Tag Archives: Sith

Sith vs Jedi! Or Was That Jedi vs Sith? – SWBTF #15


Welcome back to Star Wars Beyond the Films!

On this episode, your hosts Nathan and Mark discuss the type of storytelling in Star Wars, specifically in reference to the similar patterns you see in the Star Wars universe. Sith come and go, they rise to power and are defeated, only to rise, once again a threat. Is it a pattern we enjoy, and one that is beneficial to Star Wars, or not?  There are, after all, power parallels and patterns in our own history.

Lather, rinse and repeat: This is a buisness model, right? Does the EU’s circular nature with the Sith undermine the ending of the Return of the Jedi?

Can the ever going battles between the Jedi and the Sith be harmful to the Saga?

For movie only fans, do stories like Dark Empire feel like a slap in the face of Vader’s sacrifice?
Mark tries to get into the mindset to address the issue untainted by the Dark Side (the EU Side.) New Sith, Old Sith, One Sith, Lost Tribe Sith, Sith Emperors, Sith Marauders, Sith Wannabe’s, Banite Sith, Daminite Sith, how many Sith are there? Too many? The hosts delve deep in this episode.

Nathan looks forward to Kol and Cade Skywalker, the struggles of the future Skywalkers, and the Skywalker line being destined to stand against the Sith.

Nathan uses history to explain how the circles of life work and how it is plausible in the EU to have the Sith keep coming back like a bad cold.
Mark points out that even the Mandalorians keep coming back like the Sith. That the Jedi, Sith and the Mando’s are the BIG THREE of the Star Wars Universe. And, he ponders Emperor Palpatine’s living past RotJ and how Lucas himself was behind the “cloning of Palpatine” and how this may or may not have caused issues. Was a happy medium found? Or is there still potential for more retcons and additional stories around the Emperor’s personal clone usage?

Can the Sith be wiped out? In the EU that doesn’t seem to be the case, sometimes. Where can the story of Kam Solusar be found? Untold stories… who sets the bar? What IS off limits? Should the Sith have been left off limits? The hosts look at the examples of the Re-emergant Sith and if that was done well or not.

They discuss Lumiya’s early adventures. Mark points out that Darth Maul’s living after being halved shouldn’t come to a surprise to many EU fans. For instance, there’s Simus – the Sith, disembodied HEAD! If HE can live being just as a head, then Maul’s survival is a little less surprising.

Mark does not trust any Sith, and would like to see more clear cut answers to his questions about them from future Star Wars novels. Nathan points out how Lumiya’s backstory could have had more page time in Legacy of the Force. Then he gives a quick break down of the Sith Order over time. They discuss Untainted Sith… Sith who are Jedi? Jedaii?! They also discuss the Nightsisters – the female order who remind us very much of the Sith at times. Mark ponders that it could be worse then just a lot of Sith. The potential for more species being corrupted by Force users is very high in the SWEU.

They discuss the Lightning Rod of the Sith, (Jacen Solo) and more!
The Sith are like mold. You think you’ve wiped them all out, and they come back, more dangerous then you originally thought. Don’t laugh, more Jedi succumb to the Sith Mold then you might think! Also, some fan’s complain about the Sith re-occuring, but not so many argue the same about the Empire, even though the same case could be made.

Enjoy this episode, and never quote us the odds!

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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 19 Review

Hello and welcome back to another review of the latest installment in The Clone Wars! This week Asajj Ventress returns home to the Nightsisters, and Grievous leads an attack to destroy the Dathomiri tribe, in the strangest and possibly darkest Clone Wars yet, ”Massacre”. This is season four, episode nineteen, which means we only have three episodes left until the end of the season, and these last few episodes look fantastic judging from the new trailer we saw last week. Really though, if you have not seen that trailer, watch it now! Okay, enough about future episodes (I’m sure I’ll bring them up again at the end of my review.), time to talk the latest episode!

This episode revolves entirely around the Nightsisters, over a year later from when we saw them last. This episode starts with Asajj returning to Dathomir after an unknown amount of time wandering the galaxy since her betrayal in the last season. It has me wondering why this episode (and the next episode) will be focused on Asajj so much, since “Massacre” continued right where the conflicted character of Asajj left off, I wonder if this will be the end of Asajj’s character, one way or another. She’s a character we’ve been seeing less and less in the series since season one, and honestly, I just don’t see her going back to the Sith, or making anymore mayhem for the Jedi in the war.

So how will they take this character out of the series? The more I watch it, the more I feel like they’re going to go the comics route and allow her to escape and flee into hiding, which would be pretty awesome. I think an ending like that would capitalize the tragedy that her role has turned into, first being betrayed by her master, then by Savage, and then being the last of the Nightsisters. I’m also wondering if she will even be around long enough to face Obi-Wan again, or maybe even Savage. One thing I hope doesn’t happen is leaving her character at a cliffhanger again, letting us guess where she is and what she’s doing for another year.

Massacre was, I would say, the most out-of-universe episode to date. Some parts just didn’t feel like Star Wars, which I guess was bound to happen when you’re creating an episode about a group of witches. But there were lots of things that kind of made me wish for a little familiarity in this episode (besides battle droids). Instead of using the Force, the Nightsisters replaced it with their magic, summoning Nightsister zombies to their aid in battle, (those were really weird, and well-designed I might add). There was one part that even reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with the voodoo doll, to torture Dooku, even at one point allowing Talzin to emerge from his torso to warn him. There were no Jedi, no clones, and no good guys in this episode. This was a brawl of the baddies, and combining that with the bizarreness of the Nightsister’s magic, and you’ve got one strange episode, not knowing who to root for, if anyone.

One thing I’d like to touch on briefly before I wrap up my review is the return of some season one technology. The “Defenders of Peace” Defoliator tank is back; it’s always great to see stuff from past seasons show up in current episodes, even though it is strange it’s taken this long for it to show up again. Hopefully we’ll be seeing it in some large scale battles soon.

Is this the end of her story?

All in all, “Massacre” was a very unique episode, the red colors of the world of Dathomir fit the dark and evil mood perfectly. Like I said before, it did not feel as much like a part of the Star Wars universe as I would have liked, but the story was decent, exciting, and the ending left me with a great sense of uncertainty for Asajj, and pity for her character. And that wraps up my review this week! What did you think of the episode? Love it? Hate it? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Thanks for reading, and I cannot wait for next week’s episode with the return of some classic characters! May the Force be with you… always!



Darth Plagueis: At Last We Will Have Revenge – SWBTF #6


Welcome back to Star Wars Beyond the Films!

This is the second of three episodes discussing the Star Wars novel, Darth Plagueis. Joining your hosts, Nathan and Mark, once again is guest host Peter Morrison!

Darth Plagueis provokes many interesting theories and thoughts about the Force and it’s usage. Is the Force more like a sentient being than we first thought? What are these interesting ways of creating, and destroying, life using the Force? Are there limits to the power of the Force and what you can do with it? Force-healing with the light and dark side, what are the differences?

More discussion about the history and background of the Sith followed, with a focus on Darth Maul’s training and background, and the involvement of the Nightsisters in this aspect of the plot.

Also, there were a few comparisons of Sith to vampires….

Darth Plagueis is a fascinating novel, one of the reasons why being the multiple “plot breadcrumbs” that wind their way throughout the book. You’re always making new discoveries as you read.

Enjoy this episode of Star Wars Beyond the Films!

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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