Saturday, 16 August 2014

Love over Gold

Captured by scrap dealers, blown to pieces, then made to appear in the prequels, all nothing compared to the 'dark side of the Paws'...

 In the distant 1970s, and probably for many years afterwards, New Zealand Television had a magazine programme for younger viewers which screened early on a Sunday evening (possibly to help deaden the pain of school the next day) called Spot On.  Based on Britain's Blue Peter, a trio of young-ish presenters, enthused their way through semi-educational , handy-crafty, odds and bobs.
In late May 1977, as the evenings were getting cooller and darker, I sat in front of our black and white telly, and all-but dropped my cheese-on-toast into my lap as I unexpectedly had my tiny mind blown.  Spot On reported that a new movie was breaking all kinds of records in America, and they showed a clip...
The next day at school this flurry of images, never seen or imagined before, was all anyone could talk about. "That ape thing - flying the spaceship!" "The 'astronauts', firing at those things!" "that girl with the buns on the sides of her head!" We were soon to learn their names in a very short space of time, but what impressed me the most was the shiny robot who's eyes glowed when the cockpit lights went out.
I could never understand the attraction of Artoo-Detoo - he was just a noisy appliance, whereas See Threepio was a beautifully-sculpted suit of golden armour.  Even when I got my first inkling of his voice and personality (on an episode of The Donny and Marie Show, for heavens sake) I still loved him.  Planet of the Apes had been the biggest sci-fi sensation up till now, and to me, Threepio sounded like Roddy McDowell, but from the other side of the Atlantic.

I gave most of my Star Wars  drawings away, but this is probably
the very first one I did of the robots, when I was eleven. I recall I only
had a tiny black and white newsprint photo as reference, and it shows!

Star Wars mania gripped the country and I soon realised, but never understood why, that preferring Threepio over Artoo seemed to put me in a minority of one.  But I wasn't partisan in the thousands of drawings I made - I drew them both and reached the point where I had memorised all of the fiddly outer detail and it's exact correct position on both droids.

I might have been the only little boy who got a See Threepio kitset model that Christmas, and sadly, being my first kit I made something of a Bantha's ear of the poor, long suffering protocol droid. Alas, nothing of him even remains now.

With his oversized head, the original MPC kit looks a little
like a Thunderbirds version of See Threepio.

Many years later I won a beautifully-sculpted vinyl kitset Threepio at a science fiction convention art competition, and this time was determined to make a better job of him.  I'd put quite a few models together by this time, and had learned some tricks, and most importantly: patience.

I did the best job I could, filling the hollow vinyl parts with plaster to give some stability, highlighting the surface detail with delicate 'weathering' and then painstakingly coating the finished model with many layers of gloss varnish to give him a metallic shine, just like the real one (in the final scenes of the films, at least). The result was very striking, even if I say so myself.
An eventual  house move saw Threepio and my other precious and delicate kitsets carefully bubble-wrapped and placed lovingly in a large cardboard box, awaiting proud relocation to a suitably prominent shelf.
But before this could happen two very boisterous new kittens found their way into the room, and the forest of cardboard boxes became their favourite playground.  I can confidently speculate that during one particularly rambunctious session, they both fell through the taped up top of the kitset box. Finding themselves suddenly in a strange environment of bubble wrap, tissue paper and very delicate plastic, eight small paws rapidly shredded, scratched and snapped everything within reach.
Some kits will never recover - the delicate filligeree of my best made model, the imperial speeder bike from Return of the Jedi, is beyond saving.
Threepio was almost completely dismembered, but perhaps because of his sturdily reinforced plaster of paris innards, the individual 'body' parts remained intact. Much like his real self in The Empire Strikes Back, this was only a temporary inconvenience.

Threepio goes to pieces, again.
But if the protocol droid had cause to complain about the delay in reassembling him in that film, he was actually well-off: it's taken me four years to get around to my own Threepio reconstruction.
The model is so beautiful that I could justify having him in public view, so set about trying to reassemble Threepio as carefully as I originally put him together.  Refitting the limbs and head only increased my admiration of the original sculpt, and the resulting stance is 110% Threepio: redolent of actor Anthony Daniels channeling the restrictions of the suit to create an expressive and instantly recognisable body language.
This time I wanted to give the model a base, as much as I love the fact that he is freestanding, it also makes him very vulnerable to toppling.  I searched everywhere, imagining that a clear perspex disc might be my best option. Having no luck, I accidentally stumbled across a recently damaged motorcycle wing mirror lying in the gutter, and after removing all of the shattered glass and respraying the matt black finish, it has proved ideal.

It's good to have this representation of 'nobody else's favourite droid' back in one piece.  The much-hated Ewoks have one redeeming feature: they worshipped him!

A lol cat.  I can sink no lower...

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