This year marks three Star Wars anniversaries: the 45th anniversary of A New Hope, the 25th anniversary of The 1997 Special Editions and the 20th anniversary of Attack of the Clones. Today we’re focusing on 25 years of ’90s Star Wars mania.
In the early months of 1997, I was just a preteen girl of twelve. I had never seen Star Wars on the big or small screen. In fact up until that time I had never heard of Star Wars as neither of my parents introduced me to the trilogy (unheard of, I know). My only interest in sci-fi was Jurassic Park (and yes, I saw The Lost World in theaters when it was released).
My first exposure to Star Wars was thanks to some toy commercials for the Power of the Force toyline.
So of course she was excited when it was announced that the Star Wars Trilogy was returning to theaters. Just like everyone else.
I’m sorry to say that I did not contribute to Star Wars regaining its box office crown as I never saw it on the big screen. I’ve still never seen it on the big screen. Had Lucas’ plan to re-release the saga in 3-D been followed through, I would’ve gotten that chance. The very first time I saw the whole Trilogy was on VHS.
When I finally saw the Special Editions, I loved them so much, I never looked back. They breathed life into the trilogy, gave more depth to certain characters and even made the galaxy look more exotic. So I don’t get it when certain “fans” (more like “brats”) constantly demand the release of “despecialized editions” on DVD – which they did in 2006 (and fans completely forgot about them).
The Special Editions not only gave Lucas the chance to go back and make the films as he envisioned, but gave him a chance to use the latest technology to clean and restore his beloved films so that they wouldn’t be lost to time. He could’ve taken the easy way out and remade the whole trilogy with a new cast and state of the art effects, but he didn’t. And aren’t we glad?
So what are your favorite moments from the Special Editions? Here are five I’ve chosen, in no particular ranking, as my personal favorites.
1. Galaxy Celebrations – Return of the Jedi
In the original theatrical release, the movie ends with the Rebels celebrating with the Ewoks on Endor while Luke smiles at the specters of Yoda, Obi-Wan and his redeemed father. The SE version extends that celebration across the galaxy to include planets Bespin and Tatooine. For the first time, fans got a glimpse of Coruscant, the galactic capital that was only described in the Expanded Universe and would play an even bigger role in the upcoming Prequel Trilogy. The scene here from the 2004 DVD adds Naboo (which gives Padme’s story a sense of closure) and Hayden Christensen replaces Sebastian Shaw as Force ghost Anakin. I’ll admit I much prefer the bouncier “Yub Nub” song of the Ewoks to the flute and choir “Victory Celebration”, but watching crowds throughout the galaxy cheer for their freedom makes me tear up every time.
2. Sarlacc – Return of the Jedi
When 1983 audiences were first introduced to the Sarlacc, it was nothing more than a gaping hole with teeth and some limp tentacles. It’s easy to see why Luke seemed so nonplussed when he walked to the edge of the plank and looked down. You might never want to step on a Sarlacc but the sight of it didn’t strike fear into your heart like the SE version did. Lucas added more tentacles (that actually moved) and a beak that could snap you in half. Add to that long, slow digestion and you have one of the galaxy’s most menacing life forms.
Also this is what the rest of it looks like thanks to Terryl Whitlatch.
3. Sy Snootles and “Jedi Rocks” – Return of the Jedi
Do they ever recreate this scene for SW parades? Are there SW parades? Well when I first saw this scene, I wanted to be either one of the dancing girls*, the Weequay drummer Ak-Rev, or Joh Yowza the Yuzzum as he belted out the highest note. It’s no wonder Jabba wanted them play the song twice.
Fun Fact: Because she was in such great (and we mean great) shape, Femi Taylor reprised her role as Oola, the doomed green skin dancing Twilek girl, fourteen years after her original performance in 1983. She’s the only actress from the OT to appear in the SE.
And speaking of Jabba…
4. Jabba and Han – A New Hope
When you want something done, you have to do it yourself and it seems even the lordship has to live by that adage. After Han “fries poor Greedo”, exits the cantina and enters the Mos Eisley Space port, who should he meet but his boss, who still wants his money. For the first time we see how Hutts move and we get the pleasure of seeing Han step on Jabba’s tail and rub salt in the wound by calling him “a wonderful human being”. Although we now know that the original (cut) scene had a human playing Jabba, in- universe, nothing is more insulting to a Hutt than to compare it to a “lower” life form.
5. Rontos – A New Hope
Although we only see these ceratorhine animals briefly (when they toss Jawas like rag dolls), they made quite an impression on toy collectors when Kenner released them as a two pack with a Jawa. I have one proudly on display in my room.
Why do these creatures fascinate me? Because they remind me of my spirit animal, the Indricotherium, the largest land mammal that lived 34 – 23 million years ago.
They later make an appearance in the Young Jedi Knights series when Jacen Solo tames one to help rebuild the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4.
So what were your memories of the Star Wars Trilogy Special Editions? Unlike me, did you see them in the theater? How many times did you watch them? What were your favorite changes to the movies? And finally what are your thoughts on SW in the ’90s? Share your memories in the comments.
Next up, the 20th anniversary of Attack of the Clones!
May the Force Be With You.
* Yes, I have the action figures of the dancing girls and Joh Yowza…and I love them.
Fashion historian Amanda Hallay has been posting some great travelogue videos about her Egyptian vacation and they’ve reignited my childhood love for Ancient Egypt (I’ll post them at the end of this list. As she’s constantly uploading videos, I’ll also provide a link). So much so, that I was inspired to write this post on how the Land of the Pharaohs – both mythological and historical – has fed the imaginations of sci-fi and fantasy writers for years. I’m going to separate by sections – books, comics, cartoons, movies, you name it. So let’s start walking like an Egyptian…
Yes, I had to narrow my list of superheroes and villains because, dear Horus, there are so many characters in the comic book industry based on Ancient Egyptian history and mythology. The superhero/villains are often reincarnations of pharaohs/priests, avatars of Egyptian gods or cursed for opening a tomb. One character even inspired the Sphinx – somehow. Here are the standouts.
Moon Knight – Marvel
You’ve all heard of him by now thanks to his new Disney+ show starring Oscar Isaac. Marc Spector is a mercenary who witnesses the murder of an archaeologist and tries to fight his killer. He fails and is left for dead. How convenient, there’s a statue of the lunar deity Khonsu nearby, who revives him as an avatar of the moon god. And what better way to be an avatar than to don a cape and fight crime? Marvel writers keep flip-flopping on whether Khonsu really spoke to Marc or Marc is imagining it all as a sign of mental illness. Maybe Sekhmet would’ve been a better choice.
Black Adam – DC
Captain Marvel’s main arch nemesis and predecessor, Teth-Adam was an Egyptian chosen by the wizard Shazam as his successor. Whenever Teth-Adam says the word, SHAZAM – this time derived from the Egyptian deities Shu (stamina), Hershef(strength),Amon (power), Zehuti (wisdom), Anubis(speed) and Menthu(courage) – he becomes Mighty Adam. However power corrupts Adam and after killing pharaoh, he assumes the throne. Angered by this, Shazam strips Adam of his title and banishes him to the most distant star in the universe for the next 5,000 years. As you all know he’ll be portrayed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in an upcoming movie. But he also made a memorable appearance in the DC Animated short Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam.
Promethea – ABC
Created by Alan Moore to showcase his fascination with the occult, Promethea was a girl who lived in Hellenistic Egypt in the 5th Century AD. After her father is killed by a mob, she is rescued by Thoth-Hermes, who takes her to the Immateria, a plane of existence home to the imagination, and tells her that she will spend eternity as a “living story” through various individuals as a vessel (thanks to The Power of Imagination). Eight to be exact. Those “vessels” include Barbara Shelley and Sophie Bangs. So this sounds like your typical superhero secret identity, but more cosmic.
Hawkman – DC
Archeologist Carter Hall (maybe named after a certain famous discoverer of King Tut’s tomb?) is really the incarnation of an Egyptian prince named Khufu, who was murdered, along with his beloved – more on her later – by an evil priest named Hath-Set. Hath-Set has also been reincarnated as a scientist named Anton Hastor and when you realize your nemesis has been reincarnated like you, what better way to confront them, than by…creating a special belt out of “Nth Metal” along with a hawk mask and a pair of wings.
Another version of the story takes place during the reign of Ramesses II in the 19th dynasty. Prince Khufu, a wizard named Nabu and Teth-Adam (see above), discover a crashed Thanagarian spaceship where its dying pilot whispers the words “Nth Metal”. Taking the spaceship back to the Temple of Horus, the metal is examined, melted and molded into several devices, including a scarab, a knife and a glove. The metal also imprints onto Khufu and his beloved Chay-Ara the collective knowledge of Thanagar. And who is Chay-Ara? Why she will be reincarnated into the Sheira Saunders, the secret identity of Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman, made famous in the Justice League/Unlimited cartoons, voiced by Maria Canals-Barrera.
Cat Girl – Archie Comics
Never heard of her? That’s OK, neither has anyone else – unless you’ve read The Legion of RegrettableSupervillains by Jon Morris. If you haven’t I suggest you get a copy because you’ll be in stitches by the time you finish the book.
An enemy of regrettable superhero The Jaguar – The World’s Most Attractive Bachelor, blonde-haired, white Cat Girl was so revered in the ancient world, the sphinx – both the legend and the statue – were inspired by her. Though where the Egyptians came up with the body of a lion is anyone’s guess (makes me wonder if Cat Girl was responsible for the missing nose). Cat Girl’s powers included the ability to command cats (duh), flying, super strength, and bring stone monuments (like the Sphinx) to life. The one power she didn’t have was the ability to resist The Jaguar’s charms and rugged good looks. He was The World’s Most Attractive Bachelor after all.
Now you may be wondering why I didn’t include a certain villain from a certain 1966 superhero show. Well, because he’s the first entry under…
King Tut – Batman (1966-1968)
Next to Catwoman, King Tut was my favorite villain on Batman. When the show aired on TV Land at the Turn of the Millennium, a King Tut episode was always a highlight thanks to the larger than life (literally and figuratively) performance of Victor Buono. One reason he took on the role of the subconscious alter ego of a mild-mannered Egyptologist was because it gave the actor an excuse to overact. I don’t know how many takes it took to say his hammy lines, but they always had me burst with laughter. Here’s some examples:
King Tut: “Phase Two will now be put into being. Are there any questions?”
Henchman: “I got one!”
King Tut: “You may speak, Royal Scrivener.”
Henchman: “Like, why? I mean, why put that hunk of rock in the park, and then tip off the suckers what we’re gonna do?”
King Tut: “You’re a twit.”
– The Curse of Tut
“Loyal subjects, I have returned. And now for my latest prediction: your all-powerful, all-conquering, all-good friendly pharaoh will reduce water rates, give you more drinking fountains, and will positively stamp out bat brutality. This is a promise; this is a pledge; this is a recording.”
– Tut’s Case is Shut
“If the caped crumb is here, the cowled creep can’t be far behind.”
– King Tut’s Coup
“When we get to the Royal Oil Boiling Room, be sure to prepare some real boiling Royal boiling oil, to boil the Boy Wonder in, royally.”
“Curse you, Batman! May you fall down a flight of stairs and break every tooth in your head except one and in that may you have a toothache for the rest of your life which won’t be very long.”
“Don’t work yourself into a flap, Spunky! He’s drowned! Not even brat-to-bat resuscitation can help him now!”
– Batman’s Waterloo
Another fun fact: King Tut was a creation of the TV show (and according to Adam West, the only one that was a real success). He wouldn’t even make his comic book debut until…2009.
A 1997 cartoon that lasted only one season, Presley Carnavon (hmm, wonder where he got that name?) discovers he’s the reincarnation of Prince Rapses. Enter Scarab, an evil sorcerer who wants the boy’s soul for himself and four mummy bodyguards – Ja-Kal, Armon, Rath and Nefertina – to protect Presley from falling into the clutches of said sorcerer. They also had to battle the occasional gods and monsters. It was created by DiC Entertainment and it shows.
Another cartoon involving mummies. Well, just one. It started in 2003 and ran for 39 episodes. It also won two Emmys.
3000 years after his death, a mummy named Tutenstein wakes up in a museum and meets a 12-year-old Egyptomaniac named Cleo Carter (now I wonder where she got that name), – and a cat named Luxor – who helps him adjust to the modern world. They also have to protect Tut’s magical staff from the evil god Set, who wants to use it to rule the world. Now has an official YouTube channel.
Some of you wonder why I didn’t include the wildly popular Stargate SG-1 in my TV section. While the show did start off with the “Ancient Egyptian Gods Are Really Aliens” approach, it eventually branched into other world mythologies – with the same premise. Roland Emmerich’s film was strictly focused on Ancient Egypt as seen here:
Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, Stargate examines the “ancient astronaut” concept by centering its plot on a “stargate” device that enables anyone who uses it to travel to anywhere in the universe. An archaeologist/linguist and a colonel team-up to use the stargate, which takes them to a desert planet that’s home to a society that resembles Ancient Egypt.
The Mummy (1932)
Sure, I could’ve entered the 1999 film and its sequels/spinoffs (and an animated series!) starring Brendan Fraser and The Rock. I could’ve given a shoutout to its 2017 “remake” starring Tom Cruise. But to anyone who knows their movie history, none of these films would exist without the far superior – and creepier – 1932 film starring the unparalleled Boris Karloff as the titular Universal Monster. I mean, how can you argue with this spooky scene?
Yes, that’s the mummy of one high priest named Imhotep, who was reanimated and is now moonlighting as a mysterious man named Ardeth Bey, who seeks to find his “beloved” Anck-es-en-Amon, now reincarnated as a lovely modern woman named Helen.
Gods of Egypt (2016)
Moon Knight Director Takes Shot At Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam. Moon Knight Director Criticizes Depiction of Egypt in Wonder Woman 1984. Hey Mr. Diab, I’ve got some news for you: films set on Mars are filmed right here on Earth! And some films/TV shows set in the Arctic are filmed on a soundstage! With greenscreen! And Black Adam is not the first time The Rock played an “Egyptian” role* (on the opposite end of the spectrum, people accused Rami Malek’s casting in Night at the Museum as whitewashing Egyptians even though Malek is Coptic Egyptian!). If you really want to complain about lousy Egyptian representation, just watch the trailer for Gods of Egypt, a 2016 film with a cast so white you’ll need sunglasses. I mean, ye gods! What was the casting department thinking? Is this the 21st century or the 1920s?
Anyway, if you can get past the casting, the plot is about our favorite evil god, Set, declaring war against the other gods of Egypt. It’s up to the god Horus and a mortal thief to set (no pun intended) things right.
The Anubis Gates (1983)
A time travel fantasy novel written by Tim Powers that takes place in 1810 and 1983. Literary scholar Brendan Doyle is hired by a millionaire to act as a guide to time-traveling tourists. Using some time traveling “gates” created by a cabal of Egyptian sorcerers, Doyle ends up stuck in 1810 and gets more than he bargained for. Considered to be one of the precursors of the Steampunk genre.
The seventh book in Terry Pratchett’s award-winning Discworld series. The summary says it all:
“In Pyramids, you’ll discover the tale of Teppic, a student at the Assassin’s Guild of Ankh-Morpok and prince of the tiny kingdom of Djelibeybi, thrust into the role of pharaoh after his father’s sudden death. It’s bad enough being new on the job, but Teppic hasn’t a clue as to what a pharaoh is supposed to do. First, there’s the monumental task of building a suitable resting place for Dad — a pyramid to end all pyramids. Then there are the myriad administrative duties, such as dealing with mad priests, sacred crocodiles, and marching mummies. And to top it all off, the adolescent pharaoh discovers deceit, betrayal—not to mention a headstrong handmaiden—at the heart of his realm.
Sometimes being a god is no fun at all…”
Lost In a Pyramid; or, The Mummy’s Curse (1869)
You know her best as the author of Little Women, but what you didn’t know was that she often wrote stories for adults that were considered (for the time) to be lurid. Her short story “Lost In a Pyramid” is what she called a “blood and thunder” story and one of the earliest “mummy’s curse” stories in fiction.
Two men return from Egypt with a box of mysterious flower seeds, which leads to grave consequences.
Mansfield Park and Mummies (2009)
A continuation of the Jane Austen Literary Mash-up genre that was preceded by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.
Spinsterhood or mummification?! Henry Crawford, Edmund Bertram or an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh?! Either way, Mansfield Park has become the battleground between the Forces of Evil and the Power of Love.
Consists of four books: Heir of Ra, Daughter of Ra, Legacy of Ra and Dawn of Ra. Winner of the New York City Book Award, American Fiction Award, IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, Readers’ Favorite Award and the Beverly Hills Book Award. Wow.
A girl named Alyssa fights to find a cure for her ailing father – and discovers that it might be found in an Egyptian relic. Available on Amazon as a kindle book.
So… was this list full of wonderful things? Did I overlook any treasures? Did you know that this year marks the 100th anniversary of Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb? Leave your hieroglyphics in the comments.
Meanwhile here’s the video series I was talking about:
(This is from the YouTube channel Ultimate Fashion History and it’s a lot of fun.)
And of course what is Ancient Egypt without some parody songs about the Boy King? I think you can guess what (or whom) I’m talking about:
and this 1920s song that cashed in on Tut/Egyptomania (it was used in Boardwalk Empire):
* I had to reprint some reactions to the director’s comments because they really put him in his place:
RaymondNivon: “It’s clear he just want to take shot at DC and not really watched the film First I’m a person with middle eastern origins and been to Egypt numerous time, the Egypt overall is really Sahara like in many part, the only parts of Egypt that are not Sahara or desert like are around river Nile. Second the “shiekh” character he talking about was actually played by an Egyptian actor Amr Waked who is a pretty famous in Egypt and the character was an Emir of fiction country (there is a cultural difference between Emir and Shiekh) and was not an Egyptian character. And about Black Adam despite the lead role being The Rock, the cast has more middle eastern and north African origins actors in prominent role (like Sarah Shahi, Merwan Kenzari,MO Amer, James Cusati-Moyer,…) than Moon Knight [have] in its whole cast. Plus one of Black Adam writers Sohrab Noshirvani is iran-British so there is middle eastern representation even behind the scene in that movie.”
Manhunter77: “[Im] so fucking sick of these Marvel bastards!! Folks complain about the “rivalry”, yet it continues to be Marvel that sparks it. It’s like DC lives rent free in their minds. You’d think that for the company [thats] supposedly “winning” 🙄, that they’d just be focusing on what they’re doing, & not worrying about anyone else. This is one of the many reasons why I despise Marvel so much.”
The Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer you’ve all been waiting for. Well, some of you.
I know you’ll be asking me about my thoughts on the teaser trailer. Is this the ultimate vindication of the Prequel Trilogy? It sure seems that way. To “celebrate” the release, Watchmojo recently released a video of Obi-Wan’s Greatest Moments without any mention of prequel criticism.
That’s a good sign.
The responses on Twitter are mostly of excitement and prequel love. That’s a VERY good sign.
But will this series be worth the hype? As I watched the trailer, I kept thinking that this show should’ve come out a looonnngg time ago. Like way before The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett since it bridges the two trilogies.
Considering how fans reacted to The Book of Boba Fett, I wonder how and when they’ll butcher this one, especially without any guidance from Papa George. Which raises the question: will George show up on set to give advice about the Dark Times? If Hayden Christensen makes an appearance as Darth Vader, will that mean he comes to Tatooine when the EU made it clear that he never came back due to painful memories (and sand)? Or does he only make cameos to give instructions to the jedi hunters? I’ve also heard rumors that Obi-Wan will have some adventures offplanet but that seems to go against his vow of guarding Luke. Will Liam Neeson reprise his role as a ghostly Qui-Gon Jinn to give Ben sagely advice?
Another problem that comes to mind, is the new canon. Now that we know how Luke ends up in the ST, Obi-Wan’s decision to watch and train him will be all for nothing. But according to this link, Kennedy promised that the show would be more hopeful. So….ignore the Sequel Trilogy?
At least Obi-Wan looks and feels like Star Wars. Seeing him riding an eeopie reminds me not only of the ending of Revenge of the Sith, but of the 2014 John Jackson Miller novel, Kenobi.
The only thing I’m hoping to get out of this show is more Obi-Wan/Prequel era merchandise (paging Her Universe, I could use some more leggings and sports bras), I’m getting tired of seeing Grogu’s face on everything. Bring on the wise jedi masters!
Oh and it’s premiering on May 25th, forty-five years (and twenty-five years for the SE) to the day A New Hope hit theaters.
What are your thoughts on the trailer? Do you look forward to seeing Kenobi? Let me know in the comments while I wait for Dune Part 2.
… Or why EU fans and Star Wars.com are equally annoying.
The sudden passing of Dave Wolverton on January 14, had many star warriors reminiscing about the first time they ever read his 1994 novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia. Around the same time Star Wars.com published an article called Star Wars Inside Intel: The Nightsisters. Written by Emily Shkoukani, a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group (whose job is to “know as much about a galaxy far, far away as possible”), the article committed this original sin:
“Making their canon debut in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated television series the Nightsisters were eccentric witches residing on the distant, rocky world of Dathomir. In the show’s episode aptly titled “Nightsisters,” fans first encountered the mystifying culture of these witches.”
This got many EU fans in a tizzy for ignoring the fact that Dave Wolverton created the Nightsisters and the planet Dathomir first and they expressed their grievances on Twitter, prompting the author to update her article and apologize for the error.
Predictably, this glaring error, also brought out the knives on Dave Filoni and the Clone Wars cartoon for “butchering” the EU.
Yes, it was stupid and lazy on Lucasfilm’s part to ignore the contributions Wolverton gave to Star Wars (and considering that the author lists her pronouns as they/she, this should come as no surprise) especially on the heels of his death. But does that give fans the right to bash Filoni at the same time for re-introducing the force-wielding witches to a wider audience? No. George Lucas created and produced Star Wars: The Clone Wars, he has the right to override the EU if he wants to, Clone Wars was around long before Disney got its mitts on the franchise and it was butchered by Disney just as much as the Expanded Universe was.
And in a twist of irony it gives Filoni too much credit when the person who wrote all the Nightsisters episodes was Katie Lucas, daughter of George. It’s no different from what StarWars.com did to Wolverton. Besides, in a 2014 interview for the 20th anniversary of TCOPL, Wolverton had this to say:
So it appears Wolverton was happy to see his creation on The Clone Wars and was looking forward to seeing more onscreen depictions of Nightsisters. Maybe if Lucas were still in charge, we would’ve eventually seen more of the Singing Mountain Clan in upcoming shows, video games and action figures.
Well, now that we got that out of the way, let’s take this hated, updated article and improve on it by rewriting it with EU and CW references. My “article” will mostly focus on standout moments and characters from the franchise. If you want a more detailed, in-depth article about the Nightsisters, head on over to Wookieepedia (and click on the Legends tab, if you so choose).
Star Wars Inside Intel: The Nightsisters
Meet the Witches of Dathomir
by The Lady From Planet X
Making their first appearance in the 1994 Legends novel The Courtship of Princess Leia by the late Dave Wolverton, the Nightsisters were force sensitive magick practicing witches (yes, according to George, the Force and magic exist in the same universe, which is why the jedi are not “space wizards”) hailing from the planet Dathomir. In chapter 2, page 19, Luke Skywalker discovers an old holo vid of a young Master Yoda describing the failed rescue of “Chu’unthor from Dathomir”:
“Artoo”, Luke said. “Run through your astrogation files and tell me if you find any reference to a place named Dathomir. It could be a star system, a single planet…” Maybe even a person, he thought with dismay.
Artoo took a moment, then whistled a negative. “I thought not,” Luke said. I’ve never heard of it, either.” During the Clone Wars, so many planets had been destroyed, made uninhabitable. Perhaps Dathomir was one of those, a world so ravaged that it had been forgotten.
Conveniently, Luke’s question would be answered when a lovesick Han Solo wins Dathomir in a card game and kidnaps Leia to the mysterious planet. There, Han and Leia encounter the Singing Mountain Clan, a tribe of force-sensitive Amazons (who more than likely represent the Light Side of the Force) and their enemies, The Nightsisters, who are, in Han’s words, “their sith”.
“The Nightsisters have come for General Solo and the other offworlders. We captured them first, and by all right they belong to us!”
“If you want to interrogate General Solo, then perhaps I can help you. General Solo, why did you come to Dathomir?” Augwynne’s eyes flashed to the pouch at Han’s belt and he took the cue.
“I own this planet and everything on it,” Han said. “I came to check out my real estate.”
As one of the Nightsisters began hissing, shaking their heads, and Baritha spat, “A man claims to own Dathomir?”
Han fumbled in his pouch for the deed, found the box and pressed its switch. The holo of Dathomir appeared in the air above his palm, his name clearly registered as owner.
“No!” Baritha shouted, waving her hand. The box flew from Han’s grip, tumbled to the floor.
“That’s right,” Han said, I own this world, and I want you and your Nightsisters off my planet!”
Baritha glared at him. “Gladly,” she said. “Provide us a ship, and we will leave.” – chapter 14, pg 179
Trailing Han and Leia to the planet, Luke and Leia’s suitor, Prince Isolder, are also captured by the Singing Mountain Clan and – long story short (seriously, just read the book, it’s really good) – together they battle the Nightsisters.
This novel introduced the Nightsister character of Gethzerion, who would later make an appearance in Star Wars Galaxies.
However, in the next year, all this would get retconned… sort of.
In 1995, Bantam Spectra, the same company that published TCOPL, published Kevin J. Anderson’s TheIllustrated Star Wars Universe, a sort of textbook/travelogue “written” by historians and poets about the history and ecology of the planets of the Original Trilogy.
According to this source book, the witch Charal (played by Sian Phillips) from the 1985 TV movie, Ewoks:The Battle For Endor was the first introduction of a Nightsister. In the book, an Imperial sergeant by the name of Pfilbee Jhorn writes:
“Charal, is a female shape-shifter, a Force-wielding witch who apparently escaped from her exile on a planet called Dathomir.”
Nearly executed for stealing the Talisman of the Raven for its shapeshifting powers, Charal escaped from Dathomir and joined the Sanyassan Maurauders. She was made second-in-command to the warlord Terak and they ended up on Endor where they encountered Cindel Towani, Noa Briqualon and the Ewoks. In the end, she was turned into a raven permanently when Wicket destroyed the talisman.
It’s interesting to note that Dave Filoni was considering including Charal in the show, but for some reason, it didn’t happen. However, she’s mentioned Daniel Wallace’s Book of Sith: Secrets From the Dark Side (2012).
In the same year, Anderson wrote another book where Luke would confront another Nightsister again, this time to rescue his niece and nephew. Young Jedi Knights: Shadow Academy introduced readers to Tamith Kai, a Nightsister who teamed up with a fallen jedi named Brakiss to “recruit” force sensitive youths into the Shadow Academy to be “trained” into Dark Jedi. Tamith Kai is hilariously defeated when the practical Tenel Ka, daughter of Prince Isolder, responds to Kai’s Force powers with a swift kick to the knee.
By now you’ve noticed that the Nightsisters are depicted as human looking with a pale complexion. All that would change in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
The “Sith Witch”
During the making of The Phantom Menace, Lucas told concept artist Ian McCaig to design a person from “your worst nightmare”. One of the sketches would later become known as the “Sith Witch”, a woman dressed in red robes with a black and white type of “rorschach pattern” on her face.
This design was rejected by Lucas for the movie, but would later appear in The Dark Side Sourcebook of the 2001 Star Wars Roleplaying Game.
Another concept sketch that would be rejected and then recycled was Dermot Power’s “female apprentice to Count Dooku”.
But we’ll get to her in a minute.
On January 7, 2011, fans finally got to see the Nightsisters come to life in The Clone Wars season 3 episode titled, aptly, “Nightsisters”. It turns out that Asajj Ventress, who already made a name for herself in Dermot Power’s sketches, Clone Wars comics and books and Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2003 Clone Wars animated shorts, hailed from this eccentric coven – although her upbringing largely differed from her sisters.
Dathomir is depicted in The Clone Wars with sprawling rockscapes consisting of canyons, caves and cliffs (this is why when Prince Isolder saw Tenenial Djo nude for the first time, he noticed how muscular her back looked from lots of rock climbing). The flora and fauna aren’t too particularly friendly either. Fungus and fire lichen grow abundantly and native to the planet is the Rancor, used as mounts for the Nightsisters.
The Nightsisters’ magick was dark in nature, and Jedi that found themselves on their world often described feeling the presence of the dark side. Although their understanding of it was unique to their world and culture, the magick the sisters wielded was seemingly connected to the Force — just used in a vastly different way than the Jedi or the Sith. Where those groups followed strict dogmas and used the Force in (arguably) more simple ways such as pushing and pulling objects/beings or levitating, the Nightsisters used their magick to cast spells, perform rituals, and brew potions.
When Asajj Ventress returned to her home world seeking guidance, her sisters bathed her in the glowing-green Water of Life in a ritual inducting her into their clan. Later, Mother Talzin, the leader of the clan, brewed a potion that allowed Asajj and a few of her sisters to become transparent — almost invisible — in order to perform a stealth mission.
The Nightsisters also used another form of their magick in rituals conducted following the death of one of their own. When a Nightsister passed, her clan took great care of the body, wrapping it in cloth soaked in the planet’s magickal waters and reciting a spell of protection for their fallen sister. They were then placed in a burial pod that would be hung from a Grave Thorn, a warped and twisted, barbed tree native to the planet.
Though it appeared that the Witches of Dathomir ruled the planet, like most humanoid species, these women still needed males to reproduce. While The Singing Mountain Clan often captured men as mates, the Nightsisters had male counterparts in the form of the Nightbrothers, subservient to the witches. The two sects of natives lived and operated in separate areas of the planet, the Nightsisters calling on the brothers when needed. When Asajj’s original assassination plan failed with the use of the invisibility potion, Mother Talzin organized a competition amongst a selection of Nightbrothers. They fought in gladiatorial-style trials before one, Savage Opress, edged out the competition. He was then tasked to aid Asajj in her quest to exact revenge on her former teacher, Count Dooku. Whereas the Nightsisters wielded magick, the Nightbrothers were warriors. After Savage was selected to assist Asajj, Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters used their magicks to enhance Savage’s physical strength, putting him under a spell that forced him to obey their directions.
Mother Talzin was among the strongest witches in her clan, and served as their leader. She was a master at her arcane abilities, with the Nightsisters seeking her guidance. She was also responsible for handling any relations with the galaxy, such as when the malevolent Darth Sidious, an ally of Talzin’s, came to Dathomir and saw the potential in one of the young Nightbrothers. Talzin released the child to Sidious, who raised him as his Sith apprentice, and became known as Darth Maul (note: this happened in the James Luceno Legends novel, Darth Plagueis).
After the many attempts Asajj made to have her former master, Count Dooku, executed to get revenge against him for abandoning her, Dooku turned his attention to the Nightsisters. With the Separatist army at his disposal, Dooku ordered General Grievous and his battle droids to the twisted planet of Dathomir to eradicate the galaxy of Nightsisters. But the Nightsisters would not go down without a fight.
With the guidance of Mother Talzin and the power of their dark magicks, the Nightsisters retaliated against the Separatist droids. Talzin went so far as to raise the dead, awakening deceased Nightsisters from their long slumber to aid the living in their attempt to avoid extinction. But despite their power and abilities, Talzin’s Nightsister clan met its demise. All but a few were slain, but their legacy carried on in those that remained.
My final entry here is Dark Disciple, a 2015 novel penned by Christie Golden, that was originally going to be an eight-part story arc on The Clone Wars before cancellation. After the massacre of her sisters and her betrayal by Count Dooku, Asajj spends the rest of her days as a bounty hunter. With the Jedi Order more determined than ever to have Dooku killed, they turn to his former apprentice for help by teaming her up with Jedi Master Quinlan Vos on a mission to assassinate the sith lord. You can guess how well that turns out. Long story short (seriously, read the book, its really good. Its arguably the only good novel from the new Star Wars canon), Ventress is killed in the process. Vos and Obi-Wan Kenobi (who now views Ventress as an ally) lay Asajj’s body in a dark pool at an abandoned Nightsister village on Dathomir. To the awe of the two jedi, the pool turns green at the touch of her body and the voices of the deceased Nightsisters are heard, welcoming Ventress back.
So there you have it. A herstory of the Nightsisters. What are your favorite memories of these creepy cool gals? Did you ever cosplay as a Nightsister? Do you own a Mother Talzin action figure? Let me know in the comments.
For Dave Wolverton (1957-2022), the Original Nightbrother.
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It makes perfect sense to call Jango/Boba Fett’s ship “Slave 1”. Last time I checked, the Fett’s were villains, bounty hunters who were not above aligning themselves with the Empire, the Confederacy or the Hutts. Their job is to hunt down anyone with a price on their head regardless of whether the bounty is guilty or innocent and I’m sure some those targets were escaped slaves. Jango lied about his role in the creation of the Clone army, tried to kill Obi-Wan and shot a jedi to death on Geonosis. Boba tried to kill Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. They look cool but these are not characters you want to root for.
So why change his ship’s name to “Firespray”? What kind of name is “Firespray” anyway? Sounds like something a preschooler with a fireman obsession would say. Or a pyromaniac who likes to look at sexy fireman calendars. Or a form of diarrhea you get from eating too much Tabasco sauce. So what if Firespray is a class of ship, do you call The USS Enterprise the NCC-1701? If “Slave 1” is too triggering for you, then why not rename it “Hunter 1”?
This has been a public service announcement.
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The Pantheon of female Black American writers boasts many prestigious names: Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston and the recently departed bell hooks.
But Octavia E. Butler, the first black woman to make a name for herself in the genre of science fiction, had something those women didn’t: a figurative crystal ball.
At least that’s what I felt when I read her 1993 dystopian novel Parable of the Sower.
Starting in 2024 and ending in 2027 via diary entries, Parable of the Sower tells the story of fifteen year old Lauren Oya Olamina, a resourceful preacher’s daughter who lives in a heavily gated community in a suburb of L.A. She helps her stepmother teach young children, makes acorn bread and suffers from a condition called hyperempathy – the ability to feel other’s pain (literally) – due to her biological mother abusing a drug called Paracetco before she was born. But that’s the least of Lauren’s problems.
The world (or at least the U.S.) around her is falling apart. Natural disasters, economic breakdown and constant looting and rioting from violent gangs, have made it very difficult for people to live peaceful lives which is why Lauren’s family lives in a cloistered, gated community, where everyone owns a gun, grows their own fruits and vegetables and keeps an eye out for intruders and possible gang raids. Lauren’s father, a Baptist minister, keeps the community together through mutual aid, target practice and Sunday services. But as more reports of arson and crime reach Lauren’s community, Lauren wonders how long society can last in this deteriorating condition. She starts to write down her thoughts and philosophies in a collection of texts called Earthseed: The Books of the Living, which begin each chapter in the novel. Here are some examples:
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
Who will rule,
Who will lead,
Who will define,
Who will dominate.
are no more intellectual
than two rams
knocking their heads together.
Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.
When Lauren receives news that an astronaut was killed, she reveals another Earthseed goal: space travel.
One of the astronauts on the latest Mars mission has been killed. Something went wrong with her protective suit and the rest of her team couldn’t get her back to the shelter in time to save her. People here in the neighborhood are saying she had no business going to Mars, anyway. – pg 17
The dead astronaut is going to be brought back to Earth. She wanted to be buried on Mars. She said that when she realized she was dying. She said Mars was the one thing she had wanted all her life, and now she would be part of it forever.
‘Space could be our future,’ I say. I believe that. As far as I’m concerned, space exploration and colonization are among the few things left over from the last century that can help us more than they hurt us. – pg 20.
Well, we’re barely a nation at all anymore, but I’m glad we’re still in space. We have to be going some place other than down the toilet.
And I’m sorry that astronaut will be brought back from her own chosen heaven. Her name was Alicia Catalina Godinez Leal. She was a chemist. I intend to remember her. I think she can be a kind of model for me.
Mars is a rock – cold, empty, almost airless, dead. Yet it’s heaven in a way. We can see it in the night sky, a whole other world, but too nearby, too close within the reach of the people who’ve made such a hell of life here on Earth. – pg 21
But all those plans come crashing down when one of Lauren’s brothers runs away and his body is found. Later her father goes missing. His body is never found. And the final straw is when gangs finally scale the walls of her community and burn it to the ground, killing everyone except Lauren and two of her neighbors, Zahra and Harry. They decide to head north as a small group. Along the way, they meet other travelers looking for a safe haven and Lauren realizes that…
Earthseed is being born right here on Highway 101 – on that portion of 101 that was once El Camino Real, the royal highway of California’s Spanish past. – pg 223
How the Novel Is Relevant
This book wouldn’t be on a Target shelf, if it wasn’t generating buzz. The version I bought has a foreword by N.K. Jemisin, who believes the book predicted the Trump Administration. Yes, there’s a newly elected president named Donner, who loosens labor protections, which creates a rise in foreign business owned “company towns”, but President Donner is mostly a background character and the subject of immigration vs. American workers is never brought up. There are no reports of police brutality. Instead we hear reports of police indifference: cops and the national guard never show up when they’re needed and when they do show up, they take forever to investigate a crime. The only time the topic of race is brought up is when Butler is describing characters: Lauren is black, her neighbor Zahra is black, Harry is white, Lauren’s stepmother was Hispanic, etc. etc. After that, it’s never brought up again because it’s not that relevant to the story. True diversity as it should be.
But as I read Lauren’s descriptions of an L.A. gone mad, visions of Portland were dancing in my head. A Portland that’s become a shell of its former self because – thanks to some indifferent politicians and a nonexistent law enforcement – have fallen to a little group known as “Antifa” – the one the current president believes is “just an idea.”
The shooter either fired at someone who was in front of the gate or fired at the gate itself, at the neighborhood, at us and our supposed wealth and privilege. We hear so much gunfire, day and night, single shots and odd bursts of automatic weapons fire, even occasional blasts from heavy artillery or explosions from grenades or bigger bombs. – pg. 50
There are always a few groups of homeless people and packs of feral dogs living out beyond the last hillside shacks. – pg 40.
More and more people are coming over our wall to take what we have. Seven intrusions into house or garden in less than two months. Our lower-class thugs are killing us slowly. – pg 117
Everything was chaos. People running, screaming, shooting. The gate had been destroyed. Our attackers had driven an ancient truck through it. They must have stolen a truck just to crash it through our gate. – pg 153
They shot us and shot us and shot us. – pg 154
I could see now that two groups were running from the highway – one group chasing the other, both firing their guns as though they and their enemies were the only people in the world. We could only stay down and hope they didn’t shoot us by accident. – pg 249
The police are no threat to criminals. – pg 143
And there are multiple epidemics breaking out in different states…
“There’s cholera spreading in southern Mississippi and Louisiana,” I said. “In New York and New Jersey, a measles epidemic is killing people. Measles!” – pg 53/54
Heavy stuff. I could go on and on with more examples but I think you get the picture, plus, you once you read the book, it’ll all make sense to you.
In 1998 Butler published a sequel, Parable of the Talents, the second in a planned Earthseed series. She had started on a third novel, Parable of the Trickster, but left it unfinished due to writer’s block. Her other titles would’ve been, Parable of the Teacher,Parable of Chaos and Parable of Clay, but this was never to be as she died tragically in 2006 at the age 58. Today you can read some early manuscripts for Parable ofthe Trickster at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California and you can pick up a copy of Parable of theSower at your local Target or bookstore.
But it makes me sad, that Butler had so much more to write about and was never given the chance to finish. I plan to keep her memory alive by reading other works in her oeuvre.
Perhaps you can join me.
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Critics of George Lucas like to rant about how much he ripped his 1977 space franchise off of Frank Herbert’s 1965 Hugo-winning novel and with Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation being hailed by today’s critics as “the next Star Wars“, this just add fuel to the fire. Both groups are complete twits. Sure Star Wars and Dune share many similarities that any fan could notice – especially if one reads the novel for the first time like I did when I was 17. But both franchises are so radically different that when Mr. Herbert first saw A New Hope,he was unsure whether to sue or not. In this post we’ll take a look at the 6-part film series and the 6 book series and see how they compare and contrast.
Twins: Luke and Leia/ Leto and Ghanima
In Dune, Paul and his concubine, Chani, have a son whom they name Leto II after his illustrious father. But little Leto is killed in a Harkonnen attack. By the end of Dune Messiah, Herbert’s 1969 follow-up, Chani has given birth to twins – a boy and a girl whom Paul names Leto and Ghanima respectively. While audiences were already introduced to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa in 1977, they would have to wait another six years before they learned that Luke and Leia were twins separated at birth. In the Expanded Universe novels, Leia would go on to become a mother of twins herself.
How they’re similar: Alas, both sets of kids lost their moms early on in life. Chani and Padme would die from complications in childbirth under extrenuous circumstances, leaving their newborns motherless and their fathers despondent enough to go into exile – sort of. Anakin becomes Darth Vader, while a blinded Paul Atreides goes into exile in the desert and becomes a mysterious figure known as The Preacher.
However, twins have also played a major role in mythology throughout cultures and ages, from Jacob and Esau to Apollo and Artemis, possibly to exemplify the concept of duality. Lucas has always made it no secret that he lifted much of Star Wars off of ancient mythology but it remains to be seen to what extent Herbert, who died in 1986, did the same.
How they’re different: Whereas Luke and Leia had to be split up as infants to protect them from danger, that wasn’t the case for Leto and Ghanima, who got to grow up together on Arrakis, share their father’s powers between them and be surrounded by many protectors. While both Luke and Leto meet up with their estranged fathers, only one drew them back to the side of good – and did not have to become a giant human/sandworm in the process.
And take the most special care that you locate Muad’Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place. – Princess Irulan
And what of the boy?
To Tatooine. To his family send him.
I will take the child and watch over him. – Obi-Wan and Yoda
It’s one of the most observed – and laziest – similarities between the two IPs. Paul hails from a desert planet (Arrakis) as do Anakin and Luke (Tatooine) but neither were born on said desert planet. Paul was born on and spent his first 15 years on Caladan (a water planet) while Luke was born in secret on Polis Massa (an asteroid field).
How they’re similar: yes, the single-biome planets with two satellites – 2 suns for Tatooine, 2 moons for Arrakis – are where our heroes start their journeys. Yes, they are considered insignificant to their respective galactic governments. And yes, they’re home to some of the most inhospitable lifeforms known to the galaxy: sandworms and Fremen for Arrakis; Sarlaccs, Krayt dragons and Tusken Raiders for Tatooine. Anyone who lived on these planets always had to watch their backs. Not to mention the precious commodity of water.
How they’re different: Compared to the cutthroat Arrakis, Tatooine still seems like a fun place to visit when you think about it. There’s the Boonta Eve podraces of Mos Espa. More diverse life forms to tame and ride like rontos, banthas and eopies. You can buy a beverage and chat up a pilot or smuggler at the Mos Eisley Cantina and there’s gambling establishments owned by Hutts like Jabba and Gardulla.
Despite these distractions, Luke (nor Anakin) has no love for his home planet and dreams of adventures far, far away. Once Luke leaves he develops as a character. When he comes back to Tatooine to rescue Han Solo, he tells him that there’s nothing to see. “I used to live here, remember?” After the Empire falls, Tatooine doesn’t get the “historical landmark” treatment as the home of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Now Arrakis on the other hand…
Before Paul moved to Arrakis as a member of House Atreides, he studied the planet, expressed interest in its inhabitants and instead of finding a way to get off planet after the murder of his father, made Arrakis his home. Once he and his mother joined forces with the Fremen, he overthrew his enemies, the Harkonnens, became Emperor and made Arrakis the capitol of the Imperium.
Oh yeah, I forgot to point out one last crucial difference.
In service to the Emperor (Shaddam/Palpatine), these specially trained soldiers are hard to defeat in combat and are not to be messed with. Woe to anyone who stands in their way – they will take you out! Unless you’re Master Yoda or a sandworm.
You may be wondering why I chose the Red Royal Guards as a comparison to the Sardaukar instead of the more iconic Stormtroopers. Well, Stormtroopers are most impressive but we all know what bad marksmen they are in a fight. The Emperor’s Royal Guards on the other hand…
How they’re similar: The Emperor’s Royal Guard is called that for a reason. They were first introduced in Return of the Jedi in 1983 disembarking from Emperor Palpatine’s shuttle, their bright red robes a stark contrast to the black, white and gray ensemble of the troops and officers of the Empire. Their flowing robes and force pikes suggest fluid movement, hand-to-hand combat and stealth while their helmets conceal their faces, leaving their identity in question. They’re unflinchingly loyal to the Emperor to the point of even turning on each other if there was suspected treason among their ranks. There’s also speculation that the guards may have been force sensitive themselves based on a deleted scene where one of them force chokes an imperial officer.
The Sardaukar of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV had a reputation throughout the Known Universe for their ruthlessness, superior fighting abilities and concealed weapons. They were recognized by their gold trimmed, grey and black uniforms and helmets, which, concealed any semblance of individuality. No one could match their physical prowess. Even the desert tough Fremen had a grudging respect for them.
How they’re different: No one in the GFFA knows how many members there are in the Royal Imperial Guard and when they do appear onscreen – which isn’t often (the only other film in the Saga where they appear is Revenge of the Sith – and they immediately get knocked out by Yoda) – they come in pairs.
Sardaukar on the other hand number in the thousands – and always attack as an army.
This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. – Obi-Wan Kenobi
A knife, m’Lord, a knife the like of which you’ve never seen. Milky white and glowing with a light of its own like. – Duncan Idaho
How they’re similar: Like King Arthur’s sword or Odysseus’ bow, the lightsaber and the crysknife are weapons that define the characters of our respective franchises and make us wish we possessed one of our own. To make them, one had to prove themselves by passing a test of character. Wielding them required lots of skill and training.
How they’re different: The crysknife is the weapon of choice for the Fremen, fashioned from the tooth of a dead sandworm. It’s 20 centimeters (7 inches) long and tipped in poison.
Wielded only by the Jedi, the lightsaber was a plasma blade powered by a kyber crystal that emitted from a hilt fashioned in a style that matched the wielder’s individuality. It could be shut off at will and hung from the belt of its owner.
Interestingly, one jedi student, Tenel Ka Djo, fashioned her lightsaber hilt from the tooth of a rancor, an animal native to her home planet of Dathomir.
The Jedi/Bene Gesserit
Two (semi) religious organizations consisting of members with special powers who hold a place of prominence in their respective societies.
How they’re similar: the Jedi and Bene Gesserit are skilled fighters. They hold the ability to see into the past, present or future. They’re in service to the Emperor/Chancellor but don’t seek to rule the galaxy themselves – though some believe otherwise. They can control every muscle and nerve in their bodies. And they have enemies with similar abilities: for the Jedi it’s the Sith, for the Bene Gesserit it’s the Honored Matres. Both even take in students for training.
How they’re different: Everyone knows that a Jedi’s strength comes from the Force, an energy shield that surrounds, penetrates and is generated by all living things. The Jedi trust in the Force, reach out with the Force and use the Force.
The Bene Gesserit, on the other hand, have no central deity or deities. While they have no problem using religion as a tool (through their Missionaria Protectiva program), in the end they see religion as nothing more than a set of superstitions and myths to sow among “primitive” organizations. Instead of worshiping a god, they set out to create a god (Kwisatz Haderach) through a selective breeding program involving all the Great Houses of the Imperium. And speaking of breeding…
The Bene Gesserit will often play a part in this program by becoming wives or concubines to nobles (like Lady Jessica Atreides or Empress Anirul Corrino) and produce offspring (always daughters) for the planned bloodlines. However they’re expected to never fall in love with their mates and while trained in many lovemaking techniques, use sex as a tool. However this has not stopped some Bene Gesserit from genuinely falling in love like Jessica did for Leto I.
Marriage and reproduction is forbidden in the Jedi Code as it goes against the rule of attachment. While a jedi padawan has love for his or her master, he or she must be cautious in forming a bond with his or her master in the case that the sudden death of the master can draw the padawan to the Dark Side of the Force. Despite this rule, many jedi had secret mates and lovers with whom they started a family, such as Anakin Skywalker and his secret wife, Senator Padme Amidala.
One more big difference: the Jedi was a diverse order of humans and aliens from throughout the galaxy whereas the Bene Gesserit accepted only human women (non-human aliens are absent in the Dune series).
Queen/Senator Padme Amidala/Lady Jessica Atreides
The beloved women of Duke Leto Atreides and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. Mothers of Paul and Alia Atreides and Luke and Leia, who shape the futures of their galaxies.
How they’re similar: Both are skilled diplomats and fighters with killer wardrobes to match. Their relationships with their men are frowned upon due to caste: Leto I never married Jessica because she wasn’t of noble blood – and therefore legally freeing him to make a marriage alliance with another Great House, while Anakin and Padme had to keep their marriage a secret due to Anakin’s jedi vows.
How they’re different: Jessica was a member of the Bene Gesserit order which gave her special powers – basically Dune’s version of a jedi knight. Padme, on the other hand was only a “mere mortal” who couldn’t withstand Darth Vader’s Force choke and died, leaving her newborn twins motherless. Jessica outlived her children and took part in the raising of her grandchildren.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen/Darth Vader
The icons of evil in their respective universes.
How they’re similar: I’ll steal a paragraph from this Yahoo article because it explains it better:
Neither of these stories would be true epics without their truly memorable villains. While Darth Vader is known for his cyborg body and his suit that helps him breathe, Baron Harkonnen is morbidly obese to the point that he relies on anti-gravity “suspensors” to support his body. Though the trope of the villain with an impediment is considered by some to be tired and offensive, both villains are nevertheless memorable for their desire, ruthlessness, and penchant for genocide. Both villains also have familial connections to the protagonist, with Baron Harkonnen being Lady Jessica’s father, making him Paul’s grandfather. Talk about family issues!
And by now if you don’t know that Darth Vader is Luke and Leia’s father, you must’ve been in a coma for the last 41 years.
How they’re different: Even before the release of the prequels, audiences knew that Vader had once been a hero but “turned to evil”. It took the love of his son, Luke, to bring him back to the light side of the Force. Vladimir Harkonnen has never been known to be a good guy and he has no love for anyone – not even his own nephews, whom he grooms as heirs for the title of Baron – and even he suspects their treachery. The only thing the Baron loves is power.
Yes, the title of this post is “Of Sandworms and Sarlaccs” but that’s because it sounded catchy. Aside from living in desert environments, the two species have nothing in common. Sarlaccs are arthropods, which range from crabs and lobsters to spiders, scorpions and insects. Sandworms are, well, worms.
But when it comes to other creatures in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, the closest to the Sandworm is the Exogorth, or Space Slug, a silicone-based life form that can exist in no atmosphere, which is why they’re primarily found on asteroids.
How they’re similar: They have no arms or legs and they burrow. They eat anything that gets in their way. They grow to ridiculously long proportions (enough to make a blue whale look small by comparison) and they reproduce asexually.
How they’re different: Space slugs reproduce by fission – a chemical trigger that would cause it to split into two identical, self-reliant slugs. Sandworms are the final stage of the sandtrout life cycle – when sandtrout (a larval form of sandworm) banded together after converging on a store of water deep, deep beneath Arrakis digesting the chemical compound from the water, which often erupted in explosion known as pre-spice mass. Then – voila!- instant sandworm.
Space slugs also have eyestalks on the side of their head while sandworms lack eyes. Sandworms produce melange for human consumption while space slugs contribute nothing of value to the GFFA except a good “campfire” story.
So if you’ve just moved into a new place, or started a new office job, and you’re in need of some trendy supplies may I suggest these newly released sandworm bookends from Dark Horse Comics…
The command whipped out at him. Paul found himself obeying before he could think about it. Using the Voice on me, he thought. He stopped at her gesture, standing beside her knees. – The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam to Paul.
The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. – Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
How they’re similar: the objective of these techniques – which takes years to master – is to make brats, scum and losers obey your command. They can only be wielded by members of the Jedi and Bene Gesserit orders.
How they’re different: Using the Voice requires pitch and manipulation of muscle tone in the throat. A Mind Trick requires Force concentration, a wave of the hand and a command.
Paul Atreides/Anakin Skywalker
The Kwisatz Haderach and The Chosen One. The “Shortening of the Way” and the One Who Will Bring Balance to the Force. The boys who were prophesied to make the Galaxy a better place. Oh, if only it were easy…
How They’re Similar: Refusing to use her Bene Gesserit powers to conceive a daughter, Jessica bore a son and trained him in the “weirding ways” of the matriarchal order as a potential candidate for the role of Kwisatz Haderach, a “prophecy” created and manipulated by the Missionaria Protectiva and spread throughout worlds.
In a scene from Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker about “The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise”, a Sith Lord who devoted his studies to manipulating the midi-chloreans to the point of creating life via the Force. Was Plagueis secretly behind the immaculate conception of Anakin Skywalker? If so, does that explain Anakin’s tendency to flirt with the Dark Side throughout his Jedi career?
Either way, both men would fall short of their elders’ expectations and unleashed some very. very dark years for their respective societies. Despite his best intentions, Paul would lose control of his Fremen followers after he overthrew Emperor Shaddam IV, as they unleashed a jihad throughout the galaxy that resulted in the deaths of millions. Fearful of losing his wife, Anakin made a pact with Darth Sidious as the former slaughtered the Jedi and various targets while the latter declared a new Galactic Empire – which resulted in more deaths as time went on.
How They’re Different: As I said earlier, both men are reunited with their sons, admit the errors of their ways and renounce their roles as semi-divine figures. But while Anakin got to accomplish his task of bringing Balance to the Force, Paul left the galaxy in an even bigger mess – because Paul was never the Kwisatz Haderach to begin with.
Frank Herbert/George Lucas
Two creators of the most beloved IPs of all time: The Dreamer of Dune and The Maker of Star Wars. Dune won the first Nebula and the Hugo for best novel. It’s always included in every “100 Greatest Novel” list. It’s the best-selling sci-fi novel of all time. Star Wars won 6 Academy Awards in 1978 and more film industry awards than you could shake a lightsaber at. Generation after generation continues to discover and be inspired by Dune and Star Wars.
The big difference between the two creators is that Frank Herbert passed away in 1986 from pancreatic cancer, while George Lucas is still with us.
And you may be wondering what I thought about Denis Villeneuvue’s new film. KULL WAHAD! IT’S AMAZING GUYS!!! I had my doubts about this adaptation when I saw the official trailer but I was WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong! It’s refreshing to finally see a Dune movie done right and to see a good-old science-fiction movie dominate the box office. I had already watched it twice on HBO Max and I saw it in theaters. See this film for yourself so that we can get more film adaptations of our favorite sci-fi stories.
So what other similarities and differences have you noticed between Dune and Star Wars? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.
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You’ve probably heard by now about Marcia Lucas’ – ex-wife of George and Oscar-winning editor of the First Star Wars Trilogy – thoughts on the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy and The Phantom Menace in J.W. Rinzler’s final book about producer Howard Kazanjian. If you haven’t here’s what she said:
I like Kathleen. I always liked her. She was full of beans. She was really smart and really bright. Really wonderful woman. And I liked her husband, Frank. I liked them a lot. Now that she’s running Lucasfilm and making movies, it seems to me that Kathy Kennedy and J.J. Abrams don’t have a clue about ‘Star Wars.’ They don’t get it. And JJ Abrams is writing these stories — when I saw that movie where they kill Han Solo, I was furious. I was furious when they killed Han Solo. Absolutely, positively there was no rhyme or reason to it. I thought, ‘You don’t get the Jedi story. You don’t get the magic of ‘Star Wars.’ You’re getting rid of Han Solo?And then at the end of the last one, The Last Jedi, they have Luke disintegrate. They killed Han Solo. They killed Luke Skywalker. And they don’t have Princess Leia anymore. And they’re spitting out movies every year. And they think it’s important to appeal to a woman’s audience, so now their main character is this female, who’s supposed to have Jedi powers, but we don’t know how she got Jedi powers, or who she is. It sucks. The storylines are terrible. Just terrible. Awful. You can quote me…J.J. Abrams, Kathy Kennedy — talk to me.
Here’s what she had to say about The Phantom Menace:
George is, in his heart and soul, a good guy and a talented filmmaker. I wish he would’ve kept directing [other kinds of] movies. But when I went to see Episode I — I had a friend who worked at ILM, who took me as a guest to a preview — I cried. I cried because I didn’t think it was very good. And I thought he had such a rich vein to mine, a rich palette to tell stories with. He had all those characters. I thought it was weird that the story was about this little boy who looked like he was six years old, but then later on he’s supposed to get with this princess who looked like she was twenty years old. There were things I didn’t like about the casting, and things I didn’t like about the story…it was a lot of eye candy. CG.
So what are my thoughts on the ex-Mrs. Lucas’ statements?
I predicted three responses: 1.) The group that views Marcia Lucas as Our Lady and Savior of Star Wars would strip her of her title. 2.) The prequel-hating media would use her anti-TPM statements to defend her title (while downplaying or ignoring her anti-ST comments) and 3.) Her spot-on criticisms of the Sequel Trilogy will be another score for The Fandom Menace. Turns out I was right. If you don’t believe me, just head on over to Twitter, type “Marcia Lucas” into the search bar and see for yourself.
While I found her critiques of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker to be accurate, I was puzzled by the inaccuracies in her critique of The Phantom Menace. Did she even watch the movie? Was she even aware of the ages of the actor and actress playing Anakin and Amidala? Did she even bother to ask her ILM friend about what went on behind the scenes – especially when it came to the special effects? It’s seems like her dislike of the film had more to do with resentment than the plot.
Haters have said many things about the Prequels over the years, but no one ever said that they weren’t Star Wars. When it comes to the Sequels, however, its critics always say that they’re either not Star Wars or whomever made them doesn’t get Star Wars. And that’s saying a lot.
For context I never believed that silliness about Marcia Lucas’ “saving” the Original Trilogy in the editing room. Editing is important but it isn’t the backbone of film, it’s the writing. The story. The final script. You can have great sequences, great actors and superb dialogue, but they do not hold a candle to a good story. And if Marcia Lucas was the real driving force behind Star Wars, then why didn’t she co-write the script with George? If editing was the backbone of movies, then why not blame the “failure” of the Prequels and Sequels on Ben Burtt, Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon, Bob Ducsay and Stefan Grube instead of the writers and directors? And why single out Marcia Lucas as the “glue” of Star Wars when she shared the job and the accolades with Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew? Don’t they deserve credit? And finally, what has Marcia done after Return of the Jedi? Nothing. She produced two films in 1996 and 1998 and then, despite many film offers, disappeared from the public eye.
But I hold no ill will against Ms. Lucas regarding her feelings on TPM (it’s her opinion after all) and I believe her words will get others to step forward and state how they truly feel about Disney. Then the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy will get more appreciation and vindication and the circle will be complete.
In the meantime, check out this awesome video called How “How Star Wars Was Saved In the Edit” Was Saved In The Edit (Sort of, But Not Really) by Nerdonymous. I think you’ll enjoy it.
April 27, 2021 marked the 70th anniversary of producer Howard Hawks’ and director Christian Nyby’s 1951 landmark sci-fi classic, The Thing From Another World. But you wouldn’t know that unless you were a die-hard SF buff. The film has fallen into obscurity and been overshadowed by its 1982 successor and the generation that grew up with it. Few internet articles have been written about this great film and even I’ve racked my brain thinking of how to honor this important gem. So I decided to post this excellent 2018 piece by guest writer and historian Andrew Kidd (with permission of course). It’s a lengthy essay, so fix yourself a snack and find out why we should keep…watching the skies.
I come before you today (well, not physically, but let’s imagine), not to talk about the Snyderverse, The Depp vs. Heard controversy, Joss Whedon, or Ray Fisher’s constant whining (I, mean, come on, if he single-handedly removed Hamada, Johns and co. who’d take their place, Disney execs?) because I really don’t care about those things, but instead I want to direct your attention to Wonder Woman’s 80th anniversary.
Before I go any further, I wanted to let you know that I loved Wonder Woman 1984. Like its 2017 predecessor, the film proved that William Moulton Marston’s legacy and message is safe in the hands of Patty Jenkins. Ignore the (mostly male) haters that drone on about how Zack Snyder “restored” Diana’s “warrior status” in Justice League. Ignore the bitter, Disney paid lamestream media. Ignore the RT criticswithdubiousreputations. Continue with Patty’s direction for the character.
Better yet, give us more Wonder Woman.
“But we’ve greenlit Wonder Woman 3”, you’ll reply, to which I say: “Yes and I’m looking forward to it immensely.” But it’s come to my attention, that the majority of Diana’s onscreen adventures have been framed mostly as a team member of the Justice League. Like the first tweet pointed out, in the 80 years since her 1941 debut, – outside of comic books – she’s only had one TV show, two major motion pictures and two straight to DVD animated movies. By comparison, we’re getting ANOTHER Batman movie, a new Superman show on HBOMax, (NOTE: a total of 18 actors have played Superman and Batman respectively on the big and small screen) and two new Batman/Superman animated series.
Nevermind that we already had a Batman Animated Series and a Superman Animated Series in the ’90s.
But when we were first introduced to Wonder Woman in the Timmverse, it was through Justice League and JusticeLeague Unlimited – and not always in the most flattering way (sometimes her characterization veered into straw feminist territory). Diana has never gotten her own animated series. Fans have started to notice this. I wish (no pun intended) they noticed this a long time ago.
Give Us That Wonder Girl Show You Promised
Some time ago, you announced that you were planning on developing a show based around the newest “Wonder Girl”, Yara Flor, because fans responded positively to Joelle Jones’ series about an Amazonian princess from Brazil. And then you scrapped the project. Again.
But you know what, you still have the potential to make another Wonder Girl series and it’s staring you right in the face.
That’s right, Conor Leslie, the second actress to portray Wonder Girl since Debra Winger, is one of the most popular characters on the HBO Max show, Titans. I don’t watch the show but I can already tell she deserves her own spinoff. Rehire Dailyn Rodriguez as head writer/ showrunner, hire other female writers and directors and make the mood of the show lighter and softer to reflect Donna’s path of redemption and love. Target the show toward a female audience and you’ll have a surefire hit.
Cast Other Actresses to Portray Wonder Woman
Now we all love Gal Gadot and we look forward to seeing her don the tiara again for WW3, but when it comes to other DCEU/DCTV projects, it wouldn’t hurt to let other actresses inherit the Lasso of Truth. I’ve heard rumors that Diana is going to make a cameo in the upcoming Flash movie. If this is true, cast another actress. After all, you guys announced years ago that your films were no longer going to be interconnected, so let’s give Gal a rest (she’s just had a baby y’know) so we can bump up the Wonder Sisterhood to three. Or maybe have Conor Leslie can play the part (she is 30 years old after all).
So in the words of Cassandra Sandsmark, “stop being afraid of women”, especially when she’s one of you’re most popular characters of all time. Give her more solo onscreen representation. After 80 years she deserves it.
I’m The Lady From Planet X and thank you for coming to my TedTalk.