Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3964-3963 BBY: The Secret Journal of Doctor Demagol

I’m going to call this post “Fixing George’s mistake”.

Remember back in ’99, when we all anticipated the release of the Phantom Menace? Remember how excited we were? Remember how we thought that this movie was going to be the best Star Wars movie ever?!? Remember how disappointment crept in to our subconscious when we left the theatre? Sure the lightsaber duel between Maul and Kenobi was awesome, but… Jar Jar Binks aside…

Midichlorians?!? Seriously?!? The Force is a genetic/biological entity?!? Whaaaaaaat???

In The Secret Journal of Doctor Demagol, the protagonist, our old friend “the flesh carver” from the KOTOR comic series, narrates his journey from the beginnings of flashpoint station, to being captured by Rohlan “The Runner”.

The Secret Journal of Doctor Demagol offers the reader a few interesting perspectives on the events of the KOTOR comic series. From Demagol’s complete incomprehension of Marn and his relationship to Zayne, to some interesting Mandalorian perspectives on the Jedi, to his fear of Squint/ Malak. Demagol’s most interesting thoughts, however, concern the Force, and that unexplainable equation which makes a Jedi a Jedi.

The Journal starts with ideological tension between Demagol and Cassus Fett, and how they envision the Mandalorian war machine. From Demagol’s perspective: “Fett sees the Mandalorians as a blunt weapon. I will craft them into a scalpel”. It is Demagol’s ambition to unlock the genetic secret of the Jedi, and use that biological answer to augment the Mandalorian forces, so they too may use the Force.

There are a few funny lines in this story, all dealing with Demagol’s incomprehension of Marn and Zayne’s relationship: “The boy -- they call him Zayne -- seems to be no Jedi, after all, but some kind of reject. He is moving around junk at the bidding of a Snivvian. I have always wondered what happens to Jedi who fail to reach knighthood. It appears they are made to become orderlies for smugglers. A strange practice.” Not only did I find this amusing, but also Demagol’s references to Marn as “The Lord of this vessel”, and Marn as Zayne’s “Snivvian overlord”.

In hearing about Zayne’s predicament, and how some in the Jedi order framed Zayne for murder, Demagol mused at the view most people had of the Jedi order: “For such a revered body, the Jedi order may be as fraught with intrigue as the Mandalorians are”. What I found most interesting about this line was not the bit on intrigue, but that even the Mandalorian view the Jedi order as a “revered body”.

I found JJM’s numbering of one of the entries clever. In first mentioning Malak in this story, or Squit as he is known at this time in history, Demagol’s entry is marked #6066. Drop the 0 and we have the sign of the beast. Demagol also goes on to say that: “He would not want to meet this one in a darkened alley”. Demagol tortures Squit significantly, and through this torture we see how Squit begins his transformation to the darkside: “he endures all wearing a look of sheer hate even I can recognize”. Later on in the journal, Demagol flat out says “I fear his presence”. Strong words coming from a trained Mandalorian.

All discussions of clever dialogue aside, I found that the most interesting part of this story was Demagol’s view of the Force. I think in this tale Miller is attempting to correct, what I deem, is one of the biggest mistakes ever made to Star Wars mythology, and to the continuity of the Star Wars story. Bringing this post back to my opening statements, in the Phantom Menace, Lucas gave us a scientific explanation of the Force. As the conversation between Anakin and Qui-Gon went, midi-chlorians are: “...microscopic life-forms that reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force”. With this explanation, The Force moved from an unexplainable, mysterious thing, so something which could be documented, categorized, numbered, and labeled. The Force was now the stuff of laboratory experimentation. To continue in the vein of my last few posts, it went from the realm of the mysterious sacred, to the realm of the secular scientific.

With this small tale, I think that Miller is attempting to rescue the Force for us.

Demagol makes the transition from believing the Force is something genetic, something which can be controlled by science, to almost believing that the Force is something to be awed by: “Pulsipher rejects my conclusions that "Force powers" are inborn genetic traits -- natural mutations, that any being can be modified to have. What does he think gives Jedi their powers? Why, magic, of course! Mystic talismans and trinkets, that's what he believes!” Indeed, it is also what I myself want to believe. By the end of the tale, however, Demagol’s tune has begun to change: “ I am half-prepared to believe this “Force” is an actual external phenomenon”.

This ‘half-thought’ is then again echoed by Rohlan at the end of the tale: “He was wrong about Jedi” says the Mandalorian of Demagol. Demagol was indeed wrong about the Jedi and the Force, as I believe Lucas was wrong about the Jedi and the Force as well. Even though Lucas created “the Force” of this world, I think he has lost touch with what it represents. He no longer follows ‘the will of the Force’. But who am I to question Lucas’ Star Wars, and who is Miller to correct Lucas’ mythology? The people have been telling the Emperor he has no clothes on for some time now.

Regardless, thank you for trying to save the Force JJM. I appreciate your effort.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to a very special source of Star Wars history, and a genre not yet covered in the chronology project: The timelines offered by the developers of The Old Republic MMO. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I applaud your efforts! I cannot express how cool it is that someone has the dedication to go through all the material. I'll admit from the beginning that this comment won't tie-in directly with this post. The criticism of midichlorians made me think of criticisms of retcons related to the animated series, and this felt the right place to bring retcons and fandom together.

    In a previous post you asked why Rowling and the Tolkien estates don't open up their art more to the masses to be shaped by "amateurs and masters". I think at least part of it could stem from the added responsibility of having to keep track of the canon and fan sentiment when adding on (LOTR is pretty much done but some danger still exists).

    Take the Clone Wars animated show. For one, by its very nature it steps on the work of Dark Horse writers and Genndy Tartakovsky's series of shorts. Their place in the Star Wars canon is thrown into jeopardy by this new, more "official" entry. Furthermore, the show has riled fans of Karen Traviss's books for its presentation of Mandalore, and Dark Horse readers have been dealt yet another death of Adi Galia and another outcome for Asajj Ventress. I think the Expanded Universe is weakened when things that are already perceived to be canon are trampled on by the central authority.

    Imagine if Rowling had more endorsed fiction, if she let it go as far as Star Wars has she might trap herself in terms of ever moving forward with it. A third-party story about Harry's father or children would probably end up adored by the fans. But if she ever came back to add onto her original story she could very easily conflict with endorsed canon. It would sour a part of the fanbase and possibly diminish from the whole.

    Rant now completed I wish to reaffirm my respect for your decision to head out on this adventure. I'm glad you're enjoying yourself and I hope to be able to come by regularly to catch up.

    P.S. You're going to come across Skynx again pretty quick (next few months) in his original appearance :)

  2. P.P.S. Oh you're only into episode I... okay sometime in the future you will meet Skynx for his original appearance.

    P.P.P.S. This is a link to stuff occurring between episode's 2 and 3 and has some great art from Joe Corroney. He also does art for some important stuff that cropped up in Star Wars Insider relating to the Clone Wars and more.

  3. Thanks for the great words of encouragement Anonymous. Feel free to sign-up as a follower of my blog; I’d enjoy seeing you comment more often.
    Your response on retcons is appropriate here for sure, as the addition of midicholorians into Star Wars mythology is arguably one of the largest retcons we have – moving the nature of the Force from the spiritual and re-centering it into the world of genetics.

    I think your response highlighted well the tension between the ‘levels of canon’ that currently exist in the Star Wars universe. To clear up my position on this; I’m one of the few (I think) who believes all Star Wars is created equal, in that one artist’s contribution – good, bad, beautiful, ugly, genius – is equal to George Lucas’ contribution. I think all writers and artists operate as a great Galactic senate, forming and shaping together the mythology of the Star Wars universe. I think this because Lucas opened this ‘Pandora’s Box’ back in 1976 with his forward to “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”, and the rest, as they say, is history. Can this sometimes be a problematic position? For sure, as is embodied in The Clone Wars animated series trampling upon excellent storytelling that existed before it, a truly sad and infuriating reality. Why didn’t they just make the Clone Wars animated series echo what was already beautifully done in the Clone Wars comic series created by John Ostrander, and Haden Blackman? Aaron Allston, in his blog post, answers the heart of this question well. A good read for sure.

    Basically Lucas and Filoni and company don’t want to be hedged in by other artist contributions because they believe it may creatively restrict their own ability to tell a good Star Wars tales. Something you already mentioned with the Potterverse and LOTR IP’s. If Rowling endorsed other people playing in her sandbox, it would inevitably mean that she is restricted by what that author has created. Which I think is her prerogative because she hasn’t done that yet, but with Star Wars, that train left the station a long time ago (1976). And you’re right; too much retconning does sour a part of the fanbase and does diminish the mythology as a whole, but I make my peace with this (sometimes uncomfortably) telling myself that this retconning and retelling is part of the ‘Great Chain of Reading’ that is the Star Wars universe (see my post on The Phantom Menace novelization: )

    To wrap-up my thoughts on this, I think Lucas and Filoni need to be respectful of what is already out there, and craft The Clone Wars around other artist’s contributions.

    As I said earlier, please feel free to comment more often. I’m still working my way through The Phantom Menace material (I’m currently on mission 3 of the 00M-9 stories in Galactic Battlegrounds) but my life is so busy I can’t write as often as I’d like. It saddens me really, because this is a project I truly love. I sometimes dream that some “power-that-is” at Lucasfilm would hire me full time to complete my blog. I don’t know why they would because I decry them just as much as I applaud them, but a man can dream, right?