Wednesday, June 29, 2011

3960 BBY: Lost Tribe of the Sith: Sentinel

I really do hope Lucasbooks and DelRay will compile the Lost Tribe of the Sith series, when it’s eventually completed, into a paperback. I’d definitely buy it.

JJM’s sixth title in the series, Sentinel, comes closely on the heels of issue 5, Purgatory, and continues the story of Jelph Marrian and Ori Kitai. Surprisingly, the Lost Tribe of the Sith series has turned into a love story. Conforming to the classic love story plot device of two young lovers from either side of warring tribes, Jeplph Marrian and Ori Kitai are the Star Wars equivalent of Pyramus and Thisbe, Romeo and Juliet, and Tony and Maria. Sadly, this can only end in tragedy – and rightfully so.

There is a reason these ancient plot devices still work. They speak to us on a deeply human level, and evoke within us deep and passionate emotions. I hope JJM stays the course with this narrative and takes this relationship to its logical and disastrous conclusion. There is nothing wrong with re-telling a classic tale or following an ancient story’s formula that has worked for literally millennia. At its heart Star Wars is just that – the retelling of a deep and resonating story we’re all familiar with: the hero’s journey – Gilgamesh, Theseus, Odysseus, Frodo, and Luke: classic heroes.

With rapt attention we have watched Jelph and Ori fall in love, and soon, their families will step in and challenge their loyalty to each other (maybe, we’ll see where JJM takes this). Do they fall in line with their tribes’ philosophy they’ve believed in all their lives, letting their families’ past dictate their future? Or do they continue the path they’ve chosen, and keep the “cords they’ve cut” truly severed? I’m genuinely interested in seeing where this goes.

JJM has done well with his characters. I’m invested in them and care about what happens to them. That’s all an author needs to do to be successful with his audience – write characters people will care about. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and credit where credit is due: within a very short framework, JJM has made me care about the characters he’s created. This is the indication of a good author.

JJM also did well showing us Ori’s growth and change of character. After seeing first hand Sith how philosophy plays out, watching Lillia Venn the Lordess of Kesh being consumed in a fiery explosion, Ori mused: “Had Venn been happy, she wondered, being immolated in her moment of triumph? The Tribe members seemed as hopelessly bound to their paths as the Keshiri who remained slaves” (25). This subtle change of thought pattern, wondering about happiness, something Ori had never really considered before, this question of happiness, indicates how she now sees the world a little differently. Again, JJM did well here.

Ori’s growth and her love story with Jelph aside, what I also enjoyed about this tale were the lines of connection to the larger narrative going on at this time in the Star Wars universe: how Krynda Draay and Lucien Draay are part of Jelph’s back story, how the Jedi Covenant has fractured the Jedi Order and has led to the Jedi civil war, and how Revan has now emerged as an giant figure directing the galaxy’s future. It’s small stories like Sentinel which gives Star Wars mythology its depth, richness, and complexity.

There was also another great little line in the story which connects well with one of the other ideas I’ve been talking about in Star Wars history, namely how some don’t believe the Jedi are as benevolent as they seem. This was typified with the senate blaming the Jedi for all the current destruction (during the Jedi civil war) because Revan was one of theirs, and it was his Jedi training he was now using against the Republic. Also, Yoda made reference to this in the Jedi Apprentice series alluding to “whispers” against the Jedi. Ori’s perspective of the Jedi typifies this belief: “The Republic, she remembered from her studies, was the tool of the Jedi—the puppet body through which the Jedi Knights ruled the weaklings of the galaxy” (7). Granted she’s mired in a Sith worldview, but this perspective become easy to sell and propagate when the Republic becomes destabilized. In the time of the Clone Wars much further in the future, and as the Jedi start to militarize, this conspiracy theory becomes known and accepted wisdom.

I’m not sure how many more LTOTS stories are planned, but the more it goes along the better it becomes.

Before I sign off I have a favor to ask all of you who read this blog. I’ve been having trouble getting my hands on a copy of Star Wars Insider 124. No magazine stores in my area carry it, and neither does my local library. If someone has a pdf of Kemp’s story The Third Lesson, (or word file or whatever) or has this issue and can scan the story and e-mail it to me I would greatly appreciate it. You can reach me at the forms at my handle there is Iscariot. From there I’ll give you my e-mail address. (you might have to make a swtor account)

For my next post I’ll be looking at Bioware’s cinematic Return. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

5000 BBY: Timeline 12: The Great Hyperspace War

I think the Sith Emperor in the time of The Old Republic is Ludo Kressh. I’ll explain my very tenuous claim momentarily, but allow me to quickly address timeline #12 itself.

For the most part timeline #12, The Great Hyperspace War, re-tells events we are already familiar with: Gav and Jori Daragon’s stumblance into Sith space, the struggle for power between Kressh and Sadow, and how these events led to the fall of the Sith empire.

Sadow, if we recall, was an expansionist. After winning over the other Dark Lords of Korriban, he brought the Sith armada into Republic space in order to destroy the Republic. However, the Republic won the day, leaving Sadow to limp back to Sith space, only to be met by Kressh, and then the Republic, and sent packing again, this time to Yavin 4.

What this particular narrative of Star Wars history adds to what we already know is this: not content with simply sending Sadow and his Sith forces packing, the Republic chased their aggressors all the way back into Sith space and began wiping out all the inhabitants of Korriban – a world up until that point in time was unknown to the Republic. The Republic began a mass genocide of the Sith remaining on Korriban. These regular rank-and-file Sith were presumably loyal to Kressh, the Sith Lord who favored staying hidden in deep space, since they were not out with Sadow on his expansionist quest. Only a few hundred Sith citizens survived this assault, and escaped with their “leader” (as Gnost-Dural says), who then did a blind hyperspace jump into deep space.

It is the question of Sith leadership I want to focus on. By the time the Republic makes its way into Sith territory, Sadow is already by this time a two-time loser. He lost going into Republic space, and he lost coming out of Republic space. The only other leader vying for authority at this time in Sith culture is Ludo Kressh, as he says to Sadow upon his return from Republic space: “I, Ludo Kressh, now hold that title! I am the Dark Lord of the Sith…as I should have been since the death of Marka Ragnos!” (Tales of the Jedi Vol. 1, 243). Kressh then tells Sadow he faked his death previously; however, Kressh’s death is strongly implied in the next scene, where Sadow rams Kressh’s flagship with one of his own – strongly implied, but not verified. There were still some of Kreesh’s ships around after his flagship was destroyed, as one of Sadow’s cronies’ comments: “Some of Ludo’s ships are still out there Lord…” (246).

In timeline 11 Sadow appears again, which implies that sometime after his escape to Yavin 4, he met up with the survivors of the Korriban massacre, but this time, he is most definitely not in a position of extreme authority; rather, he seems subservient to the Sith emperor. What is more, though I haven’t engaged with the sources yet themselves, it appears as though he is killed in the cinematic Return by his apprentice Darth Malgus (if I have indeed interpreted these events correctly).

With regards to Ludo Kressh, we can deduce two things from The Fall of the Sith Empire: firstly, he was understood and recognized by the Sith on Korriban as their undisputed Dark Lord. Secondly, he has been known to fake his death, or otherwise appear dead when he was in fact alive.

What is more, we know the Sith emperor had a long standing feud with Sadow, as were are told through the narrative of Barel Ovair and Eison Gynt in timeline #7, Peace for the Republic. In that narrative, Ovair, under the commands of the Sith emperor, sought out and destroyed the spirit of Sadow through the bodily incarnation of his apprentice Eison Gynt, thereby taking out all otherworldly challengers to the Emperor’s reign. Kressh and Sadow have been long standing rivals, ergo my claim: the Sith emperor is Ludo Kressh (and by Ludo Kressh I mean the spirit of Ludo Kressh, as I also believe Kressh as mastered the art of essence transfer and has been passing his spirit into various bodily hosts for the last many centuries).

I’m looking forward to the release of The Old Republic, yet I’m also lamenting the fact that I won’t really be able to play it – not like the way I played SWG or WOW. Life is far too busy. Besides, any extra time I have is spent on the Chronology Project, and anything that is not my family or job will only slow me down.

For my next post I’m going to continue with JJM’s Lost Tribe of the Sith narrative, and engage with Sentinel. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

40 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Threat Within

The Threat Within was just terrible. I’m glad the Jedi Apprentice series is not ending with this particular title as I would be highly disappointed.

What upset me most about this book was Qui-Gon’s total lack of judgment and perspective. Putting aside that this story was a re-hashing of the Melida/Daan narrative (and I get Watson made the overt comparison for a reason), I found Qui-Gon’s characterization just plain silly.

After Obi-Wan lays out his infiltration plan to his Master,(this just after revealing to Qui-Gon that Vorzyd 5 is not responsible for the sabotaging of Vorzyd 4’s production) Qui-Gon disagrees with his Padawan’s scheme: “Qui-Gon disagreed. They had not been summoned by the Council to infiltrate the Vorzydiaks. They should simply explain that Vorzyd 5 was not to blame and leave Vorzyd 4 to sort out its own troubles. The Jedi were keepers of the peace, not politicians or spies” (43). This was a wise and prudent assessment of the situation on the part of Qui-Gon here. What is more, Qui-Gon was also aware that should he let this situation continue, there was the potential for the pranks to go too far and for lives to be lost: “’Someone will be hurt just the same,’ Qui-Gon said when he finally spoke. ‘People were almost hurt today’” (70).

Yet, the Master does not want to stop his Padawan’s failing plan, because he wants him to ‘trust his instincts’: “Qui-Gon stood up and paced the room. Wasn’t he constantly telling Obi-Wan to trust his instincts? How could he give the boy such guidance and then never let him act on it? (43). I don ‘t know Qui-Gon, maybe because Obi-Wan’s instincts might be wrong? I also found it terribly ironic that in order to let Obi-Wan trust his instincts, he had to ignore his own: “Qui-Gon nodded. He was not at all certain that he’d made the right decision” (44).

As it turns out, Obi-Wan eventually realized he picked the wrong course of action, but it was too late, people had already died. What is worse, the Master – the teacher and the adult in this situation – should have used his proper judgment and initial “instincts” to realize this was a terrible plan. What is sad about this whole story is that I get the impression that Qui-Gon is mildly upset that lives were lost, but hey, at least his Padawan trusts him and he didn’t have to hurt his feelings, so no biggie.

Man-o-man, Qui-Gon comes off terribly in this story.

Qui-Gon should have taken a page out of the book of Master Dooku, told his apprentice that his plan was needlessly reckless and would ultimately endanger lives, went to the leaders of the planet and explained to them the situation, booked passage for the Jedi Temple and gotten the hell outta there, leaving his Padawan to work out his teenaged angst on the ride home – I think that that’s a more interesting story.

But no, Jedi arrogance got in the way, and since the culture of the Vorzydiaks was not to their liking (they were not demonstrative enough with their emotions for the Jedi) they felt the need to change it for the better. Also, it’s never explained why the Vorzydiaks were so uptight, but really, I didn’t care. I just thought that they were different and that was the way they did things. As it turns out, there was not malevolent force making them emotionally cold. Turns out, that’s just the way they liked doing things – the adults anyway.

Anyway, I’m getting more riled-up as I type. I’m just going leave my dissatisfaction with this story on this internet page and bequeath this narrative to where it is – in the rear-view mirror of the Star Wars Chronology Project.

On a completely unrelated side note, I have an interesting RPG story to share with you all. I run the Star Wars RPG club at my school (which I’ve mentioned before) and I was mulling over some campaign ideas in my head for next year. One of them had to do with the Fairwind, Farfalla’s ship from the Jedi vs. Sith TBP (a spaceship I’ve found endlessly fascinating BTW). I thought it would be cool if the characters were to find a derelict ship, repair it, and start some kind of pirate campaign. Then I got to wondering what the fate of that particular ship may have been, so I e-mailed a few people and asked them, namely Drew Karpyshyn and Draco Macan (writer of the Jedi vs. Sith TBP) and asked them what they thought. I prompted their responses with some ideas I had of my own: was it sitting on the planet Russan rotting away, or polished and on display in some navel museum on Farfalla’s home planet, or somewhere in between?

Interesting, each author went in the opposite direct of the other. Macan thought it would be rotting on the planet’s surface: “I presume that it was left to rot on Ruusan after the final battle sucked all the participants into the thought bomb? God, it was so long ago ...”, and Karpyshyn thought it would be on display in some navel museum: “I like the idea that Farfalla at some point retired it to a museum for its historical significance... seems like the kind of thing he'd do. It's generous, but it also helps bring attention to him and his accomplishments; that seems to fit his character. Of course, this is all very unofficial. Down the road someone at Luca might want to do something with the ship, and I don't have any control over that. Drew”.

Pretty neat. Thanks to the two of them for responding to my question and entertaining my Star Wars notions.

What do you think the fate of the Fairwind may have been?  I'm interested in reading your thoughts.

For my next post I’m going to travel back into Star Wars history, and read, watch, and listen to, new Star Wars sources which have come out in the last few months. My back-tracking will bring me all the way to 5000 BBY and the Great Hyperspace War to examine Bioware’s timeline #12, titled, appropriately, The Great Hyperspace War. From there I’ll make my way to the Lost Tribe of the Sith series by our familiar friend JJM, and then to some pre-Deceived sources before I get to the novel Deceived itself. I’m actually very excited about getting to these sources. So until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

40 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Only Witness

The Only Witness was the JA title I probably enjoyed the least.

I don’t know why, it just seemed to me that Watson was phoning this one in. I didn’t find the story particularly engaging, as simple explanations likes ‘Obi-Wan defeated the security of the door’, with no description as to how he did it, or ‘Gui-Gon paid the smuggler a fee’ without telling us how much he paid was not enough for me. I think this is probably my largest complaint about the JA title overall.

Yet, from a writing perspective I really can’t blame Watson. I haven’t pointed this out in the past because there is a reason she’s writing like this. Her intended audience is kids, and an author can’t bog down her readers with meaningless minutia, especially kids. A writer has to keep the plot moving forward, and detailed descriptions are not always necessary. But still, by book 17 I found the ‘our protagonists have managed to overcome this obstacle simply because I have written it as such’ device a little overused.

With that complaint out of the way, there were two elements of this story that jumped out at me as noteworthy, the first being the entry of Jocasta Nu into Star Wars history. However, her inclusion in this story seems a bit awkward. Written in February of 2002, shortly before AOTC was released in theaters, Watson included the Jedi archivist Jocasta Nu for the first time in Star Wars chronology. As it says of this at “Although Jocasta was created for Episode II, she actually first appeared in The Only Witness, book 17 of the Jedi Apprentice series written by Jude Watson, and published in February of 2002 by Scholastic Inc.”. I assume Lucasfilm sent the information of Jocasta Nu to Watson to include in her story as a bit of a teaser for the upcoming film. It seems as though Watson was not told much about her, as she doesn’t really know what to say about her in the story. It seems like Watson feels the need to explain her presence, and why Qui-Gon is now going to the head librarian for information: “In the past Qui-Gon had preferred to use other sources to get his information. He had grown used to working with Tahl, and hadn’t met with Jocasta that often since he took Obi-Wan as an apprentice four years ago” (5). I guess this but of descriptive is there to prevent someone from saying ‘Hey, wait a minute, if Jocasta Nu was there all along why didn’t Qui-Gon go to her?!?’ The simple answer is because she didn’t exist in Star Wars lore yet. But that’s not immersive.

Watson also seems unsure of what to write regarding Jocasta’s history with the other characters in the story: “Qui-Gon had encountered the Temple archivist before, and surely Obi-Wan knew who she was” (5). In this line it seems like Watson is hedging her bets here with Jocasta’s relationship to Obi-Wan. I suppose she’s doing this in case someone down the road later looks to creatively correct her assumption by writing that prior to The Only Witness, Obi-Wan had never met the Jedi archivist. If that were to ever happen Watson can rightfully claim ’I wrote surely because I wasn’t sure myself! No one told me anything!’ I can see Watson shrugging her shoulders, looking quizzically at her computer screen as she is writing this, wondering aloud ‘how the hell am I supposed to know of Obi-wan has met her before?!? I’ll keep it vague, just in case’.

Again like my last complaint, I can’t blame Watson. In 2002 all this new and crazy Star Wars lore was being canonized with the new films being released, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been (and still is in some cases)for a writer to keep continuity straight, wondering if Lucas might later toss their words out the window. I can’t imagine an author being pleased that their work was creatively corrected somewhere down the line by Lucas. When dealing with issues of firsts and cannon, and when ‘someone-met-someone for the first time at such-and-such a place’, it’s probably best if an author keeps matters vague, that way, the continuity bat can’t come swinging at their work later on.

As it is, the last bit of observation I have with regards to The Only Witness is Qui-Gon’s use of the Force push: “He was about to disappear when Qui-Gon burst into the room and knocked the man into the wall with a Force wave” (98). I was beginning to wonder if Watson knew the Jedi had a plethora of other abilities to use in times of struggle or conflict besides their lightsabers. I think that in all 17 books thus far, this was the first time Qui-Gon, or any Jedi for that matter, used the Force push. There were other times when this ability could have been used to further the plot along, instead of the Jedi “activating their lightsabers”.

For my next post I’m going to finish off the Jedi Apprentice series and look at book 18 The Threat Within. After that, I’ll begin to tackle the list provided by Lugija, and regress once again into Star Wars Lore, all the way back into 5000 BBY, and timeline number 12: The Great Hyperspace War. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

41 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Call to Vengeance

The darkside called to Qui-Gon, but thankfully, he did not respond.

In The Call to Vengeance, book 16 in the Jedi Apprentice series, Qui-Gon Jinn battled his most formidable enemy: himself.

In a scene reminiscent of Anakin and the sand people from AOTC, Qui-Gon Jinn, intrepid Jedi Knight and upholder of peace and justice in the galaxy, stood over his most hated enemy Balog to deliver a deathblow, when out of the silence of the Force came a voice.

For Anakin Skywalker, 19 years further along in history and long after the death of his Master’s Master, that voice was Qui-Gon Jinn. Turning his rage onto the Tusken Raider camp and those responsible for the murder of his mother Anakin begins to indiscriminately kill while Qui-Gon can be heard shouting to the enraged padawan through the Force “Anakin! Anakin no!”.

“At last, Qui-Gon’s enemy lay at his feet, just as he’d imagined. He stood over Balog, his lightsaber high, prepared for the stroke that would bring him so much satisfaction. ‘No, Qui-Gon’” (128). Hearing a voice call to him, one so close to his ear yet so far away, Qui-Gon at first mistook it for Obi-Wan’s. When Obi-Wan told Qui-Gon that he had not spoken a word to him as he stood over Balog, Qui-Gon realized the voice he heard – the one that pleaded with him – was the voice of Tahl, his love.

How fortunate for Qui-Gon to have listen to the voice which called from beyond. How unfortunate for Anakin that he did not.

Beyond Qui-Gon’s stepping back from the brink of the darkside, there were a few other scenes of interest that I’d like to comment on. Firstly, I’m enjoying more and more the character of Bant. As she progresses with Obi-Wan through the Jedi Apprentice story her characterization is beginning to be flushed out in more detail. In a particularly neat scene I found it humanizing how she struggled with emotionally handling the Jedi code in times of terrible distress: “The tears tumbled down her face. ‘It hurts so much, Obi-Wan. I can’t find peace in her death. I know I’m supposed to accept it. I can’t’” (58). In this scene Bant is nothing more than a 14-year-old girl, struggling desperately with powerful emotions of loss and emptiness, turning to her Jedi training for solace, and finding that philosophic words of wisdom, as wise as they may be, can do nothing to assuage the sublime feelings in her heart. It was one of the first times I actually felt and emotional connection with Bant.

Secondly, Watson has done well with handling the characterization of Mace Windu. Every so often, when multiple authors use an established character from Star Wars lore in their story, they really screw him or her up. Though I have yet to come across this in the literature I’ve read so far, it’s one of the complaints I’ve read about from other fans. I’ve come across more than a few internet posts about some author’s poor characterization of Jania Solo, and in some case, Luke Skywalker. Needless to say, I don’t have that complaint with Watson about Mace.

Watson handled the scene between Mace and Qui-Gon at the beginning of the story masterfully. Though Mace Windu is not the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, his presence on the planet seems more impactful than Yoda’s. He arrived on New Apsolon as the heavy – there to make sure everyone stays in line, or else. Yet even though he most likely knew Qui-Gon was reeling from Tahl’s death, he was still gentle yet firm with his college: “Qui-Gon saw that Mace was trying to be kind. There was a deep sympathy in his sober gaze” (19). Never once through the story did Watson have Windu do or say something which would be out of character for the stoic knight. She did well.

Lastly, like in the book Defenders of the Dead, Watson’s description of the Force as it surrounded Qui-Gon is interesting: “He couldn’t sense his Master and longer. There was only grayness and static between them” (117). Twice now has Obi-Wan’s description of the Force as it surrounds his master been described as “gray”. Maybe there is something to the notion of gray Jedi. We know there are other schools of thought on the Force beyond the Jedi and Sith. Maybe Qui-Gon has unknowingly tapped into an, as of yet unexplored, aspect of the Force.

Who knows?

For my next post I’ll be moving on to book 17 of the Jedi Apprentice series, The Only Witness. It’s looking like I’ll complete the Jedi Apprentice series by the end of the month, and then I’ll backtrack and cover all the sources that have come out since I started reading JA. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get in 8 posts this month. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

41 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Death of Hope

It seems that everything Qui-Gon has told Obi-Wan about love has been correct, as he is now a living example of how such passionate feelings can make one lose control. Yoda’s description of the path to the darkside to Anakin in TPM is fitting here. Fearful Qui-Gon is of losing Tahl. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering (a notion which is Buddhist to the core).

With his love now dead, Qui-Gon is failing miserably at handling the emotional fallout. By the end of the book he is vowing revenge, a response which is a deeply human trait, but a trait not shared by the Jedi (a line more eloquently put at the back of The Call to Vengeance).

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while probably know my stance on Jedi marriage. I’m not exactly against it, but I think it’s better if a Jedi were to remain unmarried (I use the term “unmarried” loosely here. I basically mean single and celibate). I feel that a life of celibacy is the highest call for the Jedi, and the highest ideal. To be a Jedi requires sacrifice. Jedi have been given a great gift, and they must share that gift with the universe devoting their life to peace and nonviolent conflict resolution. However, in our modern world sacrifice is a hard concept to sell. Admittedly I’m influenced by Christian scripture when I say this, and when I think of the idea of Jedi celibacy, I think of St. Paul’s words from his first letter to the Corinthians when he writes: “He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord-how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world-how he may please his wife” (1 Cor 7: 32-33). I palimpsest this to mean that if a Jedi remains unmarried, he has unhindered devotion to the Force, and may concern himself with only the matters of the Force: the training of his padawan, the maintenance of peace in the galaxy, and meditating on the will of the Force. But if a Jedi is married, he may lose his “spiritual” focus, and forget things like his call to justice, his obedience to the Republic, or otherwise become too concerned with “earthly” matters, and interest himself with only “pleasing his wife”. Where would a Jedi’s first priority lie? With his vocation, or his family?

I know that in the past the Jedi Council never had an issue with Jedi marrying (I’m thinking around the time of Nomi Sunrider), but in my examination of Star Wars history to date it hasn’t been made clear exactly when the Jedi began to forbid this practice. (I may have missed something, so if you know when the Jedi as a collective put the kybosh of Jedi being married please let me know).

From what I do know of marriage, and I can say this with absolute certainty, is that love and marriage elicit powerful emotions, both positive and negative. The positive is fine, but what of the negative? How does an extremely powerful being, like Qui-Gon Jinn, deal with the negative side of unjustly losing the one he loves the most? Does he then get to decide the fate of the beings responsible for that death and fill the role of judge, jury, and executioner?

It evident throughout the text that Qui-Gon is barley maintaining his composure, almost falling to his dark emotions on numerous occasions: “Thinking of Tahl helpless, her mind active but her body deteriorating, made him want to rip the room apart” (19). And when faced with delay, his calm Jedi centre is nowhere to be found: “Another delay. Qui-Gon wanted to bellow his rage to the sky” (69). Finally, when the thing he is attached to the most (when compassionate detachment is a Jedi ideal), he begins to slip down the dark path: “He felt her breath go in, then out, soft against his cheek. Then it did not resume…Qui-Gon looked down at Tahl’s lifeless body. His hand still clasped hers. ‘There is only revenge’” (149,152).

There is no emotion, there is only peace. But peace is a lie.

My next post will take me to Qui-Gon’s revenge, and we’ll see if the Jedi Code will be able to return him to his senses in book 15 of the Jedi Apprentice series, The Call to Vengeance. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

41 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Ties that Bind

How do Jedi handle love?

If you’re Qui-Gon Jinn, you do so in the healthiest manner possible; by acknowledging the feeling and being honest with those that the feeling affects the most.

Yet, I can’t help but point out that it was Qui-Gon Jinn who warned Obi-Wan of the dangerous of love in Mythology. His story of the two brothers who inadvertently killed their master over the love of a woman was told to warn the boy that love, passionate love, can lead to no good.

Sometimes it’s hard to take our own advice.

But was it love Qui-Gon was talking about in that story, or Eros: passion? Passion I think, yet, I can’t help but ask: does the love Qui-Gon feel for Tahl not contain some of that dangerous passion the Master warned the pupil about? I think it might.

Love, passionate love, love that is filled with eros, philos, and agape, must be one of the greatest emotional crises a Jedi could face. And no doubt, Qui-Gon is struggling with the physical element of love: those deep bodily desires to express to the person you are in love with an intimate embrace meant only for the two of you. Qui-Gon’s sexual tension is evident: “In the days since Tahl had left, Qui-Gon’s restlessness had deepened. Obi-Wan could see it. His Master had already decided to follow their tracking and survival exercises with physical training at the Temple. Qui-Gon threw himself into this without a break. He studied with the Jedi Masters, perfecting his battle skills, his endurance, his strength” (26). Surely Qui-Gon must release that energy somewhere. But is this the Jedi thing to so? Practicing and honing skills meant for battle? Should he not meditate and release this energy in a more passive non-violent form?

Oh, the agony of being a Jedi AND that highly complicated, nuanced, and imperfect being called a Human. Finding balance – this is the Jedi way.

Qui-Gon’s dealing with his own emotional state has raised my opinion of him. He chose not to repress, ignore or otherwise hide and disguise his feelings. In a moment of enlightenment, he realized he was either not properly acknowledging what was going on between him and Tahl, or finally gave himself permission to be honest with himself: “At last he had come to see the truth. He touched it and marveled at it and laughed at himself for not seeing it earlier. He had done all this in the space of a moment” (122). Qui-Gon’s next step is truly remarkable, and it’s remarkable because he is a Jedi. He tells Tahl how he feels about her, honestly and directly. And also remarkable is Tahl’s response. She too acknowledges her feelings and shares her love with him.

Yet not once does the word love ever escape their lips. They “pledge” themselves to each other and declare they will have “one life together, filled with separations” (124). So I have to ask, are they being truly honest with each other, or are they purposely skirting this word because they don’t want to acknowledge the emotional ramifications such a word carries?

It’ll be interesting to see how this will play out, and how everyone on the periphery of these two will react. Will Qui-Gon and Tahl hide their pledge? Will they be open with it? Or will they fall somewhere in between, neither making it public knowledge, nor hiding from the truth if asked or questioned. I imagine it being the latter. Knowing what we know about Qui-Gon, I imagine it’ll only be a matter of time before the Jedi Council catch wind of this, and I also imagine that the advice or admonishment the Council will give will be for these two to abandon their pledge, telling them to realize that such strong emotions, emotions exclusive to couples, can be dangerous and lead to the darkside. I can also see Qui-Gon telling the Council that he is a Jedi, and an adult, and in love with Tahl, and as such, can balance all three of these things while still remaining on the side of light.

And what of Obi-Wan? Do what we know about his future adult relationships, namely Duchess Satine, give us any indication of how he will handle love? Does Qui-Gon’s poor example of honesty, though noble, lead to what the Jedi Council might predict: darkness, anger, and pain? Does Obi-Wan take Qui-Gon’s experience to heart, and decide that the best way for a Jedi to handle this strong emotion is to suppress it, and put fidelity to the Order above all?
Does Obi-Wan realize that much is asked of those who much is given, namely the power of the Force, and that such gifts require sacrifice somewhere else, whether wanted or not?

What ramifications are in store for these two lovers, for lovers they are, and I imagine, lovers they will always remain.

For my next post I'm going to look at book 15 in the Jedi Apprentice series, The Death of Hope. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

41 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: Special Edition: Deceptions

The first half of Deceptions, a special edition issue of the Jedi Apprentice series, was a great little narrative in the story of Obi-wan Kenobi’s life. In this story Obi-Wan had to face Vox Chun, the father of Bruck Chun, the young Jedi he inadvertently killed when the wayward padawan and Xanatos attacked the Jedi Temple. In riveting courtroom drama fashion, Obi-Wan, along with Qui-Gon and Bant, were crossed examined by Vox Chun’s lawyer, a mean spirited prosecutor looking to blame Obi-Wan for Bruck’s death in order to lay criminal charges.

At the end of the story Obi-Wan was exonerated of any wrong doing, but he is still left with the guilt of Bruck’s death. But what I think Obi-Wan is dealing with most is not that Bruck died because he was unable to save him, but that maybe deep down he’s happy Bruck is dead. This, I think, is where the real struggle lies. How does a young Jedi reconcile the fact that he’s not supposed to celebrate death, yet know and feel that justice WAS served that night, perhaps even poetically, when Bruck slipped from that precipice? If Obi-Wan could only let go of the guilt of not feeling guilt over Bruck’s death, or maybe acknowledge the fact that he was creating the feeling of guilt when none actually existed to convince himself he’s not a horrible human being, could he truly be able to let the events of that night quietly move into the past.

Or maybe I’m just really projecting myself into the action, since there is absolutely zero evidence in the text to support the claim I’ve made. I guess what’s really going on is I think Obi-Wan should feel zero guilt over Bruck’s death and somehow I think that that makes me a horrible human being. If I were Obi-Wan I don’t think I’d be agonizing over his death too much, and I’d be more worried that this would call into question my Jediness.

Bruck was a jerk, he deserved to die, there, I said it. His whole family are jerks too. I hope they all slip off precipices.

There, I feel better, but now I feel like my own Jediness should be called into question.

Anyway, I’m glad Obi-Wan was exonerated because he did nothing wrong, but outside of this little courtroom drama, there were two other elements of this story that caught my attention, the first being how some people in the universe are becoming suspicious of the Jedi, and the second being the tacit move to Jedi militarization, surprisingly, on the part of the Jedi themselves.

When talking to Qui-Gon about Tahl’s investigation, Yoda references the growing distrust of the Jedi in the Senate: “Some there are in the Senate who resent the Jedi. Whispers there are about our taking advantage” (12). I imagine that the backstory to Yoda’s observation must lie somewhere with Darth Sidious and his alter ego senator Palpatine. Palpatine, the consummate politician, must be planting seeds of doubt among some in the Senate, but disguising it as support for the Jedi. Referencing The Clone Wars episode Lightsaber lost again, there was this fantastic scene where Ahsoka, caught upon a huge holovid of Chancellor Palpatine giving speech, wherein that speech one could faintly hear the dialogue coming from it where the chancellor is rededicating his support for the Jedi in a time of war, presumably openly combating negative public opinion regarding their role in the Republic; negative opinion, one can bet, that he himself started many years prior as Darth Sidious.

Also, what is interesting about this growing resentment of the Jedi in the Senate is the fact that the Jedi could be bringing this umbrage upon themselves. Yoda says that the decision for the Jedi Council to OK the development of a starfighter fleet has split them: “Aware you are that this project does not have the full support of the Council. Clee Rhara believes that the Jedi should have a squad of starfighter pilots. Some agree. Some do not” (11). Even as rag-tag as this fleet is, its existence could, and presumably should, be perceived as the Jedi growing increasingly militant. If I were a regular citizen in the Republic, and was beginning to hear negative press about the Jedi, and then learn that they are developing their own military weapons “for peace” I think I would rightfully be suspicious.

Vox Chun, Kad Chun, and Sano Sauro all represent a growing extreme in the galaxy at this time; an extreme that will one day herald the execution of Order 66 as good government on the part of Emperor Palpatine, and be celebrated as the unshackling of centuries old oppression of the Republic by the Jedi Order.

For my next post I’ll be examining book 14 in the Jedi Apprentice series, The Ties that Bind. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

41 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Dangerous Rescue

As I had previously guessed, The Dangerous Rescue ended the three-part story-arc that began with The Deadly Hunter. Watson introduced us to her latest villain, Ona Nobis, only to have her killed by Adi Gallia at the end of the story. Like my reactions to Xanatos’ demise I was wary if Nobis had indeed perished, but a quick look at her write-up on wookeeipedia confirms this. She appears only in the last three books and is never heard from again. It’s reasonable she could make a ‘back from the dead’ appearance down the line somewhere in Star Wars mythology (She’s a great villain short story writers could pull into their narratives). It’s plausible she could have survived the fall since she was Sorrusian in race and could therefore “compress their skeletal system”. I think a species that can compress their skeletal systems could likely survive falls from great heights.

As it is, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, with the assistance of Adi Gallia and her padawan Siri, save the day. Zan Arbor is arrested along with her accomplice Uta S’orn, and Noor R’aya (what’s with all the apostrophes?) the poor retired Jedi master, is saved and brought home unscathed.

The point of interest I want to focus on in this story is the last character I mentioned: Noor R’aya. Though only used as a MacGuffin in this narrative, I find the idea of retired Jedi Masters living out their old age fascinating. Not much is given about Noor, except what Gallia says about him: “Noor had a deep connection to the Force that led him to choose a life of meditation when he became an elder. He left the Temple and returned to his home planet, Sorl, where he planned to live in quiet seclusion” (33). Gallia tells us that his seclusion was short lived as Noor’s artistic abilities eventually led him to make toys for the local children, and his days of solitude were no more.

A few Jedi master’s came to mind when I read about Noor. Most obvious is Yoda, himself a wizened old master, strong with the Force, looking to live the life of an ascetic in the wilderness. I also thought of Jolee Bindo, from the KOTOR video game. He also chose a life of solitude on Kashyyyk. What these three Master have in common (R’aya, Yoda, and Bindoo) is that they forwent Temple life in their old age, and looked for the peace of nature. Granted, Yoda’s seclusion was not by choice, but I imagine him making the same decision whether Palpatine was successful with Order 66 or not.

Conversely, an elder which chose Temple life in their retirement rather than seclusion, and one I won’t get to for a while, is Tera Sinube from the second season of The Clone Wars. Instead of retreating to nature, he chose to stay in the bustle of Temple life, and every so often get in on the action. I wonder; do old Jedi Masters become like sannyasa, renouncing the world of the material, owning nothing but tattered robes for their backs, and a bowl to hold their food for which they have begged? I’ve always wondered: does a Jedi’s power diminish as he or she grows older, or does it increase, but because of the Jedi sentiments around detachment, do they simply let go of the immense power they have amassed?

What do most Jedi do when they become too old?

Turning my attention from old Jedi to young ones, is it just me, or is Obi-Wan Kenobi quite the ladies’ man? First there was Cerasi, and now Astri. We also know from The Clone War series that he develops feeling for Duchess Satine. I’m looking forward to how Obi-Wan will handle his sexuality, and all the tension it will inherently bring to his story.

For my next post I’m going to look at a break in the Jedi Apprentice series, a special edition JA titled Deceptions. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

41 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Evil Experiment

The past three months have been ridiculously busy. Fortunately with only one week of classes left I find myself finally ahead of the curve. Now armed with that most precious commodity, time, I can finally devote my attention to my obsessive pursuit: The Star Wars Chronology Project.

It is my hope to get in seven posts this month. Big words I think, but with 95% of my professional life organized until the end of the month I think I might make it happen.

The source I’ll be looking at today is book 12 in the Jedi Apprentice series, The Evil Experiment. Picking up from the cliff-hanger of The Deadly Hunter, the story begins with Qui-Gon Jinn imprisoned by a mad scientist, looking to study his Force abilities, while his intrepid padawan frantically searches the galaxy for any clues to his whereabouts.

Presumably the second installment in a three-part story arc, The Evil Experiment sheds further light on the Sorrusian bounty hunter from The Deadly Hunter, and concludes with Qui-Gonn’s near rescue by his padawan.

Much of the story is about Obi-wan honing in on his Master’s hidden location, while Qui-Gonn engages in a battle of wits with his captor Jenna Zan Arbor.

Zan Arbor, an intellectual descendant of our old friend from millennia past Doctor Demagol, is obsessed with finding a scientific explanation of the Force, and is using Qui-Gonn Jinn like a lab experiment.

What strikes me most in this story is the development (or rather the introduction) of the “mad scientist possessed with finding a reason for the Force” archetype. This particular character has become a bit of an epitome in Star Wars Mythos. So far in my accounting of Star Wars history, Watson is the first to use this type of character (So far that is. This story was written in 2001, and this type of character could be present in an earlier work I have yet to read), but the model is used again by JJM in his story The Secret Journal of Doctor Demagol. In that tale, Doctor Demagol, a Mandalorian warrior and a doctor, is looking to genetically manipulate future Mandalorian warriors by discovering the gene responsible for Force ability, then inserting that gene into future Mandalorians. He does this by performing gruesome scientific experiments on Force sensitive subjects. He even got his hands on Alek Squinquargesimus, the future Darth Malak.

Likewise, Zan Arbor’s reasons for finding a scientific explanation of the Force have roughly the same purpose as Demagol’s: power and control. She too gets her hands on a powerful subject of study: Qui-Gonn Jinn.

In my write-up on JJM’s Demagol, I argued that Miller was attempting to “save” the Force for us. I proffered the idea that JJM was looking to re-mystify the last remaining religious element of Star Wars, and recuse it from the clutches of cold and empirical science. By the end of the story Demagol has no explanation of the Force, and he somewhat begrudgingly admits what its users purport it to be: a mystical energy field which defies explanation.

I can only expect Zan Arbor to come to a similar conclusion, but only if she is not stopped first of course.

For my next post I’ll be examining book 13 in the Jedi Apprentice series, and possibly the conclusion of this particular story arc in The Dangerous Rescue. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.