Seething since 2000*
Colin Cantwell’s design for the Empire’s short-range [TIE] fighters is one of the most distinctive visual motifs of Star Wars. In a decade newly (perhaps foolishly) obsessed with the possibilities of solar power, it seemed at the cutting edge to make that source of energy a part of the craft’s design. The shape and dynamic of the craft has pretty much no forebear in any terrestrial technology with the possible exception of marine exploration – it’s truly an ‘alien’ aesthetic, despite the use of solar panels and the cloister-like windows with their primitive support struts. As with the UFOs in Gerry Anderson’s UFO, the craft have a distinctive and impressive flying noise, created by Ben Burtt from recordings of vehicles skidding on a wet motorway, mixed in with the braying of an elephant . . . This is technology designed to show 1977 audiences that they were in big trouble, as opposed to the noble and classic shapes of the rebellion’s X-Wing, which might have fitted in unnoticed to the Battle Of Britain. My only complaint is that I can’t really ‘see’ a TIE fighter landing on those abutting solar panels, and it appears to have no landing gear of any other kind.