Television Review

THE REAL measure of George Lucas's achievement is not the box- office receipts, or even the quality of the film: it's the way that the media feel constantly obliged to talk about The Phantom Menace, even when they have nothing to say. Even a respectable programme like Leviathan (BBC2) got in on the act last night, with Lisa Jardine arguing that Lucas was following a long and illustrious tradition of prequels. In The Phantom Menace, he has given his fans a "founding myth", a story that "authenticates" his world, in much the same way that early Christians authenticated the Passion by coming up with their prequels - the Annunciation and the Nativity.

This is an interesting analogy (though I suspect Jardine exaggerated Lucas's spiritual ambitions). It started to go wrong, though, when Jardine moved on to 16th-century Florence and the Hermetic books - the supposed works of the mage "Hermes Trismegistus", which supposedly linked Christianity and the wisdom of the ancients. There may be points of resemblance to the Star Wars corpus; but since Jardine gave us little indication of what the Hermetic books said, it was hard to tell. Among the few hard facts that did emerge, at least one was glaringly wrong: Hermes was described as a near- contemporary of Moses, "about 3,000 years before Jesus". Given that both were mythical figures, dates are necessarily vague, but a better fit for Moses would be around 1,300 BC.

In any case, the point of the Hermetic books was to fit Christianity into a pre-existing scheme. The impressive thing about George Lucas is the way he has created an entirely self-contained story that stands by itself, with no need to fit into anything. In the end, this boiled down to a desperate attempt to find an intellectually respectable excuse for screening large quantities of Phantom Menace footage. As if we needed that.

More Star Wars in Army Wives (C4), with a soldier in Macedonia reading a letter from his son promising to bring dad a light sabre. This brief documentary was far removed from Jardine's airy theorising, grounded in domestic grind and trivia. At times, indeed, it flirted dangerously with tedium. The programme also ran the risk of looking petty - these people have comfortable homes, security: don't their difficulties look pretty small next to the traumas suffered by the refugees from Kosovo?

But despite moments of smallness and dullness, Army Wives was rather moving. That was partly because it was only 25 minutes long and partly because it managed to relate these small local difficulties to the larger miseries of the Macedonian camps: one small boy missing his father is much like another. Mostly, it worked because of the real sense of intimacy it generated: Major Jules Swindells said goodbye to his wife, Liz, and their son with an unforced emotion that made the viewer feel like an intruder. I wondered whether they felt happy about having the camera there at such a moment. Then the credits rolled: the programme was directed by Debbs Swindells - Major Swindells's sister, it turns out. Nepotism has its uses.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine