First Light – To All Those Pistonheads Out There

I’v e noticed that a number of people have been upset by the continuity issues on the BBC’s production of First Light. I can promise you that having heard it from the director himself, this was down to budgetary issues only.  Although they did put the actor up in the air – mostly in a Yak – much of the aerial footage was taken from unused reels from the Battle of Britain film – apparently they shot a staggering 180 hours’ worth of aerial film, the vast majority of which never made it into the final cut, but which has been filling in on films and documentaries about the Battle of Britain ever since.  And I think most people agree that the 1969 is terrific – albeit not without glaring inaccuracies: the wrong Spitfires, Buchons not Messerschmitts etc etc, but we all know this and can enjoy it for what it is – a cracking film.

And that’s the point with First Light.  OK, 92 Squadron seems to have shrunk to six pilots, there’s no sign of Squadron Leader Sanders, who took over from Roger Bushell, or Tony Bartley, or Allan Wright, or Bob Standford Tuck, and Mac MacGowen, the adjutant left the squadron long before 1941.  And yes, there’s some inconsistency with the Spitfires, and flying at 300+mph, water doesn’t run down a windscreen.  But does that matter?  This is an adaptation, and a drama.  The mood was right, and moreover, as Geoff pointed out, the flying scenes gave off an air of authenticity that has not been bettered.  Also, the key scenes – first flight, first combat, storm scene, final flight – were all excellent, the actor conveying, by turns, the ecstasy, the terror, the anger and the exhaustion with impressive clarity and feeling.  It was incredibly moving to think that what Geoff went through was anything like that – and he assured me it was – added significantly, not detracted from the book.  That’s why I thought it was so good.

9 replies
  1. jrobo
    jrobo says:

    Hello James i thoroughly enjoyed First Light and within the constraints of BBC budgets ,i thought it was exceedingly well done, as I am in the throes of writing a film script about world war two planes it certainly gave me some ideas! I am really looking forward to your programme this week , although you are going to cover a lot of ground in the time

    warm regards

    John Robertson.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    I enjoyed the programme but thought that the constraints of the tight budget and short shooting schedukle let it down. Although I’m an aircraft nerd, the continuity issues diodn’t worry me too much but I wasn’t that impressed with the script or the acting either.

    Still, Geoffrey Wellum liked it so who am I to argue?

  3. filmyfan
    filmyfan says:

    I thought this was very well done (not having read the book-although I may look into getting it now).

    I was also wondering where that colour footage from the B of B had come from and had guessed it was probably from the 1969 film- I notice it was also used in your documentary !

  4. James Holland
    James Holland says:

    Much of the colour footage was from the 1969 film – of which 180 hours’ worth of footage was shot, and most of that never made it. We didn’t use any in my documentary, though.

  5. alisonjanehealy
    alisonjanehealy says:

    After watching First Light I realise how lucky we are today. How often we forget the sacrifice made by these young men.

    We probably don’t say it often enough, but thank you.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.