Tag Archives: Palpatine

Darth Plagueis Commentary: Chapters 8-11

Darth Plagueis Commentary: Chapters 8-11

Who is still talking about the Darth Plagueis novel? We are!

Here is our discussion of chapters 8-11.  For this part of the discussion Mark Hurliman of the Star Wars Report and Star Wars Beyond the Films podcasts joins me.  We also have a special guest, Mark’s father (Mark E) who himself is an avid reader of the Star Wars novels.

If you missed the first two parts of our discussion here are the links.

Prologue - Chapter 3
Chapter 4 – Chapter 7

 

Mark: So we’re on Chapter 8, Victims of Their Own Demise

Aaron: Plagueis decides to track down some “Forceful” beings that Venamis had his eye on.  “Forceful”, still can’t get used to that word.  So the first one he tracks down is a gambler.  I guess it’s not really gambling when you are using the Force.

Mark: Breaking Muun tradition no less by being seen in places no Muun would go.  The fact that the first one was a shape-shifter of all things blew me away.  I love the idea of a Sith shape-shifter.

Mark E: A shape shifting gambler who was giving his winnings to Kerred Santhe of Santhe/Seinar.

Mark: Yeah the tie in to Santhe was cool.  Plagueis himself assassinated Kerred Santhe’s father which made a nice twist and kept things going with more details that linked the Sith to older works.

Aaron: I’ve never actually liked the idea of shape-shifters in Star Wars.  I’ve always thought it was more of a Star Trek thing.

Mark E: But shape-shifters are way cool, and pretty hard to hunt.

Aaron: Exactly why I don’t like them. Too easy of a plot device.  Now was he the same species as Zam Wesell from Attack of the Clones?

Mark: No, at first Plagueis thinks so, but turned out it was a Shi’ido like Uncle Hoole in Galaxy of Fear ;)

Aaron: Galaxy of Fear. Oh, everyone read those books…

Mark: I’m only missing #9 and #10.  I was surprised though that Plagueis left the Shi’ido alive.

Aaron: Yes, if you can call the way he left him alive

Mark E: He let him go but basically told him to get his winnings and get out, he was done!

Mark: 11-4D blasts him in the brain, but do we think this was a permanent disabling of his shifting?  Or would he heal up?

Aaron: “You can’t leave me like this” the Shi’ido begged.

Mark: It was left kind of vague there.  But still I loved it. I found myself falling to the dark side in this book.

Aaron: Let me quote the book here.  I think it implies he was permanently disfigured…

“You have one last chance to use your Force talents to win big before your horrid image becomes the centerpiece of the cheaters database on every gambling world.”

Mark E: I didn’t get permanently disfigured as Plagueis was going to allow him to continue fleecing casinos.

Mark: I guess when I was reading it I was figuring Plagueis thought Shi’idos were ugly/ hidious in general.  But it does make sense that the Shi’ido would have one shot in the form it’s in now and that would be the same as any person who can’t shift having one shot, or as many shots as they took before getting caught.

Aaron: So Plagueis moves on to Saleucami to meet somewhat of a cult leader.  It was kind of a gathering of hippies.

Mark E: Really spacey hippies!  Selected hippies.

Mark: And hasn’t The Clone Wars gone there a couple times?  Or mentioned it?

Aaron: This was the planet where Rex got shot and meets the clone deserter Cut Lawquane.  It is also one of the planets in the Order 66 montage in Revenge of the Sith.

Mark: The planet Saleucami has shown up a few times in the EU correct?  Republic comics for one.

Aaron: You can’t spell Saleucami without “eu”.  It is a very important planet in this era.  The Iktochi woman seemed like she knew what she was talking about with her professions.  “On the horizon looms a galaxy spanning war.”

Mark: Yeah she all but calls the future and Plagueis can’t have that.  You had this sense of something very bad was about to happen

Aaron: And once she realizes what he is she basically begs him to take her as an apprentice. “Let me do your bidding.”

Mark: It was a cool throw back to Vader’s “what is thy bidding my master” line.  When he touches her and fries her I thought of a well-executed assassination.

Aaron: The hand holding of death.

Mark E: He did nothing… “she fainted”.

Aaron: And then Plagueis moves on to the third unwitting victim.

Mark E: Naat Lare had broken out of the Bedlam Institution for the Criminally Insane.  Sounds like a fun place!

Mark: I couldn’t help but think of Arkham Asylum.

Aaron: And Venamis helped him escape. He must have had a lot of interest in this guy.

Mark: Plus if Naat had survived he would have made a darn good Apprentice. Venamis picked potentials well, you gotta hand him that.
Venamis might have been a very real threat- he being a Bith after all. We never saw the depths of HIS genius. And from the small bit we got in the Tenebrous Way; I fear Bith Sith!
By this point, I was starting to feel the chapter was more a filler chapter, but it did have a certain EU real feel to it. With every Sith potential even having potentials. As with the EU you can never get rid of the Sith, or Sith wannabe’s.

Aaron: Yes I agree, it did seem like filler but it was cool.  I always like to see Force users who are not affiliated with the Jedi or Sith.

Mark E: What did you think of how quickly Plagueis snapped back when he heard “Jedi”?

Aaron: I think he was excited that the Jedi were involved. Like he was hoping for a confrontation.

Mark E: I liked the fact they tracked him to Barab.

Mark: Barab- I loved it’s use- we know the Barbel have a deep respect for Jedi, and how would they even know a Sith from a Jedi at this point in time?

Aaron: This was happening on Abraxin right, not Barab?

Mark: Hmmm this bears closer inspection… Oh it looks as though it was a Barabel settlement. Which makes more sense come to think of it.

Aaron: I personally got very excited to see Jedi at this point.  I was hoping they would be more involved in the story.

Mark: I agree Aaron- I had hoped they would play a bigger part, but the part they played was diabolically clever.

Mark E: I liked how he had 11-4D watch the Jedi for reaction when he called on the Force.

Mark: Shadow Games give us some minor insight into what it must have been like to be Naat or even Kit Fisto, a Force sensitive Nautolan.

Aaron: I loved the end of this chapter. Plagueis meets Naat and tells him to prove himself by defeating the Jedi.

Mark E: But then Plagueis has the Jedi Ni-Cada do the dirty work for him.

Mark: Yeah, suckering the Jedi to do his dirty work was perfect- had Naat proved worthy, well, things would have been different to say the least.

Aaron: I feel like Naat would have been more of an enforcer and not fit well with Plagueis.  Like Maul was to Palpatine.

Mark: Maul…. Oh poor poor Maul (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Mark E: Naat was truly criminally insane.  Plagueis had no use for him, whether he was Forceful or not.

Mark: I got the distinct impression that it was the Padawan who did the killing though.  With his Master screaming “Don’t Don’t.”

Aaron: When he said “Stand aside Padawan” I figured the Master handled it from there.

Mark E: Padawan questions “Master?”  Someone else presumeably Master, says “its done, he’s dead.”

Mark: I like how some authors assign nothing to dialog. Karen Traviss would do this and I could get so confused at times.  To me it was more the Padawan excited by the battle “Master!” The Master tries to intervene “Stand aside Padawan.”

Aaron: Based on the last two lines of the chapter it seems clear that the Master did the killing.

Mark: It’s all about point of view.  I’m not saying I’m right- just how I read it was different.

Aaron: Moving on…

Mark: Going back to Hego Damask, and more of the public side of his Sithy self.

Aaron: Chapter 9. Our intro to Palpatine in this book!

Aaron: What did you guys think about the fact that they still kept his first name a mystery?

Mark E: I thought it was explained that he was just rebelling against the norm and he chose to go only by his last name.

Mark: I found the lack of his first name interesting to be sure. I’ve seen some say his name was the same as his fathers but I felt it was way too wide open to lock down. It was some rebelling- I mean the fact that the Palpatine name is a ROYAL line on Naboo. That took me back.

Mark E: The untapped plasma of Naboo, one of the more memorable aspects of The Phantom Menace.

Mark: Oh man the plasma- that totally changed how I looked at the purple beams flowing up in The Phantom Menace during the Duel of Fates!

Aaron: And the value of the plasma made you realize just how important Naboo is in the overall plan of the Sith.

Mark: Yes- the plasma made Naboo more relevant then it was in the films IMO. Or at least it made it have more of an allure.  I liked how the Naboo and Gungans would recall Plagueis’ trip as Damask as the coldest winter they ever had.  We also learn where the Royal Fleet comes from- Hint Hint R2!

Aaron: I liked this line…
“In human hands…rested the profane future of the galaxy.”
He didn’t like humans but knew their importance.

Mark: As if Plagueis knew this and worked all his Sithly plans in that fashion.  He was ready to set Naboo up for life to get his hands on the plasma… or better- to USE the plasma to further the Sith Grand Plan.  Everything seemed to factor into this plan.

Aaron: And he uses Palpatine to help determine who will be the next king.  The Sith don’t leave anything to chance.

Mark E: The meeting between Plagueis and Palpatine was kind of drawn out, but Plagueis did a pretty thorough job of interviewing for an apprentice.  What about Palpatine being a speeder racer?

Mark: Learning Palpatine; like Anakin has a need for speed was great! I never would have taken Palpatine for a thrill junkie!

Aaron: I actually thought that bit of information was out of place.  It never really factored into the rest of the story.  Did we really need to know Palpatine had a sweet ride?

Mark: And yet it too fits with his ole EU self- the playboy.

Mark E: Need for speed plays to the rich kid persona.
And then Hedo hires palpatine as a spy for Damask holdings at the end of the interview! Then Palpatine says he will only work for Hego if he can report directly to him.

Mark: You have to wonder if the amulet Plagueis gives Palpatine was under any spells.

Aaron: Or a tracking device?

Aaron: Moving onto Chapter 10: The Cycle of Violence.  Palpatine gives Plagueis the tour of Theed and they are fast friends.

Mark E: Fast friends, but Plageis “knows he can own him”

Mark: I liked how Palpatine knew the speeder was a bribe from his father, but took it anyway.  Already showing a Sith-like way of thinking.  I’ll use you using me to my own advantage.

Aaron: We learn Palpatine has blood on his hands at an early age, being responsible for the deaths of 2 pedestrians.  He doesn’t seem to care that much about it.

Mark: He has his own moral code.  That seemed to be of great interest to Plagueis.

Mark E: He learned his lesson, wear down pops and you can drive the speeder again.  No accountability for the rich kid.

Mark: Palpatine also has his own opinions of the Jedi and the state of galactic affairs

Aaron: Palpatine is so political minded but tries to act like he isn’t interested in politics. Plagueis could see right through him.

Mark: Like he was a closet politician.

Mark E: Palpatine is certainly racist against the Gungans, “I don’t mind them as long as they keep to their submerged cities and waterways.”

Aaron: Fits with the mostly human Empire when he is in charge.

Mark: Yes I kept expecting to see Plagueis do something SO TERRIBLE that Palpatine would hate all aliens from then on out- but it would appear his prejudices were already in place.

Aaron: I kept forgetting how young he was here. He was only like 17, right?

Mark: I believe so.

Mark: You knew Palpatine didn’t have a chance in the 9 Hells when Plagueis thinks to himself, “Before long, I will own this human.” And then proceeds to manipulate the holy Sith out of him.

Mark E: He’d respect the Jedi more if they’d only impose their will on the entire galaxy.  Sounds like the future!

Aaron: The funny thing is, at this point, Plagueis still can’t tell if he has the Force.

Mark: I loved this- the way it was explained made so many other EU works make sense- like Zekk- how he wasn’t noticed at first, and other Jedi who were missed at a young age.  The fact that it was a defense mechanism in Force strong beings also makes sense why Anakin didn’t just JUMP OUT WITH A NEON SIGN.  It took his blood sample to floor Qui-gon, not his mere presence.  And the way Luceno explained it made so many things work!  I love it when a book does this!

Aaron: It seems the will of the midi-chlorians can be used to explain anything about the power or lack of power of a Force user at any given moment.  Like, Obi wan couldn’t run faster at the end of Ep 1 because the midi-chlorians didn’t let him.

Mark: Which is EPIC! Because the midi-chlorians follow the Will of the Force- so in a sense the mystery is still there while they made it quantifiable at the same time.

Mark: So in this chapter the miners who were marooned in chapter 2- we discover their fate, that of being murdered and left on their employers front door.  Also the book once more jumps ahead a few months.  That’s something I really enjoy about the Sith books- they cover lifetimes, not just events.

Aaron: And then we get Palpatine’s dad basically telling Plagueis “stay away from my son”.

Mark: Yeah that was exactly what Plagueis was waiting for- grooming the moment as it were to set father against son.

Aaron: This was a war of wills that Cosigna had no chance of winning.  Moving on to Chapter 11.

Mark: Avatar of Morality

Aaron: Plagueis meets with Palpatine and tells him a story about how he orchestrated the deaths of his siblings after his father’s death so he could inherit the fortune.

Mark: Plagueis sets the bait that will later ensnare Palpatine and leave him little choice but to join Plagueis.

Aaron: And we are led to believe the story may not be completely true.

Mark: This too plays into the moment that arrived last chapter- now he paints Palpatine the picture of betrayal, and gaining the uperhand over an oppressive family.

Aaron: So Palpatine’s father makes the big mistake of trying to assert his will on Palpatine right after his head has been filled with Plagueis’s ideas

Mark: Bad timing pops.

Mark E: big mistake…

Mark: Plus he gets the whole family onto the ship together.  I mean it IS the perfect opportunity

Aaron: This was almost a little too convenient. We also learn that Palpatine’s dad always had a bad feeling about him. Knew he was trouble.
“You’re an animal at heart”
“King of the Beasts, father”

Mark: Plus…
“if the Force birthed you then I curse it”
“As I do” says Palpatine.

Aaron: He says all the wrong things and Palpatine in all his teenage, untrained Force rage brutally kills his father.

Mark E: Mom, dad and siblings too!

Aaron: I have to say although I saw the death of his dad coming, I was surprised he killed everyone else on the ship.

Mark: Very much Anakin and the Tusken Raider village all over again.  And Palpatine reaches out to his new mentor- and Plagueis goes to efforts to cover up the murders. “Congratulations on becoming an emancipated being.”  Great set up- and you could say that in a sense Palpatine starts to really share the limelight.  One other thing I loved about this book is that it could just as easily be a prequel for a Darth Sidious book to come later.

Aaron: In a way this was a Darth Sidious book.

Mark: Very much so.  This is also when Plagueis himself discovers just how POWERFUL Palpatine is in the Force.  The murders have broken down the barriers protecting him.

Aaron: So now Plagueis knows he picked the right guy, reveals himself as a Sith and tells Palpatine he has a new name.  A lot for Palpatine to take in but he goes right along with it.

Mark: This was the money chapter. The moment when things shift into a higher gear.

Aaron: Once Palpatine was introduced the book really picked up for me.

Mark E: “From this day forward, the truth of you, now and forever more, will be Sidious.”

Aaron: Seeing exactly how he became Sidious was a thing of fanboy dreams.

Mark E: I thought the book really took off from here.  I finished the rest in like a day and a half.

Mark: I loved when Palpatine mentions that he could have joined the Jedi Order and Plagueis comes back “and of what possible use do you think a person of your nature would be to the Jedi Order? You’re heartless, ambitious, arrogant, insidious, and without shame or empathy. More you’re a murderer.” (cue Gollem talking to Smeagol)
You totally had the sense that Palpatine was about to make his deal with the devil. The classic Sith christening. I had the same feeling when Anakin dons the title in the Episode 3 novelization. I love how Plagueis tells him there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“In time you will come to understand that you are one with the dark side of the Force, and that your power is beyond contradiction. But just now, and until I tell you differently, abiding submission is your only road to salvation.”

Boy these were some great chapters.  This was when the book got hard to put down.

 

That is all for our discussion of chapters 8-11.  Check back for chapters 12-15 next time.

- Aaron Goins

 

The History of Clones in Star Wars

Last year’s airing, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, of the four episode arc known collectively as ‘The Umbara Story Arc’ (starting with season 4 episode 7 “Darkness on Umbara”, continuing with the episodes “The General” and “Plan of Dissent”, and culminating with “Carnage of Krell”) has brought to the forefront what I call the ‘plight’ of the clone soldiers. I use quotation marks on that word because it’s one that isn’t limited to in-universe, but out of universe too, and it’s also not technically a plight, but it’s something that fascinates me, nonetheless. In universe, they are beings who are bred for one purpose, who can expect nothing out of life, who will live a stunted life – thanks to quickened ageing – and aren’t thought of as ‘proper’ beings, with the same rights afforded to nearly everyone else (save from slaves) under the Old Republic government, during the time of the Clone Wars in the Star Wars galaxy.
Out of universe, they are, in my opinion, a underutilised factor in the making of novels (and other storytelling mediums) set in the Clone Wars era. So, I thought it would be a good idea to record the history of their appearances, and how they’re portrayed in brief.

The Original Trilogy Films.

Thanks to the rapid ageing, we can determine that original clones from the Clone War would have been somewhere around the 50-60 years age range (this depends on the person, since factors like stress or clean living can quicken or slow the ageing process, according to Karen Traviss’ novels), and so it would seem likely that they wouldn’t have been used at the time of the original trilogy (IV, V and VI). However, thanks to the novel Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (set in 5.1 ABY – After Battle of Yavin), we know that at least one of the original (Jango) Fett clones survived past the films – clone GC-1000, named Klick by a ‘humour-challenged’ Jedi Padawan.

Beyond that, we can confirm that at least one more clone trooper survived to the films. We know this because the single player missions for the game Battlefront II featured journal records voiced by a ‘retired clone trooper’ of the 501st Legion – named after the real world cosplay charity group – and this Legion was composed entirely of Fett clones, only. From this game, we know that it was this division that stormed the Tantive IV in Episode IV, and fought alongside the Blizzard Force unit in the battle of Hoth in Episode V. Because of these two sources, I feel it’s quite safe to assume that we did see clones in those films.

One of the things I’ve noticed in the novels, if you can forgive my brief, seemingly nonsensical segue, is that the characterization is negligible. It’s something I lament, given that I enjoy clone-centric episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated cartoon more than most others, but it is understandable, given that they’re not the focus of the stories, but rather just background extras, if you will. This is the case in the films. They’re the bad guys in the films; and in their scenes the action takes center stage, and the story of our heroes, too, which is why I’m not expecting nor demanding a long, emotional soliloquy from one of the stormtroopers telling us what it’s like to be brought up in a vat, instead of two stormtroopers talking about the new model speeder on the Death Star, to be included when the Final, Definitive, Not-To-Be-Changed-Again, Special, Special, Special Edition, Directors Cut of the original trilogy in 3D pops up on store shelves.

The Books – Pre AOTC.

After that, there was very little mentioned in the novels or comics (which, for sake of expediency and clarity I’ll not include in this post) of the Clone Wars, or indeed the clones themselves. This is because the novels that we get are placed either slightly before, during, or after the films, with Lucas ordering that there be no stories to be written, or expanded upon in any great length, about or during the Clone Wars or the Dark Times (the period between Episode III and IV where the Empire solidified their influence and power).

Thanks to the marvellously written “Star Wars Dissection” column on EUCantina.net by one Andrew Halliday (all of which I highly recommend), we know that there were ‘numerous theories about the date and nature of the Clone Wars’. Again, because the writers were kept in the dark as much as we readers were. Still, back story is necessary, and they had to write something, and their theories included: that the Republic and the Jedi fought a war against the Mandalorians, who then fought against the Empire (there is no mention of clones). The Thrawn Trilogy established that the Clone Wars were a series of conflicts between the Republic and insane clones, who were led by Clone Masters. Of course, none of these were ‘true’, and were retconned into other things (source: Star Wars Dissection: Retcons).

Another source of contention was the date of the Clone Wars. There were a few theories that were put forward, and some of them were close, though others were, it later turned out, highly inaccurate. For example, some put forward that the Clone Wars took place long before the Empire came to power, or perhaps, that column suggests, that they took place only a few years before the films. The theory put forward in The Thrawn Trilogy is that the Clone Wars took place in 35 BBY.

Indeed, the Official Star Wars Souvenir Manual 1998 provides a timeline. The entry for 35 BSW4 (Before Star Wars Episode IV, or 35 BBY) writes: “End of the Clone Wars, a violent conflict in which the Jedi Knights fight to defend the Old Republic. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker emerge as heroes.” The entry for 29 BSW4 states: “Fall of the Republic. A dark period when corruption and injustice sweep through the Republic. Senator Palpatine rises to power.” It’s also noted as the date of birth for Han Solo. And in 18 BSW4 we’re told that: “Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader; the Empire is formed, with Palpatine as Emperor. The first stirrings of rebellion begin.” Again, it notes that the birth of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa are in this year. It would be several years until we heard more from the clones, and the Clone Wars. These were our Dark Times. But then the prequel trilogy came along, and some fans would argue that the real Dark Times began. But we won’t get into that

Attack Of The Clones.

Noted for its wooden acting, poor dialogue and Padme’s bodice, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones also featured, yep, clones! And, we must not forget, the beginning of the Clone Wars. What was merely a throwaway line uttered by habitual liar and hermit, Ben Kenobi – as he told a young Luke Skywalker about the legacy of how his father, Anakin Skywalker, left him – fans finally got to see what they had been imagining for well over twenty years. But there was very little to see, as the breakout started late in the film.

What we saw was still visually stunning and very interesting. This is especially so when you think about the tactics involved in the battle of Geonosis. The clone army was employed in a tactic known as the ‘human wave’. This tactic was used a great deal by many armies in our own wars, but most notably it reminded me of the Bulldozer tactic of the Russian army in World War I. This was where armies would send wave after wave of densely packed and unprotected soldiers against the defensive line of the enemy, using speed rather than skill, and hoping that their overwhelming numbers would scare the enemy into retreat. The Russians were notable in that they often only armed the soldiers in the first few waves, thinking that those behind could simply pick up weapons dropped by the previous attackers. What we saw in the film was reminiscent of this (though the clones in the back were armed, too, but that’s another thing which I’ll elaborate on in a minute). They attacked – or defended, it was rather too chaotic to tell – en masse, contradictory to real-world, modern infantry tactics. Though, to be fair, we haven’t really fought a full-scale battle in modern times to compare, or even know what it would look like.

However, we can know in theory. Modern tactics are based on breaking the battle up into manageable squads, arrayed in a line formation and advancing from cover to cover- this is done so that every single soldier can fire his or her weapon at the enemy, yet still be covered by the terrain and fellow squad members. In the film, this was not what we saw (but again to be fair there wasn’t much cover to be had, though they could have laid down – gone ‘prone’).

At the front the clones are arrayed in a skirmish line, with clones being clumped together behind. Such large groups would have provided - and did – very meaty targets for the droid artillery. This portrayal of soldiery was not accurate and is not to be attempted in the real world, except for when playing with LEGO. This was noted by several fans, and because of it military experts were brought in for the battle scenes in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. But it did have one accurate point. The infantry, the artillery and the air support were used altogether, and that is a tactic used in the real world. In later novels, this portrayal was expanded upon in later books to say that the clones were used in this way because the Jedi, who are peace-keepers, and have had no extensive training (unlike the clones, who were raised specifically for this task) in warfare, were in command, and thus were led poorly.

That the battle happened in this way is, again, understandable. But it is interesting to note, because I surmise that later uses and appearances of the clone army were based on this presentment (of a disposable army).

They have feelings too!

Return Of The Books.

With the release of Episode II, LucasArts, Lucasfilm, LucasBooks, Del Rey and other publishers were finally given the green light to provide Expanded Universe stories in this particular setting, something they did with gleeful abandon – this three-year era is perhaps the most filled era in the entirety of the EU. It is something that happened in waves, so before I begin to explore them it’s best if I give you some details of these waves, and their dates:

23rd April 2002 – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (novelisation) released.
16th May 2002 – Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (film) aired in theatres.
28th November 2002 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (video game) released.
3rd June 2003 – Star Wars: Shatterpoint – A Clone Wars Novel (novel) released.
7th November 2003 – Star Wars: Clone Wars (cartoon animated TV series) starts to air on television.
1st June 2004 – Star Wars: Cestus Deception – A Clone Wars Novel (novel) released.
29th June 2004 – Star Wars: MedStar I: Battle Surgeons – A Clone Wars Novel (novel) released.
28th September 2004 – Star Wars: MedStar II: Jedi Healer – A Clone Wars Novel (novel) released.
26th October 2004 – Star Wars: Jedi Trial – A Clone Wars Novel (novel) released.
26th October 2004 – Star Wars: Republic Commando: Hard Contact (novel) released.
23rd November 2004 – Star Wars: Yoda: Dark Rendezvous – A Clone Wars Novel (novel) released.
25th January 2005 – Star Wars: Labyrinth of Evil (novel) released.
1st March 2005 – Star Wars: Republic Commando (video game) released.
2nd April 2005 – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (novelisation) released.
19th May 2005 – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (film) aired in US theatres.
1st November 2005 – Star Wars: Battlefront II (video game) released.
22nd November 2005 – Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (novel) released.
28th February 2006 – Star Wars: Republic Commando: Triple Zero (novel) released.
30th October 2007 – Star Wars: Republic Commando: True Colors (novel) released.
15th August 2008 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (film) released in theatres.
16th September 2008 – Star Wars: Republic Commando: Order 66 (novel) released.

3rd October 2008 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated television series) begins to air on television.

(All dates are listed at the earliest possible date they were available to the public, and are sourced by Wookieepedia. Any omissions or incorrect dates are … entirely someone else’s fault. I take no responsibility whatsoever!) But there are omissions, by my own choice. As I’ve said, I’m omitting comics from this discussion for sake of clarity. Otherwise that list would look a lot more clouded. Too, you will notice that a few of those books have ‘A Clone Wars Novel’ in their title. Indeed, all of them are clone wars novels, or tied to them (or this post in some form), but the stamp ‘A Clone Wars Novel’ is to recognise that they were a part of a multimedia project, consisting of games, books, toys and a TV series – and were, as I call it, part of the first wave.

Beyond that, there were also other stories – short stories, novellas and young reader novels – that were tied in, but again for sake of clarity (and at this point, my own sanity) I’ve omitted them. Also excluded are the later tie in novels to Star Wars: The Clone Wars – the CGI animated TV series which is still currently airing, and was mentioned at the beginning of this post, in the form of the Umbara arc. What I have included are the stories which I believe to be most pertinent to this topic. Let me discuss these waves.

Wave I: Unrelenting Force.

In this wave, I include the AotC film and novelisation, the A Clone Wars Novel(s), The Clone Wars (video game) and Star Wars: Clone Wars (animated TV series by Genndy Tartakovsky). The film I’ve covered (and the novelisation is pretty much the same), so I’ll talk about the A Clone Wars Novel(s). The beginning of this series, Shatterpoint, while a decent enough book (you can read my thoughts on the book in an earlier review on this site), didn’t really involve clones until the very end, and their presence isn’t particularly noteworthy. The same can be said for Jedi Trial and Yoda: Dark Rendezvous.

The books that really stand out in terms of giving the clones page time and characterisation are the MedStar duology and The Cestus Deception. The Cestus Deception features a clone that goes by several names: CT-96/298, A-98, Nate and later Jangotat. Nate distinguished himself at the battle of Geonosis, saving a squad from a defective enemy droid. He earned a promotion from that act, but in a later mission he suffered a terrible injury and had to spend some time in a medical facility*, receiving extensive treatment. After that, he was then posted to Vandor 3 to receive further training. After which he was placed in command of a squad of republic commandos (their first appearance), during the events of Cestus Deception on Ord Mantell where he was ordered to destroy a droid factory, as well as foment and then aid a rebellion. It was during these events that he met a woman by the name of Sheeka Tull, who became frustrated by his lack of humanity, indeed even a lack of joie de vivre beyond carrying out his orders, and she endeavoured to show him a life beyond duty to the Republic. It was due to these attempts that he gained a new sense of morality and perspective in his otherwise preordained life as a clone soldier. I tend to think of this as Star Wars: My Fair (Clone) Lady.

*In the later Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss, it’s interesting to note that one main character was almost euthanised by army medics because his injuries were too severe, and it was heavily implied that this practice was common throughout the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). This idea is at odds with earlier stories, like this one, and the MedStar duology.

The other example from this series is the MedStar duology. These two books focus on a group of army medics and surgeons posted on an unremarkable world, where they carried out their work treating and fixing wounded military personnel. One surgeon in particular, Jos Vondar, held the opinion that the clones he treated as somewhat less than human, and were basically ‘meat-droids’, and when he tells one clone that one of his comrades is dead, he is surprised to learn from Jedi Padawan Barriss Offee, whom was also stationed there for a short time, that this clone was grieving for his lost kin. Indeed, he was surprised that he could grieve at all. Unfortunately, no clones are featured as a main protagonist in this book, and this revelation is only a part of this character’s arc, and so it’s not delved into too much.

But this is one of the aspects that I mean to bring to attention, here. This idea that the clones are just empty vessels without thoughts or opinions, even feelings, outside of their designated area of expertise seems like such a waste of possibilities. In and of itself, the fact that they’re empty can be considered a part of their character, but from a storytelling point of view, even possibly a scientific point of view, it doesn’t add up. We, as humans, are designed to be inquisitive, and to be free thinkers, and it’s those traits which help real world soldiers become good soldiers. So it seems unlikely that the cloners, the Kaminoans, would breed something so vital out of them. And, indeed, they didn’t. In Attack of the Clones, Prime Minister Lama Su tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that clones can think creatively, and as such are superior to droids. Though he does go on to say that they modified the clones to be less independent (than the original host – Jango Fett). I argue that independent thought and creative thought are interconnected, and so they’d still be independent enough to think for themselves. I can’t help but think the portrayal of clones in the earlier books as flawed. And the thought of a docile soldier seems a tad oxymoronic, too. This thought is expanded upon in later books. This leads me to believe that while they are bred to be a certain way, they are further indoctrinated into being more obedient and docile.

The other sources in this section, the game and the animated series, don’t add much to this discussion. The game focuses on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, and not the clones. Again, this is understandable. And is something the A Clone Wars Novels did, too: focus on the heroes in the piece. This is quite normal, and I can’t fault it. This is Star Wars, after all. The Genndy Tartakovsky series didn’t have much time per episode to devote towards characterisation of anyone. Though it is interesting to note that the artists (according to the audio commentary of Series 1 Chapter 3) studied footage of how real world special forces acted in real combat situations, so that the special forces clones in the episode would act realistically. That, and it established that they didn’t much like rats, and had a shoot on sight policy regarding them …

Wave II: Relenting Force.

In wave II, I include the following: Labyrinth of Evil, Revenge of the Sith (film and novelisation, though I include them as one), Battlefront II and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. Labyrinth of Evil, Revenge of the Sith (novelisation) and Dark Lord are often grouped together and called the Dark Lord Trilogy. Again, they don’t focus on the clones, so much, but we are given a touch more of their collective characterisation. But it should be said that they continue the line of thought started in the books of wave I. It’s noted, in brief snippets across the trilogy (and in several factual books), that the clones developed individuality under the guidance of their Jedi officers. Roughly a year after the war began, many clones began to adopt nicknames for themselves, or the Jedi named them – much like Nate – and customised their armor with designs, or shaved their hair in a way other than the standard military haircut. This is at odds with later portrayals, but I’ll speak on that in a minute. Hopefully you’re still awake. In Battlefront II, we are given glimpses, through pre- and post-mission soliloquies by an unnamed clone trooper (or perhaps several), and are given insights into their way of thinking. But, otherwise, not much can be said that hasn’t been said already.

Wave III: Mando’ade Force Rising.

Wave III consists of what I consider to be two of the key aspects of clone characterisation. And one that I included just to satisfy the completionist in me. That one being the The Clone Wars film and novelisation (and the ensuing books series). And the two big daddies being the Republic Commando game and book series, and the The Clone Wars animated TV series. The RC series is one in which I must tread carefully, as it has proved quite a volatile subject in the past, and most likely will do so in the future. This is, in part, due to the actions of the author, on the now closed starwars.com forums, who was known to have frequented them. I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say that her supposed (a word which is vital in this instance) anti-Jedi stance, put forward in the books, and defended on the forums (going so far as to call those who disagreed ‘racists’, for example) was quite notorious, back in the day.

To me, the fact that the clones were underutilised in past stories is no one’s fault – though considering it’s the Clone Wars, you’d think more would be said about the clones – and that they were portrayed in such a way is lamentable (one could say it’s a Traviss-ty). The author of the RC books, however, goes some way to provide balance, but was a tad overzealous in her attempt. It was only until The Clone Wars animated TV series that, I feel, we got true balance.

The Republic Commando game is single player, it’s story based missions detailed the battles fought by Delta Squad, a four man group of republic commandos, over the three years of the war, starting with the battle of Geonosis (first battle of Geonosis, I should say) and culminating with events leading up to the battle of Kashyyyk, seen in Episode III. The character the gamer plays as, Boss, was voiced by Temuera Morrison – the man who played Jango Fett and lent his voice and appearance to the clones in the movies. However, it is interesting to note that other people voiced the other squad members. RC-1262 – Scorch, named because he accidentally burned off his training sergeant’s eyebrows – was voiced by Raphael Sbarge. Scorch had a jovial personality, and was considered by some to be the heart and soul of the squad. RC-1207 -  Sev – was voiced by Jonathon Cook. He often pushed himself into exhaustion during training, and was regarded as a fierce – some would say intense – hunter. RC-1140 – Fixer, for his technological skills – was voiced by Andrew Chaikin. He was described as pure and uncomplicated by his Kaminoan project co-ordinator, Taun We. This somewhat broke the mold, when it was released.

In Clone Wars, the clones were voiced by the same man. Yet it’s revealed in an interview with several people who worked on the game (in an unlockable bonus feature on the game disc) that this was done purposefully so that people could differentiate the clones, and give them more character. To enhance this, the decision was made to give them all different colored markings on their armor. (Something touched on in earlier books, as stated above, but the difference is the decision was made by the clones themselves to alter their armor.) This, really, was the first time the clones had been explored at length, and they wanted to give them as much character as possible. It had quite an avalanche effect.

It spawned the tie in novels of the RC series (technically the first book, Hard Contact, was released first, but it’s normal that tie in books are released before the main ‘event’), which further explored the clones, this time in the form of Omega Squad, another group of four commandos and their fight through the war. It delved further into the concept of clones being used as slaves, in a supposed slave army, and the books themselves had a distinct anti-Jedi stance (though the last book in the series, Imperial Commando: 501st, goes some way to reiterate what was stated in past books in a more balanced and lenient way – and explains that the characters were inclined to think more harshly about the Jedi than they perhaps should have. I call the book Imperial Commando: The Apology.), and explores how the clones are thought of by the general public, and how they’re viewed by the Jedi and non-clone, military personnel. In short, not very well. However, it has been established, both earlier and after these books, and in factual books, that the Jedi weren’t as happy with the situation, either.

Then came Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Once again, this is something that divides the fan community. Some think it’s the worst thing ever for Star Wars, and it’s ruined the franchise completely. Some love it and forgive it all its flaws, and to some it’s the be all and end all of Star Wars. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. I look at it on an episode by episode basis. It was okay for the first season or two, but not particularly great. In the past couple of seasons, I feel, it’s really stepped up a notch. Yes, there have been some stinkers in the recent past (and indeed the far past), but I do feel that they are getting better. But, to be perfectly honest, I still sometimes shrug my shoulders and give a great big ‘meh’.

But one area the makers excel, one of the best things about the shows, is, as you may have guessed, the clones. They feature heavily in the show, and are really the heart and soul of it. They’re not ignored. They’ve got personalities, they’re funny, charming, lovably uncomfortable in certain situations, and some are downright psychotic. They provide most of the entertainment of the show, and are not just meat-droids, but are actual human beings, and it is fantastic! In The Clone Wars, they’re finally given their due.

This is what drives me to write this piece, and to say that, like the show or not, you can’t deny that the show does provide a balance between the Jedi and the clones. We have episodes like the aforementioned Umbara arc, as well as “Rookies”, and ”The Deserter”, “Clone Cadets”, and ”ARC Troopers”. We get clones who betray their own kin and join the Separatists because they believe the war and how they’re treated is unjust. We get a clone who deserts to start a family. We get clones who are forced to go against a wayward Jedi (and we see how clones could easily shoot the Jedi in Order 66). We get, amusingly enough, all the good bits of the RC series, yet in moderation. I think this is to be celebrated, and that’s the reason I write this.

~ Michael D.

 

The Clone Wars Season 4 Episode 17 and 18 Review

Hello and welcome back to another exciting review of The Clone Wars here on the Star Wars Report! This time, the toughest bounty hunters in the galaxy team up to fight for survival and for the chance to work for the evil Count Dooku in “The Box”!

The box was an interesting episode in that I think we’ve kind of gotten used to the ruthless methods of the bounty hunters by now. In the first few scenes we see Cad Bane shoot an Ithorian for having a cool hat. In “The Box”, we often saw them betray their fellow bounty hunters often, by kicking the other contestants off of ledges and into poison or ray shields. What this episode was about was made clear: these bounty hunters are constantly trying to get the upper hand, and while they might help one another sometimes, it’s mostly their greed in finding some use for them later on. So, when Cad Bane helps Hardeen at the very end of the episode, when he obviously didn’t need to, I think that proves how much Cad Bane, I wouldn’t say trusts, but respects Hardeen. I think this will certainly play into this arc later.

However, speaking of trust, I’d like to briefly touch on the importance of the Jedi keeping Anakin in the dark of the operation. I wasn’t looking out too much for this until a friend of mine pointed it out, but this must create a severe gap between Anakin and the Jedi Order, or at least increase the one that was already there. It ties into Palpatine turning Anakin against the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. It’s the growing distrust that Anakin has of the Jedi, and I think what Yoda says to Anakin even confirms it in Anakin’s mind. He’s too unpredictable to trust. This could be the point where Anakin realizes that he’s out of the loop, which could start him on that path to betraying the Jedi Order.

I think what makes “The Box” so good is the fact that Obi-Wan is in these very cool action scenes, always under the eye of Eval and Dooku, so there’s no way he can mess up without being discovered, or even killed. Towards the end, where Obi-Wan is forced to take the weapon of choice of the real Rako Hardeen, and has to shoot it with the same accuracy as the actual bounty hunter, that honestly was pretty darn scary, knowing that one missed target would reveal him as a spy. It was a very well done scene to show how much Obi-Wan has blended with this character over the past few episodes, and to show us how much he’s ready for his real job, to kidnap the chancellor.

There were two things that I’m wondering about Dooku right now. Firstly, does he suspect that the Jedi are in some way behind Rako Hardeen’s appearance? His reaction when he found out that Hardeen had killed Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was a bit mysterious. And secondly, why did he choose Cad Bane to lead the mission when he obviously saw Hardeen doing most of the quick thinking and leading the bounty hunters to the each upcoming challenge, every time? Perhaps it ties into my previous question, does he suspect something of Hardeen? And is putting Cad Bane as the leader part of a plan to uncover the true identity of the sniper of Concord Dawn? So many questions, one episode left!

All in all this was a great episode, but at the same time, didn’t exactly match up with the pace or style of the other episodes in the arc; it almost felt like a one episode arc within an arc, if that makes sense. I also found it a little convenient for basically all the reoccurring characters to be the ones to survive. Other than that though I loved this episode! What did you think of “The Box”? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you… always!

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Hello and welcome back to another review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars here on the Star Wars Report! This week all plans are put into play, and the fate of Rako Hardeen is sealed when the Jedi try to stop an attempt to kidnap the Chancellor from the inside in “Crisis on Naboo”! This is the last episode of this arc, which now leaves us looking forward to the last arc of the season, the return of Darth Maul… but first, here are my thoughts on the episode.

This episode revolves entirely around the bounty hunter’s operation. It’s what has been built towards for three episodes. The characters of Cad Bane and Hardeen have built a sense of trust between one another, at least on a professional level, and the rest of the victors from “The Box” have finally been chosen to help complete the task. I liked that we did not even know how the operation was planned, we only knew the responsibilities of Obi-Wan, who was witnessing the plan for the first time as well. It kind of created this hectic feeling as the chaos ensued when Obi-Wan was trying to keep Mace and the other Jedi informed on what was going on. That’s what separated this action scene from others is that we didn’t necessarily feel right in the action with the Jedi, or the bounty hunters, but both of them as Hardeen tries to maintain his cover while also helping the Jedi. What I’ve liked about this arc all along is the new perspectives we’ve gotten to see that rarely get an opportunity to be showcased in the series.

The other large concept of the episode was Dooku’s and Palpatine’s involvement. Probably Obi-Wan’s one mistake out of his entire undercover mission was his excellent performance in “The Box”. Had he not solved all the puzzles on his own, and maybe stuck to the shadows more, he might’ve been able to not bring as much attention to himself. Right from the end of the last episode Dooku saw right through him, or at least suspected that Hardeen isn’t who he says he is. I think this also plays into the theme of the episode of “the whole truth”, and it seems that everyone is deceiving everyone else in some way, including the Jedi. You could argue that the whole plot of the bounty hunters was a ruse to eliminate the republic security force so Dooku could take the Chancellor himself, if the Jedi believed that the true threat was over. I find it intriguing that most of these plots could actually be more attempts to bring Anakin to the dark side, and you can totally tell by how Palpatine reacts during ambush that he is testing Anakin, so that when Anakin finally defeats Dooku, Palpatine knows that he’s finally ready to become his apprentice. I wonder if Dooku knows this, certainly if he has knowledge of Palpatine planning these attacks, he must have some idea that he’s just a training tool for Skywalker. Maybe even the Sith are deceiving each other?

All in all this was a pretty solid episode that successfully wrapped up the plot against the Chancellor. There were things I wished they had spent more time on, like Cad Bane and Rako Hardeen/Obi-Wan, all we really got to tie up their partnership was Cad Bane yelling threats as he was taken away, it’s not a huge deal, but they spent so much time setting up these characters that I would’ve liked something a little longer. I liked this arc a lot, but I’m ready for the final arc of the season now. I need to see Maul! Anyways, what did you think of this episode? Leave a comment below, we always enjoy hearing what you have to say about the episode! Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you… always!

-Ryan

The Clone Wars Season 4 Episode 16 Review

Hello and welcome back to another The Clone Wars review here on the Star Wars Report! This week Moralo Eval, Cad Bane, and Rako Hardeen (aka Obi-Wan Kenobi) desperately evade authorities after escaping a Republic prison, encountering hutt thugs, Jedi, and double crossings in Friends and Enemies!

Immediately in this episode we notice tension. As Obi-Wan tries harder to gain the trust of the two galactic terrorists by helping cover their tracks on Nal Hutta, Cad Bane either is becoming more suspicious, or more worried that he might not get his cut of the bounty as promised. A lot of this episode is centered around the rivalry they have developed from the first episode. It leads the group to not only have to avoid the Republic and the Hutt’s they’ve upset, but also avoid upsetting each other a bit too. I loved seeing Obi-Wan using the tactics of his fellow bounty hunters to make sure they didn’t get away without him, and by the end of the episode, Bane doesn’t have much choice but to bring him along. Although he may not like his fellow bounty hunter, I think Bane’s suspicion that there’s more to Rako Hardeen than meets the eye has substantially decreased from when they first met. That’s what this episode for me was about, allowing Obi-Wan and Cad Bane to let go of their problems and suspicions with one another so they can move on to the real task at hand, kidnapping the Chancellor. I think it was done marvelously too that in an arc about the low life of the galaxy, backstabbing and bribery are the best way to solve problems.

Another pivotal part of this episode was the role of the Chancellor himself. I think we can say with surety now that he’s behind this plot, it could be another attempt by the Chancellor to get rid of Obi-Wan as an influence on Anakin. Now, I’m not too sure that the Chancellor knew the specifics of the Jedi’s plan, so that confused me a little, and how he could know to set up a plot just so Obi-Wan would go undercover is an unknown. But I thought it was good all the same to have another factor working into this plot, it really shows how complex these episodes can get where there’s so much going on behind the scenes rather than just showing a simple “Lets-save-the-chancellor!” type mission.

While the rivalry between Obi-Wan and Bane was well done, and the Chancellor’s plot to deceive Anakin was intriguing, what made this episode was the climax! The Jedi have caught up to the bounty hunters and the two forces clash in a duel with cruisers, lightsabers, blasters, and rocket boots. The fight was choreographed wonderfully and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. This is the Cad Bane we saw in season 2, but a thousand times better! Also, I’m curious as to how much Anakin knows now about Obi-Wan, other than that he’s alive, and what he’ll do now that he knows Rako Hardeen didn’t kill his former Master.

And that wraps up my review this week! All in all, Friends and Enemies was a vast improvement from last episode, the characters have all been set up, and now we’re developing them for what’s to come. I can’t wait to see the next episode, The Box, it already looks great! Now what did you think of this episode? Love it? Hate it? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you… always!

-Ryan

 

Darth Plagueis Commentary: Chapters 4-7

Darth Plagueis Commentary: Chapters 4 – 7

Here is part two of our ongoing commentary of the Star Wars novel Darth Plagueis.  If you missed part one, click here to check it out.  For this section of the commentary Bethany and Mark of the Star Wars Report podcast return to discuss chapters 4 through 7 with me.

Note: This commentary does not contain any major spoilers from beyond chapter 7.

 

Chapter 4

Aaron: At the end of chapter 3 Plagueis can’t come to terms with the captain so he has no choice but to kill her.

Bethany: Luceno is a talented writer, to be able to create a character that is given very little time to establish herself, and yet she’s competent, smart, but not unrealistically so, and makes mistakes that even an experienced captain would.  I mean, dealing with a Sith Lord isn’t something a ship’s captain would expect to deal with!  You liked her immediately, and hoped she and her crew wouldn’t die.

Aaron: And as likeable as they were, Plagueis literally slaughters the entire crew.  In the battle he absorbs a blaster bolt in his hand.  More and more Force users seem to be able to do this.

Mark: We see absorption of a great many things by the Sith.  I find that more and more point of view is key to being able to do ANYTHING with the Force.

Bethany: For me it’s scenes like these that bring you back to the fact that you’re reading about Sith. Things aren’t pretty, or fair, and just when you find yourself reluctantly liking the main characters, they do something unforgiveable, though I won’t say irredeemable.

Mark: Indeed. You knew that something bad was on the horizon.
I found myself in the sway of the Dark Side in this book. I was constantly rooting for the bad guys to win.

The whole Woebegone part seemed to drag on in a sense though. We get introduced in Chapter 3, meet them in 3, and witness their deaths in Chapter 4. In many ways this book was a series of interlinked tales set up in parts that complemented each other while giving the reader chunks of the lives of Plagueis and Sidious.
And in the end I guess the Woebegone was all a great set up to 11-4D. He would turn into a treasure for the Sith.

Bethany: So far, the book takes a very different tone with storytelling, characters, and events. It feels more like a tale being told, or a biography, a lesson in history and politics, than your average epic fantasy novel. It’s brilliant in that it accomplishes both, though!

Aaron: About 11-4D, I thought it was kind of jarring how quickly he changed allegiances.  I know he’s just a robot but I couldn’t see C3PO doing that if his master was killed.

Bethany: It was rather jarring for me. I view droids in much the same way I view Spock or Data in the Star Trek franchise. They really do have feelings, even if they’re well hidden or supposedly non-existent.

Mark: Well in that sense Bethany think of it as 11-4D looking after his own hiney.  He knew he’d be slaughtered if he didn’t welcome his new master.
I felt it was perfect.  R2 and 3PO both become Jabba’s property, while 3PO complains about the situation they do it willingly enough.  It’s in their programing.

Aaron Goins: But wasn’t them (R2 and 3PO) becoming his property all part of a ruse?

Mark: Yes, but 3PO wasn’t in on it.  R2 knew. But R2′s special ;)
I loved how Plagueis made 11-4D watch the ship burn and record it. I got the feeling like he almost treated the droid like an apprentice.  He gives him unlimited access to data he would even later withhold from Palpatine.  The fact is he’s a droid and cannot summon the Force which makes him no threat to Plagueis.

Bethany: Not necessarily an apprentice, but it was interesting to see how he would go out of his way to teach 11-4D, even when it wasn’t needed for a specific task.  Darth Plagueis seemed to have a fairly low opinion of the intelligence of sentients…. (more on that later)…. and always seemed to want beings to be smarter or more evolved than they were.

Aaron: Plagueis stops at a space station to have the ship destroyed and is revealed as “Magister Damask”.  Very interesting name and it definitely has meaning.

Mark: I love “THE Mask.”  And I loved the play up on the alter egos.  While working on the Sith Grand Plan as their Titles, they were also doing the same as their public faces.

Aaron: And “damask” is a type of fabric that has a specific style of weaving. I think his name is a direct reference to this.

Bethany: Wikipedia tells us that: “Damask (Arabic: دمسق‎) is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, with a pattern formed by weaving.”

I find that interesting, and certainly applicable

Mark: Well-placed word indeed, the way it has multiple patterns on it.

Bethany: Not just to the weaving and patterns, but damask is reversible, just like the two roles he has. One minute a Sith, the next a (somewhat) respectable business man.

Aaron: There is actually a reference to the weaving earlier in the book in a conversation between Plagueis and Tenebrous.
This from Wikipedia… “Damasks are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn, usually with the pattern in warp-faced satin”
This from a conversation between Plagueis and Tenebrous about Darth Bane… “We weave ourselves into the warp and weft of the tapestry he created”

Bethany: I must say, Luceno is a master at weaving a good story and various storylines together. The amount of research and time he spent on this book is very evident!

 

Chapter 5

Aaron: Chapter 5 starts out on Muunilist, the home planet of Plagueis, where he is a well-respected businessman.  Just coming off of killing an entire crew and stealing their ship and droid and then destroying their ship, this was a bit of a shift.

Bethany: It made for a good double take on the character of Plagueis.

Aaron: It was the perfect cover for a Muun.  And are these bankers that different from Sith? They all seem pretty cutthroat.

Bethany: At first, as I mentioned before, he didn’t seem all that threatening, then he seemed like a force of darkness to be reckoned with, but now there’s a cunning deceitfulness in him that’s terrifying. His threat level just shot up. Not only is he a masterful Sith warrior, but also a powerful political figure, and a master of manipulation.

Mark: Aaron, good point about cutthroat.  Whereas a Bith Sith makes perfect sense in the math and science realm, a Muun totally puts a lock down on finances as we see with Hego.  He wants for NOTHING.

Bethany: You can certainly tell where Palpatine learns his cunning and trickery, his masterful deceptions of so many.

Mark: We’re also re-introduced to Larsh Hill who later factors into the story.

Aaron: And when you hear the name Hill you automatically make the connection to San Hill.

One of the things I found interesting was the info that the Jedi were the ones who helped pass an amendment that expanded trade routes in the Outer Rim.  This is what gave the Trade Federation full voting rights in the Senate.  The Jedi were responsible for empowering the Trade Federation!  That’s quite a revelation.

Mark: Wasn’t that from one of the comics too?  Acts of War or The Stark Hyperspace War?  (That was the thing, Luceno did such a good job lacing in other EU plots and elements that you miss many of them. Or you get too caught up in searching for things and it might ruin it for you.)

Aaron: It may have been, but it was a surprise to me :)
Speaking of Acts of War the Yinchorri are mentioned which made me instantly think of that comic series.

Bethany: It’s obvious in this book, as in the later prequel movies, that the Jedi aren’t seeing clearly; their Order has problems that the Sith exploit, to the demise of many.

Mark: See I recall reading the Jedi Apprentice books followed by the Jedi Quest ones, and the sense that the Jedi were failing grew throughout those series, politically as well as physically.  Seeing this illustrated in Plagueis’s point of view was fitting indeed.

Bethany: We’re looking at the Jedi from a Sith’s point of view, and frankly they appear to be rather inept sometimes, a threat, yes, but there’s a level of complacency in the Jedi that shows they still don’t know of the Sith, or the dangers that face their Order.

Aaron: Gardulla the Hutt and Jabba’s clan are also mentioned.  So many connections to familiar characters in the Star Wars universe.

Bethany: Again with so many connections to other in universe material, the book gave us such an astoundingly in depth look at the history and machinations behind so many things, which had me immersed in the complex picture it painted. I know some I’ve spoken with some who didn’t enjoy the many references, but I did.

Mark: We also see that Hego Damask’s estate is awarded Rugness Nome’s estate publicly.  I found the relationship of the Sith, both as Sith and as their alter egos, interesting. They find ways to be intertwined in both.  As with Tenebrous’s death, Hego benifits from it as does Plagueis. You start to get a sense of the Dark Side personified in these beings through their Sith mantles.

Aaron: We are also introduced to Plagueis’ giant library.  He wants 11-4D to assimilate all the info in the library.  Plagueis was very interested in things like the Ysalimiri and Vornskrs.

Mark: Yes, in fact his library was the finest to be found anywhere outside Obroa-skai.  This is where 11-4D plays a vital role in my opinion to the Sith plan.  He in a sense BECOMES Plagueis’s library.

Aaron: The Dai Bendu are also a point of interest to him.  I believe they will be playing a major part in the upcoming Dawn of the Jedi comic series.

Mark: Yes, a lot of old RPG materials came to life as off the cuff references by Plagueis.  I loved it. Rakata, Vjun (which some may recall had issues with midi-chlorians), the Choas Academy, Sorcerers of Tund (Lando Clarission books) as well as Myrkr.

Bethany: When 11-4D told his new master that “I have experience in organ replacement surgery, telomere genotherapy, and carbonite suspension. But nothing beyond that.”  Plagueis with upper lip curled said, “Then you’ve merely scratched the surface.” The implications of this, and Plagueis’ vast library and knowledge is rather intimidating, to say the least.

Aaron: We get a bit of a Sith history lesson here as well.  Naga Sadow, Exar Kun, Bane, Zannah…  I want to know more about the Sith Darth Gravid who apparently tried to go good and really set the Sith plan back.

Mark: I was glad they covered that one.  So much of the early references I was worried were ‘one and dones’.  Which a lot were, but then a lot of the rest would come back and be rehashed with greater detail.  Darth Gravid being one of these.

Also the fact Plagueis gives 11-4D a Sith data crystal with the History of the Sith on it was impressive. The Sith are better scholars than the JEDI!  The Jedi only study their own dogma. The Sith, the Galaxy.  Best of all, Plagueis tells the droid his goal of extending life.

Bethany: It is always interesting to see the Sith react to their environment, and to see their inner workings. We don’t get to see that very much in the movies, beyond Vader’s and Sidious’ relationship.

Aaron: And then the big info at the end of Chapter 5…. “One hundred years earlier, Tenebrous’s Twilek Master (Darth Ramage?) had opened a small rend in the fabric of the Force, allowing the Dark Side of the Force to be felt by the Jedi Order for the first time in more than eight hundred years.”

Mark: Funny you say that Aaron.  I, too, thought Ramage was Tenebrous’s master’s name. Yet I couldn’t find it ever actually said.
The whole rend into the Force plays hard core into Plagueis’s point of view on the Force and the dual nature of the Force.  You get a sense that the Jedi created a bubble like the ysalamiri in a sense that kept the Dark Side out. Tenebrous’s Master burst the bubble.

Mark: Anyone catch Vectivus mentioned?!  HE REALLY DID EXIST AND WAS A BANITE SITH! Wow!

Aaron: Yes I noticed him and Cognus mentioned as Sith that came after Bane.  I would love to know the entire line of Sith from Bane to Sidious.

Mark: The chapter titles were fitting. I always enjoyed that about Karen Traviss’s books and Luceno did a great job telling the story through chapter titles as well as the chapters themselves.

Aaron: Yes, all Star Wars authors should do chapter titles like this.

 

Chapter 6

Aaron: Let’s move on to Sojourn, a retreat for the elite.  It was like an intergalactic hunter’s lodge.

Bethany: Yes, that’s exactly what it reminded me of!  And it creeped me out.

Mark: Those poor crime lords and influential beings who don’t even know they are Dejarrik pieces.

Aaron: And all of his meetings on Sojourn are about gaining power.  Plagueis is constantly making deals.

Mark: And these deals would play key parts later too.  The Sith monitor the future in a sense.
It was interesting to learn Hego played a pivital role in Gardulla’s rise to power over Jabba on Tatooine.  By making the deal to empower Gardulla on Tatooine and setting up podracing, we learn that this will later anger the Gran of Malastare whose own podracing will be hurt a little.  All part of the plan.

Bethany: I like how Plagueis can be ruthless and brutal in the name of political and monetary power, and those around him expect it, but don’t realize the true menace beneath.

Aaron: In the process of him trying to find out who sabotaged the mining drill that he and Tenebrous were almost killed by, Plagueis comes across the info that there is an abundance of plasma on Naboo.  This plays a major role in the rest of the book.

Mark: I won’t look at the Duel of Fates the same- those plasma beams. Who knew?!

Aaron: And then my favorite part of chapter 6.  Tenebrous was training another apprentice!  This completely caught me off guard.  So much for the Rule of Two.  The Sith seem to bend the rules by training multiple potential apprentices, and we see this in Clone Wars as well with Ventress and Opress.

Mark: I found the breaking of the Rule fitting.  As most would see this breaking as insurance, in fact Venimis’s attack is what would have MADE him the apprentice with a Darth title.  And he failed.

Bethany: It’s interesting to see that Sith seem to be tempted even to break their own rules, and they always tend to fall for some temptation or weekness. So many Sith have been killed by consequences, reactions if you will, to their own ambition or arrogance.

Aaron: And when Plagueis defeats Venamis (such creative Sith names) in battle, instead of killing him he keeps him alive for experimentation.  Pure evil and kind of creepy.

Bethany: Um, how about VERY creepy.  Like I said earlier, Plagueis becomes far more terrifying as one becomes more familiar with him.

Mark: Yes, using Venamis to perfect his exploitations of midi-Chlorians was a genius move by Luceno.

“The future of the Sith no longer hinges on physical prowess but on political cunning. The new Sith will rule less by brute force than by means of instilling fear.”

We learn the important differences in philosophy between Tenebrous and Plagueis in Plagueis’s eyes. Which is a good chapter to read before reading the Tenebrous Way.

 

Chapter 7

Aaron: Chapter 7 fleshes out Plagueis’s origin story.  He was the child of force sensitive parents who were keeping their powers a secret.  Even as a child Hego was ruthless. He used force persuasion to have a classmate jump out a window!

Mark: The parent arc was creepy of Tenebrous.

Aaron: His birth was basically orchestrated by Tenebrous.

Mark: We learn that his parents were manipulated into having Plagueis born. His mother was all but teaching the young Hego for Tenebrous.

Bethany: It’s interesting to me how Plagueis’ background and childhood (if you could call it that) heavily influenced him, if not entirely dominated him and his personality. To grow up the way he did, and to almost naturally and without prodding fall do the Dark Side is horribly twisted, especially for a child.

Mark: I don’t know if we can say without prodding though.  His mother was totally schooling him and grooming him in a sense.

Bethany: True, but was his mother schooling him specifically towards the dark side, or towards using the Force in general?  Although she certainly never goes out of her way to control or teach him otherwise. She let him use the Force to make a playmate jump out of a window and die, and didn’t say anything negative about it, only commented on his “gift”.

Mark: Well young Hego noticed a power closer to his own in Rugess that he didn’t feel around Jedi. I found this interesting too.

Bethany: Yes, it was as if the Dark Side somehow touched him, as if his existence was of the Dark Side specifically.

Mark: I loved the flash backs to Plagueis’s training. And Tenebrous’s line about the Phantom Menace – “We Sith are an unseen opposition. A phantom menace. But the Force works through us all the more powerfully in our invisibility. For the present, the more covert we remain, the more influence we can have. Our revenge will be achieved not through subjugation but by contagion.”

Bethany: That was an incredible thought, very chilling and true. You can almost see it coming inevitably true.

Aaron: This book really implies that there is clear dark and light side.

Bethany: It does, and as if they both have clear wishes. It’s almost a creepy version of the Force, or way of viewing the Force perhaps. Instead of falling to the Dark Side being some sort of perverted way of using the Force, falling to the Dark Side seems more like choosing one path over another.

Mark: Yes, and Plagueis sees it almost as a sentient thing, especially in the way he approaches it.  I liked though how the Sith see things like “the Force works through us all the more powerfully.”

Aaron: And who’s to say that Plagueis’s view on the Force is the correct one.  His philosophy may differ from other Sith and Jedi.

Bethany: Indeed.

Mark: Yes. That was a point in my opinion of the Sith stories. That there are more roads than one to the Force and it’s mastery.  And ANYTHING is possible with the right knowledge, and will power. POOOOOOWWWER!!!
But even the Sith have the Force work through them, just like the Jedi.  I mean if both sides see the Force at work through them, how does that work?

Bethany: I don’t think we really know the answer to that question. There’s always a bit of mystery surrounding the Force, even with the knowledge of midi-chlorians.

Mark: Would it be ONE sentience at work? Or two sentiences fighting each other? I mean I see the Force as one with dual sides. The sentience works on the whole Will of the Force, but it does make you stop and think.

Aaron: I think the way it has been presented to us lately is that it is two sides fighting against each other.  I mean think of Mortis.

Mark: Indeed. Mortis is a good point. I had always thought that the two sides being separate was something Lucas didn’t want, but it’s starting to seem that this is ok as long as it’s hinted at or eluded to but never flat out spoken as fact.
One last thing on chapter 7- “With the wretched of the galaxy being converted to the cause, the powerful would now need to be brought together, with Darth Plagueis as their leader, manipulating the actions of an important few to control the behavior of countless trillions”
This paragraph captures many elements of the book. From the Sith’s strategy, to Hego Demask’s Gatherings of Sojorn, to how every interaction he (and later Sidious) has all work to the BENIFIT of the Sith.

Aaron: Yes that last sentence pretty much lays out the entire Sith Plan.

That concludes our discussion of chapters 4 through 7.  Check back for our next commentary covering chapters 8 through 11.

And don’t be shy, leave your own thoughts on the book in the comments below!

-Aaron Goins