This post jarred this loose and onto the page.
Back in college, I played a minor character in a long-running Star Wars campaign. (This is not to say I didn’t play a lot, and got my character to the point where the game system started to break, but I don’t think of my guy as one of the main characters in that game.) Empire Strikes Back was probably one of only five movies I owned on videotape, and I watched it … a whole bunch. Roland (the guy who ran the game, which at some point or another seemed to have included most of the gamers on campus) had all the movies, of course, and they seemed to play in a loop in his dorm room. Star Wars was a big deal for pretty much my whole social circle in those days, is what I’m saying.
One of (great) things about the original trilogy was the fact they didn’t really explain much. Stuff was put out there, sans supporting background, and you just had to work out your own explanations for stuff. Our mid-afternoon BS sessions sounded like this:
“Han’s not an idiot: why did he say he did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, when parsecs are a unit of distance, not time?”
“Maybe Lucas didn’t know that.”
“Look at Ben’s face when Han says it – he knows Han’s full of shit.”
“I think he’s saying he did it in 12 parsecs, and means units of distance. Like he found a hyperspace route that let him do a much shorter run – he’s boasting he’s the guy who found a fabled shortcut.”
“… okay that’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”
The point is, we had theories and backstory for everything; stuff that only grew in depth and complexity the longer we played Rolo’s campaign.
One of the big question marks we loved to talk about? The Clone Wars.
“I fought alongside your father in the Clone Wars.” That was pretty much all we had to work with. Sounded pretty badass, these Clone Wars. Epic. (Also, we saw them as MUCH further back than they really could have been, if Ben had been part of them, but whatever. We didn’t think about that.)
I think when Empire came out, there was some backstory (maybe in the novelization) that let us know Boba Fett’s armor was “Mandalorian” (whatever that was) and that he didn’t like Jedi for some historical reasons, and of course we tied all that into the Clone Wars too. (Lucas did too, he just made it stupid and kind of pathetic. Apparently, in Star Wars, all jetpacks do is look cool, malfunction, and kill their owners as a result. Buyer beware.)
And I don’t know about anyone else, but I guess I’d always pictured the clones (whoever or whatever they were in this context) as the bad guys. No idea why, really, but it felt right.
Anyway, that game wrapped up, college ended, and we all went our separate ways.
Then Phantom Menace came along.
Now, as a writer, one of my Achilles Heels (I have two) is under-explaining stuff. That’s something I’m working on, but I do so in moderation, because if anyone wants a really good example of what can go wrong when you explain things too much, and provide backstory demonstrably less cool than anything/everything your fans already imagined into those blank spaces, you need look no further than the Star Wars prequels.
When Phantom Menace came out, it was… well, it was what it was. I liked it well enough at the time. I still think it’s the best of the prequels, but that is very weak praise when you recognize how terrible I think the other two movies are.
Anyway, that movie left me theorizing about the (apparently) upcoming clone wars, and trying to reconcile Phantom Menace with my personal version of how Obi-wan and Anakin met.
My Clone Wars:
- Obi-wan and Anakin would have met when Anakin’s more like 14 to 16. “He was already a great pilot,” but screw all that podracing bullshit. Anakin’s fighting a guerrilla war against local slavers. (Some of this isn’t what I thought at the time, but thanks to the Clone Wars animated series, Anakin and Slavery are strongly tied to each other, now, for me, and that’s fine.) Let it be Hutt Slavers on Tatooine, sure, because Lars and Beru are Luke’s Aunt and Uncle, so sure: Anakin’s from Tatooine. Fine. Point is: He is Already Fighting a War when We Meet Him.
- The nature of sentient freedom would be a – if not THE – central theme. In general, the Star Wars galaxy has a Fucked. Up. relationship with sentient freedom. Slavery is rampant, especially when it comes to non-humans. Clones are/were only slightly less disposable than aluminum cans and were genetically hobbled to encourage obedience. Droids (and any humans with computer parts in their head) – all clearly sentient – are managed with slave collars (restraining bolts) and regular/frequent lobotomies (memory wipes) whenever they start to get to the point where their developing personality makes them less than completely tractable.
- Anakin kind of pulls Obi-wan (and eventually, by extension, many other Jedi) into helping him with this ‘little war’, and the whole thing blossoms (with the helpful machinations of Palpatine/Sidious) into something not unlike the U.S. Civil War, with unclear battle lines drawn in such a way as to cause rifts in every major faction (including the Jedi).
- Clones are on the ‘other’ side, as (basically) slave troops for … I dunno. The Hutts/Genosians? Sure that works. You know what? The second movie is call “Attack of the Clones” – but they aren’t attacking the POV characters, they’re defending them. Either the name is stupid (it is) or the plot is stupid (also yes), or whoever named it didn’t pay any goddamned attention to the movie they’d made (no comment).
- We’d even get defecting clone units that join the ‘good guys’ (I put that in air quotes because, as we’ve seen, pretty much everyone in the galaxy has a fucked up idea of what’s okay and not okay when it comes to ‘lesser’ sentients.)
- The Mandalorians are just a merc army the Hutts hired to fight the Republic, like the Hessians of the 18th century.
- The Jedi aren’t the Catholic Church of Rome depicted in all the prequels – they’re a loose affiliation of wandering knights, roaming the galaxy, with maybe some central monastery gathering places. This loose affiliation means we get Jedi on both sides of the war.
- We’d get to see the Hutt tanks that, by Return of the Jedi, have been cannibalized into pleasure skiffs.
- Screw all that noise about Anakin being the Chosen One. What purpose does that serve? He’s powerful in the force (stick with what Ben said), excels in the training Obi-wan gave him, and is driven by a great and terrible purpose: freedom for all. (He would also be, by most viewers’ lights, right.)
- The Jedi never figure out Palpatine is also Darth Sidious because Palpatine isn’t Darth Sidious – he’s a clone of Sidious (the prototype product of the cloning technology) that Sidious groomed to handle the mundanities of Coruscant politics. Once Palpatine gets the Big Chair in the Senate and gets granted all his Emergency Authority, Sidious kills him and takes his place, because the Jedi are long past suspecting Palpatine of having any Sith powers.
Anakin ultimately wipes out the Jedi because, after years of fighting, ‘his’ forces have pushed the Hutts back to just a few systems – the good guys are winning – and the Jedi “peacekeepers of the galaxy” secretly meet with the Hutts and negotiate a cease fire that lets the Republic stop fighting and lets the Hutts keep all the slaves they still control. Huge betrayal that Palpa-Sidious capitalizes on to turn Anakin, who proceeds to hunt down the Jedi like The Kurgan in Highlander.
His fight with Obi-wan leaves him nearly dead and/or dying, at which point Sidious slaps him into a cybernetic support system that – guess what? Pretty much makes him the Emperor’s puppet.
He will live out the rest of his days as The Most Powerful Slave.
Why do you think he’s got so much anger to channel?