Sunday, August 28, 2011

33 BBY: Darth Maul: Saboteur

Who is your favorite Star Wars character?

For the entire duration of my love affair with Star Wars I had no answer to this question. It’s a question that has been asked of me numerous times by my students. Usually after I show the movie Star Wars to my grade 9 English classes (the mythology unit) and after we watch the film, discuss its similarities to mythology and how it mimics the conventions of the Hero’s Journey, a student would invariably put up their hand and ask: ‘Sir, who is your favorite Star Wars character?’ It is a question that always catches me off-guard, even though I know it’s coming, because I felt never had an answer I was being honest with. I would pause for a moment, and genuinely try to think about it, and usually answer with either Yoda or Han even though it was a reply I never felt completely convinced of. I’m not entirely certain I knew what the answer was.

But not anymore.

Darth Maul: Saboteur, a short story by James Luceno, answered for me this long held Star Wars question. I now know who my favorite Star Wars character is:

Darth Sidious.

Yes, that’s right DARTH SIDIOUS!!!

Has there ever been a more diabolical genius in all of Star Wars history? Has there ever been a Sith Lord who has managed to take over the entire known galaxy AND destroy the Jedi, all the while standing in front of them, smiling and in plain sight, as the shiv that is his Sith machinations entered the Jedi’s unknowing and bewildered guts? Has there ever been a more deadly Sith Lord? Darth Sidous is pure evil genius, and I’ve finally figured out that I really like evil geniuses.

Technically speaking and from a chronological perspective, I believe Saboteur is the first Star Wars story to introduce Darth Sidious into the narrative of Star Wars, along with his extremely disappointing apprentice Darth Maul.

So now that I’ve figured out Darth Sidious is my favorite Star Wars character, I’ve also figured out WHY I’ve never really thought Darth Maul was all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips.

Firstly, I don’t mean to imply I don’t like Darth Maul. I do. I think he looks really cool, and I think he’s an awesome lightsaber dualist, and I think his duel with Kenobi was cool, but I never got the sense that he was someone who would ever usurp the title of Dark Lord of the Sith from his Master. He was never a threat to Sidious, and therefore was uninteresting.

The apprentice to a Dark Lord of the Sith is a very tough job to move up from, and most times, apprentices are not successful in usurping the mantle of Dark Lord for themselves from their Masters (as an apprentice is supposed to do). When one looks at the history of successful Sith apprentices who themselves became Sith Lords, the list is a rather short one. Off the top of my head I can only think of three successful apprentices.

The first one I can think of is Darth Malak, and his usurpation of the title Dark Lord of the Sith from Darth Revan. Though the ideal is for the apprentice to best the Master in combat, when the Jedi strike team lead by Ballista boarded Reven’s ship in the source The Betrayal of Darth Reven, Malak seized his window of opportunity and opened fire on his Master’s battle cruiser. Though Revan wasn’t destroyed, Malak did exactly as he was supposed to – when his Master showed a weakness he immediately went for the throat, which in my opinion makes him worthy of the title Dark Lord of the Sith.

The next successful apprentice to wrest the mantle of Dark Lord from their master is Darth Zannah, Darth Bane’s apprentice. She did so in the most traditional manner – through one-on-one combat, holding her own against the Sith Juggernaut that was Bane. Not only did she neutralize his onslaught, but she used Sith sorcery to do away with her Master, and then bested him spiritually through a battle of wills as he tried to possess her body and destroy her soul.

The third successful apprentice we know of is Darth Sidious. Sidious did not destroy his master through a space battle, or a one-on-one lightsaber duel, but killed his Master in his sleep, which is a tactic that belies the style of Sidious – one of indirect confrontation.

What I’m trying to get at with this discussion of past successful Sith apprentices is that I don’t think Maul could have ever become a Dark Lord of the Sith – even if his apprenticeship did go another twenty years, he was too one-dimensional to be a real threat to Sidious.

As far as Sidious’ apprentices go, the only one I think was the most dangerous was Count Dooku. He had experience, wisdom, and a strong grasp of the darkside to make a real run at taking out Palpatine. I would even go so far as to say I think Dooku was a better Sith apprentice than Vader. It seems to me that Dooku had many more Sith tricks up his sleeve than Vader, and was more versed in what the Darkside had to offer beyond augmenting one’s combat abilities.

After reading Darth Maul: Saboteur, my instinctual reactions to Maul seem validated. Maul was not worthy of the title of Apprentice. At this time in Star Wars chronology, he’s nothing more than an exaggerated assassin, or at best an Emperor’s hand.

With all that being said however, I am looking forward to how Maul will re-enter Star Wars history in the upcoming season 4 of The Clone Wars. Maybe he’ll be flushed out in further detail, and the writers of that series might make him more of a Sith threat than what we were introduced to in The Phantom Menace. As it is, his brother Savage Oppress seems more interesting than Maul at this point.

I apologize for my two week absence. I’ve just been getting jobs done around the house before school starts. I’m not sure how active I’ll be in the next few weeks but I hope to be more fruitful. For my next post I’ll re-engage with the Rise of the Sith omnibus, and examine Jedi Council: Acts of War. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I agree about both Darth Maul and Sidious. Maul was effective, dangerous and almost unstoppable, but not really a Sith. More like a weapon. And Sidious was the most dangerous Sith ever, and I enjoyed his plans in these books.

    Also I believe this is the first time you read something by James Luceno? He is one of my favourite authors in the same sense as Pablo Hidalgo and Ryder Windham. He gets Star Wars, and his novels are full of continuity nods. This one had Tarkin and Hath Monchar, mentions of large shipyard planets like Fondor and Kuat, and mention of Black Sun.

  2. There were a bunch of things in this post that I left out talking about but made notes on while I was reading. I had been working on this post for two weeks but it did not have my complete focus. When I finally sat down to write yesterday I was more motivated to publish the post and move on instead of including all my thoughts on this source. But yes, I wanted to comment on Luceno's authorship and how I enjoyed it. I also made a note about Tarkin, and wondered if it was THE Tarkin, from the films and TCW and not some other Tarkin. I guess I asked the question because the mention of him being "Lieutenant Governor Tarkin representing Eriadu's political interests" threw me off a bit. I wasn’t sure if Luceno was talking about the same Tarkin or another Tarkin, thereby simply elucidating that Tarkin comes from a powerful family. Have I made any sense here?

    Anyway, I always enjoy a Black Sun reference. Shadows of the Empire is my favourite EU novel.

  3. If you like Sidious, you'll definitely enjoy Cloak of Deception. :-)

  4. Yes, he was definitely THE Tarkin. Well, not The Tarkin, since that is a superweapon from Marvel Comics, but yeah, one and only Wilhuff Tarkin. We shall watch his career with great interest. Especially because he has a voice so iconic it's easy to hear Peter Cushing say his lines. Which makes everything better.