Standalone Films

Star Wars: On the Front Lines (Review)

Ever since it was published in 2017 I had my sights set on Star Wars: On the Front Lines. I am a sucker for Star Wars reference books, having spent countless hours of my life immersing myself in the minutiae of the Star Wars universe found in these source books. But I did not buy On the Front Lines when it first came out, instead opting to wait to purchase it. Recently, though, the book was gifted to me and needing something new to read I decided to dig in. And, I am happy to report, On the Front Lines definitely did not disappoint. 

Primarily detailing battles from The Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War, but also one from the Age of Resistance, On the Front Lines takes readers quite literally to the front lines of some of the most important engagements in Star Wars. While author Daniel Wallace limits the number of battles that are explored – a perfectly reasonable decision considering how many battles are in Star Wars – he never-the-less chose one battle to examine from every live-action and animated Star Wars story to date. In fact, the only notable exception is Star Wars: Rebels, with no engagement from that series being discussed. Here is a list of battles that the author examines:

The Battle of Naboo (The Phantom Menace)
The Battle of Geonosis (Attack of the Clones)
The Battle of Christophsis (The Clone Wars movie)
The Battle of Ryloth (The Clone Wars animated show)
The Battle of Coruscant (Revenge of the Sith)
The Battle of Scarif (Rogue One)
The Battle of Yavin (A New Hope)
The Battle of Hoth (The Empire Strikes Back)
The Battle of Endor (Return of the Jedi)
The Battle of Jakku (Various Sources)
The Battle of Starkiller Base (The Force Awakens)

That Wallace chooses well-known battles from the Star Wars saga, battles that we have actually seen in film and on television, makes it easy for both casual and die-hard fans to digest and enjoy this book. Interestingly though, the clash I found myself most interested in reading about was the Battle of Jakku. As you can see from the list above, this is the only engagement discussed in the On the Front Lines that has never been depicted on-screen. Putting his penmanship and imagination to work, Wallace pulls from multiple sources (novels such as Lost Stars and Aftermath: Empire’s End) to piece together details about this relatively unknown fight. In doing so, he presents a vivid picture of the final battle in the Galactic Civil War, a brutal slugfest between the New Republic and Imperial Remnant that leaves wreckage and bodies littering the sandy dunes of the remote world.

Jakku-Starship_Graveyard-The_Force_Awakens_(2015)
Want to know how all those derelict Star Destroyers ended up on the surface of Jakku? On the Front Lines provides some context.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

While I found myself intensely fascinated by Wallace’s presentation of the Battle of Jakku this does not mean I found the other battles any less interesting. Far from it! In every chapter, Wallace draws on the source material available – movies, television shows, books, comics, etc. – to craft a unique and fairly comprehensive picture of each engagement. Granted, there are points where Wallace does leave out information, or gives details only a cursory glance. For example, the space battle which takes place above Naboo in from The Phantom Menace is only briefly mentioned, with the focus instead being entirely on the ground battle between the Gungans and the Trade Federation’s Droid Army. As well, the space battle over Ryloth, depicted in The Clone Wars Season 1, Episode 19 (“Storm Over Ryloth”), where Ahsoka Tano uses a Marl Sabl maneuver to defeat the Separatist blockade, is entirely ignored. For some die-hard fans of Star Wars, these and other omissions may prove annoying but for this die-hard fan, I found myself enjoying what was in the book rather than brooding over what was not.

That being said, I can admit that I wish the book had even more in it. This is not a criticism, though. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that I really enjoyed the way each battle is presented, with a combination of big picture information, such as why the confrontation took place and how it unfolds, along with more focused detail on things like armor, weaponry, vehicles and tactics. Every chapter also offers little asides about individuals from each engagement, specific commanders from both sides, and a handful of soldiers and/or pilots who displayed incredible courage during the fight. And, to top it off, every chapter is loaded with captivating and wholly unique images courtesy of four superb illustrators (Adrián Rodriguez, Thomas Wievegg, Aaron Riley, and Fares Maese).

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that On the Front Lines contains a lot of information that I never knew about, or had never even considered,, about each of these Star Wars battles. In closing, then, I thought I would pick just one bit of of insight that I learned from this book. And what comes to mind immediately is a detail about The Battle of Christophsis. Or rather, aftermath of Christophsis. As we see in The Clone Wars movie, towards the end of this fight, Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi tricks the Separatist General Whorm Loathsom into believing that the Jedi intends to conditionally surrender his clone forces. However, this is a ruse, done with the hope of giving Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano more time to deactivate the Separatist deflector shields. Kenobi succeeds in his plan, and actually captures Loathsom moments later, but as Wallace writes,

“General Kenobi’s false surrender at Christophsis was a boon to the Separatist-controlled media, who viewed the incident as clear evidence of the Republic’s duplicity. Almost no conditional surrenders were offered by either side for the remainder of the war” (pg. 31).

Kenobi may have been successful in that moment, but his “false surrender” was not without long-term consequence. As the Clone War intensified, it would be the clones themselves, the actual soldiers doing the fighting on the front lines, who would pay the price for Kenobi’s actions.

Haikuesday: Star Wars Aliens

Desert Scavengers
Brown-robed, yellow-eyed Jawas
Utini,” they say.


Homeworld: Kubindi.
Kubaz with snout-like trunks speak
using vibrations.


Called “Squid Heads” by some,
the Quarren of Mon Cala
are a proud species.


Key trait: cone-shaped horns.
Gotal abilities are
extrasensory.


“Hard to meet a myth.”
Sentient, shapeshifting plants.
Neti from Myrkr.


Keeping to themselves,
the Kaminoans live out
past the Rishi Maze.


Breathing ammonia,
insectoid Gand are hidden
by respirators.


Exoskeletons.
Mathematical species.
Givin from Yag’Dhul.


Force technology.
An Infinite Empire.
Ancient Rakata.


Hailing from Toola.
Tusks protruding from their jaws.
Ferocious Whipids.

Haiku Addendum:
pronounce “Whipid” like Stewie
pronounces “Cool Whip”


Thisspiasian.
Serpentine body and a
very hairy face.


Malastare’s Natives.
Vicious Dugs walk on their arms
and use feet as hands.


Colonizing Gran
take control of Malastare.
The Dugs – furious.


A long-lived species.
Shi’ido first appeared in
Galaxy of Fear.


Short, Green, Pointed Ears.
Vandar, Yaddle, and Yoda.
Species’ Name Unknown.


Cycloptic biped.
Hailing from the planet Byss.
Green-skinned Abyssin.


Cremlevian War –
A galaxy ruined by
war-like Yuuzhan Vong.


The “friend from afar.”
The “stranger to be trusted.”
The Caamasi.


Fur-covered, wolf like.
The Shistavanen are a
rare sight in Star Wars.


Fur-covered, wolf-like.
Is that a Shistavanen?
Nope, it’s a Defel.


Water-based mammals.
A blowhole atop their heads.
The massive Herglic.


Ben Quadinaros.
The famous Toong podracer.
His engines explode.

I have a theory:
Han named Ben after the Toong.
I’m dead serious.


Neimodians.
Related to the Duros.
The latter came first.


Rodent-like beings.
Big ears and very dark eyes.
Chadra-Fan from Chad.


Saurian species.
Invasion of Bakura.
Bipedal Ssi-Ruuk.


Devilish mammal.
Males have horns, females do not.
Devaronians.


Mud as camouflage.
Red-skinned Mimbanese soldiers
ambush Stormtroopers.


Did you know that in
The Phantom Menace you can
see E.T.’s species?

Name: Asogians.
Homeworld: Brodo Asogi.
Lucas. Spielberg. Pals.


Hailing from Tibrin.
Amphibians with eye stalks.
The green Ishi Tib.


Insect-like Yam’rii.
Look for the praying mantis
in the Cantina.


Twelve-eyed insectoid.
A Vuvrian purchases
Skywalker’s speeder.


Eyes a glowing red.
Blue-skin and glint blue-black hair.
They are called the Chiss.


From the planet Merj.
Morseerians breath methane.
And have big cone heads.


I’m absolutely
positive I could outrun
a Gamorrean.


Wookiee. Gungan. Talz.
Trandoshan. Geonosian.
Sullustan. Lasat.


Rodian. Bothan.
Abednedo. Barabel.
Lamproid. Elomin.


Ewok. Dulok. Teek.
Sanyassan. Skandit. Yuzzum.
Jinda. Gupin. Gorph.


I could spend a day
listing Star Wars aliens.
There are so many!


It’s Star Wars quiz time!
Shistavanen or Defel
in the featured pic?


Check out these other Haikuesday 2.0 posts:

Imperial Atrocities

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Luke Skywalker (ROTJ)

Dark Lords of the Sith

Star Wars Planets

The Great Jedi Purge

 

Haikuesday: Star Wars Planets

First Star Wars Planet
The desert world Tatooine
Home to a hero.

Peaceful Alderaan
Destroyed by the Empire
just to make a point.

Gas-giant Yavin:
On its fourth moon the Rebels
plot their strategy.

A cold, snowy world.
Rebels hide, Empire Strikes
The ice planet Hoth.

Swampy and humid.
Like something found in a dream.
The world: Dagobah.

City in the clouds.
High in Bespin’s atmosphere
Vader lays a trap.

The third gas-giant.
A forest moon in orbit.
The planet: Endor.

Found in the Mid Rim,
Naboo is home to Gungans
and also humans.

Core World: Coruscant.
The Republic capital
is one big city.

South of Rishi Maze,
aquatic Kamino is
a grand army’s home.

Clone Wars first conflict.
Droids and clones clash on the plains
of Geonosis.

A home to giants.
Wroshyr Trees and the Wookiees
The planet Kashyyyk.

Rocky and remote.
In the distant Outer Rim
you’ll find Utapau.

Anakin descends
into the fiery depths
of hell – Mustafar.

Crystalline Planet.
Christophsis invaded by
the Separatists.

Jabba’s son Rotta,
kidnapped and taken to Teth,
out in Wild Space.

“Why does everyone
want to go back to Jakku?”
A valid question.

Jedi world: Ilum.
Transformed by the First Order.
Now: Starkiller Base.

Lush forests, small lakes.
On Takodana you’ll find
Kanata’s Castle.

First Order Attack.
Hosnian Cataclysm.
Prime planet destroyed.

Verdant world: D’Qar.
Organa’s Resistance hides
in the Outer Rim.

Uncharted, unknown.
The birthplace of the Jedi.
Watery Ahch-To.

Agrarian world.
On ringed Lah’mu, Jyn Erso
hides with her parents.

Temperate planet.
Imperial labor camp.
The world: Wobani.

The cold, pilgrim moon.
Jedha orbits NaJedha,
pink and crystalline.

Rugged, mountainous
Eadu hosts a kyber lab
and Galen’s research.

Tropical Planet.
Scarif is the site of the
Rebellion’s first win.

Corporate Sector.
Desolate Cantonica
overflows with wealth.

A mineral world.
An old Rebellion outpost.
Blood-red crystal – Crait.

Han Solo’s home world.
Corellia is known for
its impressive ships.

Site of trench warfare.
Violent, bloody fight in
the mud of Mimban.

The wild frontier.
Vandor’s snow-capped peaks are a
climber’s paradise.

Spice Mines on Kessel.
Controlled by Pyke Syndicate…
…but that won’t stop Han.

Savareen Stand-off.
Enfys tracks her prey to the
sandy, ocean world.

In the jungles of
Numidian Prime, Solo
wins his greatest prize.

An ancient redoubt.
Fanatics worship the Sith
on dark Exegol.

Verdant Ajan Kloss.
A reborn Resistance hides
amongst its jungles.

Expansion Region.
Deserts but not desolate.
Vibrant Pasaana.

Occupied Planet.
Stormtroopers kidnap children
from Kijimi’s homes.

Watery Kef Bir.
The ocean moon of Endor.
Littered with debris.


Check out these other Haikuesday 2.0 posts:

Imperial Atrocities

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Luke Skywalker (ROTJ)

Dark Lords of the Sith

Han Shot First

Standing on a cliff overlooking one of Savareen’s oceans, Han Solo aims a blaster at Tobias Beckett, his mentor-turned-adversary. It was Beckett who gave Solo the opportunity to flee the frontlines of the Imperial army and join his crew. As they worked together, traveling from Mimban and Vandor to Kessel and now Savareen, Beckett bestowed his vast knowledge of a scoundrel’s life on the young Corellian, offering insights into how to survive and thrive in the galaxy’s dark underworld. Now, on this sandy, wind-swept cliff the two square-off: Beckett attempting to flee with the coaxium the crew stole and Solo attempting to stop him.

Engaging in conversation, Solo explains to his “buddy” that he came as quickly as he could. Beckett in-turn goads the young man, explaining that Qi’ra, Solo’s childhood friend and romantic interest who joined them in stealing the coaxium, is a “survivor” and out to protect herself, not Han. To this, Solo tells Beckett that his problem is that he believes everyone is like him, but Beckett admits to Han that “you’re nothing like me.” It is at this point that Beckett slowly puts his finger on the trigger of the gun he holds in his hand. Distracting Han, Beckett emphatically states that “I hope you’re still paying attention because now I’m gonna tell you the most important…”

…a blaster shot echoes across the landscape and Beckett, in stunned silence, falls to the ground, a hole sizzled in his chest. Running over to him, Han grabs Tobias and holds him upright. Shocked and breathing hard, Beckett compliments Solo, admitting “…that was a smart move, kid, for once. I woulda killed ya.” Moments later, Tobias Beckett dies.


While Solo: A Star Wars Story was met with mixed reviews and a disappointing box office return, I will admit that I enjoyed the film even though I had some reservations before seeing it. Frankly, I did not believe that a Han Solo origin story was necessary, especially on the big screen, and I feared that offering too much about Solo’s past would dilute the iconic character whom Harrison Ford brought to life. Yet, after seeing the movie, I found myself impressed by a number of aspects of the film, especially  those aspects which offered insight into the character we met in the Original Trilogy. This is not to say I agreed with every way Han Solo is depicted in the film, but it is to say that I appreciate many of the ways Solo: A Star Wars Story adds fascinating and obvious (and at times subtle) background to Han’s thoughts/actions in the original Star Wars films in general, and A New Hope in particular.

One such point in Solo: A Star Wars Story which does this is the scene I described above where Han Solo shooting Tobias Beckett on the Savareen cliff. That Han shot first, before Beckett could draw his own weapon, is absolutely brilliant, a clear indication that Solo really has been listening to Beckett’s advice throughout the course of the film. And tragically, for Tobias Beckett, it is his advice to Han – to always be on guard, to trust no one, to be a survivor, etc. – which turns out to be his downfall. Plus, to add to this tragic twist of fate for the scoundrel, it is the DL-44 blaster which Beckett assembled and gifted to Solo which the Corellian uses to kill his former mentor.

Alone, this scene does a fantastic job of showing that throughout the course of the movie, Han has grown considerably in his understanding of living a scoundrel’s life. He has internalized the wisdom Beckett offered, recognizing the need for constant vigilance and realizing that the decision to shoot first is the surest way to save his own skin in a dire situation. In this regard, what is equally brilliant about this scene is how it parallels and informs the infamous scene in A New Hope where the bounty hunter Greedo confronts Han Solo.

Han Shot First

The smuggler, Han Solo, whom we have just met for the first time moments before, attempts to leave the Mos Eisley Cantina but is immediately stopped by the Rodian bounty hunter and is forced, at gunpoint, to sit back down. Doing so, he and Greedo engage in a back-and-forth over Han’s debt to the gangster Jabba the Hutt, with the Rodian explaining that Jabba has “put a price on your head so large every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you…” Han, for his part, does his best to talk himself out of the predicament, even suggesting he already has the money owed to the Hutt. But this is really his attempt to stall for time and, as he and Greedo talk, he slowly removes the DL-44 blaster from his holster. Taunting the smuggler by saying Jabba may only take his ship, Han adamantly declares that Jabba will take the ship “over my dead body.” With this, Greedo admits that he has “been looking forward to this [killing Han] for a long time.”

“I bet you have,” Han replies and without hesitation shoots Greedo, the bounty hunter’s body slumping forward onto the table.

To me, it seems rather obvious that the standoff between Solo and Beckett in Solo: A Star Wars Story was crafted with the Cantina scene in mind. The parallels are clear, even if the context for both confrontations are different and Han Solo’s role in both situations are flipped. Consider the following:

  • Greedo confronts Han at gunpoint in the Cantina; Solo confronts Beckett at gunpoint on the cliff.
  • Greedo holds his blaster in his right hand; Solo holds his blaster in his right hand.
  • Han stalls for time, forcing Greedo to maintain eye-contact, while making a move for the holstered blaster on his right hip; Beckett stalls for time, forcing Solo to maintain eye-contact, while moving his finger onto the trigger of the blaster he holds by his right hip.
  • Han shoots first, killing Greedo; Solo shoots first, killing Beckett.

On the surface, the scene on the Savareen cliff is meant to mirror the Cantina scene. However, if we dig down a little, one recognizes that the standoff between Solo and Beckett can inform Han’s confrontation with Greedo. We can now read a new layer into the Cantina scene and assume that Han knows he has been in this type of situation before, albeit in reverse. Staring at Greedo across the table, Han must recognize that just as he shot and killed Beckett years before, Greedo will do the same unless he acts to save himself. And surely Han knows he has an advantage which his former mentor did not: his own blaster is out of view, below the table he and Greedo sit at. Beckett’s blaster, though, was out in the open, and Han could keep his eye on it even as he listened to Tobias. This was why Han shot first, killing the man before Beckett could act. Later, in the Cantina, Han does exactly the same, carefully drawing his DL-44, not allowing Greedo to notice his movements, taking aim and firing the first shot, ending the Rodian’s life.

Ultimately, it is this parallel, that Han shot first, which is what truly makes these scenes work in tandem. I am certainly aware, of course, that the Cantina scene has been changed over the years, with one edit having Greedo shot first and Han second, and more recently another showing Han and Greedo firing at the exact same time. Frankly, I just ignore these edits and dismiss them outright. The original version of the Cantina scene is all that matters to me, nay it is the only version that makes sense to me because it affirms that he is a man who is in control of his own destiny, a man who will always act first and foremost with his own interests and self-preservation in mind.  And frankly, I am confident that the original version of the Cantina scene was all that mattered to the writer(s)/director of Solo: A Star Wars Story as well because, as he stood on the Savareen cliff, Han Solo was also in complete control and, when the moment for action arrived, it was Han, and not Beckett, who shot first.

Lando’s Luck (An Imperial Talker Review)

I was browsing some discounted books at Barnes & Noble one day and came across Lando’s Luck on the shelf. A middle-grade novel by Justina Ireland (with illustrations from Annie Wu) which was released in October 2018 as part of the Flight of the Falcon series of books and comics, I decided to give Lando’s Luck a chance and ended up taking it home with me. Besides, since the book was on clearance it was easier to justify the purchase, especially if, in the end, I ended up disliking it. Except, I actually really enjoyed the novel and, having finished reading Lando’s Luck, I am interested in continuing the Flight of the Falcon series.

Set before the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story – with the exception of the Prologue and Epilogue which are set around the time of The Force AwakensLando’s Luck chronicles the “flight of the Falcon” to the planet Hynestia, a frigid world best known for its prized gherlian furs. There, Lando Calrissian ends up being forced by Queen Forsythia Jin – the Assassin Queen – to deliver a valuable possession to the Galactic Empire on behalf of her world. This possession, the Solstice Globe, will be delivered to the Empire in lieu of Hynestia’s regular tribute of gherlian furs, a result of the latest shipment of furs having gone missing.  However, the Queen’s 13-year old daughter Rinetta has different plans for the Solstice Globe and, stowing away on the Millennium Falcon, sets out to recruit Lando and the droid L3-37 to her cause.

Rinetta
Princess Rinetta

Photo Credit – Lucasfilm Press Illustrator – Annie Wu

The protagonist of the novel whom young readers are meant to identify with, Princess Rinetta is a precocious girl who is determined to return the Solstice Globe to it’s rightful owners: the Lynna from the planet Livno III. The Globe, we come to learn, is one of three orbs – the other’s being the Rain Globe and Breeze Globe – which were created by “The Architects” to power a machine that provides Livno III with a stable, habitable climate. Sadly, we are given no detailed background about “The Architects,” a disappointing omission considering that the ability to control a planetary climate makes these “Architects” a pretty big deal. Regardless, long ago the orbs were lost in a war, and while the Rain and Breeze Globes were recovered, the Solstice Globe remained missing. Until, that is, it was discovered in the treasure vault on Hynestia by Rinnetta and her Lynnian mentor, Zel Gris.

With the Solstice Globe safely in the cargo hold of the Millennium Falcon, the story takes us from Hynestia, on the edge of Wild Space, to Neral’s moon in the Corellian system. There, Lando will find himself in dire straits thanks to his (surprise!) penchant for being a swindler who skips out on debts. Luckily, Rinetta’s unexpected presence on the Falcon will end up proving beneficial to Lando as she helps him escape from thugs and bounty hunters. And, after he is imprisoned back on Hynestia – the Queen and her royal guard track the Falcon to Neral’s moon – Rinnetta will free the scoundrel from the dungeon, making him promise to bring the Solstice Globe to Livno III for her help. Lando, we find out, takes promises very seriously and, once given, must see it through to the end (a good lesson for young readers).

While I dare not spoil the entire plot, I will note that Justina Ireland crafted an easy-to-follow tale for young readers. While there are certainly moments throughout where an older reader (translation: me) may question the way things unfold, this never really detracts from the overall narrative or enjoyment of the story. Moreover, for a Star Wars fan who is paying extra close attention they will discover that Lando’s Luck addresses a Star Wars concept that tends to be overlooked: the passage of time while in hyperspace. Essentially, Lando’s Luck acknowledges that hyperspace travel takes time, especially when venturing long distances. Consider the following quote towards the end of the book: “They spent a couple of days on the Millennium Falcon. The trip through hyperspace was a long one…” (pg. 147). While many Star Wars tales – books, comics, tv shows, movies, etc. – overlook or outright ignore this fact about hyperspace travel, it was nice to come across a handful of references, like the one above, acknowledging this reality.

L3-37
L3-37

Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Finally, what can be said about Lando and his droid – sorry, his first mate – L3-37? I genuinely enjoyed how Ireland presents them, capturing their individual voices and motives with care so they feel like the characters in Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is easily done with Lando as he is hellbent on 1) making money and 2) maintaining his own image. But it is doubly true for Elthree who, time and again, reminds us that she is an equal to Lando and other humans (and aliens). She is rightfully furious when a restraining bolt is attached to her and, given her belief in the rights of droids, chastises Princess Rinetta for the suggestion that a sentry droid could be used for her own spare parts. In short, I loved that when  L3-37 would speak I could “hear” actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge in my head.

Overall, I really enjoyed Lando’s Luck and I am glad I picked it up when I found it at Barnes & Noble. I not only recommend it for young readers who will identify with Princess Rinetta but likewise encourage older Star Wars fans to give it a read when they have time to check it out. 

Favorite Star Wars Music (by Film)

A long time ago…in 2017…I wrote a piece detailing why “The Imperial March” is my absolute favorite musical score in the Star Wars franchise. This admission came as little surprise to many of my trove of followers/readers as I have often professed my cultish admiration for The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) on this site. It stood to reason that The Imperial March would top my list considering the fact that the iconic anthem for the Galactic Empire/Darth Vader was first introduced in Episode V. Plus, given my “Casterfoian” obsession with the Empire, it stood to reason that I would likewise adopt the score as my all-time favorite.

While my unadulterated affection for all things ESB stands firm, and “The Imperial March” continues to receive constant replays on my Spotify account, there are never-the-less many other pieces of Star Wars music that have been elevated to the top of my musical mind. Hardly a shock – I am positive you can say the same if you happen to be a Star Wars fan – I wanted to take the opportunity to share a musical composition from each Star Wars film that I hold near and dear to my heart. For the sake of brevity, I have only chosen one from each film and decided to forgo long-winded explanations detailing why I love each piece, in large part because music is so damn personal it would take some of the fun out of it. Still, I may do a post for each at some point if the Force moves me to do so. We shall see.

Enjoy and be sure to comment with your own “faves” list!


A New Hope  “Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force”


The Empire Strikes Back – “Yoda’s Theme”

While my heart will always be dedicated to “The Imperial March,” I decided to share another score from ESB in this particular list to mix things up a bit.


Return of the Jedi – “Leia’s New/Light of the Force”


The Phantom Menace – “The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul”

**Surprise! You were expecting “Duel of the Fates” weren’t you? Here is the deal: I love “Duel of the Fates” with a crazy passion but I likewise love “The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul.” I had to pick one and so I went with my gut. Besides, just listen to how the piece shifts when Maul is introduced! Holy frick that is haunting!!!!


Attack of the Clones – “Across the Stars”


Revenge of the Sith – “The Birth of the Twins and Padmé’s Destiny”


The Clone Wars – “Battle of Christophsis”


The Force Awakens “The Jedi Steps”

**I don’t care much for sentimentality but I readily admit that this piece gives me the feels. Like “Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force”, “The Jedi Steps” packs an emotional punch by forcing me to imagine the Jedi Order, now a dying remnant, who once served and protected the galaxy far, far away. Between hearing this piece, and watching Rey literally walk the steps of the ancient Jedi, I was brought to tears in my first viewing of The Force Awakens.**


Rogue One“Your Father Would Be Proud”


The Last Jedi – “The Spark”


Solo: A Star Wars Story – “Savareen Stand-Off”

*Leave a comment with your thoughts about my list or share your own favorites!!!*

The Talker Toy Challenge Strikes Back

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Episode V

The Talker Toy Challenge Strikes Back

It is a dark time for the Star Wars fandom. Although December is approaching, DISNEY will not be releasing a new Star Wars film for another year, instead assaulting fans with a new cartoon show, a legion of mediocre comic books, and toys, lots and lots of toys.

Evading the dreaded lack of a Star Wars film, a group of bloggers led by THE IMPERIAL TALKER have struck back with a new version of THE TALKER TOY CHALLENGE, encouraging fans of the franchise to buy Star Wars toys and donate them to children who are in need this holiday season.

The DISNEY CORPORATION, obsessed with selling merchandise and increasing stock value for their shareholders, has dispatched thousands of new Star Wars products into the far reaches of the globe. Little does DISNEY know that THE IMPERIAL TALKER is ridiculously good at never paying full-price for merchandise, finding troves of fantastic Star Wars toys on sale and on clearance…


Participating in The Talker Toy Challenge is easy!!!! Just follow these steps.

Step One: Purchase Star Wars toys.

Step Two: Donate said Star Wars toys to children who are in need. I bring the toys I collect (see the featured image above) to a local Toys for Tots drop-off site. 

Step Three: Encourage others to do the same by promoting The Talker Toy Challenge on your blog, podcast, social media, etc.!!! Be sure to use #TalkerToyChallenge when you do!

Step Four: Repeat Steps One, Two, and Three.

Leave a comment and let me know if you participate!

Going Solo: Contispex I

Contispex I is a character who, although minor in the scope of Star Wars lore, has a story that I find intensely fascinating. Mentioned for the first time in a solitary paragraph in Daniel Wallace’s The New Essential Chronology (2005), with his story being expanded in subsequent reference books, Contispex I was a human and an ancient Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic who, along with his descendants, launched numerous crusades against alien species and their human allies. An adherent of the zealous and extremist Pius Dea religion – a faith which, according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (2012), taught followers that  “…fallen communities should be restored to purity by purging their unredeemable elements…” (27)  – Contispex took the reigns of the Republic in the year 11,987 BBY and set about reforming the corruption of the Senate and government by placing Pius Dea faithful in positions of power.

What was, at first, a small religion dedicated to the worship of a Goddess and confined to the shadows of Coruscant where it began, Pius Dea quickly exploded into galactic prominence thanks to Contispex. Referred to as the Pius Dea Era  (ca. 12,000 – 11,000 BBY) in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the millennia of Pius Dea rule which Contispex I instituted would see galactic purges, imprisonments, forced conversions, inquisitions and executions justified under the rallying cry that “The Goddess Wills It!” But it is the 30+ crusades of Contispex I and his successors which truly stand out, crusades that were launched to rid the galaxy of the scourge of alien civilizations. In 11,965 BBY the first crusade was directed by Contispex, a “pre-emptive strike against the Hutts beyond the Rim” according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (27). Subsequent crusades would be directed against other alien species: the Bothans, Lanniks, Zabraks, Herglics, and more.

Notably, during the Pius Dea Era the Jedi Order abdicated its responsibilities as peacekeepers and protectors, instead choosing to renounce its affiliation with the Republic. While individual members of the Order chose to challenge Pius Dea rule, as a whole the Order was “unwilling to take up arms against the civilization they had safeguarded” (27). This would change after almost 1,000 years had passed when the Jedi Order allied itself with oppressed species to overthrow Contispex XIX, arresting him and installing Jedi Grand Master Biel Ductavis in the Chancellorship (27).

While Contispex I truly is a minor character in the grand scope of Expanded Universe lore, as is the era of Pius Dea rule, I never-the-less find him intensely fascinating precisely because his story opens a vast window to the imagination. As someone who studied religion/theology in college and graduate school, the idea that the Old Republic succumbed to zealous theocratic rule in the name of “The Goddess” for nearly a millennia intrigues me and leaves me wanting to know more. Of course, at this point I have soaked up everything I can about Contispex I and the Pius Dea religion, having mined the tomes of Star Wars reference books for every morsel of information.

In fact, it was one very small morsel in a Star Wars reference book which led me to write this piece, a reference to Contispex I in Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Official Guide. Contained within The Official Guide to Han Solo’s standalone film is a page that is dedicated to the vast collection of rare treasures which Dryden Vos, leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, displays in the study aboard his star yacht. And, as The Official Guide notes, among this impressive collection of artifacts are “…arks that hold the ashes of Chancellor Contispex I…”

Contispex I
Image Credit:
Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Official Guide

As I said, a very small morsel indeed, but one that immediately caught my attention given my interest in Contispex I. On the one hand, what makes this nod to Contispex I important is that it re-affirms his place in the Star Wars canon. A minor character in the Expanded Universe, Contispex I is now, also, a minor character in Disney’s Alternate Universe. On the other hand, this is hardly surprising. While I was NOT expecting a reference to Contispex I in The Official Guide to Solo, that author Pablo Hidalgo – a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group – found a way to incorporate Contispex I into the book makes perfect sense. With Vos’ study populated by rare and ancient artifacts, Hidalgo could easily mine the ancient history of Star Wars confined within the Expanded Universe and provide readily available information about the artifacts without entirely having to re-create ancient Star Wars lore.

In fact, Hidalgo not only identifies the ashes of Contispex I in The Official Guide but he also attaches other elements of Expanded Universe lore to items in Dryden Vos’ study. A “crystal masthead” is identified as that of Xim the Despot while a dataplaque is noted as containing the location of the Xim’s long-lost treasure ship, the Queen of Ranroon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Xim the Despot, he was first mentioned in the novel Han Solo and the Lost Legacy while the Queen of Ranroon received it’s first mention in Han Solo’s Revenge. As well, a carver set is noted to be that of Noghri origin, the species first appearing in Timothy Zahn’s popular novel Heir to the Empire, while a set of wraith boxes come from the long-extinct Rakata, a technologically superior civilization which was originally created for the Knights of the Old Republic video game.

While I highly doubt that Contispex I, the Pius Dea era, or other elements of the Expanded Universe which have crept into the Disney Canon will be teased out in greater detail, I am never-the-less pleased by the fact that these legendary aspects of Star Wars continue to have relevance. More importantly, these elements bring with them pre-crafted stories which need-not be reconstructed. Rather, they unify the Expanded Universe and Disney’s Alternate Universe in small, subtle ways. Contispex I may only ever have this one, small reference in The Official Guide to Solo: A Star Wars Story, but that reference is packed with the already rich story about Contispex and the tumultuous era of Pius Dea rule. As far as I am concerned, unless Contispex I receives a brand new tale which changes his narrative – a highly unlikely prospect – I will move forward with my enjoyment of Star Wars knowing that he, and the Expanded Universe I love, continue to add depth and meaning to the galaxy far, far away.

Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

In my previous post – Going Solo: Darth Maul – I considered Darth Maul’s (very) brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. I don’t want to spend a lot of time recapping that post, but I will note that in it I mentioned that his cameo, while certainly intriguing, left open the possibility of confusion for fans who had no idea he had cheated death in The Phantom Menace. I mentioned how in the lead up to his reveal in Solo, I really thought the mysterious figure behind the scenes of the Crimson Dawn criminal organization was going to be Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order. While I was surprised by Maul’s cameo in the film, and otherwise enjoyed it, I cannot help but imagine the possibilities that might have been if Snoke had appeared instead of Maul.

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush…

Following the death of Dryden Vos, his lieutenant Qi’ra — who is also Han Solo’s friend/romantic interest —  contacts the mysterious figure coordinating the activities of Vos’ Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Shrouded by a hood, the figure inquires why it is Qi’ra, and not Dryden Vos, contacting him. In reply, Qi’ra responds…

“Dryden Vos is dead.”

“Vos was a fool and deserving of death. Tell me Qi’ra, what of the coaxium?”

“Stolen from Vos by Tobias Beckett.”

“An unwelcome setback.”

Momentarily pausing, the mysterious figure continues…

“I sense conflict within you, young one. There is more to your story.”

“Beckett had an accomplice…someone I knew from my youth.”

“Is that so? And who was this accomplice?”

“A man by the name of Han Solo.”

Removing his hood, the figure in the hologram now reveals himself to be Snoke. Leaning forward, Snoke responds by repeating the name: “Han. Solo.”

“He means nothing to me,” Qi’ra quickly responds. “He is a remnant of my past.”

Snoke’s eyes linger on the woman, pausing to consider her words before he speaks…

“When I found you I saw raw, untamed power, a connection to the Force unlike any I have felt before. I pulled you from the gutters of Corellia, saving your from the life of a scumrat. And yet, my care is rewarded by the naïve feelings of child.”

“The fault is mine, Master. I beg your forgiveness.”

Sitting back in his chair, Snoke replies: “Indeed, the fault is yours. Return to me and I will break the chains of your…feelings…for Han Solo. “

Before delving into the “why” of the conversation I crafted between Qi’ra and Snoke, allow me to point out an obvious thought residing on the surface of my mind. I believe that Snoke should have been the mysterious figure in Solo: A Star Wars Story precisely because he was given no backstory in either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. While the need to know every detail of Snoke’s pre-Sequel Trilogy life is not entirely necessary, the desire to know more about Snoke is hard to ignore. That desire is precisely why, following The Force Awakens, individuals started creating theories about Supreme Leader Snoke, attepting to piece together who he might be. Unfortunately, this fun-filled theorizing was met with childish mockery from a the self-proclaimed “elites” of the Star Wars fandom when they chose to insult fan theories with the phrase “Your Snoke Theory Sucks” (I counter this petty derision in my post Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck). But I digress…my base desire, wishing Snoke had appeared in Solo rather than Darth Maul, is a desire to have been given just a small glimpse into Snoke’s backstory, a tiny morsel that fans could run with in their theories.

On this point, Snoke’s presence could have created a connection between Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Sequel Trilogy which “film-only” fans could have more fully understood. As I noted in Going Solo: Darth Maul, the possibility exists (and is true in the case of my neighbors) that fans who only watch the Star Wars films would have a difficult time understanding how Darth Maul is alive since he so obviously died in The Phantom Menace. Instead of this unnecessary confusion, Snoke would have created an enticing connection between Solo and the Sequels Trilogy. Solo: A Star Wars Story could have been even more important, more relevant and necessary, with a brief cameo by the future Supreme Leader of the First Order, a cameo that would have created a connection through presence alone.

But this connection would have been blown wide open with Snoke’s conversation with Qi’ra, especially if the conversation echoed Snoke’s conversations with Kylo Ren. You will notice that in the dialogue I crafted Qi’ra mentions that “Han Solo” meaning nothing to her, an intentional parallel to Kylo Ren telling Snoke that Han Solo, his father, “means nothing to me.” In turn, the same form of parallelism exists in Snoke’s comment that when he found her, he saw raw, untamed power within Qi’ra, a similar statement he makes to Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. Likewise, he insults Qi’ra, calling her a child, just as he insults Kylo Ren as “a child in a mask.”

Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.
Han Solo’s childhood friend/lover: Qi’ra.

Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

On one hand, these small dialogical parallels serve to solidify the way(s) in which Snoke manipulates individuals under his guidance, doing so by breaking them down and ensuring they understand that he is in control. But on the other hand, these parallels also, intentionally, link Qi’ra and Kylo Ren as Force-sensitive proteges of Snoke. In this regard, Snoke’s cameo would not have been the only surprise, but it would have included the added shock that Qi’ra can use the Force. In turn, as an added way of tying her to Kylo Ren, Qi’ra could have gone on to become the very first Knight of Ren, the Master of the Knights of Ren. And, in taking the mantle of title of Master for himself, Kylo Ren could have ripped it away from her when he killed her years later. Oh, the possibilities…

But there is one other angle worth considering in regards to Snoke and his imagined cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and that is the fact that Han Solo’s life would play out with Snoke as a presence in the background. Through the manipulation of Snoke, Ben Solo became Kylo Ren and committed an act of patricide, killing Han Solo and freeing himself, albeit only in part, of his familial burden. Snoke’s relationship with Qi’ra could have served a similar fashion, functioning as a catalyst for events in Han’s life which would ultimately end with the smuggler’s death. Consider:

Han and Qi’ra were friends and lovers on Corellia. Han escaped Corellia but Qi’ra did not. Snoke found Qi’ra, freed her from the planet, trained her, and she became the first Knight of Ren. Years later, Ben Solo would become a protégé of Snoke, ripping the title of “Master” away from Qi’ra by killing her and completing his conversion to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren. In turn, as Kylo Ren, the former Ben Solo would end his father’s life on Starkiller Base.

From beginning to end, Han Solo’s fate, his story in Star Wars, would have been pre-determined and framed by the menacing actions of Supreme Leader Snoke.


The “Talkerverse” is my imagined Star Wars canon where I explore different angles on the galaxy far, far away by altering aspects of the Star Wars canon to fit my own wants and desires. Check out these other “Talkerverse” posts to delve even deeper into my Star Wars mind:

Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul

Going Solo: Darth Maul

Before writing my previous post – Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul – my intention had been to write this post. Wanting to discuss (spoiler!) Darth Maul’s incredibly brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I sat down to write but my brain had other intentions. Acquiescing to my train of thought, I ran with my imagination and wrote about how I think Vader should have killed Darth Maul in Revenge of the Sith. You can go read all about that (click HERE) but for now let’s chat about that surprising Solo cameo…

Soooooo, yeah, Darth Maul makes an appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story. How about that? I dunno about you, but I DID NOT see that coming. As I watched the film, and it started to become clear that the film’s antagonist, Dryden Vos, was working on behalf of some shadowy figure, I was thinking it would end up being Snoke. Even up to the moment of Maul’s reveal, when he is contacted by Han Solo’s childhood friend Qi’ra, I believed we would be met by the face of the one-day First Order Supreme Leader. Never-the-less, seeing Darth Maul – and actor Ray Park reprising the character he brought to life in The Phantom Menace – definitely caught me off-guard.

As a die-hard Star Wars fan who has kept up with Star Wars stories across all mediums, it made complete sense that Darth Maul was the shadowy figure who instilled fear in the criminal Dryden Vos. After all, The Clone Wars animated show resurrected Maul from his bifurcated death and elevated him to the status of underworld crime lord. In The Clone Wars, as many of you may know (but some may not), Darth Maul unified a coalition of terrorists and criminal organizations under his authority, in turn using his nefarious organization to take control of the planet Mandalore. Maul’s actions – with the assistance of his brother Savage Oppress – launched him into galactic relevance, making it necessary for the Jedi, and his former Sith Master (Darth Sidious), to take him seriously as a threat. Following The Clone Wars, the four-part Son of Dathomir comic continued his Clone Wars era story-arc, while E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka novel showed that Maul’s grip on the planet Mandalore was strong even at the wars end. As well, Maul once again re-emerged in Star Wars Rebels, a menace to the Lothal rebels with his life finally coming to end on Tatooine when he confronts, and is killed by, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

maul
A very broken Darth Maul in The Clone Wars. I discuss how he survived his death in my post Cheating Death: The Dark.

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

While I was surprised to actually see Maul onscreen, I was otherwise unsurprised he was the “phantom menace” directing the actions of Dryden Vos. Having kept up-to-date with Maul’s story-arc, and knowing his criminal dealings, it really made complete sense. That being said, following my first viewing of Solo, I could not help but ask myself: for someone who is more of a casual Star Wars fan, who is only interested in the movies, were they surprised, or perhaps even confused, to see Maul? After all, for those individuals, their experience of Darth Maul would have begun and ended with his introduction and death in The Phantom Menace.

Luckily, I was able to ask two of those “movie-only” Star Wars fans, my neighbors, when I got home from my first viewing of Solo. As I stood outside chatting with them, I asked for their thoughts and they acknowledged that they left the movie theater feeling confused by Maul’s appearance. As I explained that the Sith Lord was resurrected in The Clone Wars, and noted that his story has continued beyond that, one of my neighbors (Sara) said something which caught me off-guard: that she is less likely to watch Star Wars movies in the future if the story is just going to be changed in tv shows, books, and comics. 

While her feelings are specific to her experience, I could certainly, sympathize and understand what she was saying. While I really like Darth Maul’s post-resurrection storyline (…with the exception of his demise in Star Wars Rebels…) I can also admit that I was incredibly annoyed by his resurrection in The Clone Wars. Even though Darth Maul is only in a small amount of The Phantom Menace he was never-the-less an exceedingly important part of the story. We knew, in the film, that Maul was serving Darth Sidious, executing the machinations of his Master. While Sidious had to stay behind the scenes – he is “the phantom menace” – Darth Maul revealed himself to the Jedi as a threat they were clearly unprepared to face. And, when he is sliced-in-half by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – making it pretty damn obvious that Maul was killed – the Jedi are left to wonder: which Sith Lord died, the Master or the Apprentice?

Maul's Death in TPM
The face of a Sith Lord who was just bisected. It’s reasonable to think he just died.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As it turns out, neither died.

While I have since grown to appreciate Darth Maul’s post-resurrection arc, and definitely understand his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story – knowing as I do all the nuances and baggage that goes with it – I can also understand and appreciate why my neighbor felt confused and unhappy. For her, and certainly for many others, the Star Wars films represent the pinnacle of Star Wars. For them, the movies, and only the movies, are what matter. Period. Full stop. They are uninterested in TV shows, comic books, novels, video games, precisely because Star Wars is a series of films. And, as a result, suddenly seeing a character you thought was dead – without any explanation what-so-ever regarding how he survived being cut in half – is undoubtedly annoying and off-putting. Which leads me to this:

I really believe that cameo should have been Snoke, not Darth Maul. The connections that could have been made between Solo and the Sequel Trilogy with a small cameo by Snoke would have been incredibly profound and forward-thinking, while simultaneously ensuring that movie-only fans like my neighbors were not left scratching their heads. But I will hold off on offering my “Snokey” thoughts in any greater detail for now, and you can just wait for my future post on the topic – Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about Darth Maul, his story-arc, and his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. AND, be sure to check out all of my other Darth Maul posts (just put his name into the search bar).