Prequel Trilogy

Love for the Lucrehulk

I have said it once and I will say it again: my love of Star Wars – especially my love of specific elements within Star Wars – is based in large part on my experiences with the franchise as a kid. That very obvious and totally unnecessary first sentence out of the way, I’m just gonna get straight to the point:

I absolutely love the Lucrehulk-class Battleship.

Growing up, I always had a deep fascination for capital ships in Star Wars, with the Star Destroyer taking the obvious top spot in my list of favorites. While the iconic backbone of the Imperial fleet gets the gold medal from me, other capital ships have never-the-less stolen my heart. And that is precisely the case with the Lucrehulk.

Introduced in The Phantom Menace, the Lucrehulk-class Battleship is the backbone of the Trade Federation fleet. As a 14-year-old Star Wars fan watching Episode I in 1999, seeing the Lucrehulk blew my mind to pieces. Blockading the planet Naboo, the fleet of Federation battleships instantly captivated me and my imagination. Up to that point, at least on the big screen, we had only ever seen two types of Star Wars fleets: the Imperial Fleet and the Rebel Fleet. But this changed in the opening scene of The Phantom Menance with the introduction of the Trade Federation and their own capital ships. Now, a third fleet of ships existed, a fleet that could hold a world hostage over something as trivial as “taxation of trade routes.”

Ever since that first viewing of The Phantom Menace, ever since I encountered the Lucrehulk in the opening of the film, these battleships have held a special place in my Star Wars heart. Aesthetically these vessels were unique, neither having the angular form of the Star Destroyers or the obvious length of ships like Home One (the Rebel Flagship) or the Nebulon-B Frigate (the Medical frigate). Instead, the battleship is massive while also being compact, its circular outer body used for cargo, broken at the front, surrounding a bulbous core. Looking so fundamentally different from other Star Wars capital ships, the Lucrehulk, it’s curious but intriguing design, invaded my mind like the Federation invading Naboo, taking over without any resistance.

On a rational level, there is no reason the Lucrehulk should captivate me in the way it does. There are other ships that one could argue deserve more attention, and perhaps they are right. But then again, I’m not arguing from a place of rationality. My love for the Lucrehulk is entirely nostalgic, going back (at this point) 19 years to a formative moment in my youth. This is precisely why, while I DO have rational reasons for some aspects of Star Wars I love, and those that I don’t, I would never impose my rationality on the formative nostalgia of others. Someone very well might hate the Lucrehulk. They might hate the design, hate the Trade Federation, even hate The Phantom Menace. I won’t argue with them because I flipping love the Lucrehulk and that is all that matters to me.

And so, to articulate in some other way just how profound my feelings are when it comes to this vessel, consider this: I have watched and rewatched The Clone Wars episode “Storm over Ryloth” an absurd number of times because a Lucrehulk is the center piece of the Confederate blockade of Ryloth in that episode. This isn’t to say the battleship is the only reason I enjoy this episode of The Clone Wars animated show, but I constantly drawn back to “Storm over Ryloth,” at least in part, by the imposing circular giant in orbit over the Twi’lek home world. Besides, it looks really REALLY cool when Anakin crashes his Jedi Cruiser into the battleship.

Battle of Ryloth
A burning Jedi Cruiser (foreground) speeds towards the flagship of the Confederate blockade over Ryloth, a Lucrehulk-class Battleship (distant).

Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 1, Episode 19), “Storm over Ryloth”

Reflections on The Last Jedi

I can say, with little remorse, that I have not yet purchased The Last Jedi. This isn’t to suggest I never will. The need – not a want, a need – to place the film next to the other Star Wars films on my shelf will eventually take over. For now, I can fight that urge, pushing back against the feeling that my shelf looks incomplete. But why am I fighting this feeling? Why not give in and just buy the most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise? I am a die-hard Star Wars fan after all, so why haven’t I gone out of my way to purchase and obsessively watch the film? Good questions.

I don’t review films on this site. I don’t review films on this site because I am not a professional reviewer, a critic trained to offer an appraisal of a piece of work. I am a fan of Star Wars, I have opinions, but those opinions do not give me the authority to offer any truly nuanced or unbiased “take.” I don’t review films on this site, but I am never-the-less, here and now, ready and willing to offer my thoughts and opinions on The Last Jedi, doing so with as little bias as possible. But again, this isn’t a formal review, and I don’t get paid to say these things.

A Smattering of Things I Liked

Paige Tico
Paige Tico
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I appreciate aspects of The Last Jedi. The movie has some remarkable moments, and to me none is more remarkable than the moment Paige Tico sacrifices herself to save the small Resistance fleet. Tico, a character who never utters a word, a ball gunner in a Starfortress Bomber blasting away at First Order TIE Fighters. In a desperate moment, with everything on the line, Paige climbs out of her gunner’s chair and performs an act of sacrifice heroism, unleashing the bombs that destroy a First Order Dreadnaught. The action saves the fleet; the action takes her life.

I appreciate aspects of The Last Jedi, and I genuinely appreciate the acting of Kylo Ren actor Adam Driver. I was captivated by Driver’s portrayal of Kylo in The Force Awakens. I was swept away by his portrayal in The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren is not just a villain in The Last Jedi, he truly is the “monster” Rey calls him. The Dark Side isn’t just strong in him, it consumes him in a flame that burns hotter than Mustafar. He is ready and willing to destroy everything to prove himself, to be like his grandfather, to be his grandfather, to be greater than his grandfather. Darth Vader, Lord of Death. Kylo Ren, Supreme Lord of Darkness. Redemption isn’t even on this guys radar. Only death, only destruction, only darkness, only power.

I appreciate aspects of The Last Jedi, and there are smattering of moments and characters and events I really enjoyed. I loved the design of the Resistance Bombers, the First Order Dreadnaught, the AT-M6 Walkers, the Resistance capital ships. I liked the geography of Crait, and the fact that Caluan Ematt is a General leading the Resistance forces on the planet. Laura Dern is great as Vice Admiral Holdo, although I wish her sacrifice – which is visually incredible – had been saved for Episode IX since it overshadows the sacrifice of Paige Tico. Carrie Fisher’s final portrayal as Leia Organa is  very moving (sans the weird space floating moment) and her final interaction with Luke, even though he isn’t physically present, is quite touching.

KyloRey
Kylo and Rey fighting together is a pretty cool sequence. Watch closely and you’ll notice that Rey should have easily been killed.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I could list other things, other aspects of the film I genuinely liked. But I am not here to just list things, and I don’t think you want to read a list. The truth is, those aspects of the film I just listed – and a few others here and there – are all I can muster when it comes to this film. I can identify “things” about The Last Jedi I liked and that is all. I envy those who have been so moved by this film, who have elevated it into top place in their Star Wars rank lists. I wish I could do the same – it wouldn’t supplant The Empire Strikes Back in my list but #2 is a fluid spot – but sadly I cannot. I am a life-long Star Wars fan and this film just doesn’t move me, it just doesn’t feel right. There are a handful of profound moments but this movie just isn’t very profound.

Wading into the Shallows

I am well-aware that those who love The Last Jedi see incredible depth in it, that they believe this film has done something to Star Wars that is magnificent, breathtaking, groundbreaking. I understand what they are saying, I even understand how they are thinking. I just don’t agree. The common refrain I run into is that the writer/director Rian Johnson has “let the past die,” jettisoning aspects of the Star Wars saga – even aspects of The Force Awakens – to tell a unique and different type of Star Wars story. Perhaps nothing points to this more clearly than by Rian Johnson’s depiction of Luke Skywalker as a broken shell of a Jedi, a man determined to die in-exile.

Heading into the film I knew Luke Skywalker was going to be broken in some form and I was perfectly fine with that reality. “Luke Skywalker has vanished” the opening crawl to The Force Awakens tells the audience in the very first line and to its credit The Last Jedi shows us that the line is not solely about being geographically lost. Heck, the film could have been titled “The Lost Jedi” because Luke Skywalker has completely lost touch with who he was when we last saw him in Return of the Jedi. “I am a Jedi like my father before me,” young Skywalker once proudly declared to the Dark Lord Sidious in the single most important moment in the Original Trilogy. “I’m ending all of this. The tree, the texts, the Jedi. I’m going to burn it all down,” he now tells Master Yoda (who appears as a Force ghost). Damn, the Luke Skywalker we knew really has vanished!!! It’s no wonder so many older fans of the franchise have lamented that this isn’t the Luke they remember…

Is This REALLY Luke?

In a guest post on this site – An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga – my friend Nancy  succinctly notes that the Luke Skywalker we experience in The Last Jedi “…could not cope with the crushing disappointment of Kylo’s turn towards the dark side and the guilt he felt towards letting Leia and Han down.” To this we can add that he feels equally guilty for Ben Solo’s ultimate turn to the Dark Side. You know, that moment when he stood above his sleeping nephew, ignited his green lightsaber and contemplated, momentarily, ending the boy’s life. When he recalls the event, Luke initially lies to Rey about what happened. Or rather, he offers a “Kenobian” point-of-view to his new protégé. But I digress. Ben Solo, frightened as he wakes and looks up at his uncle holding the blade, defends himself. Who wouldn’t? But then the young Solo does more, tearing down the Jedi Academy that Skywalker had built, killing the students (with the help of other students who had dark feelings?) and fleeing to the warmth, love, and manipulation of Supreme Leader Snoke.

That Ben Solo-turned-Kylo Ren destroyed everything Luke had painstakingly built in the years after Return of the Jedi makes sense. It was the story I expected after watching The Force Awakens. The surprising bit is that Luke Skywalker took a completely non-Luke Skywalker action which was the catalyst for Ben’s final step into the Dark Side. With the momentary ignition of his green lightsaber as he stands above his sleeping nephew, the scene from Return of the Jedi where Luke cast aside the exact same blade, refusing to kill his father, is itself thrown aside.

“This is not going to go the way you think,” Skywalker declares to Rey at one point in the movie. “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.” Kylo Ren tells Rey at another point in the film. Over and over again, The Last Jedi champions what it is doing: tearing down the foundations of Star Wars with something new and radical. The movie spends a lot of time self-referencing with quotes and metaphors (a building literally crumbles, burying Luke, when Ben defends himself) to prove this is the case, to make us believe we are watching a radically new and fresh version of Star Wars. The thing is…

I don’t buy it. From my vantage point, the self-references and metaphors – and the shallow depth of the film – are just clever tricks distracting us from the obvious. Namely, that we have seen this story once before:

A teacher takes on a gifted, young student who has incredible power. The teacher trains the student, but the student has dark thoughts and feelings, and those thoughts and feelings grow like a virus in the mind. Eventually, the teacher must confront the student, and the student fights back. While the teacher chooses not to kill the student, the damage is already done. The teacher is left feeling guilty and flees into exile. The student puts on a mask that represents their dark turn. Years later, the two finally confront one another again. The teacher is aware of their own shortcomings, that they failed the student. The student believes they are the more powerful now, but little do they know that their teacher is truly more powerful than the student can possibly imagine. Their final battle ensues, and in a critical moment, the student slashes a red blade through their former teacher…only to be left stunned and confused by their former teacher’s final lesson.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker?
Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo?
Rey and *insert the villain from Episodes X, XI, XII*

LukevsKylo
Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren face off on Crait.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi


We Need to Talk about Rey

Speaking of Rey, for being the heroine of this new trilogy, The Last Jedi goes to ridiculous lengths to build her up through Acts I & II only to have her be a non-factor in Act III. Her story is an interesting one and I genuinely like Rey, but for all of her training with Luke, her Force connection with Kylo Ren, and her (brash) decision to run off and try to save Ben from the monster within him, her story is effectively set aside in the Final Act. Why? Because this film isn’t about Rey. It is really about Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. Don’t get me wrong, Rey has a lot of cool character development and some intriguing bits happen to her. Never-the-less, from my vantage point, Rey is ultimately set aside in what is supposed to be her own story. 

Of course, one could argue that Rey’s connection with Kylo Ren is the most fascinating aspect of the movie. In fairness, I wouldn’t entirely disagree. The relationship between Kylo Ren (Dark Side) and Rey (Light Side) is where a lot of the philosophical “depth” in The Last Jedi comes into play. This depth is certainly interesting, but it is a depth that is knee deep at best. For all of the Ontological-meets-Ethical Dualism which Rey and Kylo Ren represent, specifically as it relates to the “Balance of the Force” (whatever the hell that even means at this point), any opportunity to truly dive into the mysterious abyss of the Force never really happens. An opportunity certainly existed, one where Luke  could have helped Rey work through her connection to Kylo (and vice-versa with Snoke helping Kylo work through his relationship with Rey). This would have been a prime opportunity to highlight Luke (and Snoke) as mentors, while shedding light on this intriguing and new conception of the Force. Instead, the movie gives us only fleeting glimpses of these deeper philosophical undertones while simultaneously distracting us from them (i.e. – Kylo being shirtless; the two awkwardly touching hands; Rey running off to save Ben). Then again, I’m not sure the film even knows how to take things into the deep end of the pool. In fact, I would liken it to this: The Last Jedi (and Rian Johnson) give off the impression of a college freshman who took Introduction to Philosophy, read snippets from the I Ching, the Avesta, the Gathas, and The Jedi Path, and is now acting like a pretentious know-it-all who has minimal grasp on what they are saying. Which leads me to this…

“Getting” The Last Jedi

As Nancy and I were chatting recently about the film, she mentioned that “…there is this attitude that if you didn’t like Rian Johnson’s vision then you weren’t smart or deep enough to ‘get’ The Last Jedi.” In other words, it is as if one must possess a gnostic knowledge to truly “understand” the esoteric depth at the core of this movie. If only Nancy, or myself, or others who do not love and worship the film as a gift to Star Wars had the special knowledge to understand it, we would finally see just how profound The Last Jedi truly is. But like I said earlier, I really don’t think it is very profound.

For over two hours, I watched a film I had already seen before. Or rather, I watched a film that took thematic elements from a handful of films that I have already seen before. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE things in this film that are new, and things in this film that are intriguing. I mean, I have NEVER seen the aliens in the Canto Bight Casino before (but I have been confronted by never-before-seen aliens in a casino/cantina-esque setting before). Yet, for all the new stuff in this film, as a whole it just came off as an amalgamation of ALL the Star Wars films, pretending to be something radical and fresh while simultaneously offering philosophical possibilities that are never really teased out.

I envy those who have experienced The Last Jedi as this new and fresh dive into the Star Wars universe. Truly, I do. I wish I had the gnosis they possess and the connection tot he film that leads them to see it as philosophically deep and spiritually mystical. Then again, I don’t really believe there is any there “there,” or at least not enough to elevate The Last Jedi to the top of the Star Wars pantheon. Rather, The Last Jedi is just a film masquerading as something truly special, a “child in a mask” playing Star Wars dress up. Does it attempt some intriguing things, even getting away with a handful? Of course it does. But the thing is, if I want to really experience Star Wars, I will watch the Original six films. Hell, I’ll even watch The Force Awakens – which is also a derivative amalgamation but is at least AWARE it is – and I will definitely watch Rogue One – which woefully lacks women but is never-the-less a stellar homage to A New Hope. On the flip side, if I feel like watching something that is “technically” Star Wars but that thinks it is way smarter and self-important than it really is, I’ll watch The Last Jedi. Granted, I’ll need to buy it first, and right now I have better things to spend my money on.

Haikuesday: Coruscant

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Sorry for the wait,
I’ve been sitting in traffic
for-flippin-ever!

Was gonna write these
at home but I have time now
since we aren’t moving


Rakata Owners.
30,000 BBY.
Legends are the best.


Planet: Coruscant.
From: Heir to the Empire.
Lucas liked the name.


Entire planet,
an Ecumenopolis,
“just one big city.”


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


An onscreen debut
in Return of the Jedi
Special Edition.


A distant Temple.
Crowds pack streets celebrating
an Emperor’s death.


The Phantom Menace.
The Republic Capital.
Corruption Galore!


Corellian Run
and Perlemian Trade Route.
Region: the Core Worlds.


Places you should see:
The Senate building of course!
Jedi Temple, too.


Manarai Mountains.
NOT an urbanized landscape.
Still canon to me.


Need something to eat?
You should try Dex’s Diner.
Tasty Jawa Juice.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


I wonder what the
planetary accident
rate happens to be.


Zillo Beast Terror!
Malastare to Coruscant.
Palpatine’s problem.


Honor Salima,
Coruscant Home Defense Fleet.
She is in command.


Coruscant below,
a Venator on patrol
as fire rages.

Seppie Invasion!
The Battle of Coruscant.
Massive engagement.

Invisible Hand:
Grievous’ dreadnaught, flagship.
Anakin “lands” it.


Republic dissolved.
Galactic Empire born.
Capital remains.

Official name change.
 Now: Imperial Center.
Thanks to Palpatine.


Super construction.
Buried beneath big buildings.
Dreadful Lusankya.


Deadly Krytos trap!
Isard unleashes virus
after the Rogues win.


Great Hyperspace War!
Sadow attacks Coruscant.
The Jedi rally.


Yuuzhan Vong control,
27 ABY.
Time to terraform!


The Jedi Temple,
sitting on a “Sithy” spot,
says James Luceno.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


Hold up for a sec:
Do we ever see the dark
side of Coruscant?


The Koros Trunk Line,
from Koros to Coruscant.
Grievous and Sadow.


Grand plan: Asteroids.
Thrawn lays siege to Coruscant
using some space rocks.

Haiku Addendum:
The rocks are invisible.
Damn, Thrawn is brilliant!


Coruscant terror!
Grievous sends cleaning droids armed
with bombs to the world.


Sheev and Anakin.
Galaxies Opera House.
Performance: Squid Lake.


Clone Commander Fox
leading the Coruscant Guard
during the Clone Wars.


Darth Krayt’s Empire.
Capital for the One Sith.
Hardly a surprise.


Rising First Order.
Hosnian Cataclysm.
Lucky Coruscant.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic


The Outlander Club.
Kenobi and Skywalker
track an assassin.


Thrawn, Ciena,  Eli,
Nash, Thane, Kendy. Jude, Kallus.
Academy grads.


Coruscant rebels.
The Anklebiter Brigade.
CoCo born youngsters.


Ahsoka and Plo,
descent to the underworld.
Mythic adventure.


Coruscant haiku.
Dizzying, overwhelming.
Just like the city.


Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Traffic and Traffic
and Traffic and Traffic and
Traffic and Traffic

Ugh, seriously!!!!!!!!
They should rename Coruscant
“Stuck in Traffic World”

Why did I move here!?!?!
I spend my time sitting in
these jam packed sky lanes.

Screw it, I’m moving.
I’ll find some backwater world
and settle down there.

Coruscant is the
bright center but I’ll find the
planet farthest from.

Traffic and Traffic
…if I can get home and pack…
Traffic and Traffic


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

General Grievous (October 2017)

Millennium Falcon (November 2017)

Poe Dameron (December 2017)

The Battle of Umbara (January 2018)

Hondo Ohnaka (February 2018)

Jyn Erso (March 2018)

Introduction to Star Wars

When George Lucas released the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, it created a bit of a conundrum: what viewing order should a Star Wars fan use when introducing the films to someone who has never watched Star Wars? On the one hand, the films could be shown to a newbie in “Release Order” with the Original Trilogy first and the Prequels second. On the other hand, the movies could be shown in “Chronological Order” beginning with Episode I (The Phantom Menace) and ending with Episode VI (Return of the Jedi)? Plus, while the “Release Order” and “Chronological Order” are the most obvious options, there are a number of other viewing orders that have been suggested (“Machete Order” being the most popular).

Ignoring, for the moment, that there now exists a Sequel Trilogy, stand-alone films, and television shows (not to mention novels, comics, games, and more), I have always felt that Star Wars should be introduced to a newcomer in “Release Order” and not “Chronological Order.” This belief is entirely predicated on my own interactions with Star Wars from youth to adulthood. I watched the Original Trilogy when I was a kid, and the Prequel Trilogy as a teen/young adult. But, that fact also makes me biased, and my suggestion to someone to start with A New Hope, while grounded in the fact that it was the first Star Wars film, is also grounded in my personal journey with Star Wars. Someone can have entirely different reasons for suggesting the “Release Order” or “Chronological Order” to a newcomer and that is perfectly fine by me. 

Actually, as a life-long Star Wars fan my only real responsibility is to offer suggestions, not to implement rules, and that goes far beyond the confines of the “Release Order” vs “Chronological Order” debate. Since A New Hope came out in 1977 (I was negative eight years old at the time), Star Wars has become a multi-headed beast, a hydra masquerading as an epic space fantasy. Which is to say this: Star Wars has so many stories across so many mediums that the whole “Release Order” or “Chronological Order” conundrum seems rather small. The films might be the natural starting point for most Star Wars fans – there are certainly those who have come to the franchise by another route – but the question of “where do I go from here?” is a far more difficult question I have been asked by a lot of people who are curious about exploring the depths of the Star Wars franchise after they have watched one or more of the films.

Thrawn Trilogy
“Heir to the Empire”, the first novel in The Thrawn Trilogy. Photo Credit – Bantam Spectra

Like the first world problem of cinematic watch order, I only have suggestions and no definitive answers for people who are eager to be introduced to Star Wars beyond the films. Naturally, I am predisposed to reduce my answer to the least common denominator – my own personal preferences. Shocking! Here is an example: I am a huge fan of The Thrawn Trilogy by author Timothy Zahn, and absolutely love the Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn who was introduced in the series. But just because I am a fan of Thrawn doesn’t mean anyone I encourage to read the trilogy will inevitably love it. Then again, perhaps they will enjoy it but for completely different reasons than I do. But isn’t that just the bare bones truth of Star Wars anyway, everyone loving certain aspects of the franchise motivated entirely by their personal tastes? Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.

So, where do we go from here? Oish, I have no idea. Like I said with my neat “Star Wars is a hydra” metaphor, the franchise is just too big at this point to really offer one direction, one way of “doing” Star Wars. I am going to punt on offering some really profound “Introductory” approach to Star Wars. Instead, I will just offer this all-encompassing suggestion for people who are interested in exploring Star Wars:

Start with A New Hope – it was the first Star Wars film after all so it just feels right to start there – and then just make it up as you go. Actually, just treat Star Wars like a big and exciting choose your own adventure, and no matter what you choose, you are doing Star Wars right. And, if you get confused along the way, or want more personalized suggestions, feel free to message me (I have a contact page). I am happy to offer my thoughts. Just, ya know, don’t be surprised when I start talking about Thrawn.

Women of the Jedi Council

The Jedi High Council: the ruling body of the Jedi Order for millennia until the Order’s downfall at the end of the Clone Wars. Consisting of twelve Masters, these experienced and wizened Jedi deliberated the best direction and course of action for the Order they were tasked with leading. At the head of the Council was a Grand Master, and during the last years of the Old Republic – years we see unfolding in the Prequel Trilogy, The Clone Wars animated show, and through other storytelling mediums – that title/role was occupied by Yoda, the mysterious Jedi introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. But while Yoda may have been the oldest and wisest of the Jedi, commanding infinite respect, and his opinions on Jedi matters carrying incredible weight, he was surrounded by Masters gifted in their own particular ways.

It is at this point, though, that I must acknowledge my intention for this post. Rather than trying to weave a path towards my conclusion, highlighting all of the Masters and the way their stories have been woven into the fabric of Star Wars, it is far easier to be direct. In short, this piece is titled “Women of the Jedi Council” because, upon reflection, I found myself shocked that there are not MORE women on the Council.

Introduced in The Phantom Menace, the Jedi Council of the first Prequel film has only three female characters:

Yaddle
Adi Gallia
Depa Billaba

In Attack of the Clones, the Council again only has three women:

Shaak Ti  (who replaced Yaddle)
Adi Gallia
Depa Billaba

And, in Revenge of the Sith, the Council only has two women:

Shaak Ti
Stass Allie (who replaced Adi Gallia)

Over a 13 years period, from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi High Council only has five different women. And, one will notice from the small lists above that none of the women in The Phantom Menace are on the Council when we get to Revenge of the Sith. On the flip side, the male representation on the Jedi Council remains steady. The breakdown is as follows…

The Phantom Menace:

Yoda
Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Ki-Adi-Mundi
Saesee Tiin
Even Piell
Oppo Rancisis
Yarael Poof
Eeth Koth

Attack of the Clones:

Yoda
Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Ki-Adi-Mundi
Saesee Tiin
Even Piell
Oppo Rancisis
Coleman Trebor (who replaced Yarael Poof)
Eeth Koth

Revenge of the Sith:

Yoda
Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Ki-Adi-Mundi
Saesee Tiin
Obi-Wan Kenobi (who replaced Even Piell)
Anakin Skywalker (who replaced Oppo Rancisis)
Kit Fisto (who replaced Coleman Trebor)
Agen Kolar (who replaced Eeth Koth)
Coleman Kcaj (who replaced Depa Billaba)

Like I said, the male representation on the Council remains steady throughout, particularly among the first 5 male Masters in each list. In turn, whereas there are only 5 different women on the Council over the 13 year period, there are a total of 15 different men (a 3:1 ratio of men to women). Plus, there are three other curious things to consider about this male-female breakdown:

  1. While we do hear women who sit on the Jedi Council speak in The Clone Wars animated series (Adi Gallia and Shaak Ti), a woman NEVER speaks during a Council session in any of the three Prequel films. Notably, the only Jedi woman who speaks in the Prequels is the Jedi Archive librarian Jocasta Nu, but she is not a member of the Council.
  2. A woman NEVER replaces a man on the Jedi Council. In fact, the opposite is true, with Coleman Kcaj replacing Depa Billaba. 
  3. More men (6) are added to the Council over those 13 years than the total number of women (5) who sit on the Council over that same period.

So, what gives?

Well, first and foremost, I will return to my initial admittance: as I reflected on the Jedi Council I was shocked that women are so underrepresented, and I am guilty for not recognizing this sooner. While I was growing up when the Prequel Trilogy films came out (the years 1999, 2002, 2005), and was not prone to deeper reflections on the franchise I loved at that time, as an adult I can say I am disappointed in myself for not recognizing this woeful disparity and lack of female voices sooner. Better late than never, though.

Secondly, while I do not have direct insight into the thought processes of Star Wars creator George Lucas, the writer/director of the Prequel Trilogy, I am never-the-less left to wonder why it is he did not recognize this paucity of women on the Council. As he worked on the Prequels, Lucas clearly took for granted the uneven representation, the lopsided ratio of men to women. Perhaps if he, or others around him, had noticed it then something would have changed with more women added, fewer men speaking, and so on. Or maybe it was pointed out and he just didn’t care. Frankly, I cannot say. But what I can say is that, at least for me, this is glaring red mark against the Prequel Trilogy, and it is incredibly unfortunate that more attention was not given to creating a Jedi Council with equal representation. Which leads me to my third point…

…what does this imbalance of the sexes say about the Jedi Council? In some respects, I suppose it isn’t all that surprising. If art imitates life, then the Jedi Council imitates many corporate board rooms where men still outnumber women. Or, since the Jedi are a religious order, we can think of religions around the world which place greater emphasis on the voices/actions of men (the hierarchy of the Catholic Church being one example). But just because it isn’t surprising that the Jedi are governed predominantly by men doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing. The Jedi Order is supposed to be built around principles of egalitarianism and, as such, one would presume that the High Council would strive for a balance of the sexes. In fact, I cannot help but wonder: if more women – and newer voices in general – had been present, would they have stopped the march to war in Attack of the Clones which was led by the Council’s longstanding (male) Masters, Yoda and Mace Windu in particular?

Shohreh Aghdashloo
Iranian-born actress Shoreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala in The Expanse.
Photo Credit: SyFy

This is certainly not the only question one could ask, and there are any number of answers that are possible. Yet, my intention is not to dig into every single question, or find every answer. Instead, in presenting what I believe is a truly unfortunate reality about the make-up of the Jedi High Council, the lack of women and their voices on that Council, I want to end with a suggestion. As the Star Wars franchise moves forward, with more films being added over time, my hope is that if a film is set in the days of the Old Republic, long before the events of the Prequel Trilogy, that the Jedi Council (if included in the film) feature a perfect distribution of 6 women and 6 men. To this, I would add my desire that the Grand Master of the Jedi Council also be a woman. If left to me, the actress I’d place in the Grand Master’s seat would be Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, a woman with an incredibly commanding presence in SyFy’s show The Expanse. I am of the opinion that Aghdashloo is a natural fit for the Star Wars universe, and could be a remarkable Jedi Grand Master if given the opportunity. That said, there are many actresses who’d make great Jedi Masters if given the chance, and I hope the day it is not far off when we see them on the High Council and helping to lead the Jedi Order.

Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge

With the arrival of Force Friday II on September 1, 2017, “a global fan event celebrating the launch of Star Wars: The Last Jedi products,” I felt the desire to jump back into the Star Wars toy/collectible conversation once again by doing something special. For those of you who regularly read this site, you know that I don’t often discuss Star Wars products, having only done so a handful of times in previous posts (you can search the site for them if interested). Given the understandable excitement surrounding the new, soon-to-arrive Star Wars film, Force Friday II is a way and a day for fans of all ages to begin adding The Last Jedi merchandise – action figures and Black Series figures, Lego sets, Funko Pops, etc. – to their collections. And, in the spirit of Force Friday II, and as a way of adding to the excitement surrounding it, I thought I’d share the details of my very own Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge, a giveaway challenge that I plan to extend long after Force Friday II is over.

The Giveaway

For the past month, I’ve collected Star Wars toys with the sole intention of giving them away. Thanks to an over-abundance of toys associated with The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars Rebels being on store shelves, and the need for stores to clear their shelves for The Last Jedi merchandise, all of the toys I have purchased have been on clearance. As a personal rule, I never buy any Star Wars products at full price, and purchasing toys on clearance has actually maximized my ability to give away even more! 

So, all that being said, here is the moment of truth, the details about how my Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge will work. In short, I am giving all of those toys that are pictured above to Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children in families that struggle to purchase gifts at Christmas time. Once the Christmas season rolls around, I am taking all of the toys I have collected – the those pictured and others I’ll be purchasing –  to a local Toys for Tots drop-off location so I can, in a small way, help children from low-income families add to/create their own Star Wars collection.

And the Challenge is for you to do something similar.

The Challenge

Here’s the thing: I am blessed to live in comfort, with the ability and means to spend some of my disposable income adding Star Wars “stuff” to my already massive collection of, well, “stuff.” But the thing is I don’t need every item that is produced with a Star Wars label, and there are many children who come from families that struggle financially. While there is a tendency to judge these families, and particularly their parents, I refrain from it and have no time for it. Love and compassion are non-negotiable for me, especially when children are involved. In wanting to give away Star Wars toys to families in need, who struggle during the Christmas season to provide gifts for their children, it is my hope that I can bring some small bit of happiness to some of those kids. Star Wars has been, and will continue to be, a massive part of my life, of my self-identity and joy, but what I want to do – what I will continue to do in the future – is give away Star Wars toys so that children in need can experience that same joy.

My hope and challenge to you, my magnanimous reader, is that you will follow suit and do something similar. Whether you go out and buy one Star Wars toy, or ten, or twenty, or a hundred, I hope you will stand in the toy aisle at a store, pick up a Star Wars action figure or Lego set, and say “I don’t need this but there is a little girl or boy out there who deserves it.” Or maybe you will pull something out of your own collection to give away. Or perhaps you know a family in need and are willing to take them shopping, to buy the gifts – any gifts, not just toys! – for their kids at Christmas time or for a birthday.

Oh, and this needn’t be limited to Star Wars toys either. While I intend to give away Star Wars toys because they reflect something I love, there are so many other toys representing different franchises that kids would love to play with! The point of this challenge is, quite simply, to spread some love, and if you do that by giving away non-Star Wars toys to kids in need then I say more power to ya!

It is also my hope that other blogs and podcasts – be they Star Wars oriented or not – will challenge their readers/listeners to give away toys to children in need. And if you don’t have a blog or podcast, then I hope you’ll challenge people on social media, or in your non-online life, to participate. 

Lastly, if you do participate, tweet me a pic (@ImperialTalker) of the toys you plan to give away using the hashtag #TalkerToyChallenge. The more visible we are, the more we can encourage others to join in!

Haikuesday: Queen Amidala

Unique Politics:
Young, female monarch and an
old, male Senator.


Queen Amidala.
Elected at age fourteen.
Leader of Naboo.


Her first name: Padmé.
Comes from Sanskrit origin.
Its meaning: lotus.

Hindu Religion –
Padma, the sacred lotus,
symbol of beauty.

Vibrant and lovely,
rich with color, the flower
and Queen Padmé’s gowns.

“Queenliest flower”
wrote poet Toru Dutt in
Sonnet: The Lotus.

Growing in ponds, lakes.
Untouched by water or mud.
The lotus is pure.

We literally watch
Padmé blossom as Queen in
The Phantom Menace.

Goddess Shri-Lakshmi,
depicted with the lotus.
Shri-Lakshmi…shmi…shmi.

I’m not gonna lie:
teaching Hinduism in
haiku form is tough.


Trade Federation.
Blockade of peaceful Naboo.
Iron-willed Padmé.


Not wanting a war
but war is forced on the world.
What will the Queen do?


Inquisitive Queen.
“You’re a Gungan…” she asks Binks.
She’s never met one?

Haiku Addendum:
One would think that Naboo’s Queen
has met with Gungans.


Bodyguards, decoys.
Like their highness, they are brave.
The Queen’s handmaidens.


A clever disguise!
The Queen dresses as one of
her own handmaidens.


Sandy, sun scorched world.
The Queen wishes to learn more…
…by sending herself.

I have to be frank:
I’m sure Qui-Gon Jinn knew that 
Padmé was the Queen.


“You’re a slave,” she asks.
“I’m a person,” he declares.
Someday they will kiss.


Fate in a boy’s hands.
Handmaiden Queen admits that
she does not approve.


Jedi are reckless,
the handy Queen tells Qui-Gon.
Yeah, sometimes they are.


Boonta Eve Podrace.
Fly real fast, go left sometimes.
She cheers for Ani.


The Queen is worried.
Her people are suffering.
Will the Senate help?


Speaking to Senate,
Queen Amidala calls for
no confidence vote.


Begging for their help,
Amidala bows to the
greatness of Gungans.


Queen of the Naboo.
Military strategist.
Fourteen but gifted.


Leading from the front,
Amidala risks her life
to save her people.


Viceroy Nute Gunray
deceived by Keira Knightley!
Decoy “Queen” Sabé


Here is a fun fact:
I am two days older than
Ms. Keira Knightley.


The Royal Decoy
orders the real Queen to clean
astromech R2.

Haiku Addendum:
I can’t help but wonder if
that made Padmé mad.


At last, there is peace!
Amidala and Boss Nass
commit to friendship.


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Ryloth (July 2017)

Star Wars Without End

I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.

Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.

star-wars-celebration-1140x502
I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, the so-called “ultimate fan experience,” and have little desire to attend one. Perhaps someday I will if I’m feeling adventurous and want to put my crowd anxiety to the test.
Photo Credit : Lucasfilm/Disney

On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it. 

And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.

daala
Most people know that I’m obsessed with Grand Admiral Thrawn, but I’m also a huge fan of Admiral Natasi Daala who first appeared in the Expanded Universe novel Jedi Search.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey

In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.

Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.

In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.

Run2
The Grand Inquisitor, introduced in Star Wars Rebels, is now one of my absolute favorite characters. I am hoping he will get his own novel or comic series.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities. 

None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation. 

And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment. 

The Death of Padmé Amidala

A friend recently shared an article with me which speculates on why Padmé Amidala dies at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In this article, author Joseph Tavano goes to great lengths to argue that Padmé did not die from a “broken heart.” Instead, Tavano presents the thesis that the reason for Padmé’s death is that Darth Sidious was quite literally ripping the Living Force from her. For the sake of brevity, and because I do not want to take it upon myself to rehash the entire article, I suggest you read the piece for yourself to have a fuller appreciation for Mr. Tavano idea. You can find the article here: Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart. And, in case you want to re-watch the scene in which Padmé dies, here it is:

When my friend – Michael Miller from the blog My Comic Relief – shared the article with me, it was actually the second (or third, or fourth) time I had been presented with this particular answer to Padmé’s curious death at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In fact, I had already read this particular article before and had also engaged in similar conversations about this possibility in the past with other friends. Still, even though I had already read the piece and reflected on this possibility, since Michael was sharing the article with me, I thought I would re-read it and give him my thoughts. And, because I love talking Star Wars (I am the Imperial Talker after all), I figured I would share these same thoughts with y’all.

As I told Miller, I really have no problem with this particular theory regarding Padmé’s death. In fact, I find it entirely plausible and perhaps likely. The thought that Darth Sidious – a powerful Sith Lord with arcane abilities that go beyond reason – could, from a galactic distance, siphon the Force from a living being is a tantalizing thought. After all, in The Clone Wars episode “The Lost One” Sidious is able to Force choke his apprentice, Darth Tyrannus, although they are separated by many light-years. In turn, when one also throws into the conversation the tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise- the Dark Lord of the Sith who we know was Sidious’ Master – and Plagueis’ ability to manipulate the Force to keep individuals from dying, the possibility that Sidious did the same with thing with Vader, at Padmé’s expense, grows stronger. It is true, of course, that Sidious tells Anakin Skywalker (after the young Jedi pledges allegiance to the Sith Lord) that “to cheat death is a power only one [Plagueis] has achieved.” However, it is also perfectly reasonable that this is yet another moment in which Sidious manipulates Anakin, withholding the truth that Sidious, having learned from his own Master, already knows how to keep individuals alive. In this vein, while on the surface Sidious purports to be ignorant of the ability, this would merely serve as misdirection, pointing blame for Padmé’s death away from Sidious and placing it squarely on Anakin/Vader’s shoulders. Sidious does, after all, tell the newly minted Sith Lord that “in your [Vader’s] anger, you killed her,” yet another possible example of Sidious toying with the mind of the already tormented man.

youkilledher
Sidious looks at Vader after telling the new Sith Lord that Vader’s anger killed Padmé.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

I would suggest, though, that alternative possibilities exist regarding Padme’s death, possibilities that stray from Mr. Tavano’s piece. For example, while Tavano adamantly opposes the notion that Padmé died from a broken heart, I actually have no personal qualms with it. Broken heart syndrome is a real medical issue, and while it is often not fatal, it can in some instances lead to complications which might result in death. This is not to suggest that Padmé actually died from broken heart syndrome, merely that it is a possibility I am not opposed to entertaining.

Further, I have also wondered whether Padmé died as a result of her connection with Anakin through the Force, a connection built upon the love the two shared. This is not to suggest Anakin-turned-Vader willingly or knowingly killed Padmé, but instead that as Anakin was on the cusp of death, the Living Force in Padmé flowed away from her to her beloved. While Padmé may not be a “Force-user” in the way Anakin is, she is never-the-less intrinsically connected to the mystical energy field; she is, as Yoda would say, a “luminous being.” And so, I cannot help but wonder if the reason Padmé lost the will to live, as the medical droid explains in the scene, was because in her final moments she was quite literally willing Anakin to live, intentionally passing the Living Force within her to him. In this way, it was Padmé – and not some outside presence like Sidious – who chose to sacrifice herself to sustain Anakin. Like I said, it’s an idea that I have considered, and perhaps it’ll be one I develop as a post down the road. 

In the end, when it comes to Padmé’s death, I am perfectly fine with no official or objective explanation ever being given. While I am sure there is some very clear “Star Warsie” reason for her dying, I find it personally unnecessary to know with any certainty why she died. Honestly, I think it is better this way. Leaving her death unresolved opens the door for the imagination to fill in the gaps, allowing individuals like Tavano – and you and I – to come up ideas and theories about why Padmé died. That being said, leave a comment and tell me what idea(s) and theories you have about Padmé’s curious death in Revenge of the Sith


Check out these other posts about Padmé Amidala:

The Funeral of Padmé Amidala

Star Wars: Padmé

Cheating Death: The Dark

When Darth Maul’s return was first flirted in Season 3 of The Clone Wars animated series, I was pretty skeptical. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous stunt to bring back to life a character who had been sliced in half, his bifurcated body having fallen into an abyss in The Phantom Menace. Yet, the way Maul’s return was handled grew on me, and over time I not only accepted that he was still alive – something I could not argue since  he was literally on screen  – but that the way he was brought back was handled with care. While I certainly have my grievances with some of the story-arcs in Star Wars, Darth Maul’s return eventually became, and still is, one of my favorites.

As I said in a recent post where I discussed Maul’s return – The Power to Cheat Death – the fact that the young Dark Lord of the Sith survived his injuries opened the door to rethinking a number of aspects of the Star Wars universe. In keeping with this stream of thought, for this post I wanted to think about how Maul survived, the way he was able to sustain his life even though he had been horribly injured. 

Long before Darth Maul even arrived in person in The Clone Wars, questions began floating about how he could have survived his horrific injury. Thankfully, this was a question that was answered rather early on in Maul’s story-arc. In the Season Four episode “Revenge” – literally the episode that follows his re-discovery – Maul explains that while his body was broken, his hatred kept his spirit intact. Submerged in darkness, Maul became a self-described “rabid animal,” surviving on the junk world Lotho Minor until many years later his brother, Savage Opress, discovered him.

While his description of survival is brief, what Maul explains in “Revenge” is an intrinsic and fascinating aspect of the Dark Side of the Force.  Bathed in his hatred – hatred towards Kenobi, the Jedi, his old Master, etc. – Maul found himself consumed by the Dark Side in a way he had never prepared to encounter. In this regard, Maul’s survival was purely accidental. While he should have died due to his injuries, the Dark Side of the Force sustained his spirit – the Living Force within him – because Maul instinctively, although inadvertently, tapped into an intense and visceral level of hatred welling within his being. But the consequences of this deep level of hate and Dark Side submersion are clear: in cheating death, Maul lost all sense of his individuality, of “humanity,” becoming a wild animal.

darth_maul_3
Darth Maul, physically and mentally broken, living as a rabid animal on Lotho Minor. Notice that he is quite literally a beast, his mechanical “body” resembling that of an arachnid.

Photo Credit: The Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 21 – “Brothers”

With this in mind, it is worth recalling one of the most iconic and profound quotes about the Dark Side in Star Wars, a quote found in Revenge of the Sith. Speaking to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) describes the Dark Side of the Force “as a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Darth Maul’s survival is a perfect example of one of the most unnatural abilities swirling within the Dark Side, the ability to cheat death. There is nothing natural about Maul’s survival, about the ability for one to physically cheat death. After all, as Yoda also states in Revenge of the Sith, “death is a natural part of life.” That all life must die is normal, a consequence of the gift of life. To cheat death is unnatural, a subversion of the gift.

Yet, as Maul proves through his hate-filled survival, the ability to subvert, to undermine, the gift of life is inherent within the Dark Side of Force. And since it is life which creates the Force – as Yoda also eloquently states, this time in The Empire Strikes Back – and it is also true that death is a natural part of life, how are we to make sense of this dark ability to cheat physical death?

Regarding this question, I would suggest two things. First, just because life creates the Force does not mean life necessarily dictates or creates the powers/abilities inherent within the Cosmic Force. In turn, this leads to my second point: that the Dark Side and Light Side of the Force are rich with powers/abilities that go far beyond the rationale understanding and capabilities of the Sith, Jedi, and other religious orders devoted to the mystical energy field. When Maul says that his path was”darker than I ever dreamed it could be,” this is precisely what he is pointing towards – the fact that there is a level of Dark Side potential he never could have rationalized or imagined, a level he only could only experienced by tapping into a well-spring of raw, unadulterated hatred. And, as we know, ill-prepared to reach this exceptional level of Darkness, Maul lost all sense of individuality, becoming more animal than “man.”

On this last point, another question arises: could one tap into and sustain the same level of hatred as Maul, preserving their corporeal existence through the Dark Side, while also maintaining their sanity and identity? To this I would answer yes, but to do so would require years of intense and methodical training. Just as one must first learn to swim before diving into the deep end of a pool, so too must a Sith, Knight of Ren, or other type of Dark acolyte learn to wade into the darkness if they are to cheat death, prolonging bodily existence and mental stability. While it is necessary to give into and cultivate the hatred that will take one deeper into the dark abyss and unlock the incredible powers inherent within, it is equally necessary that one exercise intense control over this hatred lest it completely strip them of rational thought.

Furthermore, in answering this question, I would also go one step farther and suggest that Darth Sidious was already treading the dark path towards cheating death. In the novel Tarkin, Sidious hints at coaxing the “final secrets” from the dark side and considers that “success would grant them [he and Darth Vader] the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.” While he does not explicitly state the intention to cheat death, the sentiment is nevertheless implied in his wish to rule for ten thousand years. As Sith believe there is nothingness after death – a philosophical point raised in The Clone Wars episode “Sacrifice” – the only way Sidious could rule indefinitely is if he was to preserve his Life Force in his body, utilizing the Dark Side to forgo death and extinction.

And since Sidious was training to do just that, steadily submerging himself deeper into the darkness in order to unlock the unnatural powers it contained, I cannot help but wonder if he – like Darth Maul before him – was able to survive his “death” in Return of the Jedi. A thought worth pondering, but one I will leave for another day.