In a small Welsh town far, far away (perhaps), preparations are in hand to tell the story of how one of the most famous and beloved movie spaceships was secretly built in an old aircraft hangar.
A permanent exhibition is to open later this year explaining how the Millennium Falcon that appeared in the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back came to be constructed from wood and steel by engineers in Pembroke Dock, in south-west Wales.
Local craftspeople working under a veil of secrecy were ordered to refer to the ship as “Magic Roundabout” but, inevitably in a small town, word seeped out.
“It was the worst-kept secret in Pembroke Dock – everybody in the town knew they were building a UFO in the hangar,” said Gareth Mills, a trustee of the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust. “That period of time and that story is an important part of the town’s living memory. The exhibition, once opened, will provide a significant boost for Pembroke Dock, with increased visitor numbers helping with the economic regeneration of our town and will also have major benefits for Pembrokeshire.”
Mark Williams, a local Star Wars expert who will oversee the project, said: “George Lucas set a new standard in both storytelling and film-making with Star Wars, and the story of the Millennium Falcon being built in Pembroke Dock was big news at the time. The whole world knew about it, then the story faded into legend.
“The idea of a town in west Wales making a significant contribution to this incredible story by being the place where one of the most iconic starships in science-fiction history was built creates a mixture of disbelief, awe and pride.”
The National Lottery Heritage Fund is providing £8,000 to help the project, which will tell the story with photographs, film, props and costumes. The spaceship itself will not be there but in the future crowdfunding campaigns may be launched to try to to recreate sets from The Empire Strikes Back.
After it was built in Wales, the Falcon was split into pieces and driven to the film set in Hertfordshire.
The Millennium Falcon isn’t Pembrokeshire’s only connection to Star Wars. Lynwen Brennan, Lucasfilm’s executive vice-president and general manager, has close family links to Pembroke Dock. “I am so delighted that this wonderful moment and place in Star Wars history will be preserved,” Brennan said.
“I love that such an iconic, beloved ship was built in the town where my mum was born and in the county where I grew up, and I’m hopeful this exhibit will become a new destination for fans around the world.”