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!

Star Wars: Clone Wars – The Lost Missions

Hey everybody,
Well, I made it! It’s been a long slog over the past few years, as I’ve made my way through all of the Clone Wars animated TV series, but I’ve finally made it through all five-and-a-half series!

Star Wars Clone Wars

The Lost Missions is a thirteen-episode miniseries that brings us four story arcs, the final remaining episodes that were finished when the decision had been made to cancel the show in 2013. The episodes were polished off for airing on German network Super RTL the following year, and made their way to Netflix soon after. Writers had made significant inroads into a seventh season before the show was cancelled, and while these episodes are the last that were properly finished, there is the Legacy project that comprises some animated storyboards, comics and novels that I’ll cover as part of a separate blog. Of course, there has also been the announcement that the show is coming back to Disney+ early next year – but I’ll get to that in another blog!

We begin with a clone storyline, which involves an exploration of the Order 66 command. One of the clones shoots his Jedi general, saying that he is “following orders”, and so is taken back to Kamino for investigation. It is suggested that the Separatists have finally been able to create a virus that affects the clones, but upon examination a “chip” is found in the brain. Shaak Ti, who is the Jedi permanently stationed on Kamino to guard against Separatist attack (nice callback to some Legends stories, there) doesn’t believe the “chip” is anything other than a behavioural inhibitor, but travels back to Coruscant for the Jedi to examine it further. The Chancellor steps in, and Palpatine manages to dispose of the evidence by feigning an assassination attempt by the clone trooper in question.

Urgh. First of all, I hated the way they kept referring to it as a chip. I mean, I get why they did, but still – the idea of Order 66 was always supposed to have been part of the flash-learning process that all clones are subjected to, and not a “chip” that can be implanted or extracted at will. It does allow for the writers to “save” certain clone characters for later, of course, but it’s just so irritating to see concepts reduced like this.

Furthermore, I get that there is the idea of the Dark Side clouding the Jedi’s judgement, as Mace Windu himself expresses the notion in Revenge of the Sith, but characters in this episode arc seemed to just willfully ignore the fact that some serious allegations are being leveled by the clone troopers. Wouldn’t you at least be curious to see what was going on? Hm.

The next arc sees the return of Clovis, in episodes originally intended for season five (as seen by the fact Ian Abercrombie is still the voice of Chancellor Palpatine). Clovis is put forward to lead the Banking Clan out of its current crisis, in a three-part arc that makes little sense and just gets worse. I think it mainly suffers from the Padme-problem, whereby virtually nobody has any idea of what to do with the character outside of the films (and even then, it’s debatable). Padme supports Clovis, causing Anakin to bridle with jealousy, and the whole thing turns into a Separatist plot, with Count Dooku manipulating Clovis into his eventual death. There’s talk of interest rates going up for the Republic, and the arc ends with the Senators all chanting “long live the banks!” while Palpatine takes personal control of the InterGalactic Banking Clan, in a move that surprised me, as I thought they were firmly in the Separatist camp.

However, if you thought that three episodes about banks was drivel, just wait for the Jar Jar two-parter, which sees our intrepid Gungan on a diplomatic mission to Bardotta, at the express request of the world’s Queen. Who apparently wants to get him into bed. Erm… Basically, there is a nefarious plot to capture the people of the planet, who are all Force sensitive to some degree, to drain their Force essence. Turns out Mother Talzin is behind it, and she’s attempting to become more powerful than anybody by using these Force batteries.

The whole idea is just awful, reducing the Force to something that you can “get more of”. I don’t know if this idea dates back to Mara Jade gaining strength under Luke’s guidance during the Bantam era, as she goes from being not very good while operating with Talon Karrde, to becoming a Jedi Master using the Force with ease by the time of the Legacy of the Force novel series. But anyway, it annoys me, and the inclusion of Jar Jar is just the icing on the turd, really.

Finally, we have a four-part Yoda arc that serves almost as the season highlight, and in some ways does form a fitting conclusion to the cartoon series. Plo Koon discovers Master Sifo-Dyas’ lightsaber, prompting an investigation into the Jedi Master’s death some ten years ago. The mission that led to his death was classified by order of the Supreme Chancellor, which allows for the return of Finis Valorum to the story!

The Yoda arc is a bit troubling for me, because I so wanted to like it, but in the end it just fell so flat. We have something of an exploration of Sifo-Dyas, the Living Force, and all that business with coming back as a Force ghost. It should have been terrific, but it just felt like run-of-the-mill stuff. There is an attempt to make the Force mystical once again, and to try and retcon the midi-chlorian stuff with the spirituality stuff, but it didn’t really come over well. The series has tried to do the spiritual stuff before, most noticeably with the Mortis trilogy, but even then, what sounds decent enough on paper end up being just weird and silly, and quite frustrating for fans of Star Wars in general.

Good retcons will take account of everything, and work it into a fairly neat parcel. Here, we have several instances where important stuff is just ignored or omitted, most annoyingly calling the Sith homeworld Moraband, as opposed to the traditional Korriban. Apparently, this change was done at the behest of George Lucas, who preferred the name. Hm. There isn’t a great deal of lore on Sifo-Dyas, considering the importance of that plot element during Attack of the Clones, but I suppose that is a subject for another blog. However, it had been established that Dooku was a close friend, and was tasked with his murder by Sidious in order to cement his commitment to the Sith cause. That is now thrown out of the window, as we instead get this jumble of hearsay about the Jedi Master’s eventual fate.

Yoda visits Dagobah and communes with the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, who instructs him to visit the Force Priestesses at the Wellspring of Life. There, he undergoes a series of challenges (including his visit to the Sith home planet) before they notify him that he will train with Qui-Gon to learn how to retain his consciousness after death.

It’s a four-episode arc that I really wanted to like, but ultimately it really didn’t shed a great deal of light on anything. Sure, there is a case that can be made where the Force should be kept as a great mystery, but if you’re going to spend this long on a story, it would be nice if it went somewhere, you know? The arc ends with the Council asking Yoda for details of his travels, but he is unwilling to share the scope of his knowledge. Hm.


One of the major issues, for me, with the Clone Wars as a series has been the over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan, something that I’ve talked to death before now, but I want to touch on again now that I’m summing-up the whole thing. In more than a hundred episodes, which span maybe 60 distinct storylines, we see Anakin and Obi-Wan show up in probably 80-90 of those episodes. The problem with this, for me, is that the conflict spans around three years, in-universe, and crosses the entire galaxy in its breadth. How the hell are these two supposed to have been able to accomplish this? There are thousands of Jedi, and the TV series had a real opportunity to develop several new ones who could have become series regulars, but that was neglected in favour of episode after episode that shows the derring-do of Anakin, his erstwhile master, or his annoying padawan. Sure, that’s probably what people want – the show is aimed at the younger audience, after all, who will likely want to see their favourite on-screen Jedi. But this just leads to such ridiculous feats of continuity that irritate me far more than perhaps they should!

I’ve talked plenty about Ahsoka and how much I hate her as a character, so I’ll leave that for now.

The annoying thing in all of this is that, for me, the series does have a lot of interest, and there are moments where I feel the show could have come across so much better, had it not been pitched at the younger end of the market. A great example of this, I think, is the relationship between Obi-Wan and Asajj Ventress, which we see as something dark and twisted in the first season, but is then left unexplored – indeed, the character seems to have been forgotten about for a long time. It’s a shame, because it could have become something so much more interesting. Other storylines, such as Darth Maul’s formation of the Shadow Collective was handled fairly well, and we see some pretty decent lore being developed for it overall. The Pyke Syndicate is definitely one of the best things to come out of late seasons – in fact, in The Lost Missions, when we see the spice den during the Yoda arc, it’s surprising at how adult the material comes across. The Pykes were later used in Solo, as the cartel in charge of the spice mines of Kessel.

But for all of the points that could be enumerated for the series, there are just so many more that really pull it down. So much exists that is flashy and there for show, it just infuriates me when I think how much this show could have given us! But then I remember that it’s a cartoon show, and I control myself…!


I wish the Clone Wars had tried to tie themselves more strongly into the narrative of the movies, as opposed to trying to become its own thing. By this, I mean there rarely seems to be a clear trajectory for the series, despite Revenge of the Sith having come out years prior to the first episode being aired. This ties once again into the over-exposure of Anakin and Obi-Wan. Aside from seemingly being the only Jedi required to win the war (with a healthy dose of a precocious adolescent), using these two as much as the series does really seems to make what should be a huge galaxy so much smaller. How does Anakin have the off-time to continually save Padme if he’s literally fighting battles across the entire galaxy?

To my mind, a three year conflict will contain a finite number of battles. Of those, there will be a percentage of decisive battles, which turn the tide one way or another. We’ll see set-piece action, we’ll see numerous fronts, and then we’ll get to the capture of the Chancellor and things will dovetail nicely into the opening of Episode III. If I were in charge of this endeavour, then, I would have sat down at the beginning and come up with a timeline that shows how we get from the arena at Geonosis to the battle for Coruscant. I’d draw up the plan for exploring the battlefronts that I want, put together an idea of who will be there, and then just set about making that. It’s a simple scheme that can afford to then be peppered with off-stories that deal with bounty hunters and banking clans, without losing that sense of scale.

And that is precisely what the Clone Wars multimedia project set out to do, back in 2002. We had a handful of novels, the ongoing comic series, as well as the Clone Wars shorts cartoon series. The comic series was a real gem in this period, as it followed the adventures of Quinlan Vos as an undercover operative, with a focus on Anakin and Obi-Wan much more sparingly. Other Jedi were featured along the way (and we did get an exploration of Sifo-Dyas at one point, as well), giving a sense of scale to events. It set out the stall that this was the Clone Wars, being told in real time as Revenge of the Sith was being filmed.

As it is, we have Anakin and Obi-Wan jumping around the galaxy, winning battles in a matter of minutes, and destroying any sense of the realism that Star Wars has always tried to maintain. Sure, it’s a space fantasy, but the key tenets of the original trilogy were of the lived-in universe, keeping things real within its own internal logic and rules. For the sake of the spectacle, we now have this. And it’s canon. And in February 2020, we’re getting yet more of it.

Urgh.

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn (a review)

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Hey everybody,
I’m continuing to catch up with all things Star Wars right now, and hot on the heels of my last blog, talking about the amazing Darth Plagueis, I’ve jumped forward in the timeline (and across canon) to the latest book to be released, Resistance Reborn! Part of the Journey to The Rise of Skywalker publishing programme, Resistance Reborn picks up close on the heels of The Last Jedi, with the Resistance having barely survived the Battle of Crait and needing to find both allies and a new home.

The book mainly follows Poe Dameron as he attempts to atone for his mutiny aboard the Raddis during Episode VIII. He comes across as maybe a little too guilty, as if the event is somehow more important than it seemed in the movie (though this could equally have been a problem with the movie, if I’m honest). Poe meets with Maz Kanata, who refuses to help the Resistance openly, but gives him word that the First Order have made a list of undesirables and are actively pursuing the names on it, locking them up before they can do any further harm. Poe sends his other pilots from Black Squadron to find other possible leaders to help rebuild, with Snap Wexley returning home to Akiva to bring along his mother Norra, and her husband Wedge Antilles.

Leia manages to convince her former colleague Yendor to aid them, and the survivors head to Ryloth to regroup. There, they are given the news that the list of undesirables has been stolen by a criminal group known as the Collective, and is to be auctioned off at the birthday party of notorious crime lord Hasadar Shu’s wife, on Corellia. Two teams are dispatched to Corellia, one headed by Poe to obtain the list, with the other led by Wedge in an attempt to steal ships from the shipyards there. A third team is dispatched to the planet Bracca, to obtain more ships from the junkyard world.

We’ve also been following the lives of First Order records clerk Winshur Bratt and his two underlings, one of whom stole the list of undesirables in order to pass it to the Collective. These plot threads intersect as the plot moves forward, as we see the oppression of the First Order leads to both of the underlings defecting in their separate ways. At the party, Poe is soon outbid on the list, but the First Order arrive and start shooting the place up (including killing the crime boss, himself). Poe rescues Shu’s wife Nifera, who in return gives up the list to the Resistance. Along the way, Wedge manages to rescue several high-level political prisoners being held at the shipyards, including none other than former senator, Ransolm Casterfo.

Resistance Reborn

The book is quite short, just shy of 300 pages, and so the plot kicks along at a pretty sharp pace. Some reviews that I’ve read on goodreads complain that the Resistance is in much the same place at the end of the novel as at the start, which isn’t entirely without foundation, although one could argue that they have a lot more materiel than they had in the closing scenes of The Last Jedi. More starfighters, some more recruits, a list of folks to go rescue. That doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t suffer from a kind of Bridge Syndrome, as if it were the central book of a trilogy that merely exists to stop those books being a duology.

It’s a really good story, don’t get me wrong, and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It pulls from a lot of the new canon, most heavily from the Aftermath trilogy and Bloodline, which helps to make the new canon feel like a much more homogenous place to be. One of my major gripes so far about the Disney stuff has been just how standalone everything feels. Having callbacks to earlier stuff, and minor recurring characters, helps to make something more of these stories. It’s something that I really enjoyed, anyway.

I suppose where it somewhat falls down, for me, is that we don’t get that sense of plot advancement, because we can’t know too much prior to the release of The Rise of Skywalker. I’m really hoping that his ludicrous level of secrecy about the state of the galaxy is going to be lifted once Episode IX has been released, and we can start to learn more about the First Order, Snoke, and all the rest of it. The First Order exists, at the moment, purely to be the bad guys, and there is next to no substance about them that we can tangibly cling on to. Sure, the Empire must have felt much the same back in the 1970s and 80s, but the way that Obi-Wan talks about the Clone Wars and Vader in those films gives them that sense of historical perspective that the First Order doesn’t yet have. Leia comes close to it in The Force Awakens, when she talks about Snoke seducing Ben to the Dark Side, but I honestly feel adrift when watching the movies right now, because we have so little to go on. There are snippets from the likes of Aftermath and Bloodline, but so much is just guesswork and hearsay, that requires too much work on the part of the viewer to put together into a cohesive narrative. I get that JJ and the rest want to create a sense of mystery and suspense, I really do, but having been building this since 2015, it’s wearing really thin right now, and I am more than ready for some actual answers. We need that cohesive narrative to make sense of how we got from the forest moon of Endor to the desolate sands of Jakku.

Huh, that was quite a rant there, wasn’t it?

Moving on!

Wedge is back in this one, and both Orrimaarko (Prune Face) and General Riekkan! I was really quite chuffed when I was reading those parts, even though I had it in the back of my mind that Dennis Lawson has said he doesn’t want to reprise his role as Wedge, and Bruce Boa sadly passed away a few years ago. I really wanted this book to show us Lando returning to the fold, but no such luck – so I’m guessing that will be something that is dealt with in the actual film. Well, that’s fair enough. Maz Kanata was criminally under-used, once more, though I’m choosing to think there might be something coming for her in IX, as Lupita Nyong’o is confirmed as returning. Maybe she’s best when lightly sprinkled into a story, rather than her backstory delved into too much.

I don’t know for sure, but I get the impression that the scenes with the Black Squadron pilots draw heavily from the Poe Dameron comic series, so I feel as though I need to get round to them at some point. For the time being, though, a quick Wookieepedia search has shown that Suralinda Javos, at least, is a recurring character from the comic book. Definitely need to catch up more there. Interestingly, we have a lot of Poe and Finn moments, where Poe is squeezing Finn’s arm. It should be nothing, but the fact it is called out so often makes me wonder if the idea of the two of them getting together might actually be where this bromance is going, after all!

Rey is in the novel, though she is another character who is criminally under-used. In fact, she might as well have not been there – I think it was only because she was on the Falcon at the end of VIII that she was included here at all. There was something about her character that felt off to me, too. She is portrayed, basically, as a timid mouse – not the sort of person we saw doing all that crazy stuff in the movie. Indeed, even at the start of her journey in VII, she has something about her, to have survived in the wilderness alone for so long. Hm.

I guess I’m really being fussy here, because this book was the sort of novel that I’ve been wanting from the Disney expanded universe for a few years, now. Something that plainly inhabits that same world, that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Something that tells a story with the big movie characters, even if sometimes things felt a little off. It’s definitely recommended, and I think it serves up a better “journey to the next movie” story than Phasma did…

The Mandalorian (so far)

Hey everybody!
So Star Wars has finally got a live action TV show, and I have to say, it’s really something. For years now, we’ve been hearing about the possibility of there being a live action series set in a galaxy far, far away, but nothing has ever come of it. There were strong rumours from 2005-ish, talking about the possibility of young Boba Fett helping the Empire to hunt down Jedi between III and IV, but I don’t think that idea ever made it out of development hell. Following the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, the scripts were reviewed, and in 2018 Bob Iger announced that a few shows were being developed.

the mandalorian

First out of the gate, we have The Mandalorian, currently streaming via Disney+. To date, three episodes have aired – contrary to Netflix, the show sees new episodes released every Friday, which is quite refreshing for a streaming service these days.

The show is set five years after Return of the Jedi, around the same period as the Aftermath books. It takes place in the Outer Rim, and sets out to have a Wild West feel while staying true to the Star Wars name. We are introduced to the titular Mandalorian bounty hunter as he goes about his business, collecting a bounty and using his earnings to support his clan brothers. The sense of clan loyalty is obviously quite strong here, although the clan is not above some fractious behaviour, as we see in the third episode.

The Mandalorian

 

The story, so far, has followed the bounty hunter, called Mando by those who hire him, as he collects on a bounty for The Client. This mysterious figure appears to be an ex-Imperial, or possibly still is with the Empire, or trying to get back in with the Empire by bringing them The Asset. Memes abound across the internet, with a lot of not-so-subtle spoilers doing the rounds now showing us the delight that is Baby Yoda. Apparently it’s not actually Yoda, of course, but rather one of the same species – rumours are flying around that it could be a clone, but who knows.

The Mandalorian

Baby Yoda is a delight, and helps Mando during a tough spot when his ship is ransacked by Jawas, and the only way he can get his stuff back is to bring them the egg of a horned beast. Despite this, Mando still trades him in for the bounty, but then has second thoughts and infiltrates the (former) Imperial’s base, rescuing Baby Yoda from what appears to be genetic experimentation.

The Mandalorian

Along the way, we get to meet quite a few Underworld / Fringe types, and get to learn a little of the state of the galaxy right now. Seems the New Republic is struggling to establish its rule across the whole galaxy, leading to the feeling of general lawlessness across the Outer Rim – perfect for that Wild West vibe, as we’re very much on the frontier here.

The Mandalorian

Star Wars has always been famous for the lived-in universe feel, at a time where sci-fi was showing us a pristine future, we saw grubby-looking outlaws and collections of junk piled in the garage to be forgotten about. That sense of place carries over here in the TV show, and we definitely get that sense of realism, not just because the sets feel grubby, but there is also that sense of time passing. The impaled stormtrooper helmets, above, convey so much information about where and when we are, and the show is replete with these sorts of visual references.

I hope we get more of this – not just of The Mandalorian, but more live-action shows. Hopefully they stick to the shorter eight-episode format, as we’ve seen so often with those running to 22 episodes the quality suffers as the need for filler increases. Sticking to the Outer Rim would allow stories to be told without having to re-cast pivotal roles like Luke and Leia, and doing so could link in with stuff like the Aftermath books, and show us the beginnings of the First Order in live-action.

The Mandalorian

There is a similar feeling to Rogue One here, as well – in keeping with the fact that the movie was originally pitched as an arc for a TV series back in the day. It has the sense of nostalgia for the original trilogy, updated without losing the charm. As I’m watching the show, I find that I’m not particularly thinking about “what will happen next?” and endlessly theorising about Baby Yoda’s possible origins as a clone of the OG Jedi Master, but rather I’m just sitting back, soaking it all in, and enjoying the ride.

But I can’t wait to see where this story takes us!

Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason (a review)

Hey everybody,
So I’m trying to catch up here with all of the books that I’ve read so far this autumn (although there haven’t been all that many, truth be told!) and today it’s time for the conclusion to the new Thrawn trilogy, Treason!

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After the events of the second book, I had decent hopes for the third. Any book with the Emperor on the cover has got to be worth reading, right?

The novel takes place sometime after a raid on the TIE Defender assembly line on Lothal by Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus, which I believe was featured in an episode of Rebels. Thrawn is desperate to secure funding for the project, but unfortunately Director Krennic’s Stardust project is eating up Imperial resources, and Tarkin informs the Grand Admiral that there isn’t enough to go around. Stardust has been put back a little by the problem of grallocs – larger cousins to mynocks – attacking the shipping points, so to settle the problem of funding, Tarkin suggests a wager – if Thrawn can solve Krennic’s problem within one week, the Defender project will receive funding. If not, any additional funds will be plowed straight into Stardust. Tarkin and Grand Admiral Savit both approve the plan, and Tarkin, who has designs to take over the Stardust project one day, quietly tells Savit to help Thrawn however he can.

Krennic leaves Thrawn with his aide, Ronan, to effectively try to ensure the problem is resolved, but outside of the week stipulated by Tarkin. This felt a bit weird to me, if I’m honest, as it seemed like quite the flimsy premise for a book, although in retrospect I suppose it was quite indicative of how irresponsible the upper echelons of the Imperial military can be…

There is a lot of politicking between the moffs and grand admirals that pepper the book, with each trying to claim credit over the other. Krennic admits to Ronan that he wants to claim the credit for solving the gralloc problem for himself, which is perhaps symptomatic of the man himself, as we see him in Rogue One: Catalyst pretty much using Galen Erso’s scientific prowess to bolster his own position.

Meanwhile, however, Thrawn manages to deduce that the grallocs are not eating ships, but that the attacks appear to be a ruse to steal their cargo. The Chimera follows one such lost ship’s vector, and the Imperials find the ship and its crew murdered on an abandoned space station.

The Imperials have attracted the attention of a Chiss patrol ship under the command of Admiral Ar’alani, under whom is serving none other than Eli Vanto. While their reunion is far from friendly, Thrawn and the Chiss begin to work together to get to the bottom of the larger threat, that of the Grysks. Backtracking further along the ship’s vector, they find a cloaked warship at an asteroid base and engage in a brief skirmish, destroying the Grysks and discovering a young Chiss navigator named Un’hee being used by them. Ar’alani believes that Un’hee can allow the Chiss to discover the location of the Grysks’ base, and destroy the alien threat once and for all. Despite Ronan’s protests that the Grysks have nothing to do with the grallocs, and calling Thrawn’s loyalty into question, Thrawn believes that the Grysks pose a very real threat to the Empire, having already penetrated far into Imperial space, and so continues on with Ar’alani.

Vanto is given the task of sifting through data on the missing Stardust supply ships, and deduces that the contents of 28 of these ships had enough parts to make a total of eight complete turbolaser batteries. Suspicion falls on Governor Haveland, the governor in charge of the sector, and Thrawn dispatches Vanto and Ronan to the Aloxor system in an attempt to find out what Haveland is up to.

The mission uncovers that local smugglers are moving goods through the system on orders of Grand Admiral Savit. Vanto and Ronan are almost captured as spies, but rescued by an ISB operative sent by Colonel Yularen as a favour to Thrawn. They learn that the smugglers are moving the gas used as bait for the grallocs, adding a further dimension to the proceedings.

Meanwhile, Thrawn and Ar’alani track the Grysks to a communications hub, and manage to defeat the aliens and rescue some of the original pirates behind the Imperial thefts. Thrawn and Ar’alani manage to destroy the Grysk threat, before Thrawn then travels to the Sev Tok system to rendezvous with Savit. There, he confronts the corrupt Grand Admiral with proof of his illicit dealings, all encrypted on a data card that uses an encryption key reserved for sole use by the grand admirals. Savit, under pressure, admits that Stardust has been bleeding the Imperial navy dry, and his principle concern was to ensure vital supplies could find their way to the navy. Savit attempts to defeat Thrawn, but the nature of his treason loses him command of his men, and Thrawn prevails.

Ronan’s report to Krennic and Tarkin is that Thrawn failed to eliminate the grallocs in time. Tarkin promises to divert funding to Thrawn once Stardust has been completed. Thrawn determines to return to Lothal, and Tarkin assigns Captain Pellaeon to the Chimera to assist him.

The new Thrawn trilogy has been a bit uneven, for me. While each book has its good parts and bad, there is always that nagging feeling at the back of my mind, that this isn’t the Thrawn trilogy that I know and love so much. That said, the trilogy did get better as it moved along, reaching a high point with the second book, and then seeing a slight falling-off in the third (in my opinion).

See, Treason is based on a bet that Thrawn cannot solve the gralloc problem for Krennic within a week. That feels like such a flimsy premise for a story, especially when you look at how that story unfolds, with the fight against the Grysks. As I said earlier, it does reveal perhaps more than I’d first thought about the upper echelons of the Empire, and how a lot of this stuff is like a game for them. But it just felt a little bit off, somehow.

Thrawn is much as we know him to be, once more, which was heartening after the Thrawn-at-school that we had in the first book. Eli Vanto is back, so we get to see a bit of what has been going on with him, though I felt the payoff between him and Thrawn felt a little bit lacking, somehow. Vanto seems to have embraced his life among the Chiss a little too limply, for me. I don’t know – I kept expecting more from that part of the story, and didn’t really get it in the end.

There is a lot going on in this book, and for that, I really liked it. The stuff with the Chiss added an extra layer to the story, which made this book feel like more than just the general Empire vs Rebels stuff we’re used to seeing for this timeframe. The sub-plot with Vanto and Ronan was almost like a return to the Zahn books of old, as we see the fringe through his eyes like nobody else seems able to capture. I do like Thrawn, but maybe we could get more Zahn books in the vein of Scoundrels? Far-flung, dusty worlds with battered and worn cantinas, street-toughs and crime bosses are all realised in a very Zahn-esque way, and I do love it!

Seeing Krennic and the Stardust project once more was a bit of a surprise, as it has almost begun to feel like he might be the sort of character we’ll never really get to now that his story has basically been told through Catalyst and Rogue One, so that was nice.

All in all, I think Treason was a decent end to the series, managing to continue the story, wrapping up some aspects while – potentially – setting up the future. Thrawn is now with Pellaeon on the Chimera, do we think that Disney means to make the Thrawn Trilogy canon, after all? Who the hell knows…

What we do know, however, is that Zahn will be back with The Ascendancy Trilogy, starting next May…

Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company (a review)

Hey everybody!
It may have taken some time, but I’ve finally finished Battlefront: Twilight Company last night, so I thought I’d come here and ramble about my thoughts just ahead of Celebration 2019 – where, it is rumoured, we’ll finally get to hear some long-awaited news of Episode IX!

This book was really good. I need to get that out there right away. I’ve been feeling a little less-than-impressed with the new canon over the last few months, I was really chuffed to finally find a book that I actually thought was a decent read pretty much all the way through. A lot of reviews mention that it does drag a little in the middle, but the story that it tells overall is so interesting that, by the end of it, I could forgive that.

I was so impressed, I made an 8-minute video rambling about it!

So the story follows the titular Twilight Company as they fight a rear-guard action in the Mid Rim, which in itself is quite fascinating. (Not for the first time, I’ve found myself wondering how a story with the Big Three would look set in this particular event). On the planet Haidoral Prime, during an open recruit for the Company, the Imperial Governor there, Everi Chalis, surrenders to the Alliance with the promise of information about Imperial military logistics, possibly the sort of information that could help to swing the tide of the war back in the Rebels’ favour. Her defection doesn’t go unnoticed, and Prelate Verge, a former protege of Count Vidian, is tasked to find her, so brings Captain Tabor Seitaron out of his teaching post at Carida in order to assist in the hunt.

Twilight Company’s luck goes from bad to worse with Chalis along for the ride, and the soldiers are convinced that she is some sort of bad-luck charm. However, once she has presented her information to the Captain of the Company, arrangements are made to take her to Hoth and the Alliance High Command. However, it really does go from bad to worse while at the secret base on the ice planet, as not long after Chalis has made her presentation to High Command, the Empire arrives and the Battle of Hoth begins!

Chalis is convinced that Vader is on the planet chasing her down, but when the Millennium Falcon manages to escape the Dark Lord’s clutches, Vader turns his attention on Chalis and crushes her throat in an attempt to find the location of the rebels. Chalis and the others only manage to escape with their lives because they don’t know where Leia and the others have fled to.

However, during the battle, the Company Captain is killed, and Twilight Company is left in a sort of limbo while they try to gain news of their next orders. It’s at this point that the book seems to slow down a bit, though I suppose it could be seen as reflective of the fact the Company itself is wandering aimlessly until Chalis, getting over the fact that she was never that important to the top brass in the Empire, comes up with a plan to re-energize them all: disable the shipyards of Kuat. To do this, she plots to make a series of surgical strikes at different planets along the Rimma Trade Route, forcing the Empire to redeploy resources that would be used in defense of the shipyards.

These strikes go perfectly well until they reach Sullust. Captain Seitaron has managed to pick apart Chalis’ plan to the point where he could guess she would hit Sullust or Malastare, and so they arrive in-system with a Star Destroyer, shooting down the rebels’ ship and stranding them on the planet. The rebels team up with local resistance cells, one of the leaders of which is none other than Nien Nunb, and manage to hold off the Imperials while Chalis, who everyone believes to be pursuing her own personal vendetta at this point, manages to get herself aboard the Star Destroyer and kill Verge as well as disabling the ship with an ion bomb. Seitaron calls a retreat, and the rebels manage to claim a victory.

I really enjoyed this book, in case it wasn’t clear!

There was, somehow, a feeling of returning to the Star Wars I grew up with. I said in my video ramble that it reminded me a lot of the X-Wing novels, which were about the regular troops doing regular troop stuff, and there is something really interesting about that. For starters, everybody in the book is fair game to be killed off, and there was one death in particular at the end that I found myself quite surprised by. There are a lot of call-backs to the lore of yore, such as references to Cartao (Timothy Zahn’s short story ‘Hero of Cartao’) as well as very obscure tie-ins to the movies, like Twilight Company hitting the planet Xagobah (the homeworld of the podracer Neva Kee from Episode I). I’ve sometimes felt myself a bit lost with this new canon, but as it happens, I found this book made me feel right back at home in the GFFA.

It does have that lag in the middle, as I mentioned, and I did feel myself cringing a little during some of the Hoth scenes, as it felt a little bit like it was being shoe-horned into the movie setting during the confrontation with Vader. At the very beginning of the book, there was also a vague sense of this being a book based off a game, with the sort of mission-style narrative that can sometimes feel far too join-the-dots and generic. However, that sense quickly left me, and we’re left with this really good book – apparently, it’s the author’s first!

If I ever get around to writing a novel, I hope it will turn out this good!

Solo: A Star Wars Story

I went to see the new Star Wars movie on Thursday night, Solo, and I have to say, it was pretty damn good!

There will be extensive spoilers throughout this post, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!!

The film follows Han during his early years prior to the events of A New Hope, and I was actually surprised by how much of the existing back story for him has been kept. He starts out as a street kid on Corellia, mixed up with the crime lords there, and attempts to flee for a better life with his girlfriend, Qi’ra, but the two are separated while escaping. Han joins the Imperial Academy in an effort to gain the money to come back and rescue her, but three years later, he has washed out of the Navy and is part of the Infantry on a hellish action on Mimban. There, he comes across the smuggler Tobias Beckett and his gang, posing as Imperial soldiers. For insubordination, Han is thrown into a cell with “the beast”, a Wookiee named Chewbacca and, due to his ability to speak Shyriiwook, Han manages to break out, and they both escape to join Beckett.

Solo Vandor

Beckett’s gang is on a heist to steal the hyperfuel coaxium on the planet Vandor, a job that goes sour when the Cloud Riders pirate gang then try to steal the shipment. Beckett and the others get away, but the job was taken on for Dryden Vos, head of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Vos is not happy, but Han and Chewie go along with him to try to retain favour and offer to steal another shipment that will replace the refined fuel from Vandor. Han explains there is some unrefined fuel held in a vault under the spice mines on Kessel, so the gang head off to steal it. Han also discovers that Qi’ra is now working for Vos, and she is sent to keep an eye on them during the job.

Solo movie Lando

In order to get a ship fast enough that will get the coaxium to a refinery before it degrades, Qi’ra introduces the gang to Lando Calrissian, a retired smuggler who owns the Millennium Falcon, said to be the fastest ship in the business. Han attempts to win the ship in a game of sabacc, but he loses – however, for a cut of the profits, Beckett persuades Lando to join the crew. The gang then heads off to Kessel and stages a prison break out to cover the theft of the coaxium, however an Imperial patrol shows up as the smugglers are about to make it out. Han manages to out-fly the Imperials, and the group makes it to an old refinery on the planet Savareen.

There, the Cloud Riders show up to steal the fuel just as Dryden Vos appears to collect it. They learn that the Cloud Riders are a nomad group attempting to rebel against the tyranny of the Empire, and need the fuel to continue their raids. Han comes up with a plan whereby they can help the Riders, but Beckett doesn’t want to fall foul of Dryden again and walks away, saying he has heard of a gangster on Tatooine and offers Han the chance to join him if he makes it out alive. Han then gives Dryden the coaxium, but Dryden has been told of Han’s double cross by his inside man, who is revealed to be none other than Beckett. Dryden’s men are sent to collect the real coaxium from the Cloud Riders, however, Han has triple-crossed everyone by presenting the real coaxium to Dryden, and giving the Riders nothing. The plan works to lure out all of Dryden’s men, however, and Beckett attempts to steal the fuel, leaving Han and Qi’ra alone with Dryden.

Qi’ra, who has been taught Teräs Käsi, manages to kill Dryden, and tells Han to go collect the fuel from Beckett, whereupon she’ll join him. However, Qi’ra sends a message to Dryden’s boss – none other than Darth Maul! – telling him that Dryden is dead and she has now assumed command of the Crimson Dawn. Han recovers the coaxium with Chewie, killing his mentor Beckett in the process, but is dismayed to see Qi’ra leave in Dryden’s ship.

The movie ends with Han playing sabacc once again with Lando, but this time, Han manages to win the Falcon, and he and Chewie head off to Tatooine to look up the gangster Beckett had mentioned…


This was a really good movie! It follows a lot of the established storyline we’ve come to know about Han from the expanded universe, which I thought an interesting choice, but at the same time it’s nice to see how much of that has been retained. Some random thoughts:

It was really nice to see Kessel in the film, and interesting how much of that lore has been retained in so far as the deadly approach and the Maw are still a thing.

Alden Ehrenreich is signed up for two more films, which makes a lot of sense as, while the film was really good, I thought it definitely set up at least another story, but if the quality can be maintained, then a Solo trilogy could be a wonderful thing. Much more than Luke or Leia, Han Solo at this point in the timeline can be such a vehicle for seeing the wider galaxy, but the seedier side of it as well. We could get to visit the Corporate Sector, which we know to be a thing in the new canon thanks to Catalyst, among others. But I think we need to see how Han came to be under the thumb of Jabba the Hutt, and we need to see more of Han and Lando beyond this one adventure. Lando is the guy Han turns to when he’s in a jam, but I didn’t get that from their relationship here.

While Rogue One was fine on its own, I think a Solo sequel would be great.

The references to the wider expanded universe were off the charts with this one, and I absolutely loved it! Lando makes at least two references to the godawful L Neil Smith trilogy from the early 80s, which was actually really fun; however, for the main part we get a lot of really nice throw-away lines that help to really fix the place of this film in the wider Star Wars lore. While you could argue against calling on the same small pool of names when you’re dealing with a galactic wide cast, mentioning Bossk as a potential hire for Beckett’s gang was a cool touch. We also learn that Beckett killed Aurra Sing, at which point I had a huge grin on my face!

I really want to know why Maul is now head of the Crimson Dawn. I should probably catch up with the Clone Wars cartoon series, not to mention Rebels, in case we can learn anything there! It was good to know that he was played by Ray Park once again, and while Peter Serafinowicz doesn’t return this time, we do get Sam Witwer, who played Vader’s Secret Apprentice for The Force Unleashed back in the day.

Hopefully we’ll find out more in the Solo sequels…

The Cloud Riders are an interesting bunch, and I think I’d like to see more of those guys – while it’s always a bit worrying seeing the amount of pre-Alliance rebel groups hanging about in the galaxy, the fact that Benthic from Saw Gerrera’s Partisans is a part of the group was a nice touch, and serves to help pull these people together I think.

I think it’s an interesting point here that both of the stand-alone movies released by Disney so far have been instant hits for me, while the episode movies are a lot slower to burn. I’m still a little undecided about The Last Jedi, while I didn’t even need to wait until the credits to know that I liked Solo a whole lot more! I suppose it has something to do with Disney tapping into the original trilogy era, and the sense of nostalgia we all have for those movies, by creating a universe that draws on that same style. It’s a lot more difficult, I suppose, when you’ve got the task of creating something that must move away from that look by definition of the fact it takes place decades later. There’s probably more to be said on that topic, but this blog is already running quite long already, so I think it’s time to stop for now.

If you haven’t booked your tickets already, definitely go check this movie out! If you’ve read through this entire post to get here, you probably don’t need to go see it for yourself of course, but it’s definitely an enjoyable movie!