Young Anakin Skywalker turns and runs back to his mother, telling her that “I just can’t do it mom.” Offered the chance to flee his life of slavery on Tatooine, to travel the galaxy and become a Jedi under the tutelage of Master Qui-Gon Jinn, the 9-year-old boy has a reasonable moment of doubt. He has only ever known this life with Shmi, his mother. As an audience we know very little of their life prior to meeting them in The Phantom Menace, only small bits that are often short on details. Anakin and Shmi used to be the property of Gardulla the Hutt and are now owned by the junk dealer Watto. Shmi has taught Anakin to care for others who are in need, and she says he has no greed. Anakin is the only human who can fly a podracer, having incredible reflexes that are uncommon for a human. We learn these and other facts, but they remain superficial, lacking any depth to better understand the trajectory of the life Shmi and Anakin have lived together. When Anakin says he does not want to leave, and his mother never-the-less insists “don’t look back,” we are otherwise lacking any meaningful understanding of what looking back truly means.
Except, there is one very important piece of information that we did learn that something that is stunning and adds incredible depth to both characters. At one point, Master Jinn enquires about the boy’s father, wondering who he was. To this, Shmi offers something startling. “There was no father,” she tells the Jedi Master, “I carried him [Anakin], I gave birth, I raised him, I can’t explain what happened.” In other words, Anakin is quite literally a miracle.
Qui-Gon Jinn takes this information and runs with it, taking a blood sample from Anakin that evening, a sample which confirms what he already suspected, that the boy has a unique and powerful relationship to the Force. Curiously, though, Qui-Gon takes no further interest in Shmi other than briefly wanting to free her from slavery along with Anakin, something he is unable to accomplish. Once Anakin is freed, with plans set in motion for the boy to join the Jedi, Qui-Gon will also ask Shmi if she will be alright, but this is a question that Shmi has little time to contemplate. Her son has been set free, he can now leave the arid sands of Tatooine for a better life, something she could not offer him.
It is unsurprising that Qui-Gon’s focus becomes freeing Anakin. Afterall, The Phantom Menace is a story about the discovery of Anakin, the “One who will bring balance to the Force,” and his first steps on the journey to becoming Darth Vader. The Star Wars saga which creator George Lucas crafted by adding the Prequel Trilogy is the story of Anakin Skywalker, of his fall to Darkness and his redemption, but this story is not possible without Anakin’s mother. She is the linchpin, the one character who was needed to establish his inevitable importance. All of the other characters, the events, the details, all of it could be different, could be changed for us to arrive at Anakin’s downfall. Shmi, however, is central to Anakin’s story. Even though she occupies a mere sliver in the great canon of Star Wars, she never-the-less plays one of the most critical roles.
Miraculous births are fundamental to establishing the importance of religious figures, and virgin births are incredibly common across a wide spectrum of religious traditions. Jesus is the most obvious and well-known example, born to the Virgin Mary, but he is not the only one. In one Aztec story, Quetzalcoatl was born to the virgin. A legend about the Muslim poet Kabir describes that he was born to a virgin Hindu. The list goes on and on (just google it). Thus, what Shmi describes to Qui-Gon Jinn follows this archetype, establishing Anakin’s special importance as a religious figure.
However, with Anakin as the focus of this miraculous information, Shmi becomes lost in the background. For a long time, I took Shmi for granted, never stopping to consider that her agency and voice in the matter is hidden behind the veil of Anakin’s importance. She could not explain what happened, we are but neither is she given the chance to explain whether she even wanted a child, not to mention any other reactions/emotions she felt when she learned a fetus was developing within her. As a man, I have no clue what it must feel like for a woman to discover that she is pregnant. I am incapable of understanding this experience, all I can do is listen and learn about what is undoubtedly a very personal and varied reaction from one woman to the next.
On this point, I am not suggesting George Lucas should have put words into Shmi’s mouth on this topic in The Phantom Menace. That could have just made things far more awkward. I do think, however, that Shmi Skywalker deserves to have her story told in a much more dynamic way that elevates her agency and voice regarding a pregnancy that was imposed on her, not chosen by her. We should not assume that just because Shmi could not “explain what happened” that this implies a passive acceptance of the pregnancy on her part. Instead, what she honestly tells Qui-Gon Jinn should be the jumping off point for a deeper dive into her lived experience, for this particular aspect of her story to be written by a woman or women in such a way that elevates her to the same level of importance as Anakin.
And that is the thing that I believe needs to be emphasized. Shmi Skywalker is just as important as Anakin precisely because she is, at the very least and in my opinion, an equal partner in the balancing of the Force. Like Anakin, Shmi Skywalker is also a miracle, she is the Divine Mother, and it is long past time that her story, her agency, and her voice are amplified.
Fiction’s Fearless Females is in its fourth year! Yay! The series runs for the month of March and along with myself feature pieces by Nancy and Kathleen from Graphic Novelty2, Kalie from Just Dread-full, Michael from My Comic Relief. Be sure to follow each of these blogs and to check out all of the Fearless Females in the series. Just follow these links:
In 25 ABY, Chewbacca died on Sernpidal when Dubido, the planet’s smallest moon, crashed into the world. Moments before his death, Chewbacca had heroically saved the life of Anakin, the youngest child of Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo. Having been caught in high winds due to the impending disaster, Chewbacca sprang into action to save the teen, returning him to the Millennium Falcon. But more winds picked up, this time knocking Chewbacca away from the Falcon. With Anakin at the controls of the freighter, Solo stood on the ramp scanning the area, seeing his Wookiee friend in the distance. Anakin though, recognizing the peril they were in, made the difficult but necessary decision to pilot the Falcon away, leaving Chewbacca on the surface of Serndipal, howling in courageous defiance, as Dubido crashed into the planet.
Depicted in the 1999 novel The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore, the death of Chewbacca was the first major loss of a main character from the Original Trilogy films to take place in Star Wars. It was as shocking as it was unexpected, a heroic but tragic end for the beloved Wookiee. As an adolescent Star Wars fan, only 14-years-old at the time, it was difficult processing Chewbacca’s death. This was not because death was a foreign concept to me, or because I was naïve in thinking our heroes live forever. Rather, it was because his death felt like the loss of a close friend. Chewbacca may have been Han Solo’s loyal companion, but he felt like MY loyal companion as well, and the unexpected loss of the Wookiee left a hole that was, at the time, difficult to fill.
To the intensity of Chewbacca’s death was added the emotional turmoil it exacted on the other characters, particularly Han and Anakin. Almost immediately, even before the Falcon left the Serndipal system, Han blamed Anakin for the death of Chewbacca, a rift opening between the father and son. Anakin justified his decision, pleading that he had no choice, there was no way to save Chewbacca and escape the unfolding cataclysm. Plus, he would remind his dad, they had refugees from Serndipal on-board, they were responsible for these lives and had to get them out of harm’s way. Han was unconvinced, unable to process the pain of his dear friend’s demise, he would continue to lay blame at Anakin’s feet for the remainder of the novel, and while healing the rift between father and son would begin by books end, healing the inner turmoil each felt would not abate. In the next book in the series, Dark Tide I: Onslaught by Michael A. Stackpole, Anakin would continue to question his actions, convinced he had caused Chewbacca’s death. And Han, in his only appearance in the novel, is disheveled and obviously drunk, trying but failing to cope with the Wookiee-sized hole in his heart.
Shocked by his death I wished that Chewie would miraculously return. Yet, I also knew Chewbacca was not coming back from the dead even though he could and would still appear in stories prior to the cataclysm on Sernpidal. And appear he did in a unique form almost immediately. Published a couple months after Vector Prime was released, the Dark Horse comic series Star Wars: Chewbacca offered unique, in-universe tributes to the recently deceased Wookiee. These stories allowed the most memorable characters like Luke, Leia, and Han to reminisce and offer personal reflections on Chewbacca’s life. Likewise, those who did not feature in the Star Wars films, such as Chewie’s wife Mallatobuck, offer tales which expanded on the Wookiee’s exploits, further illuminating his already remarkable narrative.
While the Chewbacca comic series offered a moment for characters and fans to reminisce on Chewbacca’s life, the fact remained that he was gone. At least, that was the case until Disney wiped the slate clean, removing Vector Prime and the death of Chewbacca from the Star Wars canon. Relegating the Expanded Universe to the realm of “Legends” in 2014, Disney/Lucasfilm chose to resurrect Chewbacca with the introduction of a brand-new storyline. Admittedly, this was an unsurprising move on the part of “the House of Mouse,” one that was even understandable. With new films on the horizon in 2014, the powers-that-be needed to ensure that fans who only watched the Star Wars films did not need to play catch-up on the galaxy, reading and learning about events/characters spanning decades “in-universe.” Thus, if Chewbacca were to die once more it would be under different circumstances, which brings us to a rather jaw-dropping moment in The Rise of Skywalker.
The “Death” of Chewbacca
Having just been captured on the desert planet Pasaana by a couple Knights of Ren, Chewbacca is loaded onto a transport to be whisked off to a First Order Star Destroyer. But as the transport lifts off the ground, it is caught in the middle of a struggle of wills between Kylo Ren and Rey. Seeing the transport with Chewie moving away, Rey reaches out with the Force, stopping the vessel in mid-air. Kylo Ren also reaches out with the Force, attempting to snatch the transport away from Rey. Digging deeper and deeper into themselves and their connections to the Force, Rey suddenly taps into something hiding far beneath the surface: the Dark Side of the Force. Force-lightning shoots from her fingers, hitting the transport and killing all on-board, Chewbacca included.
The scene is stunning, a prime example of a “holy shit” moment that made my jaw drop. Not only has Rey, the heroine of the Sequel Trilogy, used the Dark Side, her action also results in the death of her friend, her co-pilot, and a beloved Star Wars character. The implications are far-reaching and gut-wrenching. Going forward, her other friends – Finn and Poe – must be exceedingly cautious around her, wondering if Rey will be set-off again, perhaps even killing them! Rey, too, must question the same, struggling with having killed Chewie and considering the threat she poses to the others. As an audience, we too must tread lightly with Rey, the death of Chewbacca serving as the beginning of her turn to the Dark Side of the Force, her premonition of sitting on the Sith throne, which she describes to Finn, now a very real possibility.
Except, none of that happens. Even though The Rise of Skywalker provides an unquestionable “holy shit” moment on par with other “holy shit” moments in the Star Wars franchise, the film goes out of its way to reassure us that Chewbacca is not dead. Exactly two minutes and six seconds after the electrified destruction of the transport we discover out that Chewbacca is now a prisoner on-board a First Order Star Destroyer. Although we initially saw Chewbacca being loaded onto a First Order transport, and we hear Finn emphatically declare that Chewbacca is on the transport which Rey in turn destroys, as an audience we get to breath a collective sigh of relief that our favorite Wookiee has not met his demise because he was, in fact, on a different transport.
Additionally, while the audience discovers right away that Chewbacca is alive, slightly more time will pass, fourteen minutes and nine seconds in film runtime, before Rey discovers that she did not kill her friend. When the aforementioned Star Destroyer arrives in orbit above Kijimi, the planet the Resistance heroes travel to following Pasaana, Rey will sense Chewbacca’s presence, knowing in that moment he is still alive. That Rey can sense him here and now and could not do so right after she “killed” him on Pasaana is a point the film conveniently ignores. Regardless, knowing that he is on the orbiting vessel, the group set out to free their friend, infiltrating the Destroyer and rescuing the Wookiee from his temporary First Order captivity. Although doing so will waste valuable time in their quest to save the galaxy, another point that is otherwise ignored, the rescue mission will end successfully, bringing Chewbacca’s non-death story-arc to its finale.
What begins as a “holy shit” moment in The Rise of Skywalker ends up being nothing more than a narrative bait-and-switch which happens at lightspeed. In all honesty I’m not sure why the movie so rapidly reassures us that Chewbacca is not dead, undercutting the shock of his death just as we begin to process it. It’s as if writer/director J.J. Abrams did not trust the audience to struggle with the emotional turmoil of Chewbacca’s loss, at least not for more than the two minutes and six seconds we believe he is gone.
Additionally, just as I fail understand why we were reassured of his survival so quickly, I likewise find it difficult to grasp why his death was not permanent. As I explained, his death would have added long-term ramifications to the narrative beyond the immediate shock value it provides. Moreover, Chewbacca should have stayed dead because after he is rescued, he has no real utility for the remainder of the film, being given very little and often peripheral screen-time. True, he does momentarily mourn Leia’s passing when he is told she has died, and at the end of the movie he is given a medal by Maz Kanata, an obvious call-back to the medal ceremony in A New Hope (I will address this topic in a separate post). Otherwise, after Chewbacca’s survival/rescue, he is really just along for the ride, offering little but his presence to the plot.
Perhaps most importantly, though, maintaining Chewbacca’s death would have served as a reminder to audiences that death is something we must all face, as terrifying as that may be. I certainly do not begrudge those who were relieved, like Rey, Finn and Poe, that Chewbacca survived in The Rise of Skywalker. I get it, I really do. It is hard to encounter death, especially the death of a beloved character. It can cut you to the core. And discovering they are still alive is a blessing and a huge relief. When Chewbacca became the first Original Trilogy character to die in the Expanded Universe it ripped my 14-year-old heart out. I was in disbelief that the Wookiee was no more, I wanted him to still be alive, but my disbelief and all of the accompanying emotions were necessary parts of the grieving process. I was in denial but, deep down, I knew, just like Han and Anakin did, that Chewbacca was no more. In this way, Chewbacca’s heroic but unexpected demise in Vector Prime reminded me, as I am sure it reminded so many other Star Wars fans at the time, that death, as Yoda would go on to say in Revenge of the Sith, is a natural part of life.
In her book A Short History of Myth, author Karen Armstrong notes that myth “is nearly always rooted in the experience of death and the fear of extinction.” We are, Armstrong points out, “meaning-seeking creatures,” and a great many of the myths we have told for millennia have attempted to find meaning in the reality of death. In this vein, Vector Prime and the stories of The New Jedi Order served then, and still serve today, as a continuation of the modern-day myth that Star Wars was always meant to be, forcing us in this particular case to confront and wrestle with what it means to be mortal. Chewbacca’s death in Vector Prime is a mirror in which we are meant to see ourselves, our fragility, our own extinction. Like Chewbacca, we cannot escape our finite existence, but what we can do is face it, face it with the same howling defiance of a mighty Wookiee.
I recently came across two Star Wars…articles?…on cbr.com that left me genuinely dumbfounded. One is titled “10 Characters Obi-Wan Never Interacts With” and the other is “10 Characters Darth Vader Never Interacts With.” As the titles both imply, each goes on to list a variety of characters in Star Wars whom Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, respectively, never encounter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not entirely opposed to pointing the obvious at times, particularly when presented in relation to a genuine question such as “did Obi-Wan Kenobi interact with Watto in The Phantom Menace?” Given the relative proximity to one another in the same film, both being in/around Mos Espa at the same time, it is a worthwhile question that one may ask and that can easily be answered with a resolute “No” followed by a short description. That in and of itself is fine, I have no problem with that.
What is NOT worthwhile and is, in fact, a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time is a list of random Star Wars characters from across the spectrum of films that one can easily say “never interacted” with literally any character an author chooses. In the list of “10 Characters Darth Vader Never Interacts With” the author…no, sorry, the “lister”…states that another character who “didn’t get a chance to met [their typo, not mine] Darth Vader is Qi’ra from Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Well, yeah, of course they didn’t “met” because Darth Vader isn’t even in the damn film and it is the ONLY film Qi’ra appears in. So why even put Qi’ra in the list!?!?!
Maybe if the lists were more focused, more directed towards a single Star Wars film that considered the major/minor characters Obi-Wan or Vader, respectively, never cross paths with, maybe that could be worthwhile. Perhaps then such a list could then be beneficial, at least adding something semi-interesting to a conversation about Star Wars. But that is not what these lists are for. No, the randomness of the lists belie their true purpose: both are just mundane filler with “Star Wars” in the title for another run-of-the-mill comic book site.
And so, to highlight how utterly pointless such drivel is I happily and annoyingly present to you “10 Characters Dathcha Never Interacts With.” Feel free to skip the list and go do something else. Like, literally anything else. You do not have to keep reading because nothing I present below will be worth your time. That is, unless, you are a fan of really bad jokes.
10/10 Dathcha Never Interacts with Director Orson Krennic
Why the hell would they interact? Dathcha is the Jawa who shoots R2-D2 on Tatooine in A New Hope while Orson Krennic is the Imperial Director of Advanced Weapons Research in Rogue One.
9/10 Wat Tambor and Dathcha Don’t Met One Another
Of course they don’t met! Dathcha is a Jawa in A New Hope and Wat Tambor he is the Skakoan leader of the Techno Union who signs Count Dooku’s treaty in Attack of the Clones. Wait, did the Jawas also sign the treaty? I’ll be back, I need to go suffer through the bad CGI and bland dialogue in Attack of the Clones to find out if Dathcha was one of the original Separatist leaders.
8/10 We never see Dathcha with Princess Leia
Now, let’s be clear…and this is REALLY important… both ARE in A New Hope. But no, they never cross paths, probably because Leia never actually goes Tatooine in the film. She just sends R2-D2 instead.
But hey, I guess that is something, right!?! Like, wow, Character A (Leia) interacts with Character B (R2-D2) who then interacts with Character C (Dathcha). That is wild! So Character A never meets Character C, but they have a connection through Character B!!!! Does that ever happen in other stories?
7/10 Dathcha and General Hux Don’t Have Team-Up to Solve Crimes
I was hoping to find a connection here but to no avail. This is probably because Dathcha is a Jawa in A New Hope and General Hux is a First Order officer who appears in the Sequel Trilogy. But I do think it is worth Lucasfilm giving these two a series on Disney+ where they team-up and solve crimes. It could be called “Jawa and First Order.” Give it a second and you’ll get the joke. Or not. Whatever.
6/10 Ahsoka Tano and Dathcha Haven’t Interacted…
…although, I have to be honest, they may have at this point. I don’t really know because I can’t keep track of Ahsoka Tano anymore. She seems to be everywhere in Star Wars all at once so at this point she and Dathcha could be best friends.
5/10 Dathcha and Darth Sidious Never Discuss the Dark Side of the Force
This one is just so obvious I’m not even gonna write anything else. Moving on…
4/10 Millard Fillmore and DathchaNever Interact
Last I knew, the 13th President of the United States was not in A New Hope. Then again, maybe he was thrown into the film in one of the special editions of the Original Trilogy. I will have to go back and look more closely because maybe, just maybe, President Fillmore and Dathcha do interact and I have missed it. I will update this if I find anything…
3/10 Dathcha Doesn’t Fly with Gold Leader in the Battle of Yavin
Unfortunately, our brown robed Jawa friend never has the privilege of joining Jon Vander, aka Gold Leader, in the final battle of A New Hope. But it is a neat thought, right? Like, what IF Dathcha somehow survived the faux Tusken slaughter, stowed away on the Millennium Falcon, made his way to Yavin and jumped in the Y-Wing with Gold Leader!?! That would have made for an amazing and completely unnecessary Star Wars twist!
Actually, come to think of it, that might already be one of the short stories in “From a Certain Point of View.” I wouldn’t know, though, because I never read the anthology.
2/10 Datcha Didn’t Participate in the Immaculate Reception
Dathcha was not playing for either the Oakland Raiders or Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoffs. So there was really no way for him to be part of one of the greatest plays in American Football history. Although I wonder if George Lucas was watching and the play inspired him to create the Jawas! Now that is a really REALLY dumb thought but I am gonna hold out hope that it might be true.
1/10 Finally, Dathcha never interacts with Obi-Wan Kenobi OR Darth Vader…
…OR DOES HE!?!?!?!
No, no he doesn’t.
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT! If you made it this far I hope you enjoyed what you read and do be sure to check back in for my next post: 10 Star Wars Characters the Rancor Never Eats
Seeking a refuge for healing and peaceful contemplation, Jedi Knight Nomi Sunrider returns to the planet Ambria and the dwelling of Master Thon, her former Jedi Master. Traveling with Sunrider is her beloved 4-year-old daughter Vima and fellow Jedi Knight Sylvar who, like Nomi, seeks the peace and wisdom which Master Thon can offer. The joyful reunion with Master Thon is brief, however, disrupted by the sudden ambush of reptilian creatures swelling with the Dark Side of the Force and controlled by Sith assassins. Commanded to destroy Master Thon and his company, the Sith-controlled creatures surround the Jedi and launch their assault.
Found in the fourth issue of Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War, a Dark Horse Comics series published in the 1990s which details stories of the Jedi living thousands of years prior to A New Hope, the vicious attack by these dark side creatures was emblazoned in my mind as a ten-year-old Star Wars fan, the deadly battle masterfully captured in a single image. The muscular reptiles tower above the Jedi , mouths baring sharp teeth and yellow eyes manifesting the evil driving them. In the background, Oss Willum – a Jedi being mind-controlled by a nefarious Sith spirit – commands the attack from high ground while his accomplice Crado, an acolyte of Sith Lord Exar Kun, stands closer to the fray. At the edge of the battle the Jedi Sylvar slashes at a creature with her yellow lightsaber while closer to the center Master Thon grabs one of the reptiles by the neck, pushing it away with his own muscular arm.
It is Nomi Sunrider who truly stands out, though; she is the reason this image is so unforgettable. Resolve and grit etched on her face as she braces for an attack, Sunrider holds her right arm in front of her, lightsaber in a guard position, the blue blade extending across her body horizontally. In her left arm Nomi clutches her daughter Vima, the child clinging to her mother in fear of the reptilian attackers.
Today, the power on display in this image, what it conveys about Nomi Sunrider, is apparent to me in a way I could not fully appreciate as a young Star Wars fan. Back then, I was enamored by the battle itself, the action being my focus above and beyond any subtle metaphors a picture meant to convey. Yet, this image of Sunrider stuck with me, it captured my imagination in a way other moments in Star Wars comic books did not. Why that is I cannot say. The simple fact is that the image never left my memory, and as a result, I have always had a fondness for Nomi Sunrider. For that I am incredibly grateful because when my interest in Star Wars shifted away from the “Wars” as I got older, when I began to experience the deeper layers of characters and events, my understanding and appreciation for Nomi Sunrider fundamentally shifted.
Sunrider’s story in Tales of the Jedi is rich and complex, with moments of incredible joy and devastating heartache. Through it all one thing remains a constant: her love for Vima. As a young Star Wars fan I could not fully appreciate the power in this image, or Sunrider’s story more fully, because at that time I could only see Nomi Sunrider as a Jedi Knight. I was obsessed with the Jedi, trapped in the belief, like Luke Skywalker, that the Jedi were great because they were warriors. In a sense, the glow of Sunrider’s lightsaber in the image blinded me to the deeper and far more important meaning being conveyed. I could not see back then as I do now that that the brave determination embedded on Nomi Sunrider’s face and reflected in her defensive stance is not that of a Jedi alone. No, it is more significantly that of a mother protecting her frightened young child.
Nomi Sunrider is the very best of the Jedi Order in Tales of the Jedi, a living symbol of Light Side of the Force which the Order serves. But her devotion to the Light Side cannot and must never be disconnected from her devotion to her daughter. Nomi Sunrider’s fearless love for the Light Side of the Force is fundamentally grounded in her motherhood, in the unconditional love she has for Vima. And that is exactly what is reflected in this singular image.
Fiction’s Fearless Females is in it’s third year! Yay! The series runs for the month of March and along with myself feature posts by Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief, and Green Onion of Green Onion Revival Project. Be sure to follow each of these blogs and to check out all of the Fearless Females in the series. Just follow these links:
There are times when one comes across a book that is so good that you simply refuse to put it down or stop thinking about it. Sometimes such a book is a Star Wars book, hijacking your imagination and transporting you to the galaxy far, far away. I can say, without a doubt, that Star Wars: Force Collector by author Kevin Shinick is unequivocally NOT one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, Force Collector does take place in the Star Wars galaxy, with familiar places, species, and concepts popping up over and over again. Yet, the novel is otherwise dull and one-dimensional, constantly falling back on a bland formula while simultaneously adding nothing of substance to the Star Wars canon. On the other hand, Force Collector goes out of its way to undermine one of the most important episodes in The Clone Wars with baffling nonchalance. Allow me to explain.
The plot of Force Collector is rather straight-forward: it is about a teenager who wants to learn about the Jedi Order and better understand his own Force abilities. Set prior to the events of The Force Awakens, the teen in question is Karr Nuq Sin who has the gift of psychometry, the Force ability to gain information in the form of sights, sounds, and emotions by touching objects. This is the same power which Jedi Quinlan Vos (The Clone Wars) and Cal Kestis (Jedi: Fallen Order) both harbor, although the stark difference for Karr is that his psychometry ONLY manifests when he touches an object that is associated with the Jedi in some way, shape, or form. This important fact about Karr’s psychometric power, established right out of the gate when Karr buys/wears the helmet of a stormtrooper who once had his mind manipulated by a Jedi, is also a fact that is entirely contrived to drive the plot of the book. Psychometry is a worthy concept for exploration, and that Karr spends a great deal of the story growing to control and accept the intensity of this power makes sense. Yet, the notion that psychometry would awaken in one while simultaneously being limited to Jedi-objects only is absurd. “That’s not how the Force works,” as Han Solo would say.
Then again, without any type of Star Wars group overseeing the possibilities and limitations on Star Wars concepts like psychometry, I suppose the Force can work in whatever way an author/writer might need for the sake of a plot. More and more this seems to be the case in Star Wars, with the Force serving as a convenient plot device to account for the most unlikely of eventualities (such as the time travel in Rebels which ensured Ahsoka Tano would survive her duel with Darth Vader). That Karr can only experience visions associated with Jedi objects is pretty convenient for a book in which the main character wants to become a Jedi and needs to learn more about the Jedi Order. Just give the protagonist a Force ability that is directly tied to this desire and, shazam, you have the magical ability to insert all manner of Jedi-specific objects with Jedi-specific information just waiting to be unlocked and collected.
Unfortunately for Karr, though, he is stuck on the planet Merokia and cannot head off-world to discover the secrets of the long forgotten Jedi. That is, he can not do this until he meets Maize, the new girl in school who is willing to steal her father’s company-provided yacht (the Avadora) to whisk Karr on a galactic scavenger hunt. Who does her dad work for you ask? Oh, just the First Order. But you know, the First Order is pretty chill about one of their ships being stolen because it is clearly the type of organization that just lets things slide.
First Stop: Utapau
So, the grand adventure begins. Karr and Maize, along with Karr’s droid RZ-7, decide their first stop will be Utapau because it was the location of one of the final battles of the Clone Wars. Fair enough, you have to start somewhere and Utapau is as good a place as any. Once there, Karr and company will come upon a junk dealer (the son of a clone trooper) who conveniently owns the staff of Tion Medon, the Pau’an port administrator who meets Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith. Karr touches the staff, a flashback to that scene in Episode III ensues, with additional details we don’t see in the film, and Karr has some new information about the Jedi to mull over.
Naturally, there is no better place to mull things over than in a diner. Discussing aspects of the vision with Maize, Karr name drops “Skywalker” – Anakin, mind you, has absolutely no role in Kenobi’s interaction with Medon in Revenge of the Sith, but is added to the vision so the Skywalker name can be mentioned in the diner – and another patron perks upon hearing this name. In turn, the patron points Karr, Maize and RZ-7 to the planet Jakku because, rumor has it, at the Battle of Jakku the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker pulled Imperial ships out of the sky using the Force.
What are the chances that Karr would be on just the right planet, in just the right location, at just the right time, to gather a clue about the next stop on his journey? I mean, those chances would have to be astronomical, so it is reassuring to know that this only happens one time in the book. Except, this happens every time he travels to another world, with a standard formula of convenience really stretching the imagination. Over and over, the ability to suspend one’s disbelief is tested in Force Collector, with Karr arriving at the perfect locations and times for things to fall into place for his journey of Jedi discovery.
Arriving in Niima Outpost on the planet Jakku, the group sets out to find more Jedi junk. First, they meet Unkar Platt, the blobfish from The Force Awakens buying salvaged wreckage for food portions. When Platt’s collection ends up being a bust, Karr and company decide to poke around the Outpost. What do they come across? Well, a run-down and grimy Corellian freighter of course! I won’t provide the name, as it isn’t revealed in the novel, but you already know the name...
Boarding the freighter the teens and droid end up finding a curious looking orb, “gray, dotted with silver circles.” Touching the orb, Karr has another vision, this time experiencing a scene from A New Hope. Or rather, the scene is entirely made up, details being filled in prior and up-to the moment when Obi-Wan Kenobi senses the death of millions which is where the vision ends. That details are added is not a problem in and of itself, but what his vision leaves out, which Karr desperately needs on his quest to become a Jedi, is the actual lesson which Luke Skywalker learns in this scene in A New Hope. Instead, the added “backstory” to the scene is meant to do one thing: simultaneously name drop Skywalker and Kenobi, making Karr question how his scattered visions line-up.
Fortified with this new vision, Karr and his pals exit the freighter and run into two First Order stormtroopers. Yikes! Sent by Maize’s father to take her back to Merokia, the stormtroopers leave Karr and RZ-7 alone on Jakku but do not reclaim the Avadora. But they DO let Karr and Maize have a moment to say their goodbyes because First Order stormtroopers are pretty chill.
Remaining on Jakku, Karr goes about searching for more Jedi clues and eventually comes across a Pyke who has information for him about “the crashed ship of a Jedi Master” that went down a long time ago on the desert moon orbiting Oba Diah, the Pyke homeworld. The Pyke also tells Karr that Oba Diah and it’s moon harbor many criminal outposts, warning the teen that if he travels there he may never leave.
From Jakku to Oba Diah
Landing in a canyon on Oba Diah’s desert moon, Karr and RZ-7 head west, towards evidence of a crash which the droid detected. After poking around for an hour, Karr comes across a “drag mark etched into the stone.” Being the “only sign of disruption on this whole eroded planet” – a completely ridiculous and naïve assessment – the two follow the mark and come across the wreckage of a ship!
Is this wreckage the crashed ship of a Jedi Master, a crash that took place a long time ago? Come on, you already know the answer is yes. More importantly, Karr finds a piece of debris with the serial number 775519, and also notes that “a ship crashed here, and somebody took the wreckage away, but they didn’t get everything…” And what, besides the debris, was left? Answer: a storage locker containing a recording of the Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas in the final moments of his life.
Okay, let’s pause for a moment. If you have not figured it out yet, the crashed ship of a Jedi Master which Karr finds himself exploring comes from “The Lost Ones,” a Season 6 episode of The Clone Wars. At the outset of the episode we find Jedi Master Plo Koon and the 104th Clone Battalion on a desert moon searching for the wreckage of a ship that had been in the possession of a Jedi Master killed long ago. When they find it, Plo Koon enters while a clone in the background states, “the scans check out, it’s a T-6 shuttle alright. Serial number 775519.” Finding a lightsaber buried in the sand, Plo Koon immediately turns and says, “I want the entire area cleared. We’re taking everything back to Coruscant.”
“Everything?” a clone inquires.
“Everything,” Plo Koon exclaims.
Did you catch that? Plo Koon wanted the entire area cleared so they could take everything, EVERYTHING, back to Coruscant. Except now, with Karr and RZ-7 searching the exact same crash site, we discover that Plo Koon and the 104th Clone Battalion “didn’t get everything.” Up to this point in the book, I had found myself rolling my eyes at the series of impossibly convenient events playing out. I was at least willing to continue reading, to overlook some of these unlikely moments and just move on. It wasn’t about accepting the way things were unfolding so much as it was to say “okay, whatever, let’s just head to the next stop on the journey.” Yet, when Karr finds the crashed ship of Sifo-Dyas and says that whoever excavated the site “didn’t get everything” I became annoyed, really, really annoyed.
In my opinion “The Lost Ones” is easily one of the best episodes of The Clone Wars and one of the most important. With the discovery of the crash on Oba Diah’s desert moon, the Jedi Order set out to discover the fate of their long-lost friend Sifo-Dyas, attempting to piece together his fate. In doing so, they are led on a journey which takes them to a point they were neither expecting or fully prepared handle: the Clone Wars was secretly orchestrated by the Sith. This revelation is a gut-punch to the Jedi, the Council recognizing that they have been playing by their enemies rules this whole time, and they must continue to play along until they can uncover the deeper layers to this Sith plot.
The opening of the show sets the stage for this stark revelation. With the initial explanation and voiceover, we learn that the Jedi have stumbled upon a clue to an enduring mystery and have dispatched Plo Koon and his clones to investigate. The set up explained, we are then transported to the moon, a raging sandstorm concealing the view of the clone troopers and vehicles scouring the landscape. The sandstorm is an appropriate metaphor, a symbol for the turbulent mystery obscuring the Jedi from discovering a harsh truth. Added to this is the ominous music which captures the foreboding discovery and exploration of the wreckage. This may be the crash they were seeking for more than ten years but the music presents a heavy tone and stark warning: what they have found is also a harbinger of a deeper and darker web which has ensnared the Jedi Order.
“The Lost Ones” is meticulous in peeling back the layers of mystery only to unveil even more nefarious truths lingering below the surface, truths which the Jedi are aware of but can not fully grasp. Force Collector is anything but meticulous, offering nothing more convenient plot so Karr not only discovers the crash site of Sifo-Dyas’ vessel but also wreckage which, as noted, Plo Koon and his soldiers failed to salvage from the site.
For Master Koon to demand “everything” be found, only for fans to later learn that “everything” was not found is ridiculous, a canonical bait-and-switch which makes Plo Koon and the 104th Clone Battalion look inept and undercuts the profound importance of The Clone Wars episode. That even one piece of wreckage remained of Sify-Dyas ship – and a critical piece at that, an actual recording he made prior to his death – is flabbergasting. Nothing in “The Lost Ones” lends itself to this possibility. Absolutely nothing.
Frankly, although I have only presented half of Force Collector’s plot in this review up to this point, I genuinely have nothing left to say about the book. Don’t get me wrong, I did finish reading it, and I certainly have opinions about the remained of the story. Yet, the way Force Collector so willfully undermined “The Lost Ones” put such a foul taste in my mouth that I see no reason to elaborate on anything else. The moment Karr stated “they didn’t get everything” my opinion about the novel was made.
In my first issue of Talking Star Wars I mentioned that we had moved into a new house at the end of July and that we were in the process of getting settled in. Well, that process has continued and coupled with my parental responsibilities (like being tackled by an energetic toddler) it all adds up and cuts into the time I dedicate to Star Wars in general and blog writing in particular. Further, my obsession with Doctor Who continues unabated, and I am finding myself not only watching at least one episode of the British show every day but also having some pretty long conversations about it with my friend Mike (aka: My Comic Relief). Still, I did find some time to focus on Star Wars a bit more over the past month, and I ended up publishing two pieces on the site:
Probably the most talked about Star Wars news over the past month has been the trailer for Season 2 of The Mandalorian. I figured I should offer my thoughts on it, if only to jump on the bandwagon and feel included in the hype. Except I haven’t watched the trailer so I really have nothing to offer.
Well, I guess I could explain why I haven’t watched it. That is worth wasting 42 seconds of your time, right? Sure it is!
Here is the thing: I really liked the first season of The Mandalorian. As the first entry into live-action Star Wars shows I thought it was a strong debut, aesthetically and thematically capturing some of the best parts of the franchise. But even though I really enjoyed it, after I finished it and began hearing news about Season 2 my interest began to wane, and when the trailer came out I just wasn’t in the mood to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I will still check out Season 2 of The Mandalorian and I am sure it will continue to capture some of the things I really love about Star Wars. Never-the-less, when it was announced that Ahsoka Tano would appear in Season 2 I just threw up my hands and said “Uggggggggggh!!!!!” I don’t hate Ahsoka, although I do think she should have died in the second season of Rebels (that’s a conversation for another time). Rather, what had me excited about The Mandalorian in the very beginning – a story about a loner in a “complicated profession” surviving in the lawless Outer Rim – feels watered-down and overshadowed by Ahsoka’s inclusion. She brings so much backstory and baggage with her that, at this point, it is basically impossible for her NOT to steal the spotlight. Besides, The Child (aka “Baby Yoda”) has already stolen the show, and the last thing The Mandalorian needed was another Force-user to compete with for audience attention.
Watching Star Wars
I did not watch any of the Star Wars films or shows over the past month but I DID watch the trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: Squadrons video game. The trailer – “Hunted” – is only 7 minutes long but the story it tells about Imperial forces in full retreat after the Battle of Endor, and more specifically a TIE Interceptor being hunted by an X-Wing, has me pretty excited to play the game (once I find some time to indulge in some Star Wars dogfights). If you haven’t watched the trailer yet you should even if you aren’t going to play it. And, because I am so nice, you don’t even need to search for it because I found it for you. No excuses, watch the trailer!
Oh, one more thing about the trailer: when the X-Wing pilot says “War’s over, Imp” I can’t help but hear my friend Mark Lockard. I guess I am just gonna imagine Mark actually is the pilot, and I’ll just believe he ejects before he meets an explosive end. So hooray, Mark lives!
Star Wars Reading List
Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising – Timothy Zahn TIE Fighter (graphic novel) – Jody Houser The Stark Hypserspace War (graphic novel) – John Ostrander Dark Tide II: Ruin – Michael A. Stackpole
At the beginning of September I took a short pause from my re-read of The New Jedi Order to check out Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising. While I noted in Talking Star Wars Issue 001 that the Disney Star Wars canon hasn’t really been appealing to me lately I still wanted to give Zahn’s new entry into the “Thrawnon” the canon of Thrawn, a read. Why? Well, because I am a Thrawn superfan. There was never a doubt I would read this book when it dropped because I live in symbiosis with the blue-skinned, red eyed Chiss. He and I are basically the same person (although I am slightly more attractive).
Did I enjoy the new book in the Thrawnon? Hell yes I did. I dare not spoil it for anyone, but I will say this: the vast majority of this book works with BOTH the Expanded Universe and the Disney canon. I am going to write more about this in a review of the book, though. So just be patient while I put it together…
Before jumping back into The New Jedi Order I also decided to give a couple Star Wars graphic novels a read. I’ve had my eye on the TIE Fighter graphic novel for a while, and the release of the Squadrons trailer convinced me to pick it up. Admittedly, the story wasn’t mind blowing but it was interesting, offering a look at a depleted TIE Fighter Squadron in the days before the Battle of Endor. As well, TIE Fighter is a small tie-in with Alphabet Squadron, with references to Alexander Freed’s series popping up here and there (i.e. – Yrica Quell, the protagonist in the series, makes a cameo).
I also decided to re-read The Stark Hyperspace War for like the 107th time. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little but I really do love this Expanded Universe story and have read it a number of times. It offers a look at a short but vicious war that takes place 12 years before The Phantom Menace, a war which helps set the stage for some of the events in the film. I am considering writing a longer piece about it but what I will say right now is that if you’ve never read it and you are a fan of Jedi Master Plo Koon then you should definitely check it out. In fact, I credit The Stark Hyperspace War with making me a die-hard fan of the Kel Dor.
And, as you can see from my list above, I did make it back to The New Jedi Order, finishing Dark Tide II: Ruin. Honestly, this is one of the more difficult books to read in The New Jedi Order, not because it is boring or drags but because it sucks you in and forces you to really feel the horror of the war the Yuuzhan Vong are waging against the galaxy. For me, this is no more apparent than when the Vong destroy the world of Ithor, the homeworld of the peaceful Ithorian species. What happens to the planet is heartbreaking and offers a stark reminder that war, yes even a star war, is terrible and we should never allow ourselves to think otherwise.
Compassion of the Jedi
Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life.” – Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Attack of the Clones)
1 in 9 people struggle with hunger in the United States and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this issue. Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, providing food to families that are in need. Please consider taking action and donating to Feeding America, or search their databank for volunteer opportunities at a local food bank!
Perfect Star Wars Pet: Boglings
Native to Bogano, boglings make their first and only Star Wars appearance in the video game Jedi: Fallen Order.
The 501st Clone Battlion, led by Captain Rex, steel themselves as they prepare to confront and arrest Jedi General Pong Krell. Surely knowing that some of them will die, the clones never-the-less march forward with a stoic resolve to complete their mission and bring Krell to justice.
Three Star Wars Quotes I Really Like
“We must keep our faith in the Republic. The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.” – Queen Jamilla (Attack of the Clones)
“The Emperor who ordered Operation Cinder, who built two Death Stars, who oversaw countless genocides and massacres and created an Empire where torture droids were in common use, was not a man of secret brilliance and foresight. He was a cruel man. Petty and spiteful in the most ordinary ways; and spiteful men do spiteful things.” – Reprogrammed torture droid IT-O speaking to Lieutenant Yrica Quell (Alphabet Squadron)
“Our time has come. For 300 years, we prepared. We grew stronger. While you rested in your cradle of power, believing your people were safe… and protected. You were trusted to lead the Republic—but you were deceived, as our powers over the dark side have blinded you. You assumed no force could challenge you…and now…finally…we have returned.” – Darth Malgus during the attack on the Jedi Temple in 3653 BBY (The Old Republic)
Capital Ship Spotlight: EF76 Nebulon-B escort frigate
Ten Random Star Wars Thoughts
I always enjoy the pod race in The Phantom Menace. I think it is the second best part of the film.
Poe Dameron may be one hell of a pilot but Soontir Fel is the best pilot.
I wonder if Wookiees get their hair cut…
Dark Forces is one of my favorite Star Wars computer games but I was never very good at it. In fact, I don’t think I ever beat it.
The cover of the Imperial March by Rage Against the Machine is badass. Listen to it HERE. a. Rage Against the Machine is one of my favorite bands so I am completely biased in liking the cover. Plus, I love the Imperial March, so it all works out. b. I like to imagine Saw Gerrera and his partisans sitting around listening to Guerilla Radio. c. “Lights out, Guerilla Radio, turn that shit up!”
The best part of The Phantom Menace is the duel between the Jedi and Darth Maul.
I have absolutely no interest in going to Galaxy’s Edge. Theme parks just aren’t my thing and I really dislike crowds. If I ever go it will be with my son and only if he wants to go.
If I taught an ethics class I would use Dark Disciple by Christie Golden as one of my required readings. The rationale the Jedi adopt for assassinating Count Dooku is challenging and worthy of deep examination. a. The novel does an incredible job of making the reader question the motives of the Jedi Council, particularly Yoda and Mace Windu.
I can’t help but feel that Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus are being under used in Star Wars storytelling. Were it up to me I would put them in Jedi: Fallen Order 2. I could easily see Cal Kestis traveling to Jedha City and running into them.
If I was asked to write a Star Wars story it would be set in the months after Order 66 and would involve newly minted Inquisitors not only hunting down and killing Jedi but also the extended families of Jedi. a. Maybe I should just write some Star Wars fanfiction about this…
Starbucks coffee is overrated. I drink it if I have to but I prefer not to.
I have found myself thinking quite a bit about Kurt Vonnegut recently. I can’t help but wonder what he would have to say about the current occupant of the White House, the state of our democracy, the Coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theories, and more. a. Were he still alive I bet he would write an updated version of A Man Without a Country. b. Even though he wrote it in 2005 the book is still very relevant today. I just think he would want to add a little bit to it.
Somehow I accidentally purchased a digital version of the new Bill and Ted movie. Admittedly, this is not the worst thing that could happen since I was going to rent it anyway. I just hope it is worth the $24.99 I paid because that is a Star Wars LEGO set I could have bought! a. “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” b. “Be excellent to each other. c. “Want a Twinkie, Genghis Khan?”
There are benefits and drawbacks to running a 6-2 and a 5-1 in volleyball. In my opinion, you should fit the system to the players you have rather than forcing players to adopt an offense they may not be capable of running. a. If you don’t know anything about volleyball and are confused then just google “volleyball 6-2 vs 5-1”
The most absurd question I ever got from a student in one of my college religion courses was the following: “Where do baby horses come from?” Naturally, I proceeded to explain how horses mate.
One of the most extreme toddler tantrums my son has thrown over the past month was when his banana broke and he couldn’t put it back together. a. Tantrums don’t even bother me anymore because I have transcended to a new state of parenthood where the screaming and crying just blend with the background noise pervading the universe.
I absolutely love composting. It is so satisfying.
Introduced in Rogue Squadron, the first novel in Michael A. Stackpole’s fantastic X-Wing series, I have always held a special place in my Star Wars heart for M-3PO. A modified 3PO-series military protocol droid with the unique clamshell head of a spaceport control droid, M-3PO is more commonly known by the nickname “Emtrey.” Introduced in the book by Commander Wedge Antilles, Emtrey is the squadron quartermaster (hence why I have dubbed it “the rogue protocol droid”) and is tasked with using its “scrounging protocol” to find the necessary parts to maintain the squadron’s X-Wings. Additionally, Emtrey is responsible for creating pilot duty assignments and caring for other administrative tasks that are required to keep the famed squadron functioning at peak performance.
While Emtrey’s base programming makes it an integral part of Rogue Squadron’s operations it is a hidden program within Emtrey that makes the protocol droid an oddity. Discovered by squadron executive officer Captain Tycho Celchu while ferrying himself and Emtrey to the planet Talasea, Celchu stumbles upon a “wait-state” when he tells the droid to “shut up” three times in a row which allows one to access the entirety of Emtrey’s database and memory banks. As the Captain explains to the smuggler Mirax Terrik, “we were in combat and he [Emtrey} wouldn’t stop nattering. I ended up yelling at him to shut up and after the third time, this happened.” An obvious homage to the nattering of C-3PO and the penchant of those around the golden droid to tell him to shut up, the funny “little trick” that Celchu discovers leads Terrik to an important observation: “That’s dangerous for a droid doing military work.“
Captain Celchu confirms that “there are a number of things odd about this droid…” which, in his role as executive officer working closely with the squadron quartermaster, he discovers. But this wait-state is the oddest, and while there is some obvious humor in someone deactivating a nattering protocol droid by telling it to shut up, Terrik is also correct, this function is dangerous. Even though Celchu and Terrik are able to utilize the wait-state to help Rogue Squadron, in the hands of the enemy Emtrey’s databanks would otherwise be ripe for the picking. Valuable information about the internal workings of the New Republic’s military would be readily available once Imperial operatives told the droid to “shut up” three times.
Except, this IS the point of Emtrey’s odd programming, having been intentionally installed by New Republic Intelligence. This is a fact we do not learn in Rogue Squadron but never-the-less makes perfect sense once it is revealed in a novel later in the X-Wing series. I dare not spoil the reason, though. While these books have been around for 20+ years if you’ve never read them, and this is the first time you have even heard of Emtrey, I would hate to ruin the reason for this “little trick.” And, if you have read the series, and you DO know why Emtrey shut’s down when told to shut up, you can just keep that to yourself 😉
Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars: