My thoughts on Obi-wan Kenobi

Hey folks,

It’s been a while. A long while in fact. My last post to actually hit the site, visible to all, was way back at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic hit. I, thankfully and obviously, survived and if you’re reading this, you did too. I’m thankful for that, and I hope you’re doing well! My life, like most, has gone through changes and I’ve adapted as best I could but things are pretty much stable for me, and I’ve been busy, as always, and haven’t had much time to put towards things like this.

Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I just binge watched Obi-wan Kenobi and I thought I’d share a few thoughts on it.

First of all, I think it was worth the wait! I really enjoyed it overall though it went in a completely different direction than I thought it would… I was expecting that it, the first season at least, might be based on the novel that came out on the character a few years ago, that also took place in the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. While that wasn’t the case, I wasn’t disappointed in what we did get, not significantly at any rate. It makes sense that Vader would continue to pursue Kenobi, and with the existence of the Sith Inquisitors in the various animated series and comics (along with the Emperor’s Hands in the Expanded Universe), it’s fitting that we finally get to see them in action.

But the show isn’t without some controversy and anger. There’s been a lot of anger at the fact that Leia has been “recast,” and I’ve heard a number of people talking about how bad the Third Sister/Reva’s acting is. To address the former, to be painfully blunt and insensitive, Carrie Fisher is dead and even if she wasn’t, we never saw Leia at age 10 before so they would’ve had to cast a different actress to portray her anyway. Get over it. Even if they recast her at an older age, if you want Star Wars content that is going to involve the character, Leia, you’re going to have to get used to the idea of a different actress portraying her or have her resurrected through computer imagery. Pick your poison.

As for the Third Sister… My problem with her had nothing to do with Moses Ingram’s acting. It wasn’t always perfect or what I wanted it to be, nor did I particularly like the character, but she was fine. My problem was the overly excessive CGI parkour sequence(s) in the show. The animation on those was just plain terrible, in my opinion, and were completely unnecessary since they accomplished absolutely nothing. If they had gotten her to where she wanted to go or needed to be within a reasonable timespan or in time to act on what led her there, I’d be fine with it but they didn’t and were pointless. So, cut them.

Perhaps the biggest nits to be picked about the series are more or less matters of perspective and character memory. For example, if Luke and Leia had been in jeopardy as depicted in the series before A New Hope, there almost certainly would’ve been some mention of it before now. This sort of adventure is in keeping with the life of a Jedi, especially a master, so I could see Obi-wan not remembering it, but for a child, especially one raised as a moisture farmer on Tatooine, being chased down by a crazy lady with a red laser sword would be a life changing event! He’d probably be in therapy for years after that, and he’d certainly wonder “why me?” Leia would likely have a plausible reason: princesses are high profile targets, so you could expect one or two kidnapping or murder attempts before she joined the imperial Senate, but she figured it out on her own. Well… Partially, anyway. This is one of the problems inherent with making content that takes place before earlier content, especially when that involves something that is old and very well known and loved like the original Star Wars film; you open a can of worms that makes things incongruous… Anomalies that stand out and can’t easily be explained.

Some anomalies can be explained, however. As my girlfriend and I discussed the series after completing it, she felt that it broke continuity with A New Hope because Vader says something to the effect of “when I left you I was but the learner, now I am the master.” She felt that this meant that the last time they saw one another was at the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. In my opinion, it doesn’t imply anything other than “you were once my master, now I’m better than you.” To me, that means that there could be any number of encounters between the two in the future motion pictures, comics, or books between this point in Obi-wan and A New Hope, though I would think that their last encounter between the two would lead Vader to suspect Kenobi has died.

Going back to Third Sister/Reva, I do have another issue involving her… Not so much her acting, but the apparent and obvious filler that was her interrogation of Leia. Aside from it’s purpose of filler during the episode, it really makes no sense. A 10 year old kid wouldn’t have any significant information about any plan to move Jedi from planet to planet to safety. At best, they might know what it is and what it’s for, maybe a few people involved (maybe even a leader), but certainly not detailed plans and destination. So the interrogation really makes little sense.

Another thing is that there are definitely some issues with ship scales… The series demonstrated smaller ships landing/docking on some larger ships, but the problem is that those smaller ships are of significant size relative to the larger ship and would take up a considerable amount of space inside, eliminating room for cargo, propulsion, life support, weapons, shield generators if so equipped and so on. This particularly bothered me in episode 4, towards the end, when the speeder lands aboard the escape ship. It’s one thing in video games: scale is often an issue in games, and there’s no need for operational equipment in a game. Granted, the same could be said for a ship in a movie or TV show, but there’s usually a stronger effort to get scale correct, but there appeared to be little of that in this series.

The tactics, on both sides, during the Imperial breach of the base was sketchy at best. The defenders had sealed the doors, and had time to setup barriers, other obstructions, and cover in the tunnel. Instead, they used what tiny amount of cover was already in the tunnel. When the doors finally opened, both sides made basically the same mistake, though I feel the Jedi friendly side made the bigger mistake overall. Thermal detonators… Generally a weapon used by the soldiers on the “good” side more so than the Imperials, thermal detonators should’ve been tossed in the direction of the Stormtroopers flooding into the tunnel, creating a mass casualty situation for them. The good guys, hiding behind proper cover, wouldn’t have been nearly as impacted as the Imperial forces. Similarly, the Imperials had the heavy gun/blaster already pointed at the door… Why didn’t they use it? A few shots from it as the Stormtroopers cautiously and intelligently advanced — providing covering fire for the heavy gun to reload — would’ve given the invaders the advantage they needed, even if the opposition had good cover.

One last thing off the top of my head… Stormtrooper armor is seriously garbage. I mean, this isn’t news, but Kenobi has shown exactly how shit it is. The armored troops get beaten up by unarmored individuals, drown, can’t see in the dark, and, as traditionally seen, can’t take the slightest hit from a blaster. What is the point of this armor exactly? It’s little more than a uniform designed to anonymize the rank and file soldiers. The Empire’s armed forces need to union up and demand better equipment!

All that said, I really did enjoy the series and I’m looking forward to the next season, if it happens.

The Mandalorian: Full Circle

Due to a certain CGI Child, I probably don’t have to introduce you to The Mandalorian or explain what it’s about. I’ve read articles about how the show is a return to themes that Star Wars has always fundamentally been about, and that it’s more in keeping with the original trilogy than literally anything we’ve seen since, and how it’s pulled off the space Western idea, perhaps in a way that we haven’t seen since Firefly. But what I don’t see mentioned is the fact that The Mandalorian is really — especially in the fourth episode — getting back to Akira Kurosawa.

Buckle up, this is going to take a minute.

Unless you’re a film student, you probably are unaware that the original Star Wars — later referred to as Episode IV A New Hope — was based loosely on Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. The basic story is that two mercenaries escort a woman and man — ultimately revealed to be a princess and a general — across enemy territory… Sound familiar? In my book, Kurosawa is a genius and even though I knew nothing of him when I first saw Star Wars when I was a kid, I can see his influences all over Hollywood of the past and the present. That’s great and all but how does this connect to The Mandalorian?

This is where things get interesting.

Some of Kurosawa’s greatest works were inspired, not by history — at least not Japanese history — but by Western films. By Western films, I mean cowboys and Indians, not just films produced by Western cultures. Yojimbo and The Seven Samurai were both inspired by the Old West and how we saw it in films like John Ford’s Stagecoach starring John Wayne. Kurosawa was very fascinated with the juxtaposition of Old West with Old East (with samurai and their masterless cousins, ronin) that he almost had to make his own films with this concept. And he was very successful with them. So much so, that — in a fit of irony that’s so comical it had to come from Hollywood — Hollywood copied his works. Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, and Yojimbo became the series of Clint Eastwood films including The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

By now, if you’ve seen these films, and see where I’m going, you should understand that The Mandalorian isn’t taking Star Wars to the Old West, as some assert, but taking it back to the Old West by way of the Old East. With the original Star Wars being based on The Hidden Fortress, and The Mandalorian clearly drawing on both Yojimbo and, especially in episode 4, Seven Samurai, all that’s missing from Jon Favreau is a special thanks shout out to Akira Kurosawa.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to suggest that Favreau is ripping off anyone. He’s done an amazing job of recreating the feel of the original trilogy, referencing a lot of deep lore, and painstakingly created something everyone can love. But it’s important when talking about returning to traditional Star Wars themes that you take it all the way, and not just half ass it by saying that Star Wars has been taken to the Old West. It was already there, Star Wars simply went full circle back to where it began.

The Gospel of Luke’s Plan

Yesterday, I read Mike Ryan’s article, We Date You to Explain Luke’s Plan to Rescue Han in ‘Return Of the Jedi’, and immediately thought: challenge accepted! So here we are. For the tiniest bit of background on me before I get started, just so no one has to go digging through the rest of this site: I’m a reader, writer, programmer, gamer, and rabid Star Wars and Star Trek fan and have read in excess of 80 books of the former before they were disavowed by Disney.


Luke’s plan didn’t anticipate much of what happened within Jabba’s palace, but was a multi-tiered, fault tolerant plan with contingencies and unmentioned assistance. But read on for the full explanation.

The Simplest Explanation

The simplest and most dull explanation is that Luke, using the Force, saw much or all of the rescue in a vision, particularly the outcome. This would mean that Luke only had to know how it all ended and then work out how to get all of his Team Skywalker players into position. This is also most likely the path that Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, and Rick Kerb took to resolving the Solo subplot; start at the resolution and work backwards in time placing characters’ entrances in a staggered pattern with various purposes as their roles in the “master plan.”

So in all likelihood, even with the Force vision explanation, the plan really didn’t have to be sound or even really make a lot of sense as Luke and the filmmakers knew it would work.

That said…

My Thoughts on the Plan

Without bringing a Force vision (deus ex machina) into play, according to lore I’ve acquired over the last 35 years, there’s a lot more going on in the Jedi opening than what’s been presented on-screen. Some of this knowledge is from the various novels I’ve read, some from comics and various Star Wars games over the decades, some from discussions with friends who acquired it from God knows where. Some of this will undoubtedly have been considered canon prior to the New Disney Order, some may have only been rumor. At this point, with all the things I’ve been exposed to related to Star Wars, the only way to back up some of this stuff would be to go digging through my books and write a full on research paper which I’m not interested in doing at this time. Given my bachelor’s degree is in film analysis, I probably will end up writing that paper, but for the moment…

Things that you need to know that aren’t expressly stated in the opening of Return of the Jedi:

  1. Jedi takes place roughly 1 year after the events at Bespin.
  2. The Rebel Alliance infiltrated Jabba’s palace.
  3. Luke spent more time training and developing his Jedi skills with Yoda.

Some of this is just common sense inferral… We know, for instance, that Luke had to have gone back to Yoda to complete his training prior to the grand master’s death because Luke constructed a new lightsaber. I believe the original novelization of Jedi —originally entitled “Revenge of the Jedi” in paperback, magazine style format — noted that the film too place after a year of chasing Boba Fett around the galaxy trying to rescue Han prior to his arrival at Jabba’s palace. I’ll concede again that I’m not 100% sure that I got the source right, but I’m more than 99% sure that this was canon.

The fact that Jedi took place so long after Han’s entombment gave our heroes plenty of time to prepare. Before you get started with it, it was common knowledge among them that Fett was going to take him to Jabba. After all, Han had been complaining about owing the Hutt a large debt since Tatooine. So the destination was never in question.

Now, how do we know a significant amount of time has passed? The biggest two clues are that the gang suddenly knew Lando well enough to trust him and, more importantly, Luke had constructed a new lightsaber. Let’s start with Lando…

Empire introduced Lando out of no where as an old friend and rival of Han’s. Some of the lore makes them out as having been childhood friends, theoretically growing up on Corellia together. Other lore seems to indicate they met gambling or smuggling or during other shady activities, some of which seem to be indicated in the upcoming spin-off film. What’s certain, however, it’s from the moment the Falcon touched down in Bespin, the gang was nervous about Lando, Han going as far as saying, “Of course I don’t trust him, he is my friend!” So after Lando sold them out to Vader and the Empire, how could Jedi possibly pick up immediately after Empire with Luke and the others trusting Lando enough for him to be in a crucial position during their final rescue attempt? The answer is they wouldn’t, unless they knew him better. Ergo, some significant amount of time has passed.

The second clue is something you never really think about until you consider the film very closely. If Jedi picks up right after Empire, when did Luke build his new lightsaber? You could say that he learned while he trained with Yoda during Empire, but he had no need: he had his father’s lightsaber. Vader later comments to Luke that he’s “constructed a new lightsaber” and that his “skills are complete.” This implies additional training had taken place off screen, because Luke surely didn’t have time onscreen to learn these things. Mastering the subtle control over the Force to construct a lightsaber is time consuming and is considered one of the final steps in achieving the rank of Jedi Knight. (Just because the Sith are passionate and generally blunt in much of what they do doesn’t make them incapable of subtlety.) This all points to Luke returning to Dagobah to continue his training under Yoda. What the remaining lessons besides constructing a new weapon were remains a mystery, though some books have indicated that Ben and Yoda only trained Luke in what he needed to defeat Vader and the Emperor. He was occasionally referred to as a weapon that they used to defeat the two Sith lords, and that he was taught what he needed to become a complete Jedi afterwards. But that’s all besides the point: Luke spent some time during the Fett Chase to get fully into the Jedi game.

My other point listed above was that the Rebel Alliance infiltrated Jabba’s palace. As much as I love Lando, by the time we meet him, he’s no longer fit to be the scoundrel that Han had once hung out with and made him out to be. He was a rich businessman by the time we meet him, though I’ll admit that he’s still very much a shady character. (By the way, his initial harsh greeting to Han was an attempt to warn him away, but when it failed, he committed to Vader’s plan.) That said, there’s no way that he would’ve had the contacts to quietly become a member of Jabba’s staff without help, and the lore I’ve heard indicated that there were Rebel spies throughout Jabba’s palace. In fact, I’ve heard that the Twi’lek dancer that Jabba drops into the rancor pit was one of them. I admit that my claim that Lando wouldn’t have had the contacts is a bit tenuous; Bespin mined tibana gas, which is used in the blasters and turbo-lasers of pretty much everyone in the Star Wars galaxy, and Lando was selling to both legal and illegal purveyors of the gas. So he might have had some contacts, but I would think that anyone that he had contact with would’ve been known to Jabba, and Jabba certainly would’ve heard of Lando. So Lando had to go in with a false identity, without using his own influence, and I would say that would’ve taken a great deal of time to get into a position where he had access to prisoners, Jabba’s throne room, and sail barge. He had to have help. Perhaps it started with a couple of Rebel spies bribing some low ranking members of Jabba’s gang to get themselves into the gang. Perhaps there were a few members of the Rebellion that were already members of the gang. (Another fact: the Rebel Alliance and New Republic — in the Expanded Universe/Legends books at least — had long had an association with the criminal element of the galaxy as they were frequently common allies against the Empire. When the Rebels went legit after Jedi, they kind of toned down relationship and didn’t look the other way quite as much, but they never fully cut ties to the pirates and smugglers that made up a significant portion of their ranks at one point.) Regardless of how many spies there were in Jabba’s organization, they succeeded in getting Lando into position, and I think they would’ve played more roles had Luke’s plans gone differently.

Now, on to the nitty gritty…

The Droids

Luke absolutely would’ve sacrificed the droids to Jabba if the Hutt had agreed to free Han for them. There’s no doubt in my mind. Artoo and Threepio were dear friends to him and the gang, but they were property first and foremost. Some of the EU books had a strong undercurrent of just how droids were treated in the Star Wars universe, and while these two in particular were well treated and cared for, they were still just machines and Han clearly meant much more to Luke and the others than the droids did. I don’t really think that would’ve been the end of the pair, mind you… It’s my belief that if Jabba had taken the deal, the Rebel spies within his organization, including Lando, would’ve stolen the pair on the way out… Much like lifting office supplies from an employer when you quit. Not that I’ve ever done such a thing… I have no evidence to back this up, but that seems logical to me. Jabba had plenty of droids, and plenty of staff; I think he would’ve missed the staff that suddenly departed after a hypothetical bargain than he would’ve the pair of droids that he got in the deal. And if he did miss the droids, then all he’d probably do is set a bounty on Luke’s head just like he had with Han. I have serious doubts that Luke would’ve felt bad about receiving stolen property (his own droids) liberated from a major criminal; just because Luke is on the light side of the Force, and our story’s hero, doesn’t mean he isn’t practical or a law abiding citizen.

From Luke’s own words in his projected speech to Jabba, he offered the droids as a gift regardless of whether the bargain was accepted, meaning that he really didn’t expect a pair of droids to be worth Han’s life and so this part of the plan was just getting Artoo into position.

Chewie and Leia

This part of the plan is a bit more interesting. It’s my assessment that this was purely about putting Chewie, Leia, and Han into position for the grand finale of the rescue, however, there are things that really stand out that I want to draw attention to that were not taken into account in Mike Ryan’s post.

  • Why wasn’t Chewie cuffed?
  • Where was Leia/Boushh when Jabba and crew supposedly called it a day?
  • Why did Leia/Boushh make so much noise while entering and freeing Han?
  • Why didn’t Leia/Boushh see Jabba and the others behind the thin curtain?
  • Why did Jabba and gang happen to be awake and waiting on Leia/Boushh?
  • Why did Jabba allow Leia/Boushh free Han from the carbonite?

The big Boushh-Chewbacca entrance is somewhat epic: a few blaster hits just off screen and a body flying into scene. But if you look closely, you can see Chewie’s arm coming down after the body starts flying. Why, if Chewie is a prisoner, is he not cuffed? There’s reason to believe that he may have made some pledge to never be cuffed again; he’s almost willing to hurt Luke in A New Hope when the farmboy went to put them on for his plan. Lore has it that Chewie and other Wookiees were slaves when Han found and freed them, at which point the life-debt was established; I guess we’ll see if that becomes canon (a second time) in a few months. So, from that perspective I can understand Leia/Boushh not forcing the issue. Instead, she led him in with a leash and collar that didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted. I don’t care what your reputation as a bounty hunter may be, that collar isn’t enough for a Wookiee, even a runt like Chewbacca. Jabba and crew should’ve been highly suspicious. And perhaps they were.

Another interesting point is that while Boushh negotiated for a bounty for Chewie, this is the first time we hear about such a bounty for the Wookiee. Han freely and repeatedly mentions the bounty on his head, but nothing is ever said about Chewie until now. Think about it: do you really think that Boba Fett would’ve left Bespin with Han alone when he could have received two bounties by bringing in Chewie too? There literally wouldn’t have been any extra work since Chewie had been captured too. What would Vader want with the Wookiee? Yes, he tells Lando to “take the Wookiee and the princess to my ship” but for what purpose? Leia makes sense, she was a traitor and a valuable Rebel leader that had thwarted him in the past, but he had no reason to believe that Chewie was worth keeping. So, why wouldn’t he let Boba Fett take him as well if there was a bounty on his head?

Simple. The bounty was a MacGuffin made up for Jedi, though you could canonize it by simply saying that Chewie was a bonus bounty on Han’s larger bounty. Still, though, I can’t imagine Fett just walking away from easy money. So this brings me back to Rebel infiltrators: perhaps they convinced Jabba to put a bounty on Chewie’s head to give Leia/Boushh and Chewbacca an “in” for the plan. I also admit that it’s possible that in that time between films, Chewie may have made such trouble for Jabba that a bounty was indeed placed on his head, though I think the Wookiee is much more of a team player than that.

So getting past the bounty, at some point Leia/Boushh leaves the general party and good time in Jabba’s throne room, and effectively disappears for uncounted and unknowable time only to return noisily to rescue Han. This particular scene has always been a bit troublesome for me. First she bangs until some wind chimes in the doorway. Then she makes her way across the room, wearing a helmet probably equipped with as much data collection sensory as Boba Fett’s own while still missing Jabba and the gang behind a thin curtain. Lowers Han’s entombed body to the floor with a loud bang, and the releases him, only to be surprised when Jabba starts laughing.

Assuming that the goal was to free Han and escape at that point, then Leia is doing a terrible job, and is making every rookie mistake in the book. Leia is only human, but she’s not that incompetent. I’ll give her a pass on the chimes — it was dark, they would’ve been room temperature so would have been difficult to see on a thermal imaging scan, maybe infrared as well, and they were hanging so that just a few of them were at head height. In reality, that may have been a completely goofed up entrance that they thought added character and left in as a result; visibility in that helmet had to have been terrible. I’ll also give a slight pass on the initial landing of Han’s carbonite slab; there’s no way Leia would or could have known how much noise it would make when it hit, still it seemed to drop to the floor way too fast. Then, of course, it hit the wall behind it as it settled. If Leia were trying to make a stealthy exit with Han, she failed completely at this point because she could easily have used the controls while he was still hanging on the wall to free him. There’s no excuse for missing Jabba & Pals; she should have seen them.

And maybe she did. Like I said, if she was trying to make a stealthy exit, she utterly failed, but if the plan was to make Han significantly more mobile, then the plan was a clear success. Even blind, a thawed and conscious Han is far more mobile than Side-of-Beef-Han with or without the hover-sled he’d been on in Bespin. My guess is that Luke’s plan was for Leia to merely free Han, and to take any opportunity to escape that presented itself, otherwise hang out and wait for the third tier of the plan, Luke’s entrance.

This explains why Chewie was “sacrificed”: he was moved into position, the dungeons where Han almost certainly would be moved after being released from the carbonite. How could they guarantee they’d end up in the same cell? The Rebel infiltrators, including Lando, would be in charge of moving prisoners around and could easily arrange for the partners to share a cell. Chewie and Han would hang out waiting for Luke’s part of the plan to succeed or fail.

I think the only part of Leia’s part that wasn’t anticipated was her being chained to Jabba’s dais; I think they probably expected her to be moved to the dungeons as well, but the earlier execution of the Twi’lek opened up the spot for the princess to be degraded and put on display for Jabba’s pleasure.

This all leads me to believe that Jabba was tipped off, most likely per Luke’s plan. Again, mainly for positioning the players. I think Team Skywalker would’ve been fine if it worked as it seemed to be planned, but I think this failure was all part of the real plan. The fact that Jabba and a dozen of his goons were still present and awake when Leia made her entrance and freed Han, and remained utterly silent while that happened seems way too coincidental. The only answer is that Jabba was tipped off by someone that this was a rescue attempt. It could be that Jabba was intelligent enough to put the pieces together but I don’t think he was that smart personally. It makes much more sense that one of the Rebel spies tipped off the rescue attempt and urged a public execution rather than a hail of blaster bolts to ensure a more orderly and less elaborate escape plan or to enable Luke’s phase of the plan. Otherwise, Leia and Han would’ve been dead before the latter fell free of the carbonite: Jabba was not known for his patience or mercy.

About Luke

Luke’s part of the plan was probably the most critical, though it had the most risk. Luke’s part had three goals:

  1. Negotiate the release of everyone, using the Force if necessary.
  2. Assassinate Jabba.
  3. Get captured for the last ditch escape effort.

Having received additional training from Yoda and feeling cocky despite himself, Luke’s part in the plan was undoubtedly — in his mind — the part with the highest chance of success. This is evident in his solitary entrance, the Force choking of the guards, the domination of Bib Fortuna, and his attempted domination of Jabba himself. Being the newest Jedi with a host of new skills he was eager to test out, Luke’s arrogance didn’t quite anticipate Jabba’s resistance. Luke had only been told by Obiwan that “the Force can have a strong influence on the weak minded”, not that some species are immune to the power. So Luke had to try it, because if it worked, he and friends could just walk right out of the palace without firing a shot.

But it didn’t work, so Luke moved on to plan B: assassinate Jabba right there in the throne room. Using the Force, he summoned a blaster to his hand and went for a shot on the Hutt before dropping into the rancor pit. I hadn’t thought about it until recently, but why didn’t Luke use a lightsaber instead? I mean, yeah, we know that he’d hidden a newly built lightsaber in Artoo, but why didn’t he construct two lightsabers in advance, one to have on him in Jabba’s throne room and one for the last ditch effort? Perhaps he could only come up with one Khyber crystal, or maybe he didn’t think that far in advance. Maybe it was so Jabba and the gang wouldn’t expect to fight against a lightsaber wielding Jedi later. I’m not sure, and I have never seen an explanation of this apparent oversight. Luke would’ve been hard-pressed to deflect blaster bolts from so many sources, but he would’ve been much more likely to have killed Jabba in this throne room than with the blaster. Nonetheless, you make every plan with contingencies, and while he probably didn’t anticipate a fight with the rancor — where a lightsaber would’ve been supremely useful — he probably did anticipate being captured and publicly executed.

Why the public execution? Luke lived on Tatooine most of his life by this point, and Jabba wasn’t exactly hiding from the authorities, so it’s probably a fact that the Hutt’s favorite type of punishment was public execution in a sarlacc pit, and kids growing up on that works were probably told tales of being fed to it deliberately to scare them into behaving. Again, Rebel spies might have influenced this outcome, and though we don’t see them in the ensuing battle that ended this part of the film, it’s my belief that they were there and doing their part. I think this because the sail barge was easily large enough to carry several hundred people, no matter how good our small cadre of heroes is, they’re no match for several hundred of Jabba’s thugs, or even several dozen, and Jabba would’ve wanted as many people to witness his gruesome punishment as possible. Yes, Leia smashed the controls to the window seats but that didn’t prevent anyone from opening them individually and firing out. There was no rush of troops to the top deck to blow the heros on the skiff away; something had to be delaying them. What would prevent them from doing so? A fire fight inside the barge with even a small small opposition force located at key locations. More indirect evidence: who tried to stop or kill Leia when she was busy choking the Hutt to death? She was alone, unarmed, and out in the open for an easy kill shot but not one came her way from any of the thugs aboard. Can you imagine the reward Jabba would’ve paid to someone that saved his life in that moment?

So all this is to say there was a lot more going on in these scenes than we were shown. The simple things we were shown we’re good enough to get the point across, Luke had a plan, it didn’t go exactly as expected but it worked. But as with the absence of sound, it’s sometimes there absence of something in a scene that gives us a bigger idea of what’s going on.

Finally, just for giggles, a bonus for those that haven’t read the books, Luke had nightmares about the sail barge part of the plan going wrong some years after the fall of Jabba and the death of the Emperor. In Tomorrow Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, Luke kept dreaming that his lightsaber flew not to his hand, but to the hand of a red headed woman standing on the deck of Jabba’s barge as she started down at him. This woman was Mara Jade (later Mara Jade Skywalker), the Emperor’s Hand.

In The End

So, while I think I have answered the question thoroughly with my explanation here, and I honestly do believe that most of this is how it went down behind the scenes given all that I’ve heard and read over the years, the simplest explanation really is that Luke saw the vast majority of it in a Force vision, and just had to tell the individuals how to get into position. That means he didn’t have to have an answer to everything, just had to have certain goals met to end up in the position that the team did.

I’m not the only one…

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world that feels a particular way about a particular thing. Sometimes I can’t even tell you why I feel like i do. I just do.
But with regards to Star Wars, I am most certainly not alone. It has meant the world to me since I was a kid, from the first time I saw it until now. While I have suffered many disappointments in life, it was almost never in relation to the Star Wars universe.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read in excess of 50 Star Wars books (probably closer to 100 or more) over the years, and I credit the existence of the Expanded Universe with keeping Star Wars alive between the original trilogy and the prequels.
While I don’t like that Disney effectively killed the Expanded Universe, as a writer I can understand why they did it: they have the opportunity to tell new stories without having to lug around the history and baggage of literally decades worth of history and attempting to build something consistent with it.
That said, there was so much history in the EU that Disney didn’t even have to bat an eye to have dozens of waiting films if they literally made each book or story into its own film. I didn’t expect The Force Awakens to be The New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force, but as I’ve said before, there’s no reason it couldn’t have lived aside then.
In this, I’ve felt alone. Only a couple friends of mine have felt the same way. But,  today I’ve discovered that I’m not alone.
Give Us Legends” isn’t asking Disney to ignore the new direction of the franchise, but asking that they allow the old direction to live on. There were many storylines that began before the Disney purchase of LucasFilm that have simply died and gone unresolved since the purchase because no new Legends/EU books are being produced, only official canon material in the new direction.
I think it would be an absolute shame to never find out what happens to the Skywalker-Solo clan after Fate of the Jedi, and I’m now sure many others think the same.

So, I Didn’t Hate It…

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was not a part of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens record breaking opening though I did see the film today. I liked it. Like, in fact, isn’t a strong enough word; I was impressed with it. Enough, in fact to see it twice today. This is the first time ever that I’ve paid to see the same movie twice in theaters on the same day. (Albeit, once was in IMAX and the other wasn’t, though both were in 3D.)
My summary is that it was a very enjoyable film and I found no major issues with it. A friend nitpicked a particular point where the Resistance didn’t attack some First Order ships, to which I countered the First Order was kind enough to not attack the Millennium Falcon despite the precedence they set earlier in the film. Nonetheless, that was the only item I think is really worth considering a possible flaw.
There is the presumed death of a major character that I think is worth discussing. Contrary to my normal spoiler laden attitude, I’m going to avoid specifics, but this particular character dies in a fashion that leaves room for debate as to whether he or she is actually dead. The thing is, even though we see the attack that leads to the presumption of death, we don’t see the final disposition of the body and there are two objects at the location that could be escape vehicles. In film, the presumption of death is but actual death; usually the body has to be seen laying dead with on screen to be actual death. Given the actor’s health and age, I think that the character may have actually died despite what I’m saying here, but there’s a chance, however slight the odds, that he or she might have lived. To quote Han Solo, “never tell me the odds”, usually because they can be beaten.
Now to the heart of this post… As much as I enjoyed the film, as good as I thought it was, there was no need it necessity to invalidate all of the expanded universe comics and novels. No need at all. With some relatively minor changes to the movie we got, the film could’ve been consistent with the novels leading up to and including the Fate of the Jedi series of novels without destroying the plot. You could make the argument that FotJ is built on 20+ actual years covering 30+ book years and thus too much baggage to carry into the new trilogy, but then The Force Awakens and its new trilogy is reinventing those fictional 30 years from scratch, and still has to explain what happened. It could be argued that it was too much work to research and properly place all that lore in context in order to write the script, but for the bulk of the Star Wars fans, that lore has been Star Wars since the original run of Jedi ended decades ago, and the effort to include and build on it would have been appreciated so much more than simply giving us a good film. Instead, there are a lot of rabid fans like myself that enjoyed this film, but are sitting on 30+ books that are now completely meaningless. I saw some Force Awakens books at Barnes and Noble, after the second time through, and I couldn’t even bear to read the synopsis because the new LucasFilm, the Disney LucasFilm, is willing to trample all over the memories, dreams and wallets of those that have helped this franchise not only live when there was no hope for new films, but thrive! I can’t abide that by purchasing books or merchandise that would give the impression that I find that forgivable. I just can’t.
Many, many years ago, I accepted that there would be no films beyond the original trilogy. Then Timothy Zahn wrote the Thrawn trilogy (as I call it; Heir to the Empire and its sequels) and I had hope that one day there would be more books and maybe a new film. Lucas then promised the prequels and made them; they weren’t perfect, but I mostly enjoyed them. The books were still there and the films were working in concert with the books; virtually nothing contradicted anything else in the films or the books. The books advanced over 30 years while expanding the events and scale of the characters and conflicts. They delighted and amazed, bringing joy and sorrow and we were thankful for them. Then in one fell swoop, it was all rendered obsolete in favor of the new regime. How can I support that?
I don’t blame J.J. Abrams for it; it probably wasn’t his call or even within the scope of his power or influence though he did build upon the new ground that paved over the Expanded Universe, its creators and writers, and its fans. But I sincerely feel that someone owes those creators, writers, and fans a sincere apology for the loss of both time and money by this abandonment. I think until there is such an apology, there will always be a rift between those of us that supported the Star Wars franchise in the years between the original trilogy and the prequels, between the prequels and the new era, and the new direction of the mythos. There’ll be an open wound that just won’t heal with time.

Or Is Disney Pulling Revisionist Tricks?

Just the other day I was commenting on how I was beginning to be cautiously optimistic about the new Star Wars, but I may have spoken too soon. On, there’s an article called Star Wars Episode 7: Kylo Ren and the New Empire in which the author discusses the 20 or so new novels, comic books, etc., that are scheduled to be released to fill in the 30 year gap between Jedi and The Force Awakens. Why does this sound as if all the novels and comics that already exist in this period are simply being swept away? This sounds an awful lot like what Lucas was doing for the Clone Wars cartoon, making the Mandalorians pacifists.
I’m suddenly no longer optimistic.
It could be argued that all the expanded universe work (which has now been rebranded as “legends”) was never canon, that all of this new work will be. I’d be fine with that if Lucas had licensed everything then was hands off with the outcome all these years. But that’s not the case. When Timothy Zahn was writing Heir to the Empire way back in the early 90s, he wanted to use Obiwan’s clone in the role he named Joruus C’Baoth, but he said in an interview that “Lucas had other plans for him.” Later, when R.A. Salvatore was writing the inaugural novel in The New Jedi Order series, Vector Prime, he was explicitly told to kill off a major character by Lucas. The sometimes silly, sometimes convoluted plots of the game The Force Unleashed also lend credence to the Lucas is overseeing everything argument I’m making here. 20+ years of creativity does not get spawned and set free without some specific guiding force (oddly, no pun intended). The expanded universe was even blessed by references to some of it in the films, such as the presence at the pod races of Aurra Sing in the Phantom Menace. Therefore I would say that the expanded universe was as canon as the films, because even Lucas is contradicting himself. (“Always two, there are, a master and an apprentice” yet Count Dooku, Darth Maul, and Darth Sidious/Palpatine running around more or less at the same time; yeah, I know, Yoda could’ve been wrong.)

I don’t know… I just have a very bad feeling about this.

A New Star Wars

It’s been several months since the release of the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ve been relatively quiet about it. In fact, I’ve only talked it over with friends and family as I still wasn’t sure what to think of it, and I didn’t want to ramble on without having an opinion on it. It should be clear, by now, that I have a very emotional attachment to Star Wars; if not, take a bit of time to read my other posts:

Back? Great! By my rough estimate, I’ve read around 80 Star Wars books. My favorite author, for comparison’s sake, has written approximately 60 (including two Star Wars books), most of which I’ve read. So you might say, I am more fully invested in the Star Wars universe than any short of the one in which we live. I know its character very well, I know much of it’s legends and mythology, I have a feel for the ebb and flow of its stories despite the myriad authors that have taken turns at shaping it. Star Wars has always been very near and dear to my heart, and even as an adult, I wish I could stowaway on board the Falcon, or grab the controls of a X-Wing and make the jump to light speed to escape the realities of this world. I honestly think that if the opportunity to do so suddenly presented itself before I could finish writing this post, I’d be gone in an instant and never look back.

So ever since it was announced that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and would be producing new films, I’ve been dreading the outcome. Yes, I also saw it as an opportunity for the reduced Lucas influenced (LucasLite™) films to potentially get back to what we originally loved, but it’s also a great opportunity for them to ruin everything we (“I” really) ever loved about them. Given that I’ve liked much of J. J. Abrams’ work, I was (and still am) cautiously optimistic about the new main storyline films. I think there’s much to be hopeful about them, yet I can’t help but be nervous about them as well; after all, not everything that Abrams’ has touched has turned to gold nor have I loved all of his work.

That said, the trailer for The Force Awakens was released several months ago, and it looks amazing. The sound of the X-Wings give me chills, and while the radar dish on the Falcon has changed shape, the ship as whole does appear to be amazingly detailed and accurate enough to pass muster.

You of course know all this, and, by my own admission, I’m late to the party on writing about it. So why write about it now? After I finished my shift at work this evening, I wandered into the den to find my sister watching the Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition) on VHS. (Long story short, lets just say that due to a cable dispute and on-going renovations, her options for cinematic entertainment this evening were rather limited; my original non-SE VHS copies are inaccessible as are my DVDs.) Still, watching the Falcon maneuver and the X-Wings fly in formation to the Death Star… It gives me chills as much as it did 30 years ago, and the sound of those engines drew me back to the The Force Awakened trailer which faithfully recreated them.

There is still much to be nervous about with regards to this new film, and it’s still 9 months away from release, but I have to admit that I’m growing cautiously optimistic and excited about it.

Jedi Ruined Star Wars? WTF?!?!

I’m writing this post in response to a few of my fellow Cinema Studies majors wrote about on Facebook, How “Return of the Jedi” Ruined “Star Wars” Forever; forgive me for ranting and responding as if I was continuing an already in-progress conversation, because I am. As always, this is my two cents.

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There are some films that are so amazing that people continue to talk about them and be enamored by them years after they were no longer the focus of attention. As you can guess as a result of that statement and the title, I’m referring in this instance to the movie Serenity, the follow-up and conclusion to the even longer passed television series Firefly.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

When Firefly debuted, I refused to watch it because I was seriously pissed at Fox for canceling Dark Angel, especially the way they canceled it. So I didn’t watch it. Friday night would roll around and I’d watch something else, play a game, read a book, or go out with my wife. Then something odd happened.

On a particular Friday night, just before the end of the year, I decided to watch Firefly to know my enemy. And I liked it. Well, I liked it enough to decide to watch another episode, which would’ve been early in the new year. My luck being what it is, Fox canceled the series and never showed another episode.

Part of me was satisfied. Part of me was pissed.

Time went by and I thought little of Firefly during that time. Then one day, I heard that Joss Whedon had obtained permission to release the entire series on DVD ; at the time, this was quite rare and I thought it was pretty cool. But what got me on the Whedon bandwagon was that I figured he was going to use money earned through the sale of the Firefly series to help finance the movie Serenity. That, excuse the expression, took some balls! And a lot of dedication to fans, cast, and story. I still may not be a Joss Whedon fan per se, but I have a ton of respect for the man from that alone.

Without going into a description of the Firefly TV series or the plot of Serenity, let’s talk about why I love this film. (We’re skipping plot and storyline because the series and movie are both a number of years old now, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably already quite familiar with them.) First of all, there’s the cast. You should already be familiar with how I feel about Nathan Fillion, but suffice it to say I love the guy. Add a bit of sexual tension between him and Captain Reynolds’ love interest Inara, played by the drop dead gorgeous Morena Baccarin, and there’s enough to make the movie worth watching already. Zoe, played by Gina Torres, whose loyalties to her ship, captain, crew, and especially her husband makes her the perfect first officer in the very best traditions. (I really want to make a Star Wars comparison here but people would get the wrong idea. )

Alan Tudyk as Wash, the ship’s pilot, and occasional comic relief was awesome. I still think he got some of the best lines in the film. Joss if you’re reading this, I want you to know I borrowed one of those lines for a short story for a class recently! Tudyk was and is an awesome actor, and I was excited to see him in another Whedon show that was prematurely cut short by Fox: Dollhouse. I’m beginning to understand that I hate Fox about as much as I hate Siffie.

Kaylee, Kaylee, Kaylee. I’m not usually into gingers, but I’d make an exception for you. That is, if the lovely Jewel Staite weren’t married. Kaylee came to represent the heart of the series and movie, and was the motherly figure the show needed. But it was Shepherd Book that represented the soul.

While the show never preached any particular moral code, Ron Glass’ Book gave credence to some moral compass and opportunity foe redemption that each character in their own way needed. At the same time, there was a lot of unspoken backstory to Book that we never properly explored. My suspicion is that Book was a high ranking officer in Independents’ military and was granted special immunity by the Alliance at the end of the war. In fact, as I think about it, he may have been responsible for the end of the war, perhaps negotiating the surrender of the brown coats.

While I could cover all the rest of the characters in similar loving ways, I will mention by name just two more. The first is River Tam played by Summer Glau. Although she seems to be typecast to play weird roles, Summer seems to be a young actress with a lot of potential. (I say she’s being typecast because of her roles on the Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse.) Between her acting, grace, and physical agility, she’s proven to me she can do anything. When I write a female character into my stories that I want to be a total badass, I need only think of River Tam’s stand against the Reavers.

The final character I want to highlight is known only as the Operative. For years I sought a villain that was self aware and cognizant of his role, and that was never fulfilled prior to Firefly. I say and mean Firefly and not Serenity because the Operative was a rebirth and reimagining of the bounty hunter Jubal Early in the TV series. Again, we have a character that is supremely capable physically and mentally, that has fully embraced their role in the larger story, and that makes him unique and special in my book.

After all of this, you should see that the character development in the film and TV series really was quite special. The characters each play a specific role, but blend together to be an amazing ensemble. But I’m still not done.

You can’t talk about a science fiction movie without talking about the special effects. Although the special effects were nearly all done with blue screens and computer generated imagery as expected with the modern sci-fi films, they were well above average. In fact, I’d compare 2005’s Serenity with 2009’s Avatar favorably any day, and remember, James Cameron spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing the technology to film Avatar the way he felt it should be done. That kind of coup is on par with what George Lucas did back in the 70s with Star Wars: do amazing work years ahead of everyone else trying to do the same, and in particular do it on a budget and better than those later attempts. In my opinion, the only things that Avatar did in a superior fashion to any thing in Serenity were the floating mountains and the huge color palette.

I loved the variety of spacecraft in Serenity and their various states of repair or disrepair. Some of the funniest lines in the film, in fact, center on the title ship’s state of decay. “Stuff don’t fall off my ship”, Mal states at one point, and at another complains to Kaylee “You promised me that buffer panel would last two weeks!” To which she responds, “That was six months ago.”  Not to mention, slightly earlier, Wash’s response to Mal’s inquiry about landing without the buffer panel: “Oh god, oh god, we’re all going to die?” (Which, by the way, is the line I quoted in my short story.) Lots of awesomeness abounds. Hell, there’s something remarkable in Serenity that isn’t even significant to the storyline: when the crew goes to collect their pay for ripping off the bank at the start of the film, the ship is essentially grabbed out of mid-air by a docking arm, and brought to a birth. I’ve never seen anything even remotely close to as unique as that in either books or film.

In all honesty, I believe that Whedon’s Serenity should be considered among the best of modern science fiction films, and should be considered retroactively for an Oscar or two.

Mr. Lucas, Stop Tearing Down That Empire!

I’ve already confessed to being a major science fiction nut, so I don’t think I need to reiterate that fact. I profess and honestly commit to loving the Star Wars saga & universe as much as I love that of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, and Firefly/Serenity. These shows and films have kept me going when my life seemed unbearable, and they’ve given me much to shoot for in my own life and writing.

So, I’m feeling more than a little angry right now that I’ve discovered that the next book in Star Wars: Republic Commando series has not only been canceled, but the author, Karen Traviss, has been burned, and official Star Wars canon is being rewritten in favor of the Star Wars: Clone Wars PC, kid oriented stories.

Where to start? Where to start?

When Boba Fett was introduced in the Empire Strikes Back, everyone became awed by the Mandalorians, and their history was quickly written into the lore of the Star Wars universe. They were a war like people that had been long at odds with the Jedi, going all the way back to the to the great wars between the Sith and Jedi. So, needless to say, they were a major power. According to the the previously established storyline, at some point the Sith betrayed the Mandalorians and pretty much broke them as a power player in the galaxy. They didn’t, however, become pacifists as the current Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon has declared. Instead, they became mercenaries and assassins; the Mandalorians became some of the most feared and respected warriors in the galaxy. So much so that Palpatine, as Darth Sidious, used one of the best of them, Jango Fett, as the template for the army that he would use to first divide then control the galaxy.

That is how those of us that really know Star Wars have known it; not just from the films, but also from comic books, novels, histories and backstories given on toys, and even the Star Wars web site among other sources. Personally, I’ve read more than 30 Star Wars novels since Timothy Zahn practically single-handedly resurrected the world with Star Wars: Heir to the Empire twenty years ago. Even now, I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the Fate of the Jedi series, and it was my search to find the next book in that series that reminded me that I hadn’t seen or heard of the next book in the Republic Commando series that I was also reading. The last book, under the new series name Imperial Commando, was 501st chronicling some of the missions of Vader’s elite troops, and furthering the escape plans of some of the major characters from the prior books. I had purchased that book about a year ago, but I’ve been too busy with school to do a lot of reading over the last year, so I thought the next books in the series had just slipped past me. Until my search last night, that is…

When I discovered that the next Fate of the Jedi book, Conviction, wouldn’t be out for some months, I did a search for “Karen Traviss” and “Republic Commando” which lead me to this Wookieepedia article which states that the next book had been canceled. Reading through that article, I found a link at the bottom to Karen Traviss’ blog, and her post on the canceled book. While it is just one side of the story, it’s my gut feeling that it’s probably accurate. Even if I only had one reason, the revision to A New Hope making Greedo shoot first is evidence enough that George Lucas and LucasFilm aren’t shy about making a revisionist history of the Star Wars universe. I can tolerate the less roguish Han Solo. I love Ewoks. (Yes, I said it.) And despite the vast numbers of people that hate him, I’m cool with Jar Jar. But I really don’t know what in the hell they’re thinking by completely nullifying decades worth story telling within the universe, and undermining the work of the numerous authors that have told these stories on behalf of George Lucas and his companies.

Beyond Ms. Traviss and Mr. Zahn, star authors R. A. Salvatore, Troy Denning, James Luceno, and Aaron Allston have all written pivotal and significant portions of the Star Wars universe for Lucas. I know that Star Wars is Mr. Lucas’ child and puts a significant amount of money in his pocket every year, but why undermine the work of these fantastic authors, and alienate the millions of diehard fans like myself that spend fortunes on these books with a new canon history that completely contradicts everything we’ve been told for all these years…

This pisses me off almost as much as the Sci Fi channel becoming Siffie. Almost. I’m not going to go around shouting “‘F’ you Lucas!”, though I really wouldn’t blame all of these Star Authors if they chose to break their contracts with the publishers and Lucas over this kind of revisionist bullshit.