Book Review: The Galaxy Britain Built by David Whiteley

Author: David Whiteley
Foreword: Robert Watts
Publisher:
Bear Manor Media
Formats available: Hardback, Paperback, eBook (Kindle)
Pages: 171
RRP: $35 hardback, $25 paperback, $10 eBook
Release date: November 24, 2019

The synopsis;

The untold stories of the British talent behind the biggest movie of all time…

In the sweltering heat wave of 1976, the filming of Star Wars was underway at Elstree Studios in North London. No one who was working on the movie could have imagined just how successful the film and franchise would be…

‘The Galaxy Britain Built’ has tracked down the most modest of British talent who brought the galaxy to life. In this book they reveal the secrets behind the creation of some of the most famous costumes, props and sets in movie history. Think you know everything there is to know about Star Wars? Think again…

“We called it the laser sword because we were British! I knew the lightsaber was the Excalibur of this film! I made it from a flash tube from a 1940s camera.”

“We were going flat out to fill a cantina with aliens. We made foam latex, which filled the room with ammonia, and we were painting with toluene paint. We were probably all high at the time!”

“I broke down my script; I had a list of weapons, robots, sets, vehicles. I just stared at it in horror thinking, ‘I can’t do this!’

“We got wheelbarrow wheels, some plywood and some polystyrene and we built a Landspeeder.”

“Harrison, Carrie and Mark, being American, said they hadn’t tried Yorkshire puddings before! So, on that Sunday, we invited them round for lunch…”

The review;

After seeing the original 1-hour version of The Galaxy Britain Built back in 2017 I remember sitting there, mouth wide open and amazed at what I had just watched. Then on Monday 16th December 2019, 2 days before The Rise of Skywalker was set to be released, an updated version aired on BBC 4 in the UK. This was also accompanied by a documentary focusing on the Palitoy toy company that created Star Wars toys in the UK called Toy Empire. Then in a triple whammy effect, a day later, David Whiteley announced he had released a book that expanded further on these documentaries on November 24, 2019. He had kept this quiet and rather sneakily waited to announce its launch until the documentaries had aired. To say these helped get my excitement levels up for The Rise of Skywalker is an understatement!

It is so well presented, a simple cover that holds a cornucopia of Star Wars related behind the scenes gems. I share David’s fascination with the names most of us ignore as we traipse out of the cinema at the end of viewing a movie. The behind the scenes ‘The Making of…’ series of books are always high up on my shopping list. But this book is different for the reason being those people behind the camera speak for themselves.

The British influence on Star Wars has been underplayed slightly of the years. We all know the majority was filmed in Great Britain and that the cast was heavily British. As you read through this book you then start to realise some of the personnel choices made for the crew weren’t just influenced by the filming location, it was due to the skills these people held.

The talent in the British film industry is no secret and has been known about for some time, but the success of Star Wars was the launchpad for so many careers. It is fantastic to have someone like David passionately beat a drum on their behalf. Star Wars was a game changer for these people for their careers and livelihoods, but you get the distinct feeling it didn’t change them as people. They remain humble to this day and although they now realise how huge their achievements were, at the time it was “just another job”.

Something that I feel makes this book so special are the pictures in the middle pages. David has been given access to photographs taken from the private collections of Robert Watts, Les Dilley, Colin Goudie and Gareth Edwards. Most of these have never been seen before and are a great insight into those behind the scenes and sometimes personal moments.

The book in some ways is the script for the extended documentary, but it’s super extended. It’s sort of like a “director’s cut” and a “special edition” rolled into one. The time and hard work David has put into both the documentaries and book is clear to see. The access he has been given is unprecedented. Like you and me, he is a dedicated Star Wars fan who has lived out his very own space opera.

Availability;

The Galaxy Britain Built by David Whiteley is published by Bear Manor Media. It retails from $25.00 and was released on November 24, 2019 and is available from Amazon.

For more information about David Whiteley and The Galaxy Britain Built, you can follow him on Twitter or you can check out his website. Listen out for the next episode of our Radio 1138 Podcast where I talk to David about the documentaries, his book and his love of a galaxy far, far away!

Steve Galloway
Steve was 5 years old when he saw Star Wars for the first time during its first UK cinema release. He considers himself a first generation Star Wars fan and in his own words is a ‘Child of 77’.