Star Wars Broadsaber: The Defense


(First of all: sorry.)

You may have heard, but there was this teaser trailer that came out a short while ago. It’s for The Force Awakens. Have you … okay I was going to say ‘have you felt it?’ but that would probably be too over done, not to mention it wouldn’t make any real sense as a question. How could you ‘feel’ a trailer? Unless you sensed through your ears the masses of Star Wars fans squeeing? (For my part, I do apologise to my dog.) I guess this side-track marks the end of my nonchalant opening. Anyhoo, have you seen it? Did you see the dude* with the lightsaber?

*No, not ‘The Dude’. As we now know, his name is Kylo Ren; though to me he will always be Mr. Kitty.

There’s been some talk on this broadsaber that I’d like to address. A number of people have noted that it’s highly impractical, and above all it just looks plain silly. The Washington Post even interviewed a master bladesmith to discuss that fact. (Can I just say how cool that dude’s job title is?) Others, notably Stephen Colbert, sprang to its defence, citing, amongst other things, his longer-standing fanhood (normally I hate fandom gatekeeping, but this time I don’t mind). That link, by the way, has a video which is viewable to US residents only. As a Brit, I can’t see it – and I promise I’m not bitter at all. Well, we don’t know if Colbert is right; I must stress that we have very little to go on. But that’s never really stopped us from dissecting it to pieces, has it? Nevertheless, for the sake of this article, and indeed to be safe from now until the movie (or perhaps more accurately, the tie-in books) clarifies, I’ll presume it’s three singular blades.

As such: yes, it’s impractical.

So is every other lightsaber out there.

The two main complaints I’ve heard is that a) it’s a bad design, since the whole design of a lightsaber seems to be devoted to creating a single blade emitted in a straight line from the rest of the components. And b) that it wouldn’t work as a guard because b1) a blade could just slide down and cut through it (let’s leave cortosis out of it, for now, please) and b2) the slightest acrobatic move would cause the blade to slice through the user’s own hand.

Starting with (a), it’s an entirely fictional weapon. We can design it howsoever we please. I cannot stress that enough. We – or more specifically, the designers at ILM or Lucasfilm – can design a rainbow lightsaber (which, if I remember correctly, is totally a thing in the EU) that shoots farts out of its pommel, and it would be entirely plausible, because the science and engineering behind it are entirely made up. We could make up fancy, scientific sounding words to explain it and everything. That farting our of the lightsaber’s pommel? Well, it’s a tibanna-sulfur mix, which is a run-off from the power source, because the blade is poorly built by one not very knowledgeable, and the blade is unstable due to the inherent problems with using an artificial crystal. That was quite easily done. I’m available for hire, Lucasfilm. Just saying.

But there is something else that, I suspect, is at work here: It’s new, therefore it’s wronger than wrong. This sentiment, I believe, perhaps stems from the idea of EU purity; it conflicts with what was previously established in the EU (sorry, I still call Legends EU, but I’m sure you know what I mean), and it’s from something that’s already been messing with the EU – as in, the film has caused the old EU to cease to exist or something – therefore, and I quote, ‘Do Not Want’.

What? I didn’t say who I was quoting.

Well, Dunc over at clubjade has a particular answer to that.

As for (b), yes, perfectly legitimate arguments. These are also applicable to regular old lightsabers.

Let’s take a look at the average lightsaber.

I said average, Mace. Take your fancy toy elsewhere.

In a universe full of blasters, to paraphrase Nick Gillard, you better be good with a lightsaber. Those who wield this weapon have undergone years of training. The Jedi since infancy; the Sith – a little harder to pin down, but if we take Darth Bane as an example, they’re trained in a formal arena, like an academy, and work tirelessly for months, if not years to be able to fight not just ably, but well. This is a weapon that has no weight in its blade, and consequently if you’re a non-Force sensitive duellist (cyborgs aside), it could very easily end in your death, at your own hands. Even if you are Force sensitive, and trained, it still doesn’t guarantee that you will wield it with the finesse and skill of, say, Maul, Windu, Yoda, Anakin, or Obi-Wan – all of whom are masters of their respective Form and technique.

But of course, a Jedi is still a Jedi, a Sith a Sith. If we must go through this course of previously mentioned rationalization, and do so with at least a partial basis in reality, we must presume that they’ve still had a lot of practice to be able to use them comfortably enough to not have to worry about stabbing themselves in the foot. There is no reason to believe that this Broadsaber-wielding roué hasn’t thought of the same impracticalities, and has adjusted their training for such. As a thoroughly untrained duellist, who has spent many a time twirling wooden sticks, pretending they’re lightsabers, I can’t tell you the number of times my hand has accidentally slipped up the stick. If it had been a real lightsaber, no doubt I would not be able to count past three.

By the way, you recall how my fartsaber uses artificially-made crystals? In the EU, those are real things. The Sith use artificial crystals (whereas the Jedi prefer natural ones). The blades generated from such crystals were typically more unstable than natural crystaled lightsabers, to such an extent that they could short out mid-battle. This is so for normal lightsabers.

This is known.

There is a theory that this Sith(-like person) is unskilled at making a lightsaber, and thus those guards are actually exhaust ports (no news yet if they’re fart-ports. Come on, JJ, don’t disappoint me). Fine, that’s okay. My previous point, that such a duellist would adjust their training accordingly, still stands with this.

Now let’s look at the Broadsaber itself, and why I like it.

One writer – I’ve forgotten whom and to that nameless person, I apologise – has given one good reason to like it: it looks so cool. And if this is the only reason, I’m okay with that. Much of the design of the Star Wars universe could be said to be, by and large, impractical for the sake of aesthetics. And we hand-wave it away, with ex post facto explanations (see farting lightsaber).

Are you suggesting my wings are impractical? Scandalous!

But I suspect that there’s more to it than that. Tyler Rogoway compares the technology of the films and real life, from thirty-odd years ago to the present. In his article, he talks of the Broadsaber, and compares it to the modern kalashnikov – a weapon of brute force. I quite like that. Look at it. It’s a very unfocused weapon, and I could easily see it as one that’s used without much thought to finesse. Thus the Broadsaber is a thing of anger, rage, hate, and passion, all of which are dark side traits. It is a weapon with a very clear design: to kill, and it makes sure you know it, too.

Actually, why did I call this article ‘The Defense’? The Broadsaber can take care of itself.

You have a problem? Let’s take this outside.

Michael Dare

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