Star Wars: Clone Wars season five

Hey everybody,
So it’s been almost three years since I last watched The Clone Wars, but I’ve finally managed to make my way to the last season, so I’m on the home stretch now!

Star Wars Clone Wars

The fifth season ran between September 2012 and March 2013, and consists of 20 episodes organised across five major arcs. This is a bit of a departure for the show, as there were no single-story episodes at all.

The series begins with the Battle of Onderon, a planet from deep in the distant past of Star Wars, and the Tales of the Jedi series. The Jedi are asked to intervene on behalf of the locals, following the Separatist invasion, but instead of leading a task force of clones, Anakin and Ahsoka are dispatched to help train the locals to fight for themselves. It’s pretty Ahsoka heavy, and as the five episodes progress, Ahsoka takes a pretty major role in staying behind to help the locals in their fight against the droids. Somewhere in here, there is a half-decent story, and there was a small part of me that was intrigued by seeing the Beast Riders still active in the more modern galaxy, but as usual I found myself just unable to get on board with the fact that Ahsoka is treated like such a special case, considering she is still supposed to be a padawan learner, and is portrayed as an early teenager.

Clone Wars Onderon

The arc is actually fairly noteworthy for the inclusion of Saw Gerrera, seen gesturing forward in the picture above. One of the leaders of the Onderanian rebellion, he of course goes on to transition to the big screen in Rogue One.

From Onderon, we next have another Ahsoka-heavy arc, featuring the trials and tribulations of a group of younglings getting their lightsaber crystals. Apparently, this arc was intended as a possible jumping-off point for a new series of young Jedi during the Wars, though thankfully that didn’t come to pass. The whole arc is trope-heavy, as the group of Jedi hopefuls embodies the usual mix of American high school teens. What was most alarming, for me, was that one of these younglings is voiced by Jeff Fischer, who I am most aware of through American Dad.

Clone Wars younglings

Once they have their crystals, the younglings then get attacked by Hondo Ohnaka, seeking profit as ever, and there is an interesting sequence when the pirates board the Jedi ship that is reminiscent of Han being boarded in The Force Awakens, which was of course still in development at this time. Ahsoka is kidnapped by the pirates, and the younglings are able to rescue her, more’s the pity.

The next arc is centred around droids, and an infiltration mission to obtain a Separatist encryption key. The whole four-episode arc is goofy as hell, following the diminutive Colonel Gascon as he leads a group of astromech droids and a mouthy pit droid onto the Separatist ship. Along the way, they crash-land on a distant planet and discover a clone trooper with amnesia, or somesuch nonsense. Probably a crowd-pleaser for the young ‘uns, but let’s just move on… At least it didn’t involve Ahsoka…

Clone Wars Eminence

Next up is the Eminence arc, which returns to the storyline that began at the end of last season. Darth Maul and his brother Savage Oppress are set on taking their revenge against the Jedi and the Republic, by establishing a criminal empire. It sounds goofy, and I do still kinda think the idea is a bit silly, but the execution is actually not that bad, and we get to visit the criminal underworld as we see Maul first attempt to take over Hondo Ohnaka’s organisation, only to be foiled by Obi-Wan. The brothers flee, to be rescued by the Mandalorian Death Watch under Pre Viszla.

Together with the Mandalorians, Maul and his brother take over Black Sun, the Pyke Consortium, and the Hutt cartels, as they gather the resources to wrest control of Mandalore from the Duchess Satine. In order to consolidate his position, Maul challenges Pre Viszla to single combat and kills him, only for Darth Sidious to hear of the uprising and travel to the planet to see what his former apprentice has been up to. Sidious kills Oppress, but saves Maul, promising a future use for him.

Clone Wars Sidious

Within the context of this being a cartoon, I was quite impressed by the scope of this three-episode arc, as we get to see a lot more than merely the Jedi and clones fighting droids. Sure, the cartoon series has explored a lot over the course of its five seasons, but this time it did feel kinda exciting to see – though I do admit that this is possibly due to the fact we’re seeing the foundation of the Crimson Dawn, and establishing how Maul gets from falling down that reactor shaft to leading the criminal empire in Solo. It’s definitely one of the more interesting storylines, and I think for its wider ramifications within the canon universe, it does need to be watched.

And finally, we have the last arc of the season, which is firmly on Ahsoka’s shoulders. An explosion at the Jedi temple leads Anakin and Ahsoka to investigate who could be responsible. When they find the culprit, however, Ahsoka is framed for her death, and flees into the underbelly of Coruscant. She teams up with none other than Asajj Ventress in an attempt to keep the clones off her back while she seeks to clear her name, but it is up to Anakin to discover that it was actually Barriss Offee who framed her, owing to her own dissatisfaction with the way the war has gone. Or something. It was all a bit weird, if you ask me, the only good part of the story being that Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order as a result.

Clone Wars Ahsoka Asajj

I get that Ahsoka Tano is meant to be a strong female character for girls to identify with, and broaden the target audience of the show, but there is a whole essay waiting to be written on the ways that she derails the integrity of the series through being such a blatant Mary Sue character. It is for this reason that I just cannot bear her as a character. She could have been so much better, but she becomes so bloody annoying that watching through these later seasons has been the drudgery that it turned into. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve now got my baby daughter to look after, and so have found myself awake at all hours of the day and night while being unable to do much beyond watch TV, I doubt I would have made it to the final season so soon.

Putting her in positions where she is seen as an equal of the Jedi around her is faintly ridiculous, especially seeing as how those Jedi are most often Anakin and Obi-Wan. Remember, Obi-Wan is a Jedi Master, and yet he is often upstaged by Ahsoka, either in terms of battle tactics or just common sense. Her life experience far outweighs her supposed age, and her abilities are such that she is frequently the lynchpin of a storyline. There is a difference between writing a strong female character for a younger demographic to engage with, and writing her as being brilliant to the point where she could win the war single-handed.

Ahsoka is a blight over the whole Clone Wars cartoon, which is a shame because there are some intriguing stories being told here. There is a lot that goes against established lore, even before the Disney take-over, and for that I feel like I need to take a stand against it as a show, but nevertheless, I have found myself looking back on some of the episodes and thinking vaguely positively about them.

The cartoon series does suffer from an over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan, who hop around the galaxy like it’s the size of a modest kitchen, and not, well, a galaxy. They crop up almost everywhere, an issue that gets worse as the series goes on. I’m sure that was in response to consumer feedback, wanting to see more of them, but I do often hark back to the earlier series, where we had episodes focusing on Kit Fisto, Aayla Secura, and Plo Koon. I think it would have been a bigger benefit if we had seen more of this, exploring other Jedi both from the movies but also original creations that were more fair-game for the show. Of course, that’s the perspective of me as a Star Wars nerd – I’m sure, again, that consumer feedback would have been overwhelming in the desire to see more of Anakin and Obi-Wan, leading to them having a major part (if not pivotal roles) in almost every battle of the Clone Wars. It feels a little bit like the rest of the Jedi Order, to say nothing of the civilians like Wulff Yularen, could have happily sat out the War, leaving it up to the dynamic duo and Mary Sue.

I’ve been listing my top three episodes from each season each time I’ve done these blogs, but for this season, the quality has been so low that the only three I can single out are those of the Eminence storyline, so:
1. Eminence
2. Shades of Reason
3. The Lawless

Even these are not without their flaws, of course, but it was quite a decent look at the criminal underworld, and I thought it was particularly interesting as backstory to Solo, a film that I do actually enjoy.

So there we are! The last full season of the Clone Wars has been watched, at long last. Up next, there are still The Lost Missions, a half-season’s worth of episodes, as well as some of the comics and at least one novel that is spun out of scripts that had already been developed for the show. So I’ll try to get round to these and bundle them all up together at some point, hopefully before the end of the year. Though with Rise of the Skywalker less than a month away, I might well be finding my reading absorbed by a different portion of the timeline…

Star Wars: Clone Wars season four

Hey everybody,
It’s been a while since my last foray into the Clone Wars cartoon series, so it’s time I finally get round to finishing off my look into this stuff!

Star Wars Clone Wars

Season Four, subtitled Battle Lines, ran between September 2011 and March 2012, and feels a bit to me like it has a much narrower focus than previous seasons. I think it comes from the fact that there are some longer stories that cover more episodes. After last season’s delve into the lore and seeing things other than the war, there are a lot more stories that take us back to the front lines this time around, starting off with a three-part story taking place on Mon Calamari.

Star Wars Clone Wars General Grievous

We get far too much Gungan nonsense going on this time around, along with quite a bit of disappointing droids hijinks on a variety of planets as they attempt to reunite with the Jedi. Some of these just feel so profoundly out-of-place in a Star Wars story, I just despair. But anyway.

There’s a fairly long arc set during the Battle of Umbara – the planet from whence Palpatine’s aide Sly Moore hails – which is just kinda weird, if I’m honest. We get to meet the overbearing Besalisk Jedi Master, Pong Krell, whose leadership style is rather different from that of Anakin, Obi-Wan, or any of the others we’ve met so far in the war. He treats the clones more like droids – some bizarre treatment when you consider how he treats established leaders like Rex. The story continues, and we learn that Krell has actually foreseen the end of the war, and the triumph of the Dark Side, so has thrown his lot in with Dooku. He attempts to wipe out the clones on Umbara, but Rex and the others manage to prevail.

Krell is a very strange chap, and I think it’s a bit too obvious at times that he is, in fact, a wrong ‘un, but still. The whole storyline takes place over four episodes, which is a bit of a breakout for the series overall, which hasn’t really seen story arcs take more than three episodes so far.

Star Wars Clone Wars Krell

Speaking of three-parters, we get to see the Zygerrian slave-trade as Anakin and Obi-Wan go under cover in order to discover the whereabouts of some Togruta colonists Dooku has sold into slavery. There should be a lot here, between the fact that Ahsoka is a Togruta herself, and Anakin’s child enslavement, yet we really only get some bloody annoying “just in the nick of time” convenience, along with Ahsoka generally being her annoying perfect self. Oh, and Anakin’s flattery of the Zygerrian queen is nothing short of embarrassing. But this is kinda what we’re led to expect from the series at this point, I suppose…

Zygerrian slavers have a long history in the lore of Star Wars, dating back to the West End Games RPG in 1987, and I’m pleased to say that the feel of the species in this cartoon is perhaps one of the most faithful re-uses of existing lore I’ve yet seen. So there is that positive element to all of this!

Star Wars Clone Wars Zygerria

We have another four-episode arc up next, that sees the return of Cad Bane to the series. A sniper kills Obi-Wan, and is subsequently caught and imprisoned. Only, the sniper is actually Obi-Wan, who undergoes some weird genetic enhancement to have the facial features of the sniper, a chap named Rako Hardeen. Why? Well, because Hardeen is part of an upcoming Separatist plot to kidnap Palpatine. In prison, Obi-Wan makes contact with another part of the plot, the hilariously-named Moralo Eval, who along with his cell-mate, Cad Bane, plots to break out of prison. When a gratuitous appearance by Boba Fett (again voiced by Daniel Logan) provides the diversion they need, Eval, Bane and Obi-Wan break out of prison by pretending to be corpses. They cross the galaxy to Nal Hutta for reasons, then continue on their journey to Count Dooku on Serenno. Meanwhile, the Jedi Council let Anakin in on the secret that Obi-Wan is actually still alive, lest he cock up their overly-elaborate plans.

On Serenno, Dooku has already assembled a team of a dozen or so bounty hunters, who go through some insane Hunger Games style elimination process in order to go on the job to kidnap the Chancellor. The whole episode is just highly unnecessary, but I nevertheless found myself enjoying the total unnecessary-ness of it all after a while. On Naboo, Palpatine arrives to preside over the Festival of Light, and the kidnap attempt is thwarted, with Bane discovering he has been duped by Obi-Wan and vowing to have revenge. There is a very interesting part of the finale to this arc where Anakin rails against the Jedi Council for keeping things from him, and while I actively dislike Anakin as a character, I thought it was nevertheless interesting to see this sort of thing as it later helps inform his arc in Revenge of the Sith.

Star Wars Clone Wars Cad Bane

The final few episodes of the season also form something of a loose collective, as we once again return to the Dathomiri storyline from last season. First up, we have Asajj Ventress and Mother Talzin defending Dathomir from a vengeful Dooku, in an episode that involves zombie Nightsisters. Why? Who the hell knows why. When Talzin and the old leader of the Nightsisters, Old Daka, are both taken out of the fight, said zombie Nightsisters are decimated, as are the normal sisters, leaving Asajj as the sole survivor, it seems. With her life in ruins, we next see her teaming up with the recently-escaped-from-prison Boba Fett, and none other than Dengar! Erm… It’s a bit of a pointless episode, though towards the end we do see Asajj actually begin to re-evaluate her place in the galaxy, and I think it’s an important thing to note, because it turns out that she’s one of the very few Star Wars characters who have genuine character development – something we have seen previously in the Legends universe, of course…

Star Wars Clone Wars Darth Maul

Savage Oppress has been searching for his brother in the Outer Rim, and he finally tracks him down to the junk planet of Lotho Minor. Maul, it seems, has lost his mind in the years since Obi-Wan cut him in half – understandable, as I’m sure anyone who has been cut in half can attest. He’s also running around on some hilarious metal spider-legs. Oppress brings Maul (who is voiced by Sam Witwer, incidentally, who has previously voiced The Son in the Mortis trilogy, and also portrayed the Secret Apprentice back in The Force Unleashed) back to Mother Talzin who, with her weird Nightsister magic, manages to bring back some sanity and reduce his weird Drider-like conveyance to a simple pair of legs, and with that clarity comes the cold determination to wreak his vengeance on Obi-Wan.

The Jedi learn of Maul’s re-emergence onto the galactic playing field, and Obi-Wan pursues him “to correct his mistake” – because it’s now a mistake to kill Sith Lords, apparently. Meanwhile, Asajj learns of a bounty on Savage Oppress, and tracks the brothers as they capture Obi-Wan. The Jedi and the former dark acolyte team up to defeat Maul and Oppress, and there’s a really nice feel to their relationship here that echoes their earlier dialogue in season one on Crystophsis.

Needless to say, Obi-Wan and Asajj escape them, though Maul is convinced that they will meet again…

So there we have it! Season four in a fairly hefty nutshell. And nuts are, I think, highly appropriate in this situation. I finished watching season four at the weekend, but if I’m honest, I still don’t really know what I thought of it. I mean, some of it had some really interesting ideas, while some of it was also really quite awful, with the overall feeling being one of mediocrity. I thought it was an interesting development that the arcs were getting longer, and things like the last four episodes, while they contained two distinct storylines, nevertheless fed into not only each other, but also reached back into season three in quite a nice and cohesive way. In this respect, I think the season is actually really quite interesting, and almost transcends the cartoon genre, you know?

Time for my top three, though… urgh, this is a difficult decision, but:
1. Crisis on Naboo
2. Revenge
3. Darkness on Umbara

Honestly, that third-best slot could have gone so many different ways, as there are a lot of episodes that are on a similar par. Crisis on Naboo is actually really interesting, not just because Naboo is one of my favourite locations, but because of the culmination of the plot to abduct the Chancellor. And Revenge was just great to see Obi-Wan and Asajj working together on something. There’s definitely a tension between the two of them, and it’s probably the thing I’ve most enjoy seeing from this entire four-season foray into the cartoon so far!

So there we are, four down, one (and a half) to go! Stay tuned for season five, which I hope will be coming much sooner than seven months down the road!

Ewoks!

Back in September 1985, the Ewoks cartoon began, and it was a glorious time to be a child! Of course, I was a bit young at the time – I wasn’t yet one year old – but this cartoon was so much a part of my childhood that I couldn’t help celebrate it as my 500th blog!

The show deals with the adventures of Wicket and his friends and their adventures around the Endor forest, some time before the events of Return of the Jedi. Despite the fact that Wicket really steals the show in pretty much every episode, there’s a really nice ensemble feel with the rest of the characters we’re introduced to, a couple of whom do have prominent places in one or two episodes…

Ewoks cartoon

First of all, I only really liked the first series of 13 episodes, so I’ll only be rambling incoherently on them. The feel of the cartoon is much more, I dunno, cartoony than the second season, and it has that amazing bluesy theme song! There are a number of threats that the Ewoks have to overcome over the course of the series, primarily their cousins the Duloks, but also the more serious threat of Morag, the Tulgah Witch. The Duloks are a little silly at times, especially the O and X-marked pair, but this is pitched at little children, after all! If I’m honest, I don’t even find their capering all that goofy anymore, as it’s just all so nostalgic!

One of my favourite of the kind of story arcs in the season involves the travelling Jindas, who travel throughout Endor performing for the various inhabitants of the forest. I always had a soft spot for Latara, and as the episode kinda focused more on her, I suppose it was inevitable that I would like this episode best!

When I was little, I had recorded some of the episodes off the TV, but I was eternally sad that the VHS tape had run out before the end of The Curse of the Jindas, and from about the age of 5 or 6 until about three years ago, I had no idea how it actually ended! It clearly didn’t bother me too much as I hadn’t thought to look it up online, but still!

Ewoks cartoon

When I rewatched the series after scouring youtube during 2013, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and so many wonderful memories of watching (and re-watching) these episodes came flooding back, it really was great!

The episode Sunstar vs Shadowstone was another all-time favourite – while having a soft spot for Latara, Teebo was my favourite, as I felt something of a kinship for his goofy attempts to fit in and impress the others. Well, anyway!

The cartoon is an amazing nostalgia trip, and is definitely worth checking out – not just for Star Wars fans, but I do feel it still holds up as a cartoon for kids of all ages!

500 posts

Star Wars: Clone Wars season three

Hey everybody,
Over the past month, I’ve watched my way through the twenty-two episodes of the third season of Clone Wars, the first one that’s “new” to me since I hadn’t gotten round to watching any of them despite owning the boxset for almost four years… In my round-up of the second season, I called that one a bit of a let down; season three has been just weird in comparison! Let me explain…

Star Wars Clone Wars

There are a lot of arcs in this season, to the extent that it actually feels like a more homogeneous whole for the first time. Seasons one and two have episodes that take place all over the timeline, and while three does have a similar feel to it, some of the stories and arcs do feel like they follow one another much more closely than in the earlier seasons.

Alongside a couple of really important arcs for the overall Star Wars lore, we do get a lot of tangential episodes in this season. Bounty hunters and assassins still play an important part, and in fact the actual Clone Wars almost take a back seat. Cad Bane is back again, though unfortunately in an arc that sees him helping the annoying Ziro the Hutt – who apparently has a romantic interest with Sy Snootles. Now there’s an image I’m not sure we needed to ever see…

The subtitle for the season was “Secrets Revealed”, and there is a definite sense of delving more into the lore of the universe than merely showing white-armoured clones shooting at a variety of droids. Of course, we still get that, but there is a lot more side-track style episodes this time around.

Star Wars Clone Wars Baron Papanoida

Along with the weird, there are also some more left-field episodes, including one devoted to Baron Papanoida (George Lucas himself) that feels a lot like fan-service meets butt-kissing. We see that the character created by George in Revenge of the Sith is a badass warrior-type that feels more at odds with the guy standing outside the Coruscant Opera. The episode, Sphere of Influence, was kinda fun, though. I also really enjoyed Heroes on Both Sides, which shows Padme trying to negotiate an end to the war with her friend Mina Bonteri, who is now a high-ranking Separatist. It was an interesting look at the war and, if I’m honest, dealt with the politics of the galaxy in a lot better way than previous episodes have. Definitely worth watching, I have to say.

As with the last season, there are a couple of truly stand-out arcs that I want to single out here to talk about: the storyline involving Asajj Ventress, and the Force stuff that went down in the Mortis trilogy.

Star Wars Clone Wars Mother Talzin Savage Oppress

Asajj Ventress is one of the characters created for the Clone Wars multimedia crossover event that occurred between 2002 and 2005, telling the story of the war in effective real-time between the releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Her first appearance was in the comic Jedi: Mace Windu, which is now part of the Legends stuff, but over the course of the Republic series, and its various tie-ins, we grew to understand a lot of her history as an orphan from Rattatak who was trained by a Jedi who had been stranded there, Ky Narec, but gave in to her anger when her mentor was killed. Dooku found her and trained her to be his personal assassin and dark acolyte, though she was always one of many such tools employed by the Count. Most of this has been expunged from history by the episodes in season three, which tells us that Asajj is in fact one of the Nightsisters from Dathomir.

In this new history, we see Asajj abandoned by Dooku during a battle above Sullust, leading her to take revenge with the help of her Nightsister brethren. She and several assassins break into Dooku’s palace and, while he survives the assassination attempt, he is led to believe the Jedi were behind the attempt on his life, so requests a new bodyguard from the Nightsister matriarch Mother Talzin, who first gave him Asajj. The storyline then progresses to the male side of Dathomir, where we meet a young contender for the position, Savage Oppress. After a series of gruelling trials, Savage is deemed worthy to serve as the bodyguard, and goes through a mystical transformation that beefs him up for the role. However, in his first real test, Asajj and Savage go up against Dooku and fail, leading Savage to abandon his position as Dooku’s guard. Back on Dathomir, Talzin tells Savage he must go to the Outer Rim to find his brother…

Star Wars Clone Wars Darth Maul

This three-part story arc tramples over so much of the established Star Wars lore, hearing about it at the time sent me somewhat over the edge as regards to giving the show any kind of interest or respect. Maul has been established as a Zabrak from Iridonia, and that had been in place since 1999. Furthermore, Darth Maul was shown cut in half specifically to preclude his further appearance in the franchise following his death. Now, we learn that he’s actually the male version of a Nightsister, and somehow managed to survive being sliced in half and falling down a reactor shaft. Hm. It really annoyed me at the time, and still rankles a little now, if I’m honest, the way the story writers played fast and loose with what fans had come to understand as the history of the universe they were reading about and watching.

Of course, in the post-Story Group world, I’m a bit mellower. Clone Wars is established canon, and none of the other stuff is real. So I’ve let a lot of that go, I think! Anyway…

Star Wars Clone Wars Ghosts of Mortis

The Mortis trilogy was something of an event back in the day, with an article published on starwars.com explaining how the storyline basically supported George Lucas’ vision for the Force from the very beginning. I wasn’t particularly convinced, but it’s a nice article that I can still recommend reading. The trilogy features Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka following a Jedi distress signal in the Chrelythiumn system out in Wild Space, where they come upon The Ones – three exceptionally powerful Force users called simply The Father, The Son and The Daughter. The Father has drawn them to the system to test if Anakin really is the Chosen One, as he seeks someone to keep the Balance of the Force between his Daughter, an exceptionally strong Light Side Force user, and his Son, extremely strong in the Dark Side. I thought it was really cool that we got both Sam Witwer and Adrienne Wilkinson as the Son and Daughter – actors who formerly worked on The Force Unleashed as the Secret Apprentice and Maris Brood, respectively. Really adds to that sense of importance, you know?

The trilogy is a bit trippy for the most part, as we see a lot of stuff that is primarily Force visions and the like. Obi-Wan meets the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, and Anakin once more sees his mother Shmi (both of the original actors of these roles returned to do the voice work, which was really cool and a mark of how important the episodes were seen). Ahsoka however sees herself as an adult, who warns her against following Anakin as her master will eventually corrupt her, also.

As it turns out, Ahsoka is corrupted by the planet, and Anakin is basically convinced by the Son to turn to the Dark Side in order to prevent the future from happening – a future in which Anakin becomes Darth Vader, no less. However, at a climactic confrontation, the Father wipes Anakin’s mind of this possible future, and seeing no end to his Son’s evil, kills himself, giving Anakin the time needed to kill the Son, who had already killed his sister. It’s an extremely weird and convoluted story arc, and actually ends with the three Jedi “waking up” in their ship, almost as if none of this had actually happened.

It’s weird, but there is a lot of important stuff about the Force, and the nature of the Jedi at this time, that kinda makes it something of a required viewing, really. There are some odd moments, and Ahsoka continues to annoy the bejeesus out of me, but yeah, worthwhile to give it a try once.

The other episodes of the season are a curious bunch, although most of them don’t seem to leave a lasting impression. We get a lot more of how Ahsoka is so brilliantly amazing for a ten-year-old (or whatever she is), she should basically be galactic queen right now, and there are some more embarrassing hijinks with Jar Jar on Toydaria, where he goes on a diplomatic mission with Bail Organa. I’m a huge supporter of getting more Bail Organa, but I think a cartoon aimed at kids is probably not the best outlet for that. We need a good political novel, like Cloak of Deception, that features all of the politicking on Coruscant and stuff!

Before I wrap this up (I know I’ve already rambled fairly extensively here), I just want to mention the final five episodes of the season, which starts with The Citadel three-parter, and ends with an awful Ahsoka-centric storyline that brings back yet another movie character. The Citadel is a prison designed to hold Jedi, and Anakin leads a rescue mission to recover Even Piell and his officers. One of these officers is none other than Captain (eventual Grand Moff) Tarkin!

Star Wars Clone Wars Tarkin

I’ve never been a fan of gratuitous appearances like this, but as it turns out, Tarkin does have a part to play in the Clone Wars, so I’m actually perfectly okay with this. Possibly because I’m writing this blog while in the middle of reading James Luceno’s novel, but that’s a subject for another time. Tarkin and Piell both have one half each of some vital information that needs to find its way to the Republic, so they both need to make it out. During the course of the escape, the party is split, and Even Piell is killed. With his dying breath, he tells Ahsoka his half of the information (oh yeah, Ahsoka is along for the ride, because Ahsoka). I feel like this is a really important turning point in the series as, while Even Piell is hardly what you’d think of as a front-line Jedi, he was on the Jedi Council in both Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, so there is something to be said for that.

Along the way, Tarkin criticises the Jedi involvement in the war, and has quite a bit to say about having the child padawan leading clone troopers on the front lines. Thank you, Wilhuff! He tells Anakin he doesn’t think warrior monks who refuse to do what is necessary to win the war should be leading the troops, and Anakin is in total agreement – though more because he thinks the Jedi should do more, not because he thinks they shouldn’t be there at all. While a lot of media tends to browbeat the idea of Tarkin as a “might means right” kinda guy, I still thought this was a nice touch, and can’t pass up the opportunity to see more of the guy.

The last two episodes of the season follow Ahsoka as she once again shows just how much of a loose cannon she is on the battlefield. There’s a couple of remarks made how Anakin criticises her for not following orders, yet Anakin himself often disobeys direct orders too. The difference of course, is that Anakin is often fairly effective, but Ahsoka just isn’t. But there is a definite case to be made that Anakin is just a bad teacher in this respect. At any rate, Ahsoka gets herself kidnapped by a group of Trandoshans, who release her into the wilds of a hunting reserve. Along the way, she eventually meets up with other captives on the reserve, one of whom is none other than Chewbacca, and of course Ahsoka can perfectly understand Shyriiwook. Chewbacca manages to salvage enough parts to send a signal to his homeworld, and eventually a bunch of Wookiees shows up to save them.

There is so much that annoys me about this, but I think the fact that Chewbacca is pretty much the preeminent Wookiee in the galaxy is getting annoying now. I had some hopes after meeting the whole planet in Revenge of the Sith, but time and again it seems we’re only allowed to meet the one. Bah!

Given all of this, it’s been fairly difficult to pick my top three episodes from this season! But here goes:
1. Citadel Rescue
2. Overlords
3. Heroes on Both Sides

There you have it, folks! Stay tuned for a look at season four, just as soon as I get round to watching it!

Star Wars: Clone Wars season two

Hey everybody,
I’ve been making my way through the second season of Clone Wars tv series lately, so thought I’d come along here and follow up my look at the first season. There are a couple of interesting moments in this season, though overall I was surprised to find it was a bit of a let down, if I’m honest! Let’s take a look…

Star Wars Clone Wars

Like the first season, there are several episodes that form arcs throughout the season, which I kinda like as a series of twenty-two episodes, of twenty minutes each, always has the risk of being stand-alone and kinda pointless. There are very few single episodes in the second season, in fact, as all of them have links of varying strengths with each other.

I think the most important of these arcs is that dealing with the Mandalorians, because it caused such a massive stir in the community at the time it was released. Up to this point (late 2009), author Karen Traviss had been behind several highly successful novels, including the Republic Commando series, and a few tie-ins to the new Clone Wars itself. Traviss had made a name for herself as the Mandalorian Queen, writing her clones as having a strong cultural tie to the Mandalorian, Jango Fett. Of course, Mandalorians had been popular within Star Wars fandom for years since Boba Fett’s costume made him so many fans, and they had grown into a race of superhuman mercenary awesome guys who we were pretty much browbeaten into loving instantly.

Star Wars Clone Wars Duchess of Mandalore

Then we got episode 12 of Clone Wars season two, The Mandalore Plot. Turns out, the Mandalorians are a peaceful people, who have confined the war-like vestiges of their culture to the moon of Concordia (Concord Dawn, anyone?) and live in harmony much like the Naboo and Alderaanians we’ve come to know from the EU. The Duchess of Mandalore herself leads the pacifist Council of Neutral Systems, in fact. At the time, rumour had it that this change was too much for Traviss to stomach, and she left the GFFA as a result. You can read the author’s own words on all of that here.

Anyway!

The arc features Obi-Wan investigating claims the Mandalorians are arming against the Republic, and we soon learn he and Duchess Satine have some prior history together. The two discover that a breakaway faction of Mandalorians have re-formed the Death Watch and plan to overthrow the pacifist government, with the help of Count Dooku.

This arc is actually pretty great, if I’m honest. The Mandalorian controversy aside, I feel that it reaches deep into the Star Wars lore and provides a real treat for a lot of fans. Sure, there are many moments that I wish hadn’t happened – though at least Jar Jar wasn’t in any of them. I really enjoyed seeing the deepening of Obi-Wan’s character, and think the idea that he is actually a lot more worldly than many other Jedi provides an interesting tension with Anakin. There is a lot here that makes Obi-Wan a really interesting Jedi, one that certainly learnt a lot from Qui-Gon Jinn.

Star Wars Clone Wars Geonosian Queen

There’s a pretty extensive arc set on Geonosis that, if I’m honest, just annoys me immensely. We get to meet the Geonosian Queen, and while that makes total sense, as the Geonosians are essentially bugs, the whole zombie/mind-control thing with the worms was just ridiculous, and seemed a completely contrived way to engender the danger for Ahsoka and Barriss. Oh yeah, Luminara’s back, and this time she’s brought her padawan with her. The two are terribly mishandled, in my opinion, and serve merely to show how much better Anakin and Ahsoka are. I find this a bit annoying, as Luminara and Barriss were officially introduced in the novel The Approaching Storm, specifically as a counterpoint to the master-and-apprentice relationship that Obi-Wan and Anakin have in Attack of the Clones. Barriss is probably a padawan for the longest time among all of the Jedi, and their roles here are the worst part of this for me, I have to say.

And that includes having Anakin and Ahsoka throw Rex off a massive wall and then Force-leap to the ground after him. Harumph.

Star Wars Clone Wars Holocron Heist

The arc that opens the season follows Cad Bane on a job for Darth Sidious, stealing a Jedi holocron that holds the names of all of the Force-sensitive children in the galaxy. Putting aside the issue of just why the Jedi have this information, but are seemingly doing nothing with it, the arc is something of a let-down, as we once again get to follow Ahsoka making a hash of things yet being thought of as some kind of kickass character, and Anakin being an incredibly bad example with next to no repercussions. It was good to see Bane again, though I do feel that he is the sort of character that would benefit from less exposure. His role here is okay, though, and we do get some absolutely wonderful film noir-like shots of him in his rented room, so I can’t complain too loudly!

Star Wars Clone Wars Boba Fett

Bounty hunters suffuse the final arc of the season, as well, as we have what should be an absolutely awesome finale to the season. I think we all knew something was going to be up with Boba Fett going after Mace Windu after that scene in Attack of the Clones when he picks up his fallen father’s helmet, and while we did get a young adult series of books that dealt with this (I should do a blog on those, they had some good moments), none of that is canon anymore. Clone Wars has essentially re-done the storyline, and I have to say, I’m surprised nobody had thought of doing this previously with the character.

Boba Fett is a clone, so he infiltrates a Jedi cruiser (I still find it hilarious that they’re legitimately called that) as a clone cadet! It’s kinda genius, I thought! Of course, he glowers and grimaces a lot, and it really is obvious that he’s not one of them, though I suppose the writers need to telegraph these points to the target audience. It’s a really terrific conceit, and they even got Daniel Logan back to play him (and the other cadets). It turns out that Boba is being helped in his vendetta by Aurra Sing, who is just as crazy as the EU had us believe all these years. We even get to hook up with Hondo Ohnaka once again!

However, the arc is just a bit too, well, obvious in the way it goes. Clearly Boba isn’t going to get to kill Mace, because Palpatine does that in Revenge of the Sith, but there was a certain stilted feel to the three-part arc, that really disappointed me, as it should have been tremendous, by rights.

At any rate, I think I should probably draw this to a close now, because I could ramble on all day. This is by no means a complete look at all of the episodes – the Zillo Beast is rightly left out, I feel, and while it’s cool to see folks like Mon Mothma show up, Senate Murders was something of a low point for me. But I wanted to give at least a rough overview of the season, and I suppose my top three episodes overall!

This was actually more difficult than for season one, as I don’t really like any of the episodes from this season – those on this list are therefore the best of a bad bunch, ones that I can just about tolerate. Death Trap is top merely because of the awesome idea of having Boba Fett infiltrate the clone cadets; Holocron Heist has some wonderful visuals of Cad Bane, and Duchess of Mandalore has some great cat-and-mouse intrigue on Coruscant. I wouldn’t really say I love these episodes, but they’re the best I can come up with, if I’m honest!

1. Death Trap
2. Holocron Heist
3. Duchess of Mandalore

How about you guys? Shocked at how harsh I was on the Zillo Beast?! Can’t stand the Mandalorian controversies? Let me know in the comments!

Star Wars: Clone Wars season one

Hey everybody,
I’m pleased to report that the final essay of my course has been submitted, a 3000-word beast that has taken me the best part of two weeks to hash together, and as a result: I have four month off! Very excited by this. I’m planning to get lots of exciting stuff done, and in particular I’m hoping to get a lot more done on this here blog – foremost, getting back into writing some short stories! I started doing something a couple of months back now, and moving forward with that is top of my list.

As a bit of light relief between studying, I’ve been watching the first season of Clone Wars once again, partly because of encountering Cham Syndulla in Lords of the Sith and feeling like I should try to reconnect with this stuff.

Star Wars Clone Wars

I have to say, all of this stuff is pretty hit and miss for me. I know it’s primarily a kid’s show and all, but it just goes too weird or whatever, and I find it quite hard to watch. While it hasn’t improved with age, I will admit that some of these episodes do bring back some fond memories for me. I’m hardly that young, of course, but it harkens back to a time when we were getting a lot of new stuff that was supported in games like Star Wars Miniatures and the RPG.

The series was launched with a movie that was just awful. The Jedi are keen to gain control of hyperlanes in the Outer Rim, so when Jabba the Hutt asks for the Republic’s help in rescuing his son, they leap to the chance. Turns out the Separatists have kidnapped Jabba’s offspring, and planned to frame the Jedi for it. When the Jedi manage to rescue the little Huttlet, the Separatists modify the plan and think to destroy the Jedi and blame the murder on them. Needless to say, good triumphs in the end…

First of all – Jabba has a child. Secondly – that child is called “Rotta”. Urgh. There are some nice moments in this, but by and large it’s just a cringefest – indeed, I’d forgotten just how bad it was until I watched it again. The worst of these is Ahsoka Tano, the padawan assigned to Anakin. I actually feel bad for hating on her, because she was clearly conceived as a role model for female fans where Padme wouldn’t cut it. The problem is, she is so transparently a Mary Sue character that it really is quite painful to watch at times.

Some of the worst moments in this regard actually come from the series, however. There are at least two moments that I recall vividly where Ahsoka, who is apparently young even for a padawan, tells established Jedi Master Luminara Unduli, and Jedi Knight Aayla Secura, that she knows better than them, and is proven right. It’s not so much that Ahsoka is right in these instances, but that the more senior members of the Jedi Order are dumbed down by comparison. Doesn’t help that Luminara is one of my favourite Jedi, of course, but it really ticks me off that Ahsoka is shown to be so super-wise and stuff. I also hate the fact she’s made out to be the inventor of the Marg Sabl manoeuvre, which tactical genius Thrawn uses in the opening of Heir to the Empire. Seriously – if she’s this good, why the hell isn’t she on the Jedi Council, already?

Ahsoka and Luminara

The battledroids are just annoying, and Jar Jar’s schtick makes me want to leave the room, but as I said above, there are also some good bits in here, too.

I really like the character design we have for both Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin’s is of course derivative of Darth Vader’s suit but, in a galaxy where nothing can happen without first being foreshadowed, it’s still a cool-looking design. Obi-Wan’s is a nice amalgam of Jedi robes and Clone Trooper armour, one that seems especially at home on a general in the field. Plo Koon has a similar look in his appearance, and it works really well.

There are a lot of arcs in the first season, mainly three-part, and of these, the Ryloth one (episodes 19-21) is probably my favourite. It does suffer a little too much from the “Mace Windu is a badass” syndrome that a lot of the prequel material has, but it’s overall pretty good.

Star Wars Clone Wars Kit Firsto

In addition, there are three stand-out episodes that I have to mention. First is Lair of Grievous, episode 10, which follows Kit Fisto and his former padawan Nahdar Vebb as they try to track the escaped Nute Gunray (the Viceroy escaped partly thanks to Ahsoka, who was busy acting like she’s the shit again). Nahdar has something of a chip on his shoulder from the off, it seems, and (spoiler alert) it comes as no surprise when his over-confidence leads to his demise. The Jedi find themselves in the lair of General Grievous, and I found it interesting to see how he keeps spare parts and stuff around – it was one of those character moments where seeing behind the curtain adds to the portrayal rather than detracts.

Star Wars Clone Wars Hidden Enemy

The Hidden Enemy, episode 16, is a prequel to the movie and shows Anakin and Obi-Wan attempting to lift the siege of the crystal-planet Christophsis. The episode has some interesting ideas in it, such as the clones showing a bit too much independent thought – one clone turns traitor, informing the droid army of the Jedi’s plan because he believes the clones are enslaved by the Jedi. While I don’t entirely buy that – clones otherwise have a strong bond to their brothers, and I wouldn’t have thought they’d willingly risk their brethren like that, but anyway. It’s also good to see Rex and Cody work together, something of a theme for the series.

I’m not a huge fan of Asajj Ventress – I liked her when she was introduced in the comics, but I feel she’s been over-exposed and, almost by necessity, this has led to her coming across as incompetent. It’s like Boba Fett syndrome – the character is interesting, so we see loads of him/her, but because they can never be shown to fulfill their potential, they’re forever shown being thwarted to some degree. In the cartoon series, Asajj is supposed to be this top-level assassin, but it’s even pointed out by Darth Sidious at one point how she has failed many times. Well, at any rate, this has lead to an interesting relationship with Obi-Wan, where the two frequently find themselves together on the battlefield, and it’s almost like some twisted kind of relationship the two have. It can be fun, anyway!

Star Wars Clone Wars Cad Bane

The season finale, Hostage Crisis, is one of my absolute favourites. We’re introduced to the Duros bounty hunter Cad Bane as a group of mercenaries infiltrates the Senate and holds a number of high-ranking officials hostage. I’m one of these who likes the political aspects of Star Wars, so I’ve always felt right at home in the senate scenes. This episode also has a strong link with the movie, as the mercenaries are trying to free Ziro the Hutt, Jabba’s uncle who had aided the Separatists in their kidnap of Jabba’s son. I thought the feel of the episode was tremendous, and it felt like something of an event when I first saw it, introducing someone who would go on to become a significant player in the canon.

Overall, the series has some good bits, but some godawful bits as well. I do think it’s worth investigating if you haven’t already done so, as some of these good bits do kinda mitigate the bad! While I have all six seasons on DVD, I’ve only actually watched the first two all the way through (I think, I may have started 3…) but I’m intending to watch all of them this summer, and then make my merry way on to the Rebels cartoon as well. Look forward to that, then! Some of these episodes won’t be a surprise to me as I did used to follow all Star Wars news quite religiously, but I’m still interested to see the totality of what I’ve missed here. What better way to spend my summer vacation, right?!

I think, if I’m going to do this review thing properly, it’s only right to rank these episodes, so I’d say my top three episodes from the series are:

1. Hostage Crisis
2. The Hidden Enemy
3. Lair of Grievous

But what about you guys? Did you love the cartoon, or hate it? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for season two, which will be coming up within the next month or so (hopefully)!

The Real Ghostbusters!

It’s time for some more Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia!

Back in the late 1980s, Columbia made a cartoon series based on the original film that ran to 140 episodes across two seasons, which always sounds a huge amount, but then something like He-Man had roughly the same number, so I guess it was something of a standard. As a fun fact, the cartoon was called “The Real Ghostbusters” because of a dispute with Filmation, the company behind He-Man, Brave Starr, and many others – Columbia actually had to license the name for the film in 1984, and it led to the storyline of the first episode (shown in the youtube video above) that shows a rival group of ghost hunters trying to steal the work of Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston.

Anyhow!

As much as I love the franchise, I have to say, I’ve never really found the same kind of love for the cartoon as I have for the film(s), even given my previously-mentioned toy obsession, the toys of course being directly made from the cartoon and not the movie.

Looking back, I don’t really remember any particular episode from the cartoon series, though I do have vague memories of watching the show as a child. For some odd reason, the clearest memory of the Real Ghostbusters was a book/audio tape combo called The Cabinet of Calamari, based off episode 63:

The cartoons are pretty goofy to watch them today, and while I’m a great apologist for a lot of this sort of stuff (check out my Ring Raiders, D&D and Visionaries blogs in this category!) I just can’t bring myself to watch these things without cringing a little! I mean, Slimer is the Ghostbusters’ pet, for heaven’s sake!!

It is worth mentioning that a few of the ghosts from the new Cryptozoic game have their origin in this cartoon series, including the Boogeyman and Samhain. There is a definite nostalgia value here, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing off to buy these on DVD any time soon…

Visionaries!

Hey everybody!
It’s Saturday morning, so it’s got to be time to remember another classic cartoon of the 80s! I started looking at some of these last year, with the D&D cartoon and the short series Ring Raiders. Today, it’s time for another of my all-time favourites – it’s Visionaries!

“Whispered secrets of a shattered age…”

The Visionaries cartoon was first shown towards the end of 1987, and features the ongoing conflicts between the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords. Set on the world of Prysmos, a formerly technologically-advanced world that suffered a near-apocalypse that set the world back into a dark age, the series begins as the wizard Merklynn instigates a heroic quest to imbue several champions with magical powers, seemingly so that he can make use of them when he feels the need. Several folks show up, and run the gauntlet of traps set up inside the Iron Mountain, though only fourteen survive. Merklynn rewards all those who survived with totem animals based on their personalities, as well as eight having magical staffs.

The champions split into those loyal to Leoric, the Spectral Knights, and those loyal to Darkstorm, the Darkling Lords. Most of the remaining twelve episodes deal with the Darkling Lords attempting to be generally evil, oppressing the population and trying to steal the powers of the Spectral Knights. Some of them also involve both factions doing some sort of strange work for Merklynn against his rival wizards.

visionaries

The cartoon was supported by a whole toy line, twelve of the fourteeen Visionaries were released, along with several vehicles. I remember having a lot of these as a child – well, my brother and I had quite the collection between us, anyway. One of my earliest childhood traumas actually involves a Visionaries figure. I think it was Cravex, I had the figure as a present when going on holiday to Barmouth in mid-Wales. Cravex’s totem animal was some kind of flying lizard thing (a phylot, in case you were wondering), and so it was crucial for whatever I was playing out for him to be thrown into the air. Well, he flew too high, and ended up on the roof of a caravan, and could well still be there to this day. Needless to say, it ruined both the holiday and my childhood, especially as I had his accoutrements to remind me of the debacle.

visionaries

The series is a lot of fun, when looked at from a nostalgic perspective. They’re by no means brilliant – indeed, pretty much everything here is a little hackneyed and whatnot, but for people like myself, having grown up on them and playing with the toys and whatnot, there’s still a lot to be enjoyed from these sorts of shows.

visionaries

“May the light shine forever!”

Ring Raiders!

Hey everybody!

Following my blog post for D&D week on the cartoon series, I’ve been feeling very much in a nostalgic mood – so much so, in fact, that I’ve made a new category! Just how often this will get posted in will remain to be seen, obviously, but anyway!

In the vein of early-Saturday-morning cartoons, then, I hope you all enjoy this little bit of nostalgia!

Ring Raider

Ring Raiders were a toy line from the 1980s, that were expounded upon with five cartoon episodes that never managed to make it into a full series. I had the first episode, Ring of Fire, on VHS as a child, along with some of the toys and – I seem to remember – an annual, which was released following the cartoon series in 1990.

Looking back, Ring Raiders was quite probably my first geekdom. I mean, I knew the script for that episode like the back of my hand; my six-year-old self lived and breathed this stuff!

So sit back, and enjoy some cartoons…when 1998 seemed like so far away…

The command is in your hand!

 

Back to the Dungeon!

Hey everybody!
As D&D week comes to a close here at spalanz.com, I wanted to take some time to talk about something particularly special to me, the D&D cartoon!

Dungeons & Dragons

A product of the early 80s, I must admit to having come quite late to this one, being introduced to it around 2 years ago – again, my friend Tony has a lot to answer for! Something that I haven’t yet delved into on this blog is my love of retro cartoons. Being a child of the 80s, these are things I’ve grown up with and loved, and will always have a special place for me! Hopefully this year, I’ll get to share more of these classics with you, in my own inimitable fashion!

Anyway.

The D&D cartoon, as I said, is something that I’d been aware of, but hadn’t any real recollection of from my childhood. I recall a trip to the local HMV store back when I was in college, where Tony was eyeing up the D&D boxset, but I went for Visionaries back then… ah, happy days! But then, around two or so years ago, he loaned me his copies of the DVDs, so I sat down to watch them with a bag of tortilla chips and some salsa (this is very important!), and found myself really enjoying them!

The show tells the story of a group of kids who, after going on a D&D ride at a theme park, are transported to the realm of D&D and need to find their way home. They are pursued by Venger, but assisted by the Dungeon Master, who gives each a power weapon to assist in their quest. The feel of the show is very much along the lines of an adventure in the sense of the RPG, with the kids set a task they have to accomplish.

Enjoyed that? I hope you did! The second episode in the series is particularly good, featuring the classic D&D monster, the Beholder!

It wasn’t long after being introduced to this cartoon that I found myself having to move house, and what was a very stressful time became so much easier thanks to the little bit of escapism these shows offered to me! This, and BraveStarr, but that’s a subject for another blog! I’d watched maybe ten episodes before I was in my new place, and one of the first things I did was begin watching them again from the beginning, of course, with tortilla chips and salsa!

D&D

Over the course of about a month, I made it through all 27 episodes of the show, including this one, episode 13, a loose retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk:

OH MY GOODNESS ME, I remembered this episode almost word-for-word from when I was about 5 or 6! While it’s hardly a particularly awesome tale, for me it was absolutely awesome from start to finish! What a tidal wave of memories.

Yes, sadly, 27 episodes is the entire run. A 28th was written, but never produced. The kids never did find their way home on the screen, but in a way that’s not really a bad thing. I mean, we never really saw the beginning of the story, only the truncated events of the opening credits (which, really, is all that’s needed anyway). The show really doesn’t have a beginning or an end, it’s just a series of adventures. And I’m pretty fine with that, I must say!

I love this series, though. I hope that, in sharing some of these cartoons, I’ve been able to share some of the awesome with you – remember, if you want the whole lot, the box set is available!

dungeons-dragons_L39

Dungeons and Dragons week may be over now, but this is definitely not the last you’ll be reading of it on my blog, anyway!

Until next time!