R2-D2

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Queen Amidala

Standing behind the doors leading into the royal hanger, the Queen of Naboo, surrounded by her loyal handmaidens and advisers, must make a choice. One path will keep the teenage monarch on Naboo, with her people, risking capture and death at the hands of the invading Trade Federation. The alternative path will take her off-world, traveling with the two Jedi escorting her, running the Trade Federation blockade above her world in the hopes of reaching Coruscant, the capital of the Republic, to plead for help directly to the Senate.

“Either choice presents great danger, to us all,” the Queen says as she turns her head and looks at the handmaiden standing next to her.

“We are brave, your Highness,” the handmaiden responds, calmly speaking for herself and the other handmaidens.

To be brave is to be fearless, to stand firm and unflinching when confronting danger. Either path the Queen takes includes the risk of death, to herself and her retinue, but these handmaidens will face the risk with fearless poise standing side-by-side with their monarch.

But there is something else at play here, another layer hidden in the dialogue between a Queen and her assistant. In this scene from The Phantom Menace, the Queen we see is not the real Queen. No, she is actually a handmaiden, a loyal bodyguard charged with protecting the Queen by serving as a decoy dressed in royal attire. And the real Queen, Padmé Amidala, she is the handmaiden who has spoken.

This truth will not be revealed until later in the film when standing before the Gungan Boss Nass this handmaiden, Padmé, will confidently step forward, risking her own safety, and declare that she is Queen Amidala. Even though this revelation takes place late in the movie the gravity of the revelation reverberates through the entire film. It is possible then to add an interpretation to the statement “We are brave” by considering that Padmé, as Queen-in-disguise, is using the royal “We” when she speaks. And by viewing the term through this lens one can easily believe that Padmé Amidala is not only affirming the bravery of the handmaidens, but she is subtly but confidently affirming, as the true sovereign of the Naboo, that she is fearless.

Amidala's Reveal
Stepping forward, Padmé reveals that she is Queen Amidala.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Again and again we see Amidala model her bravery, in word and deed, simultaneously as handmaiden/Queen throughout The Phantom Menace. This is obvious when she reveals her identity to Boss Nass. Begging for help as she gets down on her knees – an act of pragmatic and diplomatic submission – Queen Amidala places herself and her party at the grace the Gungans. It pays off as her act of fearless humility convinces Boss Nass that Gungans and the Naboo can be friends and allies.

The Queen’s courage is also obvious when she and her retinue travel to the planet Tatooine.

Their vessel damaged as it ran the Trade Federation blockade surrounding Naboo, the two Jedi accompanying the royal entourage must identify a location that is free from Federation control to perform repairs. Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi chooses a locale: the desert planet Tatooine. The head of the Queen’s guard, Captain Panaka, inquires how the Jedi know their Federation enemy is not present on the world to which Qui-Gon Jinn answers, “It’s controlled by the Hutts.” “You can’t take her royal Highness there! The Hutts are gangsters,” Panaka declares, immediately raising his concerns. Never-the-less, Tatooine, a lawless world on the fringe of the galaxy, remains their destination.

Upon landing in the desert Qui-Gon Jinn, accompanied by the astromech droid R2-D2 and the Gungan Jar Jar Binks, will head towards Mos Espa to seek out the parts they need to repair the damaged vessel. But as they head off Captain Panaka will stop them. With him is the handmaiden Padmé who remains silent as Qui-Gon and Panaka speak:

“Her Highness commands you to take her handmaiden with you,” the Captain explains.

“No more commands from her Highness today, Captain,” Qui-Gon responds, “the spaceport is not going to be pleasant.”

“The Queen wishes it. She is curious about the planet,” Panaka retorts.

“This is not a good idea,” Qui-Gon warns. “Stay close to me,” he tells the handmaiden as the group continues towards Mos Espa.

Padme joins the Group
The “handmaiden” remains silent while Captain Panaka and Qui-Gon Jinn discuss whether she should join the group.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The exchange may not seem like much but it serves a clear purpose: to account for Padmé being part of the group heading into Mos Espa. Fair enough, but narratively this should not be necessary. If the handmaiden was part of the group to begin with we would think nothing of it. She would just be someone else who is seeking the parts for the damaged hyperdrive. So why bother briefly pausing the plot to account for the handmaiden tagging along with the party? Because Padmé is no ordinary handmaiden. Armed with the knowledge that “her Highness” IS the handmaiden, this exchange is no longer a narrative curiosity but a narrative necessity, a way of demonstrating, and reinforcing, that behind the veil of “handmaiden” resides a formidable monarch who is exercising her power and displaying her strengths.

Captain Panaka, as noted, expressed his reservation to the Jedi about taking “her royal Highness” to Hutt-controlled Tatooine. While we do not see it, we can presume he shared these reservations with the Queen herself. But now, in a surprising twist, the Captain has escorted the Queen, dressed as a commoner, into the hot desert to join the repair party. Why does he do this? Because “Her Highness” has issued a “command.” She has used her authority and given an order which the Captain is duty-bound to follow.

The command she has given – for a handmaiden to join the party – is a clever trick on the part of Amidala, a way to insert herself while maintaining anonymity. This does not come without risk. Captain Panaka is not wrong that Tatooine, being controlled by galactic gangsters, is a dangerous world. Qui-Gon Jinn acknowledges this as well, admitting that “the spaceport is not going be pleasant.” The Queen does not flinch. Instead, she is putting words into action, showing “We are brave” by placing herself in an unpredictable and potentially precarious situation.

Granted, this decision does seem ill-advised. Being fearless is laudable, but it is difficult to justify being reckless. “This is not a good idea,” Qui-Gon explains, a clear indication that he does not want anyone else to be put in danger, even a young handmaiden (although, for the record, I believe he knows Padmé is the Queen but that is a conversation for another time). Were something to happen to Amidala in Mos Espa – a run in with the Hutts, for example – the consequences could imperil not only her safety but the safety of the planet Naboo. So how can one justify her decision to join?

For starters, we can think about why she is joining the group. As Captain Panaka explains, the Queen “wishes” for the handmaiden to go with Qui-Gon Jinn because “she is curious about the planet.” Thus, we are explicitly told that the Queen is inquisitive, a quality which demonstrates her desire to lead effectively, gaining new insights and perspectives which will inform future decisions. Stuck on Tatooine for the time being, Queen Amidala chooses to step out of the comfort of her royal yacht so she might gain firsthand knowledge about her galaxy. Notably, this is exactly what happens when she meets Anakin Skywalker, a precocious 9-year-old boy, and is shocked by the revelation that he is a slave. The Queen was clearly under the impression that the abominable institution did not exist. In turn, after meeting Anakin’s mother Shmi, the Amidala learns that the Republic’s anti-slavery laws do not extend to every planet. A sobering truth that challenges her understanding of the Galactic Republic’s legal and moral reach, this discovery foreshadows the truth she learns a short time later about the ineffectiveness of the Senate and the Supreme Chancellor.

Padme and Anakin
Padmé meets Anakin Skywalker and learns a harsh truth: he is a slave.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Like her fearlessness, Amidala’s inquisitiveness is laudable. Yet, it does not entirely justify her decision to risk danger in the spaceport. Except, it does if we view it not solely as a pursuit for galactic knowledge. Rather, it should be interpreted as an example of the Queen’s strategic thinking. While Mos Espa is “not pleasant” and dangerous, given the situation it is also the safest place Queen Amidala can possibly be, a fact she must be aware of since she has given the command to “take her handmaiden.” Think of it like this: if the Trade Federation does track them down, discovering the royal yacht on the outskirts of Mos Espa, Amidala will not be there. Instead, the enemy will find the decoy Queen, along with the other handmaidens, the captain of the royal guard, and even a Jedi protector.

Meanwhile, Queen Amidala will be blending into the crowded streets of the unpleasant spaceport as the handmaiden Padmé. She will be fearlessly hiding in plain sight, as she does throughout The Phantom Menace, with no one the wiser.


Fiction’s Fearless Females is in it’s second year!  Yay!  The series runs for the month of March and along with myself will feature posts by Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, and Mike of My Comic Relief.  Be sure to follow each of these blogs (as if you don’t already!) and to check out all of the Fearless Females in the series. Just follow these links:

The Doctor

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle)

Dani from Midsommar

Sarah Connor

5 Fearless Cartoon Females of the 80s

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

Knowing that I am fanatical in my love of Star Wars, a friend recently asked me a pretty unsurprising question about A New Hope. The question was this:

“What’s the name of the other protocol droid following R2-D2 and C-3PO at the beginning of A New Hope?”

Answer: U-3PO.

My friend then followed-up with a pretty obvious second question:

“What happened to U-3PO?”

Answer: Hell if I know.

Seriously, I have absolutely no idea. All I can tell you about the silver plated U-3PO beyond it’s name – which it officially received in the 1995 Star Wars Customizable Card Game – is that U-3PO follows the other two droids down a corridor in the Tantive IV before turning off into a different room. Then again, you could have figured that out yourself. What happened to U-3PO once it disappeared from view is a mystery. Admittedly, it is a mystery that has periodically popped into my mind. And if I had to take a guess, I would assume U-3PO was either “…sent to the spice mines of Kessel or smashed into who knows what!” Why? Well, honestly, if I have to explain it I’ll be taking the fun out of allowing you to figure it out for yourself (just re-watch the opening of A New Hope).

So the point is this: U-3PO is just the other protocol droid aboard the Tantive IV and has absolutely no bearing on the events of A New Hope. And yet, I will admit that I have always been intrigued that U-3PO is present in the film for those few brief seconds. It is certainly interesting to think about what happened to the protocol droid, and I hardly think some “canonical” answer is necessary. In this regard, the imagination is good enough for me.

But in closing, I will also say this: I find it equally interesting to imagine what role U-3PO could have played in the events of the film if it had stuck with R2-D2 and C-3PO. Who knows, maybe things would have been incredibly different if there had been three droids, and not two, wandering the barren wastelands of Tatooine.


Check out these other posts about random protocol droids in Star Wars:

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

TC-70: The Hutt’s Protocol Droid

R-3PO: The Red Protocol Droid

AP-5: The Singing Protocol Droid

4A-R2: The Pirate Protocol Droid

4-LOM: The Bounty Hunting Protocol Droid

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ANH)

Tatooine farm boy.
Dreaming of a greater life.
Craving adventure.


Bad motivator.
3PO suggests R2.
“What about that one?”


As he cleans R2,
Luke stumbles on a message:
“You’re my only hope.”


Binary Sunset.
A New Hope baptized by Light.
Arise, Skywalker.


“I wish I’d known him.”
Star pilot. Warrior. Friend.
Tales of a Father.


Jawa Massacre.
Imperial Stormtroopers.
A burning homestead.


Stopped by Stormtroopers.
“Not the droids you’re looking for.”
A Jedi mind-trick.


Crossing the threshold.
The Mos Eisley Cantina.
A hero’s journey.


Baba. Evazan.
They don’t like Luke very much.
Old Ben saves the day.


With the blast-shield down
Luke is blinded by his doubts
but takes his first steps.


“The Princess? She’s here?”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’ve got to help her.”


Luke has an idea.
Han thinks it’s a bad idea.
Chewie is just mad.


“I’m Luke Skywalker.”
The hero to the rescue!
Leia is just chill.


Death Star Compactor.
A one-eyed beast tries to eat
the youthful hero.


Chased by Stormtroopers,
a hero swings a Princess
across a chasm.

Haiku Addendum:
 Princess Leia could have done
all the heroics.

Haiku Addendum:
Leia was just letting Luke
play the hero part.


Red and Blue collide.
The sacrifice of Old Ben.
“Run Luke, Run!” Ben’s voice.


A mentor is mourned.
Skywalker struggles with loss.
“Can’t believe he’s gone.”


“Got him, I got him!”
“Great kid, don’t get cocky,” the
smuggler declares.


Pleading with Solo,
Luke learns some are driven by
self-preservation.


Childhood friend: Biggs.
Skywalker and Darklighter.
X-Wing Red Squadron.


“Red Five Standing By.”
He wanted more out of life.
Well, he got his wish…


Running the gauntlet.
Protected by Biggs and Wedge.
Going full throttle.


Biggs dead. Wedge knocked out.
Luke is pursued by Vader,
his father’s killer.


“Use the Force…Let go.”
From the beyond, Old Ben speaks.
Faith in something Great.


Han Solo Returns!
“Let’s blow this thing and go home.”
Torpedoes away.


The Death Star destroyed.
Luke and his friends celebrate.
The Force is with him.


Good news! This post is Part 1 of 3 of a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Be on the lookout next Tuesday for haiku about Luke in The Empire Strikes Back!

Check Out Other Haikuesday 2.0 Posts Below:

Imperial Atrocities

Luke Skywalker: The Loss of Innocence

Frantic to return to his homestead to warn his family about an impending Imperial raid, Luke arrives too late. Slowing down in his landspeeder, the young man leaps out and calls to his uncle Owen and aunt Beru as black smoke billows from his burning home. Scanning the destruction, Luke locks eyes on the smoldering carcasses of his guardians. Not only was he too late, but the extermination was absolute. Luke may have expected, as he sped closer to home and could see the smoke on the distant horizon, that he would find the limp bodies of Owen and Beru. But he surely did not expect such an abhorrent scene – the grotesque, distorted skeletons of his loving uncle and aunt. One cannot help but wonder -and certainly the thought must go through Luke’s mind – if his uncle and aunt suffered in their final moments of life, tortured by the pain of being burned alive.

Grotesque
The grotesque corpses of Owen and Beru.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This short but disturbing moment in A New Hope is one that never fails to move and pain me. Admittedly, the event is a narrative necessity, albeit a disturbing one, a way of jettisoning Luke from the confines of his childhood connections into a larger world. Seeking adventure and desiring to leave home, even petitioning his defiant Uncle at dinner the night before to allow him to leave, Luke’s adolescent dreams can not be fulfilled. There is no longer any resistance standing in his way and he can join Obi-Wan Kenobi on his valiant quest to defeat the Empire.

And yet, as the scene concludes with Luke standing there in the quiet desolation of his childhood as the smoke billows and the carcasses continue to smolder, I have always wondered: what did Luke do next?

Skywalker Alone
What did Luke do after this moment?

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This is not a question that demands a definitive answer. In fact, I would be furious if the Lucasfilm Story Group was to provide an “official” or “canonical” account regarding Luke’s actions (or his thoughts/feelings) when the scene concludes. On one level, this is because this scene in A New Hope, which we can link with Luke’s sad return to Obi-Wan and his admission that he can now join the Jedi Master’s journey, work with seamless fluidity even though they are separated. We do not need to be told what Luke did in the interval because the narrative intention in A New Hope is to move Luke from one stage of life to the next. The innocence of his childhood is literally destroyed and he will now venture forth into the responsibilities of adulthood.

On another level, any “official” explanation would usurp the imaginative faculties of fans, taking away the opportunity for one to insert their own thoughts and feelings into the heart-wrenching moments before, during, and after Luke arrives. Not knowing what Luke does, or the emotional turmoil he experiences, is in many respects what makes the death of Owen and Beru so powerful. Without explanation, other than the pained look on young Skywalker’s face as he views the carnage of his familiar surroundings, we are left to fill in the gaps, all of which enables our own, individualized connections with Luke, and the film, to flourish.

And so, the question – what did Luke do next? – percolates in my mind precisely because my imaginative faculties, aided by the emotion which the scene evokes inside of me, consistently arrives at a number of possible explanations. Just as I can believe Luke simply turned around, walked back to his speeder and left his home, I can just as easily imagine that Luke feel to the ground and broke down in tears. Or maybe Luke dropped to his knees and screamed, bellowing out the agony and guilt of not being there to protect his loving family.

Perhaps Luke sprung into stoic action, choosing to carefully bury the bodies as he internally contemplated the loss of his innocent and simple life. Digging graves next to those of his great uncle Cliegg and great aunt Shmi, Luke placed the wrapped bodies of uncle Owen and aunt Beru in graves he methodically dug. The burial complete, Luke returned to his land speeder and drove off into the Tatooine desert, taking nothing but the memories of his family, his home, and his youth with him.

Haikuesday: Droids

I had been wanting to do a monthly series on this site for some time but had been struggling to decide what to do. Then, one day, it hit me: why not write and post a collection on Star Wars Haiku on the first Tuesday of every month and call it Haikuesday. Simple to pull off but also stunningly brilliant (*pats self on back*). Yet, that was not the only idea I had. “What if,” I thought to myself, “I allowed my followers on Twitter to vote for the Haiku topic.” And that is precisely what I did, presenting four options in a poll which resulted in this inaugural Haikuesday post which is all about DROIDS! 

I hope you enjoy my Star Wars inspired syllabic creations and be sure to follow me on Twitter to vote for the next Haikuesday topic!


Scene: Horizon Base;
Chopper ignores the mission.
Instead, goes shopping.


Interrogator
IT-O deals in torture
Confessions abound


I have to be frank:
That Vader built 3PO
is still really odd.


“Inventory Droid!”
AP-5 gets no respect
Defects to Rebels


Construction droids on
planet Lothal, Leonis
calls them primitive


Techno Union owned
Baktoid built battle droids for
CIS armies


I have to be frank:
I think 3PO’s red arm
is really stupid.


Scene: On Tatooine
Jawa scavengers sell droids.
Stolen? “Utini!”


Guardian Corps built;
at Third Battle of Vontor
Xim’s droids defeated


You know, in a way,
the Force also woke R2 
from low power nap.


K-2 reprogrammed,
He’ll be there for Jyn because
Cassian says so


I can’t help but feel
the Clone War should have been called
the Great Droid War…thoughts?


Jek-14 no more
He is the Maker of Zoh,

repairer of droids


Scene: On Mustafar;
Anakin and Ahsoka
battle nanny droids


Programmed by CorSec,
Whistler joins Corran Horn in
Rogue Squadron battles


Fatal Alliance,
Republic and Sith soldiers
battle Fastbreeders


“Attacked by a droid…
…An old Clone Wars battle droid.”
Bones beat up Solo


Battle of Naboo
Primitive Gungans engage
Wall Street’s droid army


Writing droid haiku
Imperial Talker starts
to feel quite hungry


Upsetting a droid
No one worries about that…
3PO is wrong


“Primary function:
burn holes through meatbags, Master.
…how I hate that term.”


Serpentine Sentries
Roaming ruins on Mataou.
Aphra should beware.


Poor tortured Gonk Droid!
What did you do to upset
His Largeness, Jabba?


Professor Huyang
guides Jedi younglings as they
construct lightsabers


If not much trouble
Could someone ask Pablo if
Droids show is canon?


Scene: On Iego;
Honorable Jaybo Hood
Builds droid servant force


I have to be frank:
I think Triple-Zero and
BT-1 are lame.


ASN transports
lethal kouhun to their prey:
Naboo’s Senator


Rebel base found by
An Imperial Probe Droid!
Time to flee from Hoth


Clone Wars Veteran
Terrified of Jedi Knights
Roger Freemaker


“Those droids were stolen,”
Young Luke tells Uncle Owen.
“Yeah, no shit nephew.”


Scene: Planet Scarif;
Jyn and Cassian in vault
K-2 dies for them


Downfall of a droid
R2 lost at Bothawui
Anakin freaks out


Loathed by Yuuzhan Vong
Droids targeted and destroyed
by the invaders


CZ-1G5
is a very bad droid in
High Noon on Jakku


“Blah Blah Blah Complain
Blah Blah Blah Complain Complain!”
“3PO! SHUT UP!”


I have to be frank:
I think that BB-8 is
so adorable!


Imperial droid
C2-B5 in Rogue One.
Wait! Did it appear???


Droid General Grevious
Killed by a shot to the chest;
How uncivilized. 


The First Droids

When this month’s Star Wars ComLINKS topic – Favorite Droid – was announced over at Anakin and His Angel, my mind initially went blank…for days. As I thought about the topic, about what droid in Star Wars is my favorite, I just couldn’t come up with an answer. I really wanted to contribute to the topic, to give my two cents on which droid I love the most, but the harder I thought about it, the more difficult it actually became to settle on one.

This difficulty really boiled down to a rather basic dilemma. Basically, I have never given the topic of “favorite droid” much thought before writing this piece. While droids are an indelible part of the Star Wars universe, my personal enjoyment of droids has rarely gone deeper than surface level appreciation. This isn’t to suggest I never engage in any thoughtful contemplation of droids and their role(s) in the canon of Star Wars stories. Nor am I suggesting that I don’t have any especially fond appreciation for individual droids. As a matter of fact, I really love Chopper’s attitude, the absurdity of WAC-47, the adorableness of BB-8, would be thrilled to have my own battalion of battle droids, and am particularly fond of HK-47 and his penchant to”burn holes through meatbags…”  Rather, all I am saying is that I don’t get as excited about droids as other fans of the franchise (check out The Astromech Journal to see what I mean), and because that’s the case, no one droid really stands out above any other.

Nevertheless, there is a caveat: R2-D2 and C-3PO occupy their own, special status in my personal “droidom.” While I could have chosen them as my favorite droids, for me these two transcend the confines of mere favoritism. Artoo and Threepio will always and forever occupy the pinnacle of my fascination with Star Wars droids, a pinnacle that no other droid can ever hope to reach. And the reason for this is obvious; Artoo and Threepio were the first droids we ever met in the franchise, setting the bar high for all other droids  (especially those with independent personalities like BB-8 and Chopper). But there is more to this fascination and love. Brought to life in A New Hope by Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and the late Kenny Baker (R2-D2), these two droid companions are also the very first characters we meet in all of Star Wars, a fact that often feels overshadowed by the endless cacophony of Star Wars stories. For the greater part of A New Hope‘s opening act, Artoo and Threepio drive the film forward, they are the main characters and are, at times, the only “beings” present on screen. Taking us on a journey that begins in space and descends to a desolate, wind and sand-swept planet, the two droids – who add a bit of humor through their bickering –  will only pass off the “main character torch” when they arrive at a lone homestead where a young man named Luke lives with his Aunt and Uncle. And, well, from there you know the rest.

r2-and-3po-desert
R2-D2 and C-3PO stranded on a desolate world.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

The first droids we ever meet in Star Wars, the first characters we ever meet in Star Wars. And yet, what truly stands out about Artoo and Threepio, what cemented these two in my heart and mind as a young Star Wars fan, is that until we finally meet Luke Skywalker these two droids are the hope represented in the film’s title. Again, with the cacophony of Star Wars stories in circulation, this is easy to overlook  but necessary to remember. For the better part of A New Hope‘s first act, R2-D2 and C-3PO are the “only hope” for a galaxy terrorized by a galactic empire. While it is obvious that the young Skywalker is the hero of the film, the “new hope” for the galaxy, so too are all those who willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously, work for the common goal of destroying the Empire’s Death Star. In this way, A New Hope is not a film solely about one young man who will become a hero, but is a collection of individuals – humans, aliens, and yes, even droids – who through their actions radiate a message of hope not only to the galaxy, but more importantly, to you and I. 


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

swcomlinksbanner1