Andor teaser trailer

I have no words…

Okay, so I have some words. I’m in love. The fact that Kenobi is out today doesn’t really matter to me. I’m all about seeing just what this is going to be about. We get early-years Rebellion stuff, Mon Mothma at cocktail parties and Cassian Andor at the thin end of the wedge. I am beside myself with joy.

That’s right, beside myself!

It’s not even 2 minutes of footage, but I’m already so glad to know that we’re getting a second season!!

August 31 cannot come too quickly!!

Kenobi trailer

Holy buckets…

I love it. It’s vastly exceeding my expectations for what this show was going to be about. I love the fact we have this Empire/Coruscant storyline, and the fact we’re seeing a lot of the Inquisitors makes me hopeful – even though we keep hearing about The Duel, I would much prefer it if Obi-Wan and Vader didn’t meet until the Death Star. I’m really looking forward to it, I have to say – two more weeks to go!!

Star Wars: Cloak of Deception

Hey everybody,
It’s that time, already! I seem to be on something of a writing streak at the moment, as WordPress tells me this is my 13-day streak for publishing blogs! I’ve already looked at some of the comics from the early prequel era during this time, but today it’s time for the big one! The prequel era has got a lot of good stuff taking place, and while many people have re-evaluated the movies recently in light of the fact that the sequel trilogy hadn’t lived up to their expectations, I have always rather enjoyed my time in this era. I suppose part of that is due to the fact that I was growing up, to some extent, with these films – I was 14 when The Phantom Menace hit theatres, so there is an element of nostalgia for me, and remembering simpler times in my life when the movies were coming out.

Among the films, the comics and the novels that litter the era of the prequel trilogy, there are many stories that stand out, for me, head and shoulders above the other stuff. Cloak of Deception is, without a doubt, the absolute forerunner here, as it is a book that is very close to my heart. Indeed, whenever I think of top-ten lists of Star Wars novels, this one is always at the number two slot, coming second only to Tim Zahn’s original Thrawn trilogy. But that’s another story.

We begin properly with the short story Darth Maul: Saboteur. This is a bit of a throwaway tale really, which tells the story of how two lommite mining companies on the remote world of Dorvalla basically destroyed each other thanks to industrial competition getting out of hand. Darth Maul is dispatched to help tip the balance, and as you can imagine it doesn’t end well – both companies go under, and from the ruins, the Trade Federation swoops in to get shipping rights and, somehow, their seat in the Senate. I like the story, don’t get me wrong, but it kinda feels a little bit silly, somehow. It seems so inconsistent how seating in the Senate works – some star systems have seats, and others defer to the sector of space. Naboo, for instance, is a seat for the entire Chommell Sector, whereas Dorvalla, an insignificant mining world, has a seat all of its own? The lengths that Sidious goes to in order to get the Trade Federation in his grip are also really quite something – surely, the fact that Sidious knows all of Nute Gunray’s secrets should be enough to keep him in fear. Instead, we have Sidious almost bending over backwards to make Gunray beholden to him, when in actual fact I think his fear might have been enough to get him to launch that blockade. But that’s just me.

The real meat of things comes from the main event, however – Cloak of Deception.

At Dorvalla, the Trade Federation is attacked by a mercenary band led by Captain Cohl while loading lommite ore. Cohl and his team make it to the bridge, where they rig the freighter to blow and demand a cache of aurodium ingots from the captain, Daultay Dofine. With the timer counting down, Dofine hands the aurodium over and manages to escape when another freighter arrives in-system following their distress call. Unbeknownst to Cohl, he has been tracked from the surface of Dorvalla by the Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who manage to continue their pursuit even when the freighter jettisons its cargo, raising the captain’s suspicions. Cohl hides in the resulting explosion, leaving the Jedi believing him to have perished.

On Coruscant, the terrorist activities of the Nebula Front, who had hired Cohl and his band, are causing the Trade Federation to petition the Senate to allow them to augment their defences. Senator Palpatine discusses the matter with Supreme Chancellor Valorum, suggesting that taxation of the Free-Trade Zones could allow them to keep the Federation somewhat under control, though the issue is a thorny one due to the notion that the Federation, who already charge their client worlds exorbitant fees for shipping, would simply pass the burden of taxation on to the outlying systems. When the issue is brought for debate in the Senate, and these problems are aired, Palpatine secretly advises Valorum to hold a trade summit on the outlying world of Eriadu, where it can be discussed further before going to a vote.

Qui-Gon is dubious about Captain Cohl’s supposed death at Dorvalla, causing the Council some concern at his seeming obsession with the mercenary. When he and Adi Gallia attempt to meet with the Chancellor to discuss the matter, the Jedi end up foiling an assassination attempt by the Nebula Front. The assassins are traced to the world of Asmeru in the sovereign Senex Sector, and so a judicial mission is approved, with seven Jedi accompanying them, in an effort to mediate the dispute between the Nebula Front and the Trade Federation.

The delegation is shot down over Asmeru, however, and it becomes clear that the Nebula Front intends to hold them as hostage while they make demands of the Republic. Valorum agrees to dispatch Jedi and judicials from the preparations on Eriadu to rescue the stranded delegation, although it further evolves that the Front has split into the moderates and a much more militant wing. From an informant within the organization, Qui-Gon learns that Cohl has survived, and is engaged on a job for someone called Havac. He and Obi-Wan travel to Karfeddion with another Front operative, where the Jedi learn that Cohl has been hiring mercenaries for an assassination job on Eriadu. The Front operative was trying to lure the Jedi away from Eriadu, and tries to kill them when they have uncovered this information, but is himself killed instead.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan arrive at Eriadu to find that Cohl’s plan is already well underway. However, Havac has not been pleased by the fact that Cohl has been so open about recruiting his team, and a blaster fight breaks out, during which Cohl is seriously wounded. Havac attempts to rescue the plan, getting his mercenaries in place on the rooftops of the city, as well as within the hall where the trade summit is to be held, while Valorum arrives with the Lieutenant Governor of Eriadu, Wilhuff Tarkin. The Trade Federation delegation has demanded they be allowed a personal shield for their members, in case of violence, but without knowing it, they have been given a security droid that is controlled by Havac. When Nute Gunray is called away from the hall, the violence breaks out and the Federation activates their shield, whereupon the droid opens fire on the remaining members of the Trade Federation directorate.

In the aftermath of the summit, it transpires that distant cousins of the Supreme Chancellor, who own a shipping company based on Eriadu, had received a massive injection of capital that has been traced back to an account funded by aurodium ingots, the same amount stolen from the Trade Federation above Dorvalla. While many companies had received investment in the wake of the Supreme Chancellor’s decision to tax the trade zones and allot a portion of the revenue to developing projects in the Outer Rim, he is made to look corrupt and so his position as leader of the Republic is weakened.

The droid delivered by Havac to the Trade Federation directors came on the orders of Darth Sidious, whose aim was to increase Nute Gunray’s standing within the company, drawing him further into his web. With the Trade Federation arming themselves with droids, Sidious suggests they carry out a trade blockade of Naboo, the homeworld of the Senator who was the biggest champion of taxation in the first place.

This summary does not really do the book justice at all, as there are so many wheels within wheels at work. I’ve mentioned several times now that I love this book, and I think it’s just such a good story that sets up The Phantom Menace perfectly. The object of the book was fairly clear, I think, in that it needed to explain much of the opening crawl to episode 1, such as the trade dispute and the corruption charges against the Chancellor. And in my view, it does that really well. I think we have certain expectations from Darth Sidious, that he’s going to have a very labyrinthine scheme to achieve power, and yet when we first saw The Phantom Menace, a common accusation levelled at the film was that it was boring, because Star Wars had been reduced to trade disputes and politics. But how else is Palpatine going to become Emperor? He won’t be massacring Jedi and stuff, he gets other people to do his wetwork. He’s dangerous because of his strength in the Dark Side, for sure, but it goes beyond that, because his mind is his greatest weapon. A holdover from the early drafts of the original movie is that the Emperor is too charming and too charismatic to be allowed, and he can get anybody to do anything – he can even convince a galaxy to elect him as Chancellor. And this is the Palpatine that we get here. He has all the answers, but he’s doing it all behind the scenes; he’s everybody’s friend, while committing to nothing, yet making other people do it all for him. I think it’s beautiful to see the plot with Palpatine unfold here, and every time he’s on the page, it’s just glorious.

What’s more, Luceno has a knack for writing the characters’ voices correctly – Palpatine in particular, he uses a lot of the phrases that Lucas scripted, which allows us to read the book in those voices. It’s a small point, but it becomes incredibly powerful when it comes to enjoyment of the story, I think.

I know that a lot of people dislike the politics of the prequel trilogy, and while to some extent I do think they’re a bit silly at times, and a bit over-wrought in terms of how we’re almost like in some kind of allegory or something, it’s books like Cloak of Deception, and later, Labyrinth of Evil, which really serve to flesh out what is going on in the galaxy, and make it feel a lot more “grown up”, for want of a better expression. I get it, there’s only 2 hours or so for the story to be told via the film, and people might not want to see something like this novel filmed, because it’s got a high ratio of politics to lightsabers, but Lucas himself has said that the early story of Anakin and his downfall was a bit more of a thriller rather than the action/adventure of the original trilogy. Cloak of Deception provides some very necessary backdrop for the movie to take place, and at times it does feel like required reading, which might make it sound like I’m being negative towards the film, but I’m really not. I think it’s just unfortunate that so much more story was left out of the film!

The book is not without action though, as we have the Jedi subplot as they attempt to thwart the Nebula Front’s activities, with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan involved in a fair bit of action. On Asmeru, we get almost a repeat of Jedi Council: Acts of War – seven Jedi with lightsabers blazing, the sequence is a bit short I suppose, but even so! Once we get to Eriadu, though, the suspense is real as the pieces fall into place.

Of course, it’s not all amazing stuff. It was Luceno’s third Star Wars novel, and he was still in that habit of trying to show off, I feel, and reference as much as possible. Of course, back in 2001 there wasn’t much in the way of prequel references, so instead there’s a lot of foreshadowing (another hallmark of Star Wars literature!) Tarkin, for example, is said to look like he prefers the “antiseptic gleam of a space-worthy freighter” while Valorum is being shown around his palatial mansion. Qui-Gon will attempt to rescue / befriend any native creature he comes across. And on it goes. It’s not bad per se, but it does begin to feel a bit like these are two-dimensional characters, who will never develop or anything. Maybe Tarkin liked rococo architecture before he designed the Death Star? Who knows.

When it came out, Cloak of Deception had something of the USP that it would feature clues to the plot of episode 2. Now, a few references to the Techno Union and Commerce Guild were really all that this amounted to, but there is also a line about taxation of the trade routes leading to potential secession for the Outer Rim, which I don’t think I’d noticed until this read-through. Or, I should say, I don’t think I had really taken on board until this read-through. I wonder if the events of episode 1 had proceeded differently, and Maul had survived and the blockade had not been lifted by Queen Amidala leading a successful resistance, whether Sidious’ end goal was to cause this rift between the Core and the Outer Rim to engineer the Separatist crisis? Of course, things still worked out pretty well, with Count Dooku being the charismatic front man for his Separatist Alliance, but I do find it interesting to explore these what if moments.

It’s also worth noting that Luminara Unduli makes a speaking appearance here, as she is the same near-human species as Captain Cohl. I mentioned Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy at the top – well, Jorus C’baoth (the original, not the clone) also has a small speaking part to play. Every member of the episode 1 Jedi Council has a speaking part, actually, which is interesting, and Adi Gallia has quite a significant role to play as something of a liaison between Valorum and the Council. There is a throwaway reference to how Yaddle became a Jedi Master, which I believe is made in reference to one of the Jedi Apprentice books published at this time. There are still some wide-ranging layers within the book, and fans of the literature like myself will invariably find stuff to enjoy here.

Sate Pestage and Kinman Doriana both have repeated appearances, and we get Bail Antilles and Orn Free Taa in fairly large roles for the political storyline. Having now seen the deleted composite scenes of Adrian Dunbar as Bail Antilles, I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I read the scene where he indicts Valorum at the court, as I kept imagining Dunbar in his role as Hastings in Line of Duty – “there’s nothing I hate more than a bent Supreme Chancellor” and so on. At any rate, much like the Jedi Council, we have a lot of speaking roles from among senators, and this is fairly interesting, because there are a number of references to both episode 1 and episode 2 politicians, the latter group including those senators who joined the Confederacy. It really gives the setting that kind of homogenous feel, like this is a real place, and so on.

Unfortunately, while Luceno is excellent at providing these kinds of rich tapestries in terms of the large cast, he still falls into the trap of having Tatooine as the only remote planet that anybody talks about. Tatooine is meant to be the planet farthest away from the core, and even allowing for Luke’s hyperbole, it’s still going to be pretty obscure and overlooked. Yet everybody knows about it, everybody makes reference to it… I mean, Luceno should be better than that. How about gardening on Ithor? Or crop farming on Uyter, if he wants to stay firmly in the prequel era? That’d show off some knowledge, right there. But no, we have Tatooine as the only planet worth mentioning…

I do like the fact that the Stark Hyperspace War is mentioned though, and later on becomes something of a plot point as Cohl gains access to the summit hall. We’ll get to that later on in the Republic comics series, though, but it’s nice to see this kind of recent history to the story added in. It’s also nice to get Vergere as a character in here, as well – Luceno introduced Vergere to the New Jedi Order with his novel Agents of Chaos – Hero’s Trial, and it eventually came out that she was a Jedi of the Old Republic. To see her in the prequel era is slightly complicated, because it opens up questions about when she attached herself to the Yuuzhan Vong, but with all of this being Legends now, I suppose the point becomes moot!

I’ve read this book so often, I can’t begin to say how many times. I’ve read it in a day before now. It used to be something of a cornerstone of my Christmas reading, as I’d read a few of the prequel-era stories over the festive period. Cloak of Deception really became almost like a signal that Christmas had begun for me, which is always nice! I know it’s got politics, and I know it’s not going to be to everybody’s taste because of it, but I think overall it’s really amazing, and I would recommend it to anybody who stands still long enough!

Next on the list is Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. A pretty good adventure in the depths of Coruscant, and one that I do enjoy quite a lot!

The Great Prequel Re-Read, part one

Hey everybody,
It’s time to return to the Great Prequel Re-Read, this time making a start on some of the many, many graphic novels that are on the list!

Jedi: The Dark Side
I remember this coming out, and being really excited for the possibility of a Jedi ongoing series that had the potential to be in the vein of the Jedi one-shots that we had during the Clone Wars publishing programme. The fact that it was set 31 years before the events of The Phantom Menace was almost irrelevant – I think, in my mind, I was picturing a series that wouldn’t necessarily be tied down to a specific time, but could jump around at the whims of the stories being told. In the end, this is the only book that we got and, if I’m being completely honest, I was pretty disappointed.

The story involves Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Xanatos, the guy he trained prior to Obi-Wan Kenobi, as they go on a mission to Telos IV, Xanatos’ homeworld. It serves as something of a prequel to the Jedi Apprentice series of YA novels from Jude Watson, as we get to meet a lot of the characters from that series. Having never read those books back in the day (maybe that’s something to look into?) I must admit, I didn’t get a great deal out of this. What might have been enjoyable background for some was just a bit dull, to me. Xanatos as the dark and moody padawan is a bit annoying, at the best of times, and I feel a bit like this is a trope that we see a lot with the pre-prequel stuff, as though giving us a story about a regular serene Jedi is just not interesting. The fact that they’re meant to be serene and stuff makes me wonder, sometimes. I guess it does explain why the Jedi Council didn’t particularly think there was anything wrong with Anakin being churlish though, as it seems to be the case that every Jedi padawan is a moody brat. Maybe we can also put this down to Sidious and Plagueis dampening the Force or something.

At any rate, Qui-Gon and co go off to Telos to mediate the unrest there, and fail to reach any kind of accord. When Lord Crion himself is killed, Xanatos abandons the Jedi, and Qui-Gon goes off to be alone for a while. It’s not exactly something I would consider reading again, but maybe if I were to read the Jedi Apprentice series, I might get something more from it…

Jedi Council: Acts of War
This is something of a classic, for me, going back to those days when I would devour the prequel literature like there was no tomorrow. While the art does seem a little bit silly (Davide Fabbri and Christian della Vecchia, a respected duo, have done quite a bit of work for Dark Horse, and while it does always look a bit cartoon-y, there’s a level of nostalgia to it now, I suppose), the story is perhaps a little bit under-developed (you really need to read Darth Plagueis for the back story on the Yinchorri conflict), it’s perfectly fine as a bit of a throwaway story. I mean, I seem to remember reading the idea was to explain why Ki-Adi-Mundi came to be on the Jedi Council, so we have the character of Micah Giiett, a close friend of Plo Koon and respected member of the Council.

We get to meet a fairly large cast of Jedi in this book, with most of the Jedi Council from The Phantom Menace getting speaking parts. We also get the first appearances of Tsui Choi and K’Kruhk, both of whom would go on to recur throughout the Republic comics and, in the case of K’Kruhk, well beyond!

The storyline tells the fairly straightforward story of Mace Windu assembling a Jedi task force to repel the Yinchorri threats by taking the fight to the reptilians, locating their command base and overwhelming them with a show of force (as the Yinchorri are said to back down when faced with a superior threat). The task force splits in three, and includes Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan because these two seemingly need to be in everything we get from this timeframe. They locate the command centre on a fourth world in the system, and in a fairly rushed ending, the Yinchorri almost immediately surrender when the Jedi arrive.

It’s a bit of a throwaway story, to be sure, coming along the lines of ‘generic border dispute’ that seems to try and instil a sense of drama in the period that is otherwise said to be a time of peace for the Republic. We get some decent Jedi action, both in the Yinchorr system and also back on Coruscant, so it’s always fun to read these sorts of tales. After reading it now, it strikes me as interesting that Darth Plagueis uses so much of this as a backdrop, but I suppose it’s better to use a pre-existing piece of the jigsaw than creating another border dispute for the novel.

Darth Maul
Another classic from the prequel era, this book collects the four issue miniseries that sees Darth Maul go up against the Black Sun criminal organization, in case they foul up Darth Sidious’ plans. We aren’t given any indication as to how that might come about, but the book doesn’t really need that, as it becomes something of an orgy of Darth Maul killing his way through the syndicate. There’s no real need for this as a storyline, other than the fact that it shows Darth Maul in action. The fact that it exists means that it has been referenced by other stuff that is set around this time, and in fact one of the main plot points early on in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is concerned with the aftermath of this series.

It’s good fun, and it’s drawn by one of my favourite comics artists, Jan Duursema, so I can recommend it for the art alone!

Prelude to Rebellion
To close, I’ve got the six-part series that launched the Republic ongoing series all the way back in 1999, very shortly before The Phantom Menace hit the screens. We are on the planet Cerea, home to the Jedi Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi. The planet is very well fleshed-out as a peaceful agrarian world, where the eternal struggle of preserving the past wars with the need for the young to progress with technology. It’s a bit bizarre to think of, now, but apparently Cereans just want to live life with wheel-level technology. In steps the Republic, cast in an evil light as they tempt the young with technology from off-world. Ki kinda straddles both worlds, as he is a Jedi from the wider galaxy, but he is also given special dispensation to marry and have kids due to the weird issue of girls outnumbering boys by 20:1 or something, so he kinda lives on-world.

That is, until the tensions boil over at a pro-tech rally and Ki’s lightsaber is used to kill a bystander. The miscreant, who also happens to be dating Ki’s wayward daughter Sylvn, is “saved” by Ephant Mon, who takes all the kids to Tatooine where his buddy Jabba holds sway. Jabba is trying to get a shipment off world, however, so uses Sylvn as a distraction for Ki so that he could do so. Seems there are links to the Trade Federation afoot, and while rescuing his daughter Ki is able to gather some intel for the Jedi Council, prompting them to consider him for the position that opened up following the death of Micah Giiett.

The story is daft, especially when you compare it with the stuff that came out later. But there’s a part of me that has a faint kind of nostalgia for it, nevertheless. I think it definitely strikes me as being the sort of thing where Dark Horse desperately wanted to put out a new title, but couldn’t spoil anything to do with the movie coming out, and so they took a Jedi with about three lines in the film, and made a huge thing out of him. Throw in Yoda in flashbacks, and the obligatory trip to Tatooine, and we have a winning formula. I mean, I really don’t think it’s one of the greatest comics, but I couldn’t resist re-reading it this time around simply because it’s been a while!

Next up, it’s back to novels as I embark upon Cloak of Deception, a book that I love so much, it’s just untrue! So prepare for the bias…

What did the Original Trilogy tell us about the Prequels?

Over the long Easter weekend, I re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the umpteenth time, and not for the first time, I began to think about what those films really told us about the back story, which has become a little more difficult to discern since the prequel trilogy has come along and given us that story in live action. It does strike me that the backstory presented during the course of the original trilogy seems to paint a slightly different picture to what we eventually had in the prequel trilogy. So for today’s blog, I thought it might be interesting to see what we actually learnt from the dialogue in episodes 4, 5 and 6, and whether those anecdotes line up with what we were later given in episodes 1, 2 and 3. 

I mean, it’s May the Fourth, it’s Star Wars day! What better way to celebrate than to pick over the scripts of the original trilogy, right?!

A New Hope
The first ever Star Wars movie does pepper in a fair bit of background along the way, giving us perhaps the most clues about what came before. Predominantly, the scene in Obi-Wan’s hut gives us a lot of insight into the prequel era, and it was actually in watching this scene that I had the idea for this blog.

Well of course I know him. He’s me! I haven’t gone by the name Obi-Wan since oh, before you were born.

This was the first line that stuck out for me. Obi-Wan had changed his name to Ben before the birth of Luke – why? It hints at Obi-Wan going into hiding before, or something. Moving on!

No, my father didn’t fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.

That’s what your uncle told you. He didn’t hold with your father’s ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.

You fought in the Clone Wars?

Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.

I wish I’d known him.

He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior. I understand you’ve become quite a good pilot yourself. And he was a good friend. Which reminds me…

Ben gets up and goes to a chest where he rummages around. As Luke finishes repairing Threepio and starts to fit the restraining bolt back on, Threepio looks at him nervously. Luke thinks about the bolt for a moment then puts it on the table. Ben shuffles up and presents Luke with a short handle with several electronic gadgets attached to it.

I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

Sir, if you’ll not be needing me, I’ll close down for awhile.

Sure, go ahead.

Ben hands Luke the saber.

What is it?

Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster.

Let’s pick this scene apart, shall we?

Luke thinks that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter, though we’re never told how the story fabricated by Uncle Owen ends. The first revelation is that Luke’s father, Anakin, fought in the clone wars. What are they? We have no idea. But Obi-Wan was once a Jedi Knight, like Anakin, and the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. The clone wars clearly disturbed that peace, but there isn’t anything to suggest that the clones were the bad guys. Authors like Tim Zahn later extrapolated that the clones were evil, and the clonemasters were attempting to overthrow the Republic, a situation exploited by Palpatine to manoeuvre himself into a position of power.

Owen thought that Anakin should have stayed on Tatooine and not gotten involved in the war. Not really sure what to make of that, other than the fact it’s an interesting point that isn’t really cleared up. But if Owen Lars was intended as Luke’s blood uncle, and not the step-uncle he ends up being, maybe Anakin and Owen were supposed to be brothers? Given the different surnames though, maybe it was Anakin and Beru? Unclear.

Anakin wanted Luke to have his lightsaber, when Luke was old enough. Now, this has been explained by Obi-Wan being a bit rose-tinted, maybe, or trying to soften the truth for Luke and not burst that bubble he has about his father as a good man. But I think it might actually have been intended as just that – Anakin knew about Luke, and wanted his son to follow in his Jedi footsteps, bequeathing him a weapon for the time when he was old enough, in the warrior tradition. This does open up some possibilities that I think are quite exciting, but let’s move on.

We then hear about Vader and the Jedi Purge, which is all pretty self-explanatory. I always think it’s worth pointing out here Alec Guinness’ skill as an actor, when he has that brief look of unease cross his face before telling Luke. It’s like he knows he’s about to lie to the boy…

General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire. I regret that I am unable to present my father’s request to you in person, but my ship has fallen under attack and I’m afraid my mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed.

General Kenobi served Bail Organa in the Clone Wars. Wow. So the Jedi were the generals in that war, or at least, Obi-Wan definitely was. Again, the inference feels very much like it was a war against clones, but let’s not labour that point. I do find it interesting though, how Obi-Wan is here portrayed almost like some kind of personal bodyguard for Bail Organa, hinting that the Alderaanian had a much wider role to play in the backstory than he was otherwise given. It makes him sound like he answered to Bail Organa somewhat specifically, and not simply to the Senate. 

I want to briefly mention the conference room scene as well, where Vader is called a devotee to an ancient religion. It’s only been 20 years since the conclusion of the Clone Wars, and the destruction of the Jedi, and people are already forgetting about Force users. I suppose that’s what happens when people see an opportunity for advancement and seize it, though. There’s a similar moment when Vader tells Tarkin that he can sense Obi-Wan aboard the Death Star – Tarkin tells him the Jedi fire has gone out of the galaxy, and Vader is all that is left of the Jedi religion. Tarking presumably does not know that the Emperor is an adherent to the Force, although at this point in the meta-history it’s likely that the Emperor was not a Sith Lord in the same way that Vader is.

What is definitely worth noting here, though, is the continual use of the word “religion” to describe these folks. The thing with midi-chlorians that we got later on makes the Jedi an exclusive club that is based on a birth defect rather than something you can train for. But I suppose we’ll get to that in the next movie.

I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete.

Ben Kenobi moves with elegant ease into a classical offensive position. The fearsome Dark Knight takes a defensive stance.

When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.

So, whatever might be coming up in the Kenobi series, even whatever we saw in episode 3 – I think this is pretty definitive that Vader and Obi-Wan parted ways a long time ago. What’s interesting, to me, is that Vader seems to be suggesting that Vader left Obi-Wan while still an apprentice. We’ll come back to this in episode 6, though. Suffice it to say, though, I find this very interesting.

The Empire Strikes Back
There isn’t a great deal of background that can be gleaned from the next film, perhaps as it serves instead to continue the narrative from last time. Of course, there are still a few bits and pieces that come through, though. Let’s start with a really small point:

You will go to the Dagobah system.

Dagobah system?

There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me.

While this appears to have been addressed in episode 2 with Yoda instructing all the younglings in the Jedi Temple, I think the inference here is that Yoda instructed Obi-Wan much more one-on-one. Along the way, however, Yoda seems to have become the sort of living legend – Grand Master of the Jedi Order, no less – and as such the possibility that Obi-Wan was Yoda’s padawan discarded. Ah well.

Luke goes to Dagobah, and then we have this curious remark:

If you’re saying coming here was a bad idea, I’m beginning to agree with you. Oh, Artoo, what are we doing here? It’s like… something out of a dream, or, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just going crazy.

And this:

Still… there’s something familiar about this place. I feel like… I don’t know…

All of which seemed to point to the idea that Luke was either born on Dagobah, or else had spent some time there before being taken to Tatooine and the Lars family. Maybe Yoda was reaching out through the Force and young Luke became aware of it somehow? I mean, it’s pretty specific, and the fact that it’s mentioned twice does seem to be pretty telling. I’ve not come across anything that has yet explained this, either, so it’s just left dangling there.

Now then, the following dialogue was changed in the 2004 DVD release of the trilogy, but I’m sticking with the older version of the conversation between Vader and the Emperor, as I feel that we need to stay firmly in 1980 for the purposes of this blog.

A twelve-foot hologram of the Galactic Emperor materializes
before Vader. The Emperor’s dark robes and monk’s hood are reminiscent of the cloak worn by Ben Kenobi. His voice is even deeper and more frightening than Vader’s.

What is thy bidding, my master?

There is a great disturbance in the Force.

I have felt it.

We have a new enemy – Luke Skywalker.

Yes, my master.

He could destroy us.

He’s just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?

He will join us or die, my master.

Vader kneels. The supreme Emperor passes a hand over the crouched Lord of the Sith and fades away.

I am very interested in the fact that Vader has barely any reaction to the name Luke Skywalker, which is one of the reasons why the lines were changed in the 2004 release (Vader instead saying, “How is that possible?”) It does go some way to continuing the idea from the last movie, that Anakin knew he had a boy and wanted to give him his lightsaber, and so the fact that the Emperor names him here either suggests that Vader already knew he had a son, or else Skywalker is indeed the galactic version of Jones, and there’s no real way of reconciling Anakin and Luke as father and son from the name alone.

When Luke is in Yoda’s hut, there are a few remarks made by way that Yoda doesn’t wish to train Luke, calling him reckless and so on. When he says that Luke is too old to be trained, that seems to have been the cue for child padawans in the prequels, but really there’s nothing to otherwise suggest this – as we shall see in the next film. Also, Yoda tells him that a Jedi must be deeply committed to studying the Force, which again suggests, to me, that the Force is more akin to a religion that anyone can join if they’re so inclined.

The scene can be read a few ways, though, and I suppose Yoda could just have been testing Luke’s commitment by saying he wouldn’t train him. Because if we think that Luke, as Anakin’s son, will have a very high midi-chlorian count as well, wouldn’t it be more dangerous to leave him untrained? Especially when Obi-Wan outright says later on that it is a dangerous time for him to leave his training incomplete. It’s interesting, for sure, and I do often wonder how Lucas sees the Dagobah scenes from the original trilogy in relation to the Jedi philosophy from the prequels.

I don’t want to get too much into the idea of the Force as an energy field that anybody can touch if they try hard enough, because in many ways there isn’t really any direct contradiction to the later revelation of midi-chlorians. It sure sounds like anyone can be a Jedi, and there aren’t these strict rules about age and blood flying about, but there is also the inference of beings having a natural affinity for the Force, such as the son of a powerful Jedi also having the potential to be powerful. This, I suppose, is the original trilogy’s way of telling us about midi-chlorians without telling us about midi-chlorians. But I really don’t want to labour this point, because it has already been done to death in the 23 years since episode 1 came out. Let’s move on!

Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.

This quote is worth mentioning, because it is again suggestive of the idea that Anakin and Obi-Wan parted ways during the former’s training, and not when the two of them were Jedi Knights as is shown in episode 3. We also get another of these tantalising clues as to why Anakin fell to the dark side, choosing the easy way. It definitely supports the idea that Anakin wanted more, and now.

Return of the Jedi
I suppose it’s part of the process of wrapping things up, but we get a surprisingly significant chunk of information again in episode 6, which once more revolves around Obi-Wan as the agent of exposition! We don’t really learn anything during the first half hour or so at Jabba’s palace, but once Luke returns to Dagobah, the lore begins to flow once again.

No more training do you require. Already know you that which you need.

Yoda sighs, and lies back on his bed.

Then I am a Jedi?

Ohhh. Not yet. One thing remains: Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.

I think this little exchange is interesting, as it suggests there isn’t quite such a formal structure to the training for a Jedi. Luke basically gets in shape and learns some telekinesis, then he needs to overcome a great personal trial before he can be called a Jedi for real. It’s interesting because it really puts this sort of thing on a very personal level, which is in keeping with the brief glimpses we’ve had throughout the three films of how the Force works. It’s very much an internal mastery type of thing, and I think to some extent, the prequels demystified the whole thing.

Luke…Luke…Do not…Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor, or suffer your father’s fate, you will. Luke, when gone am I (cough), the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned, Luke… (with great effort) There is… another… Sky… Sky… walker.

Without getting into how well set-up the whole ‘Luke and Leia are brother and sister’ thing was, I think it’s very interesting that Yoda is relying on Luke to pass on what he has learned, as if anyone can teach this Force stuff. Whether that is a sign of the desperate times the Jedi are in at this point, who knows. But there’s never the suggestion that Leia would be too old to be trained, so are child padawans really that important?

When you watch the films in episode order, his line about underestimating the Emperor becomes layered with much more meaning, too. However, I also like it because it suggests that the Emperor was able to trick Anakin into falling to the dark side, somehow. Maybe Anakin thought he wouldn’t necessarily fall to evil, or something? Again, interesting.

The biggest info-dump that we get, however, comes from Obi-Wan’s talk with Luke in the following scene. I’ve included an extended version of this scene from the Third Draft of the script, which I think was used for James Kahn’s novelization, with the lines not filmed highlighted in bold.

Yoda will always be with you.

Luke looks up to see the shimmering image of BEN KENOBI.

Obi-Wan! Why didn’t you tell me?

The ghost of Ben Kenobi approaches him through the swamp.

You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father.

You father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I have told you was true… from a certain point of view.

A certain point of view!

Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Luke is unresponsive. Ben studies him in silence for a moment.

I don’t blame you for being angry. If I was wrong in what I did, it certainly wouldn’t have been for the first time. You see, what happened to your father was my fault.

Ben pauses sadly.

Anakin was a good friend.

Luke turns with interest at this. As Ben speaks, Luke settles on a stump, mesmerized. Artoo comes over to offer his comforting presence.

When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong. My pride has had terrible consequences for the galaxy.

Luke is entranced.

There’s still good in him.

I also thought he could be turned back to the good side. It couldn’t be done. He is more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.

I can’t do it, Ben.

You cannot escape your destiny.

I tried to stop him once. I couldn’t do it.

Vader humbled you when first you met him, Luke… but that experience was part of your training. It taught you, among other things, the value of patience. Had you not been so impatient to defeat Vader then, you could have finished your training here with Yoda. You would have been prepared.

But I had to help my friends.

And did you help them? It was they who had to save you. You achieved little by rushing back prematurely, I fear.

I found out Darth Vader was my father.

To be a Jedi, Luke, you must confront and then go beyond the dark side – the side your father couldn’t get past. Impatience is the easiest door – for you, like your father. Only, your father was seduced by what he found on the other side of the door, and you have held firm. You’re no longer so reckless now, Luke. You are strong and patient. And now, you must face Darth Vader again!

I can’t kill my own father.

Then the Emperor has already won. You were our only hope.

Yoda spoke of another.

The other he spoke of is your twin sister.

But I have no sister.

Hmm. To protect you both from the Emperor, you were hidden from your father when you were born. The Emperor knew, as I did, if Anakin were to have any offspring, they would be a threat to him. That is the reason why your sister remains safely anonymous.

Leia! Leia’s my sister.

Your insight serves you well. Bury your feelings deep down, Luke. They do you credit. But they could be made to serve the Emperor.

Luke looks into the distance, trying to comprehend all this.

When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible. So I took you to live with my brother Owen on Tatooine… and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa, on Alderaan.

Luke turns, and settles near Ben to hear the tale.

The Organa household was high-born and politically quite powerful in that system. Leia became a princess by virtue of lineage… no one knew she’d been adopted, of course. But it was a title without real power, since Alderaan had long been a democracy. Even so, the family continued to be politically powerful, and Leia, following in her foster father’s path, became a senator as well. That’s not all she became, of course… she became the leader of her cell in the Alliance against the corrupt Empire. And because she had diplomatic immunity, she was a vital link for getting information to the Rebel cause. That’s what she was doing when her path crossed yours… for her foster parents had always told her to contact me on Tatooine, if her troubles became desperate.

Luke is overwhelmed by the truth, and is suddenly protective of his sister.

But you can’t let her get involved now, Ben. Vader will destroy her.

She hasn’t been trained in the ways of the Jedi the way you have, Luke… but the Force is strong with her, as it is with all of your family. There is no avoiding the battle. You must face and destroy Vader!

This is definitely a long scene, and you can perhaps see why a lot of it was left out of the final shooting script. But let’s take it from the top, first concentrating on what we learn from the movie, and then moving into those additional bits. Anakin Skywalker was “seduced” by the dark side of the Force. This is a concept that has become so entrenched within the mythos of Star Wars that it’s just accepted now, but taken together with Yoda’s earlier declaration that Anakin underestimated the Emperor, I think it does speak quite strongly to how Anakin fell – wanting the quick and easy path, perhaps, and urged on by the Emperor. Luke was described in the last movie as reckless, like his father, so I think we’re building a picture of Anakin as wanting more, and wanting it now, and so he falls.

When Obi-Wan first met Anakin, he was already a great pilot, which is of course explained away by the antics with the podrace and subsequent battle for Naboo, but I do get the feeling that somehow Anakin was meant to be a lot older. In the original Rough Draft of the movie, Annikin Starkiller was described as being 18, I think, so perhaps this is the image that Lucas had in mind when he was writing this stuff? It definitely doesn’t sound like he was a child, and I do have the suspicion that if he was meant to have been, Obi-Wan might have remarked upon it here? At any rate, Obi-Wan was amazed at how strong in the Force Anakin was, and “took it upon himself” to train him. Interesting – sounds very much again like the Jedi do not have that sort of centralized structure that we see in the prequels.

Now, here we also have something of a contradiction between Episodes 4 and 6, when Obi-Wan tells Luke that both he and his twin sister were hidden from their father when they were born – so how could Anakin have wanted Luke to have his lightsaber when he was old enough? Hm. I guess it’s possible that Anakin told Obi-Wan that he wanted a hypothetical son to have his weapon, or perhaps there was a Jedi custom that allowed for weapons to be passed in that way, and Obi-Wan was just extrapolating?

In his final remark to Luke, Obi-Wan tells him that his feelings could be made to serve the Emperor. Again, it’s that sort of hint that the Emperor exploits this sort of thing, and perhaps that’s how Anakin fell to the dark side, through being so emotional.

So, what do we learn from the dialogue that was cut?

Firstly, Obi-Wan also believed that Anakin could be turned from the dark side, but it couldn’t be done, suggestive of the confrontation between the two that, as we know, put Vader in the suit. This idea is returned to when Vader and Luke meet again on Endor.

There’s a really interesting comment made about how Luke was able to confront the dark side and go beyond it, while Anakin liked what he saw and turned fully down that path. Anakin’s impatience seems to have caused his downfall, again linking in to the idea that Anakin wanted more, and quicker than he was getting it from Obi-Wan. It sounds very much like confronting the dark side and being able to stand firm is a clear part of Jedi training, which I think goes a long way to support the Dagobah cave sequence in episode 5. This is definitely a loss to the script, having these lines cut.

As the scene continues beyond the filmed dialogue, we have a bit of a bombshell in learning that Owen was Obi-Wan’s brother, and also that Anakin did not know his wife was pregnant. The comment “when your father left…” is also very suggestive, as if Anakin fell to the dark side long before Mrs Skywalker began to show her pregnancy, maybe? It is all quite indicative of a chaotic time, possibly linked to the foundation of the Empire as well. I sometimes think that by making the prequel trilogy so wide open, we have lost some of the darker aspects of this family drama that could have been.

Of course, that’s all now largely irrelevant for the purposes of this blog, because it isn’t in the movie.

Next up, then, we have the oft-cited argument for poor story choices in the prequels: Luke and Leia on Endor.

Leia… do you remember your mother? Your real mother?

Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.

What do you remember?

Just…images, really. Feelings.

Tell me.

LEIA (a little surprised at his insistence)
She was very beautiful. Kind, but…sad. (looks up) Why are you asking me all this?

He looks away.

I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her.

This exchange first surprises me because it shows that both Luke and Leia know that she was adopted. Of course, we’ve since had an EU that suggests rumours of an affair between Bail and Padme, but let’s not get into that now – it seems very much intended at this point to tell us that Bail Organa was not related to Leia by blood. The big thing here, of course, is that Leia remembers her real mother, in vague terms admittedly. Again, the EU has (I think) tried to explain this away somewhat with saying that Padme looked a little longer at Leia than at Luke before she died. Hm. However, we also have the story that Sabe also joined Leia on Alderaan and served as a tutor to the young princess. That Sabe and Padme were almost identical is perhaps what is confusing Leia here. But regardless, we have the pretty clear suggestion that Anakin’s wife went to Alderaan with her daughter, and lived in secret for a short while, at the very least. (James Kahn’s novel does have Obi-Wan say Padme died when the twins were aged 4, although obviously doesn’t mention her by name).

Luke then goes on to surrender himself to Vader.

The Emperor has been expecting you.

I know, father.

So, you have accepted the truth.

I’ve accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.

That name no longer has any meaning for me.

It is the name of your true self. You’ve only forgotten. I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully. That is why you couldn’t destroy me. That’s why you won’t bring me to your Emperor now.

Vader looks down from Luke to the lightsaber in his own black gloved hand. He seems to ponder Luke’s words.

I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.

Vader ignites the lightsaber and holds it to examine its humming, brilliant blade.

Your skills are complete. Indeed, you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen.

They stand for a moment, the Vader extinguishes the lightsaber.

Come with me.

Obi-Wan once thought as you do.

Luke steps close to Vader, then stops. Vader is still.

You don’t know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master.

I will not turn…and you’ll be forced to kill me.

If that is your destiny.

Search your feelings, father. You can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.

It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.

Vader signals to some distant stormtroopers. He and Luke stand staring at one another for a long moment.

Then my father is truly dead.

Vader confirms to Luke that Obi-Wan once tried to convince Anakin to turn from the dark side, but he goes on to say that it is now too late for him. I wonder whether he is thinking that he’s done too much evil to be able to atone, or whether there’s something else going on in the mystical realm that we don’t really know about. It certainly seems to hint that there is an almost physical grip that the dark side has upon him, especially when he says that he must obey the Emperor. This is expanded a little more later, when the Emperor tells Luke that Vader can never be turned from the dark side. Interesting stuff, and linked again to Yoda’s teachings on Dagobah, where he says the dark side will “dominate your destiny” as if it were a physical thing. While we don’t necessarily get a great deal of insight into the prequels from this exchange, it is nevertheless important for what it tells us about the nature of the dark side, and the hints it provides to Anakin’s fall and the Emperor’s control.

I also like the idea of creating a lightsaber being a “skill”, like there’s some kind of curriculum for training. But that’s perhaps a bit facetious of me!

During the battle in the Throne Room, the Emperor constantly makes reference to Luke’s anger and hate, telling him to “give in to your anger” and “use your aggressive feelings”. While there isn’t anything really concrete that we can say about how Anakin fell, I nevertheless think it’s intriguing to note. Throughout, we’ve been given the impression that Anakin was simply impatient to gain power in the Force, but we weren’t really given the idea that he was violent at this time. This trait is expanded upon and almost becomes a defining aspect of his character in the prequels, but I think the Emperor is also portrayed as being wily enough that he was perhaps able to seduce Vader to the dark side in a different way to what we see on screen with Luke. I do like the slightly creepy way Palpatine befriends Anakin in the prequel movies, of course, but I do wish we had seen a different Anakin in those films – one who was actually a good friend to Obi-Wan, as he is described in the original trilogy.

So what does all of this tell us? 

I think, to start with, we had a Jedi Order as something much more akin to a sort of wandering sect of warrior monks, which is surprising when we have a kind of centralized bureaucracy presented in the prequels. Some aspects of the Disney story have actually seemingly tried to bring this back, with talk of hidden temples and the like. It’s something that actually hearkens back to the Tales of the Jedi stuff, as well, actually, which makes me think that the Jedi really were meant to be more along these lines back in the day. It has been covered unto death, of course, but midi-chlorians do seem to come out of nowhere in episode 1. Rather, throughout the original movies we have a lot of “the Force is strong with you” and so on, which does kinda support the idea of people having a genetic predisposition to become a Jedi. But somehow, it still feels like anybody could be trained, particularly when Yoda asks Luke why he’d like to be a Jedi. The prequels seem to paint the picture of untrained Force wielders as like underage wizards in the Harry Potter universe – that is, a danger that must be controlled. If Luke could make it to 18 with nothing untoward happening, and if Leia could continue further still, then it does seem like being a Jedi does have more to do with mindset and training rather than anything else. 

It’s interesting to see what we can glean about the fall of Anakin Skywalker, of course. It definitely strikes me that Anakin was meant to have been a Jedi who wanted to progress quickly to a position of power and command within the Force. Oddly enough, this idea is actually right there in Attack of the Clones, but it comes out as a very whiny kid. We also have the suggestion that he may have known that he had a son (when Luke receives the lightsaber), and this isn’t necessarily disputed when Obi-Wan explains about Luke and Leia being hidden from the Emperor. 

The nature of Anakin’s transformation into Vader is quite interesting, and throws up with some really thought-provoking ideas about the way the dark side of the Force works. I suppose it boils down to giving into your rage and anger means that it’s hard to extricate yourself, and when a character as suave and intelligent as the Emperor has a hold over you, it’s even more difficult. 

It’s not just the dark side that we learn about though, but there’s also Luke’s Jedi training that has some info sprinkled in, such as the idea of facing your darkness and overcoming it to become a Jedi. Of course, midi-chlorians don’t get a look in, but Lucas has always had this idea of the microbiology of the Force, something that he apparently wanted to explore in his own episodes 7-9. There is for sure the idea that some people have a natural affinity for the Force, which is never explained any further, but it has always felt like anybody could become a Jedi if they tried hard enough. Of course, when telling a story on a galactic scale, I suppose it might have occurred to Lucas that this idea would become problematic, as there might actually end up being bajillions of Force users out there, and I think he wanted the Jedi Order to be a much smaller enclave. But that’s definitely just my own thoughts on the matter. 

Other bits and pieces are thrown in, I think, to both give the story a sense of history and, should the opportunity arise, to give Lucas a door to further stories down the road. The Clone Wars definitely comes under this, I think. It’s such a tantalizing line, after all, and could for sure lead to further movies if the original film did well. It almost didn’t matter that the idea wasn’t fleshed out, either – the important thing was that the movie is set in the middle of a conflict, with another conflict in the not-too-distant past for some measure of scope.   

All in all, this has been quite an exhaustive look through the dialogue of the original trilogy to see what we can glean about the prequel ideas that were floating around in the 1970s and 80s. In some respects, the prequel trilogy remained faithful to what was established, expanding upon it to create the story that we have from those three films, and nothing is really massively incongruous there. Some things are much more subjective, I think, or perhaps have been twisted a little with the excuse that time can sometimes make fools of the memory. Everything, though, I think, is pretty easily explained, and there are no massive inconsistencies. For many, though, the fact that Leia remembers her mother when episode 3 shows that she can’t possibly remember her, is going to always be a stumbling block.

A big thing for me, though, is how different the Jedi feel between the trilogies. The prequels show us a strict Order that has a strong central presence, and this feels out of place when you study the original trilogy scripts and get the sense of mysticism and such. It’s only a sense, though, and doesn’t outright contradict the prequel trilogy.

I do enjoy the prequel movies, and this blog was never intended to bash those films. I think it’s just really interesting to look at these lines of dialogue and try to see what was intended originally, in comparison to what we eventually got. Watching the original trilogy, which I have done hundreds of times over the years, these things can often just pass me by, so I thought it was really interesting to watch them and be on the lookout for what we can glean!

April 2022 retrospective

2022 seems to be such a weird year, so far. We’re now 4 months in, and time seems to be moving really strangely, like each month is taking longer than normal, but overall the year is already one-third over. Weird.

As far as my blog is concerned, April has seen a pretty definite shift from Warhammer 40k into Star Wars, as I have almost entirely shifted gears into my first sci fi love. I’ve been watching the movies again, of course, which perhaps explains a lot of this, but I seem to be in something of a hobby slump and Star Wars has taken over almost entirely. Of course, I have been doing the odd bits and pieces, mainly with the Black Legion miniatures that I began to work on at the beginning of the month. I was trying to get the squad of 5 legionaries, plus the Sorcerer, finished off, and things were going quite well for a time, but then my hobby energy seemed to just grind to a halt.

I also had a game of 40k, trying out my Tau army for the first time, and it was actually pretty nice. I finally bought a Riptide battle suit, something I had wanted for a long time, and I built up a Ghostkeel after the game, but again, the hobby energy has ground to a halt.

In an attempt to switch gears with things, I’ve once again turned my attentions to terrain, and have done a little more work on the galvanic magnavent, but switching projects like this has also not helped and I’m now at the point where I’m pretty much giving up for the time being. I mean, I always come back to it, so it’s not like I’m going to burn my armies, or sell everything off, but I think maybe a few days off completely might help to get me motivated once again.

In the meantime, I have found myself with plenty of other gaming outlets!

My wife Jemma has suggested we have a regular game night, and so we’ve had a couple of games of Elder Sign, and (so far) one game of the Star Wars LCG. Elder Sign is something of an old favourite, so that was all well and good, but then the Star Wars LCG almost did her in! However, things are looking positive for more of that, so I’m pleased there. I’ve started trying to pick up some of the Force packs that I missed out on back in the day, so I’m hoping I will be able to have a complete collection for the game to enjoy in due course.

I seem to have taken a fairly large pivot away from Games Workshop at the minute though, which I’m finding somewhat curious. For instance, the new Necromunda: Ash Wastes box has gone on pre-order today, and my interest had begun to wane until the point where I saw the price last week and decided that I’m actually not going to bother. I mean, if it’s still available in a few months down the line, then I might pick it up if I’ve gotten back into that of course, but at the moment, I’ve been thinking that I’ve actually got a lot of stuff, most of it is stuff that I’m seemingly never getting round to doing anything with, so why just add yet more stuff to that pile? My Ossiarch Bonereapers army has been painted up for almost 12 months now, and I have done absolutely nothing with those forces in that time. I have so much stuff, and the return on that investment is slim by comparison that I think it’s time to implement a change!

I said that I’m not going to just clear everything out, but it is making me think a lot more critically of my plastic addiction, and I wonder if this shift might well be good for me in that I’ll begin to finally downsize, and get myself under control! Though whenever I have tried to do this in the past, I will inevitably end up with still huge amounts of stuff!! But we shall see.

However: Star Wars!

I seem to be really riding a wave at the minute, and have been back delving into all sorts of magic and delights, as I have embarked on reading a whole bunch of Prequel stories, and have been generally wallowing wholeheartedly in the galaxy far, far away. I’ve been loving the movies, delving a lot into the background stuff once more, and have been reading a lot of the genesis of the original trilogy, which is something that I find really fascinating. There’ll be plenty of stuff coming out on the blog here as well, not just as I read through the Prequel stuff, so I’m very excited about that!

I’ve even started watching Rebels again…

I read this short book over last weekend, a YA book that was published to tie in with Rogue One that tells a prequel story behind Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe, the guardians of the Temple of Kyber that we meet in the movie. It is set during the Imperial occupation, so it isn’t that much of a prequel, if I’m honest – we meet them when the Temple has already closed, and so don’t really know much about their lives before that point.

They’re both trying to help out the downtrodden people of Jedha, and take part in raids on the Imperial supply depots to get medicine for an orphanage, and mechanical parts etc. When Saw Gerrera arrives on the moon, he tries to enlist their help in his cause, but while they at first resist his call, an Imperial reprisal attack against the orphanage spurs them on to throw their lot in with the Partisan leader.

They take part in a couple of military actions against the Imperials, and eventually are able to evacuate the children from the orphanage at the end of the book. Presumably so that we don’t think too much about a group of 30-something kids also being vaporised when the Death Star is tested.

I think I would have preferred a book that tells us more about the religious movements that call Jedha home prior to the Imperial occupation, and to learn more about what exactly the Temple of Kyber was all about. I suppose that’s just me and my interest in these things – it would probably be above and beyond the remit of a novel like this, though. It was fun to see Chirrut and Baze in action, and I think it did a good job of explaining why Saw had come to Jedha. All in all, it was fine for what it was. Maybe one day though, we’ll be able to learn more about these Force sects and how they work…

Next month, though, I shall be embarking on an entirely different project, as I start reading the Witcher novels as well! I’ve already read the first two anthologies, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, and will be reading Blood of Elves alongside Dave and Jenn, so do keep an eye out for that, as it promises to be something very special!

I’m also hoping to continue with The Forgotten Age, as I haven’t played any more with that since the initial play through of the opening scenarios in that campaign. I’m expecting to do badly, but still!

All in all, then, April has been a strange month, but I’m hopeful that May will be much more productive.

Star Wars LCG!

Hey everybody,
Following on from yesterday’s game day blog about my rekindled love for the now-defunct Star Wars LCG, I’ve been taking a look at all of the expansions for the game that we have, and in particular looking at what each cycle brought to the table in the order that they came out. It’s interesting to me, to see when certain cards were published, and to a lesser extent, how they fared in the meta.

The card game had a total of six cycles published over its duration, and we also had five deluxe expansions – including one that gave us a multi-player variant. Let’s take a look at what each cycle brought to the game…

The Hoth Cycle (2012-13)
The first cycle of the game introduced many Hoth objective sets for the various factions, although there was more of a specific focus on Rebels vs Imperials, given the nature of that battle. We see a variety of bonuses available for decks which include Hoth objectives, with card effects slanted towards a player having a lot of these cards in their deck. It isn’t all about the Rebels and the Empire, however, as we have a host of cards for the other factions that don’t necessarily take in any notice of the battle on the ice planet. Smugglers and Spies get Renegade Squadron, though, which was a force led by Col Serra in the defence of Echo Base, comprised of smugglers and scoundrels. The Sith faction gets the super star destroyer Executor, which is a shocking card, while Scum & Villainy get a bunch of new bounty hunters to augment those already in the Edge of Darkness deluxe.

When evaluated as a whole, the cycle has got a lot of interesting cards, even from outside of the Hoth theme. However, I think more than any other cycle from any other card game, the Hoth Cycle is one of those that begs to be played in order – by which I mean, adding cards to your decks in the order that the packs came out. There isn’t power creep, per se, but the theme of establishing the base, the Imperials arriving, and the desperate flight from the ice world is captured really quite beautifully in the way these cards came out. It’s one of my biggest gaming regrets, not being able to play this game as it was published.

Echoes of the Force (2014)
The second cycle had something of a focus on Force users, and introduced a lot of fairly powerful cards, particularly for the Jedi faction. However, all factions have an interaction with the Force struggle, from Scum & Villainy capturing Force cards, to Smugglers counting the top card of their deck towards the Force struggle, it’s great to see a load of innovative ways for the various factions to stay relevant in a Force-centric set. We get a number of lightsaber forms as enhancement cards, and a lot of the factions pull characters from the Dark Forces series, such as Kyle Katarn and Jerec. The Empire is creating the Dark Trooper project, and we get more of a focus on vehicles from the Rebellion. Which is interesting, because vehicles are something of a focus for the next cycle, too. We also get Mara Jade and Winter, which is very nice indeed!

Rogue Squadron (2015)
With a focus on starfighters and dogfights, the third cycle introduced the Pilot mechanic as a way to essentially crew friendly vehicles. Doing so can grant vehicles bonus abilities, or switch on the effects of the pilot cards themselves. We get a lot of new starfighters, as you’d expect, and at times it feels like the game has crossed over with X-Wing, as a lot of the pilots from that game are featured in card form, Howlrunner, Mauler Mithel, etc. We get new versions of Han and Luke, with the Pilot keyword, but it’s not all about the small ships. Indeed, we get Grand Admiral Thrawn in this cycle!

The Endor Cycle (2015-16)
The fourth cycle once again provided a sense of location, but the biggest change was Mission cards, which are played as objectives under your opponent’s control, waiting for you to attack them. They generate no resources for your opponent, but count as objectives in every way, and when they are destroyed, you get a bonus (in addition to the usual stuff). Given that we’re on Endor, there is an Ewok subtheme with a load of neutral objective sets that contain the furry aliens. The way that Endor objectives work is also really interesting, in that cards interact with how many are on both sides of the table, and it can sometimes be possible to shift your damage to your opponent as some card effects don’t specify who owns the cards.

Opposition (2016-17)
The fifth cycle pitted pairs of factions together in opposition, Jedi vs Sith, Rebels vs Imperials, and Smugglers vs Scum. While we have plenty of cards that are drawn from the movies and expanded universe, we also begin to see characters from Rebels join the fray, starting with Ahsoka Tano. We also have a fairly interesting development in terms of faction-specific Fate cards, which is a way of emphasizing the struggle between the paired opponents. It’s a really interesting way to emphasize the theme of the cycle, but I also like the fact that we still get stuff like the Pilot mechanic, ensuring that the game hasn’t completely forgotten about its own expansions.

Oh yeah – and the Empire gets a Death Star card…

Alliances (2017-18)
The final cycle sought to bring factions together, and gave new Affiliation cards that paired the factions in specific ways, with bonuses when you adhere to the deckbuilding requirements in this way. So for example, by including five Smugglers objective sets, and five Jedi or neutral objective sets, you fulfil the requirements for the new Smugglers affiliation, Desperate Allies, which grants the bonus of removing an additional focus token from a unit after you refresh. With a focus on mixing factions in this way, there are many cards across the cycle that have pseudo-multi class abilities, and there are a few copies of the enhancement card Necessary Allies that grants a resource that matches any affiliation, thanks to the Influence keyword.

More importantly, though, this cycle features cards that pull from Rogue One, Rebels, and the Darth Vader comic series. So we get Doctor Aphra, Jyn Erso and Ezra Bridger, along with all the usual suspects, but we do continue to get the more familiar faces from the original trilogy, and a few new faces that are drawn from FFG’s RPG, which would have been so exciting if this hadn’t been the final cycle! It’s nice also to see continued support for stuff like Endor and Hoth objectives, and cards that have been printed throughout the game’s run continued to appear in objective sets right to the end, allowing for a great level of consistency across the whole game. It’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much, and find the deckbuilding particularly fascinating.

I am currently in love with this game, and I can’t wait to play it more, and more, and more! I hope to get some more games in soon, and I shall doubtless be waffling on again here in due course!!

Star Wars: The Card Game – a renaissance

Hey everybody,
For game day today, I’m once more going to talk about the Star Wars LCG, my new-found obsession, something that I never thought I’d say again! I was really into this game back when it first came out, but despite forcing several different people to play it with me, nobody really wanted to play it much, so it ended up being shunted into the attic and just left there. However, after a passing comment to Jemma about it when we were re-watching the original trilogy over Easter, she’s proven to be more receptive than literally anybody else I’ve ever talked about it with! So we had a game last Saturday and, while it wasn’t exactly brilliant, it’s most definitely promising!

I’d already put together 6 decks, one for each faction, very much in the spirit of just mashing objective sets together and hoping for a good time. Well, I suppose some thought did go into them, but even so. Jemma decided she wanted to play as the Empire, so I decided I would stick to form and go with the Rebels, rather than either of the other two light-side factions.

Now, I’m going to say this right now: this game can be very confusing, even for seasoned card game players. For someone like my wife, who is not all that into Star Wars, and isn’t really a card gamer whatsoever, I think I lost her almost immediately with my explanation of how the game works. There is so much to think about, and there is a lot that is different from other games, that it can be quite a minefield to negotiate. She also insisted on playing it as normally as possible, so we had the whole Force Struggle thing, Edge Battles, no open hands, etc etc. I think she grew frustrated quite early on, and I began to feel like it was going to be a waste of time.

As the game went on, though, I think she got into things a little. The rules around paying for cards, and refreshing cards, all of that seemed to go quite smoothly after a while, and as so often happens with this game, it did come down to the wire. I think I made one mis-play that meant Jemma won on her next turn, rather than me dealing one additional point of damage to the third dark side objective to win (I’d played a card on it to allow me to draw cards when it produced resources, and so held back a bit as I wanted the card draw – but the Death Star dial was at 10 and was ticking on twice per turn, so…)

The bright spot on all of this is that Jemma has agreed that there is a pain barrier to go through in order to learn a new game, and just because you don’t enjoy the first run through doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever play it again. I’d thought that perhaps we should have played other card games first – even going back to Magic for a time – but anyway. I think we’re tentatively going to be playing the game every other week, in an effort for her to get into it (and for me to get back into it, I suppose!)

I can’t say that the Rebel Alliance is my favourite faction to play. That was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t drawing very many good cards, I suppose, but I have a feeling that the rebels play better with some of the fancier cards from later cycles, particularly when you bring in the Pilot mechanic. In an effort to keep things straightforward, though, I was trying to keep things fairly basic, with obvious plays that help to play off each other.

I think we had a couple of mistakes, namely that Jemma was focusing cards like Tarkin to generate resources, then also using him to attack me, but there was quite the situation set up whereby she was able to one-shot my objectives thanks to Tarkin making them -1 defence, and Orbital Bombardment giving every unit an additional blast icon, which made the Death Squadron Star Destroyer a beast. So between the good plays from across the table, and my own lacklustre cards being drawn from the Rebel deck, I think I was lucky to be able to do anything in the way of damage, really!

I am glad that Jemma has agreed to play it again, though – and she seems to want to get into it, I think, although that may be wishful thinking on my part! The fact that she won notwithstanding, I think when card plays like that come together, and it becomes quite clear what you need to do to play the game, it can be quite exciting. I’ve been re-examining my Rebel deck, and have yet to really come up with any combinations like that. Which might, of course, be the point. If I can get a number of fighters out, I should be able to deal a fair bit of blast damage, but on the whole I have a lot of pretty average stuff, and not a great deal of obvious plays. But then, I suppose that could be the idea of the Rebels being a rag-tag bunch, and it might be symbolic of the fact they aren’t able to bring overwhelming firepower to bear. I don’t have any of the capital ships included in the deck, but I do think that further down the line I might be switching out some objective sets. Not for the purposes of power-gaming, of course, but more for variety – I quite like the look of the Walex Blissex set, but I currently have no space for him.

On this note, I think the deckbuilding is one of the more fascinating aspects of this game, and I really enjoy the fact that you don’t just replace cards on a one-for-one basis. It really makes you think about how they’re going to work within the deck, even if you don’t have a plan for the deck as a whole just yet! It’s something that I particularly like in the Jedi deck that I’ve enjoyed playing with (when I had the opportunity!) Due to the way Edge Battles and Force struggles work, I think there’s always a use for a card, whether you throw away something you deem “worthless” for its pips in the Edge Battle, or whether that unit whose only worth comes from a “when played” trigger, commit him to the Force and leave him off to the side. It’s a really well-designed game, and I think this is really evident when it becomes difficult to build a deck due to the embarrassment of riches!

So, let’s talk about the decks for a minute. The Rebel Alliance deck doesn’t have any duplicated objective sets, which does mean that it lacks somewhat in consistency. Looking through the cards in the deck, there isn’t a lot in the way of duplication either – a couple of Twist of Fate cards, a couple of Hidden Outpost cards, and a couple of Rebel Assault cards. There are a lot of starfighters – a couple of X-Wings, some B-Wings, an A-Wing and a Y-Wing, and there are a lot of the kind of generic trooper types.

There is a slight theme that comes out from inclusion of several Yavin-IV cards, although it’s only slight, and I think it only really works off having General Dodonna out to draw cards off it. I think there are a total of six objective sets that form what I’m considering to be the core of this deck, with a myriad of starfighters and the like. The remaining four are all candidates that are, to some extent or another, ripe for swapping out – the Mon Mothma set, the Leia set, the General Madine set, and the Winter set. Leia and Mon Mothma however are there for their iconic status, and Madine is a very useful resource generator. Winter, however, is simply there because I love the character. So it’s a thematic deck from the point of view that it shows us a lot of the Rebellion, not because it will play the game necessarily well! I do want to play with it some more before I go changing too much up, as I think it will be instructional to see how things work out. However, I can see myself going much more heavily into the whole starfighter / Pilot thing, rather than having the mix of commandos and spies that is in there currently.

By contrast, while the Empire deck only has one duplicated objective set (the Tarkin set), there is a much more general feel of cross-pollination somehow, as themes like recurring troopers come out fairly well, and the aforementioned play with making that star destroyer into an objective-killer. It’s interesting because that combo wasn’t something that had occurred to me when building the deck, but clearly is something that comes out quite well.

Now, I mentioned in my previous blog about this game how I had stopped buying Force packs after the fourth cycle, so there are two cycles of cards that I never picked up back in the day. Well, as will come to a surprise to nobody, I’m sure, I have now started trying to find these packs, and have managed to get a hold of six, between the Opposition and the Alliances cycles. I think I might be struggling to get at least one of them, as there were a set of new affiliation cards that were seemingly snapped up and so have disappeared from the market, but I do have some hope that I’ll be able to get a decent number of these things before too long. It’s exciting to think that there are some cards in these packs featuring characters from Rogue One, and even the Rebels stuff, as I have recently started to watch that show again.

As I also mentioned last time, I do like the fact that the card pool is now a finite resource from which to draw, and so there is a real prospect that everything will see play, as decks are tweaked. Of course, it’s also possible that decks might stay the same forever, but even if Jemma has no inclination to deck-build, I think I’ll be tinkering for a long time to come, as I swap out the Leia objective set for something else, and so on.

Before I draw this to a close, I also wanted to briefly mention the fact that we currently don’t have any kind of Star Wars card game in general circulation. The situation with FFG at the moment is very odd, and I think I need to take a look into what’s going on there before I begin a massive speculation, however we have Legion (a tabletop miniatures game now outsourced), X-Wing (another miniatures game, also, I believe, outsourced), and the RPG (yet again, outsourced). I don’t really know if FFG have the licence to make Star Wars games anymore, but given how Asmodee seem to be trying to run the company into the ground, it wouldn’t surprise me. I have read that there are still plans for board and card games into 2023, but as that article went up around the same time as the world started locking down for Covid, I would imagine that such plans have been well and truly pushed back, as production schedules scramble to get back on track. Whether we will ever see another card game will remain to be seen, though it will be interesting to see how such a thing could be implemented, given the well-defined eras of Star Wars and so on. It strikes me as really weird, though, how there just isn’t a Star Wars card game being made anymore. I’ll need to take a better look into this kind of thing.

At any rate, I’m just really glad that I’ll be able to play the LCG once again!

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

The Summer of Star Wars has begun!!

The novel begins 35 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, when we see Darth Plagueis and his master, the Bith Darth Tenebrous on the world of Bal’demnic, examining a deposit of cortosis ore. Keen to exploit the natural resistance to lightsabers in the ore, as another step in the plan of the Sith to overthrow the Jedi, they are nevertheless forced to flee when an underground explosion is triggered. Plagueis uses the event to his advantage, and kills Tenebrous by hurling debris from the blast upon his master.

Plagueis escapes the planet by stowing away aboard a ship, killing the crew but taking a droid 11-4D back with him to his home planet of Muunilinst, where he goes about as Hego Damask, CEO of Damask Holdings. As Damask, he holds annual gatherings on the moon Sojourn, where he plays power-broker among the galaxy’s most powerful beings. On Sojourn, he learns that the company who provided Tenebrous with the information on the cortosis deposit, Subtext Mining, has links with Pax Teem, the Senator for Malastare. Representatives of Subtext tell him of a massive lode of plasma on the planet Naboo, which will prove particularly lucrative, in exchange for their lives.

Also on Sojourn, Plagueis is attacked by a dark acolyte known as Darth Venamis, who claims to have been sent by Tenebrous. Plagueis overpowers Venamis, and forces the other to poison himself. Plagueis then takes his comatose body for further experimentation into midi-chlorians and prolonging life. Learning of more potential acolytes, he hunts down each one and kills them.

On Naboo, Damask and the Trade Federation enter into a deal with Bon Tapalo to gain control over the plasma reserves in exchange for support with Tapalo’s election as King of Naboo. Plagueis learns of the potential for an ally in Palpatine, the son of one of the noble families who has defied his father and the isolationist politics of many on Naboo. Plagueis begins to court Palpatine as a potential apprentice, when he senses a great deal of ability in the way the young man is able to shield himself in the Force. Plagueis manipulates Palpatine into killing his entire family with the Force, and promptly takes him as his apprentice, naming him Darth Sidious.

Eleven years later, Palpatine has elevated himself to the position of ambassador for Naboo, and with the help of new allies Sate Pestage and Kinman Doriana, he is able to instigate the assassination of Naboo’s current senator, Vidar Kim. Meanwhile, Plagueis continues his experimentation in the Force, and makes contact with the clonemasters of Kamino, with the possibility of creating a cloned army of Yinchorr warriors. Attempting to increase his own knowledge of the Dark Side, Sidious visits Dathomir and there is given a Zabrak child as a gift – he sends the child to Mustafar to be trained as a weapon of the Dark Side.

At a secret ceremony to initiate Damask’s colleague Larsh Hill into the Order of the Canted Circle, Plagueis is ambushed by Maladian assassins and almost killed – only the arrival of Sate Pestage and Sidious allows the Muun to escape with his life. The assassination was orchestrated by Pax Teem, and so Sidious unleashes his fury on the Gran Senator, killing his entire entourage. Plagueis goes into a sort of retirement on Sojourn, forced to use a transpiratory mask in order to assist with his breathing. His escape makes him even more determined to conquer death, however. In his absence, it falls to Sidious to further the plans of the Sith.

Twenty years pass, and Palpatine is a well-respected Senator, remarkable for having never been involved in scandal or corruption. He continues to court the great and the good, and in secret he makes contact with Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation, promising him wealth and power in exchange for an alliance. When Sidious is able to elevate Gunray to the post of Viceroy in the Trade Federation, the Neimoidian becomes indebted to Sidious and so is easily persuaded to order the blockade and invasion of Naboo.

For years, Palpatine and Jedi Master Dooku had something of an acquaintance, which grows further when the latter’s disaffection with the Jedi Order increases. From Dooku, Palpatine learns of the existence of Anakin Skywalker, a child seemingly born from the Force itself, and both he and Plagueis become obsessed with learning more about him. Years previously, at roughly the same time Anakin was born, Sidious and Plagueis had performed a Sith ritual in an attempt to truly become masters over the Force, and Plagueis had sensed the Force acquiesce before his might – now, however, it seems that the Force has in fact fought back, producing the long-prophesied Chosen One who will restore balance to the Force.

Palpatine is able to manipulate Queen Amidala of Naboo to call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum, precipitating the election of Palpatine and, as they had planned, the subsequent naming of Hego Damask as co-chancellor. On the eve of the vote, the two Sith celebrate their coming victory even as Amidala returns to Naboo in an unexpected move. Sidious is able to catch his master off-guard, however, and savagely uses the Force to cripple and then kill Plagueis. Despite his victory over his old master, however, Sidious feels oddly hollow – he later discovers that at the same time, Darth Maul had been killed on Naboo.

Soon after his election, Palpatine meets Dooku, who had left the Order following the death of his old apprentice, Qui-Gon Jinn. The two discuss a potential alliance in broad terms, as they both wish to tear down the Republic and replace it with something far greater. The book ends with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine meeting with Obi-Wan and Anakin in his office on Coruscant, thanking them personally once more for their involvement in liberating Naboo.

I love this book. It is so huge in terms of its scope, that despite that almost thousand word summary, I have barely done any justice to it at all. I’ve read this one before, of course, around the time my eldest daughter was born, and while the opportunities for reading were scarce back then, I remember being wholly drawn into the story. It succeeds in bringing together the story of Palpatine’s rise to the post of Supreme Chancellor, as well as covering his training as a Sith, while along the way hitting almost every single beat from the established lore around the Prequels. I think I was a bit disappointed when I first read it, when the story started to dance in and out of the plethora of other books that take place at this time – there’s plenty of “oh, you just missed him!” and “Plagueis was just out of shot in the Senate” etc, which does wear thin after a while. But there is equally a lot of “cut scenes” from, in particular, The Phantom Menace, where we see stuff that was taking place behind the scenes. As such, I think things are balanced out fairly well, so I can’t really complain. Plus the worst offender, as I seemed to recall it, wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered – the moment where Lorn Pavan delivers the holocron to Palpatine.

Of course, for all that the novel is a huge monster, I was still left wanting more. While the novel shows us the rise of both Sidious the Sith Lord and Palpatine the politician, most of the book is spent on the political side, with not a great deal spent with Sidious. There’s enough, for sure, but I think I would have preferred to get more of the lore of Sith training.

The famous “creation of Anakin” also happens off-screen, during one of the time jumps. That was a bit jarring, to me, as it was surely an event worth depicting? As it is, it is referenced a few times and the dots are joined when Anakin is brought to Coruscant. I did like that bit, at least – the frenzy of both Sith Lords amid all of their political manoeuvring as they discover the Force has created a being to potentially counteract their plans.

However, we do get a lot of Darth Plagueis, and a lot of Hego Damask – the first two-thirds of the book are just a delight, as we see the depth of the plans the Muun has hatched. His experiments with Yinchorri as a perfect army going awry, his courting Sifo-Dyas and the Kaminoans, the way that his plots almost cannibalise each other as he uses his position to back so many different beings, including Gardulla and Jabba, at times it can be difficult – and I think, reading it the first time when I was juggling new parent duties, a lot of this either didn’t sink in, or I wasn’t able to retain it in the same way, and so ended up missing out on some bits. With the full extent of the web laid out, though, it was just a joy to read through.

Throughout the book, Luceno is able to not only hit the necessary story beats that are perhaps required from a story in this time period, telling the story of the rise of Palpatine, but he also weaves so many references into the plot that it’s quite a joy, really. The political landscape is developed really quite beautifully as the story moves along, and we see how the impact of things like the growing presence of the Trade Federation, and the dominance of commercial interests achieved in the Senate through seating their client worlds. The way Luceno is able to take something like the line from the opening crawl of episode 1 about taxation of the Free Trade Zones, and spin it into an intelligent story that actually helps to set up the movie so perfectly – it’s something he’d done previously with Cloak of Deception, but I’ll never grow tired of reading this man’s work, as it all just dovetails so beautifully.

There is also the short story The Tenebrous Way that takes place between the first couple of chapters of the book. We see the death of Darth Tenebrous from his own point of view, and learn that he had in fact mastered the Sith technique of essence transfer, creating maxi-chlorians as a kind of retrovirus to contain his essence, and would use these to infect a nearby host. The idea being that he would infect the Chosen One, and become an immortal Sith, with the loss of any power of foresight as the price. However, he is forced to infect Plagueis to wait for the Chosen One, but soon realises that Plagueis never met the Chosen One before his own death, so removes his maxi-chlorians from Plagueis’ body and discovers his own mummified corpse – and realises that he has doomed himself to an eternal life of repetition.

It’s a cute little story that gives us perhaps more background than we ever needed. Darth Tenebrous and his maxi-chlorians are almost comical, although there is a moment of almost-pathos when he realises that he has actually failed, because Plagueis never met Anakin. One of those throwaway stories that doesn’t really add anything (although we do get a bit more of Plagueis’ master, and when are we otherwise going to learn more about him?) But it’s kinda fun, regardless.

Finally, we have the short story Restraint, also by Luceno. It’s a Darth Maul story that shows some of his time as a trainee on the planet Orsis, which is alluded to during the novel but never really fleshed-out. While one would hardly be missing much by not reading this, it’s always good to get a Maul story because they seem pretty scant, really. Maul is training with the Faleen combat expert Trezza, but others at the academy on Orsis grow sceptical of his abilities, even though Sidious has commanded his pupil to show restraint, particularly in his use of the dark side.

The Mandalorian mercenary Meltch has deduced Maul has a connection to Dathomir, and so tells Mother Talzin about him. The Nightsisters then attempt to abduct Maul, but the Zabrak simply believes this to be a test devised by Sidious. Meltch has double crossed the Nightsisters by then telling the Rattataki mercenary Kirske about it, and so he shows up hoping to capture some Nightsisters for the arena on his home world. It all ends with a bloodbath, as Sidious shows up to reclaim Maul, whom he then orders to kill everybody at the academy.

I think the story is most interesting for building up more of Maul’s character in the pre-Phantom Menace timeline. We get hints of it during the novel, but Maul is somewhat dissatisfied with his position, being kept in the dark by Sidious and unsure of why he is being trained, etc. In this short story, he outright asks his master “what am I to you?”, which I think is a great way of showing how different the nature of Sith apprenticeship is. Of course, part of this does seem to have stemmed also from the curious decision to have Darth Plagueis survive for so long – I guess it would be a different relationship if Sidious were the Master when training Maul, but as it stands, we find ourselves with a surfeit of Sith.

Not essential, of course, but it’s still nice to have these kinds of side-stories that add in just a little bit more to the overall story. I’d not read Restraint previously, and in fact was not aware of it until quite recently. There’s another Maul short story that I’ve recently discovered, also by Luceno, set during the events of Episode I, and I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s about.

Next up, however, we’ve got some graphic novels on the horizon!

Summer of Star Wars!

I’ve been thinking lately about Star Wars legends, specifically the Prequel era books and comics that I grew up with back in the day. While the movies were coming out, Dark Horse Comics and Del Rey were publishing a load of good stuff that I really enjoy. Some of the novels I have only read once, when they were initially published, while others have been read and re-read so often that I’ve lost track. There are plenty of comics and graphic novels that tell the tales of the Clone Wars better, in my view, than the cartoon series, which often disappointed me. So it’s about time that I once again delved into these books, and chronicled my reading adventures here on the blog! Along the way, I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on the films, to continue the narrative being told, although I have already re-watched them (doing so has, in fact, inspired me to do this massive re-read!)

Now, I’m not going to attempt to read everything that was published in the Prequel era timeframe, because there were some really boring books among the gems. All told, I think I’ve got around 40 pieces of media to work my way through, starting 67 years before A New Hope with James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis. This one I actually read for the first time only quite recently, but as it is the starting point for the whole thing, and it really was an excellent book, so I want to read it again.  

The full timeline of what I’m going for is presented below, and I’ll keep checking back in to update this with links to my blogs as I go.

The Tenebrous Way
Darth Plagueis

Darth Maul: Restraint

Jedi Council: Acts of War
Republic: Prelude to Rebellion
Darth Maul: Saboteur
Darth Maul

Cloak of Deception
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Darth Maul: Endgame
Republic: Outlander
Republic: Emissaries to Malastare

Republic: Twilight

Republic: The Hunt for Aurra Sing
Republic: Darkness
Republic: The Stark Hyperspace War
Republic: The Devaronian Version
Republic: Rite of Passage

Outbound Flight

Hero of Cartao
The Approaching Storm
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Clone Wars: The Defense of Kamino
Clone Wars: Victories and Sacrifices
Clone Wars: Light and Dark

Clone Wars: On the Fields of Battle

Dark Rendezvous
Clone Wars: When They Were Brothers
Clone Wars: The Last Siege, the Final Truth
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
Labyrinth of Evil
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Clone Wars: Endgame
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

So there we have it! There are a lot of graphic novels in here, fortunately, so it isn’t perhaps as intimidating as it might look at first glance! Also there are a few short stories that I’ve not read before, though the only novel that I’ll be reading for the first time is Kenobi, which I think was one of the last books to be published under the Legends banner. I think it’ll be interesting, when the time comes, to compare the novel with the upcoming series!

Stay tuned for a stream of blogs to come out across the summer with all of this glorious stuff, at any rate!

In other news, my blog turned 8 today! What an incredible 8 years it’s been…