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.


  1. Hopefully you don't have to eat your words.

    I have been thinking about studying the Force through scientific means. I have nothing against that you could see some differences in a body whose user is Force-sensitive (like more midi-chlorians, which are generally used as a meter in this era). But the actual sensitiveness of the Force itself and its will should be left unknown.

    By the way, at the moment the new stuff before 41 BBY looks like this:
    The Old Republic Timeline 12 - The Great Hyperspace War (5000 BBY)
    Lost Tribe of the Sith: Sentinel (3960 BBY)
    The Old Republic Trailer: Return (3681 BBY)
    The Third Lesson in Insider 124 (before Deceived)
    The Old Republic: Deceived (3653 BBY)
    Red Harvest (3645 BBY)
    Knight Errant 1-5: Aflame (1032 BBY)
    Knight Errant: Novel (1032 BBY)
    Republic: Vow of Justice (88-67 BBY)

    Then there are comics The Old Republic: Lost Suns 1 (c. 3632 BBY) and Jedi - Dark Side 1 (58 BBY) but you'd better make a post of complete arcs once they're finished in Autumn.

  2. Interesting. What do you mean when you say "I have been thinking of studying the Force through scientific means"? Please explain.

    The insertion of Midichlorians into the Star Wars mythos introduced this concept that the Force CAN be studied scientifically. It brings up all sorts of interesting story plots, because if midichlorians exist in the blood, then it seems that the Force can indeed be empirically examined. Some have said that Lucas' introduction of midichlorians into the Star Wars story was to make Star Wars more closely related to science fiction, and distance itself from the fantasy label (which, IMO, is what Star Wars is). Prior to the concept of midichlorians, the Force basically exists as magic, but with the Force having a verifiable and biological origin, it moves from the realm of magic and into something quantifiable.

    Thank you for that list of what I need to catch up on. You rock!

  3. I meant the things you mentioned, introducing the midichlorians and empirical examinations. More clearly: "I have been thinking of in-universe characters studying the Force through scientific means". I wasn't thinking of studying anything myself :)

    At the moment I don't know any stories that show us the clearly the Jedi and Sith point of views of empirical studies. Only mad scientists'. But what I have gathered, there have been differences in teaching of the Force:
    -In the Tales of the Jedi, the Force and the Dark Side were seen as almost completely different energies (you mentioned that back then). Midichlorians were not invented yet, and the Force was completely mystical. Jedi Masters vanished when dying
    -In the Knights of the Republic, Demagol tries to look for an explanation to the Force but finds none
    -Sometime during or before the Golden Age of the Republic (I'm not sure) the Midichlorian tests start to be used as a method to determine Force-sensitiveness. Darth Plagueis used the Midichlorians to create life (according to Palpatine's legend). Jenna Zan Arbor tries to find a scientific explanation
    -During the Empire, testers were used by Imperial Inquisitors to locate Force-sensitives. Research of the midichlorians and the Force was banned.
    -Yoda and Obi-Wan didn't mention midichlorians to Luke, and he didn't teach about them for the first generation of students. After 40 ABY midichlorians were rediscovered (according to Wookieepedia), but I don't know how they were treated.

    I'd like a novel dealing with different schools of thoughts between the Jedi about things like midichlorians and affections. Upcoming Darth Plagueis novel will surely show us the Sith point of view, which will be just as interesting.

  4. Ahh, ok, I see what you mean and I agree. I don't think we've seen the last of this archetype. Other Demagols and Zan Arbors are on their way into Star Wars literature for sure. Surely other writers are also thinking of characters who want to study the Force.

    That's an awesome summation of an in-universe look at the history of how the Force has been examined scientifically.

    Of all the novels slated to come out the story of Darth Plagueis is the one I'm most excited about. I've mentioned it before, (and I'm not the first to mention this) but it's my belief that Plagueis made Anakin through the manipulation of midichlorians. I think Anakin is Plagueis' last laugh on Palpatine. Also, I think the idea of midichlorian manipulation coupled with cloning is an area ripe for storytelling.

    I'm with you when you say that hopefully the Darth Plagueis novel will give the Sith perspective on scientific manipulation of the Force.

  5. Great list, Lugija. You saved me the effort of putting that together. :-)

  6. This point comes up again in one of the NJO books, but it'll probably be about 7 years before you finally get to that area of the timeline.

  7. Interesting, what's the name of the character in the NJO series?

    I certainly hope this project does not take me 7 more years to complete, but if it does, such is life. It's a labour of love.

  8. There's a Yuuzhan Vong shaper named Mezhan Kwaad who tries to study the Force from a captured Jedi, since it's obviously foreign to their whole species.

    And I plan to follow the Project for as long as it takes. There's great stuff all over the place that I'm looking forward to hearing your take on.

  9. The Yuuzhan Vong are a complete mystery to me, as I stopped reading the EU material shortly before they materialized onto the scene. I'm looking forward to reading about them, but it probably won't be for a while.

    Thanks for the compliment. I'm glad you'll be sticking it out with me for however long this project takes me. That's awesome.

  10. Yeah, the closest you've come to the Vong so far would have been from listening to Canderous' stories in KotOR...

  11. Ok, you're going to have to refresh my memory here because I think I know what you're talking about but I'm not sure.

    Clarify this for me, but I think I remember Canderous talking about the Mandalorians coming up against some 'unknown alien species in the depth of space' and basically having their rear-ends handed to them somewhere in the KOTOR video game. I also think I talked about it somewhere in this blog, but after searching for my own words I can't seem to find them.

    I do remember alluding to the Vong in my post on The Rise of the Sith Empire timeline update from Bioware (4904 BBY). In that source there is mention of Imperial Commander Vaiken dying in an Imperial campaign attempting to conquer an alien system. I wondered if this was the Sith Empire coming into contact with the Vong even before Canderous' mention.

    I don’t know, your thoughts?

  12. Yep, that's the story I was talking about. It doesn't really matter whether it's officially confirmed or denied to be the Vong; either way, it's a nice little connection or easter egg for EU fans.