Wednesday, September 29, 2010

980 BBY: Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil

Drew Karpyshyn gets it.

I’ll explain what I mean by this towards the end of the post; suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bane trilogy and what Karpyshyn added to the Star Wars mythos.

Dynasty of Evil was the shortest of the three novels, and aptly named as by the end of the book, Darth Bane – Dark Lord of the Sith, had indeed established a dynasty of evil.

There are only three areas from this novel I want to discuss today, namely, the mention of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, cloning, and Darth Andeddu.

In Dynasty of Evil we meet Serra, Caleb the healer’s daughter, now all grown up and out for revenge for the murder of her husband. Because a Jedi was killed on her home planet, and she being the princess of Doan, it was necessary for her to travel to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to explain to the Council that her family, the royalty of Doan, had nothing to do with the Jedi’s death. Upon entering the airspace of Coruscant, we see the Jedi Temple through the eyes of Serra: “…the Temple dominated the skyline. Serra recalled that it had been built on top of a mountain. Not on a mountain…but actually over the mountain – the stepped pyramid covered the entire surface, swallowing the mountain so completely that it was no longer visible” (59). This description of the Jedi Temple brought me back to the TOR comic Threat of Peace, and the TOR game trailer Deceived, where we were witness to the annihilation of the Jedi’s sacred space in 3653BBY.

A couple of thoughts came to mind as I was reading the description of the Jedi Temple. Firstly, is this the same temple that was reconstructed after the attack of the Sith in 3653 BBY? I briefly went over my notes, and as far as I can remember the Jedi Temple, in the history of Star Wars up until this point, had never been destroyed. The Order itself had been nearly wiped out by the Sith triumvirate, but as far as I can remember the structure of the Temple itself has always remained intact (I think this is correct, and I can’t seem to remember reading anything about the Temple being destroyed prior to this date).

Moreover, I began to wonder when the Jedi Temple was eventually rebuilt after the Sith attack. Did the Jedi expand the Temple from its original design, or did they simply look to reconstruct what was lost? Was the Jedi Temple always built over a mountain? Was there a time in Star Wars history, maybe circa 3000BBY to 980BBY (a little over 2000 years of history) where the Temple was brought down a second time? Is the Temple we see in The Phantom Menace the same Temple described in the pages of Dynasty of Evil? All interesting and thought provoking questions I think.

All of this talk of Temple destruction brought a whole host of other thoughts and questions to mind, and reminded me of the destruction of the second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70CE. It was this thought which really precipitated all my other inquires. Prior to 70CE, the Jews (lead by King Herod) rebuilt the first Temple of Solomon after its destruction at the hands of the Babylonians centuries prior. This ushered in the age of Jewish history known as Second Temple Judaism. What I find interesting here is how the Jewish people of the past measured time – they did so by counting the reigns of Kings and Judges and the beginnings of Abraham and Moses, but also when their sacred structures were built and then subsequently destroyed. Did the Jedi do this as well? (There’s a great essay topic: Jews and Jedi – the effect of Temple destruction on the psyches of a people).

As a matter of fact, how do inhabitants of the Star Wars universe measure time? I remember reading an in-universe story which explained the use of BBY and ABY, but such an explanation only makes sense regarding events which occurred after the battle of Yavin. And I can see how characters who are chronologically set after the battle of Yavin (Jacen Solo for example) could make reference to events prior to the battle of Yavin using the BBY marker. But how do characters living in the universe before the battle of Yavin measure time? It’s certainly not with the denotation “BBY”. What year did Darth Bane think he was born? How did he himself know he was 45 years old? According to what measurement of time did he use? I think this absence of measuring time from an in-universe perspective prior to the marker of BBY is an element lacking in Star Wars literature.

Moreover, now that I’ve gone through the beginnings of Star Wars history at length, I think the time markers BBY and ABY are inadequate. The battle of Yavin was not the most dramatic event in the Star Wars universe when one accounts for the entirety of Star Wars history (granted I myself have yet to get through that entirety).

We in our world mark time from the birth of Christ (whether we recognize his religious significance or not – changing the AD/BC denotations to CE/BCE really doesn’t hide the fact that our Gregorian calendar measures time from the birth of a significant individual – a birthdate incorrectly applied mind you) Yet Star Wars, a universe that has a habit of emulating our own, does not have the birth of a significant individual to turn to, so in lieu of that, we use the battle of Yavin to mark time. But I think there is a significant event we can turn to to measure time with without using the BBY and ABY denotations – the birth of the Republic.

In 25,000 BBY the Galactic Republic was founded. This could be year zero. This was a significant event that most sentient beings in the universe can turn to to establish common ground. Events prior to the founding of the Republic can be referred to as BGR (Before the Galactic Republic). According to this measurement of time, the first human colonists of Alderaan landed on that planet in 2,500BGR. Events after the founding of the Republic can be marked with AGR (After the Galactic Republic). Therefore, according to this measurement the events of Darth Bane would have taken place in 24,000AGR, and the battle of Yavin would have taken place in 25,000AGR. I think this measurement of time gives a more significant understanding of the age and depth of the Star Wars universe.

All of this nonsense, of course, is the ravings of a mad man who has put entirely too much time and thought into his obsession with Star Wars. Take everything I write with a grain of salt.

Wasn’t I supposed to be discussing the novel Dynasty of Evil?

Ok, back to my post. The description of the Jedi Temple on page 59 started all this, and ultimately I think a discussion of the Temple’s history was interesting, and that there is a better way to measure time in Star Wars.

Now on to my next point: the mention of cloning.

Because Darth Bane managed to master the art of essence transfer, he toyed with the idea of creating a clone body to house his essence, or soul, to create a Sith dynasty and live forever: “The best candidate would be an engineered clone body, an empty shell with no thoughts or identity of its own. But creating a suitable clone could take years…” (162). I’m vaguely familiar with the history of Star Wars after the battle of Yavin, and I know Palpatine also cloned his body in order to achieve eternal life, but I don’t think Palpatine had the same understanding of the darksdie Bane had, as I think Palpatine’s clones did not possess the collective knowledge he had managed to collect over time. But I don’t know that for certain – I’m fairly unfamiliar with that material. Maybe Karpyshyn was making the connection between Bane and Palpatine. I look forward to engaging with that future material though, and hopefully connecting a lot of dots between two Dark Lords of the Sith.

Cloning is a prime example of the stagnancy of technology in the Star Wars universe. I think cloning was first mentioned all the way back at 3963BBY, where it came to light that Jarael was a clone of Arca Jeth, the Jedi Master of Cay and Ulic Qel-Droma. I’ve come to accept that the Star Wars universe is a universe that reached the peak of its technology around 4000BBY. Nothing drastically changes after this date, not advances in weaponry, medicine, or science. There may be some improvements here or there, or bigger ships, but other than the size of the technology the technology itself stays basically the same.

My final point of discussion in today’s post centers upon the character of Darth Andeddu and his holocron. Darth Andeddu fills in some gaps, I believe, with regards to the Sith emperor from the Old Republic era and his secret of longevity. The end of the Blood of the Empire series came out a few weeks ago, and when I’m finished with Dynasty of Evil, I’ll return to that unfinished source. But before I make my final comments on that particular piece, there were certain events which took place in that comic that have repercussions, I believe, in Dynasty of Evil. It seems that the Sith emperor’s apprentice was running from him, to prevent herself from becoming one of his “children”; basically from losing her own soul to become possessed by the emperor. This makes sense, as Andeddu predates the Sith emperor (whose earliest appearance in Star Wars chronology thus far dates back to 3961) and from what I’ve read from wookieepedia, Andeddu was an apprentice of Karness Murr from circa 7000BBY. Therefore, it stands to reason that if the Sith emperor came after Darth Andeddu, that the emperor may have learned the technique of essence transfer from Andeddu himself. With the ability of essence transfer, the Sith emperor would be able to take his time with his invasion of the Republic. It could also be that the Sith emperor is an ancient Dark Lord of the Sith who dates back to before the 100 year darkness, but his backstory still remains to be seen.

So, what do I mean by my opening statement that ‘Karpyshyn gets it’?

I’m a fairly simple guy, and I like it when the end of the story I’ve read has a nice conclusion where everything is wrapped up. I don’t like to think too much (despite what my long winded posts may indicate) when it comes to fantasy and science fiction literature. I want to know simply who won: the good guys or the bad guys. Give it to me straight. Treat me like an uneducated buffoon. But at the end of Dynasty of Evil Karpyshyn got clever, which required me to think, which irritated me. I had to pause and contemplate the notion of whether or not the essence transfer worked between Bane and Zannah. I then had to re-read the text and draw conclusions of my own. Ugh!

Ultimately, I think the essence transfer worked for three reasons. Firstly, after the essence transfer ritual and the destruction of Bane’s body, we are told that Zannah: “…moved awkwardly and couldn’t seem to stand up straight, as if she was unfamiliar with how her own limbs and muscles worked” (293). Karpyshyn then gives us an out by stating, ‘but this could have been because of the battle’. At this point I’m not quite ready to buy that. Bane was too powerful, too smart, and had risked too much at this point to fail. Zannah had no idea what sort of attack was coming, and in this final spiritual confrontation between master and apprentice, Bane was too well prepared for what was about to happen. Like a newborn horse finding its feet, Bane was getting his balance after his rebirth in his new body. Secondly, After Zannah rose from the ground, Darth Cognus asked of Zannah “Lord Bane?” (293) Why would Cognus feel the need to ask this? She knew nothing of the essence transfer ritual, and had no idea that possessing an individual through the Force was even an option. I think she asked this question because her instincts and the Force had told her what happened: that Bane now possessed Zannah – but she has nothing rational or concrete to support her instinct. She knew it was an insane question, yet she still couldn’t deny the instinct that something had changed. All she has to go on is what Zannah next told her – that Bane is dead and she is her new master. She could only take this statement at face value. What is more, Bane has every incentive to lie to his student about what happened at this point. Why reveal the essence transfer ritual when he (in the form of Zannah) may need Cognus’ body at some point in the future? Holding on to the essence transfer secret is in a Dark Lord’s best interest. Thirdly, right before the epilogue, we are told that: “[Cognus] couldn’t help but notice that, as she was speaking, Zannah was continually clenching and unclenching the fingers of her left hand” (294). I’m pretty certain at this point Karpyshyn is telling us the ritual worked, since this was one of Bane’s physical traits. I can’t think of any reasonable reason to include this piece of text only to then try and convince the reader that the ritual didn’t work.
With all that being said however, Karpyshyn did enough to keep the conclusion a little open-ended, and that is why he gets it. In writing a Star Wars story the author does not look to conclude their stories with a wrapped up ending – they want to keep endings a little mysterious. Wrapped up endings is not what Star Wars is about. Inevitably some other writer at some point in the future is going to pick up another Star Wars author’s story and that author’s characters, and begin taking them in directions that the original author never dreamed of. This is exactly what has happened with the Expanded Universe. Other storytellers came along and expanded upon Lucas’ vision. And likewise, other storytellers are going to pick up the legacy of Darth Bane and Zannah, and write the story of the Master/Apprentice relationship between Zannah and Cognus.

Maybe Zannah is Zannah, but I don’t think so. I think Bane was successful and is looking to further develop his revenge plot against the Jedi.

But that’s just one man’s opinion.
For my next post I’m going to fill in the gaps of the Blood of the Empire comic, and then engage with the Jedi vs. Sith Force guide, and mine all references to Bane and Darth Andeddu. In the meantime though, I’m going to take Plaristes’ advice and take a look at the short story Bane of the Sith and the comic All for You; both sources are considered non-canonical. I’m not going to deal with them in their own post however. I’m just going to reply to Plaristes question in the comment field on my post on Rule of Two. So, if at all possible, Plaristes, would you be able to set me up at the end of a source with a non-canonical source following with a question like “so are you going to read…’? That way I can go, ‘Why yes…and here are my thoughts on that…’ Let me know if you don't mind being my straight-man.

Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. Sure, I can do that. As for calendars, we know now that people used one that classified events as BTC or ATC (Before the Treaty of Coruscant or After). Closer to the films, there was a calendar that's still used in a lot of contemporary EU (especially during the prequel era) that was created during the Great Resynchronization (

  2. BTC and ATC...those markers of time completely slipped my mind. I guess to answer my question about the date of Bane's birth then; would he think he was born circa 2633 ATC? (Is that about right?)

    That article on the Great Resynchronization was interesting as well. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

    Have you ever read Star Wars on Trial? Someone pointed it out in a thread on swtor about technology stagnation in Star Wars. I think I'll check it out.

  3. No, I've never read it, although I'd like to. I've heard that Stover and Traviss both contributed to it, and they're two of my favorite SW authors.

  4. I think it would be more appropriate to measure time in Pre and Post Republic, and by that I mean the original one that lasted for 25,053 years.

    And I agree that the Battle of Yavin is not the event that shaped society as it was later on, since the Empire continued to rule the galaxy.

  5. @ Joel - Yeah, the formation of the Republic seems like a significant event in galactic history - why not measure time from this date? I know a "resynchronization" of Star Wars lore to reflect this notion will never happen, but its interesting none-the-less to discuss such things.

    @Plaristes - Traviss you say? I have yet to come across her work but she seems to really garner an emotional response from the Star Wars community. My interest in this book is now further peaked.

  6. What I really meant to say was that it would be appropriate to use Pre and Post formation of the Galactic Empire, or Pre and Post fragmentation of the Republic. Sorry if my comment was somewhat elusive.

  7. Ah, I see what you mean. Ultimately I think we both agree that the formation of a galactic body is a greater event than a battle.

    I think the subject of in-universe dates became even more muddled last week, when in the episode of The Clone wars titled "Sphere of Influence" Lott Dod, representative of the Trade Federation, mentions the "Treaty of 1647". Which begs the question: which in-universe date is he referencing?

  8. It should be one of the galactical calendars, because it seems like a big trade treaty made for the entire Republic.
    -Not "After the formation of Republic" I think, that would go too far
    -Not "After Ruusan Reformation", it has been less than 1647 years from that date
    -Best answer (if there's not a calendar we haven't heard about yet, which is entirely possible) is perhaps "After the Treaty of Coruscant", it would make the date 2006 BBY, which is perfectly good date. That is near the beginning of the New Sith Wars, and the Republic could be seen to try to keep the trade rolling.

  9. I think you might be on to something there Lugija. ATC may indeed be the marker of time being used during the clone wars. I think it would be cool to have that date recognized, as we may finally be able to have an accepted in-universe date to go with. If this is the case I think this gives the Star Wars universe more depth, and a touch more credibility.

    When I read Lord of the Rings I always appreciate that the characters in the story had a calendar for marking time. It made that world feel more real to me.

  10. Actually according to the author himself, the essence transfer failed. That hand shaking is a side effect of the fragments of Bane's soul. He also thought it was obvious and was surprised when people needed it spelled out for them.

    On another note, I engoy the fact that while Bane is a monster he is not a hypocrite. When captured, while many villians would become hypocritical, Bane blames himself for being week. Maybe its me but there is a twisted sense of honor in that.

  11. On another note the ABY timeline is for people in the real world not the Star Wars world