The Lucas Sequels

Hey everybody,
Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at the details that have been doing the rounds online about how George Lucas would have filmed the Sequel Trilogy. I’ve already talked about my own ideas on this subject, of course, so why not look at the man who started it all, anyway?!

This is a discussion of the new information that has come to light in the last week or so, and doesn’t take account of the heritage of Star Wars, which discussed a nine-part saga as far back as the late 1970s. Back then, when Lucas had reined himself in from a twelve-movie series, the final trilogy would deal with Luke growing in his powers as a Jedi, meeting his sister (who was not Leia), and a final confrontation with the Emperor in episode IX. Despite initially thinking it would be good to re-visit the characters when they were older, as time wore on Lucas came to realise that he himself would also be older, and the idea seemed to lose some interest. The setting for these movies was variously from immediately following episode VI, to 20-40 years afterwards, and focusing instead on the grandchildren of Darth Vader.

When filming the prequels, however, Lucas was quite clear that the saga was in six-parts, and was the story of Anakin Skywalker, his life, his fall and his eventual redemption and death. Now, however, we’ve been learning about his plans for a projected trilogy that formed part of the deal with Disney, and it seems as though the idea of a family saga has fallen by the wayside, as while we do hear about Luke and Leia, there’s no real mention of Han or of any children from either Skywalker sibling.

Interestingly, Lucas’ sequel trilogy would have dealt with the immediate aftermath of the Galactic Civil War, and shown the stormtroopers refusing to give up the fight. Something that the Disney trilogy got really badly wrong, in my view, is not giving us that necessary story between episodes VI and VII, so we’re left with this yawning gulf between the movies that merely cling to Luke, Leia and Han without any real substance behind them.

I also find it curious that Lucas was weaving in plot elements from the expanded universe, having Darth Maul return as the robot-legged criminal overlord that he was in season five of Clone Wars, and having Darth Talon as his lieutenant, in a role that has been likened to the Vader of the sequels. As an aside, I’ll be re-reading the Star Wars: Legacy comics this December, so stand by for more of an investigation into Darth Talon!

The main storyline, then, was to involve Leia trying to wrest control of the galaxy from the crime syndicates, and the renegade stormtroopers. Luke is in exile on the planet of the first Jedi Temple, trying to rebuild the Jedi Order. Elements of his outline, such as a female padawan reluctantly trained by him, and a blaster-toting teenager, made it into Abrams’ The Force Awakens, of course, in the shape of Rey and Finn. But I do recall Lucas being very upset around the time of episode VII’s release, so I guess rejection of his story ideas was a part of that.

I think it’s definitely interesting to have the idea of the fall-out from toppling a regime explored in the movies. While we’ll probably never see any of this stuff from Disney, I think they do still need to address what happened next, following Return of the Jedi. We saw tiny glimpses of this in the Aftermath trilogy, and there are some aspects of The Mandalorian that are also looking at the lawlessness of the New Republic period, but nothing that really covers the whole. I think we really need to get to grips with this story vacuum, and explore what was happening after the Ewoks put out their campfires, and see how the galaxy turned into a place where the First Order could rise up.

I do still hope that there are more movies told in the Solo series, that might explore Darth Maul as a crime boss, with or without Darth Talon. There are definitely stories to be told there, so I hope we get someone willing to follow up on this element – even if it isn’t in movie form, maybe a novel or three would sate my curiosity!

I also hope that The Mandalorian can continue for a long time yet, and maybe explore more of this idea of warlord stormtroopers going renegade and setting up mini-Empires in the far-flung reaches of the galaxy. Chapter 10 did touch on this, when discussing the perils of sublight travel, and I suppose we’ve also seen some of it with the feral Imperial warlord in Aftermath: Life Debt. But I think I’d like to see the idea explored properly – though I guess I’d like to see so many of the themes from this proposed trilogy developed more fully!

There has also been a lot reported about the planned sequel trilogy delving into the microbiology of the Force, and we’d get to meet and understand the Whills. Now, a lot of folks dislike the whole midi-chlorians thing from The Phantom Menace, and I’m also in that camp, but I think the prospect of learning more about the Whills is certainly very tasty. It’s a word laden with Star Wars lore from the early days, when the screenplay was said to be “from the Journal of the Whills”. Is Yoda’s species the Whills? What are they? It’s an idea that can forgive any multitude of Gungan sins from the prequel trilogy.

It’s all a bit irrelevant though, I guess, as these are not films that will be made. It’s always interesting to look at these things however, especially when it’s the creator’s own thoughts – however strange they may at first sound!

Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad (a review)

It’s been a while, but I feel as though I need to keep up with the reviews of the books that I’ve made my way through recently! Star Wars Battlefront 2: Inferno Squad is a tie-in to the video game and not really anything to do with the first Battlefront novel, aside from the fact that it also ties-in to a video game. That kinda threw me for a while, I must admit! The second novel takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Death Star explosion, and has quite a few tie-ins to Rogue One as a result.

We follow the TIE fighter pilot Iden Versio, the daughter of ISB Inspector Garrick Versio, as she returns from Yavin to the Empire, and to her father, who is forming an elite team of operatives that will work to prevent corruption within the upper ranks of the Empire, and root out information leaks such as those that led to the destruction of the Death Star. The team consists of Iden herself as leader, her friend Gideon Hask, Del Meeko and Seyn Marana – experts in their fields, which include mechanical engineering and naval intelligence.

The novel then follows the team as they go from their first mission, which serves to form the backdrop of the team being simply excellent, to the main meat of the story – infiltrating a group of survivors from Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, who call themselves the Dreamers. Each member of the team splits up and infiltrates the group in a separate way, with Iden herself posing as an Imperial defector.

The Dreamers have gained some inside information on the Empire, which allows them to choose the targets for their insurgency activities with unerring accuracy. Inferno Squad’s task is to discover how they have gained this information, and then destroy the rebels utterly. Building trust with the Dreamers, they go on several missions and eventually learn that their leader is the son of Senator Mina Bonderi, Senator for Onderon during the Clone Wars. He has been getting his information from his step daughter, who works for the Empire. He hands the information chip to Iden, who only stuns him before the rest of the team kill the surviving members of the rebel cell.


I really enjoyed this book, as it felt a lot like an easy read adventure story. In a lot of ways, it has everything that classic Star Wars novels of the past have: adventure, intrigue, mystery and some epic battle scenes. I thought the mystery of the Dreamers’ leader was nicely done, with the payoff working nicely within the context – Lux Bonteri was in the Onderon arc of Clone Wars season five, but he was hardly a major character that would resonate through the ages. Here, Christie Golden has given him a continued storyline that fits really well with his character, and reminds me of similar instances of Prequel-era characters making the transition to the Classic-era. My yardstick for this has always been Captain Panaka being made a Moff, and I think having others like this come through the Rise of the Empire with different roles in a credible manner is always just wonderful.

The plot feels a little formulaic, as we see the team formed, they go on their first mission which is pretty much flawless, then the main business begins and things get a bit more tough. All the way through, however, we’re not brow-beaten into believing that the team is amazing, but rather we’re shown how they are experts in their respective fields. There are of course some slightly cringeworthy moments, but then, Star Wars has always been a little bit cheesy. I think this is the first time I’ve read a book by Christie Golden, who wrote some books in the now-Legends Fate of the Jedi series, although I don’t think I ever made it that far in the timeline (they’re up in the attic for now, anyway!).

It was a very enjoyable read, and while I probably won’t be putting it in my all-time top ten, it’s along the sort of lines of Resistance Reborn and Black Spire, which were similarly enjoyable books, if somewhat forgettable. Is that too harsh? Maybe. I suppose it doesn’t feel like it was all that important, but had plenty of tie-ins to the rest of the universe that made for a fun read. I suppose what I mean by this is, it doesn’t try too hard to be anything more than a Star Wars story within its context. It isn’t trying to re-write history, or put its main character(s) right up there in Tarkin’s or Palpatine’s inner circle. It is definitely an interesting book, in that it tells a story about elite Imperials who are fighting to maintain order in the galaxy, and shows that there were some good people working within that system to do what they thought was right. Really enjoyable, and worth taking the time to hunt it down!

Catching Up

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Seems like life has been passing me by recently, as I have been focused a bit on work – I’ve got an interview this coming Tuesday for a promotion, so we’ll see what comes from that. More money for plastic crack, maybe?! We shall see!

Speaking of plastic, let’s start with the main topic of the day…

I’m not a big fan of the new Necrons, having now seen them in the flesh, as I wasn’t keen on the sculpted battle damage. For my Necrons, I’ve tried to paint them more like a pristine sort of warrior race, with the advanced tech that means they don’t retain battle damage like that. While I’m not entirely fussed yet on the Necrons, I have been admiring those Space Marines…

However, Chaos has become a major thing for me, considering I’d planned for Genestealer Cults to be my 9th Edition army! I’ve long wanted a force of Heretic Astartes, and having started with the idea of a Cultist rabble, I’ve now moved more into the realms of actual marines in the list. Today has been quite exciting though, as I’ve finished painting the Master of Possession from the Shadowspear box set! Finally!

I’m really pleased with this chap, and have followed the tutorial for the fire in particular from The Brush & Boltgun, which was a godsend! I’ve not had a chance yet to look at the other stuff on the channel, but it looks like a lot of the stuff that I have on the list, anyway, so it might be worth mining that stuff!

Speaking of which, I’ve finally picked up a Chaos Rhino for the nascent force, which I’ve wanted to get a hold of since seeing this wonderful piece of art from another of my favourite instagram’ers, Martin Sivertsen:

I mean, look at it! It’s absolutely beautiful, and I hope mine will come out a mere tenth as good! I’ve actually made an order for a second Rhino, as well as a Forgefiend (which I’ve wanted for a long time, as well) and a Dialogus for the nascent Sisters army!

Have I posted a picture of the Sisters here yet? Can’t remember, so here you go:

Looking forward to getting these painted up, however long they might take!

Moving on to a different game now, though…

My wife and I have been enjoying a few games of Elder Sign in recent weeks, as we’ve re-established Friday nights as gaming nights, and it’s been an absolute blast to be playing once more!

We’ve played a few times with the core set, as we get back into it all, and so last night we played with the first expansion, Unseen Forces, which I thought might be the best one to start with, as pretty much every other expansion has the Gates of Arkham rules and ramps up the difficulty! We had a couple of games with Unseen Forces, and while we managed to save the world from Shudde M’ell with just three locations left to explore per turn, we came under attack from Abhoth and it all went wrong.

It’s great to be back playing games from Fantasy Flight, I’m feeling really quite nostalgic for the whole thing! Of course, we’re slap bang in the middle of GenCon 2020 right now, but it all feels a bit weird with the global pandemic ongoing. FFG have shown off a few Star Wars bits, such as more Clone Wars era stuff for Armada, X-Wing and Legion, and that’s about all that I’ve managed to glean from the internets right now! Of course, it’s always an online event for me, but it feels particularly odd right now, regardless!

What else has been going on?

I’ve read quite a few books since I last came here to provide a review, so will doubtless have some thoughts on them to share with you all! I’ve also been reading the rest of The Flash’s run through the New 52, so will sometime soon get a round-up blog sorted for that! I’ve also been catching up with the DC movies that I’ve not seen, after watching Man of Steel a few weeks ago. So there will be plenty of blogs incoming once I have the time to properly sit down once again!

Okay, so it’s been pushed back, but there’s a Mandalorian novel due next year?! This news has excited me far more than I’d expected! Still very excited to see what season two has got in store for us, even though I’ve been really disappointed how it seems to be heavily leaning into the Clone Wars cartoons with the casting news that we’ve seen. Still, maybe live-action Ahsoka won’t be so damn annoying as to make me want to tear my own face off… time will tell! I think The Mandalorian is about the only thing Star Wars that I’m looking forward to right now, though, so I hope it won’t be disappointing!

Anyway, time to cease my ramblings, I think! Hope you’re all having an amazing Saturday, and stay tuned for more blogs coming as the summer progresses!

The Sequel Trilogy: My Way

Hey everybody!
Way back when, I wrote up some ideas that I’d had to “improve” The Phantom Menace, which at the time seemed like an interesting thought exercise and a useful way to pass the time. Well, in trying to soothe a teething infant the last few evenings, I’ve been giving some thought to the Sequel Trilogy in something of the same manner. I suppose, after watching The Rise of Skywalker again recently, it’s been on my mind how much of a let-down things were. I’m not saying that any of these ideas would actually improve things, of course – I thought it was just an interesting idea to think about, trying to pull together more of the story into something a bit more cohesive perhaps…

Star Wars

So first of all, let’s take The Force Awakens as standing as it is. I don’t think it’s a perfect film, but I do believe it works perfectly fine for setting things up, and the main problems that I have with the sequels have been around the lack of any satisfying pay-off for a number of plot points raised therein.

Now. There are two points that I’d like to bring up from the expanded universe (the new one). The novel Bloodline is truly excellent, and should be read by everyone. Whether it was because it came out around the time of episode seven, when we had very little else to go on, it provided a tremendous amount of background to the political landscape in which that movie takes place. It also – kinda – answers the question of where the First Order came from, and that’s the first point that I feel is a let-down in the trilogy. Secondly, the Aftermath trilogy, while I wasn’t really a fan of the story being told, it nevertheless gives us a lot of information on what happens to the Imperial Remnant, and gives us some background for how Palpatine might have ended up with a massive fleet out in the Unknown Regions.

So, without further ado, and still hitting quite a few of the plot points from around and about the existing films, let’s do this!

Rey and Luke

The Last Jedi is all about recruiting Luke to the cause of the Resistance. Luke realizes that he is somewhat responsible for the death of his old friend Han, since he feels a sense of guilt over Ben’s fall to the Dark Side, and so he heads off with Rey to rejoin the Resistance.

The Resistance themselves flee from D’Qar, with Vice-Admiral Holdo leading a rearguard action to allow the majority of the fleet to disappear. Holdo sacrifices herself, taking out a good portion of the First Order fleet with her. Leia leads her forces to the planet Ajan Kloss, where they regroup and reorganise.

Finn is given a job in military intelligence after his vital part in the destruction of Starkiller Base, as the Resistance tries to get ahead of the First Order and work out what is going on. There he meets his fellow spy Rose, and they’re given the task of infiltrating an old Imperial Archive on Coruscant. At this point, and during this storyline, we’ll be able to learn more of what happened to the Empire after Endor, and maybe some more tidbits about the New Republic, too.

On Ajan Kloss, Luke and Rey arrive and sense a massive connection with the Force – none other than the Whiphid Jedi Master K’Kruhk, who had survived Order 66 through sheer bad-assery and has been secretly biding his time raising a small Jedi enclave far from the reaches of the galactic conflict. Luke and K’Kruhk train together, and develop Rey’s talents alongside the other students and followers of the Whiphid.

Snoke attempts to bolster the First Order following their losses incurred at Holdo’s hand, and sends Kylo Ren to “implement contingency b” or something…

Poe leads a mission to Corellia as a distraction while Finn and Rose head to Coruscant, and inadvertently discovers that Wedge has been informally leading a rebellion of his own there. The First Order comes to investigate and utterly destroys the revolt there, Poe and Wedge barely get out alive. The mission to Coruscant has unveiled a trail that leads to the Unknown Regions, and the movie ends with Finn and Rose coming out of hyperspace above Exegol, where they find the Final Order fleet, and Kylo Ren…

Of course, all of this means that The Rise of Skywalker needs a few changes of its own!

Snoke is the head of a cabal of ex-Imperials and the like who are attempting to resurrect the Emperor through Sith Alchemy. Snoke himself is so badly scarred because of a failed experiment to use his body to channel the dead Palpatine’s spirit years before.

Allegiant General Pryde is the man in charge of the First Order’s operations in the Unknown Regions, having taken over from Brendol Hux. Finn and Rose find him, and Finn tortures him into revealing who he, Finn, is. They learn that Finn was abducted from a crime lord, and flee from the fleet to return to the Resistance.

Leia and co have been attempting to recruit more allies to the Resistance, and Lando returns to the fold when he learns that Han has been killed. He brings a lot of his old underground contacts with him, and when Finn and Rose return with their news, Lando reveals that he knows Finn’s father. Moreover, Poe used to work for him in his days running spice, so they lead a delegation to ask for support. Finn’s father is the head of Kanjiklub, and lends the support of his fleet of smugglers in revenge for having his boy stolen from him, and the Resistance heads off into the Unknown Regions.

Luke leads his band of Jedi against Snoke and the cabal, but he is cut down when the Knights of Ren descend upon him. Kylo Ren redeems himself by dying to save Rey, and Luke’s dying action is to lend his Force spirit to Rey and allowing for her to cut down Snoke.

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Rey’s parents really were nobodies, hiding her on Jakku to escape from the Knights of Ren, who stalk the galaxy in search of Force-sensitive children and abduct them for the Sith alchemical experiments. Rey is a pure manifestation of the Force, similar to Anakin. The Force is aware of its internal balance being out of whack, and when one side gets too strong, it will bring forth a balancing power like this.


So there’s my half-baked thoughts on how the sequels could have played out, trying to combine as much as possible but giving things some new slants. There are plenty of things missed out that could have been included, such as the Death Star ruins and Lando’s daughter, and I’m sure Captain Phasma could have been sprinkled in there as well.

Finn feels like a character that was somehow forgotten about after episode seven, but I think making him a part of military intelligence could fit quite well. I do like the idea of Finn being the son of a crime lord, and the link to The Force Awakens and Kanjiklub is something I quite liked at the time I thought of it! It also brings in the underworld element, much like we had with Jabba in Return of the Jedi, and much like the idea of them finding out about the Imperial remnant in the middle film, here Finn and Rose become a catalyst for another info-dump, as we see what happened after Jabba’s organisation fell.

I’d love to have seen the Knights of Ren taking a bigger role throughout both movies, and I’m sure there would be opportunities with more development, but this isn’t precisely the sort of thing I want to spend most of my time working up a script for, or something!

For those who don’t know, Master K’Kruhk was a Jedi Master during the Dark Horse series of comics set in the prequel era, and was brought somewhat to the fore during the Dark Times run as an almost indestructible force of nature. He then showed up in the Legacy series that took place over 100 years after the Battle of Yavin, making him almost a Jedi Perpetual. It’s the storyline from the Dark Times comics that I’m sort of drawing upon here, with him being a patriarch of a Jedi enclave of survivors of Order 66.

At any rate, I thought it was a fun thought exercise on how things might have worked out, if we had something other than that abysmal episode eight, and removing the need to bring back Palpatine to make everything work out in the end.

What do you think? Is this worse than what we got?

Skywalker Rises – again!

Hey everybody!
So I’ve been a little late getting around to this, but I have finally gotten around to watching The Rise of Skywalker for the second time. It’s taken me so long because I’ve been feeling a bit let-down by the whole hype thing for this movie, which has been marketed unto death as the epic conclusion to the nine-film Skywalker Saga, etc.

I mean, it’s really not. It’s the conclusion to the Disney trilogy of films that happened to use returning characters from the original Star Wars trilogy in bit-parts, and that is that. I’ll try to get this out of the way at the start – the central character for this new trilogy has been Rey, I think we can all agree. While Finn and Poe have had their generous share of the limelight as well, Rey has been front and centre all the way through. It’s been her great mystery that has driven a lot of the hype around the trilogy, and in this conclusion, it is definitely Rey that proves to be the charge that keeps this film moving.

But Rey has no familial connection to the Skywalkers. She adopts the name seconds before the closing credits, but she has no bearing on the six-movie family saga that came before it. She’s the daughter of a clone of Palpatine, and that’s as far as it goes. This trilogy has only been the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga insofar as it kills off every last member of that family, but the main character of the movie is not related to them at all.

There.

Let’s move on!

The Rise of Skywalker had a hell of a lot of ground to cover, after the debacle that was The Last Jedi. As a result, it does tend to feel like at least one-and-a-half movies, possibly even two movies, in one. There were a number of points along the way where I feel this is shown up – when Poe and Zorii are talking on Kijimi, the plot broadens out a bit and we’re close to learning more about Poe’s backstory. The film needed more of those moments, so when we get them, their absence is felt elsewhere. Does the similar moment between Finn and Jannah on Kef Bir have the same sort of gravity? No, because the plot needs to keep moving. I do feel that we should have learnt more from this – hell, we should have learnt a lot more anyway, but the first hour or so is just one long chase across the galaxy on the hunt for “the thing”.

I always find myself wanting to know more about the background stuff after seeing a Star Wars movie, because they’re so good at giving us that richness of texture. Kijimi is a classic example of this, and I would love to find out more, but we don’t have the time before the planet is destroyed. It definitely feels rushed, and that’s one of the major downfalls of the film.

Upon a second viewing of The Last Jedi, I was a bit nonplussed by the fact that movie was supposed to be a Star Wars film. This time, however, I’m in no doubt about the fact this is a Star Wars film, and I think that’s partly due to the fact that, whatever else I may say about him, JJ Abrams knows his stuff. The Force Awakens was very similar in this respect – it felt real, which is something of a hallmark of Star Wars as a space opera. There are a lot of sweeping vistas in the movie, such as that festival on Pasaana, above, which feel so real, especially when you get down into the thick of things.

Much like with George Lucas’ movies, there is a definite sense of the story moving along in fairly obvious chunks – set pieces, I guess. The fact that it does so because of the “search for x” thing does make it perhaps more formulaic than I’d like, as those chunks are sometimes a little smaller than, say, the Hoth sequence in Empire Strikes Back.

Now, I know that a lot of people liked the fact that Palpatine was behind everything, and returned to crown the final episode, but I found myself inwardly groaning when it turned out to be the case. I suppose I just hoped for a little more originality. The whole point of Palpatine’s death in Return of the Jedi was to conclude Vader/Anakin’s redemption. The fact that he’s back kinda cheapens that, for me, and feels a bit like a soft option – of course, Palpatine is the big bad of the original six films, a Sith mastermind and all the rest of it. How could you top that? Especially when Snoke has been dealt with in such a weird, stupid manner.

However, Palpatine is back, so we have to deal with it. In that respect, I find myself again wanting to know more about Exegol. The Lost World of the Sith, or somesuch – it needs more explanation, for me. It all comes out of nowhere, the whole Final Empire thing, and I wish we’d had a better idea of what had been going on since The Force Awakens. Stuff like the Aftermath trilogy has set up the idea of there being an Imperial remnant hiding in the Unknown Regions and stealing children for indoctrination etc, but it feels like there was too much of a need for secrecy and mystery when the trilogy began, and then the story seemed to go nowhere in the last movie.

So here we are, with a film that feels a bit light on the detail, and a little bit rushed. Part of that is the fault of the previous film, as I’ve been saying for most of this blog it seems, and I feel that part of it is down to there being no clear trajectory for this trilogy from the start. Sure, it’s arguable how much of a trajectory the original trilogy had, though the Prequels benefited so much from having that clear end point in sight. Here, though… it’s all been a bit of a muddle until we get to the third film, when there is so much that needs to be wrapped up and we have to rush through to hit all of the points.

It does wrap up the sequel trilogy fairly neatly, as we chuck Palpatine in to be a kind of deus ex machina for most of the mystery. It could have been great, but instead… yeah…

Star Wars Galaxy Guides (part one)

Star Wars West End Games Galaxy Guides

We’re going a bit retro today!

Easter is fast approaching, of course, and it’s always my favourite of the chocolate holidays, as I like to reminisce about the times I’d spend off school, endlessly watching the original trilogy. Today, I thought it could be fun to look back at some of those books that came out for the West End Games RPG back in the 1990s, when the Prequels were a far-off land and all we had to go on was the story of the Rebels and their fight against the Empire! In all, twelve Galaxy Guides were produced, and they served almost as a series of books that gathered up a load of stuff that could help the GM with designing games. There was a lot of background on the setting, reams of NPC profiles, and sample adventures that could be run to make use of a variety of material. Let’s take a look at the first six!

Star Wars West End Games Galaxy Guides

The books that deal with the movies are told from the perspective of Voren Na’al, an Alliance Historian who himself had stats to allow him to be used in the game. The idea was that Na’al was preparing a report for his superior, Arhul Hextrophon. While these books all date from 1995, it wasn’t until 2012 that Na’al and Hextrophon were retconned as the two assistants who hand the medals to General Dodonna during the closing ceremony of A New
Hope (Hextrophon is on the left, and Na’al is on the right:)

While the movie books deal pretty much with the events of the films in chronological order, with material on the locations and the characters from each, there are also plenty of sidebars and the like with mini-stories. Most of these are the kind of throw-away things such as interviews with minor side-characters, although worth noting here is that one such tale is how Biggs Darklighter came to join the Rebellion, the mutiny on the Rand Ecliptic, which was later spun out (and altered) into the four-part comic series Darlighter, one of my all-time favourites from Dark Horse.

Galaxy Guide 4 is the first look at Alien Races, and again is written as an in-universe publication, this time as an Imperial Catalog of Intelligent Life in the Galaxy, commissioned by Darth Vader himself. A lot of these species were invented for the RPG, and helped to inform the burgeoning expanded universe at that time, as was the case with a lot of the WEG products.

Star Wars West End Games Galaxy Guides

These books are all really great for the amount of lore that they contain, featuring the backgrounds on a whole host of both significant and minor, background characters. We get the fascinating backstory on General Dodonna, and his thrilling escape from the clutches of the Empire as he came out of retirement to help lead the Rebels, for instance, which sounds like the sort of thing that could be spun into a novel, these days! A lot of the denizens of Jabba’s Palace have backstories that are the basis for the short stories in the Tales from Jabba’s Palace anthology, too.

There are also many characters that were created for the RPG that became quite significant in this lore – we see this in the backstory on Dodonna, where his former comrade Adar Tallon once again gets a mention. Tallon was created for the early adventure, Tatooine Manhunt, and became something of a regular non-movie supporting character for a number of WEG books. There is a care to the way that WEG went about spinning out the universe created through three movies into the massive juggernaut of the Space Opera genre that it became, and that really comes through when you see the amount of depth the writers went into.

Something that I really like about them is the mini adventures that they all include – or, as is the case with Galaxy Guide 6, it’s what the book is all about. There is so much to enjoy about these sourcebooks even now, for the lore that they contain, but it’s always really nice to remember just how much these books were intended to be used as gaming aides. It’s really one of my great regrets, never actually getting round to playing the WEG system, although I did talk about it with a group of friends back when we were all in college. Sigh!

There is some truly great stuff in these books – of course, I am biased, as this is the lore that I grew up with. Given that the Disney universe feels distinctly different to me right now, it’s really nice to read through these books once again, and come upon the stuff that I know and love.

Looking forward to getting back to reading through books 7 to 12 next!

Star Wars: The High Republic

So… this has dropped!

The High Republic is the Next Big Thing for Star Wars, now that the Skywalker Saga is over. To some extent, this was what a lot of people had been expecting. I mean, the favourite fan theory was for Knights of the Old Republic, which is of course thousands of years prior to the Battle of Yavin. We’ve got a lot of really great storytelling in that period from the old canon, of course culminating in the wonderful Tales of the Jedi, which you can read about in my old blog here.

The High Republic is set, I believe, 200 years prior to the events of the prequels. So we’re not quite talking the ancient history of TotJ or KotOR but, I would expect, something much more akin to the Jedi storylines of the prequels themselves. We’re promised Jedi who are like Knights of the Round Table, which I’m hoping means will bring some really noble and actually good Jedi. There’s a lot to be said on this subject, for sure, but I feel like the prequels were a bit flat on the Jedi as a whole, and it fell to the comics and novels that came out alongside the films to fill in the blanks. We need Jedi who embody what it means to be a part of the Order, not those who stand out from it like Qui-Gon or Mace, you know?

My first thought, upon seeing the trailer there, was that this could be Disney attempting to almost re-write the prequels, taking the stuff that people liked – such as seeing Jedi en masse – and putting them into a new era to sort of capitalize on that. We couldn’t have a lot of Jedi in the movies that Disney has put out so far and, so I’ve heard, this series is limited to books of various descriptions. So, no movies yet, but what’s to say this isn’t setting us up for something further back in the past? Testing the waters with seeing whether people still respond to the Jedi capers, before we then head back into the past with a movie series set properly in the KotOR era?

Interesting.

Having a core cast of characters that will grow, and that will straddle comics, novels and the like, is really interesting – I hope it won’t end up being the sort of melange that we had in Rebels, for example. Hopefully it will be good, and we’ll get a nice look at the wider universe as well – we’ve had the usual mix of scum and villainy promised, of course, so I’m excited to see what that will bring us.

In fact, now that I think of it, I wonder whether we’ll see breakout characters like Cad Bane coming out.

Star Wars High Republic

So, that’s Project Luminous, then!

I’ve been a bit down on the new Star Wars lately, it seems, but I’m taking a bit of a stand on this one, and I’m going to choose to be hopeful. It’s a pretty unexplored era so far as looking back to the Legends stuff, so there’s less of a risk for me comparing it to what we’ve lost.

Let’s hope it delivers!

The Mandalorian (round-up)

Hey everybody!
So we’re now at the point where the final episode of The Mandalorian has aired, and we’re left with thoughts, hopes and dreams for season two, which was recently announced by series creator Jon Favreau. I thought I’d come along here and catch up with the series, after the first two installments of my look at season one, here and here.

Major spoilers to follow, guys!

Chapter 6 is a prison heist episode, as Mando attempts to earn some credits without returning to the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are mostly after his hide following the breakout from Nevarro. Taking a job from his old friend Ran, he teams up with a rag-tag group in an effort to break out the Twi’lek Qin from a New Republic prison ship. Qin’s sister Xi’an is part of the team, who all proceed to double-cross the Mandalorian and leave him on the ship, the pilot having activated a distress beacon. Mando isolates and defeats each member of his erstwhile team, then delivers Qin to Ran and leaves. Ran, attempting to launch a fighter to pursue Mando, has his space station blown up by New Republic fighters, who have followed the beacon Mando placed onto Qin.

It’s something of a throwaway episode, much like the previous two, but the series has been really good at taking this sort of extended look into the underworld, and continuing to give us decent action, even if the individual episodes are, well, episodic in nature. It harkens back to older-style TV series, which used a similar method of storytelling, much in the way the original movies harkened back to the adventure serials.

However, chapters 7 and 8 form essentially a two-part season finale, and the last episode is the longest yet at close to an hour. To begin, Greef Karga sends Mando a message explaining that the Client has overrun Nevarro, and proposes that the bounty hunter return, using the Asset as bait in order to draw out the Client, kill him, and free the planet. In return, Karga will call off the bounty on Mando and allow the hunter to operate in relative peace. Sensing a trap, Mando recruits Cara Dune and the Ugnaught Kuill to assist him. In addition, Kuill had salvaged IG-11 and reprogrammed him.

Along the way, Baby Yoda heals Karga following an attack by mynocks, and he reveals that his original plan had been to kill Mando and take the Asset to the Client for his own purposes. The plan changes, and Karga pretends to have captured Mando in order to get close to the Client, while Kuill takes the Asset back to the ship. However, the Client is contacted by Moff Gideon, who arrives in force with stormtroopers and deathtroopers, and shoots up the cantina where the meeting was taking place, killing the Client in the process. Scout troopers have been dispatched to recover the Asset, who kill Kuill in the process.

Chapter 8 picks up almost immediately, and we see that IG-11 manages to recover Baby Yoda, thwarting Gideon’s plans. In turn, the Imperials attempt to destroy the cantina, threatening the group with an E-web repeating blaster, and then incinerator troopers.

The group manages to flee into the sewers, where they discover the Mandalorian enclave has been all but decimated following Mando’s departure from the world. The Armourer remains, and informs them that some did flee off-world, and provides them with some assistance for their escape. She also tells them that the Asset appears to be a Jedi, the ancient enemies of the Mandalorians, and charges Mando to return it to its people. Following a lava river, the group manages to escape the Empire thanks to IG-11 triggering his self-destruct, but just then Moff Gideon pursues them in his custom TIE fighter. The Mandalorian uses his new jetpack to fly up to the TIE and plant some detonators on it, causing Gideon to crash.

In the wrap-up, Cara Dune agrees to stay on as Karga’s enforcer, while Mando must pursue his new mission, reuniting Baby Yoda with his people. Finally, we learn that Moff Gideon has survived the crash, cutting himself out of the wreckage with nothing less than the Darksaber!

Looking back, this series has been just incredible!

I was really gushing about how much I have been enjoying the small-scale adventure stuff in my previous blog, but that still holds true, even when we have the might of the Imperial Remnant under Moff Gideon. We have a fairly pitched battle, with massed stormtroopers as well as the more esoteric varieties that call on the expanded universe of yore, which continues to provide that element of fan service without seeming to browbeat us with it.

While Baby Yoda has clearly been the breakout character here, I think there is still a great story being told, and it doesn’t rely on this cuteness or anything to make it work. Chapter 8 brought us a lot of answers, seeing the extended flashback of Mando and getting, basically, his origin story. We also finally see him without the helmet, which was interesting as it did serve the story and wasn’t simply checking off a list.

I think that’s been the great success with the series as a whole, though, as we’ve seen some really great storytelling without resorting to an over-reliance on snazzy effects or something. It’s character-driven stuff, really reverting back to the type of the original trilogy. It really succeeds with the small-scale adventure, such as Chapter 4’s assault on the AT-ST, and through having some really great moments to build on the core characters, chapter 7 felt really good to see them now united in their cause.

Season 2 is expected next Autumn, and while we can assume we’ll be seeing Mando and Baby Yoda road trips while they attempt to find either (a) more Yodas, or (b) surviving Jedi, it has been suggested that we might also be seeing the formation of the First Order. Personally, I hope we don’t get that – The Mandalorian has been at its most successful, to my mind, when it avoided all of that galactic-scale stuff, and instead told its story of outlaws on the galactic fringe. If we start scaling things up, then I think we’ll risk losing the charm of what has made this season so successful.

Hopefully, Jon Favreau and co will stick to the formula, and have an overarching storyline that also takes the time for those episodic parts, where we can just continue to build on the characters. Speaking of which, while I think we can be fairly sure we’ll see Cara Dune, Karga and Gideon again in some capacity, I hope we get to find out what happened with Fennec Shand, as I’m pretty sure she survived at the end of chapter 5…

It’s been really great, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more live-action Star Wars on the small screen in the future!

The Rise of Skywalker (spoilers within!)

The Rise of Skywalker

So folks, I went to see the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, last night. The finale to the nine-movie saga of the Skywalker series, there was a lot of hype for this film in the run up, and I was getting a bit concerned that it might not live up to that, when it came down to it.

The story of the film picks up around a year following the last movie. There have been reports of the return of Emperor Palpatine, and Kylo Ren has obtained a Sith wayfinder device that he uses to travel to the planet Exegol, and finds the weirdly reanimated Sith Lord, who reveals that the whole First Order has been part of his plan, and that he created Snoke as a puppet to lure Ren to the dark side. Palpatine has an entire Sith fleet in orbit around the planet, and he promises to turn over the whole of his Final Order to Ren in exchange for the death of Rey.

Poe, Finn and Chewie gain intel from a spy in the First Order that confirms Palpatine has returned, and return to the Resistance with the news. Rey has read of a device within the Jedi texts she had from Luke, which can lead to the lost Sith world of Exegol. Luke had traced such a device to Pasaana with the help of a mysterious contact, and so Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewie travel there to pick up the trail. There, they meet Lando Calrissian, who helps them escape a First Order patrol, but through their Force bond, Kylo Ren discovers Rey’s location and travels there to confront her. Poe and Finn discover a Sith dagger on the that C-3PO translates, although he is forbidden from speaking the words due to his programming. However, the First Order captures the Falcon, and Chewie with the dagger – while attempting to bring the prison transport back to the surface, Rey accidentally destroys the ship with Force lightning. The Resistance heroes escape on the ship left behind by Luke’s contact.

Poe suggests they travel to Kijimi, where they can get the text out of Threepio’s memory. Unfortunately, this will come at the cost of wiping his memory completely. They go through with it, and while there Rey senses Chewie is alive on the First Order ship in orbit, which arrived following the Knights of Ren having tracked them. While Kylo Ren travels to the surface to find Rey, the Resistance fighters travel to the ship with the help of an old contact of Poe’s, Zorii Bliss. While Finn and Poe rescue Chewie, Rey recovers the Sith dagger and receives a vision of Luke’s contact killing her parents with it. The First Order discovers Finn, Poe and Chewie, but they are aided by General Hux, who reveals himself as the spy. Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that she is the granddaughter of Palpatine, who had ordered her killed as a child as he feared her power. He asks her to join him, and together they can defeat Palpatine, but she escapes with Finn, Poe and Chewie. Hux is executed by Allegiant General Pryde, who speaks to his former master, the Emperor, and orders the destruction of Kijimi.

Threepio’s memory banks have given the location of the Sith wayfinder device as Kef Bir, a moon in the Endor system. There, Rey uses the dagger to discover the location of the device in the remains of the second Death Star, but upon finding it, she is confronted by Kylo Ren once more. The two duel, and at a critical moment Kylo feels Leia calling to him through the Force as she dies. Rey impales him on his own lightsaber, but then manages to heal him through the Force before fleeing the planet in his ship. She returns to Ahch-To, and attempts to exile herself, but the Force ghost of Luke encourages her to face Palpatine and her destiny, and she leaves in his old X-Wing and with Leia’s lightsaber, using the wayfinder from Kylo’s ship to travel to Exegol. Kylo Ren realizes the errors of his ways, and after a hallucination of his father Han Solo, he throws away his lightsaber. The Resistance tracks her through the call sign on Luke’s X-Wing and follows her there, to be confronted with the massed Sith fleet headed up by General Pryde.

Rey confronts Palpatine on the surface, and the Emperor demands that she kill him, to allow him to transfer his consciousness into her and live anew. While the Resistance fleet attempts to battle the full might of the Sith, aiming to knock out a navigation tower to prevent the fleet from leaving orbit, Ben arrives to aid her and is confronted by the Knights of Ren. Through their Force bond, Rey manages to give Ben her lightsaber and he defeats them all. He joins Rey to confront Palpatine, but he manages to drain their essence to empower himself back to full health. While he Force-pushes Ben away, Rey is galvanised by the combined strength of previous Jedi (including Yoda, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan) and, using both Leia’s and Luke’s lightsabers, deflects Palpatine’s Force lightning back at him, and defeats him.

The effort of doing so is too much and she seemingly dies, but Ben returns and manages to heal her through the Force. The two kiss, and Ben becomes one with the Force. As he does so, Leia’s body follows. When all seems lost, Lando arrives in-system with a massive, rag-tag fleet of reinforcements and they manage to destroy the Sith armada, finally eliminating the threat of the First Order. While the galaxy celebrates freedom once more, Rey travels to the Lars homestead on Tatooine, and buries both Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers in the sand, having now built her own. A passing local asks who she is, and she reveals her name as “Rey Skywalker”.

As I said at the start, I was prepared to feel let down by this film, after the sheer amount of hype that it had received. On my way out of the movie theatre, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it, but we had a 2 hour car ride home after meeting up with some friends, and talking it through really helped me to think about that. After sleeping on it, I’m pretty much convinced that it is a satisfying conclusion, but only to the sequel trilogy.

Let me explain.

I grew up with the original trilogy, but was in high school when the prequels started coming out. So I hadn’t quite formed that sort of opinion about things, but rather I was just enjoying the fact that there were more Star Wars movies being made, and I was around this time to see them. I think the fact that their numerical order helped: having always had IV, V and VI, it felt right that we were finally getting I, II and III. When the sequel trilogy was announced, I think it just felt like, “Oh, Disney has just spent a lot of money acquiring this IP, and they want to start playing in that sandbox”. I have never felt like the sequel trilogy needed to be made, in the same way that making the prequel trilogy made some amount of sense.

These films were originally about Luke Skywalker – he is the hero whose journey we are on. Vader is the villain who, in one of the most shocking plot twists in movie history, turns out to be Luke’s father and is eventually redeemed, but I don’t think anybody thought that the movies were about Vader until George Lucas started to make the prequels, and told us that, actually, these movies are about Anakin Skywalker, his fall and eventual redemption by his son. It was an interesting way of looking at things, and I guess I was suckered into that because, since the early 2000s, it’s been really nice to have that six-part film series that tells the whole story of Anakin Skywalker.

Now, we have the sequel trilogy, and the main protagonist is the granddaughter of the Emperor, but we’re being told that these films continue the saga of the Skywalker family. I’ve got to say – no, they don’t. If Rey had turned out to be the hidden twin of Ben Solo, then maybe. But she’s not, so the only way that these films can logically be said to continue the Skywalker saga is insofar as they kill off the Big Three from the original trilogy, providing that sense of closure while passing the torch to the next generation. Suddenly, the nine-part film series is mostly about Anakin, but is more about… what? There is now a lack of focus if we’re to look at these as one long saga. There is no central protagonist, because Anakin/Vader only lives through two-thirds of the movies, just like Luke is only present for two-thirds of the movies.

To my mind, the sequel trilogy did not need to be made, as it blurs those boundaries of a family soap opera that Lucas had intended all along. In his own ideas for the sequel trilogy – a pretty fascinating topic that I want to save for another blog – we’d get the grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker, making each trilogy about him, his children, and then his grandchildren. As it stands, while Ben/Kylo Ren is certainly a grandchild of Anakin, he is most certainly put into the antagonist camp, and I don’t think anybody could really say the trilogy has been about him, in the way that it has quite blatantly focused instead on Rey.

However.

When viewed as a film that wraps up the most recent trilogy, this works really nicely. There is so much that can be said about The Last Jedi having ruined Star Wars – again, I think I want to talk about this more in another blog – but seeing The Rise of Skywalker now, and thinking about how it fits into the third act of the trilogy, it seems pretty clear that JJ Abrams should have been in the director’s chair for all three. Things that we had seen in The Force Awakens should have continued into The Last Jedi, meaning that The Rise of Skywalker could then have maybe paused a little to actually explore some of these things in greater depth. As it is, there is a lot of story crammed into that 142 minutes. A lot. The first half of the film deals with some pretty frenetic searches for maguffins, and I think some of that could perhaps have been dealt with better if it had been set up in The Last Jedi, rather than JJ having to set things up and then resolve them in the same movie.

I suppose that is nowhere more apparent than with the reveal of who Rey really is. This, I feel, should have been explored further in The Last Jedi – a lot of the first part of the film should, I think, have been in that movie, especially her use of Force lightning on Pasaana, before we finally learn of her heritage here. I think more explanation of how, in fact, she is related to Palpatine is needed, as well – I’m no prude, but I don’t think the Sith Lord is the sort to go sleeping around, and while Darth Plagueis does paint him as something of a dapper senator, we’re still at the theory stage right now. For my own theory, I think it will either be a case of Palpatine having used the Force to create life again, or else some form of cloning experiment. I just hope that we’ll get to see something of that explored further soon, because it’s one of those niggling plot points for a huge nerd like myself, who will obsess over it until the shaaks come home…

Something else that I’d like to mention is how impressed I was with Leia’s inclusion. Considering the pledge was made to use nothing but deleted scenes, she actually has a much more substantial role in the film than I’d been expecting. Just when I thought we might have seen the last of her, she turns up again for more! Sure, some clever use of stand-ins has been made, but it was really nicely done, and I think it forms a fitting end for her character, as she passes the baton to the last generation.

It’s a busy movie, but it does have the time for some really nice sequences. JJ’s love of practical effects and real sets comes through once more, and I absolutely love it for that. Much like what we’re seeing with The Mandalorian right now, it’s stuff like this that helps give the show or the film that veracity that allows you to immerse yourself in the universe.

There are some incredibly wonderful little details that we see throughout the movie, I felt myself again getting sucked into the world, and wanting to know more about, for example, the Emperor’s creepy robed minions, or the denizens of Kijimi, or the “Sith assassin” contact Luke had been working with, etc etc etc. It’s such a real, lived-in universe feel, which is exactly the same feeling that we get when we watch the cantina scene of A New Hope, or the Jabba’s Palace scenes of Return of the Jedi.

It was a pretty good ending to the sequel trilogy, and I don’t think it’s going to come under anywhere near as much fire as The Last Jedi has. I don’t think of it as being a conclusion to the entire Star Wars saga, though, but it functions perfectly well as the capstone to the new sequel trilogy.

And I just can’t wait to see where we go in the Star Wars universe next!

The Mandalorian (catch-up)

Hey everybody,
It’s time to catch up with The Mandalorian! So, rather than trying to write up some thoughts after each episode, I thought I’d just do the odd catch-up blog after a couple, having enjoyed the first three episodes immensely.

Chapter 4 branches out a little bit, as we follow Mando in his attempt to get away from the Bounty Hunters Guild, who are tracking him for both vengeance, and a chance to take back The Asset. Arriving on the forested world of Sorgan, Mando teams up with Cara Dune, a former Alliance shock trooper turned mercenary, to defend a village from Klatooinian raiders. After the battle, Mando realises that the Guild is still tracking the Asset, and so leaves.

This episode had all of the hallmarks of the classic Western, with the reluctant hero saving the village from marauders. What really excited me was the fact that the whole thing is so small-scale, which meant that the inclusion of the AT-ST walker in the battle was actually something to be worried about. It feels a little bit like this series is serving to enhance the films – I’m sure the next time we watch Return of the Jedi, the chicken walkers won’t be dismissed quite so easily.

Of course, the original trilogy was pretty much entirely told in small-scale, where the Alliance is depicted as just two squadrons of one-man fighters going up against the Death Star, or the small insertion force led by Han going up against the Empire on Endor. I suppose that’s what makes Return of the Jedi‘s final battle seem so epic when you look at the original trilogy in isolation – the limits of film-making at the time have actually served to give us a science fiction trilogy that is almost entirely character-driven, in direct opposition to the movies that have come thereafter. The Mandalorian is helping us get back to that small-scale storytelling, where a lone AT-ST can actually pose a visceral threat to the action.

I think my buddy JP put it really well, likening this episode to an RPG, or a mission from Imperial Assault. It has that feel about it, somehow. Sure, it comes across as a bit of a standalone adventure, though I’m once again wondering about that sense of gathering the crew, and whether we’ll see Cara Dune again before the season finale.

Chapter 5 was both written and directed by Dave Filoni, and I think it really helped me see him in a different light. Up until this point, I was only going off his work on both Clone Wars and Rebels, and I was not impressed. Considering he was George Lucas’ protege, I think he has done more harm than good to the Star Wars universe, by tearing up the continuity and twisting things to his own ends.

Here, we get a much more interesting Filoni, whether because he is now writing for the more mature end of the market, who knows. Yes, there are a lot of callbacks to A New Hope – indeed, you might almost say the episode leans so heavily on the original movie that it is propped-up by it. Mando is almost shot down over Tatooine, as bounty hunters continue to pursue him and the Asset. In order to pay for repairs, he takes a job with the bounty hunter wannabe Toro Calican, who is trying to get into the Guild. The bounty is on the renowned assassin Fennec Shand, who is believed to be hiding out in the Dune Sea.

They apprehend Fennec, but she attempts to drive a wedge between the two hunters, telling Toro that the Mandalorian has his own bounty now. Toro kills her, and attempts to apprehend Mando, but is definitely in over his head, and Mando kills him.

It’s a fairly simple episode, and while it only aired on Friday, there has already been an outcry about a lack of Baby Yoda time. Well, the show is much better than relying on the cuteness factor, for sure! It’s interesting to me, though, at how well the episode manages to integrate itself into the existing movie lore, while at the same time giving it almost an update. Mos Eisley is still a grim backwater, and there is something vaguely 70s about Peli Motto, the docking bay owner.

Did we need to rely so heavily on references to A New Hope? Probably not, but it was still undeniably cool to see these iconic locations once again. EV-9D9 appears to be working behind the bar at Chalmun’s cantina now (I wonder if Chalmun has moved on?) and business looks to be decidedly slow, but then the streets seem quieter as well – I wonder if this is meant to show the lawlessness of the Outer Rim, and people are keeping to themselves? Hm.

Coming at the mid-point of the series, I thought it interesting that the fifth episode borrowed so heavily from A New Hope, as that kind of tactic feels like something more appropriate to the first episode, as it tries to hook us in with nostalgia. I also find myself wondering if we’ll be seeing any more “classic” locations before the end of the season…


This show continues to delight me, and I am really looking forward to future episodes. The finale will be airing Christmas week, so I’m planning to do a bit of a roundup of the show sometime thereafter. Stay tuned for that!