Star Wars Rebels

Talking Thrawn with Hyperspace PodBlast

Introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn, the white uniformed, blue-bodied and red-eyed humanoid, has always been my absolute favorite Star Wars character. Knowing how much I adore the famous Chiss (the name for Thrawn’s species), Shelby and Bryan from Hyperspace PodBlast invited me to join them in a recent episode to discuss not only my passion for the Expanded Universe character, but my thoughts on Grand Admiral Thrawn’s new role in the Disney canon. Have a listen to our chat down below, and be sure to head over to Hyperspace PodBlast to hear this and other great Star Wars conversations! Oh, and be sure to follow Hyperspace PodBlast on Twitter @hyperspace_pod

 

Feeding Tarkintown

A world in the far reaches of the galaxy’s Outer Rim, the planet Lothal and the streets of the Imperial-occupied world’s Capital City serve as the action-packed arena for Star Wars Rebels very first Act. Introduced first to the “loth-rat” Ezra Bridger, a teenage orphan, “Spark of Rebellion” – the title for the very first two episodes of the animated series – gives viewers immediate action when Bridger observes three individuals attack an Imperial detachment seeking to commandeer the storage containers the Empire is transporting. Jumping into the action, Bridger  steals a speeder bike with two of the containers and the Rebels, having captured the other cargo, must pursue the teen to re-acquire the goods. Eventually escaping with one of the containers by fleeing the city and losing his pursuers, Bridger never-the-less finds himself saved by the Rebels moments later. Fleeing on board their ship, The Ghost, it is only then that Bridger learns that the container he stole contains Imperial blasters. However, as we and Bridger soon learn, weapons are not the only goods the Rebels were stealing from the Empire.

As The Ghost flees Imperial pursuit by heading into hyperspace, Bridger demands to be returned to Lothal. He is surprised to learn that this is exactly the plan, the captain of the vessel, Hera Syndulla, explaining to him that the job on Lothal is not yet finished. Landing on a small hill in a remote location on Lothal,  Bridger is told to “pull his weight” by grabbing one of the stolen crates and joining two members of the crew as they descend the hill and enter the ram-shack village at its base. Known as Tarkintown, Bridger soon learns that it is home to displaced citizens of Lothal, citizens who had been kicked off their farms by the Empire. Arriving in the town center, it is only now that Ezra learns that the contents of the other crates the Rebels had stolen, the crates he and his companions have brought into Tarkintown, are filled with food. And, as the Rebel Zeb Orrelios announces there is “free grub” for the citizens, Bridger is taken-aback by the thanks he receives from citizens who are grateful for the generosity of the Rebels.

Tarkintown
Ezra Bridger (left), Sabine Wren (center), and Zeb Orrelios (right) transport crates through Tarkintown.
Photo Credit -Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episodes 1-2: “Spark of Rebellion”

While the entire scene lasts but a moment, and Bridger and company move on from Tarkintown shortly afterwards, I have never-the-less always felt that the act of feeding those in need was a profound way to establish the moral and ethical compass of this band of Rebels. It is conceivable, given the way the opening Act in “Spark of Rebellion” unfolds – the attack on the Empire, Bridger stealing a crate, the Rebels saving the teen – that the show-runners could have moved the plot along without a trip to feed the hungry. However, showing that they were not just stealing weapons but also food, food that they were willing to share freely with the less fortunate, was a simple and effective way of showing that these Rebels are driven not only by a sense of justice, but also by compassion and humanitarianism.

On this point, it is worth noting that this act of humanitarianism stuns Bridger. Caught unaware by the fact that he is delivering food to Tarkintown’s inhabitants, and even more surprised when he is thanked by a hungry towns-person for the assistance, Bridger will retreat back to the hillside where he will sit and look down upon the village in silence. I cannot help but wonder if Bridger’s thoughts carried him back to the events from earlier in the day when we first met him on the streets of Capital City in the shows first few moments. Then, before his encounter with the Rebels, he had helped a food vendor who had been accosted by the Empire and then, taking advantage of the situation, cheekily stole some of the merchant’s jogan fruit. “A kids gotta eat” Bridger declares to justify his blatant robbery, a true statement but hardly grounds for the action, especially after the vendor freely offered him a jogan fruit as thanks for the teens assistance. Having just helped to deliver food to the hungry inhabitants of Tarkintown, it is worth asking: does Bridger now feel sorrow for selfishly stealing the food from vendor, especially since there are others who are worse off than he?

Granted, this is merely speculation. We do not know, nor can we know, what Bridger is thinking in his moment of silence, and one can certainly imagine that many separate thoughts were running through his mind. But putting Ezra’s hypothetical musings aside, it is equally worth noting that the entire opening Act of “Spark of Rebellion” is bookended by 1) Bridger’s relationship to others and; 2) food/hunger. At the beginning of the Act, Ezra purposefully helps another (the vendor) but takes food for himself because he “needs to eat.” At the end of the Act, he shares food with others who are themselves hungry even though, to his own admission, he “didn’t do anything” purposeful to help them. And nestled within those two bookends are the selfless actions of a Rebel cell that attacks the Empire so they can help others. In fact, it is worth noting that while the food is delivered to Tarkintown’s residents, the stolen weapons will be sold for money and, more importantly, information about a group of Wookiee slaves the Rebels desire to free from bondage. Once again, these Rebels – Bridger included – will embark on a humanitarian mission, risking their own lives by challenging the Empire so as to help those in need.

There are certainly other ways one could analyze the opening Act in “Spark of Rebellion” specifically and the episode as a whole more generally. However, I think it necessary and appropriate to end by noting that while the hungry citizens of Tarkintown are fictional, there are nearly 800 million people around the world dealing with undernourishment. That is 1 out of 9 people in the world! While Spark of Rebellion, and Star Wars Rebels, are a form of entertainment we can all enjoy, I hope that individuals who watch it – children and adults alike – are motivated to act selflessly (like the crew of The Ghost) and help our sisters and brothers who are struggling to find a meal.

For more information on world hunger and related issues, check out the links below. Oh, and I know you have time to check them out because you just spent like two minutes reading this Star Wars post. Seriously, if you could take the time to read this piece about make-believe Rebels who help make-believe citizens in Tarkintown, then you can take a few minutes to read about world hunger and discover ways that you can help alleviate the suffering of those who are undernourished or experiencing food insecurity. Here are the links, get to it…

The Hunger Site – There is a button on this page that says “Click Here to Give – it’s FREE” and every click is a donation to help those in need of a meal! GO CLICK THE BUTTON!

Feeding America – In the United States, 1 out of every 8 people struggle with food insecurity. Feeding America operates food banks nationwide to help tackle this problem. Check out the site for ways YOU can volunteer at a local food bank.

Hunger Notes Be sure to “Take a Hunger Quiz” so you can learn more about issues related to hunger. Oh, and for every quiz that is taken,  Hunger Notes makes a small donation to assist hungry people!

Meals on Wheels – Operating in nearly every American community, Meals on Wheels seeks to address senior hunger and isolation. Did you know that 1 out of every 6 seniors in the United States struggles with hunger? Or that 1 out of every 4 lives alone and in isolation? Explore the site to discover volunteer opportunities!

LEGO Star Wars: A Paucity of Female Minifigures

Many moons ago I published a post titled The Brick Side of the Force in which I share a snippet of my collection of Star Wars Lego sets and minifigures. As one can imagine, since publishing the piece in March 2016 I have since added a number of new sets to my collection. However, my Lego collecting has also slowed quite a bit since then for two very specific reasons. Perhaps the most obvious reason is because Lego sets are expensive and buying them, even at sale/clearance prices, adds up over time. But while money is a big reason for my Lego slow down, the other reason is the alarming reality that there is a discouraging paucity of female minifigures being created and accompanying the Star Wars sets that are released every few months.

While a number of female characters from Star Wars, human and alien alike, are certainly represented in minfigure form, The LEGO Group has otherwise not done enough to create equal representation among Star Wars minifigures. There exists an abundance of male Star Wars characters in minifigure form, but a dearth of women. As a collector of Star Wars Lego sets, but even more importantly as a man who strives to highlight and tackle the insidious ways our society and world places greater importance on men over women, I felt compelled to call attention to this issue with the hope that doing so will spark a conversation and some form of change. And, in order to shed light on this problem, it is necessary to provide numbers. It isn’t enough for me to just say “there are more male minifigures than female minifigures.” No, that just wouldn’t do. Numbers are necessary to start this conversation and highlight just how problematic this issue is, and the first set of numbers I want to share are my own.

My Collection

As of the day this post was published, my Lego Star Wars collection consists of ninety-six sets of various sizes. Out of those sets, and not counting any droids, I have a total 267 minifigures. Of those 267 minifigures, the male-to-female breakdown is as follows:

Men: 248
Women: 19

Yeah, you read that right. After buying or being gifted ninety-six Lego Star Wars sets, and out of 267 human and alien minifigures, I only have nineteen women!!! A paltry 7% of my minifigures are women and the other 93% are men!!! Allow me to break these numbers down even further…

Not including Darth Vader, I have six different versions of Anakin Skywalker in my collection but only two renditions of Padmé Amidala. I have four different versions Obi-Wan Kenobi, and two versions of Master Yoda, but two of the exact same Ahsoka Tano. And, while I am happy to have Asajj Ventress, I also have two versions of Clone Commander Gree in his Battle of Kashyyyk camouflaged armor.

I have three varieties of the Mandalorian Sabine Wren from the show Star Wars Rebels, a positive fact for sure but, then again, I also have three versions of the Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus. While my collection includes two versions of Ezra Bridger, I only have one Hera Syndulla minifigure. I have two versions of Rey from The Force Awakens, and I happily have Maz Kanata as well, but I also have five First Order stormtrooper, all with male faces if their helmets are removed. I’ve got four mini-incarnations of Han Solo, three of Luke Skywalker, two of Chewbacca, but only one Princess Leia. Heck, if I did include droids in these numbers, I have more mini-renditions of R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chopper than of Princess Leia.

Sabine and Kanan
My three Sabine Wren minifigures with my three Kanan Jarrus minifigures.

Of my thirteen Rebel pilots, only one is a female: an A-Wing pilot. This is even more absurd when one realizes that the Rebel U-Wing Fighter (set #75155), which I have in my collection, came with a male minifigure even though the solitary U-Wing pilot we see in Rogue One is a woman! Not counting Jyn Erso, of my seven Rebel soldiers, not a single one is a generic female. I have eight Mandalorians but none are women even though some Mando warriors in The Clone Wars animated series are women. And in my collection of Jedi, the only women I have are Ahsoka Tano (whom I already mentioned), Luminara Unduli, Barris Offee, Stass Allie, and Satele (a character from The Old Republic MMO). 

Before going any farther, I am going to pause and acknowledge that this reality is partially my fault. When I began collecting Star Wars Lego sets in the year 2012, it did not occur to me at the time that the more I added to my collection, the more I was creating an astonishingly male-centric battalion of minifigures. Sets have come and gone with female minifigures that I either didn’t buy or were not gifted to me, minifigures like the Jedi Shaak Ti, the bounty hunter Sugi, and the First Order Captain Phasma. But while I am partially culpable in creating this unequal representation within my own collection, there is an even greater issue at play. Specifically, The LEGO Group just doesn’t create enough minifigures based on female Star Wars characters and there is an overemphasis placed on creating multiple versions of male figures. In the past year, I have sought to only purchase sets that include female minifigures and, to say the least, it has been really tough because Lego simply does not have enough sets that come with women. 

Shopping for Lego Sets

In February 2017, Lego unveiled new Star Wars sets on store shelves in the United States and, as a collector, the male-to-female minifigure disparity was palpable. Of the fourteen sets that arrived (not counting large-scale buildable figures), only one came with a woman: Battle of Scarif (set #75171) which includes Jyn Erso wearing her Imperial Ground Crew disguise from Rogue One. Otherwise, not a single set that arrived in stores had a female Star Wars character. Adding insult to injury, the Micro-Fighter U-Wing (set #75160) came with a male minifigure even though, again, the U-Wing pilot we encounter in Rogue One is a woman. Talk about discouraging.

But wait, it gets even worse! Of the thirty-four Star Wars Lego sets that hit store shelves in 2016, there was a total of thirteen women in minifigure form. The set Assault on Hoth (set #75098) alone comes with twelve men, Toryn Farr being the lone woman in the set and 1/13 of 2016’s female minifigures.  Additionally, it is worth mentioning that of the nine large-scale buildable figures Lego introduced in 2016, three were of female characters: Rey (#75113), Captain Phasma (#75118), and Jyn Erso (#75119).

The year 2015 gave Star Wars fans thirty-five Lego sets but only nine minifigures were women. Coming with the First Order Transport (set # 75103), Captain Phasma is intimidating in her unique chrome stormtrooper armor; however, remove her helmet and one will be disappointed to discover a solid black head without any facial features. As well, six large-scale buildable figures were also introduced in 2015 but none were of female characters from the saga. 

In 2014, thirty-two sets with minifigures were available for purchase but only two of the minifigures in 2014 were women. Two!!! Plus, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the Sandcrawler (set #75059) that arrived in 2014 includes Uncle Owen but DOES NOT include Aunt Beru. In fact, this is no different than the previous version  of the Sandcrawler (the 2005 set #10144) which also included Uncle Owen but not Aunt Beru. 

Hera and Ahsoka
2014 female minifigures: Hera Syndulla (green) and Ahsoka Tano (orange). Syndulla came with The Ghost (set #75053) and Tano with Coruscant Police Gunship (set #75046).

Twenty-nine Lego Star Wars sets hit store shelves in 2013 but just six minifigures were women. Additionally, a female Jedi padawan was included with a promotional set given to journalists at the premier of The Yoda Chronicles in May 2013.

In the year I began collecting Star Wars sets, 2012, Lego sold twenty-six different sets that contained minfigures. Yet, there were only seven women scattered among all sets. For comparisons sake, the set titled Palpatine’s Arrest (set #9526) comes with six male minifigures alone.

2011 offered nineteen Lego Star Wars sets with eight female minifigures distributed among them.

Store shelves in 2010 were stocked with seventeen Lego Star Wars sets, and out of those there were three women in minifigure form. Two of those women – Aayla Secura and Ahsoka Tano – were included with the 2010 Clone Turbo Tank (set #8098). Again, in comparison, Luke Skywalker was included in four different sets in 2010. 

Eighteen Star Wars sets were sold in 2009 with a total of five female minifigures distributed among them. It is also important to note that in 2009 Lego released six limited edition Collectible Display Sets available at San Diego Comic-Con. Each Display Set came with three minifigures apiece. Two of those Collectible Sets came with a single female each: Ahsoka Tano in one and Asajj Ventress in another.

In 2008, the year The Clone Wars movie and television series debuted there were sixteen Lego sets and five minifigures that were women. Of those five female minifigures, one was Juno Eclipse, a character from The Force Unleashed, a popular video game which also debuted in 2008.

And before 2008, from 1999 when Lego first introduced Star Wars sets up to 2007, there was, so far as I can tell, ninety-seven sets sold in the United States that contained minifigures. Yet, out of those ninety-seven Star Wars sets, there were only twelve female minifigures spread among twelve different sets. Once again, by way of comparison, over that same eight year span, Han Solo was included in nine sets, Anakin Skywalker in eleven sets, Obi-Wan Kenobi in twelve sets, and Luke Skywalker in twenty sets.

Now, to arrive at these numbers, I relied on two websites, Lego.com and Brickset.com, while also falling back upon my many long hours of shopping for Lego Star Wars sets. This being said, I readily admit that I may have miscounted in some way, shape, or form as I calculated these numbers. And, if so, I am happy to fix any miscalculation. Plus, I should also mention that I kept my count strictly focused on the sets that reflect a scene or vehicle from Star Wars, and which also come with minifigures. In short, I did not consider any of minifigure key chains or magnets, or count any of the Lego Star Wars books/video games that may come with minifigures. Nor did I include any of the polybags that only include a minifigure (none of the minifigure polybags have ever, so far as I can tell, come with a female character anyway). I did, however, include the annual Lego Star Wars Advent Calendars in my count. The first arriving in 2011, each Advent Calendar comes with a handful of minifigures; however, through 2016, not a single female minifigure has been included in any Advent Calendar.  

Clarifications being stated, it is safe to say that The LEGO Group has done an outstandingly terrible job of offering female minifigures in Lego sets. With Star Wars popularity growing by leaps and bounds thanks to Disney’s 2012 takeover of the franchise, Lego stands to profit even more in the years ahead from the sale of Star Wars sets. Yet, the utter lack of female representation in the form of minifigures, dating back to 1999 when Star Wars sets were first offered, is an egregious reality that absolutely needs to change going forward. While Lego has certainly offered a handful of more women in the past couple of years, the lack of women should stunt any applause The Lego Group deserves. Even more must be done to fix this gender imbalance, and as a fan of Star Wars and of Lego, I am prepared to stop purchasing Lego Star Wars sets and spend my money elsewhere if the imbalance is not adequately corrected.

Fixing the Problem: Part I

So what could be done to rectify the gender disparity? Well, for starters, The LEGO Group should stop thinking about the Lego Star Wars brand being made solely for young and growing boys. In a response to my inquiry about the imbalance of male-to-female minifigures in their Star Wars sets, a customer service agent with Lego replied by stating:

Our research and experience shows that girls and boys experiment with their gender identity while they play, and they often tend to express themselves differently. Statistically, play themes like LEGO® Star Wars™ have more fans among boys and LEGO Friends is more popular with girls. Based on this research, we tailor our advertisements to a target audience of builders, which is reflected in the resulting print or media campaign.

I certainly do not deny that boys and girls express themselves differently when they play with Lego sets, or any toys for that matter. Nor can I speak to the research that The LEGO Group conducts in their product testing as I am not privy to the way their research unfolds, or the data they collect. But I can say this: the notion that “play themes like LEGO® Star Wars™ have more fans among boys” might be verified by research but it is not in any way a reason to exclude minifigures that reflect the multitude of human and alien women in Star Wars. It might be more boys gravitate to Lego Star Wars than girls, but if that is so then Lego should be doing even more, not less, to incorporate female characters in Star Wars sets so that young boys, as they play, can be empowered by, and grow in respect for, the women in their every-day lives. 

And so, the importance of fixing this issue is greater than just ensuring that I, as an adult collector, have more women among my minifigures. No, this issue is truly about values, about the way we teach children, and particularly young boys, to respect and admire women. As well, it is also about showing young girls who enjoy Lego Star Wars that the women they encounter in the saga – all women, not just Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, or Rey – have value and are critical components of the galaxy far, far away. Through the power of play, The Lego Group has the capacity to help boys and girls alike be positively impacted by female Star Wars characters, not at the expense of male characters, but in tandem with them. And, it is my hope, that The LEGO Group considers, and enacts, new ways to incorporate Star Wars women into their popular toy sets.

Fixing the Problem: Part II

So, what are some ways and steps that The Lego Group could start taking to close the gender gap among Star Wars minifigures? One very small but incredibly important step is when a set is created which reflects a scene/vehicle in Star Wars, female characters should never be replaced by a man. That both U-Wings come with a male pilot who replaces the female pilot from Rogue One is not only disappointing, it’s just pathetic. Either someone at Lego didn’t do their homework, not realizing the pilot in the film was a woman, or a conscious decision was made to replace her with a man. Regardless as to how it happened, it shouldn’t have happened, period.

Lego Soldiers
In Battlefront, the Rodian (green) and Duros (blue) are playable characters, both of which are male. The female alien one can play as is a Twi’lek.

While honoring female characters by not replacing them with men, The LEGO Group can also include more women by identifying when/where female characters show up throughout the series and, in turn, ensuring that they are included with sets. Assault on Hoth could have very easily included Princess Leia in her Hoth outfit, and Aunt Beru should have accompanied Uncle Owen with the Lego Sandcrawler(s). Or, consider the two smaller sets that reflect the popular Battlefront video game: Rebel Alliance Battle Pack (set #75133) and Galactic Empire Battle Pack (set #75134). In Battlefront, one can play as a male OR female character, changing at random whenever one chooses. This being the case, there was absolutely no reason for female soldiers to be excluded from either battle pack. A female trooper could have easily replaced one of the four Rebel soldiers, while the Imperial technician in the Empire pack could have been a woman. When Battlefront II arrives, and if Lego plans on creating new Battle Packs or sets based on the upcoming game, I hope that the Imperial protagonist of the game not only receives her own figure, but that more women are included as minifigures as well to honor the games gender diversity. 

Seventh-Sister
The Seventh-Sister.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episode 5: “Always Two There Are”

My hope is also that Lego not only finds ways to include more generic females in sets – pilots, soldiers, cantina patrons, etc. – but that they additionally create minifigures based on female characters who appear in the two popular animated series. While Duchess Satine of Mandalore and Mother Talzin were, at times, critical to the plot of The Clone Wars animated series, neither have ever been given minifigure treatment. Nor has Bo-Katan, the female Mandalorian warrior who was part of the Death Watch terrorist group, although Pre Vizsla, leader of the Death Watch, has been rendered in minifigure form. Additionally, Jedi Master Adi Gallia, a member of the Jedi High Council, and Jedi Librarian Jocasta Nu, are great female characters from The Clone Wars who could become minifigures. As for the show Star Wars Rebels, while the Imperial Inquistor known as the Fifth Brother is included in Captain Rex’s AT-TE (set #75157), his popular counterpart, the Seventh Sister, is nowhere to be found. Likewise, while the popular Grand Admiral Thrawn accompanies The Phantom (set #75170), Governor Arindha Pryce, who appears in Rebels Season Three, has yet to become a minifigure but would be perfect addition in a set based on the show.

The designers at Lego could easily create minifigures for Duchess Satine, Mother Talzin, Bo-Katan, Adi Gallia, Jocasta Nu, the Seventh Sister, and Governor Arindha Pryce, including them with sets that reflect their canonical endeavors. In turn, as Mother Talzin is the leader of the Nightsisters, it would be equally appropriate for a Nightsister Battle Pack to be sold that contains a handful of the Dathomiri witches. It would also be appropriate for The LEGO Group to branch out into other mediums of Star Wars storytelling, such as novels and comics, to create more female minifigures. Women such as Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, Norra Wexley, Everi Chalis, the Jedi Depa Billapa, Dr. Aphra, Sana Starros, Ciena Ree, Evaan Verlaine, and the Zabrak Jas Emari, and many more could be rendered as minifigures to be sold individually in polybags or with new sets based on these other storytelling mediums.

AuntBeru
Aunt Beru deserves a Lego Minifigure
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Of course, the foundation of Star Wars are the array of movies that fans of all ages have grown to love, and while the franchise needs to continue to do a better job of promoting female characters on screen, The Lego Group should never-the-less continue to find ways to incorporate women from the movies in sets and polybags far more often. Main characters like Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, Rey, and Jyn Erso will undoubtedly continue to given minifigure treatment, although my hope is they will appear with more frequency. Yet, I also want to see other women from the films, supporting and/or minor characters being given minifigure treatment more often or for the first time. Mon Mothma, Captain Phasma, Maz Kanata, Shmi Skywalker, Bazine Netal, Sy Snootles, Jessika Pava, and, of course, Aunt Beru are just a handful of female characters who could be included in Lego sets that reflect the canon of Star Wars films.

Finally, in wanting The Lego Group to create more minifigures based on the human and alien women in Star Wars, I also want more Star Wars stories to incorporate women in leading, secondary, and background roles. Certainly, the franchise has done a good job at this in a number of ways, but more work still needs to be done. As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, I will continue to advocate for women to shine within the Star Wars canon, something that all Star Wars fans should demand. At the same time, as an avid consumer of Lego Star Wars, I will continue to advocate for Star Wars women to be given greater treatment as minifigures. 


If you are passionate about this topic, and wish to see more female Star Wars characters turned into Lego minifigures, then follow the link below and contact The Lego Group.

Lego Customer Service

 

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia (An Imperial Talker Review)

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia, co-authored by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray, and Cole Horton, is at one and the same time intensely fascinating and slightly overwhelming. This latest addition to the catalog of Star Wars reference books contains a veritable mountain of images and information broken into five distinct chapters, each chapter having a handful of subsections. The breadth and depth of Star Wars knowledge in this book will certainly keep the more “die-hard” fan occupied for long periods of time, but might also leave the more casual fan feeling somewhat dizzy by the scope of what Star Wars has to offer. Even as a self-proclaimed die-hard fan, I readily admit that I felt a bit overwhelmed at times by all The Visual Encyclopedia has to offer. Still, this was and is hardly a reason not to explore the book. In fact, I encourage Star Wars fans of all types to do so, patiently and methodically working through the book so as to savor the journey to the summit of the Star Wars mountain.

So what exactly does this particular mountain of Star Wars knowledge contain? In the book’s foreword, Dennis Muren (Senior Creative Director, Industrial Light & Magic) notes that, “In this title you’ll see firsthand the thousands of objects that are inspired by our world, but are uniquely Star Wars.” And right he is, as this reference source presents through countless images and bits of information how the galaxy far, far away is derived from concepts and ideas that we are all familiar with on some level. Identifying specific categories of inquiry, the authors, as I already mentioned, organize the the Encyclopedia into five chapters: Geography, Nature, History, Culture, and Science and Technology. In this way, the book’s organization invites readers to begin in a chapter of their own choosing, beginning an exploration based on one’s personal interests in the real-world or Star Wars universe. Of course, one can also start on page one and simply go from page-to-page, but know that this isn’t required to grasp all the Encyclopedia since it is not set-up in narrative form.

Mustafar
Southern and Northern Mustafarians.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

For me, going through the book page-by-page, skimming through the images and info, gave me my initial bearings before really digging into anything concrete. From there, I worked through the book in non-linear fashion, very slowly jumping to different pages based on momentary interests and personal inquiry. During one reading I found myself enamored by the chapter on Nature, discovering new things about the various creatures and alien-species in Star Wars. I never knew, for example, that two types Mustafarians existed, Southerners being stocky while their Northerner counterparts are tall and thin (see image above). In turn, as I explored the chapter on Culture, I was struck by the vast array of royal outfits that Queen Padmé Amidala of the Naboo wore in The Phantom Menace. Fashion in Star Wars has never been a personal point of interest for me (I don’t do any form of cosplay) but the images of Amidala’s outfits, and the explanation that her “elaborate gowns reflect their [Naboo’s] culture,” left me intrigued and reflecting upon other forms of royal and political attire in Star Wars.

To this point about personal interest, the majority of my time spent in The Visual Encyclopedia thus far has centered on the Science and Technology chapter. Of the five, it is the longest chapter, having the most subsections arranged into categories ranging from binoculars, equipment, and medical technology to blasters, warships, all forms of land vehicles, plus a whole lot more. For the sake of brevity I won’t go into detail about everything I found so fascinating about this chapter, but I will note that I was particularly happy to encounter two specific land vehicles that I have always desired to see more of in Star Wars: the UT-AT “Trident” tank and the AT-OT Walker. While the Encyclopedia only has a picture of these two war machines accompanied by their respective names, it is never-the-less reassuring to know that there are Star Wars writers/authors keeping the lesser known vehicles (among other things) in mind.

The Star Wars universe is exceedingly vast and The Visual Encyclopedia does a nice job of covering a great deal of the expanse, the UT-AT and AT-OT being a clear example of just that. Still, the reference book does have its limitations, hardly a shock since Star Wars is far too great to be encapsulated in only 199 pages. Since the Encyclopedia is rooted primarily to the Star Wars movies and television shows, one will be disappointed if they enter the book hoping to encounter a wealth of information and images from the array of Star Wars novels, comics, and games. Further, the book does contain a handful of notable absences. While he is quoted, and his unique shuttle Delta-class shuttle is depicted, there is no image of Director Orson Krennic, the antagonist in Rogue One. One will find Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso in the book, but her father Galen Erso, who developed the Death Star’s planet-killing weapon, and her mother Lyra are no where to be found. And speaking of parents, perhaps the most disappointing absence is that Anakin’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, does not receive an image in the Encyclopedia, just another reminder that she continues to be an unfortunate afterthought in the Star Wars canon.

Limitations and curious absences aside, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia is never-the-less an enjoyable reference book that will leave an interested Star Wars fan occupied for quite a while. Try to take in all it offers in a single sitting and one very well might abandon the effort with feelings of being overwhelmed. But fortified with the patience of a Jedi Master and an eager willingness to savor the journey, and one will surely end up expanding their personal knowledge and understanding of the Star Wars universe.


Thanks to DK Publishing for providing me with an advanced copy of Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

The Sith Temple on Malachor

“Two must lift these stones, no more, no less. That is the way of the Sith.” – Maul

In the Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels – “Twilight of the Apprentice” – Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Ahsoka Tano travel to the planet Malachor in order to gain knowledge which will help them defeat the Sith and Inquisitors. As we discover in the episode, Malachor was a planet of legend among the Jedi, a world off-limits to members of the Order. And rightfully so. Arriving on the planet, the three companions discover an ancient Sith Temple hidden on the planet, along with the scorched remains of bodies and discarded lightsabers scattered among the ruins, signs of The Great Scourge of Malachor, a historic battle between the Jedi and Sith. Taking place thousands of years in the past, The Great Scourge of Malachor was first named in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, a small snippet in the reference book explaining that Kylo Ren’s unique, cross-guard lightsaber hails from the time period of the forgotten and catastrophic fight. And, as luck would have it, Bridger finds and briefly ignites one such lightsaber as he scours the desolate ruins.

As someone who has always been deeply fascinated by the Sith and the Dark Side, not to mention all things relating to ancient history in the Star Wars universe, “Twilight of the  Apprentice” really struck a cord with me. In turn, the more I have watched this episode, the more curious I have become by the fact that the Sith Rule of Two is a subtle, but central, aspect of the Temple structure. One will recall that the Rule, enacted by Darth Bane, holds that there can only be two Sith at a time: a Master and an Apprentice. As we learn early on in “Twilight” from Maul, himself a former Sith Lord, the Temple is bound to this central Sith philosophy. Relying on a far-to-trusting Ezra Bridger, Maul is able to open the doors of the Temple with the teen’s eager assistance. Maul could not do it alone, rather he needed a second – an “Apprentice” – to work with him. Later, the “elevators” that carry individuals to the higher recesses of the Temple are also bound to the Rule, two and only two being needed/allowed for the lifts to work. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when the Sith Holocron that plays a central role in “Twilight” activates the Temple (we discover, as does Bridger, that the Temple is a massive superweapon), Ezra is only able to pull the Holocron away from the (for lack of better terms) “activation spot” when he recalls that he cannot do it alone. With the help of Kanan Jarrus, the two are able to pull the Holocron away, shutting down the Temple structure before the weapon can be used by Maul.

On the surface of things, the use of the Rule of Two in the episode is not very surprising. In an episode of Rebels that was a bit chaotic – not in a negative way, just in the sense that a lot happens in a short amount of time – the Rule of Two otherwise blended into the background, playing an important role at critical junctures while not being a central aspect of the show. Since Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader have their long-anticipated showdown in “Twilight of the Apprentice,” it is hardly surprising that the use of the Rule of Two is ultimately an unremarkable afterthought in the episode. Still, during my first and subsequent viewings of “Twilight,” I have continue to be utterly perplexed by the Rule’s appearance in the episode because the Sith Temple on Malachor really should not be tied to the Rule for one very simple reason: the Rule of Two was not enacted until long after the Temple was built.

Ezra and Maul
Maul (left) and Ezra Bridger (right) walk towards an entrance to the Sith Temple on Malachor.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episodes 21-22: “Twilight of the Apprentice”

As I already mentioned, it is (former Darth) Maul who, early in the episode, describes this central philosophy of the Sith Order and its connection to the Temple. Maul states to Bridger, “Two must lift these stones, no more, no less. That is the way of the Sith.” While Maul is not incorrect in noting that the Sith are guided by the Rule, but again, the Rule went into effect thousands of years after the Temple was constructed. So where does this leave us? How do we make sense out of a seemingly obvious canonical contradiction in “Twilight of the Apprentice”?  I have wrestled with this for some time, allowing possible explanations for this curious connection between the Temple and the Rule to bubble up in my mind. That being the case, I have come up with a handful of possible explanations that I have decided to share…

Possible Explanations (The Operative Word being “Possible”)

Possibility #1: Darth Bane did not create the Rule of Two, instead he adopted a concept that dates back, at the very least, to the time when Sith Temple on Malachor was constructed. In other-words, as Bane sought to change the Sith Order so that it would survive, he went in search of knowledge from the ancient Dark Lords such as the female Sith who built the Temple on Malachor. Finding that Sith Lords like her and others believed a “Master-Apprentice” relationship created the strongest connection to the Dark Side (one to hold the power, the other to crave it), these ancient Sith tied the workings of their own Temples, Holocrons, Rituals, etc. to their own de facto “Rule of Two.” 

Possibility # 2: Darth Bane actually lived long before the Sith Temple was constructed. The idea that Bane lived in the very distant past is actually something I suggest in another post for a separate reason (you can check it out HERE). Basically, this possibility opens the way for the Rule of Two to have been implemented before the Temple on Malachor was constructed, thereby ensuring that the Temple would be tied to the Rule. 

Possibility # 3: When Sith Philosophy changes, such as when Darth Bane enacted the Rule, everything about the Sith changes. Admittedly, this is a rather odd possiblity as it would require some very deep, metaphysical connection between the Sith and their artifacts. This is not necessarily outside the realm of possibility, after-all we know that Darth Sidious could use the Dark Side across great galactic distances. However, I am unsure exactly how, when Darth Bane enacted the Rule of Two, this would also change the structural operations of the Sith Temple on Malachor. Would/Could Bane simply engage in some type of ritual to unify all things Sith to his Rule? Maybe? Perhaps? I dunno. It is an interesting idea but also an unnecessarily complex one that could get confusing really fast.

Possibility # 4: This is just a straight-up error on the part of the Star Wars Rebel show-runners and/or Lucasfilm Story Group. While my inclination is not to lay blame on those who work for Lucasfilm and know far more about the Star Wars universe than myself, I cannot help but wonder if the Rule of Two found its way into “Twilight of the Apprentice” without much forethought. I absolutely do not think tying the Rule to the Temple structure was nefarious or purposefully misleading. Rather, since the Rule of Two plays such a central role in Star Wars lore involving the Sith, the Rule of Two was probably just an easy tool the show-runners could utilize in the episode, especially using it with Maul as he manipulates Ezra. In fact, on this point…

Possibility # 5: …it might be that the Temple is not actually tied to the Rule of Two, or any de facto “Rule of Two.” Perhaps Maul is just lying to Bridger when he says “two must lift these stones,” doing so to convince Ezra to trust him and, more importantly, to work in tandem with him.  If so, then the use of the Rule of Two in the episode may not be a mistake. Instead, it could be an intentional plot device that allows Maul to lie his way into Ezra’s trust. Then again, even if it isn’t intentional – if the show-runners/Story Group did, in fact, make an error – I think the possibility that Maul is lying to Ezra could still work. 

And there you have it. Five possibilities that could explain why the Rule of Two is tied to the Sith Temple on Malachor. If you can think of any possibilities or ideas of your own, or if you want to offer your thoughts on my own explanations, leave a comment!

 

Haikuesday: Ahsoka Tano

I have to be frank:
When Young Snips was introduced
I did not like her.

Haiku Addendum:
Regarding the last poem,
I’m now fond of her.


Ahsoka Tano
was basically Padmé and
Ani’s first child.


Scene: on Christophsis;
A youngling is sent to war
by Jedi Masters.


Does anyone know
why Ahsoka went off to
fight without armor?


Jedi Commander
Outranking Clone Captain Rex
Both child soldiers.


The Battle of Teth:
Tano fights for access to
Hutt hyperspace routes.


The Malevolence
destroys Master Plo Koon’s fleet.
Tano will save him.


In Resolute bay,
Ahsoka complains about
being a gunner.


“I feel it,” she says.
“A disturbance in the Force.”
Pellaeon listens.


A duel with Grievous
unfolds in Ruusan moon’s sky.
Snips barely escapes.


Blue Shadow Virus!
Ahsoka is infected!
Oh no, Padmé too!


Scene: over Ryloth;
Tano uses Marg Sabl
in battle with Seps.


Ignoring commands,
rash Ahsoka continues
fight for Felucia. 


Ahsoka Tano,
Jedi Padawan and the
best library guard.


Held hostage by Bane,
Anakin must choose how to 
save his padawan.


Ani and Tano
bicker while battle rages.
“Another fine mess…”


Noble sacrifice;
Tano and Offee “die” so 
that others can live.


“Kill me” pleads Barris,
brain worms infecting her mind.
Can Snips kill her friend?


Maurya Ruler,
Conqueror of Kalinga.
Whoops! That’s Ashoka.


Tera Sinube
helps Ahsoka look for her
misplaced lightsaber.


Mon Gazza podrace,
Ahsoka gets a “Crash Course” 
in high speed flying.


Two Jedi track Fett
from Coruscant to Florrum.
Will they find the boy?


I have to be frank:
Pics of sexy Ahsoka
are really creepy.

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, she’s a kid,
not a sex object.


Tano with Chuchi;
Just two friends hiding on a
Federation ship.


Padmé in danger!
Ahsoka senses a threat,
but could she be wrong…?


Scene: on Mandalore;
Ahsoka helps some kiddos
tackle corruption


Young Ahsoka speaks
with her older self in the
complex Mortis-arc.


With his dying breath,
Piell imparts Nexus Route
upon young Tano.


Trandoshans capture
Ahsoka and use her as 
prey to be hunted.


I can’t figure out
why Ahsoka came with the
Lego MHC…

Haiku Addendum:
Ahsoka was not in the
Umbaran stories.


Battle in the deep.
Ahsoka protects Lee-Char,
King of Mon Cala.


Ahsoka and Lux,
sitting in a tree, K-I-
S-S-I-N-G!!!!


Tano is all like
cray jelly that dreamy Lux
likes that chick Steela.


A padawan framed!
Ahsoka flees into the
deadly underworld.


“I’m not coming back.”
Ahsoka Tano leaves an
Order in chaos.


I have to be frank:
I don’t like that she leaves but
sees Ani again.


Siege of Mandalore.
Tano duels a tattooed foe.
Rex will spring the trap.


Ahsoka novel
Review: started strong but the
climax was just meh.


Scene: moon called Raada;
A mechanic named Ashla
lends aid to farmers.


Lets all just agree
that Team Ahsoka is the
best Tano fan site.


Snips turned fifteen on
September 22nd
1955

Haiku Addendum:
Hidalgo figured this out
so go talk to him.


Mystery figure.
Aiding the Lothal Rebels.
Who is this Fulcrum?


Rex and Ahsoka
are finally reunited.
Memories abound.


It’s pretty damn cool
when Ahsoka schools the two
inquisitive sibs.


“You abandoned me!”
“Do you know what I’ve become?”
“No. No!” she cries out.


Scene: on Malachor;
“I am no Jedi,” she tells
her former Master.


Did Ahsoka live?
Or did she die in the duel?
There’s no wrong answer.

Haiku Addendum:
Ahsoka theories don’t suck,
nor do Snoke theories


If left up to me,
in The Last Jedi I’d have
Luke chat with Tano.


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

Droids (February 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

Star Wars Without End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brick Side of the Force

When I was a little kid I had two great passions: Star Wars and LEGO. I won’t delve into all the reasons I fell in love with both, nor try and pinpoint a particular moment where these loves emerged. Instead, I’d rather point out something peculiar about my younger self: I rarely merged these two interests. Actually, come to think of it, I rarely tried. As I would sit building and playing with a new LEGO set, my Star Wars toys and books would sit idly by. And, when I was tired of playing with LEGOs, I w0uld shift back to re-reading the Thrawn Trilogy or creating epic battles with my Star Wars Micro Machines or action figures.

That’s how it went for years, my love of these two interests swinging back and forth on a pendulum but never coming to a confluence. One week LEGO, the next Star Wars, and so on (with other interests mixed in). Sadly, becoming a teen meant that playing with toys became less cool and eventually my collection of LEGOs found its way into the attic. On the other hand, my love of Star Wars shifted as well, and I found myself much more engaged in the books, movies, and video games than with the Micro Machines or action figures – which were also packed away.

Shifting interests are natural as one grows up, of course, and thinking back on my youth I am neither dismayed nor discouraged that I stopped playing with LEGOs or my Star Wars toys. Besides, now that I am an adult, those two loves have been combined into a hardcore obsession with the LEGO Star Wars sets I started collecting in 2012. Needless to say, this collection makes my inner-child very happy. Admittedly, 2012 was a bit late to the LEGO Star Wars scene because LEGO actually began introducing Star Wars sets in 1999. Plus, I didn’t even think about buying any sets until after I met a friend in grad school who had a sweet LEGO collection of her own (check out her blog). But hey, better late than never!

So, all that said, I figured I would have a little fun and share some of my ever expanding collection with y’all. Enjoy!!!


 

ARC170

My LEGO ARC-170 on patrol in my Star Wars room. It is one of my absolute favorite sets, was fun to build AND I got it at Target for only $30. #Winner

Clones and Jedi

Clone Troopers and Jedi stand in front of the AT-TE,    AT-AP, and Republic Gunship. Can you spot Clone Commander Gree?

DookuVentress

Count Dooku and Asajj Ventress prepare to lead battle droids into a fight. I purposefully spent a little extra to get a set with Ventress.

Malgus

Darth Malgus might be an EU character, but that doesn’t make him any less intimidating. Look at those eyes!!!

Destroyer

This sweet thing was a birthday gift from me to me.

Three Clone Commanders

Captain Rex, Commander Gree, and Commander Cody discuss strategy.

The Ghost Crew

The crew of The Ghost pose for a picture.

Freeco Speeder

Although small, the Freeco Speeder was a really fun build and came with two sweet minifigures: snowsuit Anakin and Talz Chieftain Thi-Sen.

YwingAttack

A Rebel Y-Wing goes on the attack.

Boba and Lando

Boba Fett hangs out on a desert skiff with a disguised Lando Calrissian.

Droid Assembly

It took a while to assemble all of the droids that came with the Battle Droid Troop Carrier.

LEGO Rey

Who is LEGO Rey?

AV-7 Anti-Vehicle Cannon

AV-7 Anti-Vehicle Cannon

AT-DP

AT-DP from Star Wars Rebels. 

LegoVeers

Lego Veers takes his job very seriously.

Sebulba

Some smaller sets on the mantle.

Qui-Gon

Qui-Gon Jinn sure is a handsome lad.

Mando

A hidden Mando base.

Talkernado

Gozanti-class Cruiser “Talkernado”

The Empire

Imperial soldiers and officers – Colonel Yularen in the center – stand at attention behind the Emperor and Darth Vader.

 


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

swcomlinksbanner1

A Man Who Wants to Run

During my most recent viewing of The Force Awakens, I was slammed by an epiphany so insanely obvious I was shocked it hadn’t hit me earlier. This epiphany came during the conversation Finn has with Maz Kanata while the two sit at a table in her castle. Finn, adamantly stating that there is no way to fight the First Order, is confronted by Maz when she climbs onto the table and crawls towards him. Adjusting her “glasses” as she looks at Finn, Maz states to him that, “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people…I am looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run.”

Maz
Maz Kanata
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Finn who tells Maz she doesn’t know anything about him. Of course, we know that Maz is right, Finn DOES want to run, even if she doesn’t necessarily know all of Finn’s backstory. But although Maz confronts Finn and reveals what she sees in his eyes, she does not try to convince him to stay and fight. Instead, she simply points to two individuals who Finn can hitch a ride with to the Outer Rim. And that ends their discussion, as Finn gets up to leave and Maz returns to her seat.

Okay, so far, so good. Now, what of that epiphany I mentioned? Well, in the moment Maz says to Finn that she has “lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people” and that she is “looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run,” the following thought entered my mind:

Kanan Jarrus was running, too.

Run2
Kanan states that his Master’s last word to him was “run.”
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

And with that, the flood gates opened…

What if as he followed his late-Master’s order to “run,” Kanan Jarrus (formerly Caleb Dume) ended up on Takodana, in Maz Kanata’s castle?

What if he when he met Maz Kanata for the first time, she could sense who he was – a Jedi?

What if in conversing with Kanan, in discussing his past as a Jedi, she looks into HIS eyes and sees “a man who wants to run,” saying the same thing to him that she says to Finn?

What if, what if, what if…

Honestly, I see no reason this encounter shouldn’t happen. No, it NEEDS to happen. Think about it – it would add a fascinating dimension to Maz’s interaction with Finn, the recognition that she hasn’t just seen the eyes of random men who were running, but saw those eyes in one of the last members of the Jedi Order. In this vein, an encounter between Maz and Kanan could function as a building block for Maz’s backstory, a window into her past. While the centerpiece of their interaction would obviously focus on Kanan running from his past life as a Jedi, the conversation could also provide keen insights into Kanata’s views on the galaxy, particularly a galaxy reeling from the aftermath of the Clone Wars. Frankly, after meeting Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens, I would love to hear what she has to say about the Clone Wars, the fall of the Jedi Order, and the rise of the Empire. Plus, it would be pretty cool to see her counsel the young Kanan, providing the young Jedi with her own ancient “Yoda-esque” wisdom.

Run
Depa Billaba commands her padawan, Caleb, to run.
Photo Credit – MARVEL Comics

Speaking of Kanan, it sort of goes without saying but this interaction would be an easy way to bolster the already rich backstory surrounding him. And, there is already a perfect medium for us to see Maz confront Kanan “the runner” – the Marvel comic series Kanan. This series provides a fascinating glimpse of a young Kanan running from the Empire in the days and weeks after Order 66, and I think an encounter between Maz and Kanan would be a natural fit for the series.

So what do you think? Am I crazy for wanting to see Maz Kanata have the same interaction with Kanan that she does with Finn?


Addition: Since writing this piece, the Kanan comic series has come to an end (the last issue was released on March 16, 2016). Sad, I know, but I am still convinced that a meeting between Maz Kanata and Kanan Jarrus would be a great story. Hopefully it is the will of the Force that the two characters cross paths. 

The Rank Lists Awaken

This is the first of MANY pieces I have coming on The Force Awakens. Those other posts will start digging into the content of the film, but for now, I wanted to think about The Force Awakens in relation to the Star Wars canon in general, and the other six live-action films specifically.


Almost immediately after seeing The Force Awakens, one of the first questions I was asked about the film had nothing to do with anything that happens in it. Oh no, the question I got was very specific and not at all surprising – where would I rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other Star Wars films. Frankly, the question left me a little dumbfounded.  I was, at this point, less than 12 hours removed from seeing the movie for the first time and had not fully digested what I had watched. I might be a die-hard Star Wars fan but after one viewing of the film there was just no reasonable way for me to rank The Force Awakens with the other films. So, I politely deflected the question and didn’t answer it.

Empire
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Yet, the question won’t leave me alone. It has popped up in a few other conversations I’ve had about The Force Awakens and I have seen some people post their own updated rankings of the Star Wars films on Facebook,  Twitter, in articles,  etc. Now, to be fair, none of this is surprising. Since a new movie has been added to the list of Star Wars films, it was only a matter of time before conversations started circulating about where The Force Awakens should be ranked in that list. I just didn’t anticipate getting the question immediately after seeing it for the first time, though the person who asked it certainly meant well (as do those who continue asking me).

Here’s the funny thing, though – I don’t have a rank list of the Star Wars films. While The Empire Strikes Back has always been my favorite, I have never taken the time to analyze the others and come up with some definitive list for second, third, fourth, etc. In fact, while “Empire” is my favorite, it’s probably not the one I have even watched the most. I have seen all six films so many times that I have lost count, so I really just don’t know which one tops the viewing chart. Then again, that doesn’t matter. At this point, all six are so engrained in my brain that they are, quite frankly, part of who I am, part of my self-identity.

But the more I have thought about ranking the films, the more various angles and questions began popping into my brain.

Anakin and Ahsoka
Ahsoka Tano sits and talks with her Master, Anakin Skywalker, after the Battle of Christophsis. 
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (movie)

For starters, when I see fans ranking the films, I can’t help but ask: why aren’t they including The Clone Wars movie? Sure, it isn’t a live-action  film, but it did premier in theaters in 2008. Plus, it  introduced Star Wars fans to Ahsoka Tano, THE most popular character in the Star Wars canon who has never appeared in live-action form. All I’m saying is that if one is going to rank Star Wars films, don’t leave this one off the list just because it’s animated.

In turn, this opens the door to a larger question: why not just rank The Force Awakens with ALL of the Star Wars canon? I’m talking movies, books, comics, video games, etc. Since the Expanded Universe was disbanded by Disney/Lucasfilm, everything going forward is on equal footing as being canonical and relevant. So I have to ask: Is The Force Awakens better than Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple, Claudia Gray’s young adult novel Lost Stars, or the Shattered Empire comic series? Perhaps one would rank Ryder Wyndham’s junior novel, Ezra’s Gamble, above The Force Awakens but below the Season 3 episode of The Clone Wars entitled  “Witches of the Mist.” Or maybe someone enjoys The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary MORE than the movie itself and have decided to place it above the film in their list. That might seem counterintuitive to some but to that particular person the decision would make perfect sense.

Realistically, of course, it is difficult to rank the entire Star Wars canon, even for someone like me who is, more often than not, submerged in the Star Wars universe in some way, shape, or form. While everything added to the canon has equal authority, how does one even begin to compare junior novels to the films, or comics to video  games, and so on? There are certainly some stories that I have enjoyed more than others, and there are others that I am more critical of, feeling they fall flat for various reasons. And even if I were to rank the entire canon what would that accomplish? My canonical ranking would look different than someone else’s ranking, and I really have no interest in sitting here trying to argue that mine is the right one.

Theatrical Trailer

Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

But like I said, the vast majority of people aren’t like me or other die-hard Star Wars fans. For the average moviegoer, The Force Awaken is the newest installment of Star Wars, period. My uncle, for example, has seen all six previous live-action films in the theater, but he certainly didn’t go and see The Clone Wars movie, nor does he read any of the books, comics, etc. AND this takes me back to what I said earlier: I’m not surprised that The Force Awakens is being compared to/ranked with the other live-action Star Wars films. Most people only have the original six films as their points of reference, so I can’t really expect them to include The Clone Wars movie (among other things) in their rank  list.

So, seeing as I’m back where I started,  where do I go from here? Well, the original question is still relevant: where should one rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other six live-action films? I already noted that I don’t have my own rank list and I’m not interested in starting one. However, if you’re planning on creating/updating a rank list, or have already done so, I would suggest you take the following question into consideration:

Is it fair to place The Force Awakens (or Rogue One) higher in a rank list than any of the original Star Wars films?

Attack
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Now, I am purposefully using the word “original” here to refer to both trilogies for a very specific reason: Episodes I-VI are the films that Star Wars creator George Lucas wrote, the comprehensive story he wanted to tell. Those six films are, in every sense of the word, the original Star Wars stories. So, we can reframe the above question in a different way, coming at it from a slightly different angle: Can a new  Star Wars movie like “The Force Awakens” (or Rogue One), a movie NOT written by George Lucas, be a better Star Wars story than Lucas told in the original films?

Don’t presume, though, that I’m suggesting The Force Awakens is not worthy of carrying the banner of Star Wars. On the contrary, I personally enjoyed the film and believe it’s as much a part of Star Wars as Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, etc. Rather, what I’m asking is whether its possible that The Force Awakens – or Rogue One – is, a more compelling, a more complete, an all-around better Star Wars story than anything Lucas gave us?

Really, I can’t decide this for you. Whether you’re a “rank list” kind of person or not, you’ll just have to figure it out and articulate the answer for yourself.