The Child is Star Wars

To all fellow former Infinity Warriors, and that would probably be most of you reading this, don’t read any further unless you have finished watching Season Two of The Mandalorian. Spoiler Alert.

Have you done so?

Good.

I first started watching Star Wars, the Old Trilogy, when I was about twelve. I’ve mentioned how my parents took us to Hollywood Movies, and we rented the VHS tapes. Before that, I grew up with Ewoks and Droids playing on Channel 3 Global Television whenever I went to my grandparents’ place that Saturday afternoon. Around that same time, and in that same area we would visit my uncle’s house and I would play with a giant shelved container shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet. In this container were action figures of Bossk, and IG-88, and a Snowtrooper. There were many toys missing. They looked old and, literally, from another world and another time. And I saw these labels on each alcove: Obi-Wan Kenobi and See-Threepio. It confused me, then. Was Obi-Wan a droid like Threepio?

It’s safe to say that I grew up with a lot of mysteries and a sense of magic in a world that didn’t really make sense, but seemed larger than I could even dream. And this was before I watched A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

This was before I knew anything.

The Old Trilogy exploded my mind. This space fantasy shaped my brain forever once I saw it: from the crucible of the desert world of Tatooine, to the stark terror and mythology of Dagobah’s Jedi training to the horrifying duel over Bespin, and the redemption and celebration on the forested moon of Endor where my Ewok friends lived in a live-action sense.

And they grew on me: Princess Leia with her assertive power and fierce love and determination, Han Solo overcoming his world-weary cynical nature to save his friends and be a better person, and Luke. Luke Skywalker.

So many of us, I think, from that time saw ourselves in Luke. We followed this young man, this boy, who knew nothing about the world — much like us — as he continued making mistakes, but forever showed his loyalty, always persevering, always wrestling with his emotions to do the right thing. We saw his wonder as he looked at a lightsaber for the first time, the same time that we did. We felt his pain when he saw the charred remains of his aunt and uncle, and that sense of powerlessness in realizing just how brutal the galaxy was. And we were happy when he found his friends, when he started getting better at his Jedi training, and we were worried when Obi-Wan was gone, and wondered just how someone who could barely deflect the blaster bolt of a training remote and then pull a lightsaber to him on Hoth could fight Darth Vader.

I remember just his sense of frustration, and fear. It felt so real to me. But the fear wasn’t just for his life, or the lives of his friends and those he fought for. It was the fear that all he would ever get would be these scraps of a life and a tradition — of great and beautiful arts, powerful cultural tools — that his father had, and that he might not succeed in earning. It was the actual vicarious terror of seeing that there was a chance that Luke might not achieve or realize his full potential, and that he could fail.

Being a perfectionist child with learning disabilities and clear neurodiversity and frustration over my body’s cooperation with my mind, I could feel that so hard, and it made me root for Luke whenever he succeeded, kicked shlebs, and took names.

When Obi-Wan’s spirit told him that he couldn’t — or wouldn’t — help him if went to Cloud City to face Vader before his training, after his failure understanding his vision in the Dark Side Cave, I felt Luke’s frustration. Why wouldn’t Obi-Wan, his mentor and friend, help him against his enemy? And watching Luke lose … so badly, so brutally … I’ve written about it before, how I grew up on eighties and nineties cartoons where the hero always wins their conflicts and the villain runs away to fight another day, or gets put in jail. That didn’t happen. And then the way Luke received that reveal …

Luke didn’t learn from his failure at the Cave on Dagobah. But he learned from his encounter on Cloud City. I knew that Vader was Luke’s father going into this, as it’s been so seeded into the popular consciousness for years, but I didn’t know about Leia. And I didn’t know what was going to happen on the Second Death Star: another subversion of expectations, after so much lead up that ultimately paid off. And then we see Luke at the end: rescuing his father, only to lose him, but not really lose him in a metaphysical sense.

Leia and Han succeeded in their mission on Endor. They became a couple. The Ewoks dominated. The Empire was defeated. Luke had to “pass on what he had learned” and a whole new story began after the ending of an old one. This was in 1983. I watched these in the nineties after being confused about the numbering system.

We did not see another Star Wars film until 1999.

I want you to understand something. Many of us, and I am mostly speaking about myself though I know others felt the same way, wanted to see what happened to Luke, Leia, and Han. We wanted to see Han become a General of the Republic or continue to have adventures. We wanted to see Leia rule the New Republic, and the decisions she would make, and the life she and Han would have together.

And, most of all, I wanted to see Luke become a Jedi Master. I wanted to see him restore the Jedi Order, and what his Jedi would be like. I thought about all the enemies they could face, the challenges, and I just … I wanted to see my friends again.

I just wanted to see my friends again.

And we got that, in a way. We got it through Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, where Obi-Wan’s spirit tells Luke that he isn’t the last of the old Jedi, but the first of the new. We got more of it in further books of varying quality, comics, and video games. Not all of the continuity made sense, but we got the idea that Leia was the Chief of State of the New Republic, Han became a General, and he and Leia had children together that would carry on the legacy and burden of the Skywalkers. And Luke would become a powerful Jedi Grandmaster, and meet with all the remnants of the old Jedi and new Force-sensitives to build something entirely different: exploring the remnants of the old ways, giving us those hints of what time was like before the Empire and when the Jedi were numerous and whole, and showing us just how our hero evolved.

Luke would go on to fight many different adversaries, make mistakes, but always try to redeem those he could from Darkness. He even gets a love interest, after several disastrous relationships, who initially wants to assassinate him but has a son with her. And there were books that took place long after Luke’s time with Skywalker descendants and successor governments to the Republic and Empire, and a myriad of different ideas. There were cool books like Tales of the Jedi and Tales of the Bounty Hunters that fleshed out so much background stuff.

The thing is, this is all we had — for the most part — for literal years, and it was okay. We got to see our friends continue to struggle, but also grow. Was there a sense that nothing could happen to the Big Three? Of course. And I admit that could get tiresome. But they were … they were my friends growing up in a real world that, like I said, didn’t always make much sense. And I would have loved to see them come back in a Sequel Trilogy.

It wasn’t Disney’s fault that we didn’t get to see the Big Three together on film again. George Lucas was the one who made the decision to focus on the Prequel Trilogy. I’ve written on here before about an alternate reality where Lucas and Lucasfilm had made interquel cartoons while he perfected the technology for the Prequels. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Lucas had made the Sequel Trilogy instead of the Prequels.

Unfortunately, we learned a lot over the years about George Lucas and, while his ideas and insights were good, a lack of oversight made his narratives unwieldy and his character and actor direction even worse. George Lucas wasn’t perfect, and the Prequels certainly were not even though I will always be grateful to him and his collaborators for creating the Star Wars universe.

So when Disney bought LucasFilm and made the Sequel Trilogy instead, I knew it was too late for Leia, Han, and Luke to be the protagonists. Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill were older then, and it was a better bet to have them as mentor characters to pass on what they had learned to the next generation.

I think the unease began with me when they rendered what was the Expanded Universe — all those books, cartoons, comics, and games — into non-canon status: into Legends. At the same time, I felt like there was an opportunity there: to tell a new story, and utilize the wealth of material there to do so, which seemed to be the plan.

The Force Awakens was like a breath of fresh air: with characters that had proper dialogue, great chemistry and interactions, much more subdued CGI and just that more lived in world that we had grown up with. And J.J. Abrams set up so many possibilities and questions. What happened to this world? Why was Leia leading a Resistance? Why did Han leave on his own with Chewbacca? And just what happened to Luke’s Jedi students, and Luke himself?

I have talked about this so much. The Sequel Trilogy, I felt, was supposed to be the heir to Skywalker: literally. It was the successor part to the Skywalker Saga. It had that heritage. Even without George Lucas, it had enough material and people working on it — the company that made it — to make it official. I recall hearing about Rogue One, and Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan, and Solo, and while I felt like they would be interesting, they were films that weren’t part of the Skywalker Saga that I grew up with. I thought of them as distant cousins, or relations that could add to the context of the others, but they were cadet branches of the main line: the central heritage. Some of these films, like Rogue One and Solo happened, and they were entertaining. The other two did not. At least, not at the time.

I reviewed The Force Awakens. I also reviewed Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. In retrospect, I saw my own experience paralleling this journey. I saw all the other films with other people: my family and friends. I saw The Last Jedi by myself. I saw Solo by myself.

I saw The Rise of Skywalker by myself.

The Last Jedi had some fascinating ideas, and interesting moments, but it is a controversial film, and with good reason. But it wasn’t the issue. It all comes down to the magic of Star Wars, of the Force, of the overarching story, and that sense of continuity. Yes, there were weird elements and oddities displayed throughout the cinematic series, but every scene felt like it wasn’t wasted: like they were telling their own stories, and they were just all interesting. Everything was built up to lead to a particular conclusion of some kind. But when the Sequel Trilogy went on, it became pretty clear that the plan was haphazard at best, and sometimes the message or the moral behind the story became more like transparisteel than actual character interaction, development, and storytelling. When you combine that factor with something that felt standalone added onto other material that led to a conclusion that just … didn’t have the momentum, that wasn’t earned, and felt sloppy and gimmicky, and full of special effects instead the back to basics approach of the first film, the magic was thinning. And the ending …

I think the ending of The Rise of Skywalker is emblematic of Luke Skywalker’s treatment. Because it always comes back to Luke. Imagine seeing a character you relate to, who you grow with, and you know he had a whole ton of stories where he excelled, continued and improved on an entire culture nearly wiped out through genocide, and even had a family and friends and loved ones, and then a company renders that all non-canon. It didn’t happen. And then you are left with someone who has lost everything, including his sense of redemption. And hope.

Luke Skywalker was the New Hope of Star Wars. You could argue Leia Organa was another, but Luke was that optimism despite all the odds, and defeats, that you could just … that many of us could just root for. And an interesting story could have been told about how he lost that hope, and we have a bit of it. Unfortunately … after growing up with the powerful Jedi Grandmaster who made other mistakes, but still recalled the lessons of the past, only to see him repeat them in the new canon films, basically knowing his adventures had been erased and replaced with a characterization that would strike down a boy for something he didn’t even do yet after trying to spare and redeem his mass-murderer father … You can see how it just didn’t sit right.

But around this time, after The Last Jedi and Solo, came … something else.

I didn’t know what to think about The Mandalorian, especially given how ambivalent I was to the idea of a Boba Fett film. I was still struggling with hope that the Sequel Trilogy could find its way after The Last Jedi’s sense of finality, and this series provided a distraction for me, and I imagine for many of us.

It felt … low-tech. It was rendered by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni back to Star Wars’ roots in its Spaghetti Western influences: its weekly serials. There was just more sense of time. More pacing. So much more space to tell a story, and develop characters from simple premises and archetypes into something more. They had nods and Easter-eggs to Star Wars lore and fandom: letting us in on the Secret Club feeling that is an open secret. But it world-built, and slowly revealed mysteries and details to us about the Mandalorians and Mandalorian culture. And Din Djarin and Grogu … Grogu, the Child, was the make it, or break it element of The Mandalorian. He was an obvious reference to Yoda and his own mysterious origins, but also to the Jedi and the Force that we didn’t know would even be involved in this series. He was there for merchandising and fan service and the neoteny of his cuteness, and it could have been as blunt as a Tusken gaderffii stick to the face.

But it worked. Grogu was iconic for the magic of Star Wars. And Din himself mostly stayed in his beskar’gam, his armour. He could have just been a Boba Fett knock-off, or a video game character whose identity the audience could just assume as a surrogate in experiencing this world. But slowly, perceptively, over time we see these two characters bond. And it is endearing. Even their associations with other characters is just entertaining and heartwarming to watch. So many characters I thought would be enemies, became associates and friends. There would be a new story every week, but one that built into something bigger.

It was a slow burn. Season One was all about protecting Grogu and figuring out what the nine Corellian hells was going on. Season Two was about returning Grogu to the Jedi, whoever they were after the Empire purged most of them out of existence. We got to see different kinds of Mandalorians, disillusionment with the Republic, the general independent nature of the Outer Rim, and the genuine danger of even the Imperial Remnants. And we got to see Din’s humanity, and Grogu’s love for him. I felt more for Din and Grogu than I ended feeling for most of the characters in the Sequel Trilogy. Din was a warrior raised by a sect of Mandalorians called the Watch after his parents were killed by Separatist super-battle droids. He earned all of his skill, and even when we run into him he is still earning his beskar: his Mandalorian ore for his armour.

And Grogu? Grogu is hope. He is a child, young for being fifty years old by his species’ standards, but also something of a sacred living relic that survived the genocide of the Jedi all the way to the New Republic to be found again. He is the old, and the new. He has seen, and survived, darkness. And Din recognizes that, and yet protects him — rescues him after retrieving him for his first mission in the series because, at the end of the day, it was the right thing to do, and he was willing to risk his people’s location and turn against the Bounty Hunter Guild’s Code to do so.

The evolution of the characters these past two years, the Star Wars details and eye for continuity, and the continuing mysteries kept me going. It kept me interested. I didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker. At all. To give you an idea, I never reviewed it. Not once. It took my European friends calling me on Discord one day to even get me to talk about it, and I hadn’t said anything about it in a few days. I hadn’t wanted to talk about a Star Wars movie in a few days. I just felt … tired. Drained. Just let down. I almost didn’t even finish Season One of The Mandalorian around that same time. I was down to the last episode. I thought to myself: what was the point? The people and characters I loved for years were gone. They were desolate and disappointed by life. They were too close to what I was now. I just … didn’t want to think about it anymore. I didn’t want to deal with Star Wars anymore.

But then I watched that last episode with IG-11 heroically sacrificing himself for the Child he attempted to kill in the first episode of the whole series, the death of Kuiil the Ugnaught as he tried to protect Grogu, even Greef Karga’s redemption after the Child saved his life, and the disillusioned Republic trooper Cara Dune respecting Din enough after their first adventure and rivalry to help him save Grogu from the Imperials … I felt it then. It saved a part of me. It saved a part of me that loved that magic.

It saved a part of me that loved Star Wars.

And now, I come to the real reason I’m writing this, and reminding everyone that we were all once Infinity Warriors against the forces of Spoilers. Because I saw the last episode of Season Two.

I was already enjoying the series. Seeing Bo-Katan and Ahsoka Tano, and finding out more about Grogu already made the series great, especially with tie-ins to other potential stories in Ahsoka’s standalone live action series. That line about finding Grand Admiral Thrawn took me right back to Timothy Zahn. Hell, even the ending of the last episode and making us really look forward to “The Book of Boba Fett,” either another series or the next chapter to The Mandalorian more than I had ever been excited for a movie around him, was inspiring. The way they reintroduced Boba again, and showed us how bad ass he really was made up for a lot. And resurrecting Fennec Shand after her ignominious death in one episode of Season One, along with a whole development for the mercenary Mayfield really made me appreciate the storytelling. They could have left it there. They really could have.

But then …

They did it.

I remember seeing the X-Wing. And I knew.

I saw the black hooded figure with the green lightsaber, and I knew.

I was looking for that one black glove. And I wanted it to happen. I was downstairs in my basement, screaming at my computer screen. I was yelling at it. Please.

Please.

Please be him.

Please. Be. Him.

He moved like Darth Vader in Rogue One. But where Vader slaughtered Rebel troops, the figure destroyed insanely powerful Dark Trooper droids like they were nothing. He was the pay off of two episodes ago when Grogu was taken by Din to Tython, the supposed homeworld of the sects that led to the Jedi, to summon a Jedi Knight to protect him.

And Grogu reached for the screen, and it was only later I realized he was communicating with the figure telepathically. By the time he came in, to face Din and his companions, and Grogu …

It was him. It was the person we’d read about in books. It was the individual we’d played in games. It was the man we saw fighting alongside his friends in comics. He was young, just as we remembered him, but he had further growth. He was so much stronger. Much more skilled. He’d taken after his father’s fighting style after dueling him. There was CGI on the actor’s face portraying him but the voice was unmistakable.

We got to see Luke. We got to see Luke fight the way we’d always hoped. We got to see him in his process of rebuilding in a cinematic place where he wasn’t crushed by despair, or dissipating after using one momentous Force technique in a process of great metaphor.

We got to see Luke Skywalker again.

And when Din Djarin took off his helmet, against the Watch’s Code, to let Grogu see his face, and touch it when saying goodbye to him … It broke my karking heart. There was joy and sadness in that parting that will hopefully just be a farewell.

A lot of ossik — a lot of shit — has been happening in 2020. This year had been garbage. It is a far harsher crucible than Tatooine or Jakku ever was. These past four years have been pretty bad. It would be so easy to give up. To not care anymore. To just surrender to cynicism and bitterness and disappointment. To just give up hope.

But for one moment, after every Friday morning looking forward to the next episode, at 3 am in my basement I felt a sense of joy and wonder I hadn’t experienced in years. For just forty-seven minutes, I felt like a child again.

Din Djarin was called The Mandalorian, or Mando before we found out his name. And Grogu, when he wasn’t called Baby Yoda, was referred to as The Child. But The Child was not just literal. It was metaphorical. It’s in The Mandalorian that we find out the Star Wars universe has a name for those beings genetically engineered — either cloned or altered — from a previous donor: a strand-cast.

The Mandalorian is a strand-cast of the Star Wars Saga, more continuous than Rogue One and Solo, and almost a whole other species but having more in common with its originator than its supposed biological heir in the Sequel Trilogy. Grogu might be The Child, but I feel that The Mandalorian is The Child of Star Wars.

I know there will be more. It isn’t over yet. Even so, I think about how Din Djarin passed Grogu onto Luke: the Mandalorian fulfilling his almost holy quest, the child relic that is more than foregone story but a living, breathing story of possibilities. And all us — my friends that played our homebrew Star Wars game with Lego those after-school afternoons, the child I was with my old Return of the Jedi writing notebook, and my friend who met us in the park in high school wearing Jedi robes like Luke Skywalker — we got to see our hero again, in all his glory, at least one more time. It was all many of us wanted. And there he was.

So much world-building and meaning in just two seasons of an online serial about a warrior, and his child, and all the people they’ve touched along the way.

Because, in the end, as this continues I feel this truth. That this is the Way.

Shadow

I kriffing hate those clankers, Nora.

Footage from Praadost II: Encrypted

Location: River outside of Nembasa City Sewer System.

arc-trooper

A tarnished white figure, with a pack, and a black T-visor Mandalorian helmet swims through the water. Through the grainy lens of the surveillance camera, it is clear that the man is carrying a length of synth-rope across the current. He pauses as a bloated corpse floats by. Then, he continues for a time.

He is almost at the other side of the shore, until he stops. An Imperial aqua hunter-killer droid: a large, sleek mechanism with deadly synthetic tendrils. He floats in the water silently. He stands on the bottom of the river. His image wavers under the shifting current or out of the way of the camera’s specific focus. One blaster shot. It pierces the cranial carapace of the hunter-killer as the lights in its optics dim.

The man swims up to the large, immobilized droid. He does something to it and then it carries him on its back the remainder of the way, along with the synth rope. The images cut out and he swims back with a Sluissi as an assorted band wait for him at the sewer entrance.

Somehow, perhaps unconsciously, it seems as though the soldier is standing triumphantly on a large and successful trophy: the hunter having become the hunted. He’s leaning back, holding up the Sluissi with one arm, but his leg bends forward on the head of the droid: conquering it. It is a scene fit for a propaganda war holo-film from another time.

I’m scared, General Ro … Nora … that’s why I have to go. I have to sleep facing that man with the empty eyes, those dead eyes, every night. I have be the best I can be.

Footage from Praadost II: Encrypted

Location: Nembasa City Tunnels

The image swirls. It is as though the scene is being viewed through some kind of remote. There is blaster fire from a fleeing Twi’lek woman as three other floating spheres are destroyed. She, a Sluissi, and three humans run into different tunnels outside of some crumbling ancient pillars and a lake in the centre of the room.

This perspective remains undetected. The lens flickers and the time-stamp goes back a few minutes. There is an Iktotchi fighting a large dark armored man. The former holds a green energy blade, while the latter has a larger crimson one. The image is excellent, crisp, and clear with only a few moments of static due to the bad reception below Praadost II. The dark man dominates the Itkotchi, scoring a slash to his leg and burning it into a bladelock into his shoulder. But the Iktotchi is holding his own in a defensive stance: barely.

The lens flickers again to another perspective: the time-stamp indicating that this happening at the same time as the combat with the other two. The soldier in the white tarnished armor shoots his rapid-fire blaster rifle at another figure: a dark woman with a double-bladed red energy weapon. He’s visibly trembling. But he keeps shooting. She deflects most of his shots with lightning fast reflexes that the camera barely even captures.

One shot gets through. It singes her shoulder. But another burns across the right side of her face. It leaves a burn scar. The trooper backs behind a pillar. She waves her hand and three small droid spheres begin shooting him. Then the rest of the people in the tunnels separate and the Twi’lek shoots them all down.

The trooper runs backwards, keeping his distance, shooting at the woman as he runs towards another exit. She waves her hand and he trips and falls to the ground. He fires again rapidly as he goes down. She deflects most of the blasts again, with an equally rapid circular pattern, but a stray shot hits her in the leg. She staggers, even as another more powerful shot ricochets off her blade and into a pillar.

It falls between her and the trooper. She barely rolls out of the way of the crumbling debris and a large cloud of dust obscures the rest of the recording.

The image flickers again. The trooper blocks the dark man from the fleeing Iktotchi’s escape, throwing an object and forcing the other to jump out of the way into the lake. The trooper shoots his rifle one more time and runs as the dark man is suddenly attacked by a large reptilian creature. The dark woman climbs around the ruins of the pillar and engages the creature as the dark man runs after them.

The image flickers again: almost shaking. There is a shockwave as the dark man is flung out of the tunnel: crumpled and bleeding on the ground. Recording ends.

Elsewhere, Imperial Agent Aaron Garay and the two Inquisitors face their superior on a viewing screen: attempting to explain what happened.

It just never ends, Nora. It just keeps coming.

Footage from Praadost II: Encrypted

Location: Power Supply Room

A grainy surveillance camera lens. The battered Iktotchi’s energy blade is blocked by the arm guard of the stormtrooper captain as he stabs him in the abdomen multiple times with a vibro blade. Just moments before, the Iktotchi disarmed the captain of his blaster rifle, sending it into the chasm below. As the Iktotchi falls to the ground, the trooper with the Mandalorian helmet riddles the captain with blaster bolts, sending his body plummeting into the core below. The other stormtrooper attempts to fire on the tarnished soldier panickedly. Some of his shots even get through before, he too, joins his superior in the abyss.

You made your choice, shinie.

Shadow and Nora are flush with drink on Zeltros. The rest of Thorn Squad is there too, each brother also equally drunk and having a few of Nora’s sisters, brothers, and friends around their arms as well. Planetary leave.

All against regulations, of course, but you only die once. Besides, they’ve all earned it. Double celebration really. The completion of his ARC training and missions, and his marriage with Nora. You can never top a marriage on Zeltros.

“Being a Zeltron and a Jedi isn’t a mutually exclusive thing,” Nora said to him after he came back from his solo missions, “You have to remember your duty over selfishness, but duty also includes compassion for all living things. And compassion is a part of a greater empathy and love for all living beings. So you can say, Shadow, that it’s natural for a Jedi and a Zeltron — for anyone — to pursue love: without greed or attachment, but connection in its purest form.”

And boy, did he feel connected that day. Between brotherly congratulations, drink, good food, strong Zeltron pheromones and physical intimacy, Shadow is having a good time, even more awed by the fact that Nora is enjoying watching him have a good time when she isn’t participating.

This wasn’t anywhere in the manual on Kamino or the cadets. Neither is being a father. Shadow puts a hand on Nora’s abdomen and he can somehow feel her and their child. After the War, he tells himself, with her sisters’ arms around them both, his brothers cheering him, cheering them, after the War they will resign their commissions, and everything will be different.

I’m so kriffing tired, Nora. I miss you. I miss you every fierfeking day …

Footage from Praadost II: Encrypted

Location: River outside of Nembasa City Sewer System.

The battered trooper and Iktotchi stagger out of the Sewers. He places the Iktotchi behind an incline as he begins toggling with the remains of the hunter-killer droid. He reloads one torpedo into its compartments. Then he takes the Iktotchi and himself and they hide behind the droid.

The trooper maneuvers the broken droid to aim at the Sewer Entrance tunnels, like a makeshift ebweb cannon. And they wait.

I see this face. This face in my dreams. With its dead eyes. And I hate it. I hate it so much …

Slinger made the mistake of thinking it was his lieutenant waiting for him in their bivouac on the frontlines. But now he’s on the ground, a blaster bolt through his chest plate. The other trooper takes of his stolen brother’s helmet, and he sees another brother.

“Shadow …”

“Been waiting for years for this, Slinger.”

“You killed the others.”

“Yeah.” No-One cocks Mercy at Slinger’s face. Part of No-One feels bad. Slinger’s blaster is inches away from him. His brother … he still thinks of them all as his brothers, he was always good with a blaster. They practised together a lot. If he’d been feeling more charitable, he would’ve ended this with a blaster duel. But No-One never had a weapon named Charity.

“… fair enough.” Slinger coughs up some blood. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“Won’t bring back my wife, Slinger. Or my kid.”

“Please … Shadow.”

“You’re the last one, Slinger. I’m No-One.”

“I know.” Tears and snot stream down Slinger’s face. “We’re all gone. This War killed us. Those chips killed us.”

No-One’s gun trembles at Slinger’s temple. “… what?”

Slinger laughs through his blood. It’s so bitter. “That chip in you. Made you all barvy the General had to … send you to Mender. We all had it. It worked for us. Even all our training … good soldiers follow orders … had to be sure. Damn long-necks gave us those chips. Never … had a chance, Shadow.” Slinger coughs harder, deeper. “Had a good time on Zeltros, didn’t we. Heh. Heh … You were the lucky one, Shadow. You were …”

Slinger’s eyes roll back into his head and he breathes out the last of his blood. No-One stands over him. He’s stunned. Unconsciously, he turns off the audio of his stolen HUD. He falls to his knees. And, silently and alone, he screams.

We’ll bring down those clankers, Nora. We’ll take them down and get the hell out of here.

Footage from Praadost II: Encrypted

Location: River outside of Nembasa City Sewer System.

The camera captures a series of blaster bolts coming towards the trooper. Some are absorbed by the cover of the droid. But many hit him. He staggers, but keeps the droid at the entrance. He activates its weapon. The concussive torpedo hits. A squad of stormtroopers come flying out of the tunnel in various positions and pieces by the force of the blast.

The trooper collapses to the side. He’s breathing heavily, very clearly as injured as his companion and utterly exhausted. A stormtrooper sergeant staggers out of the tunnel. He is firing randomly. He gets in front of the trooper and misses him by a wide margin. The trooper activates his gun and shoots the sergeant, his body trembling under the rapid shots from its barrel and being thrown away like a rag doll.

Steam comes from the trooper’s blaster rifle. The trooper is looking down at it. He falls to his knees. It’s almost like he is cradling it like a small child. Then the Sewer Entrance and its hill collapses, revealing the light of the Nembassa City, leaving the trooper with his damaged weapon.

Never had a weapon named Charity …

Drax Cole, one of the Cuy’Val Dar and instructors of Jango Fett’s myriad clones, watches one of the cadets looking at the weapons’ rack. The boy can feel the scarred older man watching him. Cole is one of the best firearms instructors of the rest.

“Hey.”

The boy looks up and stands to attention. “Yes sir.”

“Growing into those blaster rifles well, son.”

The boy understands. His growth spurts, like those of his brothers, are quick. Even with the genetic treatments, they are still painful. But at eight he is tall, lean and fast with a good eye. He will serve the Republic well. But praise from one of the Cuy’Val Dar is rare and he doesn’t know how to respond. Instead he defaults to the default.

“Thank you, sir.”

“What’s your name, son?”

“I am CT-24601.” The boy tells him by rote.

“No. I mean, what do you they call you?”

“… they call me Shadow.” It will be many years before the boy accepts this name from his last Squad working for the Republic, and a few more before he rejects the name, any name, completely. He has no idea. Right now he just wants to serve the Grand Army as best he can and to the best that his genetic perfection and rigorous training can provide.

“Shadow.” Drax Cole walks behind him and looks at the blaster rifles. “You do have a good eye. I see you looking at that rifle. You know the one.”

Shadow hesitates. But reaches out and takes it in his hands. It doesn’t take him long to calibrate and arm it. It’s second nature to him. Drax Cole nods.

“That blaster rifle, Shadow, it’s going to save your shlebs. You treat her right, you maintain and mod her, she’ll be at your side the rest of your life. More than your brothers, she’ll be your mother, your daughter, your wife. She’ll be your whole damn family. You got that, shinie?”

“Yes Instructor sir. I understand.”

“Good lad.”

It’s all right, you know. We’re disposable. As long as we complete the mission. The mission …

The trooper and T’Soth hide in the city. They hide in the garbage. They are buying Revenant Squad and the Praadost Rebel cell time. They barely escape notice even in the worn-torn city ripped apart by civil disorder and Imperial reprisals. Finally, the trooper hooks a grappling hook to a building. They climb up and hide. It’s a good spot … until more of those spherical droids are sent out to find them. The Inquisitors are not giving up.

They get into the building and run into a scared family. A cowering mother and her children. Then their father comes out swinging. T’Soth, trying to be the consummate Jedi, fails to calm him down. But it’s the trooper that does it. He almost takes his helmet off. Instead, he takes his gun, takes Mercy, and places her on the ground with his hands up. He lets T’Soth tell them that they are not scavengers or Imps.

The father tells them they need to leave. The trooper asks if he knows where they can hide. The man directs them to a warehouse. He gives them cloaks to hide them. The trooper turns back and thanks the man. He points up the stairs, where the man’s family is hiding.

“Take care of them.”

It hurts, Nora. I don’t want to feel anymore. I just want to see you again. But Ayla …

After his time, helping those early resistance cells, watching them get crushed, getting his own hollow revenge on his former brothers, he’s tired. He retires, in a way. He just doesn’t care anymore. Not about much. He takes all jobs. Even from Imps. All the money goes to Clan Pall, to Ardin … to his daughter.

As long as Ayla lives, as long she gets that chance …

But even that doesn’t stop the thoughts. It doesn’t stop from looking at Mercy. It doesn’t stop him from thinking about it. He’s lost so much already …

And then, one day, in a grimy motel on Nar Shaddaa as he’s pointing Mercy at his head he gets that transmission. He doesn’t know how they found him. How he found them. There is a central Resistance. They have unified. And they tell him they can help him. They can help his daughter.

It doesn’t take much for No-One to accept Spectre-7’s proposal.

It’s all right if I go. As long as Ayla’s safe, and a proper Jedi trains her. I did my job. I had something to fight for. I did my duty. I made up for my kriff-ups. I can finally rest.

Footage from Praadost II [Currently Restricted]

Location: Nembassa Warehouse

It’s an amateur Praadostian camera. It keeps moving around, but the jist of it is seen well enough. An A-Wing and Z-95 Headhunter are dogfighting TIE Fighters in the sky above the city. Two figures are on the roof, seen through the rudimentary lens of the civilian camera uploading to an illegal HoloFeed. It is a figure in tattered robes and a bounty hunter. The hunter sends up a flare and a U-Wing comes to hover over the roof.

The figure in the robes leaps up with impossible velocity into the ramp of the ship. The bounty hunter, or soldier stands there. He looks like he is about to jump. A TIE Bomber comes in. It releases a volley of proton torpedoes at the U-Wing.

The U-Wing’s shields flicker dangerously and it lurches, but the shock wave destroys the warehouse roof. The trooper is caught in the fire. He goes flying with the wreckage. Then he falls, flaming, into the ruins below.

The feed cuts out.

I will see you soon. I love you, Nora Ro.

Footage from Praadost II: Encrypted

Location: Nebassa City District [Currently Restricted]

Another feed flickers back onto another scene. A figure leaps out of the ship as the U-Wing engages the TIE Bomber. It picks up another figure from the wreckage of the Warehouse. Then it goes back into the ship.

… live, Shadow. Our daughter needs you.

Live vode. Live brother. Someone needs to avenge us.

“Spectre-7.” T’Soth says.

“Jedi T’Soth. I’ve heard from the Bantha Special that the mission has been successful.”

“Yes. But our plans have changed. We’re not going to Ord Rodama. Tell the Senator that we need to call in another favour. We will be at Arda.”

I hate clankers. I hate this face. Clankers … this face … I can’t see them. Dead eyes. I can’t feel it …

A tattered figure floats in a bacta tank.

“Live, Shadow.” T’Soth says. “Revenant Squad needs you.”

Yes. Good soldiers … follow orders …

Spectre-7 looks at his monitor. He has captured all of Praadost II’s footage of the event: from the Imperial censored civilian cameras to the Sewer Entrance.

“Pity we couldn’t get footage from the fight in the Tunnels. Maybe his helmet recorded the event.” He turns to the technicians. “Meantime, send out these recordings. Some good propaganda. Even better for morale. This will be enough.”

“The Unknown Soldier finally has a name.”

My name is Shadow. I’m Shadow. And I’m not finished yet.

Star Wars: Preludes and Interludes Of A Space Opera

I think that if I were a Time Lord, I’d be a unique one that specializes in travelling to alternate timelines: not because I originally intended to, but due to the fact that these are places to which my senses are attuned.

Lately, not to mix metaphors, I’ve been thinking about Star Wars. I mean, when aren’t I? But bear with me. Imagine, in that period between 1980 and 1983, when The Empire Strikes Back made people truly want to know what happened next, George Lucas came up with a plan: a long-term plan.

We already know and suspect that by Return of The Jedi, Lucas was planning on heavily merchandising the hell out of his universe. Some people even think the addition of Ewoks in the last film was an attempt to particularly appeal to children and their love for toys. Even after the sixth film, we had cartoons like Ewoks and Droids.

But what if it didn’t stop there? What if aside from the made-to-TV Ewoks films George Lucas had wanted even more merchandising. At the time, LucasFilm was in the process of developing its special effects technology that would be utilized not just by itself, but by other companies and film productions as well. Even so, by the time of the cartoons it had only been a few years since Return of The Jedi and people — particularly children — were still fresh off of a galaxy far, far away and wanted more. More than that, and I can speak for myself here, fans had questions: about the Jedi, about the Republic before the Empire, and the Clone Wars themselves.

Many of these questions had been answered with the new CGI Clone Wars cartoons and the Prequel films — albeit with some gaps even now — but there was a gap of at least, what, seventeen years or so, between the films: where many of us waited after the re-release of the Old Trilogy to find our answers and immerse ourselves into new Star Wars.

Yet what if during that time, we had something else to tide us over during near two decades of waiting?

Indulge me and imagine this. After the last film and the initial cartoons, LucasFilm decides to release oncoming series that takes place during The Clone Wars. Perhaps Lucas calls them, collectively, Interludes. During this time, we get to essentially see the Republic and the Separatist Crisis, and the Jedi Knights. We get to see a young Obi-Wan and Anakin actually growing together but, more importantly, we get to see something else as well.

Jedi Team

We are witness to other characters — other Jedi and galactic denizens — and we get to watch them grow. We are introduced to the clone troopers early and see them as individuals: while always wondering why they look so like and unlike stormtroopers. And there are hints of Anakin’s back story and how he met Padme. At this stage, perhaps a few seasons or an interrelated series of cartoons (perhaps aided in the 90s by one young Genndy Tartakovsky) and live-action programs: space opera serials not unlike the material from which their structure was derived. Can you imagine that? Coming home from school to watch your Star Wars show?

And yes, the intervening years between the early 1980s and the late 90s might not have much in the way of advanced graphics or special effects by our contemporary standards but imaginary worlds have been built on much less and with more attention to detail. I mean, look at some anime from that period, or even the Old Trilogy and how immersive it was for looking all run-down, and world-weary and real: letting our minds fill in the rest. I could have seen LucasFilm making a lot of money during this time. I mean, think of an Interlude series of Star Wars: Clone Commandos playing alongside G.I. Joe. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t be bad-ass.

Clone troopers

So during this whole time, you have all these background characters getting built up, living, and dying. You get immersed in their lives. Shaak-Ti, Aayla Secura, Kit Fisto, Plo Koon and the other Jedi have many adventures and you get attached to them. You see the Jedi Initiates as children and you want to be a Jedi: relating more to you directly as a child than even Luke does in the movies. Hell, you might even want to be Clone Troopers, have their special armour and play Clones Verses Droids along with Rebels Verses Imperials in the playground.

Of course, there would be comics and books as per usual. And then periods where there are no cartoons or shows. It makes the audience wait with anticipation. You build on the culture that you have already cultivated and created. The important thing is that you leave the questions. You have Anakin refer to his time on Tatooine and being a slave and you never know everything that happened. He has moments of darkness and you don’t know what caused them. You can tell Palpatine is doing something, but you don’t know where it all began or what even started the Clone Wars at all. Then there are the other questions about what will happen to the Jedi: particularly your favourite Jedi and their friends and comrades in the clones.

1999 comes around. Perhaps there has been some intervening years where the Interludes — The Clone Wars cartoons and live-action serials — have died down. Everyone is waiting. Now take the movies know from our timeline. If you want, imagine that the ideas created by George Lucas were written out by other writers: as he had those in the Original Trilogy. Maybe he even has others giving direction to the actors: those who can relate to them and have them react in believable and human ways. Scene-sequencing is interspersed with equal amounts of dialogue and action. CGI is cut down considerably and used sparingly: with a greater reliance on prop development and real world scenery.

The Phantom Menace reveals Anakin’s origins and just why the Jedi think he is so important. Attack of The Clones, three years later, shows us how The Clone Wars began. And, finally and heartbreakingly, we have Revenge of The Sith: where not only do we see Anakin fall, but all those Jedi characters that survived up until this point are mercilessly cut down by the clone troopers that we have, despite our better judgement as adults and adoration as children, grown to love.

Think of the impact of this alternate timeline. Think of how much we could relate to the death of Aayla Secura if we had seen her in various shows fighting for worlds and having her private moments with Kit Fisto. Think about Plo Koon and his time being a part-time mentor for Ahsoka Tano — perhaps even tutoring her in piloting — only to have his ship blown apart by one of his own clones. And the Younglings, those children you saw becoming Jedi … think about the horror in that.

How would you have viewed even the Prequels that we have now if there was all that build-up to the tragedy — a well-written tragedy — that was their Trilogy and the beginning of The Empire.

So now the Prequels are over. You know what happens. And yet … there are still some mysteries. Some Jedi are still alive or unaccounted for. A Rebellion has yet to form. LucasFilm, and perhaps Lucas Arts as it might still be around this alternate timeline can play with that. The fans are devastated by the impact of the Rebellion and Luke Skywalker is felt even more keenly. You watch the films again to know that the Empire fails.

Perhaps Star Wars cartoons and shows are divided into the Preludes — those dealing with the events before the Empire — and Interludes — those focusing on events during the Empire. Maybe some of these shows happen after the Prequels in real-time and others during the 80s and 90s. This is all you have to go on so far.

But everyone wants to know what happens next. They want to know what Luke and Leia do after the Empire falls. They have only had their appetite whet with the Clone Wars and the origins of the Empire. They want more.

And then, after 2005, ten years later after more shows and merchandising — and perhaps with the aid of Disney’s resources — we have: the Sequel Trilogy. The New Trilogy.

Of course, many people might have their own alternate ideal Star Wars watching timeline. Maybe there were no Clone Wars or Prequels. Perhaps the Sequel Trilogy happened right away. But there is something else to consider and it took me a while to personally understand and accept this.

It was Tony Pacitti in his pop culture memoir My Best Friend is a Wookiee that made me consider it. Perhaps one day, if not right now, there will be a new generation of children born. These children might watch The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones. Then they might watch The Clone Wars. Then Revenge of The Sith. Then the Old Trilogy. And the New Trilogy. They will see all the standalone films. And right now, it is all open to them. It isn’t perfect and there are gaps and questions, but they have mysteries to explore and wonder to consume.

It would be like us discovering the magic of Star Wars for the first time and their experiences would be different but similar to our own. They have so much more to see and know. They get to do what we can only dream of doing: living a life of imagination inundated by a variety of Star Wars: decades of Star Wars. And no matter way you look at it, this will be their first step into a much larger world.

Star Wars Legends: Crisis In Infinite Galaxies

It was a little while ago that Star Wars fanatics were informed, by LucasFilm, that the Star Wars Expanded Universe of novels, comics, video games and other multimedia would no longer be considered canon in the Great Holocron of that Galaxy far, far away. The Star Wars canon, such as it is, has been culled down to the current six films, The Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Rebels.

For the most part, all other materials belonging to the Expanded Universe have become Legends: stories that have, for all intents and purposes, been regulated to the status of galactic apocrypha. I wrote something on the subject at GeekPr0n, where I was fairly tongue-and-cheek about the entire matter, but I have to admit I had a few more thoughts on the matter.

You see, it’s not the first time a major franchise has rebooted, or attempted even a partial reboot, of itself: where stories that fans have followed for ages become either the relics of Gold, Silver and Bronze Ages, or non-canon entirely. Say what you will about Star Wars Legends becoming different “points of view” in examining that galaxy, that fans will “always get to keep their stories,” or that they will be consulted for those creators making the “new continuity.” I can even sympathize and admit that there were some Expanded Universe elements that simply didn’t make sense or, frankly, were very badly made.

But that all said, despite my own feelings that I wish the Prequels and The Clone Wars CGI series should be relegated into the realm of Legends (because, frankly, I don’t like the majority of their elements) I feel that there is something very cynical about taking a story and characters that people love and saying that they are no longer legitimate. Oh, they get their Legends and you can still read them but, chances are, you will never see them influence mainstream Star Wars and even if they do, they will not be the same. Your stories and characters are no longer in continuity.

For me, and in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, this news felt “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”

Obi-Wan

But why stop there? Why simply stop at placing all of the Expanded Universe into its own Legends pocket dimension and go further?

That’s right ladies, gentlemen and other beings throughout the multiverse: perhaps LucasFilm should have “pulled a DC” and created their Crisis In Infinite Galaxies.

I mean, the tools were all there. There were already Star Wars Infinities comics: the very same that are, ironically enough, in Legends right now. But instead of a series of What-ifs, they could easily make a big What-If. And let’s make it a big one that functions a little something like this:

Imagine that each story arc: The Dawn Of The Jedi, Tales Of The Jedi, Knights and The Old Republic, The Star Wars Prequel books, The Clone Wars, Republic Commando, The Force Unleashed, X-Wing, Thrawn all the way to Visions Of The Future, Young Jedi Knights, Star Wars: Jedi Knight, Dark Empire, The New Jedi Order, The Dark Nest Crisis, Legacy Of The Force, Fate Of The Jedi, Star Wars: Legacy, the original Marvel Star Wars comics, The Star Wars, and all other multimedia adventures are their own Galaxies: including the novelizations of the films. Think of them all as alternate timelines and realities like the different Ages of DC and the parallel universes of Marvel.

Star Wars Expanded Universe

And each of these realities contains alternate versions of our favourite characters, and some unique characters as well. We take these characters and settings and, through some deus ex machina — through the art of the crossover stolen from the traditional comic book superhero genre — we do what Star Wars does best: we engineer a plot-driven conflict and destroy every reality until there is only one: the accepted one.

Think of this as the premise: there is an imbalance in the Force. In the Splinter Galaxy, an archetypal and primordial power known as the Kaiburr Crystal has been taken from its place in the Temple of Pomojema on Mimban and split into pieces by the forces of the Light and the Dark. Because of the separation of this Crystal and its removal from its resting place, the hyperspace disturbances on the edge of the Galaxy fluctuate.

Kaiburr Crystal

Meanwhile, in other Galaxies the ancient Celestials and the Rakatan Infinite Empire become aware of this shift in the boundaries beyond their Galaxy: or perhaps a hyperspace lane that one of them is manipulating warps into an unstable portal in the Deep Core. The Celestials proceed to explore while the Rakata mobilize their fleet and their Dark side-fuelled technology for invasion. The spirits of Obi-Wan and Yoda appear after a mysterious rift opens up near Endor and give Luke Skywalker a new mission. Then you have the Force Priestesses that taught Qui-Gon Jinn and Master Yoda ascension, along with The Ones, the anchorites in the Clone Wars Galaxy sense the destabilization of reality and summon the Chosen One and his allies to deal with this issue from Mortis.

Of course, this does not go unnoticed by the Dark Side. In addition to the Rakata you have Abeloth from the Fate Galaxy rushing in past the remnants of the Centerpoint and Sinkhole Stations: where a rift opens in the Maw and her realm “beyond shadows.” It gets worse, of course. Palpatine from the Dark Empire Galaxy seeks all of his alternate selves and plans to drain their knowledge and become a god, whereas the Sith Emperor Vitiate from The Old Republic Galaxy plots to destroy, devour all life everywhere and do the same.

Now imagine a young Luke Skywalker meeting all of his alternate selves: including the older Jedi-Bendu version of himself from The First Draft Galaxy, the swashbuckling hero from the Marvel Galaxy, and his Jedi Master selves from the others. Envision Han Solo’s genuine shock when he sees a reptilian version of himself that tells him about the odds. Perhaps Starkiller from the Unleashed Galaxy meets Annikin. The clones from Republic Commando run into their The Clone Wars counterparts. Even now I can see the Delta and Omega squads stating, “Brain chips? Brain chips!? What the kriff is this load of osik?”

Then you have Revan from The Old Republic Galaxy meeting The Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker and making the latter wonder what it is to be the Chosen One. Or Darth Vader encountering his First Draft counterparts: the general sharing his name, Prince Valorum of the Knights of the Sith and the prototype demonic artist’s version of himself. And just imagine the Force spirits of different Galaxies meeting each other: such as the young Anakin and the old Anakin many of us grew up seeing.

Star Wars Conceptual Drawing

And the Space Fortress and Death Stars band together, all survivors band together as a terrifying amalgam of World Devastator and Sun Crusher technology — something with a name like the Cosmic Obliterator — crafted from a Galaxy where a Droid Revolution or an Abominor invasion succeeded, or perhaps even the Star Forge gaining its own sentience and independence — obliterates one Galaxy after another in its quest to reunite the Kaiburr Crystal shards and gain unlimited power.

Star Wars Zombies

Or worse … perhaps the malicious Mnggal-Mnggal, coming from the Unknown Regions Galaxy, is seeking to expand its pain, suffering, and self-awareness across all the flesh in existence utilizing the Sith and Imperial-created Blackwing Virus to infect and infiltrate beings in all currently enmeshed realities — the only thing stopping it being a united Kaiburr Crystal. Or the strange and transdimensional Waru, from his Crystal Star Galaxy is drawn into the madness and wants to just go home. That’s right. I went there. I definitely went there. And yes, the blob gets his own Galaxy of that book title’s name. So there.

Yes, I am being incredibly sarcastic. But why not? If each story is no longer canon or set within a Star Wars continuity, why should there be a causality inferred between them? Of course there are copyrights to consider and more fan rage, but just consider the stories you could tell with this attitude. And imagine if the stories were told well. Think of all these characters and their interactions, the stories they themselves can tell. Imagine them making fun of, but respecting their own origins for what they are. And when they die, they can die with some kind of meaning: something more than simply being told they no longer exist.

Star Wars Explosion

And even with the cop-out of the reunification of the Kaiburr Crystal in the centre of the First Draft Galaxy’s most potent Force nexus repairing and “rebooting” the Galaxy of long, long ago erasing the characters’ knowledge of past events, does it really matter? Because if they don’t know of the struggles, if they no longer exist as the credits and the epic music roll heralding a new and uncertain reality, we will remain. We will know.

Jedi-Bendu

We will mourn the passing of the strange teleportation, time-travel, advanced droids and lost civilizations of the Marvel and Dark Horse Galaxies, the origins of the Je’daii civilization from the Dawn Galaxy, the short and meaningful lives of Frontline Combat clone commandos, the insane pinnacle of Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker who finally comes into his own, beautiful Zeltrons, the varied lives of bounty hunters, scum and villainy, and the love and passion between worlds.

Or, maybe this could be the process by which future writers will decide what goes into the new primary Galaxy. Who knows.

I will tell you now: this is the stuff of fanfiction. But I won’t make this story. I can’t. I recognize my limitations. But if something has to end, it should go out with a bang and everyone should have their time. I salute anyone who can, is, or will be running with this mad jigsaw idea of a crossover.

My rant has turned into a homage. Thank you for reading it. The Force be with you. Always.

Star Wars: Different Forms of Revenge and the Knights that Could Have Been

I have to be careful. If I keep this up, I will have to make an entire section for Star Wars. But I really wanted to articulate something that I have–throughout the years–discussed time and again.

The Jedi Knights.

When I first thought of the Jedi Knights, with what little we were told through the Old Trilogy, I pictured them as something not unlike the X-Men–people born with strange powers–who are somehow also like a galactic police: in that they have their roles as peacekeepers, but they are also a distinct people and citizens of the Republic.

Of course, in the gap between the Old Trilogy and the New, there were other details that formed as well due to the Expanded Universe. Tales of the Jedi established that, at the time, there were many decentralized enclaves of Jedi: with some ancient and wise teachers guiding multiple students of various species, genders, and social backgrounds. Some Jedi had families, partners, spouses, and children while others served as full-time guardians, scholars, and diplomats. Some were born into the Order, others adopted, and still more joined voluntarily. They also had ties to the Galaxy: to people who were not Force-sensitive, while others investigated the glorious mystery that was the galactic energy field known as the Force and defended against the abuses of the Dark Side and injustice.

I admit, I was probably one of those people that was pretty spoiled by reading the Expanded Universe stories after Return of the Jedi and getting used to how Luke Skywalker developed and ran his Jedi Order, and thought it and the precedent in Tales determined how the Jedi Order had always been before its first destruction.

But then, like many others, I found out I was wrong. I found out that the Jedi Order was essentially a highly centralized monastic organization that took children from their parents–mostly willingly–when discovered to have a “high midichlorian count” in their bloodstreams, and trained them to essentially be apart from Galactic society while also somehow still serving only the Republic and, well, being a part of its judicial branch. Jedi were not allowed to own anything save their lightsabers–and apparently “the lightsaber is their life” though I always used to think true mastery of the Force was evolving past needing to even use it anymore–and they were not allowed to marry, or have children of their own: though they could have relationships provided that their duty to the Order and the Force came first.

Basically, in the Prequels the Jedi Order became a religious group with various psychokinetic abilities that somehow served to enforce and mediate a Galaxy of secularism and a multitude of other beliefs. And while they were encouraged to accept the diversity and multiculturalism of the Galaxy at large as peacekeepers and diplomats–trained specially to know that everyone and everything has “a certain point of view,” for the most part they couldn’t really apply this philosophy to themselves and their own internal practices.

In short, from my perspective the Prequels made most of the Jedi bland, unrelatable, forgettable and, some cases, really unlikable. These Jedi, compared to the ones of Luke’s time and the ones that predated even them, do not seem to have passion for anything, they do not fight as well and only defensively (which mostly is not in their favour against Dark Side opponents), they seem to have a whole lot of prohibitions–more than just being mindful of your feelings–and they make themselves separate from people who are “not like them.”

https://i0.wp.com/images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090320221711/starwars/images/5/59/ThreeJedi.jpg

There are exceptions–such as the Cerean Master Ki-Adi-Mundi having a polygamous relationship to help save his species–and I even admit I understand the structure involved too. After all, you would want to regulate a group of people with advanced abilities and keep them from potentially misusing them–even by accident–and they have to be very careful in what they do. But there is a point where reasonable caution becomes fear. The irony of course is that in the films and the books, the Jedi like to say that, “Fear is a path to the Dark Side.” But here the Jedi are, trying to eliminate the potential for attachments and conflicting interests in their initiates before they are even cognizant of them for fear that they might turn to the Dark Side out of passion. Essentially, they were forced to ignore the will of the Force–in their basic reproductive and emotional urges that most life is programmed with–in order to serve the will of the Jedi Council and the Order.

There is interesting story behind the Order becoming an almost purely monastic one: in that there was something called the Ruusan Reformation: where after a major galactic Dark Age the Order instituted all of these reforms after the Sith supposedly “destroyed themselves” to prevent or at least diminish the potential of more Dark Side-users rising. Basically, it is like our world: in that when we have times of peace, we tend to be more liberal as societies, whereas in war or great tragedy we tend to become more repressive or, at best, conservative with many groups within these structures becoming both self-censuring and self-policing. But as I said with regards to the Jedi, this was still something motivated by fear and, well, fear at least indirectly led to the inevitable.

I also think that these back stories, while really clever, are obviously retroactive and kind of a cop-out by George Lucas: made specifically to help the plot in Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side. You can name a whole of cultural precedents for me in our world–the Knights Templar, the Vestal Virgins, the Guardians of Plato’s Kallipolis and many other orders of monks, celibates, idealized communal police forces and their roles–but I still think it is a cop-out.

There were many ways that the Jedi could have been left as peacekeepers and equal galactic citizens while also retaining the tensions that would have led to their destruction. Things that would have allowed them to remain, at least to me, as human and relatable beings while making their deaths that much more horrible. Even Anakin’s fall could have been made even nastier this way. I understand that film has different requirements as a medium for expression as opposed to books and that an idea simply conveyed–especially in a really clear archetypal form–can be the most effective, but that still doesn’t detract from my point.

I’m going to tell you now about the fall of the Galactic Republic as I imagined it. I saw the Jedi living side by side with other Republic citizens: some revering them and others fearing what they can do. Hence my X-Men reference. Palpatine manipulates his way into power and engineers the Clone Wars as per usual: save that when I heard about Clone Wars I thought both–or all sides–used clones in their battles as terrifying and disposable legions of soldiers. It does not take much these days to imagine whole lifeforms being engineered simply for the purposes of warfare: threatening the very nature of the Galaxy and life itself. That is what is at stake.

In the meantime, Palpatine is slowly and surely turning the populace against the Jedi Knights. He is being clever and not coming out and outright saying anti-Jedi rhetoric, but he has others do it for them. Pretty soon, members of the Order have to be watched, are excluded from places, and measures are taken–a few from the EU–to make areas and situations where their powers can be neutralized. Incidents happen where people get into fights with Jedi and, save for the Masters–and in my vision I thought that Masters were the pinnacle of a Jedi’s power and wisdom and on par with Yoda and Obi-Wan–they cannot prevent the conflicts.

Anakin is Luke’s age when Obi-Wan finds him on Tatooine: and he trains him. Yoda is Obi-Wan’s Master and has long evolved past his need to use a lightsaber. Owen Lars is Obi-Wan’s brother: which explains their strained relationship in that Obi-Wan had the Force potential and was the hero, while Owen was essentially a “mundane” and liked being a moisture farmer. Anakin and Obi-Wan go around the Galaxy together and eventually become drinking buddies and friends. Anakin is exposed to all of the conflict going on and he does get befriended by Palpatine. Anakin also meets Padme, or whomever at the time I thought would be his wife, and they plan to have a family and Anakin flat out tells Obi-Wan that he wants his son to have his lightsaber should anything happen to him. I could see Anakin a lot like a combination of Han Solo but with moments of wise Luke: a far more relatable and likeable person than in the Prequels.

But War takes its toll and Anakin starts to go crazy: each conflict inflicting a toil on his stress level and mental well being. Obi-Wan tries to save him, but they are fighting on Mustafar and Anakin accidentally falls into a volcano or gets burned and injured. Obi-Wan thinks Anakin is dead and takes his lightsaber. But Anakin lives on through sheer hate and the belief that Obi-Wan tried to kill him and abandoned him to die. Palpatine retrieves Anakin and influences him further to blame Obi-Wan and the Jedi for the entire War and for Anakin’s injuries. Then we see the slow, painstaking physical transformation of Darth Vader. Then in the third film we see a cybernetic Darth Vader leading an assault on the main Jedi Temple–with now Imperial troopers who can also be birth-born recruits because we all know that normal people can commit atrocities just as well as any clone–and slaughtering powerful Jedi we have come to relate to and care about. You know: the Jedi Purge we expected.

Purge

In the meantime, we see Jedi children being taken away by the new Imperial government to places unknown: along with adults and Jedi sympathizers. Collaborators turn them in for bounty and out of fear. But some are still sympathizers and try to hide them. We also see Purge troopers and Jedi hunters come up with energy cages and ysalamiri: creatures that can neutralize the Force around a captive Force-sensitive. This is a nice lead-in for the Dark Times where we see the Jedi fugitives fighting for their lives and being murdered by Darth Vader and friends. It is also made clear that only penultimate masters of the Dark Side can use Force Lightning: and not everyone and their grandmother. And then we see Bail Organa hiding and raising Leia and Obi-Wan taking Luke: and we know that there will be hope for some kind of justice and restoration … and eventually the return of those strange and wonderful Jedi Knights.

I know there is a great irony implicit in this essentially fanboy rage article: in that my previous post dealt with how I hated how dark Star Wars had become beyond what was necessary. However, I recognize that the events leading to the Empire and Darth Vader and the genocide of the Jedi were not pleasant moments. But it could have still been Dark and very real: something visceral that people could relate to. What would you relate to more: seeing a bunch of distant Knights you barely know get shot by some command predisposed clone troopers, or some characters you know and families you saw even tangentially being carted away to the Imperial Palace for death … or worse. Or even seeing some well-developed characters die because of how they were born. And then when Luke has his confrontation in the Old Trilogy, you know what is at stake and you see Vader too beginning to actually realize what a fool he has been and we could have watched as he acts accordingly. You also see that even though what Luke and Anakin do can never truly make up for what was lost, there is a least, you know, “a new hope.”

Instead, we got a cookie-cutter “Execute Order 66” on some people we barely knew and saw a bunch of relatively forced characters fight. That is how I feel, and the sad thing is I also feel like it could have been so much better than it was. I was really disappointed about how the Jedi were portrayed. I expected better. A lot better.

I am almost finished this. I could easily end this off by stating that my issue with the Prequels and the Jedi in them was not that they were the lead-up to a tragedy, but they were a lead-up to a very contrived tragedy. No. I think what also really annoys me is what happened afterwards.

In the Expanded Universe, there was a book called Traitor. It was written by Matthew Stover, before his excellent adaptation of Revenge of the Sith. And in this book, Darth Vader’s grandson Jacen Solo essentially touches both sides of the Force and is taught through some hard, brutal but necessary lessons that the Force has no sides. The Light and Dark Side come from within the practitioner and not the Force itself. It was a well-written and well-reasoned book. Unfortunately, writers afterwards came to take Vergere — Jacen Solo’s Master’s — words as complete literal truth: that “everything I tell you is a lie.”

It turns out that Vergere was a secret Sith and she was feeding Jacen something called The Potentium Heresy: a philosophy that states that as long as a Force practitioner intends no wrong, they can do no wrong. In the end, Vergere was working with another Sith who eventually turns Jacen into something like his grandfather: even though he should have really known better.

Caedus EA

Of course, neither this Heresy nor the “shades of grey” approach are mutually inclusive things. The fact is: whether the Force has two exact sides is irrelevant. If you seriously take the time to look at your actions and guide them appropriately, it is beyond this really simplistic binary opposition of black and white. No person is either pure good or pure evil. The view of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force is really Manichean–an absolutist dual morality of good verses evil–and even the Old Trilogy questions it when Luke almost a few times gives into his anger, but ultimately looks deep into himself and stops. Hell, I can even argue that just as the Force influences peoples’ actions in Star Wars, people’s actions influence the Force and create its Light and Dark Sides: though that becomes a question of the chicken or the egg.

And also, in the Expanded Universe, there are species that have no concept of Light and Dark and have different forms of morality. Some have entirely different spectrums: like the Aing-Tii monks. So how do you deal with that?

There are some who said the retconning back to an absolutist Light verses Dark mentality after Traitor was due to the dislike of some fans, but I also read somewhere that it was Lucas himself, or his company, that essentially towed the line of the Force having a Light and a Dark Side, and nothing in-between: which was what Revenge of the Sith was apparently made to illustrate. And this in itself doesn’t even have to downplay or render everything someone like Jacen learned. As I said, the Force–no matter what it is or midichlorians or not–is only part of the equation. There is the freewill, sentient part of the character to put into question as well: the very thing that makes a person stand out. Especially a Jedi Knight.

Of course, you can argue that this last part of my post is neither here nor there: in that it is not a part of the films. But all I am saying is that the Jedi Order, and the Force itself, could have been handled in a much more mature and nuanced manner–one that adults and children could have related to–than how it had been.

I am only hoping that the next films at the very least allow Jedi Knights to have families: to have a network of friends and allies so that nothing that happened in the Revenge that was, and the Revenge that could have been, will ever happen again in the same way. It is one of my only hopes.

Tired of Tragedy: The Reclamation of Star Wars?

So I’ve been commenting on some Star Wars news and rumours lately. And it has gotten me to thinking–thinking long and hard–about some issues: specifically about the nature of the Saga as an epic structure, the Expanded Universe, and what I want in the former.

The reason I’ve started writing about Star Wars again–and anyone who knows me is aware that it doesn’t take much to get me to go on about it–is that I became aware of a particular rumour circling around about the existence of Star Wars: Reclamation: essentially what seems to be an animated tie-in into the Episode VII is that is scheduled to happen in 2015. Now, I’m not going to argue whether or not this is legitimate or if it is a hoax, or one of many projects that Disney effectively cancelled by closing down LucasArts not so long ago, but the prospect of it is very fascinating.

Think about it. We have no idea what the next Star Wars film is going to even be like. There are, again, some rumours but nothing definite.

Which brings me to my first point.

Star Wars is a space opera. There is music, there are opening scenes, clearly delineated heroes and villains and all those who fall in-between, epic battles, moments of levity, romance, and tragedy. In fact, most classical operas can–arguably–be divided into the genres of romance and tragedy if you really think about it. Romance in itself is not merely about love, but also the sublime and grandiose in nature. It is a great epic adventure that encompasses many elements: especially the mystery of existence. Tragedy can also arguably have these traits, but there is usually a very clear circular arc in the Classical sense: the hero begins from nothing, becomes great, and through some fatal flaw–hamartia as the Greek word goes–the hero gives into hubris and falls: and falls hard. This is also known as a reversal of fortune.

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I would therefore argue that the Star Wars Prequels–in terms of thematic structure–are a great big space tragedy: take from that statement what you will. However I know that when I am watching or reading something and I know that many of the characters I see will eventually die, it is kind of hard to really get attached to them or any of the events that are going on. I mean, that has always been my issue with the Prequels and The Clone Wars cartoons: I just see that every struggle is essentially engineered by Palpatine and it just … cheapened it for me. But if you view these adventures as the ancient Greeks might have known tragedy–because every legend and myth that was adapted into tragedy was already known to the audience and were therefore judged by the skill of the playwright–then I can see the allure.

But I guess it doesn’t help that I: (1) Read the EU books and (2) believe that the plot and some of the characters in the Prequels and Clone Wars were not given as much depth as they deserved: though granted I did not see many of the latter cartoons. Now I want to talk about some other influences on Star Wars with regards to “space” and “opera”: and how this influences what I want to see in the Saga.

When I talk about space operas there is also the science-fiction adventure genre to consider. You know: that Sunday matinee serialization of different episodes that people in the 1950s or so would watch. I always like to bring up the fact that Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers influenced George Lucas a lot in creating Star Wars. You can read the posts, I won’t repeat them. But these particular science fiction adventure stories also leave their mark on Star Wars in another way: one that channels an even older idea.

This idea is that of redemption. It is redemption that really stands out in the Star Wars Saga. If the Prequels were a tragic and angst-filled arc, then the Old Trilogy was arguably an adventurous and redemptive arc.

I can argue that while hubris is more of a human trait, redemption is as mysterious as the Force itself. There is so much of the romantic, the sublime, and the grand adventure in the Old Trilogy–of things we didn’t know–and it just opens a path to seemingly limitless vistas: much akin to that sense of wonder that existed in the science-adventures of George Lucas’ youth and so much more. After all: who could see the villain becoming, for one brief moment, the hero: someone to be both pitied and respected? Yes, it was a twist moment and some people probably predicted something like it, but it was magical: just as what happened afterwards.

Now let me get back to the other matter: the Expanded Universe after the Old Trilogy. I’m not going to lie. I know that many of the stories in the EU–with some exceptions–are pretty inconsistent in themselves and aren’t always on par with what I liked about the Old Trilogy. That much I can personally can let go.

But I’m also going to make another admission. After the publication of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Duology, I stopped really reading the Star Wars EU. I think the biggest mistake was the fact that instead of continuing with what that galaxy contained–instead of bringing back the Sith or a Dark Side threat after the peace treaty with the Imperial Remnant, the authors introduced the Yuuzhan Vong: some extra-galactic sadomasochistic warriors using bio-technology and hating machines. As far as I am concerned, that was the beginning of the end of the EU for me and it only got worse when they tried to introduce the Dark Side in some of the most plot-contrived ways I’d ever seen it.

In the end, they killed at least two of the most interesting characters in the Expanded Universe–Jacen Solo and Mara Jade–with the former killing the latter and becoming a half-assed Sith Lord–and the series and what came after it became progressively darker. It is like the criticism that some people have for comics nowadays: that writers are just copying the grit and darkness of larger story arcs before them. But instead of it being comics makers of DC and such imitating Alan Moore and Frank Miller without their nuances, it is writers working with LucasBooks who imitated the darkness of the Prequels: pieces that at least had structural nuances. The mysteries just became contrived and it became all about the angst: all about the tragedy and an attempt to make something epic out of nothing.

It seriously made me just want to quote Lando and say, “This deal is getting worse all the time.” To be fair, I know that the Sith were supposed to be incorporated into the EU earlier, but apparently LucasFilms had issue with that: probably because of the development of the Prequels at the time. Also, George Lucas generally did his own thing, didn’t pay much attention to the EU, and many of these writers always had to “tow the line” as it were with regards to what innovation they could bring to the stories set in Lucas’ universe.

Really, here is what I want to say as succinctly as possible. If there is something like Star Wars: Reclamation–and that title is fitting on so many different levels–then so be it. I wouldn’t mind seeing most of the Expanded Universe rebooted: or at least given an alternative series of stories as they are doing with The Star Wars comic based on the rough draft of the original film script.

Really, the only elements I would miss about the EU as it is now would be the Legacy comics, Mara Jade, the Solo children, Republic Commando, X-Wing, Wraith Squadron and Grand Admiral Thrawn and friends. The rest of it was pretty mediocre in retrospect. I also really don’t like how Luke settled to be another Old Guard when he had so much potential to become something more.

In some ways, the fact that Disney stopped production of Clone Wars and many of the video games–which I feel are rehashings of old ideas and cycles–may be one of its best decisions yet. Even Star Wars 1313, for all of its excellent graphics and the idea that you are not playing as a Force-user, looked like it was just going to be a shooter game set in the Star Wars Universe: and there are so many shooter games out there already.

It all kind of reminds me of how, when something doesn’t work for me anymore, I just destroy it and start from scratch. I am that scarily absolutist when I am driven to that point. My only regret is, aside from potentially losing some characters I did grow attached to, that this is the closest we will ever get to seeing a Star Wars reboot: the best being a silence about the Prequels or anything to do with them after this.

But I am also skeptical about what might be going on. Even if you look at that Reclamation script excerpt you will notice that certain species from the Expanded Universe still exist. This is also assuming the script is legitimate and will survive the light of day. I am however really leery of the fact that Disney closed LucasArts down and and laid off many of their employees: whatever Kotaku and other sources might be saying about its productivity level. It could be that they are, as they say, focusing all of their talent on the future of Star Wars–which theoretically sounds ideal–but I have to wonder about that.

In fact, the very title of this article is a misnomer on my part. I mean, how can any outside party “reclaim” something that wasn’t originally even theirs?

I know it seems like I am saying a lot of things at the same time. And I am. But here is what it comes down to me for me: I am willing to see a lot of the EU disappear–or be placed into an “Old Expanded Universe”–so that something can be created that will need to something potentially new and good. Ideally, I would like to see the Prequels and Clone Wars disappear or change too: leaving only Legacy, The Old Republic, and Tales of the Jedi and other such more “ancient” stories in the Star Wars EU intact. But that is too idealistic for my own good.

I also realize I have gotten a lot more cynical in my old-age of thirty-one. Once, I would never have even considered wanting the EU to be gone or changed. I was just as much into continuity as anyone. To an extent I still am. Tragedy and angst have their place, but I want to see so much more now. I am not completely all Crisis on Infinite Earths DC where I want to see it all burn–much–but just like the viewers of the old days and their adventure serials I do want to anticipate what will happen next as opposed to the minutiae of what is already going to happen. I want to see alternate avenues, new mysteries, and characters that could go anywhere and whose futures are not seen as written yet: new adventures with depth, romance, and wonder.

That is ultimately what “Long, long ago in a Galaxy far, far away” means to me.

I want wonder, and something to look forward to.

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ETA: Disney has very recently announced that they plan to release a Star Wars film every summer after the release of Episode VII. Now, the idea is that each film will be a spin-off movie aside from the main Episodes. These are more in line in some ways with the old science-adventure serials of the 50s: in that there are more of them. Now whether they will incorporate some of the EU into their creation, or make a whole other alternate story with them from the books and literature that exist is another matter entirely. And really interesting for it. Limitless horizons indeed.

ETA: According to a LucasFilm spokesperson, Star Wars: Reclamation is not real. This does not surprise me, but at least it made for a good title to my post.