In my first issue of Talking Star Wars I mentioned that we had moved into a new house at the end of July and that we were in the process of getting settled in. Well, that process has continued and coupled with my parental responsibilities (like being tackled by an energetic toddler) it all adds up and cuts into the time I dedicate to Star Wars in general and blog writing in particular. Further, my obsession with Doctor Who continues unabated, and I am finding myself not only watching at least one episode of the British show every day but also having some pretty long conversations about it with my friend Mike (aka: My Comic Relief). Still, I did find some time to focus on Star Wars a bit more over the past month, and I ended up publishing two pieces on the site:
Probably the most talked about Star Wars news over the past month has been the trailer for Season 2 of The Mandalorian. I figured I should offer my thoughts on it, if only to jump on the bandwagon and feel included in the hype. Except I haven’t watched the trailer so I really have nothing to offer.
Well, I guess I could explain why I haven’t watched it. That is worth wasting 42 seconds of your time, right? Sure it is!
Here is the thing: I really liked the first season of The Mandalorian. As the first entry into live-action Star Wars shows I thought it was a strong debut, aesthetically and thematically capturing some of the best parts of the franchise. But even though I really enjoyed it, after I finished it and began hearing news about Season 2 my interest began to wane, and when the trailer came out I just wasn’t in the mood to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I will still check out Season 2 of The Mandalorian and I am sure it will continue to capture some of the things I really love about Star Wars. Never-the-less, when it was announced that Ahsoka Tano would appear in Season 2 I just threw up my hands and said “Uggggggggggh!!!!!” I don’t hate Ahsoka, although I do think she should have died in the second season of Rebels (that’s a conversation for another time). Rather, what had me excited about The Mandalorian in the very beginning – a story about a loner in a “complicated profession” surviving in the lawless Outer Rim – feels watered-down and overshadowed by Ahsoka’s inclusion. She brings so much backstory and baggage with her that, at this point, it is basically impossible for her NOT to steal the spotlight. Besides, The Child (aka “Baby Yoda”) has already stolen the show, and the last thing The Mandalorian needed was another Force-user to compete with for audience attention.
Watching Star Wars
I did not watch any of the Star Wars films or shows over the past month but I DID watch the trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: Squadrons video game. The trailer – “Hunted” – is only 7 minutes long but the story it tells about Imperial forces in full retreat after the Battle of Endor, and more specifically a TIE Interceptor being hunted by an X-Wing, has me pretty excited to play the game (once I find some time to indulge in some Star Wars dogfights). If you haven’t watched the trailer yet you should even if you aren’t going to play it. And, because I am so nice, you don’t even need to search for it because I found it for you. No excuses, watch the trailer!
Oh, one more thing about the trailer: when the X-Wing pilot says “War’s over, Imp” I can’t help but hear my friend Mark Lockard. I guess I am just gonna imagine Mark actually is the pilot, and I’ll just believe he ejects before he meets an explosive end. So hooray, Mark lives!
Star Wars Reading List
Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising – Timothy Zahn TIE Fighter (graphic novel) – Jody Houser The Stark Hypserspace War (graphic novel) – John Ostrander Dark Tide II: Ruin – Michael A. Stackpole
At the beginning of September I took a short pause from my re-read of The New Jedi Order to check out Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising. While I noted in Talking Star Wars Issue 001 that the Disney Star Wars canon hasn’t really been appealing to me lately I still wanted to give Zahn’s new entry into the “Thrawnon” the canon of Thrawn, a read. Why? Well, because I am a Thrawn superfan. There was never a doubt I would read this book when it dropped because I live in symbiosis with the blue-skinned, red eyed Chiss. He and I are basically the same person (although I am slightly more attractive).
Did I enjoy the new book in the Thrawnon? Hell yes I did. I dare not spoil it for anyone, but I will say this: the vast majority of this book works with BOTH the Expanded Universe and the Disney canon. I am going to write more about this in a review of the book, though. So just be patient while I put it together…
Before jumping back into The New Jedi Order I also decided to give a couple Star Wars graphic novels a read. I’ve had my eye on the TIE Fighter graphic novel for a while, and the release of the Squadrons trailer convinced me to pick it up. Admittedly, the story wasn’t mind blowing but it was interesting, offering a look at a depleted TIE Fighter Squadron in the days before the Battle of Endor. As well, TIE Fighter is a small tie-in with Alphabet Squadron, with references to Alexander Freed’s series popping up here and there (i.e. – Yrica Quell, the protagonist in the series, makes a cameo).
I also decided to re-read The Stark Hyperspace War for like the 107th time. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little but I really do love this Expanded Universe story and have read it a number of times. It offers a look at a short but vicious war that takes place 12 years before The Phantom Menace, a war which helps set the stage for some of the events in the film. I am considering writing a longer piece about it but what I will say right now is that if you’ve never read it and you are a fan of Jedi Master Plo Koon then you should definitely check it out. In fact, I credit The Stark Hyperspace War with making me a die-hard fan of the Kel Dor.
And, as you can see from my list above, I did make it back to The New Jedi Order, finishing Dark Tide II: Ruin. Honestly, this is one of the more difficult books to read in The New Jedi Order, not because it is boring or drags but because it sucks you in and forces you to really feel the horror of the war the Yuuzhan Vong are waging against the galaxy. For me, this is no more apparent than when the Vong destroy the world of Ithor, the homeworld of the peaceful Ithorian species. What happens to the planet is heartbreaking and offers a stark reminder that war, yes even a star war, is terrible and we should never allow ourselves to think otherwise.
Compassion of the Jedi
Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life.” – Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Attack of the Clones)
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Perfect Star Wars Pet: Boglings
Native to Bogano, boglings make their first and only Star Wars appearance in the video game Jedi: Fallen Order.
The 501st Clone Battlion, led by Captain Rex, steel themselves as they prepare to confront and arrest Jedi General Pong Krell. Surely knowing that some of them will die, the clones never-the-less march forward with a stoic resolve to complete their mission and bring Krell to justice.
Three Star Wars Quotes I Really Like
“We must keep our faith in the Republic. The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.” – Queen Jamilla (Attack of the Clones)
“The Emperor who ordered Operation Cinder, who built two Death Stars, who oversaw countless genocides and massacres and created an Empire where torture droids were in common use, was not a man of secret brilliance and foresight. He was a cruel man. Petty and spiteful in the most ordinary ways; and spiteful men do spiteful things.” – Reprogrammed torture droid IT-O speaking to Lieutenant Yrica Quell (Alphabet Squadron)
“Our time has come. For 300 years, we prepared. We grew stronger. While you rested in your cradle of power, believing your people were safe… and protected. You were trusted to lead the Republic—but you were deceived, as our powers over the dark side have blinded you. You assumed no force could challenge you…and now…finally…we have returned.” – Darth Malgus during the attack on the Jedi Temple in 3653 BBY (The Old Republic)
Capital Ship Spotlight: EF76 Nebulon-B escort frigate
Ten Random Star Wars Thoughts
I always enjoy the pod race in The Phantom Menace. I think it is the second best part of the film.
Poe Dameron may be one hell of a pilot but Soontir Fel is the best pilot.
I wonder if Wookiees get their hair cut…
Dark Forces is one of my favorite Star Wars computer games but I was never very good at it. In fact, I don’t think I ever beat it.
The cover of the Imperial March by Rage Against the Machine is badass. Listen to it HERE. a. Rage Against the Machine is one of my favorite bands so I am completely biased in liking the cover. Plus, I love the Imperial March, so it all works out. b. I like to imagine Saw Gerrera and his partisans sitting around listening to Guerilla Radio. c. “Lights out, Guerilla Radio, turn that shit up!”
The best part of The Phantom Menace is the duel between the Jedi and Darth Maul.
I have absolutely no interest in going to Galaxy’s Edge. Theme parks just aren’t my thing and I really dislike crowds. If I ever go it will be with my son and only if he wants to go.
If I taught an ethics class I would use Dark Disciple by Christie Golden as one of my required readings. The rationale the Jedi adopt for assassinating Count Dooku is challenging and worthy of deep examination. a. The novel does an incredible job of making the reader question the motives of the Jedi Council, particularly Yoda and Mace Windu.
I can’t help but feel that Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus are being under used in Star Wars storytelling. Were it up to me I would put them in Jedi: Fallen Order 2. I could easily see Cal Kestis traveling to Jedha City and running into them.
If I was asked to write a Star Wars story it would be set in the months after Order 66 and would involve newly minted Inquisitors not only hunting down and killing Jedi but also the extended families of Jedi. a. Maybe I should just write some Star Wars fanfiction about this…
Starbucks coffee is overrated. I drink it if I have to but I prefer not to.
I have found myself thinking quite a bit about Kurt Vonnegut recently. I can’t help but wonder what he would have to say about the current occupant of the White House, the state of our democracy, the Coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theories, and more. a. Were he still alive I bet he would write an updated version of A Man Without a Country. b. Even though he wrote it in 2005 the book is still very relevant today. I just think he would want to add a little bit to it.
Somehow I accidentally purchased a digital version of the new Bill and Ted movie. Admittedly, this is not the worst thing that could happen since I was going to rent it anyway. I just hope it is worth the $24.99 I paid because that is a Star Wars LEGO set I could have bought! a. “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” b. “Be excellent to each other. c. “Want a Twinkie, Genghis Khan?”
There are benefits and drawbacks to running a 6-2 and a 5-1 in volleyball. In my opinion, you should fit the system to the players you have rather than forcing players to adopt an offense they may not be capable of running. a. If you don’t know anything about volleyball and are confused then just google “volleyball 6-2 vs 5-1”
The most absurd question I ever got from a student in one of my college religion courses was the following: “Where do baby horses come from?” Naturally, I proceeded to explain how horses mate.
One of the most extreme toddler tantrums my son has thrown over the past month was when his banana broke and he couldn’t put it back together. a. Tantrums don’t even bother me anymore because I have transcended to a new state of parenthood where the screaming and crying just blend with the background noise pervading the universe.
I absolutely love composting. It is so satisfying.
Introduced in Rogue Squadron, the first novel in Michael A. Stackpole’s fantastic X-Wing series, I have always held a special place in my Star Wars heart for M-3PO. A modified 3PO-series military protocol droid with the unique clamshell head of a spaceport control droid, M-3PO is more commonly known by the nickname “Emtrey.” Introduced in the book by Commander Wedge Antilles, Emtrey is the squadron quartermaster (hence why I have dubbed it “the rogue protocol droid”) and is tasked with using its “scrounging protocol” to find the necessary parts to maintain the squadron’s X-Wings. Additionally, Emtrey is responsible for creating pilot duty assignments and caring for other administrative tasks that are required to keep the famed squadron functioning at peak performance.
While Emtrey’s base programming makes it an integral part of Rogue Squadron’s operations it is a hidden program within Emtrey that makes the protocol droid an oddity. Discovered by squadron executive officer Captain Tycho Celchu while ferrying himself and Emtrey to the planet Talasea, Celchu stumbles upon a “wait-state” when he tells the droid to “shut up” three times in a row which allows one to access the entirety of Emtrey’s database and memory banks. As the Captain explains to the smuggler Mirax Terrik, “we were in combat and he [Emtrey} wouldn’t stop nattering. I ended up yelling at him to shut up and after the third time, this happened.” An obvious homage to the nattering of C-3PO and the penchant of those around the golden droid to tell him to shut up, the funny “little trick” that Celchu discovers leads Terrik to an important observation: “That’s dangerous for a droid doing military work.“
Captain Celchu confirms that “there are a number of things odd about this droid…” which, in his role as executive officer working closely with the squadron quartermaster, he discovers. But this wait-state is the oddest, and while there is some obvious humor in someone deactivating a nattering protocol droid by telling it to shut up, Terrik is also correct, this function is dangerous. Even though Celchu and Terrik are able to utilize the wait-state to help Rogue Squadron, in the hands of the enemy Emtrey’s databanks would otherwise be ripe for the picking. Valuable information about the internal workings of the New Republic’s military would be readily available once Imperial operatives told the droid to “shut up” three times.
Except, this IS the point of Emtrey’s odd programming, having been intentionally installed by New Republic Intelligence. This is a fact we do not learn in Rogue Squadron but never-the-less makes perfect sense once it is revealed in a novel later in the X-Wing series. I dare not spoil the reason, though. While these books have been around for 20+ years if you’ve never read them, and this is the first time you have even heard of Emtrey, I would hate to ruin the reason for this “little trick.” And, if you have read the series, and you DO know why Emtrey shut’s down when told to shut up, you can just keep that to yourself 😉
Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:
I haven’t had as much time to work on The Imperial Talker over the past month. In large part, this is because my wife and I recently bought a new house and, at the end of July, we moved into it. Moving is always a pain, and it is extra difficult when you also have a toddler AND you have a laundry list of new tasks to complete in a home. As a result, cutting the grass and trimming bushes, among other things, has taken priority not only over this blog, but also over my ability to enjoy Star Wars (and other forms of entertainment). Then again, taking a break from over-indulging in anything, even Star Wars, is not only important but also necessary, an opportunity to reset the mind and brainstorm new ideas. While I have been adapting to a new daily routine, I have been conjuring up thoughts about a slew of topics, some of them having to do with Star Wars and this site. And that takes us to this post.
Grandfather and grandson before the move. They wanted one last look outside.
Basically, I had this idea (one that came to me while engaging in the quasi-religious ritual of cutting the grass) where I would provide a little glimpse of what I have been up to as a Star Wars fan each month. As well, I thought it would be fun to get a little random, offering not only a snapshot of my monthly Star Wars activities but also whatever Star Wars things I feel like sharing. And, of course, the open-ended nature of such a post allows me to take things anywhere I want in a looser fashion than some of my more in-depth posts. Admittedly, while I love thinking/writing about Star Wars on this site doing so can at times be a slog because I am a perfectionist. Before I post anything, I need to be sure it is precisely what I want to say. And, as you can imagine, that can be time consuming AND mentally exhausting. I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course, but a little levity in the form of this new monthly series (and my on-going Haikuesday series) offers opportunities for me to take a step back and not worry about ideas/concepts lining up with academic perfection.
That said, I hope you enjoy this new series – Talking Star Wars – and be sure to leave a comment when you are finished reading.
Watching Star Wars
In the past month I have watched no Star Wars. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Instead, I finally caved and began watching Doctor Who. Until the move I never had any real desire to watch Doctor Who. It sounded interesting but I was otherwise indifferent. Then came the move and a new cable package that includes HBO Max. Since the good Doctor is on HBO Max, and seeing as I need to justify spending $15/month on the service, I said “Okay, let’s do this” and, well, the rest is history. I can’t get enough of it. Sorry Star Wars, but you’ll just have to wait until I am done traveling with The Doctor.
Oh, but I should note that while I have not watched Star Wars over the past month, I have discovered quite a few moments in Doctor Who that I am fairly confident influenced The Clone Wars. Watch Doctor Who Season 1, Episode 2 (“The End of the World”) and then watch The Clone Wars Season 2, Episode 13 (“Voyage of Temptation”). If I’m wrong then I am wrong. But if I am right then I am a flipping genius!!!
A Star Wars Room is Born
After my wife and I bought our new house I had a mini-panic attack over the most ridiculous first world of problems: where the hell was I going to put all of my Star Wars stuff? To solve this non-crisis of consumerism we had a room converted in the house into a collection room with custom shelving where I could display my objects of Star Wars desire. I am still in the process of working on the room, bringing things together and getting everything set up, but I am pleased with how it is coming along and look forward to sharing its evolution as time goes on.
I am incredibly lucky to have the privilege to worry about where I will put my Star Wars “stuff.” I have done well financially to accumulate the Star Wars things I own AND to dedicate a room in my home to the passion I have had since I was a child. With great privilege comes great responsibility, though, and my Star Wars room serves as a constant reminder that I am called to a more important cause, the cause of creating a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. I am far from perfect in this, but I am never-the-less dedicated to working on behalf of others who are in distress, be it physical, mental/emotional, financial, etc. Fighting on behalf of others, taking on the unjust and corrupt systems that harm and destroy lives, THAT is just one of the many messages message I learned from Star Wars as a child and which has stuck with me to this day. I am privileged to have a room with my Star Wars collection, but grateful for the constant reminder that I must continue to bring positive, progressive change to the world.
A small glimpse of my Star Wars room. More pictures to come in the future!
Compassion of the Jedi
“Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life.” – Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Attack of the Clones)
Please consider donating to Starlight Children’s Foundation, a wonderful organization that specializes in delivering happiness to seriously ill children and their families.
Perfect Star Wars Pet: The Rancor
Star Wars Reading List
Vector Prime – R.A. Salvatore Dark Tide I: Onslaught – Michael A. Stackpole
I began a re-read of The New Jedi Order at the end of July, just before we moved. It has been a while since I read the entire series, primarily because there are A LOT of books in The New Jedi Order. Reading it is a pretty big time commitment but a worthwhile one. Never-the-less, a re-read was long overdue and since I just finished re-reading the X-Wing series I wanted to stick with some more Expanded Universe stories. Besides, the content Disney is putting out right now just isn’t captivating me the way it did a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I am still enjoying some of it here and there, but as a whole I have found it difficult to get excited about the Disney canon. Alternatively, having grown up living and loving the Expanded Universe, jumping back in made perfect sense. I needed to remind myself that there ARE Star Wars stories that have been around for years and continue to speak to me. I am sure I will jump back into the Disney stuff again, but The New Jedi Order is where I will be living for a while.
That said, the series is unlike any other in Star Wars because the villains – the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong – challenge the heroes of Star Wars (Luke, Leia, Han, etc…) and the reader in truly unexpected ways. This is no more apparent than in Vector Prime, the first novel in the series, when Chewbacca heroically dies saving Anakin Solo, the youngest child of Han and Leia (I have a post forthcoming about his death). This event sends emotional shockwaves through the book and hangs over the entire series, a constant reminder of just how dangerous the Yuuzhan Vong truly are and that no one, not even the heroes we grew to love in the Original Trilogy, are safe from death.
The face Admiral Piett makes when the Millennium Falcon escapes at the end of The Empire Strikes Back is priceless. With Darth Vader killing Admiral Ozzel and Captain Needa earlier in the film, one can certainly understand the look of “Oh shit…” on Piett’s face. That he survives, reappearing in Return of the Jedi and still in command, is quite the surprise!
Three Star Wars Quotes I Really Like
“”He is a wound in the Force, more presence than flesh, and in his wake life dies… sacrificing itself to his hunger.” – Visas Marr describing Darth Nihilus (Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords)
“A communications disruption could mean only one thing: invasion.” – Sio Bibble to Queen Amidala (The Phantom Menace)
“Your reputation precedes you, General. The reputation of a coward, and a murderer.” – Jedi Master Eeth Koth to General Grievous (The Clone Wars Season 2, Episode 9 “Grievous Intrigue”)
Ten Random Star Wars Thoughts
The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars movie but A New Hope is the best Star Wars movie.
Darth Caedus would beat Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel.
Ahsoka lived but she should have died.
That B’omarr Monk in Return of the Jedi is probably wondering why Jabba the Hutt has not returned to the palace yet. a. Speaking of Jabba the Hutt, what the hell happened to his son Rotta? Are we just ignoring the fact that Rotta exists in Star Wars? I guess so…
The Rise of Skywalker is a cinematic rip-off of Dark Empire, and Dark Empire is better (and the plot actually makes more sense).
Children’s book idea: One Sith, Two Sith, Red Sith, Blue Sith a. “This one has a double-blade, this one took a Jedi braid.” b. “Those Jedi Knights are such a blight, they ramble on about the Light.” c. “The Rule of Two or just The One? Bane and Krayt could duel for fun.” d. I am copywriting this idea 😉
I always screw up the trial on Manaan when I play Knights of the Old Republic even though I have played the game a dozen times.
Zander Freemaker and I have something in common, we both love the N-1 Starfighter.
Whenever I played “Battle of the minefield” in the TIE Fighter computer game I would immediately destroy my wingmen at the outset of the mission before they turned against me. I’d just reduce my speed, line them up in my targeting sights and blast them into oblivion. a. The two wingmen end up turning on you a few minutes into the mission. They are loyal to Admiral Harkov who ends up defecting to the Rebellion in this particular mission.
Shmi Skywalker is the most important Skywalker.
Ten Random Non-Star Wars Thoughts
I blame My Comic Relieffor getting me hooked on Doctor Who. That show is crazy good. Craaaaaaaaaaaazy good. a. Should I just convert The Imperial Talker into The Doctor Talker?
It has been a while since I added a new post to my Protocol Droid series so I thought I would return to it once again. For this piece I decided to highlight another droid from The Clone Wars movie, in large part because the film is often overshadowed by the The Clone Wars animated series. Personally, I have always really liked the film, even believing (rightly, in my humble opinion) that it should be listed/ranked with the other Star Wars films. Just because it is animated does not make it any less of a Star Wars movie, but I will save that conversation for another occasion.
Previously, I brought attention to TC-70, Jabba the Hutt’s protocol droid which plays a small role as a translator in The Clone Wars movie. This time, I wanted to go from the TC-series to an RA-7 series protocol droid that also plays a minor but significant role in the film.
Masquerading as the caretaker protocol droid in the B’omarr Monastery on the planet Teth, 4-A7 is actually a spy working for the Separatist Alliance. When Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and his padawan Ahsoka Tano, along with the clone troopers of Torrent Company, defeat the battle droids garrisoned in the monastery 4-A7 greets them with a grateful attitude. “You have liberated me from those dreadful battle bots,” 4-A7 humbly states, deflecting any suspicions that may be raised. With the Jedi inquiring about the location of Jabba the Hutt’s infant son Rotta, 4-A7 points them towards the “detention level” where the child is being held captive by the Separatist droids.
Unbeknownst to Skywalker or Tano, rescuing the child is precisely what the Separatist’s want. With Rotta in the possession of the Jedi, 4-A7 performs his true task: recording the Jedi with the Huttlet so Count Dooku can show Jabba that it was the Jedi Order who kidnapped his son. His act as caretaker completed, 4-A7 plays one final and small part in the film a short time later.
With the Separatists launching an assault on the Monastery, this time to liberate Rotta from the Jedi and the clones, Skywalker and Tano flee with the Hutt to a landing pad on a nearby plateau. There, it is Ahsoka who discovers 4-A7 as she heads towards the nearby ship. “Hey, you’re that caretaker droid, I wondered what happened to you,” she states, the droid clearly caught off-guard by her presence. As the masculine-sounding 4-A7 explains “his” desire to get away from the fight, a few battle droids walk into view and tell the “caretaker” that they are ready to leave. “His” cover blown, 4-A7 orders the battle droids to attack but Ahsoka is up to the challenge, dispatching them with ease. “Don’t you dare,” 4-A7 indignantly declares as the young Jedi turns her green blade towards the droid. But Ahsoka is not swayed. With a swipe of her lightsaber, the disembodied head of 4-A7 bounces and rolls down the ramp of the ship, the phrase “don’t you dare” slowly fading away as the caretaker’s system shuts down.
Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:
We had only just met him in the opening moments of The Force Awakens before he is brutally murdered by Kylo Ren. Sitting in a small hut, Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) offered a valuable item to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an item which will be critical to the plot of the film. Their conversation also offers brief but important context as the movie opens, with the elder providing his thoughts on the state of the galaxy, the Jedi, the Force, and General Leia Organa. “To me, she’s royalty,” he points out when Dameron mentions the General, an obvious nod to Leia’s more familiar title of Princess (both in universe and among the audience).
The dialogue between Lor San Tekka and Poe Dameron is abruptly cut short when BB-8, the pilot’s droid, bursts through the door with a warning: the First Order is approaching. Seeing troop transports on the horizon, Dameron tells Lor San Tekka “You have to hide” to which the older man responds, “You need to leave.” At this urging, Dameron runs through the small village, a village teeming with commotion as it prepares to defend itself against the First Order incursion.
Only a short time later, the village will be overrun by stormtroopers, and a massive black shuttle will descend. Out of the shuttle will walk Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and he will head towards the center of the town where Lor San Tekka is being help with the remaining villagers. Now, Lor San Tekka will engage in another dialogue, this time with a man shrouded in darkness whose face is hidden by a terrifying mask. It is Ren who speaks first.
Kylo Ren:“Look how old you’ve become.”
Lor San Tekka:“Something far worse has happened to you.”
Kylo Ren:“You know what I’ve come for.”
Lor San Tekka:“I know where you come from, before you called yourself Kylo Ren.”
Kylo Ren: “The map to Skywalker, we know you found it. And now you are going to give it to the First Order.”
Lor San Tekka: “The First Order rose from the Dark Side. You did not.”
Kylo Ren:“I’ll show you the Dark Side.”
Lor San Tekka:“You may try. But you cannot deny the truth that is your family.”
Kylo Ren: “You’re so right.”
Finally agreeing with the elder, Kylo Ren springs into action. Igniting his lightsaber, he raises it above his head and attacks. San Tekka only has time to raise his arms in defense, covering his face, before he is cut down by the crackling red blade.
While I had mixed feelings about The Force Awakens the first time I saw it, the murder of Lor San Tekka was a moment that left me with no reservations. To be blunt, I thought it was brilliant. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of gratuitous violence for the sake of entertainment. I do, however, appreciate a death which is meaningful, where the loss of life, even in its obvious brutality, adds to the story in a worthwhile way. And this is how I see the death of Lor San Tekka. While he is a very minor character in The Force Awakens, his murder- tied to the dialogue immediately preceding it – adds terrifying and frightening depth to Kylo Ren, this new villain in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
A Closer Look
From the very outset of their conversation we learn something rather stunning: Kylo Ren and Lor San Tekka already know each other, and their connection clearly goes back years. Kylo Ren mocks the man’s age and appearance, a clear indication that he can recall at time when this old man was younger. But this ageist mockery opens Kylo Ren to a piercing retort from Lor San Tekka: “something far worse [than growing old] has happened to you.” If Kylo Ren knew a younger Lor San Tekka, then Lor San Tekka remembers when the villain was NOT an agent of darkness.
Ren does not take the bait. Instead, he immediately turns the conversation to what he is seeking, stating “You know what I’ve come for.” Instead of addressing Ren’s object of desire (undoubtedly the object given to Poe Dameron) San Tekka takes Ren’s words and flips them by going deeper into the personal connection. “I know where you come from,” he says, “before you called yourself Kylo Ren.” It was Kylo Ren who opened this dialogue by making it personal when he mocked the man’s age, but now Lor San Tekka has flipped-the-script, calling the villain’s adopted name/title into question by citing his knowledge of Ren’s life before his turn to darkness.
Again, Kylo Ren does not respond directly to San Tekka’s comment. Instead, he stares at the man and declares what he wants: “the map to Skywalker.” “We know you found it,” Ren continues, clearly annoyed as he begins pacing, “and now you are going to give it to the First Order.” To this, Lor San Tekka flips Ren’s words once more, directing the conversation once more into their personal connection. “The First Order rose from the Dark Side,” he remarks, “you did not.” It is not just that Lor San Tekka knows villain’s real name, but he also knows the man calling himself “Kylo Ren” was raised in the Light Side.
This hits a nerve. Now, Kylo Ren deliberately moves in front of San Tekka so the two are once again face-to-face. “I’ll show you the Dark Side,” the villain declares, a clear threat meant to intimidate. Unsurprisingly, the threat does not have the effect Ren anticipates and the old man maintains his composure. Instead, San Tekka responds by acknowledging that Ren “may try” showing him the Dark Side, but that Ren “cannot deny the truth that is your family.” It is now that Kylo Ren has had enough. “You’re so right,” he calmly responds and then viscously cuts Lor San Tekka down with his cross-guard lightsaber.
That Kylo Ren chooses this moment to kill Lor San Tekka, after the elder mentions Ren’s “family,” is telling. It is the most direct hint we are provided in the exchange regarding the identity of Kylo Ren, an identity which is revealed over the course of the film and reaches its climax in Act III. There is only one family Ren could possibly belong to, but it is also clear that Lor San Tekka and Kylo Ren have very different interpretations, differing “truths,” of that family’s story. And by murdering Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren offers his interpretation, his truth.
Yet, this act is not only about Ren’s interpretation of family, it is also about his interpretation of self. With the ferocious stroke of his crackling red blade, Kylo Ren formally declares his identity as an unhinged monster who embraces the Dark Side of the Force. In the act of murder Kylo Ren proves that he is not the man Lor San Tekka once knew, and he wants nothing to do with who he was prior to his dark conversion. In this regard, the murder of Lor San Tekka is not just about a villain murdering a defenseless old man, an obvious act of evil which leaves little doubt about how this dark figure operates. No, it also symbolic, a way for the villain to kill his former self by-proxy. Through the murder of Lor San Tekka, Kylo Ren symbolically murders Ben Solo, and it should come as no surprise that as The Force Awakens progresses that Kylo Ren continuously seeks ways to destroy the man he once was, an obsession which ultimately culminates in another horrifying murder in the form of patricide.
The first time I watched Revenge of the Sith, sitting in the darkened theater surrounded by other excited Star Wars fans at the midnight showing, I was left momentarily unsettled by Vader’s immolation. Fire consuming his broken body, the hair on his head burnt away, skin melting and charred, the scene left me feeling uneasy, uncomfortable, and slightly nauseated. Panic stormed through me, a desire to flee from the confines of the theater so I could escape the grotesque image. I was able to hold it together, able to continue sitting in my seat and finish watching the film, but my mind continued replaying the scene, reminding me of what I had witnessed.
Today, I am able to watch Vader burn. I remain bothered by it but I no longer have an impulse to run away when the moment arrives. My anxiety riddled brain can handle it, but I would not call myself desensitized to the horror of seeing someone burn alive. For me, it will always be hard to watch, as it should be.
Stating my unease with the scene is not a criticism of it, though. Rather, I have always appreciated the moment. Disturbing as it may be it is also profoundly important, radiating with meaning. Earlier in the film, for example, Anakin underwent his religious conversion from Jedi to Sith, assuming the title “Darth” and name “Vader” which are bestowed upon him by his new Master, Darth Sidious. Now, the defeated man laying on this small ashen hill side undergoes his baptism. The heat from the river of lava washes over him, igniting fires that consume him. His body is transformed, the physical appearance of the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker stripped, charred, and melted away. He is now unrecognizable, a broken shell of the man and Jedi he once was. His old self burnt away, he will be reborn in a new shell, encased in a suit of armor that sustains his life and represents who he has become.
This outward destruction is symbolic of his inner, spiritual transformation. But the fire, too, radiates with meaning. Just before he catches fire, Vader declares his hatred for Obi-Wan Kenobi, his former Jedi Master and friend. Laying there on the ashen hillside the dismembered Sith Lord screams “I hate you!” His words are piercing and sulfuric, his eyes bloodshot and the look on his face distorted by the boiling emotion within him. Kenobi responds by declaring his brotherly love for Anakin but the young man is too far gone. It is now, after declaring his hatred, that the flames erupt, the fire raging across Vader’s body a perfect symbol for the hatred raging within him.
It is the hatred swirling within him, consuming him, which also enables Vader to cheat death in this horrifying moment.
In my piece Cheating Death: The Dark, I explain how Darth Maul survived his injury in The Phantom Menace, cut in half at the waist by Obi-Wan Kenobi. In The Clone Wars episode “Revenge”, Maul explains how his intense hatred sustained his life force, enabling him to descend into the abyss of the dark side to cheat bodily death. But this journey into darkness also came with a price, exacting a tole on Maul’s psyche and driving the young Sith Lord mad, turning him into a feral animal until he was discovered and his wounds, in mind and body, were healed.
“The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural,” Darth Sidious in the guise of Chancellor Palpatine explains to Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. That Darth Maul cheats death is a clear example of this unnatural ability, his narrative return in The Clone Wars confirming the authenticity of Sidious’ dark insights. We can likewise apply Maul’s story of hate-filled survival to Vader as well. Laying upon the ashen hillside, when the heat from the lava ignites the fires on his body it is Vader’s hatred – a hatred we see on his face and hear from his mouth – which takes him into the depths of darkness, enabling him to cheat death.
The fire only consumes him for a few moments but the horrific and disturbing damage is done. Laying there, left for dead by his former Jedi Master, the young Sith Lord uses his mechanical arm to grasp the soil and slowly pull himself up the slope, a visual sign that Vader is barely clinging to life. His new Master will discover him there, traveling to Mustafar when he senses far away on Coruscant that “Lord Vader is in danger.” In film, the time between Sidious sensing Vader’s imminent danger and discovering Darth Vader on Mustafar, “still alive,” is relatively short, a narrative necessity to keep the plot moving forward. In-universe, however, the time it takes for Sidious to travel from Coruscant to Mustafar is significant, which makes Vader’s survival all the more impressive. The Dark Lord must not only survive his agonizing immolation, his body externally and internally decimated by fire, but must also continue laying there on the hillside, by the lava, with the intense heat still washing over him.
That the intense heat continues to flow across his body seems appropriate, another apt metaphor for the hatred flowing within him. Like Maul, Vader will use this hatred to tap into the dark side, enduring agonizing pain and torment to keep his body alive. Yet, his mind does not plunge into madness. While Darth Maul succumbed to the torment of his dark descent, his mind ravaged over the course of years as he continued to rely on his hatred to sustain him, Darth Vader avoids this frightful fate. He must survive for a shorter period of time than Maul, hours or perhaps a day, before Sidious arrives. Once his new Master discovers him, he will no longer need to rely on hatred alone, relieved of the necessity by the medical droids which work to preserve his devastated body within a cybernetic suit of armor and mask.
Then again, the iconic black armor and mask also serve as a representation of Vader’s hatred, a terrifying expression of the dark monster residing within. While he no longer needs to actively use his hatred to tap into the depths of the dark side to maintain his body, his armor and mask never-the-less serve as a reminder, to Darth Vader and to us, that it is his hatred which enables him to continue to cheat death.