Tag Archives: star wars the clone wars

Darth Maul: Underworld Crime Lord?

 

The return of Darth Maul to the land of the living has opened  up a tremendous number of storytelling possibilities for The Clone Wars series.  In Maul, George Lucas and Dave Filoni have reintroduced a character that brings with him the cache of being not only a film character, but also a character unlike most in the films in that he has an unknown fate.  The possibilities for Maul run the gamut from being killed early next season to surviving the Clone Wars and becoming a Yoda-like Sith hermit somewhere in the galaxy.

Our friends at Knights Archive posted an article about a new Scholastic book that may shed some light on Darth Maul’s plan and the direction the character is going to go.   Targeted at kids age 8 to 12, Scholastic’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy is a 160 page book due out this September.  The summary (at Edelweiss) for the book reads as follows:

For the first time ever, Scholastic is publishing Star Wars Clone Wars… based off the hit Cartoon Network TV show, viewed by over 2.4 million every week!
Our story will follow the highly anticipated return of Darth Maul–the infamous villain of Episode I: The Phantom Menace–whose popularity rivals that of Boba Fett. When Darth Maul reunites with his brother, Savage Opress, can even Obi-Wan Kenobi stop him before he rallies the criminal underworld to his cause?

What is this talk about the criminal underworld?  For further clarification we  headed over to Amazon.com to see if they had the same or a different description;

For the first time ever, Scholastic is publishing Star Wars Clone Wars… based off the hit Cartoon Network TV show, viewed by over 2.4 million every week!
Waiting on details from LucasFilms regarding Season 5, but the novel will feature the highly anticipated return of Darth Maul, the villain of Episode I’s Phantom Menace, whose popularity rivals that of Boba Fett.

If you take Amazon’s description specifically mentioning “Season 5″ and Edelweiss’s description hinting at events we have yet to see, and combine that with the fact that the book will be released in the same month that the Season Premiere of Season Five will air, it is pretty clear that Scholastic may have dropped a major plot point from Season Five.

Before we get in to my wild speculation about where this story could go, I think it is useful to take a little bit of perspective on the history of Darth Maul and the history of George Lucas’s interest and involvement in the Expanded Universe, The Clone Wars, and the Live-Action Series.  Based on anecdotes about Mr. Lucas, we know that he is focused on the stories that he personally crafts and tells in the Star Wars universe.  While his company licenses and produces a plethora of EU works under the Star Wars brand, it is not like he is reading and approving every book written.  It is also true that we have heard on multiple occasions that he enjoys the comics and from time to time will borrow an idea or look for something from the comics.

There are two significant stories that I believe Mr. Lucas had a larger hand in crafting than the standard EU fare.  Those would be 1996’s multimedia campaign around Shadows of the Empire and 2008’s The Force Unleashed.  Shadows of the Empire was significant for a number of reasons. The story itself was set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi so it had to fit in with Lucas’ vision of those stories.  Shadows was also a bit of a trial balloon to gauge fan interest in Star Wars before the 1997 release of the Special Editions of the original trilogy and the 1999 release of the Phantom Menace beginning the prequel trilogy.  It makes sense that Lucas had a strong hand in the project, but it was author Steve Perry (among others) who crafted the specifics of the story.  As Steve Perry explained in an interview with EUCantina.net;

EUC: Let’s move on to specific projects: Mr. Perry, what can you tell us about being involved in the Shadows of the Empire Media Event? Mr. Reaves, what can you tell us about working on Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, as Darth Maul is such a mysterious character ?

SP: SOTE was a test-run by Lucasfilm, designed to see how such a multimedia project would work, during the time before the second set of movies. A very collaborative effort, which was laid out during a meeting at Skywalker Ranch, wherein a bunch of us sat down and hammered out a storyline, then parsed it out — I took notes, then went home and wrote an outline upon which the novel, comics, games, toys, etc. were based. It was a lot of fun, and I got to play with the original cast, plus come up with some interesting EU characters.

Lucas also had a large role in The Force Unleashed and that story and game’s development.  The video below goes in depth on Lucas’s role in the story of the secret apprentice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66vVBcKas3A&feature

Then of course there is the currently on hold Live-Action Series which already has a full season of scripts written.  With the working title of Star Wars: Underworld, the Live-Action Series is suppose to focus on the seedier side of the galaxy during the rise of the Empire.  Notice the connection between Shadows of the Empire and the Live-Action Series.  It seems like criminals and scoundrels have a fairly large part to play in Star Wars, but we will get back to that in a minute. In terms of The Clone Wars, we know that George Lucas has a very strong hand in the show, and while Dave Filoni is the supervising director and the show runner, Lucas is present at story conferences where stories are “broken” and many ideas are developed.  This can be seen in behind the scenes clips released as well as numerous comments by Filoni and other TCW staff members.

Lucas has set up a story in TCW where we know have Sidious in control of the Republic, his apprentice Count Dooku leading the Separatists in this charade.  We also have Sidious’ eye on a potential new apprentice in Anakin, two former apprentice’s of Dooku in Asajj Ventress and Savage Opress and a former apprentice of Sidious in Darth Maul.  This is a lot of Sith or would be Sith for the Rule of Two to attempt to contain. At this point there is no reason to believe that Sidious knew that Maul survived, but that is possible. Operating on the assumption that Maul is now a wild sabacc card that doesn’t fit in with Sidious’ plans, then it would make sense that there isn’t a place for Maul at Sidious’ side.  Count Dooku certainly wouldn’t react well to his Master’s previous student returning and seeking to usurp his position.  Sidious may also be reluctant to accept Maul back into the fold.

Actor Sam Witwer has been making the media rounds giving interviews to promote Darth Maul’s return.  Christian Blauvelt of Entertainment Weekly got some interesting quotes from Witwer regarding Maul’s future.

You won’t necessarily see all the layers of the character right away, it takes time to unravel. I don’t think I’m spoiling too much when I say that he’s going to be around for a little bit. You will see a lot more of him going forward than you would have expected.

There are major consequences for Darth Maul being reintroduced to the Star Wars galaxy. This guy doesn’t just show up, wave his lightsaber around, have a few mean lines here and there, then pass into obscurity. He makes a major splash in the Clone Wars, and it’s entirely consequential the things that he’s up to and tries to accomplish.

That goal of revenge is not something that goes away, but what does change is how he’s going to go about it. And some of that involves Asajj Ventress. You’ve seen her become a bounty hunter. But Darth Maul would never become a bounty hunter. He’s way too ambitious for that. He was trained as a Sith Lord and that’s what he wants to be… But the revenge that Maul wants starts out very straightforward — I’ll lock lightsabers with Obi-Wan Kenobi! — but then it becomes a lot more complicated. Simple revenge isn’t good enough. It’s gotta be grand revenge, on a huge scale, and the galaxy’s going to know about it.

Some of Darth Maul’s past may point to what he may do in Season Five. At the end of Season Three when they telegraphed the return of Darth Maul, my initial thought was that Maul and Opress would combine with Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters to form another base of power in the galaxy to throw a wrench in Sidious’ plans.  In Season Four we saw the Nightsisters (except for Mother Talzin) wiped out by General Grievous and his droid army, so this potential power base has been removed from Maul.  There is another possibility that Scholastic may be hinting at in their book description however.

In 2000 Dark Horse Comics published Star Wars: Darth Maul, a comic series about Maul’s mission to decapitate the Black Sun criminal organization’s leadership.  Black Sun was the entity created by Steve Perry for Shadows of the Empire with Prince Xizor at its head.  Maul: “Do you wish Black Sun destroyed utterly?”Sidious: “No. One day it might prove useful to me, For now it must be thrown into disarray so it cannot threaten our designs.” In Black Sun we have an as yet unexplored base of power, thrown into disarray by Maul’s slaughter of the Vigos, Black Sun may be ripe for Maul to assert control over the organization.  While we have seen criminals, smugglers and bounty hunters explored in TCW series we have yet to see Black Sun appear on the show in any form.  If Maul is going to be rallying the “criminal underworld to his cause,” what better place to start then Black Sun?  By uniting Black Sun and other criminal operations under his control, Maul has the opportunity make a much bigger impact in the galaxy. It may be that Black Sun and the criminal underworld was a backup plan for Sidious, an external threat he could use to justify centralizing more power or more military buildup if the Separatist plan didn’t work correctly or was cut short by the premature death or capture of Dooku and Grievous.

In Revenge we see that Maul knew about the Grand Plan and the planned Clone Wars when he sighs and says “Oh yes, so it began without me.”  If Maul knew about the backup plan then perhaps he knew about other back up plans or could at least extrapolate based on Sidious comments what his intentions might be.  In a very in depth interview on The ForceCast, Sam Witwer discusses just how smart Maul is and how much  he would have learned as the apprentice of Sidious.  There is a nice symmetry to the idea that Maul who was found in the trash on Lotho Minor, could rise to power again atop a heap of criminal trash and villainy.  King of the Underworld may not be as good as Galactic Emperor, but it’s better than nothing.

As Darth Plagueis said, “You must begin by gaining power over yourself; then another, then a group, an order, a world, a species, a group of species… finally, the galaxy itself.”  In Revenge we saw Maul gain power over himself through his healing, in Season Five we could see him gain power over another in Savage and possibly over a group in the attracting the criminal underworld to his banner.

~ Peter Morrison

The Clone Wars: Bounty – SWR #35

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Welcome back to the Star Wars Report!

This episode is a The Clone Wars news and discussion special!

We are excited (as most are), and eagerly await, for the next episode of The Clone Wars, with the return of Darth Maul, voiced by Star Wars fan and actor Sam Witwer! Woot!

We also talk a bit about Dengar!

This episode of the Star Wars Report is brought to you by Toy Hutt!

This time we look at a Star Wars Saga, Executor edition, Dengar!

Our primary focus on this episode though was discussion of The Clone Wars episode “Bounty”! We all really enjoyed this episode, particularly the progression of Asajj Ventress’ character.

Hope you enjoy this episode of the Star Wars Report, and remember, many Bothans died to bring you this podcast!

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Forum:       www.eucantina.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1233

 

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!

-Ryan

 

Momma Ain’t Happy, Nobody Happy: Mother Talzin and The Clone Wars

In the past year we have been introduced to a major new player on the Dark Side stage, Nightsister Clan Mother and Shaman Mother Talzin.  First introduced in last season’s three-part The Clone Wars story arc, dubbed “The Nightsisters Trilogy,” Talzin has gone on to appear in some recent Expanded Universe works, most recently in Dan Wallace’s Book of Sith.  As we get ready for Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters of Dathomir to return to The Clone Wars, lets take a look at what we have learned about Mother Talzin, her clan, and how they are connected with the rest of continuity.

In The Clone Wars we are introduced to Mother Talzin in episodes 3.12-3.14: “Nightsisters,” “Monster,” and “Witches of the Mist.”  Along with all the continuity changes that take place with Dathomir and the back story for Asajj Ventress and Darth Maul, we are introduced to a clan of dark Magick using witches referred to as the Nightsisters.  The Nightsisters were first introduced by Dave Wolverton in his Bantam era novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia.  Lucas and his Clone Wars team combined the concept of the Nightsisters and some Sith Witch concept art from the prequel films to create the look of the Nightsisters for the show and their leader Mother Talzin.

The clear attempts by the book licensee Del Rey to weave TCW into the novels has resulted in Mother Talzin has received passing reference in James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis novel, a larger role in Scholastic’s The Wrath of Darth Maul, as well as an entire section in becker&mayer!’s Book of Sith.

While Talzin’s reference in Darth Plagueis is more of the passing variety, her appearance in The Wrath of Darth Maul (Wrath) and her “writing” in the Book of Sith have direct impact on the story that will be featured in the concluding story arc of Season Four.  In Wrath, Talzin went to Orsis where Maul was being trained in combat to claim him as a Nightbrother and return him to Dathomir.  Talzin was prevented in this by the appearance of Sidious and she submitted to Sidious’ superior claim to Maul, but she did take a parting gift home with her.  On her way back to her vessel to leave, Talzin brushed an open wound of Maul’s with a talisman capturing his blood upon the magical object.  This talisman will become very important later on.

Also in Wrath we learn that somehow Maul survived his maiming on Naboo and fall down the reactor shaft only to awaken in a dank hole on Lotho Minor were he spent the next decade.  As of that book it was unrevealed if Maul had some mysterious benefactor that saved his life and got him from Naboo to Lotho Minor.  The Book of Sith may provide some answers in a few abilities of the Nightsisters that it described.

What if Maul actually died briefly on Naboo?  In the Book of Sith it lists the talismans that the Nightsisters possessed, one of these was the “Talisman of Resurrection” that allows them to return a spirit back to it’s body, the sooner this is done though the better shape the physical body will be in.  What if Mother Talzin arrived on Naboo just in time to use this talisman on Maul?  This poses the further question of how would she have known where and when to be to save Maul?  Well we know she already had the talisman with Maul’s blood on it that she could use to track him, but she also had the ability through divination and scrying to “view events occurring anywhere in the galaxy.”  This is the arability that she used when meeting with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to locate Savage Opress for them in “Witches of the Mist.”

So we now have an explanation of how Maul could have been returned from the dead as well as rescued by Mother Talzin.  But if Mother Talzin saved Maul, why not keep him on Dathomir?  Well the ability of divination allowed her to see multiple possible futures, perhaps she foresaw the return of Ventress and creation of Savage Opress and is playing out events according to her visions.  Leaving Maul in a safe and secluded place was the best option for her.  Leaving his mind broken also kept him from making any trouble.

We also learn that Mother Talzin is a bit of a charismatic leader, not only did she defeat Mother Zalem, but she unified warring Nightsister tribes into one coven and assumed the dual roles of Clan Mother and Shaman.

In Season Three we saw Mother Talzin exhibit a number of abilities, such as the ability to conjure a weapon from thin air for Savage Opress, to use the waters of life to heal Ventress’ body and mind, and to mesmerize Savage Opress.  Based on the waters of life ritual we know Talzin could have healed Maul’s mind and injuries following the events on Naboo, but she did not.

The biggest revelation regarding Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters is that they and she know about Mortis.  The Nightsisters spirituality is centered on two beings, the Winged Goddess and the Fanged God, who are depicted and described just like the Daughter and Son from Season Three’s Mortis Trilogy.  Mother Talzin believes that there is a spiritual realm and a physical realm, this Winged Goddess and Fanged God exist on the spiritual realm, but through their magicks the Nightsisters are able to bridge the gap between the two realms and tap into the power granted by the Goddess and the God. In fact she claims that she experienced a near death experience that brought about her connection to the spirit realm, and it is this through this connection that “the spirits pull upon the folds of my robe as I walk and echo beneath my voice when I speak.” (Book of Sith pg. 100)

The Book of Sith goes into great detail listing other abilities and aspects of the Nightsisters’ culture that will undoubtedly show up in The Clone Wars at a future point, but it is clear from our examination that Mother Talzin has some very strong powers and some very curious connections with the Force wielders of Mortis.  In appearance they are rather similar to the Son in particular.

The question becomes, what is Mother Talzin’s role in the saga and what are her real goals during the Clone Wars?  If I may speculate, I believe she is trying to cultivate a trio of instruments by which she can rule the galaxy.  Perhaps her goal is to position Maul, Opress and Ventress so that all three are under her influence and control.  One of the interesting features of the Book of Sith is that Ventress commented in the margins of Mother Talzin’s writing, the tone of her comments makes me think she at some point grew disillusioned with Talzin and ends up either trying to usurp Talzin’s position or leaving the Nightsisters all together.

The future is always in motion, but one thing is for sure, Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters are playing a much more central role in the Clone Wars era then we ever thought they would be.

~ Peter