was a formula that worked particularly well and I’m going to apply it again on other long running series.

Out of the Unknown Essential Facts

Producers – Irene Shubik, George Spenton-Foster, Alan Bromley
Story Editors – Irene Shubik, Robin Parks
4 seasons (1965 – 1971)

For more information on Out of the Unknown, including my reviews of all the existing episodes, start here.

Very British Futures is available from Anchor.fm and most leading podcast platforms, now including Soundcloud. You can listen or download this episode from here.

Very British Futures – Out of the Unknown

Hope you enjoy this one as much as we enjoyed making it.

Very British Futures – The Nightmare Man

The Nightmare Man was one of the first titles I wanted to cover with this podcast series, however finding the guests to talk about it proved harder than I expected. It seems this BBC SF/Horror serial is even more obscure than I thought and quite a few of the people I thought had seen it and would like to talk about it, revealed themselves unaware of it. Happily Ian Taylor, who I had met through amateur dramatics, was a big fan. So much so that he had created a horror discussion group on Facebook named after it. John Isles had not seen it but was keen too, so I lent him my DVD copy, and we were away.

The Nightmare Man is a very entertaining horror B-movie in four parts, adapted from a yarn by David Wilshire. It feels like a slightly more adult Doctor Who adventure, except the timelord has not turned up and its left to the local police, with a little military assistance, to save the day. Inverdee, a Scottish island preparing for winter, is shaken by a violent murder. A woman resident appears to have torn apart by something with super human strength. We know hoarse-breathing killer with blood red vision is out there, but exactly what is he is the central mystery. An alien, a drug-crazed madman, or something stranger?

Atmospheric, filled with likable characters and well paced over four half-hour episodes, The Nightmare Man should be better known but perhaps coming out before home video really took off meant that it could only live in memories of the few million who watched it on BBC1 in the summer of 1981. Hopefully this podcast should direct a few more people to seek out the DVD. It would certainly be a good choice for BritBox.

Cast
James Warwick – Michael Gaffikin
Celia Imrie – Fiona Patterson
Maurice Roëves – Inspector Inskip
Jonathan Newth – Colonel Howard
Tom Watson – Dr. Goudry
James Cosmo – Sergeant Carch
Pat Gorman – The Killer

Written by Robert Holmes from the novel Child of Vodyanoi by David Wilshire
Produced by Ron Craddock
Directed by Douglas Camfield

There are a limited number of copies Ian Taylor’s book on Jenny Agutter on sale available from We Belong Dead.

Very British Futures – The Nightmare Man

You can listen to the podcast on most major podcast sites and apps. If you do, any ratings or reviews are much appreciated. You can also listen or download it from this page. Thanks for your interest.

Very British Futures – Threads

A definite change of tone for this episode and possibly the most serious drama I’ll be covering in the series. Not to mention being a BAFTA award winning production. Threads is Mick Jackson and Barry Hines’ coal-black spectre at the feast of television. A dramatic portrayal of the effect of nuclear war on Britain, including the then new theory of a nuclear winter. What makes Threads such a shocking watch is not the graphic radiation injuries, the shootings or the wrecked towns and cities, it is the complete loss of hope, kindness and any kind of compassionate humanity. As far as this film is concerned, not only will the immediate survivors be quickly reduced to merely surviving, but their descendants will be barely be better than stunted savages.

Before that grim, almost surreal last act, the film is an expertly written and produced drama documentary, full of well-observed Northern characters and believable detail, as Sheffield City Council prepares for a possible attack, whilst the populace get on with their lives, feeling helpless and detached from the news of conventional war in the Middle East.

To discuss Threads I was glad to invite Rik Hoskin, writer across many platforms from award-winning comics to novels by way of games and audios, and Andrew S. Roe-Crines, lecturer in political science at Liverpool University. The latter has already contributed to my Tripods episode.

Find out about Andrew’s forthcoming book Corbynism in Perspective.

Read Andrew’s article on the recent Labour leadership battle, “Selecting Starmer” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00344893.2021.1927809

And of course Rik is no stranger to this blog.

Cast:
Karen Meagher – Ruth Beckett
Henry Moxon – Mr Beckett
June Broughton – Mrs Beckett
Reece Dinsdale – Jimmy Kemp
David Brierly – Mr Kemp
Rita May – Mrs Kemp
Harry Beety – Mr Sutton
Ashley Barker – Bob
Phil Rose – Medical Officer
Michael O’Hagan – Chief Supt. Hirst
Steve Halliwell – Information Officer
Brian Grellis – Accommodation Officer
Peter Faulkner – Transport Officer
Anthony Collin – Food Officer

Producer and Director – Mick Jackson
Writer – Barry Hines

You can listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, Listen Notes and many more platforms. You can also download it from this very page.

Very British Futures – Threads

If you do listen to it on a platform that encourages feedback, we would love a review. Or share a link. Many thanks for reading.

Very British Futures – Star Cops

Star Cops is a series which has grown on me over the years. When it was first shown on BBC2 back in 1987, I watched it but left with the impression it was distinctly average. In trying to get away from one set of SF clichés, it had ended up embracing a whole bag of detective tropes instead. Years later I bought the VHS videos at a charity store and viewing it again it seemed a lot stronger and cleverer than my 21 year old self had given it credit for.

When I was canvasing friends for what TV shows they would like to talk about on my potential podcast, Star Cops was mentioned quite a lot. So much so that this is my first four handed episode, with regulars Kevin Hiley and Dr Rebecca Wray joined by Peter Grehen, a friend and writer who I had first met through BBV as the author of Sontaran: Silent Warrior and later asked to write an Agents of Psyence script, which sadly was never made. I was slightly worried that some guests would get marginalised but I’m pretty happy that we all had our say, whilst keeping the episode down to a reasonable length.

Important credits to know about Star Cops as you listen:

Main cast
David Calder – Nathan Spring
Erick Ray Evans – David Theroux
Linda Newton – Pal Kenzy
Trevor Cooper – Colin Devis
Jonathan Adams – Alexander Krivenko
Sayo Inaba – Anna Shoun

Production Team
Created by Chris Boucher
Written by Chris Boucher, Philip Martin, John Collee
Produced by Evgeny Gridneff
Directed by Christopher Baker, Graham Harper

Very British Futures is now also available on Pod Follower and Pod Bean. If you do listen to the podcast on one of the platforms which allows reviews, then please consider leaving a review for us, because it helps raise the show’s profile.

As ever you can listen and download the show from here too. Thanks for listening and enjoy the show.

Very British Futures – Star Cops


TV21 Daleks – The Emissaries of Jevo

It’s time to take care of a little unfinished business. Back in 2020 I was kindly invited by Dylan Rees onto the podcast Doctor Who – Too Hot for TV to discuss the legendary TV21 Dalek comic strip. I was in the process of moving house at the time so my own copy of the strips and other related books were locked away in storage, so I had to rely on my memories and the internet for details. It all worked out in the end I think Dylan and I created a fun episode. However there was one story which neither of us could remember a single detail about. It has variously been listed by fan sites as The Emissaries of Jevo or The Seeds of Arides (the comic strip had no individual chapter titles) and ran between issues 90 and 95.

As the supposed guest expert on the show, this has irked me since and Panini’s recent restored release of the TV21 comic series in a glorious new edition last November 2020 has given me a chance to upgrade my collection and refresh my memory.

This is certainly the definitive reprint of the British classic comic strip. Thanks to Gerry Anderson’s own archive and contributions from collectors, many of the original artboards have been digitally scanned, supplemented by scans from the best surviving issues of TV21. Digital technology and printing is now at a stage where these 104 pages not only look as good as they did coming off the printing press in 1965, but it in fact often better. Bight colours zing, and the skilled draughtsmanship of Richard Jennings, Eric Eden and Ron Turner looks sharp and detailed. Well presented in bookazine format on quality paper and supported by some excellent archive articles, this is for my money the best Doctor Who publication of 2020.

The Emissaries of Jevo was wholly illustrated by Ron Turner and written David Whitaker, Doctor Who’s script editor who wrote the large majority of the strip, with supplemented help from Angus Allen. The spacecraft “Guardian” and its crew from the planet Jevo is despatched on a secret mission to Arides to destroy a mutated species of plants. The flowers, infamous for their pollen which destroys all rival organic life, have mutated to gigantic size and now threaten to poison the galaxy. Unfortunately the ship is captured by the Daleks, who are quite happy for these flowers to unleash galactic genocide. Through a ruse, Captain Kerid persuades the Dalek Emperor that Daleks are vulnerable to the seeds too and his ship is released. When the Daleks discover the trick, they pursue the Jevonians, who heroically choose to complete their mission, even though it means certain extermination.

Despite its silly premise about mutant space pollen, this is a typically good example of the strip. Whittaker had developed a general rule that when the Daleks faced human looking opponents they would always lose, but in this story that guideline is cleverly bent. Although the Daleks destroy the Jevonians, it is an empty victory since the the flowers are destroyed and even the Emperor has a moment of doubt about whether they can ever truly conquer the human spirit. Curiously the crew of the good ship “Guardian” are described throughout as androids, yet this has no bearing on the story at all. We do not learn if all Jevonians are androids or just their astronauts, we never see them use any robot abilities and the crew certainly seem to have a full range of emotions. Kirid and his second in command even have a violent argument that ends with Kirid punching his subordinate in the face.

In good piece of continuity, the Daleks used a magnetrap to capture the spacecraft, just as they had used on Robot 2K a few weeks earlier. As was discussed on the podcast, magnetism is something of go-to for Whittaker whenever it comes to Dalek science, possibly because it was a bit of science that most schoolchildren would have learnt about. The Emperor voices a chilling piece of Dalek philosophy too. When Kirid tells him the apocalyptic threat posed by the seeds, the Emperor replies “Daleks are not android, human or animal. Why should we prevent these plants achieving what we are dedicated to achieve…?”

Ron Turner’s artwork is as splendid as ever. “Guardian” is quintessential Turner design. Loosely based on the Bluebird jet plane, its a riot of fins, flanges and intakes. The Daleks meanwhile are piloting claw-like space fighters that look impressive in action. Explosions are another Turner speciality and this story has some particularly good examples, my favourite being a Dalek scientist being ripped apart by an exploding gun.

In his introduction, editor Marcus Hearn describes the comic strip as the most enduring artefact of Sixties Dalekmania and I would agree. Their influence on the programme goes right up to the present day with the recent Dalek YouTube series and the visuals of Dalek saucers and armies in the 21st century series, clearly show the echo the comic. Even the fabulous look of the modern bronze Daleks has something of a Ron Turner feel to it. All the strips are exciting and accessible, but the best of them have depth too, as expanding that Dalek empire we heard about but the series could never afford to show us.

The Daleks is available to order from panini.co.uk, priced £9.99.

Proceed… The Strange World of Gurney Slade

Man and dog look at a DVD

This first statement can be read as a symptom of age. My inner dad coming out. But its fair to say that it is quite rare for something genuinely innovative to appear. So much that people think is new and daring has often been done before. Take characters being meta-textual, self aware of the format they inhabit. Long before Fleabag was giving conspiratorial glances to the camera, or Gurney Slade worried about only having 25 minutes of existence left in his final episode, the Marx Brothers were bringing the audience into the artificiality of their adventures. Back in the 18th century, Lawrence Sterne was redefining what a novel could be with the tragicomic diversions of Tristram Shandy, and he in his turn was drawing on the Baroque poets of the previous century. All artists are standing on somebody else’s shoulders.

The Strange World of Gurney Slade has antecedents in The Goons, James Thurber’s humorous stories, Hancock’s Half Hour and Anthony Newley’s previous television shows. Nevertheless, in 1960, when the television sitcom was still inventing itself, there was nothing quite like it on the small screen, a fact that would ultimately doom it to cultdom rather than mainstream success. It’s a lazy cliché to say that some creative endeavour defies description. Besides which, I do have a few adjectives to describe these six episodes: odd, amusing, inconstant, clever, and a little too often – rather smug.

Gurney Slade and a scarecrow

The debut episode opens with the start of an unimpressive domestic sitcom about a working class family: harassed wife, cheeky kids, interfering mother-in-law and boring neighbours inviting themselves in. In the midst of it all and already clearly distancing himself is the man of the house – Gurney Slade (played by Anthony Newley). When it comes to his first banal line of dialogue, Gurney can’t take it anymore and walks off the set, past the floor manager, and out into what seems at first to be the real world but in fact is a fantasy created by his imagination, mixing mundane backgrounds with characters such as talking rubbish bins, conversational dogs and advertising posters which come to life. At this point we could be watching an actor’s nervous breakdown from the inside, but the programme never explores that bleak reading, even if it never contradicts it either. It prefers instead to suggest that we are joining the protagonist in “Gurneyland”, as he describes it in the fifth episode. That’s about it as far as the overall story is concerned. Gurney, virtually free of all commitments, wanders along musing about modern life and going on flights of fancy. The first three episodes are much more free form, almost like an illustrated stand-up routine. However the second half becomes slightly more narrative driven. Gurney is put on trial for producing an unfunny comedy show, has to venture inside his own mind to deal with some squatters, and finally is challenged to take responsibility for the characters he has imagined over the previous episodes.

Anthony Newley created the series alongside Sid Green and Dick Hills, at the time two of the most in-demand comedy writers in British television. It is a definitely a young man’s view of the world. Our hero often runs up against older men who are stuffy, hypocritical or unreliable authority figures. A politician who is only concerned with his young mistress, or a music hall bore of a comedian trading in ancient jokes. Meanwhile women remain resolutely two-dimensional, mostly unobtainable objects of desire, reflecting perhaps Gurney’s admitted failures to make any meaningful connections with girls. Mention ought to be made though of Joy Stewart, who has a reoccurring role as a stereotypical suburban wife/mother, who is involved with some of the most likeable sequences, remaining resolutely domestically minded throughout. In that she is a symptom of what stops this series really striking home. All the characters are cartoonish stereotypes aside from Gurney. What’s more, the show actually congratulates itself on being too clever for the average viewer. So there is a hint of Emperor’s New Clothes. Don’t find this funny? You’re obviously not sophisticated enough.

Man and woman picking flowers

Ostensibly a comedy series, it’s never laugh out loud funny but more endearingly whimsical. Moments that made me smile tend to involve the talking objects, such as the farmyard dog who regards the farmer and his employees as part of the livestock, or a bin which likes the read the newspapers that are thrown into it. Elsewhere in a moment of dark humour, Gurney helps a couple of children to assemble their perfect mother from a collection of female mannequin parts left on a tip. There’s some funny daft jokes too. Examining the control room inside his imagination, Gurney is glad to see “At least it’s a clean mind.” Later on in the same episode there some amusing physical comedy as he is trying to giving a speech whilst fending off an invisible elephant, which eventually picks him up in its trunk.

The monologues are less successful, coming off as sub-Galton and Simpson material. I could imagine Tony Hancock or Harold Steptoe delivering Gurney’s sour comments on an actor fronting an advertising campaign for screws, or imagining how much easier his life could be if he could simply choose his wife from a army style line-up. But in Newley’s hands they become selfish whinges rather than amusingly pompous. I generally enjoyed the show more when a little more storyline comes into it.

There are some fine meta-jokes in the final part, just the kind of comedy which Wandavision is currently being hailed for. The prosecutor from the trial episode returns and complains that all he knows how to do is aggressively prosecute. “Suppose I’m hungry? How do I order a meal in restaurant?” In a self-flagellating moment, the girl of his dreams from episode two, played by Anneke Wills who was 17 and having relationship with Newley in real life, is shocked when she finds out the age gap between them. But too often Gurney’s jokes about his failings seem more design to invite admiration for his clear-sightedness, rather than humility.

Courtroom

Director Alan Tarrant makes a real virtue of the its monochrome production. The photography is crisp, the outdoor filming is mobile and dynamic, the more stagey looking later episodes have been thoughtfully designed too and in places anticipate where Doctor Who and The Prisoner are going to go in a few years time. It was one of Tarrant’s first directing jobs and sadly for us, he never produced anything as unconventional again, but would go on to a long and successful career in ITV light entertainment and sitcoms.

For viewers interested in the more fanciful British comedy of Python, The Goodies and The League of Gentlemen, The Strange World of Gurney Slade is a fascinating artefact. It rarely made me laugh but it does stay in the memory and at six episodes it feels perfectly formed. If Newley, Green and Hills wanted to make a singular show, they did succeed, but they should not have given themselves a round of applause for doing so.

Thanks to Network, The Strange World of Gurney Slade is available on DVD, which also contains trailers and photos, and a limited edition Blu-ray containing many more features and Anthony Newley’s contemporary film The Small World of Sammy Lee.

Bystander 27 review

What’s it like to live in a world of superheroes? To turn on the news and hear that an invasion from another dimension has just been foiled by a team of brightly costumed men and women with incredible powers. For the second time that year. Or your trip to the shops is disrupted by an army of living clothes or a wall-destroying rumble between two men in hi-tech armour?

  This is a question that’s been on the mind of Rik Hoskin and it’s the kernel that has resulted in “Bystander 27”, an exciting science fiction adventure, set in a brand new world of superheroes and villains. Hoskin is a veteran author of many rollicking science fiction adventures in the “Deathlands” and “Outlanders” series, writing under the name of James Axler. He’s also written a comic shop’s worth of material for Superman, a host of Disney properties and many indies as well. In “Bystander 27” he brings all that love for the genre into an ingenious page-turner.

  Ex-Navy SEAL Jon Hayes is standing on a Manhattan corner, looking forward to meeting his pregnant wife Melanie, but instead witnesses her violent death as collateral during a fight between Captain Light and one of his archenemies, the Jade Shade. His grief soon turns into an obsession to find out more about how these super-powered individuals operate. However, the more he discovers about them, the more questions he has. Then whilst reviewing a piece of video footage of a recent costumed conflict, he sees something truly impossible.

  There are plenty of twists and turns to come that I would hate to spoil because a lot of the pleasure in this novel is the way the mystery is unravelled. Hoskin clearly has a ball creating a fresh hierarchy of heroes, their mighty nemeses, and then dropping in references to previous adventures. Some have echoes of famous DC and Marvel characters and there is fun to be had recognising the little tips of the hat. He captures the tone of classic comics exactly right, and leaves the reader wishing to know more about the exploits of The Hunter, The Mechanist or Doctor Decay. It feels like an established world.

  New York is described equally well, with some great turns of phrase and touches of humour about its inhabitants. When it comes to action, and there is plenty of that, the fight scenes are excellently choreographed and sharply written. Hayes is an engaging protagonist, capable, skilled but still vulnerable and believable.

  In a media landscape saturated with comic strip heroics, Hoskin manages to find an original angle and has written an exciting high-concept science fiction adventure.

Bystander 27 is available now at all good bookshops including Amazon, with a free online preview

Bystander 27

Long time readers of this blog may recall that my friend Rik Hoskin has already had a long career of writing novels under other people’s names, like James Axler. So it was overdue that he got a chance to write one emblazoned with his own. A name that can already be seen on many a comic, graphic novel, DragonCon award and much else. Bystander 27 is a hugely enjoyable SF adventure set in a world of original superheroes, but told from street level. What’s it like to live in a place in a place which is regularly invaded by aliens, or threatened by monsters created by mad scientists, where only a team of uniquely powered men and women can save you? Ex-SEAL Hayes had never really thought about the superheroes, beyond seeing the on the TV news. But when a battle above Manhattan claims his pregnant wife, Hayes’ search for answers take him down a dangerous route into a secret world.

Expect a fuller review soon but in the meantime you can read three excellent interviews with Rik released this week. Find out about the origins of his first original novel and some of his other recent projects over at Dynamic Forces.

John Freeman’s regular blog about the comic industry Down the Tubes catches up with Rik to talk about the novel, his recent graphic novel collaborations with Indian publisher Campfire, and being the lead writer of the computer game Game of Khans.

Finally there is quite an in-depth conversation with Rik about the novel over at paulsemel.com in which he talks about his writing methods and what he thinks about Abaddon Books’ description of his new book as “Megamind meets John Wick“!

Bystander 27 is available now at all good bookshops including Amazon, with a free online preview

The Star Wars movie saga ranked from Best to Worst

I’ve just finished a Star Wars movie marathon, courtesy of Disney+ It’s been the first time I’ve done that since the Disney movies started appearing and that seems as good as reason as any to rate the movies from 1 to 12. Note I am not including the television series or the Ewok movies. (Assume they’d be between 11 and 12.)

1. The Empire Strikes Back
Remains Star Wars’ finest two hours. Armed with a new box of techniques learnt from the first film, the team produce a film that dares to take the story into disturbing and surprising directions, whilst keeping its sense of heroism and fun. The Imperial Walkers are still intimidating, the asteroid chase remains a SFX gem to rank alongside Ray Harryhausen’s skeleton sword fight, and Darth Vader’s declaration is one the best moments in Hollywood movies.

2. Star Wars
Even though its roots in Errol Flynn, Flash Gordon, The Searchers and WWII movies are clearly on show, this film still feels fresh and exciting. It was amazing to see the science fiction pulp world created by books, comics and magazines come alive on the screen back in 1978, as staggering as seeing dinosaurs walk by in 1993. George Lucas cleverly aids the realism of his fantastic universe with his occasional newsreel style framing and giving everything a lived-in look. And underneath all this spectacle, there’s humanity, humour and the pleasure of know much of it was made in Britain, with familiar British TV and film faces turning up all over the place.

3. Rogue One
I was hard pushed whether this or the film below should come next. Rogue One edges it for it completeness, the sense of satisfaction in seeing a film so perfectly executed, including its reshoots. Maybe it stands on Star Wars’ shoulders, but this movie has stood up to repeated viewings.

4. The Last Jedi
Suddenly the Star Wars universe feels exciting again, in the film that bravely deconstructs many tropes of the series, yet still emerges as hopeful and uplifting. The opening bombing sequence is masterly and Rey and Ben’s battle in the throne room just might be my favourite light sabre sequence. Only loses points for recreating the Hoth battle imagery at the end, instead of finding a fresh alternative.

5. Return of the Jedi
For years a very satisfying conclusion to the saga. The first act is filled with pleasures and makes the characters’ adventures feel dangerous and that something is really at stake. Great creature effects too. The gigantic space battle cutting in parallel with the Jedi showdown is marvellously paced. The central core of characters are all in charismatic form, and it’s very quotable too.

6. The Force Awakens
Very enjoyable revival, even if it ultimately plays it too safe with so many call-backs to the original trilogy. But the new quartet of young heroes and anti-heroes are excellently cast and work hard to make their characters engaging. The humour generally works and BB-8 is an ingenious creation.

7. Revenge of the Sith
We entering the more problematic section of the list, where the films are still diverting but the flaws are progressively hard to ignore. This film handles the fall of the Jedi and the failure of the republic pretty well. The battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin is spectacular stuff, though suffers from CGI overkill. In fact as with all the prequel films, the fussy CGI often works against the atmosphere and the choreography. Aside from Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine, pale, calm and sonorous, once people open their mouths the hideous wooden dialogue ruins all the good work elsewhere. That goes double whenever it’s supposed to humorous.

8. The Clone Wars
As a piece of escapist family friendly action adventure, this works jolly well. The art design is ingenious. Ahsoka turns out to one of the series’ most engaging young characters.

9. Solo
Star Wars goes fully space western and it’s a fun ride, but the largely predictable box-ticking plot shows the weakness of the idea with these kind of prologue films. We know this story already and where it’s going. Alden Ehrenreich does a decent job with the unenviable task of filling Harrison Ford’s boots, but the real star of the film is Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3, a droid straight out of Douglas Adams’ universe.

10. Rise of Skywalker
The saga sadly ends with this Frankenstein’s monster of a film, patched together by a studio over-reacting to criticism and fearful of losing money. Sadly, most of the interesting ideas brought in by The Last Jedi are thrown out, along with a lot of story logic. It’s a hollow film with moments of brightness such as the colourful festival on Pasaana, but mostly it’s one long chase after another, spliced with lazy borrowing from Return of the Jedi.

11. The Phantom Menace
Undoubtedly impressive alien worlds, the final acrobatic light sabre battle enjoyable, and Jar Jar Binks is a technical innovation. However, the plot is moribund, most of the cast looks uncomfortable, the racial stereotyping is problematic to say to least, and the dialogue is embarrassingly flat and corny.

12. Attack of the Clones
All the problems of the previous film, except the CGI looks extra cartoonish and the romance scenes are toe-curlingly bad. Every line Anakin utters to Padme seems deeply creepy, and Hayden Christensen brings nothing except a shaggy haircut. It’s a clunky, juvenile film even by the series’ standards. Only Temuera Morrison emerges with any credit for the presence he brings to his short appearance as Jango Fett.