The Clone Wars

Haikuesday: General Grievous

Rasp, Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough
Cough, Cough, Rasp, Rasp, Rasp, Cough, Cough
Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Rasp


Qymaen jai Sheelal –
deadly Kaleesh warrior,
killer of Yam’rii.


Kaleesh warrior
turned into cyborg monster:
General Grievous.


Cybernetic dude.
One arm, two arm, three arm, four.
And some cool legs, too.


Fierce Separatist,
commanding the droid army…
…and the droid navy.


Death and destruction,
killing all of the Jedi.
Grievous’ purpose.


Grievous is his name.
Killing Jedi is his game.
What a nifty rhyme!


Rasp, Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Rasp
Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough
Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Rasp, Cough


Malevolent ship,
reaping havoc on Clone troops.
Can Grievous be stopped?


I have to be frank:
it’s funny when Grievous just
ignores Count Dooku.


Falleen victory,
but Bothawui invasion
halted by Sky Guy.


Blue, Green, Blue, Green, Blue
Spinning Sabers, Spin, Spin, Spin
Blue, Green, Blue, Green, Blue


Tano fights Grievous
in the sky of Ruusan’s moon.
A rookie mistake.


In Grievous’ lair,
a young Jedi Knight will die
but Fisto escapes.


Master Koth captured.
Grievous tortures the Jedi
for some amusement.


On Saleucami
Kenobi pursues Grievous
but it’s all for not.


Cough, Rasp, Rasp, Cough, Rasp
Rasp, Cough, Cough, Cough, Rasp, Rasp, Rasp
Cough, Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough


Tarpal’s sacrifice.
Grievous captured by Gungans,
exchanged for Ani.


“Wipe the witches out”
Dooku commands of Grievous.
Massacred ‘Sisters.


The planet Florrum.
Hondo’s gang is outgunned by
Grievous’ droid troops.


Battle of Zanbar:
a Grievous led army fights
Maul’s Mando soldiers.


Dooku’s bodyguard
at humanitarian
event on Raxus.


Grievous fights Quinlan.
Quinlan sort of beats Grievous.
It’s temporary.


Invisible Hand,
Grievous’ flagship during
Coruscant battle.


Polyphonic piece.
The “General Grievous” theme.
Revenge of the Sith.


Rasp, Cough, Cough, Rasp, Cough
Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Rasp
Cough, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough


Grievous meets Sky Guy.
The two trade inane insults.
A brief encounter.


Tracked to Utapau,
Grievous is confronted by
Master Kenobi.


“Trained in Jedi arts,”
the cyborg tells Obi-Wan.
What a weird statement…


Green, Blue, Green, Blue, Green
Twirling Sabers, Twirl, Twirl, Twirl
Green, Blue, Green, Blue, Green


Find someone who will
look at you the way Grievous
looks at Kenobi.


Grievous flees the scene
and is pursued once again.
Ugh, how typical.

Seriously though,
have you noticed that Grievous
flees battles a lot?


Bursting into flames,
his heart shot by Kenobi.
So uncivilized.


Commander Karbin,
cybernetic Mon Cala.
He is no Grievous.


Here is a fun fact:
Mister Bones has some Grievous
programming in him.

Another fun fact:
I don’t have any Grievous
programming in me.


Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough
Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Rasp
Rasp, Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough


Hold up for a sec!
Grievous was a cyborg but
couldn’t get new lungs!?!?!

Are we surprised, though?
I mean, Padmé thought she was
having one baby.

Honestly, med tech
in Star Wars is advanced but
weirdly lacking, too.


Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough
Cough, Rasp, Cough, Cough, Rasp, Cough, Rasp
Rasp, Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Cough

Rasp, Cough, Rasp, Rasp, Cough
Grievous needs Albuterol.
Get his inhaler.


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

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

Millennium Falcon (November 2017)

Poe Dameron (December 2017)

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

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.


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)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 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. 

Ahsoka Tano, Child Soldier

“I’m the new Padawan learner. I’m Ahsoka Tano.”

While I absolutely love Ahsoka Tano and find her an enthralling Star Wars character, I am also torn by the reality that Tano, a child, was a combatant in the Clone Wars. Story-wise this was purposeful, as a juvenile protagonist – a “youngling” as Obi-Wan Kenobi calls her – was needed to draw younger viewers to The Clone Wars film and television series of the same name, giving kids a character that they could easily identify with. Narrative necessity aside, no one can deny that when she arrives on the planet Christophsis in the movie, Ahsoka Tano not only takes her first steps towards becoming a Jedi Knight but also becomes a child soldier.

Admittedly, when I first watched The Clone Wars movie and series I was never bothered by this reality. In all honesty, it never even crossed my mind until recently. So deeply enchanted by the new Star Wars stories being told, so excited to experience the Clone Wars which Obi-Wan first spoke of in A New Hope, it never dawned on me that Ahsoka Tano’s participation in the war was/is egregious. That Jedi Master Yoda would see fit to use the youngling as a courier, carrying an urgent message into the heart of a major battle is alarming, especially considering she is sent without any body armor. That he and the Jedi Order would allow Ahsoka and other Jedi children to be warriors in the conflict is appalling.

Then again, while alarming and appalling, it is not entirely surprising. The Jedi Order – Master Yoda included – was quick to take command of the clone army in Attack of the Clones, an army of genetically bred soldiers who were also, technically speaking, just children. That the ancient Order, committed to using the mystical Force for “knowledge and defense, never for attack” would move so swiftly to militarize is disconcerting, proof that the Jedi were not only imperfect but also flirted with the Dark Side. Sending children into battle, younglings such as Ahsoka Tano and Caleb Dume (himself younger than even Tano) is but another reminder that the Jedi Order in the late days of the Old Republic acted, at times, in morally and ethically repugnant ways.


I am interested to hear what you have to say about Ahsoka Tano as a child soldier, but I would also encourage you to check out the sites below to read more about the plight of child soldiers around the world. 

Child Soldiers International

Human Rights Watch

Amnest International

Children and Armed Conflict
(Be sure to watch the video featuring Star Wars actor Forest Whitaker)

Transcending Death: The Light

In a recent post – Cheating Death: The Dark – I discussed the hate-filled path Darth Maul traversed in order to survive his horrific wounding in The Phantom Menace. If you have not read the post, or want to refresh your memory, I would encourage you to do so. In this piece I do a 180, flipping the conversation from cheating death to transcending death in order to consider how a Light Sider user can, if they are chosen and deemed worthy, preserve their conscious identity (and bodily form) in the netherworld of the Force. 

As I point out in Cheating Death, the Sith and the Jedi share in having dynamic but also limited understandings of the Force. Just as Darth Maul could not dream of the level of Darkness he would reach in his state of intense hatred, the Jedi also lack full comprehension of what the Light Side offers regarding death. This is not a criticism of the Jedi, though. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the religious orders in Star Wars – Sith, Jedi, Knights of Ren, Nightsisters, and so on – do not have 100% complete conceptual understandings of the Force. Ultimately, the religious orders believe about the Force is centered around their specific experience of it and, as a result, their respective dogmas directly reflect this experiential knowledge.

A perfect example of the Jedi Order’s limit is the skepticism – nay, the outright denial – that one can preserve their individuality after death. In The Clone Wars Season Six episode “Voices,” Anakin Skywalker describes the Order’s dogma on the subject of life after death quite poignantly when he states, “…everything that we know about the Force tells us that an individual retaining their identity after death is impossible.” To this we can also add Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi, ranking member of the Jedi Council, who notes “…the dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.” Even Master Yoda, the oldest/wisest of the Jedi and head of the Council, does not at first believe in the possibility of maintaining one’s individuality after death, expressing his own skepticism when he hears the voice of dead Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Nevertheless, Yoda will come to realize that Master Jinn is speaking to him, opening himself to a possibility he thought impossible. In turn, guided by Qui-Gon, Yoda will begin his own journey towards transcendence.

The journey, though, is not an easy one. Yoda, we find in the last few episodes of The Clone Wars series (starting with “Voices”), must face significant trials to show that he is worthy of retaining his individuality after death. In other words, the great gift of transcendence is not liberally given to all Light Side users. While Jedi Masters such as Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Shaak Ti, and Ki-Adi Mundi are incredibly wise and act with good intentions, they nevertheless are not presented with the possibility of transcendence.

On the other hand, Yoda is chosen to receive the great gift, chosen because he will “teach one who will save the universe from the great imbalance.” Still, even Yoda must be put to the test, and in the episodes “Destiny” and “Sacrifice” he is forced to master himself – his own darkness, hubris, and temptations – in order to prove that he can master transcendence. It is only after passing these difficult tests, coming into a fuller understanding of his own identity and his connection with the Light Side of the Force, that Yoda will begin a long process of training through which he will learn to manifest consciousness after death.

yodadarkside
Yoda is confronted by his own inner Dark Side and hubris.
Photo Credit: The Clone Wars Season 6, Episode, Episode 12 – “Destiny”

Although we are given a fleeting glimpse of this training in The Clone Wars, the training Yoda receives has otherwise never been fully explored – either shown nor described – in any Star Wars stories. The same is also true for Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom we also know is granted this gift of transcendence. While Yoda explains, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, that Qui-Gon Jinn will be Kenobi’s guide in the process, we are not privy to the tests or lessons Kenobi will learn from his former Master.

Yet, all of this is okay. The Force is mysterious, and some of the sacred teachings, artifacts, and rituals that go hand-in-hand with it should be equally mysterious. Just as Sith and Jedi alike are not privy to every aspect of the Force, the same is also the case for fans of Star Wars. In fact, I would suggest that the training Yoda and Obi-Wan receive never be fully explored, lest we water down the sacred mystery of transcendence through over-explanation or take away from each fan’s imagination. Besides, what we do know is that Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi did learn to manifest consciousness after death, proof that their training, whatever it entailed, was successful.

But while Yoda and Kenobi completed their mysterious training, we also know that Qui-Gon Jinn did not. In “Voices,” Master Jinn explains that he was killed before his training was complete, before he had fully learned to manifest his individuality after death. While his concious identity was preserved at death, enabling him to speak from the beyond as a manifestation of the Force, Qui-Gon is unable to appear in bodily form to those who are still alive. As we are well aware, appearing in bodily form to the living is something which both Kenobi and Yoda are able to do. This is precisely because their bodies quite literally disappeared when “death” arrived, transported along with their consciousness to the netherworld of the Force. Thus, the pinnacle of one’s training, the pinnacle of transcendance, is the capacity to “exist where there is no future or no past” in both mind and body.  

kenobistruckdown
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s body disappears as he is struck down by Darth Vader.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

On this last point, it is worth mentioning that what existence is like for Qui-Gon, Kenobi, and Yoda in the netherworld of the Force is outside of the realm of comprehension. There are simply no words – not here or in any Star Wars story – that can capture what it truly means to exist once one has reached transcendence. Certainly finite language can be used to give hints; after all, even Buddhists understand that all suffering will cease once Nirvana has been reached. But what transcendence actually feels like on a subjective level, what existence means for one who now inhabits the netherworld of the Force, that can only be known to the individual whom has entered the new state of being. And because of this, I hope the existence which Qui-Gon, Kenobi and Yoda achieve is kept a mystery to other characters in the saga as well as fans.

Cheating Death: The Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power to Cheat Death

When we first watched The Phantom Menace and witnessed Darth Maul being sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was safe to assume that the young Dark Lord had been killed. Yet, as we discovered in The Clone Wars animated series, Maul miraculously survived his horrific bifurcation. Confiding in his training and anger, Maul drew upon the Dark Side of the Force to preserve what remained of him. Though his injuries took a physical and mental toll on him, he was able to cling to life and eventually found himself on the junk world of Lotho Minor. It was on the trash-filled planet where his brother, Savage Oppress, would re-discover Darth Maul. Taking the disheveled and mentally unstable Zabrak with him, Oppress returned Maul to Mother Talzin, a Dathomiri Witch who is, we discover much later, Maul’s mother. In turn, using her dark magic, Mother Talzin restored the one-time Dark Lord to his terrifying form, healing his mental anguish and providing him with new, mechanical legs.

Darth Maul’s return in The Clone Wars opened up a rich avenue of story-telling that has since extended into comic-book form (Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir), another animated series (Star Wars Rebels), and a new novel (Ahsoka). But his return also created intriguing ways of thinking about some of the lore and themes in Star Wars. For example, in a previous post from many moons ago – The Last Sith Lord – I speculated on the possibility that it is Maul, and not Vader or Sidious, who is the very last Dark Lord of the Sith (you can read that piece to see what I had to say). And in this post, I wanted to do something similar, this time considering how Maul’s re-emergence in The Clone Wars forces us to think more deeply about the concept of “cheating death,” a critical theme in Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy.

For me, one of the most fascinating bits of lore added in Revenge of the Sith is the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Recounting the tale to Anakin Skywalker, Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) explains that,”Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.” Of course, Palpatine also points out that Plagueis’ apprentice (surprise, it was Sidious!) killed the powerful Sith Lord in his sleep, noting the irony that “He could save others from death, but not himself.”

tale-of-darth-plagueis
Chancellor Palpatine recounts the Tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

With the Tale planted in Skywalker’s mind, it is little surprise that later in the film, when Anakin pledges himself to the teachings of Darth Sidious, he begs the Dark Lord of the Sith to help him save Padmé’s life. One will recall that young Skywalker was having premonitions about his wife’s impending death, visions of her suffering as she dies in child birth. And, in response to Anakin’s plea, Sidious remarks that “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but, if we work together, I know we can discover the secret.”

Now, it’s obvious that Sidious’ statement – “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved” –  is a reference to Darth Plagueis. However, it’s also true that Darth Maul was able to cheat death. Plagueis could keep others from dying, Maul was able to keep himself from dying. This being the case, it begs the question: is it possible to reinterpret Sidious’ statement to suggest he was talking about Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis?

This question has rattled around in my brain for some time, although truthfully it is a difficult one to answer in the affirmative. Sidious’ intention when he says this line is pretty straight-forward: to manipulate Anakin into accepting Sidious as his new Master. Since Sidious seems interested in helping Anakin discover the power to cheat death – all for the sake of saving Padmé – it makes sense that young Skywalker would pledge himself to the Dark Lord. Along these lines, it is also worth remembering that after Anakin lost his mother in Attack of the Clones, he vehemently declares that he will become so powerful he will “learn how to stop people from dying.” Given Skywalker’s intense desire to keep his loved ones from death, it is no wonder that 1) Palpatine told Anakin the Tale of Darth Plagueis and; 2) that he offered to help the young man discover the secret to cheating death.

pledge-to-sidious
Anakin pledges himself to Darth Sidious.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

None of this is to suggest, of course, that Darth Sidious and Anakin were ignorant that Darth Maul cheated death; both are well-aware the Sith survived his injuries and is still very much alive. But due to the context of this scene – embedded, as it is, in the Revenge of the Sith and the Prequel Trilogy – I find it unlikely that Sidious was referring to Darth Maul and not Darth Plagueis. Because Skywalker’s motivation is to save others from death – a power he was told Plagueis possessed – there is really no reason to imagine Darth Maul is at the forefront of his mind (or Sidious’) in the scene.

Nevertheless, I am still open to and intrigued by the possibility that Sidious was thinking of/referring to Darth Maul when he says “to cheat death is a power only one has achieved.” But I am not going to force the issue, in part because I have a lot of other things to say about cheating death and will be doing more posts on the topic. If, someday, a light turns on in my head and I figure out a way to make it work then I will be sure to share it with y’all. Otherwise, perhaps one of you will find a way to work it out in the meantime. 


More posts on the topic of cheating death:

Cheating Death: The Dark

Transcending Death: The Light

Imperial Profile: Admiral Tenant

“Nils Tenant is very competent.” – Moff Tarkin to Emperor Palpatine (from the novel Tarkin)

Admittedly, it is a bit odd that I decided to write a post about Rear Admiral Nils Tenant. On the one hand, with the recent revelation that my all-time favorite Star Wars character,  Grand Admiral Thrawn, will be making his glorious return to the universe, one would think I would be doing a post on him instead. It is certainly true that I am beyond excited to encounter Thrawn in a new novel and Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels, but at the moment, I am just not prepared to post anything about him.

On the other hand, doing a post on Tenant is odd because he is a rather minor Star Wars character. Actually, saying he is a minor character is being generous. The fact is, Nils Tenant has received only two canonical appearances in the Star Wars universe. His first comes in The Clone Wars episode “Overlords,” appearing rather briefly in the newsreel which serves as a prelude to the show. While he goes unnamed in the show, the episode guide for “Overlords” on StarWars.com at least puts a rank/name to his face, identifying him as Admiral Tenant.

In turn, James Luceno incorporated Tenant into his novel Tarkin. Given the first name Nils and the Imperial rank of Rear Admiral, Tenant’s story is slightly expanded in the book. Most notably, we discover that Rear Admiral Tenant and Moff Wilhuff Tarkin – the novels main protagonist – have a fond relationship dating back to their time in the Sullust Sector Spacefarers Academy. Crossing paths early in the novel when Tarkin travels to Coruscant, the two men have a short but cordial conversation as two friends. While I won’t spoil the dialogue for those who have not read Luceno’s book, I will note that the most revealing moment in the conversation comes when Tenant asks his friend to “put in a word for me” with the Emperor (whom Tarkin is heading to meet when the two cross paths).

TarkinCover
The cover of the novel Tarkin.
Photo Credit – Del Rey

Now, on the surface of things, this scene could just be interpreted as one officer trying to use his personal connections to gain more status. In fact, Tarkin even recognizes that this is precisely what Tenant is doing, thinking to himself that “he could understand wanting to be in the Emperor’s good graces…” However, Tarkin does not chastise Tenant for the request. While the Governor is slighty caught-off guard by it, he never-the-less validates his friend by clasping Tenant on the shoulder and stating “If the occasion arises, Nils.” In turn, Tenant smiles and states that Tarkin is “a good man.” And that, right there, is the point of the entire conversation – the exchange helps to establish Wilhuff Tarkin, a man we know will order the destruction of Alderaan thirteen years later, as a man who is also viewed by some as a decent individual. In other words, Rear Admiral Tenant’s brief appearance aids in the humanization of Moff Tarkin!!!

But that is the most I will say about Tarkin and his fascinating character development in the novel that bears his name. I encourage you all to read Tarkin if you haven’t – it is, in fact, my favorite novel in the Star Wars canon to date – but otherwise I wish to turn back to Nils Tenant. Of course, there is little more to say about him other than filling in small details from the novel. After serving in the Clone Wars as the commander of a Venator-class Star Destroyer (his ship is also in  “Overlords”), we learn that he was assigned to “pacification” once the Empire was formed. Unfortunately, what this means is never clarified in Tarkin, although I presume it refers to the pacification of worlds/species/groups rebelling against Imperial rule. Furthermore, we also learn through his conversation with the Governor that Admiral Tenant had returned to Coruscant for a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, a body made up of the top brass in the Empire’s Army and Navy. As if a moment of foreshadowing, at novels end, the narrator tells us that Rear Admiral Tenant has also become a member of the Joint Chiefs, a promotion perhaps resulting from Tarkin’s conversation with the Emperor. 

Beyond these basics, though, Nils Tenant receives no more major character development in the novel Tarkin. None-the-less, his brief conversation with Governor Tarkin was enough to capture my attention and write this post on him, and because of this I also hope that Rear Admiral Tenant makes some more appearances at various points throughout the canon. Personally, I have always had an intense fascination with the Imperial officers corps, a fascination responsible for posts on other officers in the past – Wullf Yularen and Maximilian Veers – and posts to come. While Nils Tenant and other peripheral characters do not necessarily drive the stories in the Star Wars canon, their presence/existence never-the-less deepens our understanding of the Empire and it’s powerful military. Plus, those officers who are major characters, such as Wilhuff Tarkin and Rae Sloane, benefit from a strong supporting cast which interacts with them, even if that interaction is a short conversation in a bustling hallway.

As for Nils Tenant, I don’t anticipate he will ever become a major actor in the Star Wars saga, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him again especially since James Luceno is the author of the upcoming novel Star Wars: Catalyst, a novel serving as a prelude to the film Rogue One. I just have a small feeling that we’ll encounter Rear Admiral Nils Tenant when the book is released. But hey, even if we don’t, I still think he’ll pop up again somewhere in the canon.