'Downton Wars': Lightsabers finally make their way to the Abbey

There's a serious disturbance in the Force on the set of "Downton Abbey," and this time, it's not just another one of Lady Edith's moods.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

There's a disturbance in the Force at Downton Abbey, and this time, it can't just be blamed on Lady Edith being her usual hapless self.

A short film by Robert James-Collier, who plays scheming butler Thomas Barrow on the British period drama, imagines the downstairs servants as "Star Wars" fans, complete with lightsabers. Collier filmed "Downton Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Valet" as part of his campaign to raise money for the Chilterns MS Centre, which provides service and support to those with multiple sclerosis, their loved ones and caregivers.

Thomas Barrows prepares for a lightsaber duel with Mr. Bates. Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

The 6-minute film, shot entirely on an iPhone between "Downton" takes, presents Bates, wrapped in a black cape and acting cagey.

"Whatever's the matter?" Anna asks him.

Replies the overwrought valet: "I feel a disturbance in the Force."

"Oh, God, not this again," she sighs.

There's more back and forth about Jedi and whether Bates' cape is cool (she says no, he says yes) before Bates, walking with a far more pronounced limp than usual, finds himself in a darkly hit hallway. Sensing the butler's presence nearby, he asks why Thomas must always lurk.

"It creates dramatic tension, my raison d'etre," the world champion lurker responds, in one of the best lines of the film.

A lightsaber duel follows (watch out for the chandeliers and crystal vases, boys).

James-Collier released the film to enlist the public's support as he prepares to run the Virgin London Marathon Sunday to benefit multiple sclerosis. He says he'll release the second part once he's reached his fundraising goal of £10,000 (about $15,000, AU$19,350). He's already exceeded it by £2,000, but is still encouraging donations.

Mr. Barrow, promise us a lightsaber scene with the Dowager Countess and the galaxy's the limit.