Leia Hugs Kylo, Overrated Jedi, and Who Cares About the OT?
I recently listened to one of my favorite Star Wars podcasts, straight out of the Sanctuary Moon, Bright Tree Radio with Phil and Soph. This particular episode was part of their Thought Bombs series and originally aired on June 30, 2017. In Thought Bombs, thought-provoking — sometimes hypothetical — questions are raised about the Star Wars Universe. The first edition discussed the following issues:
Does the Original Trilogy (OT) really matter to new fans?
What if Leia confronted Kylo Ren on Starkiller base instead Han?
Were the Jedi really all that great, or were they just part of the War Machine?
Disney has apparently found the magic solution to bring onboard new fans each and every day to Star Wars. You may have remembered a time as I do — sometime between 1983 and 1999 — where you would have done anything to get your hands on new material from the SWU. Now, however, Star Wars is everywhere. (I for one am fine with this.) We have the cartoons The Clone Wars, Rebels, and I’m definitely counting The Freemaker Adventures. We have the comic books like Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra. The number of canon books is also growing, including my favorites Bloodlines, Catalyst and Tarkin. With so much Star Wars material now at the fans’ fingertips, how much does the Original Trilogy actually matter to understanding the story?
When Phil and Soph originally posed this question, I thought to myself this is pretty cut-and-dry. Of course you need the OT to understand what Star Wars. I agree with Soph in that the OT, being the original creative masterpiece from George Lucas, is “the heartbeat of Star Wars.”
Then Soph asked, “What is your Star Wars?” This question gave me pause. So much so that I actually paused the podcast. It struck such a chord with me. She consolidated all the reasons I personally love this story into one succinct question. At first I felt a little guilty not thinking the OT was truly “required viewing” anymore, for as Phil pointed out, you don’t need to see Luke blow up the Death Star to enjoy the Darth Bane Trilogy. Or even to enjoy The Force Awakens, for that matter.
But that is what makes Star Wars so great. The movies are more than giant lasers, oversized starships, strange aliens, or even the Force. Star Wars means something uniquely different to each person who watches it. Ipride myself on knowing more about the movies than anyone I know, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. If a kid just watches The Freemaker Adventures, that is his Star Wars. If a little girl only watches Forces of Destiny on YouTube, that is her Star Wars. If you only like to read the Expanded Universe novels, that is your Star Wars.
That being said, don’t feel bad if your friends will not watch the OT with you; we’ve merely taken our first steps into a larger world.
“Now for something completely different!” What would have happened if Leia traveled to Starkiller Base and confronted Kylo Ren instead of Han Solo? First off, I can’t tell you how much I love “what if” questions. Nothing gets the brain going like wondering about alternate realities. I don’t want to spoil what Phil and Soph thought, so I’ll just give you my theory.
“Ben!” she cries out from the end of the platform, tears welling up in her eyes. He slowly approaches her, both the light side and the dark tugging at his very soul. “I’m sorry,” she says, softly.
“Why should you be sorry?” he asks defiantly. “It was Ben’s father-”
“Your father,” she pauses for a moment to let those words sink in, “is only human. And he is flawed,” Leia smiles dryly, “like the rest of us.” Kylo Ren’s mother begins to use the Force ever so gently to ensure her words get through to her son. So gently in fact that he cannot sense her using it. But it works. “But I am your mother. And I bear responsibility for everything bad that has happened to you.” The two both begin to cry. Together. “I let you go. I let you go train with Luke. I didn’t tell you sooner who your grandfather truly was — both good and bad — and I should have. I should have.”
“Let me finish. I withheld things from you. I didn’t always love you the way I should have. While I was busy with the Republic and now this Resistance, I let Snoke get to you. And I…am…sorry. But it’s not too late to make things right. You, me — together. We don’t need your father,” she says with a wink. “Come home with me, and help me make things right. Starting with us.”
Light escapes the room as Starkiller Base drains the remaining energy from the nearby sun as Leia and Ben silently turn to leave. Seeing Rey and Finn atop a towering platform, Leia motions to them victoriously and the four of them quickly make their way to the Millennium Falcon.
The group safely aboard moments before the planet’s destruction, Chewie makes the jump to hyperspace. BB-8 looks up quizzically at Leia and Ben sitting alone at the dejarik table. She grasps her son’s hands, kisses his forehead, and simply says, “Thank you.”
As it turns out, my thoughts on the last topic are vast enough to warrant their own topic, so we will save that for later. But to sum up: Phil is right, Soph sounds to me like a Jedi apologist, and the Jedi are responsible for their own downfall. The end.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of Bright Tree Radio’s Thought Bombs. This podcast is fun, entertaining, and like I said before, thought-provoking to say the least. I’ve included the link to this podcast above, and they can also be found on iTunes, twitter, Spreaker and on PodBean.
Let us know what you think! Share this article, leave a comment, and let’s continue the conversation on twitter @StarWarsChief. And as always, may the Force be with you.
A look at the Star Wars collectibles I found at Soda City Comic Con
Today I took my kids to the third annual Soda City Comic Con in Columbia, SC. The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center was the perfect locale for the occasion. The floor room was full of vendors selling art, jewelry, games, comic books, and of course what I went there for, toys. You grownups call them “collectibles,” I believe. I wanted to share with you some of the goodies I was able to snag.
One of the first things we picked up was this sweet coloring book. This particular coloring book was published by Disney and this is the Lootcrate Edition. It has 30 different pictures to color and only cost a few bucks.
My eight year old son has a thing for the Funko plush toys, so we were pretty stoked when we found Jabba the Hutt with Salacious Crumb.
There were so many awesome action figures! I was especially happy to find Prince Xizor, 8D8 and Ishi Tib. In case you were wondering, Maul and Xizor will be staying in the package — we are totally playing with the rest.
I’ll be honest with you; I think I missed a lot of toys around the Episode I era. This Opee is freaking scary! He already ate Sebulba I think…
This Power of the Force Yoda on Dagobah set is going to look fantastic in my Star Wars sanctuary.
Don’t be fooled — these aren’t actually Legos! But really, can you tell the difference? For the price I paid, I can’t complain at all. The boys love them. Some of my favorites are Darth Nihilus, Darth Revan, Darth Malgus, Satele Shan, M-OC and of course, Wicket!
I have been wanting one of these for a long time. This is a Photo Slate depicting an AT-AT attack during WWII. P.S. Punch more Nazis!
I saved the best for last! Confession time: the Ewok Village was my favorite playset as a child. (I even heard someone say, “someone is buying their childhood,” when we passed them!) As I type this, my four year old boy is playing with it, so I believe my job is done as a father.
I hope you enjoyed the things we found at Soda City Comic Con. What were some of the best things you ever purchased at a comic con? In fact, what were your favorite toys as a kid, and would you still play with them today? Please share this article, leave me a comment, and let’s continue the conversation on twitter @starwarschief!
Hyperspace Podblast Discusses the Impact of Fandom on the SWU
I recently listened to one of my favorite Star Wars podcasts Hyperspace Podblast hosted by Shelby and Bryan. This particular episode was entitled “Should Fandom Influence Star Wars Content?” (It’s episode 23 when you go looking for it after reading this article.) Before I get into the specifics of this topic, I want to say a little bit about the podcast itself. Even though Shelby self-deprecatingly asks “aren’t you a little short for a podcast?” I think it is the perfect length at about 25 minutes. Great for a car ride to work, or just for those of us with some degree of ADD. Bryan and Shelby are extremely welcoming hosts, so I would highly recommend Hyperspace Podblast if you are looking for a new podcast to tune into (contact information is at the bottom).
Now to the topic at hand: should “fandom” influence Star Wars content? First, the hosts astutely point out that there is a good chance that it already has. Without strong feedback from the fans, there is a solid chance that Grand Admiral Thrawn would never have “come back from the EU dead” in Star Wars Rebels. (If you’d like my take on if he truly needed to come back, please check out my article “Canon Versus Legends…Why It Matters.”) Disney and Lucasfilm, definitely having a solid grasp of their target demographic, have widely increased the representation of various racial and ethnic groups — as well as homosexuals — in their books, movies and cartoons.
As to whether Disney and LFL should take fandom into consideration during the creative process, Shelby and Bryan stress that there needs to be a balance. Where you don’t want Tim Burton making a Tim Burton Star Wars movie (I also especially love the example of Michael Bay), you also don’t want Little Timmy from down the street getting his every fanboy desire. The chances of you wanting nothing to do with those films are high. They’re very high. But I will take this opportunity — my blog, my say — to tell Bryan he is wrong:
Snoke is Plagueis. (There’s an article for that too but far be it from me to be a shameless self-promoter.) But I digress.
All in all, I agree with Bryan and Shelby. To be specific to a punctilious degree — you didn’t think I knew big words — I think approximately 5% of the creative process should be based on what the fans want. When I first started listening to this episode, I immediately thought of the documentary The People Vs. George Lucas. (If you haven’t seen it, watch it this weekend — you’ll thank me.) Uncle George received a great deal of criticism for the Star Wars Special Editions, but who owns the movies? The creators or the fans?
If fans got everything they wanted from the Star Wars movies, here are just some of the potential changes, starting from The Phantom Menace all the way to The Force Awakens:
– There is no taxation of trade routes. – Jar Jar Binks was never born. – Midichlorians didn’t exist. – 9 year old boys wouldn’t be hitting on 14 year old girls. – 14 year old girls don’t get elected Queen. – 9 year old boys don’t blow up space stations. – Darth Maul lives. – Jango Fett lives. – Anakin and Padme don’t get married after a five minute ultra-awkward romance. – Anakin stops whining. – R2-D2 can’t fly. – C-3PO has his humor chip removed. – Aayla Secura lives (okay, that one’s mine). – Padme lives. – Jyn Erso lives (okay, that one’s mine too). – Lyra Erso is a Jedi. – Chirrut Imwe is a Jedi. – Luke stops whining. – The Death Star misses Alderaan. – Porkins lives (okay, no one ever said that). – Tarkin lives (that’s my last contribution to the list). – *No changes to ESB. It is perfect in all aspects and is the hallmark of cinematic genius.* – Boba Fett doesn’t die like a chump. – Ewoks never existed. – Kylo Ren stops whining. – Han Solo lives. – Snoke just admits he’s Plagueis (I lied, I get the last recommendation).
While some of those might be decent recommendations, what is the end result? We have a completely different Star Wars saga. And minor differences aside, I hope we can all admit we love the Star Wars saga.
Should the creators have their fingers on the pulse of the fans, be in touch with them, and know what they like? Absolutely. But what if someone walked up to da Vinci while he was painting the Mona Lisa and said, “Hey man, she should be showing some teeth when she smiles!”
Needless to say, people would not be traveling halfway around the world to see a Renaissance gal with a big ol’ grin taking a cheesy selfie.
Enjoy the movies for what they are. You can bitch about them later.
So what do you think? Do you think fans should have an input to the storylines? Leave me a comment or continue the conversation on twitter @starwarschief. Now, thanks to Medium, I can finally say show your support for this article and give me “the clap.”
If you’d like to tune into Hyperspace Podblast, they can be found at:
In the three weeks since the destruction of both Alderaan and the Empire’s planet killing Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has been fleeing to all corners of the known galaxy, desperately attempting to evade the crushing grip of Imperial forces. Where Grand Moff Tarkin believed in rule by fear, now Emperor Palpatine has demanded complete submission or suffer annihilation.
Political leaders outwardly or suspected secretly of supporting the Rebel cause have been arrested and publicly executed following lengthy and thorough interrogations. More and more corporations believed to be supplying weapons and resources to the insurgents are being nationalized every day. Hope, if there ever was any for the Rebel Alliance, is quickly being extinguished.
Senator — or for a short time, former Senator — Bail Organa was killed along with 2 billion of his fellow citizens when Tarkin decided to test the full strength of the Death Star on his homeworld. Now Mon Mothma is the indisputable leader of the Rebel Alliance. Having abandoned Yavin IV, the former home of Rebel Alliance HQ, she has been coordinating both planetary attacks and evacuations onboard Admiral Ackbar’s Mon Calamari Cruiser Home One. She is joined in the main briefing room by her intelligence director, General Draven, and a newcomer to the Alliance, Carlist Rieekan.
Mon welcomed him with a warm smile, as she was known to do. “Carlist, I cannot tell you how devastated I have been since the…loss of your home. How are you?”
Carlist cleared his throat, and forced himself to return her smile. “As well as can be expected, Senator,” his voice clearly shaking. “I’m just sorry I couldn’t have done more for my people.”
Draven sat silently, his eyes continually shifting between his two compatriots. In conversations such as this, he was inclined to not say anything until something directly pertained to him. Until then, he preferred to read other’s faces and learn more about their motivations.
Mon moved to stand behind Carlist and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “First of all, I do not believe the title of Senator has suited me for some time,” she said in a mildly sarcastic tone. “In regard to your people, there is nothing you could have done to mitigate the Empire’s vile actions. However, you can still honor their memory by helping to destroy that which took so many innocent and beautiful lives.” She returned to the head of the table. “Carlist Rieekan, will you honor us and the good people of Alderaan by joining the Alliance to Restore the Republic?”
Rieekan stood proudly, straightening his uniform. “There would be no greater honor.”
“It is settled then. Effectively immediately, you will be commissioned as a General of the Alliance. Congratulations, General.”
General Rieekan’s smile was finally genuine. “Thank you.”
Draven stood at last, extending his arm to shake the hand of the newly appointed General. “Congratulations, General.”
“Thank you, General Draven,” he replied enthusiastically.
“Of course what Mon forgot to mention,” he said as he sat back down, “was that this was all my idea.”
Mon Mothma shot her eyes at him, but did not protest. “Well, as much as it pains me to agree with General Draven, for once he is correct. Now we must move on from these formalities. I am sure the two of you will adequately celebrate the occasion this evening in the ship’s cantina.” The two officers looked at each other and then nodded in approval. “Now however we must discuss our next maneuvers.” She activated her intercom. “Control, this is Mon Mothma. Please make a general announcement for Admiral Ackbar to report to the briefing room. Thank you.”
Draven pushed a button that brought up a holographic map of the galaxy. “While we wait for the Admiral, I will first discuss the status of our ground forces. In short: not good. Troops on those planets in open rebellion are mired in combat with Imperial forces. Losses thus far have been substantial.”
General Rieekan rubbed his chin, “I assume you are also still heavily involved in humanitarian efforts on those worlds and more.” The door slid open and Admiral Ackbar entered the room.
Mon greeted him, “Thank you arriving so quickly, Admiral. Please be seated.” She returned her focus to Rieekan. “Yes, General, where possible we are assisting in evacuations on worlds that have recently fallen under Imperial control. In the cases where the blockades have made such endeavors impossible, we have been smuggling in basic necessities such as food and medical supplies.”
The intelligence chief turned to his colleague, “Thus making any major land offensive implausible at the moment.”
Carlist thought for a moment. “You could withdraw from some of the outlying planets so we could centralize our forces-“
“Out of the question,” Mon snapped. “I will not risk the lives of billions for a pyrrhic victory.” Quickly redirecting, she added, “Admiral, if you would be so kind as to brief the status of our fleet.”
Admiral Ackbar rose. “Yes, ma’am. Good evening, everyone. Unfortunately we lost many good ships over Scarif. Darth Vader decimated the fleet of Admiral Raddus. We must be thankful that we even escaped with the Death Star plans.”
The rest of the room responded with a collective, “Hear, hear!”
“As with our ground forces, our fleet is currently too widely scattered to launch a major attack against the Empire. We may be able to attack smaller targets such as low output shipyards, but I fear our losses would be far too great to risk our ships and crews.”
“Then what do you all propose we do?” Rieekan exclaimed as he slammed his fists down on the briefing table. “The Alliance just won the greatest naval battle in galactic history, and now you all just want to climb under a rock? Surely Bail-“
“General, please,” Ackbar pleaded.
“No, Admiral I will not. My planet was just obliterated with no warning! If we do nothing, the Empire wins.”
“No, General,” Mon said calmly, “if we squabble amongst ourselves, only then will the Empire win. I stand here with three of the brightest minds in the galaxy; surely between all of us a successful strategy can be developed.”
Silence fell on the room. For the moment, all the brilliance that was in the room was being overshadowed by the colossal, if not impossible, task at hand.
“On Tatooine,” she continued, “they have a particular saying that suits our current situation very well. ‘When eating a bantha, a flea must simply take it one bite at a time.’”
“But right now that flea is getting stomped into a pulp,” Rieekan replied sardonically.
“I have an idea.” The whole room turned towards General Draven. “While it is true that we cannot yet afford to engage in any large scale maneuvers, smaller, more focused attacks on key targets throughout the Empire might spark the galaxy-wide rebellion we desperately need.”
“How is this any different from Saw Gerrera’s Partisans?” Ackbar inquired.
“I think perhaps Saw sometimes killed just for the sake of killing, Force bless his soul,” Mon said somberly. “What exactly are you proposing, General?”
“Shipyards like Kuat are impenetrable. The academies on Coruscant and other major systems are too heavily guarded. We need to hit low to medium value targets throughout the Empire. The Imperials will start to reallocate their forces accordingly so eventually we can hit the bigger targets.”
“What sort of ‘low to medium value targets’ are we talking about here, Davits?” Carlist said, suddenly using the General’s first name.
“Moffs?” Mon said, exasperated. “Come now, General. This truly does sound like Saw. I will not have marauders raging across the galaxy on behalf of our Alliance.”
“Oh, for once will you please drop the moral superiority? We are at war-“
“I will not,” Mon said definitively. “A just war is fought for a just cause, and equally by just means.”
“With all due respect, Mon,” Rieekan replied sharply, “tell that to the guy who just blew my entire planet.”
“I am sorry for your loss, Carlist. You know I am. But if we stoop to the Empire’s level, how can we possibly convince the galaxy that we are any better?”
“There is a middle ground,” Ackbar said, loudly enough to get the attention of all those debating in the room. “There is truth to what all you have said. Guerrilla warfare has proven highly effective in previous conflicts, but we must not allow ourselves to become simple terrorists.”
“And we cannot allow ourselves to become that which we wish to destroy,” Mon added.
“Therefore,” Ackbar continued, “I suggest we set up a strike force to hit those targets General Draven suggested, but those targets must be carefully selected. I recommend all targets be chosen by this council, specifically by Generals Draven, Rieekan and myself. Your Excellency will of course always have veto power.”
“And who shall lead this strike force?” Mon asked.
“I’ll do it,” General Rieekan said promptly.
“I do not think that would be prudent, General,” Mon replied. “You are new to our operations, and I plan to have you coordinating more of our large scale operations.”
“I understand. What about Garm Bel Iblis? This sort of thing seems to be right up his alley.”
Mon looked down for a moment, regretfully, and then once again lifted her head. “Suffice it to say our relationship has been less than amiable as of late. Perhaps one day he will come around.”
“This is my territory,” Draven said plainly.
“General, are you sure?” Mon asked with a highly concerned tone. “After what happened with Scarif-“
“After what happened with Scarif,” he paused for a brief moment, “I’ve never wanted to so badly to destroy the Empire. Besides, Mon, you know I’ve always exceled at morally questionable activities.”
“Maybe if you were a little less morally questionable, Alderaan might still be here,” Rieekan said venomously.
“I did my job. Well. The Death Star was destroyed with minimal casualties.”
“If you consider 2 billion ‘minimal,’ then I suppose you’re right. That was the most egregious intelligence failure in the history of the galaxy. And you wiped the Erso family from existence. From the reports I’ve read, that young woman would have made an excellent operative.”
Normally cool and collected, Draven could take no more. He leapt the table and grabbed Rieekan by the collar. Their faces were mere inches from each other. “I didn’t kill those people! The Empire did! Now I like you, Rieekan, but do believe me when I say I am the last person you want to cross.” He let go, and dusted off Rieekan’s uniform. He looked as if he was going to say more, but instead just gave Rieekan a courteous smile and returned to his seat.
“If you gentlemen are quite finished. General Draven I will agree to you coordinating these efforts, but I do not want you on the ground. I still need you here, coordinating the big picture. You will need to choose a squad commander.”
“Oh, I’ve got the perfect man in mind,” Draven said devilishly. He sneered at Mon.
“Oh no. Please do not tell me you are referring to our Kage…friend.”
Mon protested. “General! That man makes Saw Gerrera look like an Angel from the moons of Iego.”
“Then who better to strike fear into the hearts of the Empire? Palpatine himself will be shaking in his dusty old boots.”
Rieekan interjected, “Can someone please tell me who the hell we are talking about here?”
In my article, “Your Thoughts Betray You,” I discuss the importance of keeping “your focus here and now, where it belongs.” By doing so you are able to get in touch with the Living Force. But what is the Living Force and why does it matter? In the Star Wars Universe, the Living Force is the energy field that is created by all living beings and is also the “light” that makes us “luminous beings — not this crude matter.” In our world, the Living Force goes by many names — soul, Being, Chi, Presence, God — and being in touch with this energy is what allows you to disengage your true self from your mind and its ever-present negative thoughts. In other words, you achieve enlightenment.
Being a Star Wars fan (which I assume you are because you’re reading my article), you are probably thinking that this enlightenment or connection to the Living Force can only be achieved by a spiritual being like a Jedi. To that I say you are wrong, and I will give a couple of examples. When I prepared for this series, I of course started by watching all of the films. (Any excuse, right?) I honestly did not think I would gain much insight by Rogue One or The Force Awakens, but it was actually these two films that taught me how to relate the Force to more common beings like you and me.
The most obvious example is my favorite Guardian of the Whills, Chirrut Imwe. He is admittedly not a Jedi but he is so in tune with the Living Force that it helps him overcome a physical disability that is his blindness. His mantra of “The Force is with me, and I am with the Force” aided him in hurdling one obstacle after another. While doing so he remains completely calm and fearless because “all is as the Force wills it.”
Though Chirrut’s use of the Force may seem unbelievable, perhaps a better definition of true “enlightenment” comes from the best barkeep in the galaxy, Maz Kanata. Her statement of “I am no Jedi but I know the Force” is my personal mantra as I write this series. She spells out the Living Force quite simply to Rey, who had little to no training up to that point. As she explains, “it moves through and surrounds every living thing.” She even describes (much like Qui-Gon) how to get in touch with it. “Close your eyes. Feel it. The light, it’s always been there. It will guide you.”
Throughout this series, I will be writing short articles — meditations, if you will — based on the Star Wars movies, cartoons, books and comics that will show how the characters were able to get in touch with the Living Force. We will go one step further and show how you can use those principles in your own life, and by doing so, how you can achieve enlightenment and lasting peace.
I will be using mostly Canon references, but I will not hesitate to delve into the Legends as well. If there is a particular character or topic on which you would like me to write, please feel free to leave me a comment. Hope you enjoy the series!
How Star Wars Proves Your Focus Determines Your Reality
If you are like me, you probably long believed that the most universal truths Star Wars had to offer came in Empire Strikes Back when Luke started his mentorship under Jedi Master Yoda. My favorite line from Episode V has always been, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
The problem though is that it is nearly impossible to apply that principle (although I would not argue you should always strive to achieve it). The truth is that the most universal, and therefore basic spiritual principle Star Wars teaches comes in the first five minutes of Episode I, A Phantom Menace.
“Obi-Wan: I have a bad feeling about this. Qui-Gon: I don’t sense anything. Obi-Wan: It’s not about the mission, Master. It’s something elsewhere…elusive. Qui-Gon: Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs. Obi-Wan: But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future. Qui-Gon: But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the Living Force, young padawan.”
I’m sure you have seen that dialogue dozens of times by now (based on the average number of times most Star Wars fans watch these films) and never really paid much attention to it. I would ask you to stop and reread it though, focusing in on Qui-Gon’s words. How often throughout the day do you focus on “something elsewhere…elusive?” You may have been on what should have been a fantastic date, but were thinking about the term paper that was due in a week the whole time instead. Or perhaps you were sharing an intimate moment with your loved one and were being tormented by worries of how you are going to pay next month’s bills or about that promotion you didn’t get that you know you should have.
We miss all of life’s true beauty because we are never in the moment. If you are on a date, stop worrying about that term paper and simply enjoy the experience — you never know where it’ll take you. If you are spending precious moments with your loved ones, realize how precious few those moments are and put life’s issues on your mental back burner for a bit. You will be amazed how much happier you are just by keeping “your concentration here and now, where it belongs”. Read that scene one more time, and now you will understand why Obi-Wan seems anxious, and why Qui-Gon is at peace.
Yoda takes these teaches a step further with Luke and appears to somewhat recant his previous teaches to Obi-Wan based on his own life experiences. When speaking to Obi-Wan’s Force spirit, Yoda says of Luke, “All his life has he looked away…to the future. To the horizon. Never his mind on where he was — what he was doing!” You can see clearly that Yoda has more closely aligned his beliefs with those of Qui-Gon, proving you are never too old to unlearn what you have learned.
The point is not only that we should stop focusing on “elusive” worries, but we should also stop letting our mind spend so much time in the future because it just doesn’t exist. When I was younger I thought I knew exactly what I was going to be and what I was going to do when I grew older. As I did get older and my life began to diverge from my previously predetermined path, the difference in expectations and reality caused me years of angst and suffering. Had I just lived in the moment instead of comparing myself to a “future me” that was never to exist, I would have been infinitely happier.
Darth Vader is proof that the same philosophy is true for the past. Indeed Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side because he could never escape his past. Anakin became one of the most powerful Jedi in the Order but would never be satisfied because he was unable to save his mother from death. He was also the youngest Jedi to serve on the Council but was unhappy with this because in the past, all those who had serve on the Council were Jedi Masters, a rank which he was understandably denied (although he could not see it this way).
Anakin became Darth Vader because his inability to stop dwelling in the past caused him so much misery. How true is this for most of us as well? Instead of appreciating our lives for the miracles they are, we are unhappy because we are constantly judging our worth based on past mistakes and failures. It is imperative that you focus on the “here and now”, for it is the only time that ever actually exists.
Obi-Wan did try to save his apprentice from this outcome, and herein lies the most essential spiritual teaching in all of Star Wars.
“Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin. They’ll betray you.”
In the past week, how many of these thoughts have crossed your mind? I’m old. I’m fat. I’m lazy. I’m ugly. I’m not good enough for him/her. I’ll never get the job I want. I’m not really good at anything. I’ll never be happy.
Your thoughts betray you.
How often did someone say something along those lines throughout the Star Wars saga? There is very good reason for that. All this time I have misunderstood that line. I thought it basically meant, “Haha! I can read your mind!” No, it means exactly what it says: your thoughts betray you. The most basic definition of “betray” is “to be disloyal to”. This is a difficult concept to grasp because what I am saying is that your own mind is working against you, and you are not your mind.
Remember when Obi-Wan told Luke to bury his feelings deep down because “they could be made to serve the Emperor”? This again explains how Palpatine was able to subtly nudge Anakin towards the dark side, by feeding off and encouraging the young Jedi’s persistent negative thoughts. If your mind could be personified, I think we would find it would be much like Palpatine and it behaves in the exact same manner. It tells you that you should be the best, but in the next breath that you are not good enough. In its worst form it tells you that you can save someone you love from dying, and then tells you that “you killed her”. This is how our mind works.
Can you turn it off? Not exactly, but you can negate its harmful, sometimes destructive, effects. You do this by heeding Obi-Wans words, “Be mindful of your thoughts”. Realize and understand that you are not actually fat and ugly because a voice (not the real you) in your head said so. You can find true happiness, despite any negative thoughts to the contrary. Be mindful of your thoughts, and they will stop ruling your life.
I hope you have found this article as helpful as much as Star Wars has helped my spiritual well-being. Please leave a comment, let me know what you think, and as always, may the Force be with you.
Since Star Wars firstcame out in 1977, we were all perplexed as to how the Empire could make an omission allowing direct access to the Death Star’s main reactor via a 2-meter wide thermal exhaust port.
Now that Rogue One has been released, the suspicions of conspiracy theorists like myself have been confirmed; the Death Star was an inside job. Reluctant Imperial scientist Galen Erso purposefully built this flaw into the blueprints to allow the Rebel Alliance a chance — infinitesimal as it may be — to destroy this planet killer.
But could the traitorous plot to destroy the Empire’s premier battle station go much, much higher than we previously thought? Could it might go nearly straight to the top: Darth Vader.
After a test fire of the super laser destroys the Holy City of Jedha, Darth Vader makes his feelings known in a conversation with Director Orson Krennic while in his private palace on the planet Mustafar. When Director Krennic pleads for a face-to-face with the Emperor to discuss the Death Star’s “remarkable potential,” Vader quickly responds with, “It’s power to create problems has certainly been confirmed.” He would rather make the false claim that Jedha was destroyed in a mining disaster rather than taking credit for having a Death Star.
Following Princess Leia’s daring escape with the secret plans, Vader is “unable” to recover them, his weapons officer foolishly refusing to shoot down an escape pod from her ship on the flimsy reasoning that there were no life forms onboard (knowing their mission was to recover the stolen Death Star plans). Shortly thereafter, Darth Vader reveals more of his feelings in a meeting with all of the high-ranking military officials of the Empire in a conference room onboard the space station. “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed,” he says to Admiral Motti. The Dark Lord continues, “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
These may be all strong opinions against the Death Star, but are they strong enough to call them a motive? Probably not. What other reasons would Darth Vader have to allow the Death Star to be destroyed?
Remember the nature of the Sith master/apprentice relationship. Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side was based on a lie. Darth Sidious had told the powerful Jedi Knight that he held the knowledge to save his wife, Padmé, from certain death if he would become the Dark Lord’s apprentice. After helping to kill Jedi Master Mace Windu, Anakin ultimately became Darth Vader and learned an unfortunate truth: Sidious apparently did not hold that knowledge.
Sidious was then able to convince his apprentice that he would have to hunt down and kill all the Jedi to have enough dark side energy to save Padmé. All of this culminates with Vader nearly being destroyed by his former master on Mustafar, becoming “more machine than man” and being told by Sidious that he was responsible for his wife’s death. He would never even learn that his wife had given birth to their children until years later (see the in-canon Marvel comics coverage of this revelation).
In the Sith master/apprentice relationship, it is the master’s responsibility to give the apprentice knowledge, but never enough to use that knowledge against the master and keep them yearning for more. It is the master’s responsibility to make the apprentice stronger and more powerful, but not to the extent where the apprentice could possibly destroy them and take their place. Conversely, the apprentice must relentlessly try to become stronger, smarter and more powerful to one day destroy their master and take on their own apprentice. The Rule of Two.
In short, Darth Vader knew the destruction of the Death Star would weaken his master and the Empire, and it would embolden the Rebel Alliance. Why would he want this? As always, to overthrow the Emperor. Before he even made his infamous offer to Luke Skywalker, he made his intentions clear to Padme shortly before her death. “I have brought peace to the Republic. I am more powerful than the Chancellor. I can overthrow him, and together you and I can rule the galaxy.” Just think about how much the next few years would make him want this even more.
So, that is motive — how about opportunity? Darth Vader already knew full well that the Rebels had the plans to the Death Star and would know how to blow it up. When he sensed how strong the Force was in the X-Wing pilot ahead of him while he flew in his TIE Advanced, he had his opportunity. All he had to do was not kill him.
If you watch that scene again, you can see how easily he takes out the other ships. He has plenty of time to kill Luke. He takes shots at Luke though, right? Notice how they are all non-critical hits (well, unless you ask Artoo). Never forget how talented of a pilot Darth Vader is. Did he do this on purpose? Sure Luke may have been strong in the Force, but at this point, he still was nowhere near as powerful as Vader. Did he let Luke live, and let his son do the rest?
Now, I have provided you with motive and opportunity.
Maybe — just maybe — you’ll join me in pondering Darth Vader’s complicity in the first Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin and 300,000 of its most loyal service men and women.
It leaves us asking the question, which Skywalker really played a bigger part in the destruction of the first Death Star?
Violence erupts in the Holy City of Jedha. Stormtroopers representing the Imperial War Machine have been ambushed by rebel forces in a coordinated attack masterminded by the extremist Saw Gerrera. Explosions rock the city streets, but the debris, shrapnel and laser fire caused by the conflict do not discriminate in terms of whom they kill.
All around innocent civilians of all races and species are wounded, and many perish. In the middle of it all, a small girl frozen by fear cries for a mother she can’t find. Laser bolts zip by just inches away from her face. Just as it seems she will be another nameless casualty of this endless violence, a young boy watching the fighting from far away points and happily exclaims, “Jyn Erso is going to save her!”
That young boy is three years old, and he is my son.
His name is Dylan, and I am confident that in about two years, his knowledge of Star Wars will exceed my own (and I’ve been immersed in the SWU since 1983). His favorite movies in the saga are Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and Return of the Jedi. He is also a huge fan of the Star Wars Rebels franchise and has seen every episode. What I am most interested in, is the fact that some of his favorite characters are Rey, Princess Leia, Sabine Wren, and the aforementioned Jyn Erso.
As a father, you have many proud moments. Your daughter gets on the honor roll in school. Your son gets his first hit in little league baseball. Oddly enough, one of my proudest moments came a few months ago when I took Dylan shopping for toys. Obviously our first stop — and usually our only stop — was to the Star Wars aisle. Searching for another action figure (because a few hundred just isn’t enough), I always let my kids choose their own toys.
My proud moment came when Dylan passed up no less than five male characters to pick Jyn Erso, and the sheer look of joy when I placed the package in his hands. I looked at him and thought, “My God, that is amazing”, and in writing this I get the same goosebumps as I had that day.
I began to do some introspection as to why I found that simple act so powerful. The fact of the matter I believe is: it shouldn’t be. A little boy choosing a female action figure over her male counterparts because he admires her more should be the norm. Sadly, however, even in 2017 it is not the norm.
In a previous article I wrote entitled “A Hero’s Journey” I discussed how George Lucas gained much of his writing inspiration from famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell was a major proponent of matriarchal societies. On numerous occasions he talked about the significance of powerful goddesses such as Hera, Athena and Aphrodite.
Moreover Campbell explained the significance of the philosophy of Gaea, or “Mother Earth.” Whereas Man destroys life, Woman creates life. As all life starts in the womb, the woman was therefore put on a pedestal. Ideas were also seen to start this way, and hence why ancient authors would plead to the muses (also female characters) for inspiration. It should be noted as well that although both Athena and Ares were gods of war, the soldiers and generals chose to worship and plead to Athena because she was the goddess of war and wisdom. Ares on the other hand was not well respected by gods or man because of his arrogance and immaturity.
George Lucas took Campbell’s teachings to heart. They influenced how he created the iconic character of our now beloved Princess Leia. 40 years later Lucasfilm continue to put women at the front and center of the franchise.
The job, however, is far from finished. As I write this, Disney has just announced a new Star Wars project called “Forces of Destiny,” focusing on characters such as Rey, Leia, Jyn and Ahsoka have had on their universe. That is certainly encouraging, but considering some of the anti-feminist backlash that has already occurred because of this announcement, it looks like we still “have a long ride ahead of us.”
Oh great, another feminist article, some may think, and what’s worse from a dude.
I feel I needed to write this short post though; after all, it is because of characters like Ahsoka, Jyn, Sabine, and Hera that my daughters — ages 13 and 10 — have no inhibitions about jumping right into “Jedi versus Sith” in the backyard and not feel weird about it, or not go to school wearing their “I Rebel” t-shirt and be ashamed of it.
It allows my son to feel comfortable opting for the female character in the toy isle.
More importantly it teaches all children that there is nothing in this galaxy that they cannot accomplish if they have the heart and determination to do so.
Author’s Note: If you are looking for writing tips from a professional writer — STOP! You have come to the wrong place. Alexander Freed, author of Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company has an informative and immensely helpful website if you’d like tips from a true professional. I am writing this article simply as a man who has spent the last fifteen years in the Navy, and who therefore cringes when he watches Battleship and can no longer bring himself to watch Crimson Tide.
Recently a friend on Twitter messaged me saying that he loved to write science fiction and wanted to make his military scenes as realistic as possible. Noticing that I was in the armed forces, he kindly requested to probe my mind on this topic. As you may have guessed, I am highly passionate about military writing so I agreed. I answered his questions but realized there is so much more that can be written about this, so here we are. I realize that science fiction is about escapism, but the more realistic the dialogue and the action sequences are, the more the reader can immerse himself or herself into the story. That’s my goal here.
A couple more quick notes first. When I give examples on how to apply these principles, I will reference Star Wars. Why? Well, just click on my profile for that answer. Secondly and lastly, while my experience comes directly from the Navy, most of these principles can be applied to any branch of the military. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s go!
#1 — DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Remember how I said I can no longer watch Crimson Tide? That’s because there are no dogs on submarines! (Among a plethora of other inaccuracies, of course.) Never write about a sailor on a vessel and say, “He went downstairs to go to bed.” That is something we do not say. Instead, write something along the lines of, “He had to go down two levels in order to find his bunkroom.”
Whether it be an aircraft carrier or an Imperial Star Destroyer, directional and geographical words remain the same. For example, “left and right” do not exist, but rather “port and starboard.” Learn how to use words like “amidships” and “dorsal.” For speeds, don’t settle for, “They went as fast as they could go to catch them.” Instead, thrill the reader by saying, “In order to prevent the escaping pirate ship from making the jump to hyperspace, the Gozanti’s captain ordered it to flank speed in order to intercept.” Please note that flank and “full speed ahead” are not the same thing.
How do you this research then? NOT by watching films like the aforementioned. If you find a writer you enjoy (like Alexander Freed, whom I mentioned earlier), feel free to incorporate their style into your writing approach. For actual information on vessels, tactics, etc. however, I would recommend military history books, the internet (trust but verify), museums, or just converse with someone that has firsthand experience like I was. Bottom line: the more realism you bring to your military scenes, the more the reader will be able to understand the deeper meaning of your story.
#2 — So what do we talk about anyway?
I cannot count how many times I have seen or read such forced dialogue between members of the military in movies or books. Truly cringe-worthy. Do you want to know the most realistic dialogue in all of Star Wars? It’s the stormtroopers discussing new or outdated speeder models, or responding to a creeping Jedi by saying, “Probably just another drill.” (Note to reader: we hate all the drills.)
When we are in the middle of operations, communications must be entirely formal. Orders are given and they are acknowledged. Once completed, they are reported back as such.
But in our downtime? Oh, man. We talk about anything and everything. We talk about the new movies (holos) coming out that we are regrettably missing because we’re out on this stinking patrol. We talk about relationship fails and also the ones that went really, really well (if you catch my drift). Most importantly though, don’t forget that all of this conversation is to help us cope with the fact that we miss home greatly. Naval warships are routinely out for months at a time, sometimes with little to no communicate back home. Babies are born two weeks after you leave and are eight months old when you get back. You can rest assured that if you live on Coruscant and you are patrolling the Outer Rim, this would be the exact same case.
#3 — Ships require A LOT of work. And things break all the time.
When you witness the Rebel armada and the massive Imperial fleet clash above the forest moon of Endor, what you are seeing is the culmination of months of tedious work. The ships amassing near Sullust needed to have carefully calibrated navigational systems to make an accurate jump that landed them right at the doorstep of the unfinished Death Star. Dozens or even hundreds of crewmembers worked on those systems to make that happen.
Those turbolasers that hit with pinpoint accuracy probably have all kinds of maintenance issues. In numerous scenes they are furiously venting, so perhaps they experience overheating. Their targeting systems undoubtedly have failed diodes and capacitors, so the gunners would have to aim manually until that is fixed.
Well you might be saying, “No one wants to hear about a technician replacing a turbolaser circuit card.” Think about some of the most memorable lines said in space, though. “Bring me the hydrospanner!” Don’t forget Rey gleefully saying, “I bypassed the compressor.” Not only does equipment breaking lead to stressful situations and exciting dialogue, but you can also make powerful use of the mundane tasks. If two technicians are tirelessly and seemingly endlessly working on the hyperdrive, think about how much you can reveal about those characters over the course of their conversation. This is gold in character development. (We all want to be Han Solo evading Star Destroyers, but that is only made possible by Chewbacca thanklessly maintaining the ship back on Hoth.)
So these were just a few tips on how to bring more realism to your science fiction military scenes. If this helped you in any way or would like to read more tips on writing action scenes, please drop me a comment and let me know. As always, thank you for reading and may the Force be with you.
Unravelling the mystery of Snoke’s identity within the new Star Wars canon
“The dark side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Chancellor Palpatine: Revenge of the Sith
*The Future of the Force team enjoy fan theories on the saga, particularly discussions on the mystery left by the aftermath of The Force Awakens. Join regular contributor Chief, ISD Avenger as he unravels his theory on the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke*
Nowadays theories on the true identity of Supreme Leader Snoke are about as numerous as fleas on a bantha. He’s Anakin Skywalker one day and Wilhuff Tarkin the next. Some fans are even so cruel as to propose he is Jar Jar Binks turned Sith. My personal theory is not a new one, nor do I believe I was the first one to seriously consider this theory. What’s my belief? Snoke is Darth Plagueis, and that makes him the Father of the Skywalker family.
The evidence I will present to you today is 100% canon; in fact all evidence presented here is from the Star Wars movies themselves. Much of the original supporting information for this theory came from the book Darth Plagueis, written by James Luceno and published in 2012. As we all know however, that book is regrettably no longer considered canon, so the stories contained therein cannot be used to make the claim that Plagueis is indeed Snoke. If you’ve read it though, I’m sure you know what I’m referring to, and if you haven’t, you should certainly give this book a read at your earliest opportunity. It should be noted that James Luceno also penned Tarkin, in which Tarkin considers the possibility of Palpatine being a Sith, and the book also makes mention of Plagueis himself. I do not believe it is a coincidence that Luceno was responsible for both these masterful works.
So let’s take it from the top, chronologically speaking. In Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine tells Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.” Palpatine explains to Anakin that “the dark side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” Knowing full well that Anakin was worried about losing Padme in childbirth (I also believe the Sith Lord may have been responsible for Anakin’s nightmares, but that’s a separate article I suppose), Palpatine tells the young Jedi that Darth Plagueis could influence the midichlorians to keep people from dying. Midichlorians were first introduced in The Phantom Menace as microscopic organisms that allowed living beings to interact with the Force. More importantly to my theory however is when Palpatine states Plagueis “became so powerful he could even influence the midichlorians to create life.”
That takes us to The Phantom Menace. When Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn first met young Anakin Skywalker, he immediately noticed how strong Anakin was with the Force. Thinking possibly that he may have descended from a Jedi, Qui-Gon asks Shmi Skywalker, Anakin’s mother, “Who was the father?” The key to my theory rests in Shmi’s simple answer.
“There was no father.”
Shmi explains to the Jedi how she carried and raised the boy, but couldn’t explain his origins. This is precisely why Qui-Gon rushes to tell the Jedi Council that he has found a vergence (or nexus point) in the Force. Anakin’s remarkable ability to use the Force and the fact that he was apparently born out of the Force leads Qui-Gon to believe Anakin is “The Chosen One” from ancient Jedi prophecy, said to bring balance to the Force.
An even stronger connection between The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith occurs when Qui-Gon runs a simple blood test on Anakin. Obi-Wan Kenobi is astounded when they receive Anakin’s midichlorian count, which is “over 20,000.” Although these numbers are never explained in great detail in the movies, that is a number so high that it even exceeds Master Yoda’s, considered by many Jedi to be the most powerful of them all. So how could Anakin have a midichlorian count that is literally off the charts? By Darth Plagueis influencing the midichlorians within Shmi “to create life.”
Since I know you pay close attention, I’m sure this is the part where you say, “Well, all that may be true, but Palpatine clearly stated Plagueis’s apprentice (Sidious himself) killed the Sith Lord in his sleep.” True. He did. And admittedly this is where I ask you to take a minor leap of faith, but based on a couple of facts. First, Palpatine was a liar. He routinely used falsehoods and half-truths to get exactly what he wanted. So maybe he didn’t even kill Plagueis. Maybe over the years he had told that story so many times he had actually come to believe it. Second, if Plagueis was so powerful with the Force that he could create life, is it so hard to believe that he could have influenced the midichlorians enough to keep himself alive after Sidious believe that he had killed him?
That would surely explain Snoke’s ghastly appearance, as well as the (lightsaber?) wound down his forehead. Lastly, how cool and Sith-like is it to know that Palpatine, who singlehandedly engineered the downfall of the Republic and the destruction of the Jedi Order, was being played the entire time by his former master?
Now, finally we can fast forward to The Force Awakens. If the creators of this film inserted certain clues just to make gullible folks like myself incorrectly believe that Snoke is Plagueis, they went to awfully great lengths to do so. The first subtle clue is the accompanying music that is playing when Kylo Ren initially speaks to Snoke. It is nearly identical to the music that is playing with Sidious tells Anakin about Plagueis. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to listen to John Williams’s masterpieces “Snoke” and “Palpatine’s Teachings.”
When Han Solo confronts Kylo Ren — also known as Ben, Solo’s son — Ren tells Solo that “the Supreme Leader is wise.” If you recall, in Revenge of the Sith, Sidious refers to his master as “Darth Plagueis the Wise.” Again, this is a long way to go merely in an attempt to throw us off.
Perhaps you’re calling all this evidence “flimsy at best,” and maybe it is, but I would like you to consider why Snoke wants Rey so badly. The obvious answer is: he wants to train her. Think more deeply though. When he finds out how powerful she is, he immediately tells Kylo Ren, “bring her to me.” Why? Because don’t forget he can influence midichlorians to create or sustain life. He can drain the Force from her to keep himself alive. Farfetched? Think about Han Solo telling his son “Snoke is using you for your power. When he gets what he wants, he’ll crush you. You know it’s true.”
After all this, if your response is, “But his name is Snoke, not Plagueis,” I will simply tell you that you can count on one hand how many people in the galaxy actually called Palpatine by his Sith name, Sidious.
In conclusion, Disney and Lucasfilm have made it clear that the core Star Wars movies are about the Skywalker family, and Snoke being Plagueis makes it the ultimate family affair. Plagueis begets Anakin, Anakin begets Leia, Leia begets Ben. That makes Snoke — you guessed it — Kylo Ren’s great-grandfather! (And if Rey does turn out to be related to Kylo Ren, that makes it even more convoluted.)
And you thought the midichlorians would never matter….
May The Force Be With You
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