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So, I didn't get a chance to write about this immediately – was away over New Years, and I've been kind of mulling over what I wanted to say since then.

I've got to say, I wasn't exactly a fan.

Part of it's subjective, of course. This wasn't exactly the Star Wars I wanted to see after 2016; Star Wars can be many things, but it should be fun, it should be exciting. I was expecting something of a heist film, what I got was a grim and gritty war film. Points to the writers for trying something different, but I really don't think we needed a Star Wars where rebels against the Empire are visually identified with mujahideen extremists, where the Alliance condones assassination in the name of expedience, where X-Wing fighters are harbingers of destruction and tragedy...

It's a film that tries to end on a note of hope, but seems to think the only way to get there is by wallowing in despair in every scene leading up to it. It's certainly an interesting approach, but not really an enjoyable one.

From a less subjective point of view, there's the issues with the characters and story:

(Extensive Spoilers) )
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Let's talk 'droids'. Short for 'android', literally 'in the form of a man'. And plenty of droids are roughly humanoid – C3PO, 4LOM, IG-88, battle droids, those pit droids in the Phantom Menace that somehow got their own puzzle game...

But there's also 'droids' that aren't humanoid at all, most notably R2D2.

Now you might just say 'droid' is just a generic term for any robot and doesn't have to refer to literal androids... but it got me thinking. After all, there's plenty of non-humanoid aliens in Star Wars too, and presumably they'd build androids in their own image...


Max Rebo. Remember him? The blue elephant guy from Jabba's Palace? Did you know he wasn't meant to have arms? The limbs he plays the keyboard with were meant to be his legs, and that was all he had. The original prop designs make this a lot clearer.

Short, only one set of limbs, blue... Sound like anyone we know?

I'm proposing then, that Max Rebo's people designed R2D2, and he is a true 'droid', built in the form of an Ortolan!

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While checking the names of various characters from TFA, I was pleased to see that while the old Expanded Universe is gone, its tradition of leaving no detail unexplained lives on, as spin-off materials are already providing background characters with more backstory than they probably need.

My favorite is learning that Captain Phasma's armor is salvaged from the hull of one of the Naboo cruisers from the Phantom Menace that had once been owned by Palpatine! Nothing says pulp space adventure like knowing the history and manufacturing process of a specific suit of storm-trooper armor!

I fully expect to see Tales from Maz's Cantina on shelves soon.

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So, general thoughts? I'm not exactly disapointed, but I can't help but be reminded of the quote about someone's work being both good and original, but the parts that are good are not original and the original parts are not good...

Alright, maybe that's a bit unfair, but the movie really struggles when it's not following A New Hope beat for beat.

The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Baffling (Contains Spoilers) )
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Look, I told myself I was going to keep an open mind, I said I didn't care about the old EU going away, I wasn't going to be one of those fans who just complains about how things aren't the way they used to be, but some things... somethings are just beyond the pale.

[Spoilers follow] )
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Was thinking about Star Trek 5 – because somebody has to, right? And it occurred to me – why is it a terrible Star Trek movie? Because it’s actually a Star Wars movie!

Think about it. Who’s the villain? Well, he’s a renegade from the group of powerful psychics who repress their emotions and avoid strong attachments. He’s been cast out because he delved into ancient forbidden philosophies, and decided to follow a different path, one all about gaining strength through embracing pain and revelling in emotions. Using this power, he gains power over the minds of the weak-willed and forms an army to carry out his monomaniacal obsession.

The plot draws everyone inexorably to the desert planet with the city full of scum and villainy that is somehow both a total backwater and also the most important location in the galaxy. Everything’s sort of worn out looking and broken down – even the good guy’s ship is a malfunctioning, unreliable hunk of junk.

There’s a lot of weird mystical babble going on as our heroes fly across the galaxy. The villain tries to tempt the good guy psychic into joining him, but fails, even after a contrived family relationship is revealed. Eventually, however, the villain sees the light and sacrifices himself to save the heroes from the real evil, who at the time was busy shooting lightning at everyone.

The movie ends with our heroes celebrating as night falls over a Californian national park, and a childish song wraps up the adventure!
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You know, I have to say I'm pretty impressed by the new Star Wars trailer. I'd thought with the demise the old expanded universe, source of such wonders as the lightsaber-whip, the lightsaber-pike, the extendible lightsaber, and that guy with lightsabers in his knees, we'd never again see such absurd attempts to create 'cool' new lightsabers.

And then Disney/Abrams comes up with an all new lightsaber varient that's just as absurd as anything Bantam or Del Ray could have created! Well done! A lightsaber crossguard! It both looks ridiculous and is completly and utterly impractical when thought about for more than five seconds!

Yeah, I've got a good feeling about these movies.
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“Beginning in about 2005, the CIA began secretly developing a ­custom-made Osama bin Laden ­action figure, according to people familiar with the project. The face of the figure was painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings.”
 - CIA hatched plan to make demon toy to counter Osama bin Laden's influence, The Washington Post
You know, I think a lot of us were worried that after the end of the Cold War, the CIA would lose its reputation for complete insanity. It seemed for a while there was no place in the new world order for such cunning plans as securing American power by making Fidel Castro's beard fall out. It's good to know the War on Terror gave them a new opportunity to play to their strengths, as well as finally answering the question: What would Darth Maul look like with a beard?
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For May 4th, a cinema was showing a Star Wars Marathon, so that was fun to go to. The special edition changes still stick out like a sore thumb, but it's been a very long time since I saw any version of Star Wars on a big screen, so that made up for any irritation.

And I noticed something I'd never consciously noticed before.

In Return of the Jedi, when Luke refuses to kill Vader, he doesn't just shut down his saber – he actively throws it away. That's kind of interesting, isn't it? The last time anyone uses a lightsaber, the signature weapon of the series, they're getting rid of it.

It got me thinking about how the lightsaber is portrayed across the trilogy, and made me realise there's something really unexpected there.

Let's go back to Luke's first saber. In hindsight, it's one of the biggest unfired Chekhov's guns in popular culture. Luke gets his father's weapon; that's pretty mythically symbolic, isn't it? Obi-Wan tells us it's a relic of the past, of the better times before the Empire, and trains Luke how to use it; this must be setting up something important, right? And then...

Then Luke never uses it for the rest of the film!

But, alright, it's a trilogy, we've still got a chance to see the saber pay off. So in Empire, we finally get to see Luke use his father's blade against his father's killer. Except... well, we all know what happens there. Vader shatters that simple mythology; Luke was walking into a trap, Obi-Wan lied to him, and that lightsaber, seemingly so important when it was given to him is lost, never to be seen again.

Which brings us to Jedi. And we finally get to see Luke doing awesome things with his new saber, fighting Jabba's soldiers on the sail barge. But... but throughout the Jabba's palace sequence, Luke seems to be flirting dangerously close to the dark side, and it's not clear if his confidence is the serenity of a Jedi or the arrogance of a new dark lord. What does it say that this is when his saber training finally plays off?

And so we come to the final confrontation. Luke is led to the Emperor by Vader, who praises him for constructing a new lightsaber. “Your skills are complete.” The Emperor makes it a symbol for Luke's hatred. “Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. Strike me down with it.” The lightsaber, that “elegant weapon for a more civilised age” becomes a totem of the dark side. “With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant!”

And in the end, Luke throws it away. “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” The blade is not the symbol of the Jedi, not the Jedi as they should be. It's the symbol of Vader, the warrior, the killer, the dark knight that holds death in his hands. Perhaps we should have seen this a long time ago, when Obi-Wan achieved his final victory only by deliberately shuting down his blade.

There's been plenty of criticism that Star Wars is fundamentally conservative. And yet, in the end, Luke turns away from that false mythology; the idea of a “more civilised age”, the idea of “elegant weapons”, the demands of old Ben and the Emperor alike that he use those weapons. The lightsaber is nothing but light and shadow, quite literally an illusion without substance, an illusion of power, of elegance in killing, the symbol of a path Luke in the end rejects.
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A friend was joking about cosplaying as 'Return of the Jedi Leia' – not slave Leia, but Leia in concealing bounty hunter disguise. And I made a joke about there being a second volume of Tales From Jabba's Palace that details in absurd detail the backstories of all the items of clothing there.

Then I remembered that Shadows of the Empire actually did feel the need to provide an explanation for how Leia acquired the bounty hunter disguise. And an explanation for where she got the thermal detonator.

I... I'm kinda glad Disney's announcing they're wiping the EU and starting fresh.



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Life Day is obviously the Star Wars version of Thanksgiving, NOT CHRISTMAS! For crying out loud, the special originally aired in mid-November!

You are almost two months late to ironically wish people a happy Life Day! Stop doing it!

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Personal Head Canon: Han was raised by an elderly Wookiee who’d been away from home for a very long time. As a result, the bits and pieces of Wookiee language he picked up from her were often… old-fashioned at best.

As a result, after rescuing Chewbacca from the Empire, Han misunderstood Chewie’s thanks, interpreting it literally as “I am bound to you by a life-debt”, rather than the modern casual meaning of “Hey, I owe you one.”

Once they got that misunderstanding sorted out, it became something of a private joke between them. Plenty of other smugglers, though, overhearing the joke, thought it was real, mainly because Han and Chewie were about the only smuggler team anyone knew who wouldn’t sell each other out for half a credit, and they assumed there had to be some special reason for that. Some alien smugglers misunderstood the situation even further, believing ‘life debts’ were some sort of crazy human tradition; it’s a popular belief in some parts of the galaxy that Han joined the Rebellion in order to fulfil his debt to Chewie and free the Wookiee homeworld...

At this point, Han and Chewie have basically given up on trying to get the real story out.
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Alright, I think I’ve found the most absurd example of The Old Republic’s… creative approach to morality.

There’s a side mission on one of the early planets where, playing as an Imperial character, you’re called in to investigate a rebel smuggling operation. It turns out the local rebels aren’t smuggling supplies in, they’re smuggling untrained Force-sensitives off world, so they’ll be safe from the Empire and won’t be drafted into the Sith order. You can either help the rebels cover this up – gaining a hundred light side points, or you can murder them all, gaining a hundred dark side points. Fair enough, that bit makes sense.

But then, assuming you went dark side, you get another choice when you report back to command. You can either admit all that was there was a bunch of untrained civilians – and get fifty light side points for your honesty – or you can lie, claim they were trained Jedi, and get another fifty dark side points plus a few hundred credits hazard pay.

So, let me get this straight. Murdering civilians in cold blood, then lying about it, is three times worse than killing the same people but being completely up-front about it?!
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So, you, like probably all right-thinking people have to have wondered at some point if Star Trek characters could travel to the Star Wars galaxy or vice versa. Bafflingly, neither franchise has directly answered that question directly – but, if you try had enough, it seems it is possible.

How? Well, you can’t get there directly, but if you’re willing to take the scenic route…

Start in the Star Wars Galaxy. Tag along with Yoda or Vader when they visit the Soul Calibur universe (Soul Calibur IV). From there, you should be able to visit the home dimension of Spawn (Soul Calibur II). It’s possible to travel from Spawn’s world to Batman’s, which gets you into the DC comics multiverse. From there, you’ve got two options – if you’re in a hurry, you can time travel to the future of the Legion of Superheroes, and take advantage of their 2011 crossover with the original Star Trek. Alternatively, you can finish up your journey by traveling through one of the various connections between the DC and Marvel comics universes, where you’ll find the X-Men have run into both the original and Next Generation Enterprise crews during a series of crossovers in the 1990s.

Incidentally, while you’re in the Marvel universe, you’ve got the option of stopping by the Doctor Who universe, as they’ve crossed over too, and go on to the Star Trek universe from there, via a recent comic series.

So there you have it! A completely plausible and canonically justified explanation for how a Jedi knight could end up commanding a Federation starship!
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One of the weird things about the Old Republic is that BioWare really didn’t seem to have planned for expansions very well. The main storyline ends with the Sith Empire facing defeat on almost every front, beset by internal division and with most of its leaders dead. There doesn’t really seem to be anywhere to go, the story as of release largely wraps up the conflict in a lot of ways.

The new expansion emphasises that further; the Imperial storyline there makes it explicit that the Empire’s on the verge of total defeat, and their involvement on the new planet Makeb is a final desperate gambit to turn the tide before they’re completely overwhelmed.

Now, sure, it’s Star Wars, of course the Empire’s going to lose, and it’s rather nice to see an MMO where the factions aren’t stuck in an endless stalemate. Still, it’s kind of weird to have the Empire as the plucky underdogs struggling against the overwhelming military might of the Republic and the Jedi.
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In today’s episode of “Hilarious Old Republic Morality”:

There’s a mission to infiltrate an Imperial fortress. There’s two options, a frontal assault or sneaking in through the sewers. You and your companion do one, and a squad of Republic soldiers does the other.

Choosing to sneak through the sewers gives you Dark Side points.

Because that makes sense, right? “Did you hear about that special forces operative who snuck into an enemy fortress while the army staged a diversionary attack? What a jerk! A real hero would have run a diversionary attack by himself and let the regular army do the sneak attack! Sensible tactics are a sign of moral corruption!”

Even more hilarious if you’re playing a smuggler – in other words, a civilian who’s chosen to volunteer to help the Republic army of their own initiative. Nope, sorry buddy, you’re not volunteering to risk your life enough, you’re a bad guy now!
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Only really noticed this after playing a fair amount of The Old Republic, and now it’s bothering me. Does anyone else find it weird that female Twi’leks have little horns on the side of their head, but male Twi’leks have human-style ears? That really doesn’t seem like a particularly likely form of sexual dimorphism. Do the horns somehow work as ears, or are Twi’lek women deaf?*

And looking at Return of the Jedi, Oola’s ‘horns’ look like they’re meant to be part of her headdress, not part of her skull.

Honestly, considering the prequels introduced two other species with head-tentacles of one form or another, I’d rather see Bib Fortuna ret-conned as a different species – he doesn’t look that much like the other Twi’leks seen on screen…

*That'd actually kinda be interesting, and tie into the EU concept that a lot of Twi'lek language revolves around head-tail gestures, not speech... Be kinda neat to have a species that doesn't communicate through sounds.

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One of the impressive things in the Old Republic is the companion system. Each class has five companions, each with their own dialogue and storylines. It’s an area where they really could have skimped a bit – I don’t think anyone would have minded that much if some classes had shared a companion or two.

As is standard for BioWare, some companions can be romanced by the player character. In my current play through as a smuggler, I’m pursuing a romance with Risha, my partner-in-crime. In her storyline, it turns out she’s the exiled heir to the throne of some minor planet, and she’s working to regain her family’s power. I’ve advanced her storyline to the point where she’s made contact with a noble who might help her regain power… of course, there’s a complication. The noble’s a handsome young man, and the moment he meets her, he proposes marriage.

Leaving my poor smuggler feeling like a bit of a fifth wheel, and wondering how to convince Risha to forget about the charming noble in favour of sticking with a scruffy outlaw….

Yes, that’s right. BioWare’s apparently cribbing plot-points from The Courtship of Princess Leia


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David Newgreen

September 2017

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