For the Birds Radio Program: Star Wars

Original Air Date: Feb. 12, 1997

Laura and her family just saw the re-released original Star Wars. (3:36) Date verified.

Audio missing


Last Friday, my husband Russ and I got in a long, long line with our kids to see the movie Star Wars the day it was released. This is not the first time Russ and I have done this. Twenty years ago we were in a line that looked pretty much the same, going to the same event, the main difference being that most of the people in this year’s line were wearing Green Bay Packer jackets. And now there are more Ericksons, so instead of 50 percent of our contingency being sci fi fans, it’s up to 80 percent.

Actually, Star Wars offers even less by way of birds than the Superbowl. My kids joked that C3PO is a king of bird, a big chicken, but the only bird I found in Star Wars was Han Solo’s really big bird, the Millennium Falcon. I usually fall asleep during the big trench chase scene, but this time I stayed awake, saving my kids from public humiliation.

The TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation occasionally brings its characters to pleasant, verdant places on earth, where we hear bird songs in the background. And there were some gulls and pigeons in the movie Star Trek IV, the one where they saved the last two whales on earth. But overall, science fiction is not a good place for nature study. This new, improved Star Wars added some alien critters to the landscape, including some weirdly cute animals called “whomp rats,” but there wasn’t a single avian-looking creature to be found. Space may be the final frontier, but even for imaginative filmmakers, it’s pretty devoid of birds.

Russ reads the science fiction magazine Analog. Most of the covers show space ships or fanciful depictions of various aliens, but back in the 70s, one lovely issue had a drawing of a Blue Jay on the cover—an incubating female sitting on a nest constructed of wires and tubes and other high-tech debris it had found in a future world. The point of the story that went with the illustration was that in one futuristic city designed to keep all of nature out, plants and animals had somehow managed to find their way in. The story rang true in many ways—modern urban and suburban life may endanger some lovely creatures, but it sure enhances the planet for rats, mice, pigeons, gulls, crows, and sparrows. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any other sci fi stories about this kind of topic. If I were devising science fiction stories, I’d be sure to fill them with lovely bird-like aliens or with earth birds somehow surviving the human-dominated future, but apparently normal sci fi writers spend their time inside rather than out noticing nature.

Anyway, the new, improved Star Wars was jolly fun, and I particularly enjoyed the new DTS sound system and the cool new explosions, but overall, I have to agree with Robert Frost, who said, “Earth’s the right place for love. I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” Earth is also the right place for birds.