Trade Federation

TC-14: The Federation Protocol Droid

While the 3PO-series protocol droid is the most common and recognizable protocol droid in Star Wars, thanks in no small part to C-3PO, other series of protocol droids do exist. The TC-series protocol droid is one such example, although you would be forgiven if you confused a TC unit with a 3PO unit because they look nearly identical. Having the same manufacturer, Cybot Galactica, the TC-series can basically be thought of as an upgraded version of the 3PO-series.

We meet a TC-series protocol droid for the first time in The Phantom Menace. A Trade Federation protocol droid with silver plating and feminine programing serving aboard the Lucrehulk-cargo freighter Saak’ak, TC-14 greets Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi when the two Jedi arrive to negotiate with the Federation. Leading them to a conference room, TC-14 promptly leaves to inform Viceroy Nute Gunray, leader of the Trade Federation, that the two Republic ambassadors are Jedi Knights. Shocked by this news, Gunray and the captain of the Saak’ak, Daultay Dofine, decide to send TC-14 back into the room with refreshments while they figure out what to do. Moments later, after the conference room is filled with dioxin gas, TC-14 will walk out of the room and encounter waiting battle droids, “excusing” itself and exiting before the two Jedi go on the offensive. 

And, yeah, that is it. TC-14 is only on-screen for a handful of moments at the outset of Episode I. What happens to “her” after leaving the conference room is a mystery, your guess being as good as mine (although she isn’t destroyed during the Battle of Naboo as the Saak’ak is NOT the Droid Control Ship). Never-the-less, TC-14’s introduction and brief role in The Phantom Menace set the stage for more TC-series protocol droids to appear in other Star Wars stories, and I will discuss some of those droids in future posts. 


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

The Trials of Nute Gunray

It is, for all intents and purposes, a statement in Attack of the Clones that is meant to inform and nothing more. Speaking with Senator Padmé Amidala (the former Queen of Naboo) and Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker, Governor Sio Bibble of Naboo expresses his annoyance that “…after four trials in the Supreme Court, Nute Gunray is still the Viceroy of the Trade Federation.” As a viewer, we know why the Neimodian Viceroy was put on trial: for blockading and invading the planet Naboo. Yet, ten years following the Naboo Crisis depicted in The Phantom Menace, Bibble’s remark gives us a brief and to the point reason for Gunray’s freedom.

While the quote ensures that we have information about Nute Gunray as Attack of the Clones continues – a helpful bit of insight given that Gunray re-emerges later in the film as part of the Separatist cause – I often find myself wondering why, when Bibble references the four trials, that the Viceroy was able to avoid punishment for his crimes. In fact, this curiosity was was amplified recently when I read E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow, a novel which explores Padmé Amidala’s transition from Queen of Naboo to Senator. In the book, the trials are mentioned but details about the proceedings are scarce. Just as Attack of the Clones leaves us wondering what transpired during the court proceedings, Queen’s Shadow does the same, forcing us to fill in the blanks ourselves.

If, then, we put our minds to work filling in those blanks, we can certainly imagine, and even assume, that it was Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious), working behind the scenes, who manipulated the trials to ensure Gunray’s liberty. After all, it was Sidious who held influence over Gunray, convincing the Neimodian to attack Naboo and assuring the Viceroy, when questioned about the invasion’s legality, that he would “make it legal.” Never-the-less, even working under the assumption that Gunray received aid from his Sith benefactor, I cannot help but desire a story – probably in novel form, but I would even take a short-story  – which would highlight how the trials unfolded and the way(s) Palpatine manipulated the outcome of each proceeding to make the invasion “legal.” Additionally, such a story would have the added benefit of exploring the relationship between Palpatine and Gunray prior to The Phantom Menace, offering insight into why the Sith Lord chose the Viceroy and his Trade Federation as a tool in his galactic scheme.

Gunray and Sidious
Nute Gunray speaks to Darth Sidious.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

In turn, we can add another layer to Palpatine’s machinations by including Count Dooku. Becoming Sidious’ new apprentice following Darth Maul’s “death” in The Phantom Menace, Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus) acknowledges in Attack of the Clones that Nute Gunray came to him for help following the Naboo Crisis. Thus, we can assume that Dooku, working in tandem with his Sith Master, participated in the defense of Gunray as the four trials unfolded, offering support both openly and behind-the-scenes. But what Dooku’s support looked like is, again, another reason that the trials of Nute Gunray are worthy of narrative exploration.

At this juncture, I will readily admit that I am probably one of the few Star Wars fans who would be interested in a story of any type about Nute Gunray in general, and his trials specifically. Gunray is not a “sexy” Star Wars character, and is otherwise a pretty straight-forward villain. Never-the-less, as I have noted, I believe there is value in a story about Gunray’s trials, offering perspective and background on his relationship with Palpatine and Dooku, respectively. More importantly, what such a story could offer is insight into an element of Star Wars that is rarely explored with any real depth: the legal  and judicial system of the Old Republic.

While legal and judicial elements are mentioned at times throughout Star Wars stories (such as in Attack of the Clones and Queen’s Shadow) these and related elements are rarely developed with any meaningful depth. As a result, while fans have some basic understanding about laws, courts, judges, etc. in Star Wars, this information tends to be shallow and underdeveloped. For example, we know there was a Supreme Court thanks to Bibble’s comment about Gunray’s trials, but how many justices sit on the Supreme Court, and how they are nominated/confirmed, remains a mystery. In turn, while we know there were four trials in total, we do not know what charges were brought against Gunray, a point worthy of exploration that could shed light on whether the Republic had laws governing double jeopardy.

These are but a few thoughts which come to mind when I personally think about the legal and judicial system of the Old Republic. And, again, I believe a story about Gunray’s trials could shed light on a wide-range of topics regarding that system. Even more critically, though, shedding light on the ins-and-outs of the Republic’s legal system is necessary in further understanding why the Galactic Republic ultimately collapsed. While we know Palpatine ascended to the mantle of Supreme Chancellor, and was subsequently given emergency powers by the Senate at the outbreak of the Clone War – powers which gave him far-reaching control over the Republic and its bureaucracy – what we also know is that Palpatine was able to gain control over the courts. It is Jedi Master Mace Windu who tells us as much when, speaking to Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, he exclaims that Palpatine “…has control over the Senate and the courts!”

Star Wars has, for the most part, done a good job of showing how Palpatine controlled the Senate as Supreme Chancellor, using his authority and powers to erode the institution. Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars animated series, countless books/comics, and more have tackled this topic from multiple angles, showcasing Palpatine’s tyrannical takeover of the Republic’s governing body. However, what Star Wars has not done very well is show exactly how he came to control the courts, using the authority and powers of his Chancellorship to dominate the legal/judicial system of the Republic. This is precisely where a story about Nute Gunray’s trials before the Supreme Court become a necessity. Such a tale would lay out critical details not only about the Republic’s legal system (i.e. – the number of justices on the Supreme Court) but would also show how, as he methodically took control over the levers of power in the legislative branch, Palpatine used the trials of Nute Gunray as a stepping stone towards his insidious transformation of the judicial branch to fit his evil agenda.

Love for the Lucrehulk

I have said it once and I will say it again: my love of Star Wars – especially my love of specific elements within Star Wars – is based in large part on my experiences with the franchise as a kid. That very obvious and totally unnecessary first sentence out of the way, I’m just gonna get straight to the point:

I absolutely love the Lucrehulk-class Battleship.

Growing up, I always had a deep fascination for capital ships in Star Wars, with the Star Destroyer taking the obvious top spot in my list of favorites. While the iconic backbone of the Imperial fleet gets the gold medal from me, other capital ships have never-the-less stolen my heart. And that is precisely the case with the Lucrehulk.

Introduced in The Phantom Menace, the Lucrehulk-class Battleship is the backbone of the Trade Federation fleet. As a 14-year-old Star Wars fan watching Episode I in 1999, seeing the Lucrehulk blew my mind to pieces. Blockading the planet Naboo, the fleet of Federation battleships instantly captivated me and my imagination. Up to that point, at least on the big screen, we had only ever seen two types of Star Wars fleets: the Imperial Fleet and the Rebel Fleet. But this changed in the opening scene of The Phantom Menance with the introduction of the Trade Federation and their own capital ships. Now, a third fleet of ships existed, a fleet that could hold a world hostage over something as trivial as “taxation of trade routes.”

Ever since that first viewing of The Phantom Menace, ever since I encountered the Lucrehulk in the opening of the film, these battleships have held a special place in my Star Wars heart. Aesthetically these vessels were unique, neither having the angular form of the Star Destroyers or the obvious length of ships like Home One (the Rebel Flagship) or the Nebulon-B Frigate (the Medical frigate). Instead, the battleship is massive while also being compact, its circular outer body used for cargo, broken at the front, surrounding a bulbous core. Looking so fundamentally different from other Star Wars capital ships, the Lucrehulk, it’s curious but intriguing design, invaded my mind like the Federation invading Naboo, taking over without any resistance.

On a rational level, there is no reason the Lucrehulk should captivate me in the way it does. There are other ships that one could argue deserve more attention, and perhaps they are right. But then again, I’m not arguing from a place of rationality. My love for the Lucrehulk is entirely nostalgic, going back (at this point) 19 years to a formative moment in my youth. This is precisely why, while I DO have rational reasons for some aspects of Star Wars I love, and those that I don’t, I would never impose my rationality on the formative nostalgia of others. Someone very well might hate the Lucrehulk. They might hate the design, hate the Trade Federation, even hate The Phantom Menace. I won’t argue with them because I flipping love the Lucrehulk and that is all that matters to me.

And so, to articulate in some other way just how profound my feelings are when it comes to this vessel, consider this: I have watched and rewatched The Clone Wars episode “Storm over Ryloth” an absurd number of times because a Lucrehulk is the center piece of the Confederate blockade of Ryloth in that episode. This isn’t to say the battleship is the only reason I enjoy this episode of The Clone Wars animated show, but I constantly drawn back to “Storm over Ryloth,” at least in part, by the imposing circular giant in orbit over the Twi’lek home world. Besides, it looks really REALLY cool when Anakin crashes his Jedi Cruiser into the battleship.

Battle of Ryloth
A burning Jedi Cruiser (foreground) speeds towards the flagship of the Confederate blockade over Ryloth, a Lucrehulk-class Battleship (distant).

Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 1, Episode 19), “Storm over Ryloth”

Haikuesday: Queen Amidala

Unique Politics:
Young, female monarch and an
old, male Senator.


Queen Amidala.
Elected at age fourteen.
Leader of Naboo.


Her first name: Padmé.
Comes from Sanskrit origin.
Its meaning: lotus.

Hindu Religion –
Padma, the sacred lotus,
symbol of beauty.

Vibrant and lovely,
rich with color, the flower
and Queen Padmé’s gowns.

“Queenliest flower”
wrote poet Toru Dutt in
Sonnet: The Lotus.

Growing in ponds, lakes.
Untouched by water or mud.
The lotus is pure.

We literally watch
Padmé blossom as Queen in
The Phantom Menace.

Goddess Shri-Lakshmi,
depicted with the lotus.
Shri-Lakshmi…shmi…shmi.

I’m not gonna lie:
teaching Hinduism in
haiku form is tough.


Trade Federation.
Blockade of peaceful Naboo.
Iron-willed Padmé.


Not wanting a war
but war is forced on the world.
What will the Queen do?


Inquisitive Queen.
“You’re a Gungan…” she asks Binks.
She’s never met one?

Haiku Addendum:
One would think that Naboo’s Queen
has met with Gungans.


Bodyguards, decoys.
Like their highness, they are brave.
The Queen’s handmaidens.


A clever disguise!
The Queen dresses as one of
her own handmaidens.


Sandy, sun scorched world.
The Queen wishes to learn more…
…by sending herself.

I have to be frank:
I’m sure Qui-Gon Jinn knew that 
Padmé was the Queen.


“You’re a slave,” she asks.
“I’m a person,” he declares.
Someday they will kiss.


Fate in a boy’s hands.
Handmaiden Queen admits that
she does not approve.


Jedi are reckless,
the handy Queen tells Qui-Gon.
Yeah, sometimes they are.


Boonta Eve Podrace.
Fly real fast, go left sometimes.
She cheers for Ani.


The Queen is worried.
Her people are suffering.
Will the Senate help?


Speaking to Senate,
Queen Amidala calls for
no confidence vote.


Begging for their help,
Amidala bows to the
greatness of Gungans.


Queen of the Naboo.
Military strategist.
Fourteen but gifted.


Leading from the front,
Amidala risks her life
to save her people.


Viceroy Nute Gunray
deceived by Keira Knightley!
Decoy “Queen” Sabé


Here is a fun fact:
I am two days older than
Ms. Keira Knightley.


The Royal Decoy
orders the real Queen to clean
astromech R2.

Haiku Addendum:
I can’t help but wonder if
that made Padmé mad.


At last, there is peace!
Amidala and Boss Nass
commit to friendship.


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)

Ryloth (July 2017)