The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: On the Front Lines (Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R-3PO: The Red Protocol Droid

In my previous two posts about protocol droids I focused on two from the TC-series of droids: TC-14 and TC-70. In this post, I decided to switch things up once again and go back to the 3PO-series by offering some details about R-3PO, the red protocol droid. 

R-3PO, like its counterpart K-3PO, only appears in The Empire Strikes Back. Specifically, the protocol droid can be found in two distinct scenes in the film, both times in the Echo Base hanger. The first scene is in the opening minutes of the film when Han Solo returns from his tauntaun patrol of Hoth. As Solo walks around an X-Wing and heads towards the Millennium Falcon, which is in the background, one will catch a quick glimpse of R-3PO walking by in the foreground. But to see the droid you have to look closely because the foreground is dark and it is slightly difficult to see R-3PO.

Later in the film, when the Rebels are scrambling to evacuate Echo Base, R-3PO shows up once again. Following the death of Admiral Ozzel, and Captain Piett’s promotion to Admiral, the very next scene takes us back to the Echo Base hanger. Now, we see Rebel pilots running to join Princess Leia’s briefing where she is discussing the evacuation and defense of the base. As the pilots run to the assembly of pilots, R-3PO is clearly visible on the right side of the screen, standing near an X-Wing and watching the commotion unfolding around it. 

And, yeah, that is it. As I said, R-3PO pops up briefly in two scenes. Ultimately, like so many other droids in the saga, R-3PO’s role in The Empire Strikes Back is straight-forward: populating the background in the Star Wars universe. Never-the-less, even though R-3PO is an extremely minor character doing very little on-screen, it has been given a sliver of backstory. As the canonical reference book Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know notes, R-3PO is a “moody, red protocol droid on the lookout for spies” (pg. 164). This counterespionage role for R-3PO is, in fact, a carry over from the Expanded Universe where R-3PO was first presented as being tasked with weeding out spies among the droid pool in Echo Base. And considering this aspect of R-3PO’s background has been maintained in the Star Wars canon, it is probably safe to assume that the droid was also abandoned by its master, a smuggler who “accidentally” left the moody R-3PO in the hands of the Rebel Alliance. 


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

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

TC-70: The Hutt’s Protocol Droid

AP-5: The Singing Protocol Droid

E-3PO: The Rude Protocol Droid

The moment in The Empire Strikes Back is brief but memorable, a short exchange between protocol droids. Having just landed on Cloud City, and meeting Lando Calrissian for the first time, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO follow Calrissian through the halls of the atmospheric metropolis. As they all turn a corner, a door on the right opens and standing before C-3PO is a droid that looks similar to him, another protocol droid: E-3PO (first identified by name in the Star Wars Customizable Card Game). Their conversation goes like this…

C-3PO: “Oh, nice to see a familiar face.”
E-3PO: “E chu ta.”
C-3PO: “How rude!”

And, yeah, that’s it. Like I said, the moment is brief, and as E-3PO walks-off, C-3PO goes on to get himself shot by stormtroopers. Where E-3PO goes once exiting the scene is unknown, this short appearance and one-liner being it’s singular moment to shine in the film, doing so by jumping on the C-3PO insult wagon. It is worth remembering that up to this point in The Empire Strikes Back, our favorite protocol droid has been the butt of a number of jokes in the movie, primarily due to his penchant for annoying those around him…especially Han Solo. I won’t list these moments as you should be familiar with them (if not, go watch the movie?), but with these moments in mind we can all pretty easily understand why C-3PO, when he literally comes face-to-face with another protocol droid, would say it is “nice to see a familiar face.” That E-3PO instead reacts by being rude is just fantaaaaaaaastic, a sign that C-3PO doesn’t just annoy his human allies, but instantaneously annoys other droids just by speaking. 

But what does this Huttese phrase which E-3PO levels, “E chu ta“, actually mean? More importantly, does it even matter? The basic fact is that it is clearly an insult, a form of Huttese curse, and it works even better without knowing what it “officially” means. The imagination is more than capable of filling in the blank. And since that’s the case, I will just offer what I like to believe the “rude” E-3PO is saying…

C-3PO: “Oh, nice to see a familiar face.”
E-3PO: “Eat shit.”
C-3PO: “How rude!”

You gotta admit that “E chu ta” does kinda sound like “Eat shit.” 😉


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

U-3PO: The Other Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

K-3PO: The Dead Protocol Droid

I recently wrote a short piece about U-3PO, the other protocol droid on that Tantive IV at the beginning of A New Hope. I did so because a friend had asked me about the protocol droid, wondering if I had any information about it. After writing that post, I got this crazy idea to write some more posts about protocol droids which appear off to the side or in the background of scenes throughout the Star Wars saga. And so, in this post, I want to jump into The Empire Strikes Back and offer some brief background, along with my unsolicited thoughts, on K-3PO, the dead protocol droid in the Rebel base on Hoth.

K-3PO behind Toryn Farr
K-3PO stands behind Toryn Farr.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Easily identified by its white-plating and two red dots on the right side of its chest, K-3PO is a protocol droid that works in the Echo Base command center. The first time K-3PO appears in The Empire Strikes Back is when Han Solo enters the command center to tell General Rieekan that he is planning to leave the Alliance. In that scene, K-3PO is working at a tactical screen as Solo walks by. Later, when the fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers arrive in orbit above Hoth, the protocol droid can be found once again in the command center, just before the ion cannon is fired, standing behind Toryn Farr, the woman who is speaking in this particular scene.

After the Battle of Hoth commences, with the Rebels fighting desperately to hold off the advancing Imperial Walkers, we once again return to the Rebel commander center with Han Solo. Questioned by Princess Leia about why he is still in the base, Solo comments that he heard that “the command center had been hit” by the Empire. The scene suggests as much, with the twisted wreckage of screens and computers strewn about the icy room. And there, among the wreckage, is the “lifeless” form of K-3PO, right arm missing and a massive scorch mark emblazoned on its white chest.

To be honest, I have always appreciated that K-3PO is laying among the wreckage in the command center. I admit this seems a bit strange, an odd expression of enthusiasm over K-3PO’s demise. But this is not to say I wanted the droid to die. Far from it. No, what I appreciate is that the protocol droid’s “death” adds an extra layer, even a small one, to the dire situation the Rebels find themselves in at this moment in the film. While K-3PO is not the focus of the scene, its prominent place in the foreground as Han Solo climbs over debris forces the audience to take notice, to recognize that this Rebel droid is a casualty of the Imperial attack. Every time I watch The Empire Strikes Back I cannot help but look at the dead protocol droid, a droid I have seen, albeit briefly, actively working in this very command center in those two previous scenes. I may not have known this protocol droid, not in the way I know R2-D2 or C-3PO, but a tiny amount of sympathy never-the-less takes hold when I see its broken, inactive form among the mangled screens, wires, and debris of the Rebel base. 

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Oh No! A Wampa!
Commander Skywalker is
attacked by a beast!


Hanging Upside-Down
Oh look, it’s his lightsaber…
..but just out of reach. 😦


OH WAIT! USE THE FORCE!
Eyes closed and hand extended…
The saber responds.


OH NO! THE WAMPA!
Freed from the ice, Luke attacks.
Poor one-armed Wampa. 😦


Hoth’s frozen tundra.
A blizzard lashes at Luke
and our hero falls.


Ben’s apparition
gives Luke a direct command:
“Go to Dagobah.”


Stuffed in a Tauntaun…
…they smell bad on the outside
and on the inside.


Floating in Bacta.
Then, a few minutes later,
kissing his sister.


The Battle of Hoth.
All-Terrain Armored Transports.
Luke leads Rogue Squadron.


“Hobbie! “I’ve been hit!”
…annnnnd once again Luke crashes
to Hoth’s snowy ground.


“All the scopes are dead.”
Luke enters Dagobah’s sky.
“I can’t see a thing.”


A swampy landing.
“Artoo, what are we doing…?”
The droid throws up mud.


“Like we’re being watched!”
A strange creature confronts Luke
and trashes his camp.


Important question:
“Why wish you become Jedi?”
“…my father, I guess.”


“We’re wasting our time!”
“Cannot teach him. No patience.”
The creature? Yoda!


Yoda on his back.
Luke begins Jedi training.
And learns of the Force.

Haiku Addendum:
Jedi training involves a
lot of cardio.


Dark, sinister cave.
“That place…strong with the dark side.”
So Luke just walks in…


Dark Confrontation –
Face-to-face with his father’s
killer: Darth Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
A dream like battle ensues.
There is no victor.


Upside-down again.
Luke lifts rocks using the Force.
But crashes again.


His X-Wing sinking.
“We’ll never get it out now!”
Yoda is annoyed.


“Luminous beings.”
“Life creates it, makes it grow.”
“You must feel the Force.”


Yoda moves Luke’s ship.
“I don’t…I don’t believe it.”
“That is why you fail.

Haiku Addendum:
I hope Luke thanked Yoda for
freeing the X-Wing.


Meanwhile, elsewhere…
Han. Leia. Asteroids. Slugs.
Darth Vader. Hunters.


Upside-down again.
This time Luke crashes after
a vision of friends.


Decision to make:
go and help his friends or to
finish his training.

Haiku Addendum:
because he is impatient,
Luke decides to leave.

Haiku Addendum:
internalizing lessons
is not Luke’s strong point.


Onto Cloud City!
Luke waltzes into a trap.
The truth awaits him.


“The Force is with you.”
The Carbon Freezing Chamber.
Luke confronts Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
Skywalker holds his own but
it won’t be enough.


Launched out a window.
Pushed back onto a platform.
An abyss below.


A deadly blade stroke.
Maimed by Vader’s blood red blade.
“There is no escape.”


“I’ll never join you!”
And now the truth is revealed…
“I am your Father.”


“That’s impossible!”
“…we can rule the galaxy
as father and son…”


Calm comes over Luke.
A decision has been made.
He lets go…and falls.


Upside-down again
Luke has nowhere else to go.
One option remains.


Calling to Leia,
Luke reaches out with the Force.
His sister responds.

Haiku Addendum:
in the next film, they will learn
that they are siblings.

Haiku Addendum:
…but pay attention and you
can figure it out. 😉

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, “Empire”
gives you the info.


Luke gets a new hand!
And Lando wears Han’s clothing.
Did Hobbie survive?


Meanwhile, on Hoth…
the one-armed Wampa adjusts
to a one-armed life. 

Luke maims the Wampa.
And Vader maims Skywalker.
Quite interesting…

This post is Part 2 of 3 in a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Be on the lookout next Tuesday for for the final installement with haiku about Luke in Return of the Jedi!

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

 

Favorite Star Wars Music (by Film)

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

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

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


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


The Empire Strikes Back – “Yoda’s Theme”

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


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


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

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


Attack of the Clones – “Across the Stars”


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


The Clone Wars – “Battle of Christophsis”


The Force Awakens “The Jedi Steps”

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


Rogue One“Your Father Would Be Proud”


The Last Jedi – “The Spark”


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

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

Haikuesday: Millennium Falcon

These haiku are based
on “Millennium Falcon”
by James Luceno

Haiku Addendum:
obviously I’m kidding
so let’s begin here…


The “Falcon” is the
single most important ship
in all of Star Wars.

If you don’t agree,
well, that is perfectly fine.
Except, you are wrong.


Make: Corellian
YT-1300f
And sort of trashy.


Cockpit on the right…
…so how the hell does Solo
see ships to his left?

Haiku Addendum:
the cockpit placement seems like
a big design flaw.


A really fast ship:
it makes point five past light speed…
…whatever that means.


Easter Egg Alert!?!?!
Y’all see the “Falcon” over
Jedha in Rogue One!?!?!?!


“What a piece of junk.”
Luke insults Solo’s baby.
Han just doesn’t care.


A really fast ship:
It made the Kessel Run in
less than twelve parsecs.

Point of inquiry:
wasn’t it fourteen parsecs?
Someone go ask Rey.


Han’s best maneuver:
list lazily to the left.
Family Guy joke.


“You came in that thing,”
the Princess asks the Captain.
“Braver than I thought.”


Dorsal and Ventral.
Quad laser cannons blast TIEs.
Luke gets one; Han too.


Last ship to arrive
at the Battle of Yavin.
A Death Star Destroyed.


Inside Echo Base
Chewie and Han make repairs…
…a lot of repairs.


Tool: hydrospanner
Use: fixing broken “Falcons”
A space screw driver.


On the Avenger,
the “Falcon” hides in plain sight,
which is sort of odd.

Point of Inquiry:
how come no TIE pilots saw
the “Falcon” parked there?


On Cloud City we
learn that Calrissian used
to own the “Falcon.”


We never see Han
piloting his prized “Falcon”
in Episode VI.


A really fast ship:
Solo offers his baby
to Calrissian.


“She won’t get a scratch.”
“I got your word…not a scratch.”
She, ah, gets a scratch…


First ship to arrive
at the Battle of Endor.
A Death Star Destroyed.


Leading Endor charge.
The Millennium Falcon
blasts TIEs left and right.


The Endor gunners –
Two Rebels: Cracken and Blount
They deserve praise, too.


Lando and Nien Nunb
pilot the “Falcon” into
the Second Death Star.


Sub-light: Girodyne
Hyperdrive: An Isu-Sim
Power Core: Quadex


“The garbage will do,”
Rey says to Finn as they flee
First Order Fighters.


Stolen by Ducain,
then the Irving Boys, then Plutt,
then by Rey, then Han.


Stress on hyperdrive.
Ignition line compression.
Some moof-milker’s fault.


Now that Han is dead,
who technically owns his ship?
Leia? Chewie? Rey?

Haiku Addendum:
did Solo have a space will?
Maybe Ben gets it…


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)

General Grievous (October 2017)

Poe Dameron (December 2017)

The Imperial March

When the new Star Wars ComLINKS topic for October 2017 – Favorite Musical Score –  was announced over at Anakin and His Angel I knew I had to jump in and participate. For a while now, I have been thinking about writing a bit more about the music that accompanies Star Wars, the iconic compositions of John Williams that give the original trilogy gravitas and have also influenced other Star Wars composers. It is safe to say – and really a no-brainer – that without the music of Williams, Star Wars would be much different. But I will leave a larger conversation of the music of Star Wars to another person, or at least save it for another occasion. For now, with the ComLINKS topic in mind, I am excited to share my thoughts/feelings on Favorite Musical Score in Star Wars. And, of course, it’s “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme).”

The word “theme” is appropriate here because, let’s face it, I consistently return to The Empire Strikes Back to discuss my favorite aspects of Star Wars. It should really come as no surprise, then, that my favorite score would also come from my favorite Star Wars film. Naturally I love Star Wars across the board, but my deep affection for The Empire Strikes Back – embedded within me as a child – is the true grounding of my Star Wars adoration. That being the case, the issue at hand is not that my favorite musical score comes from The Empire Strikes Back, but rather, why is this particular score from the film’s soundtrack my favorite and not another?

To be entirely blunt, “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” is my favorite score because it is established as the de facto anthem of the Galactic Empire. As a child, I was fascinated by the Empire, having a “Casterfoian” (google “Casterfo”) interest in the baddies of the Star Wars universe. While I knew the Empire was evil, and I celebrated the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope with the Rebels, The Empire Strikes Back introduced me to a different way of viewing/experiencing the Empire. No longer were they simply the bad guys with a massive moon-sized space station but, instead, they were the bad guys who had Probe Droids, Super Star Destroyers, Imperial Walkers, Snowtroopers, TIE Bombers, and more. Even though they took a big hit in A New Hope, these baddies were anything but knocked out, and still had the means to level a crushing blow to the Rebel Alliance on the planet Hoth. And, to top it off, the Empire now had distinct piece of music – doubling as the theme for the villainous Darth Vader – to capture their harsh, galactic reach.

To this day, the raw power of “The Imperial March” continues to captivate and hold me not only because it originates in The Empire Strikes Back, but because I have come to appreciate it on a deeper level. As a child, I was unaware that the piece was influenced by Chopin’s “Funeral March” and Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War.” And yet, today, I am equally captivated by these pieces, all thanks to my childhood enjoyment of the Empire/Vader’s powerful anthem. Plus, this is also the case with a number of others scores from Star Wars, my enjoyment of these leading me to a more profound appreciation of other classical pieces.

At the same time, while “The Imperial March” is laced with childhood meaning and has led me to its musical influences, it also continues to be a piece that, quite frankly, captures me and takes hold each time I hear it. The repetition of the strings in the opening riff, crisp and dark (thanks to it being in a minor key), captures my attention until the brass presents the iconic melody in the fifth bar, gripping me with its clear-cut strength and power. Having washed over me like a wave in a storm, there is no escape. The moment I hear the opening to “The Imperial March,” and the iconic brass melody which serves as a leitmotif for Empire and Vader has begun, I must continue to listen. It would be wrong to turn around, to stop the March from moving forward. And so, no matter the situation, I will always let “The Imperial March” continue…

…which is, in a very real sense, the point of the piece. “The Imperial March” is aptly named because it perfectly encompasses the forward progress of the Galactic Empire, a progression which is difficult to stop. The Empire, wounded as it was at Yavin IV, continues its march of terror, death, and destruction. And, of course, Darth Vader spearheads the Imperial march across the galaxy, hunting down those who wish to stop the Empire. But it cannot be stopped, it will not be stopped, and it is futile to even try.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angelswcomlinksbanner1

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 Force Awakens Without Lando

Admittedly, I was disappointed that Lando Calrissian, our favorite smooth-talking “galactic entrepreneur,” was left out of The Force Awakens. While arguments in defense of his absence have typically revolved around that fact that he was not an “original” character in the Original Trilogy, I have consistently felt that this argument is flawed. True, Lando was not in A New Hope and was only introduced at the outset of the Third Act in The Empire Strikes Back. But from his first appearance as Baron Administrator of Cloud City and onward, Lando Calrissian (portrayed by Billy Dee Williams) was elevated to “origial character” status, playing a critical role in the major events which unfold in the remainder of Original Trilogy.

This being the case, it’s especially important to remember (as if one could really forget) that Lando not only commanded the Rebel Starfighter squadrons during The Battle of Endor, but that he also flew the Millennium Falcon into the superstructure of the Second Death Star and (with the help of X-Wing pilot Wedge Antilles) destroyed the battle station. So sure, Lando wasn’t an “original” Original Trilogy character, but his actions – culminating in his heroics in Return of the Jedi – absolutely established him as a character equal in importance and stature with R2-D2, C-3PO, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and Han Solo. The iconic last scene in Return of the Jedi, which includes each of these heroes, as well as Lando, is visual proof of this obvious fact (see the featured image above). 

Further, the “not an original character” argument also falls short because Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb, both secondary characters introduced in Return of the Jedi, were in The Force Awakens. While it is pretty damn awesome that Ackbar and Nunb are in the film, it is none-the-less perplexing that Lando was left out while they were not. In fact, this is even more perplexing when one remembers (again, not that one could forget) that Nien Nunb was Lando’s co-pilot during The Battle of Endor. His co-pilot!!!

Lando and Nien
Lando and Nien Nunb in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Now, in stating, albeit briefly, why I think this particular argument for Lando’s absence is flawed, I also have to acknowledge that after watching The Force Awakens, I don’t really think Lando could have fit into the movie all that easily. It is certainly conceivable, for example, that he would be hanging out at Maz Kanata’s Castle on Takodana, but had he been there when Han, Finn, and Rey enter, his presence would have taken away from our introduction to Maz Kanata. And, had he been a member of the Resistance high command on D’Qar, his presence may have felt much more like a basic cameo, just one voice among many offering insight into the battle against the First Order.

These two possibilities are certainly not the only spots Lando could have appeared. However, I don’t really find it necessary to speculate on every moment Calrissian could have popped up in The Force Awakens. Instead, I’d much rather note that these and many other scenes could have accommodated Lando and his unique, out-going personality, but in doing so the scenes – and by extension the film – would have needed to be fundamentally altered to make his appearance meaningful. Certainly, writer/director J.J. Abrams might have been able to find a way to do this, perhaps installing General Calrissian into the Resistance and putting him center-stage to determine the attack plan against Starkiller Base. Yet, for whatever reason(s), Abrams chose not to include Lando, and again, while I’m disappointed by Lando’s absence, I think the movie Abrams made is a good one even without the “old smoothie.”

Besides, with Episode VII in the books, we must now look toward Episode VIII and IX for Calrissian to make another glorious onscreen appearance. And, even though the IMDB page for Episode VIII does not list Billy Dee Williams as part of the cast, I can certainly imagine a scenario in which Lando’s inclusion hidden until the last possible moment. In fact, I would be quite pleased to go into the film unsure if Calrissian was to appear, only to find out he IS in the movie.

Granted, there is the possibility that Lando will not be in Episode VIII (or even IX), and if this is the case my disappointment is gonna quickly morph into outright anger…and I have a feeling I won’t be the only Star Wars fan feeling that anger.


Check out my follow-up to this piece: Lando Loiters in a Marketplace