Back in February, when I was writing a sample chapter of what would become Calling Major Tom, I had a very brief scene in it where Thomas, on his way to Mars on the first manned mission to the Red Planet, speaks to Carrie Fisher back at Ground Control, a birthday present of sorts to him from the British Space Agency.
I’d been thrilled to breathe the same air as Carrie a couple of months previously at the UK and Europe press conference for The Force Awakens in London, and will always be regretful that I didn’t elbow my way through security to actually talk to her properly.
The Carrie Fisher segment didn’t make it into the final draft of Calling Major Tom, for one reason and another. But I was reminded of it yesterday when Carrie’s death was announced, and dug out those early notes. And here it is:
The woman, Claudia, prods at her iPad. “We’ve got someone very special here to talk to you, Thomas…”
He opens his mouth and closes it again. Really? Someone special? Has she… finally… Janet? He glances at his image in the corner and tries to flatten down his hair, which just springs up again. Wonders if he can take a break to have a shave. Then a woman is being ushered into view, wearing a long, diaphanous skirt and festooned with beads. Thomas blinks. Is that..?
“Carrie Fisher!” announces Claudia. “We read in your reports that you’re a big Star Wars fan and Ms Fisher is in London doing some publicity for the new film…”
The rebel X-Wings are going in for the final assault on the Death Star and Thomas is beginning to wonder where his Dad has got to…
“Hey, Thomas!” drawls Carrie Fisher. Thomas can only stare dumbly. She says, “Thought you might like a happy birthday from Princess Leia. One space hero to another.”
“Um,” says Thomas.
Claudia glares down the camera. Baumann self-consciously straightens his tie. Claudia says, “Does ha ha Princess Leia have any, ah, advice for Major Tom?”
“Yeah,” says Carrie. “Same advice I always give my co-stars. Don’t go through the crew like wildfire!”
She cackles with laughter, and Claudia leans in to whisper something. Carrie says, “Shit, he’s up there on his own? On a one-way trip to Mars? Jeez, the poor sap…”