Wednesday, September 16, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Dark Lords of the Sith

Leisure time is at a low, and my ability to trek down the path of my doctorate in Star Wars-ology has become hampered with others things that take priority. We’re now into week three of classes, and projects that were assigned the first week have now boomeranged back into my hands for assessment and evaluation. Teaching is fun – it’s the marking that becomes dreary.

Be that as it may, the fire that burns in my belly for the journey of this project is still hot, and I’m looking forward to recording my thoughts and reactions to the Dark Lords of the Sith series.
Our spot in Star Wars chronology picks up a few months after the Freedon Nadd uprising. The students of Master Arca are enjoying some leisure time on the planet of Onderon, and it seems that a relationship based on mutual affection has developed between Nomi Sunrider and Ulic Qel-Dorma.

The darkside which was once powerful on this planet seems to have weakened. This is because Onderon is no longer a seed of power for the darkside. That mantle has been passed to Satal and Aleema, the heirs to the Empress Teta system. It seems that in the short months these two apprenticed themselves to Freedon Nadd, they have grown very powerful in the workings of Sith magic. So much so, in fact, that they managed to stage a military coup of their parents rule, and by force, managed to take over and subjugate much of the Teta system. It is here that the Jedi Knights – defenders of peace and justice in the galaxy – enter the picture.

During a meeting on Deneba, where many of the Jedi Knights and their Masters gathered to discuss the Jedi response to this darkside threat, the Jedi were attacked by the minions of Satal and Aleema (Who call themselves the Krath). In a “retaliate first” mentality, the followers of the darkside managed to discombobulate the Jedi by striking them first, and in the process, killing Jedi Master Arca Jeth.

Ulic Qel-Dorma swears vengeance on the Krath, and devises a plan to infiltrate the Krath posing as a fallen Jedi looking for instruction in the darkside of the Force. His fellow Jedi and the Masters on the council advise him against this idea. But his mind is made up, and he sets his plans in motion.

Before long Ulic manages to persuade Satal and Aleema that he is one of them, but his ruse did not come cheap. It seems that the further he goes along with his plan, the further he walks away from the lightside of the Force, until, finally, he’s unable to use any of his lightside abilities.

His fellow Jedi, lead by Ulic’s brother Cay, and Nomi Sunrider attempt a rescue mission of their lost friend. However, in a fit of rage Ulic tells them all to go away. Most heart-breaking is Ulic’s treatment of Nomi – it seems that Ulic has found a new love, in the form of the darkside witch Aleema. Nomi acquiesces to Ulic’s demands, and the Jedi leave Cinnagar empty handed.

After killing Satal, Ulic and Aleema are left as the sole disciples of the spirit of Freedon Nadd. It seems that Ulic, in an attempt to destroy the darkside of the force, only became consumed by it.

In a story running parallel with this one, we learned of Exar Kun, an arrogant and powerful Jedi who is the apprentice of Master Vodo-Siosk Baas. Our introduction to this man comes in the form of a chastisement from his Master. It seems Exar Kun is obsessed with the lore of the Sith, and he is caught studying his Master’s holocron on the history of the Sith – when he’s been expressidly forbidden to do so.

Later, we see Exar sparing with the other apprentices of Master Vodo. He is very aggressive and ruthless in the sparring sessions with his fellow apprentices – which leads one of them to denounce him as a Jedi. Sylvar, a female Cathar, sees right through Exar Kun, and sees that his heart is full of dark intentions.

Exar Kun leaves his master, and begins his search for Sith artifacts to study. His travels bring him to Onderon, and Master Arca. Arca has no time for the wayward Jedi, and in no uncertain terms, tells Exar Kun that he knows what his intentions are, and that he’s headed down the path of darkness.

Wandering the streets of Iziz, Kun manages to find remnants of the sect of Freedon Nadd. They take him to Korriban, the ancient resting place of the Sith, and it is here that Kun comes into contact with the spirit of Freedon Nadd. Nadd has planned this meeting, and swiftly brings an avalanche of rock upon the fallen Jedi, crushing nearly every bone in his body. Nadd offers Kun a choice – accept the darkside, and I’ll heal you –or else perish. Kun accepts Nadd’s deal, and the darkside becomes his. The spirit of Freedon Nadd then offers Kun a powerful Sith amulet, which, ironically, Kun turns on Nadd; thereby destroying the spirit of Freedon Nadd, presumably forever.

From this point Exar Kun looks to find the remaining threats to his darkside rule – Ulic and Aleema.

Kun uncovers the two on Cinnigar, and quickly a lightsaber duel erupts between Ulic Qel-Dorma and Exar Kun. Neither is able to gain the upper hand. Suddenly, and ancient spirit forms out of the darkside amulets the two are wearing. The spirit does not identify itself, but tells the two to stop fighting. They do, and the spirit brandishes Exar Kun as the Dark Lord of the Sith, and Ulic Qel-Dorma as his foremost apprentice. It is here at this dark pact that the story of the Dark Lords of the Sith ends

I found many things interesting and enjoyable with this story; namely, some of the technology presented, the idea of multiple apprentices, the characterization of Exar Kun, his relationship to his Master, the nature of the darkside of the force, and the beginning of the one master, one apprentice darkside rule.

Firstly, and briefly, I want to point out that the Tetan starships drawn in the comic hold a precursor-type resemblance to the starships of the Imperial navy that are depicted in the films. I wonder if there is a design linage that connects the build of the Tetan warship to the later representation of the starship in the Imperial navy.

Secondly, I found it interesting that Master Vodo had several apprentices, and what is more, two of them were involved in a romantic relationship with one another. In a scene where Exar Kun is dueling one of his fellow Jedi, he handedly defeats his fellow students, then disparages him after he beats him. Crado, who was defeated by Kun, is then comforted by another apprentice of Master Vodo – Sylvar. She tells him that when their training is complete, they’ll start a family. Sylvar then goes on to defend the honor of her man, and duels Kun, scaring him with her claws (her species is Cathar). It seems that in the ancient days, Jedi marriage is not forbidden, nor is starting a family while simultaneously being a Jedi Knight. I know I’ve spilt much ink on this in my previous posts, but I again wonder when the restriction on marriage and family worked its way into the Jedi Code. Also, I wonder when it became inappropriate to Master more than one apprentice. In our stories so far, each Jedi Master encountered has more than one apprentice. In Episode 1, Yoda tells Qui-Gon Jinn that he cannot take Anakin as his apprentice, as he already has one – Obi Wan Kenobi.

This heated duel Exar Kun and Sylvar lead to Master Vodo getting involved, and its here that a classic Master vs. apprentice duel erupted. Using a wooden stick, Master Vodo defeats Kun, and reminds him that he is indeed the Master, and Kun is the apprentice. Kun does not take defeat gracefully, and instead of accepting the lesson of his master, uses a second lightsaber and begins to duel his master once more. This time, the result is not so clear cut, as Kun battles Vodo to a draw. Master Vodo sees much darkness in Kun’s heart, to which Exar Kun replies "Only I know my heart”.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two characters. I got the sense that Master Vodo was often irritated, and possibly angered by his apprentice, but that he always came from a place of love and concern when he had to rein him in. It seemed to me that Master Vodo, although maybe harsh with Kun, needed to be in order to get through to his apprentice. What I also found what that these “tough love” sessions seemed to be lost on Kun, in that he never saw the love and concern behind the lesson, but just felt that Master Vodo was simply proving that he was more powerful than him. I could be reading into this, as I’ve had this dynamic with my own students in the past.

I also get the sense that no matter how much “tough love” Vodo gave to Kun, that Exar was fatally lost to the darkside of the force.

Thirdly, I enjoyed the characterization of Exar Kun. Right from the beginning of the story, I had the sense that he was jerk. His arrogance and obnoxious attitude were delineated clearly in the opening pages of the story. You like Exar Kun because he’s powerful. You like Exar Kun because he’s a jerk. He’s fun to like, and simultaneously hate.

Fourthly, some “truths” about the nature of the darkside of the Force came to light for me. Before Exar Kun destroyed Freedon Nadd with the Sith amulet the latter supplied to him, Nadd requested that Kun ‘resurrect’ him into a corporeal body. This is never flushed out in the story, as Kun destroys Nadd at his first opportunity, but this scene reminded me of a piece of dialogue from Revenge of the Sith. When Anakin was sitting with Emperor Palpatine, and the Emperor was revealing some of the techniques behind the darkside of the Force, Palpatine says to Anakin: “The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”. It’s this ability of unnatural resurrection that I think Palpatine may have been referring to. Indeed, Palpatine, like many Sith Lords before him, is searching for immortality – as is Freedon Nadd.

Fifthly, building upon the previous scene mentioned, I get the impression that only the darkside of the Force can defeat the darkside. In the Dark Lords of the Sith, Kun destroys the spirit of Freedon Nadd with a powerful Sith amulet, presumably forever. In Episode 6, it took Vader to defeat the Emperor. It makes me wonder, can the darkside of the Force only be destroyed by the darkside?

Finally, It is in this tale that we are witness to the first time in Star Wars chronology the idea of the one Master, one apprentice darkside rule. At the end of the story, an unnamed Sith spirit designates Exar Kun as the Dark Lord of the Sith, and Ulic Qel-Dorma as his foremost apprentice (it leaves room here for the master to have more than one apprentice BTW). This is the first time this relationship is brought out. It has been alluded to in the past, with the mention by Master Arca that Nadd apprenticed himself to a Dark Lord of the Sith, but here this piece of Star Wars dogma is put front and center. Interesting.

For my next post I’ll be moving outside of Joe Bongimo’s chronology once again, and examining the Dark Lords of the Sith Audio drama. Hopefully there will be less days between my updates. Until then, may the Force be with you.


  1. I don't think it's every outright said in the timeline, but a lot of people think the Jedi not having attachment rule started with Nomi Sunrider. I like to think she presented the idea after her experience with Ulic.

  2. That's a very interesting point. Sunrider's influence in the Jedi Order is well known, as was demonstrated in Anderson's story Redemption, so it does make sense that she may have been the one to first proffer the notion of detachment. I would think that not only was it her experiences with Ulic which may have prompted this Jedi tenant, but also the loss of her husband may have been playing in the background as well. Super interesting!