THX 1138 was George Lucas’s 1971 directorial debut. Co-written by Lucas and Walter Murch, the film grew out of Lucas’s 1967 student film, Electronic Labyrinth. It was never a box office success but, as dystopian science fiction, has a certain cult following. It came a little too early in the 1970s for me (I don’t even know if it went on general release in the UK), so tonight, in watching the film, I was catching up. One aspect of Lucas’s vision borrows heavily from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: mandatory drug use regulates emotions. And the equivalent of ‘Huxley’s Our Ford’ is ‘OMM 0910’, physically represented by reproductions of Hans Memling’s Christ Giving His Blessing. (OMM 0910 ends every ‘confession’ by declaring ‘You are a true believer, blessings of the State, blessings of the masses. Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy.’) However, unlike in Huxley’s World State, passion and sex are outlawed. Everyone is controlled. Cameras are ubiquitous. And the dystopia is policed by softly-spoken, peaceful police officers (lanky androids with metallic faces). Worker LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) has a male flatmate, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall). A disillusioned controller, LUH stops taking her medication and secretly reduces THX’s doses, so that the two discover passion, sex and love. Now prey to emotions, THX comes close to causing a disastrous accident at the android plant where he works. Meanwhile, LUH’s superior, SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasance), wants to be THX’s flatmate and illegally changes shifts. All three are arrested and confined to a directionless white limbo together with other prisoners who have apparently experienced free thought. Considered incurable, LUH is ‘consumed’ and her organs recycled. THX and SEN escape, together with a hologram star, SRT. But only THX remains free long enough to exhaust the controllers’ pre-determined budget. His android pursuer desists and THX emerges from a tunnel into what is apparently the real, above-ground world (and then the viewer, realising that there has never been any natural light, understands that the dystopia is some sort of underground escape). Consistent with the electronic world he created, Lucas edited the film in a choppy style and the viewer has to work hard to understand what is going on. The characters’ names and the long philosophical interlude in limbo probably also helped prevent this film from enjoying mainstream success. But it demonstrated Lucas’s potential to create alternative worlds and his attention to detail (in the 2004 Director’s Cut, Lucas mischievously inserts the face of C-3PO as the android THX is building, thus providing a retroactive hint about the later importance of android characters).