Friday, June 24, 2011
40 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Only Witness
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 starwar.com: “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.