Let me begin by saying I’ve been a fan of George Lucas’ Star Wars universe since I first encountered it as a youth. I followed all the movies, even the second trilogy which was panned by most critics and is constantly attacked by almost everyone. Although, at this point, I will point out that I have not watched much of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated television series which is broadcast in the United States on Cartoon Network. I have never been a huge fan of any of the animated television products from the Star Wars universe, although I have followed what is called the Expanded Universe in novel and comic book form. I preface this article with that information to say that I consider myself someone with a firm grasp on this Expanded Universe, although far from an expert.
The recent addition to the Expanded Universe of a new villainous character, in the form of Savage Opress (pronounced “sah-VAJ”), a Zabrak warrior who has been touted as the Sith Lord Darth Maul’s brother, is the reason for this article, and the reason for my further dislike of the animated series. The official announcement from Lucasfilm Ltd, which controls and oversees the Star Wars universe, both onscreen and Expanded, came late last year, 2010. Most of the fandom was divided between excited and suspicious. In an effort to get a grip on this new character I sought out the three episodes in which this character would appear.
The twelfth through fourteenth episodes of the third season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars saw the betrayal of Asajj Ventress by her master, Count Dooku. Count Dooku, leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems and secret Sith apprentice to Sith Lord Darth Sidious, had been ordered by his own master to eliminate Ventress. Dooku, also known as Darth Tyranus, had been using the dark side assassin Asajj Ventress to do his biding, training her as his apprentice. Episode twelve, titled Nightsisters, was broadcast originally on January 7th, 2011 and saw Darth Sidious order his apprentice, Darth Tyranus, to eliminate Asajj Ventress, sensing her growing power and fearing that one day Darth Tyranus would try to use her to destroy his own master, as is the Sith way. Count Dooku, for all his villainous intents, seemed reluctant to carry out the order, however he did so according to the wishes of his master, or so he thought.
While battling, once again, the Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, the droid armies of Count Dooku and the Separatist movement were ordered to destroy the command ship where the three were fighting, insuring the deaths of the Jedi and his own apprentice. After confirmation that the death of Ventress had occurred, Dooku contacted his master to inform him that his will had been carried out. Unbeknownst to Dooku the dark side adept had survived, escaping, along with Kenobi and Skywalker, before the destruction of the command vessel and was found drifting in space by salvagers, whom she disposed of and took their ship to flee to the planet of Dathomir, which was first introduced in the 1995 novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia, and was the home of the rancor-riding (rancors being the huge beast Luke Skywalker faced in Jabba the Hutt’s dungeon in 1983’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi) Witches of Dathomir, who use the light side of the force, and their dark side version, called the Nightsisters.
This is the point where I begin to have a problem with the three-episode story arc. It was well established in the Dark Horse Comic series, Star Wars: Republic, that Asajj Ventress was from the planet Rattatak, not Dathomir. In issue number 60, published November 2003, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the clone trooper known as Alpha were prisoners of Ventress on the planet Rattatak after the Battle of Jabiim. While trying to escape, the two meet Osika Kriske, who considers himself a political prisoner. Oskika was once ruler of more than half of Rattatak, a world of warriors and soldiers. He had had killed the parents of Asajj, who had amassed a massive army in the Southern hemisphere of the planet. He killed them before they could become a threat to his rule. However, Ventress survived, and together with a stranded Jedi Knight (Ky Narec) who had crashed on the planet, the two became heroes to the world, ending the wars and uniting the armies. He managed to get the other warlords to join forces long enough to dispose of the double threat, but only managed to kill the Jedi. Enraged, Ventress, using tricks she learned from unnamed “other” off-world sources, brought the rage of a dark side Force user on them all, keeping him alive as a prisoner to help fuel her anger. This clearly established that Asajj Ventress was from the planet where she lived with her parents. The episode Nightsisters tries to change that history by making Ventress a native of the planet Dathomir that had been taken from her home world as a slave in exchange for saving the tribe of Nightsisters. Although in the episode her Nightsister mother is seen, she is not named. Instead most viewers assume that the character of Mother Talzin, leader of the Nightsisters, is her actual mother. It is worth noting at this point that the tribe of Nightsisters, and the later seen Nightbrothers, use familial terms to refer to anyone in their clan; sister and brother used to refer to anyone in the clan, not necessarily siblings, which is another point of my disagreement with the concept of this new character, which would not be introduced until the next episode.
The thirteenth episode, called Monster, was broadcast on January 14, 2011, and saw the debut of the new character Savage Opress. After a failed assassination attempt by Asajj Ventress and some of her Nightsisters, disguised as a Jedi assassination plot, Count Dooku is looking for a new trained assassin of his own. Mother Talzin, the Nightsister leader, contacts Dooku and promises to provide a suitable candidate. The remainder of the episode shows Asajj Ventress journeying to the far side of the planet of Dathomir, where the males are kept, to choose from their most fierce warriors, warriors Mother Talzin claim are from the same blood line as Darth Maul, the Sith Lord that was Dooku’s predecessor who met his demise at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 1999 movie Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace). Here is where I next have my problem. It was well established in Star Wars canon that Darth Sidious found his apprentice as a child on the planet of Iridonia and that he was a Zabrak, a human-like species known for the horns on their head and which have been seen in both onscreen appearances and in the Expanded Universe. It was also known that Sidious (secretly Republic Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) had taken Maul as a child and forged him into a weapon of pure hate, pure evil, giving him Sith tattoos during the years of indoctrination. However, this episode deletes all of that in exchange for a whole tribe of Zabrak warriors on the planet Dathomir, all with similar tattoos.
Asajj Ventress selects the warrior known as Savage Opress and he is taken back to the Nightsisters’ temple where he is infused with their dark side magic and transformed from an average Zabrak, Nightbrother, warrior into a huge, hulking killing machine. Mother Talzin presents Count Dooku with his new assassin who, unbeknownst to Dooku, is secretly being planted there by Talzin and Asajj Ventress to get revenge on Dooku for trying to dispose of his apprentice. Count Dooku sends Savage Opress on his first mission, to prove his worth, to the planet Devaron to seize control of the Temple of Eedit, which he does easily after defeating a detachment of clone troopers and killing the two Jedi (Jedi Knight Halsey and Jedi Padawan Knox) in charge of protecting the temple, after which Dooku accepts Opress as his apprentice with plans to train him in order to overthrown Darth Sidious and rule the galaxy. The character of Savage Opress is voiced by Clancy Brown, best known as Kurgan in the original Highlander movie and the prison guard Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redeption as well as extensive voice work in animated television series including the voice of Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants. His work is wonderful in his portrayal of the character, even if I disagree with the origins of it and even disagree with the creation and introduction of the character.
The final episode of the trilogy, Witches of the Mist, which aired on January 21st, 2011, has Savage Opress being sent to capture King Katuunko of Toydaria, where Opress runs into Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. The three battle, which Opress unable to overcome the duo and he flees. Here I have another problem with the plot as Opress seems to have gained Force powers after being infused with dark side lightning by Count Dooku, something that has never been referenced before and something that, according to Star Wars canon, is not possible. Either a person is born with Force powers or they are not. Efforts to give General Grevious, the cyborg killing machine in charge of Dooku’s droid armies, Force powers were unsuccessful but yet, this pretender to the Sith throne is easily given Force powers? It constitutes sloppy writing, in my opinion. Count Dooku is displeased when Opress returns broken and defeated and attacks Savage Opress himself. As Count Dooku attacks Opress, Asajj Ventress stikes, revealing the plan to place Opress with Dooku and to destroy him for his betrayal, however the two are unable to overcome Count Dooku and they both barely escape. At the end, Mother Talzin reveals that Savage Opress needs more training and that he has a brother living in exile in the Outer Rim, Darth Maul. This is one of my largest problematic plot points of the series. It was well established that Darth Maul, the satanic looking Sith Lord apprentice to Darth Sidious that killed Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master, Qui-Gon Jinn, was cut in two pieces by Obi-Wan in 1999’s The Phantom Menace. I will even go so far as to accept that a clone of Maul was used in one appearance of Dark Horse comics, or that a cyborg made of portions of Maul could’ve been created, or that his brain was kept in a jar by a Zabrak mad scientist, in just a few of his Expanded Universe appearances, but to claim that the character is still alive? Wouldn’t the Sith Lord Darth Sidious have been aware of his apprentice’s survival? Wouldn’t the Jedi Council that arrived on the planet of Naboo after Kenobi dispatched the Sith Lord have found his body? How, in blue blazes, could the character have survived? Whatever the explanation that is given it can be said that it will be filled with plot holes and will not satisfy the fans of Star Wars that like the continuity to make sense.
One after another the plot points of this three-episode story arc contradict established events in the Star Wars universe, events which each had to be approved by Lucasfilm before they made it to the printed page or movie screen. The worst part of it all is that the episodes were written by Katie Lucas, the 21-year old daughter of Star Wars creator George Lucas, who had previously written three other episodes of the animated series. I understand it is George Lucas’ world and he can do anything he wants and by extension, his daughter’s writing is one of those irreproachable things that must be accepted as canon by Star Wars fans, however it seems to me that great effort has been put into establishing events, time lines, and characters by executives with Lucasfilm and to allow a child to just destroy those events and remake them to fit her liking is irresponsible.
I understand the need to continue to make money for the employees of the company, heaven knows George Lucas personally does not need it, but to haphazardly fly in the face of established events in an effort to breathe life into a failing project, like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is reprehensible. Legions of fans around the world have devoted not only large portions of their lives, and finances, to the world of Star Wars, but they have also devoted their efforts to keep that world living and breathing through the Expanded Universe. Library shelves have been filled with spin-off novels and comic books which see the adventures of not only the core characters but side characters as well. After watching these episodes with my son, who, by the way, enjoyed them, I have to say that as an adult with many years invested in the Star Wars universe that I am disappointed and understand why I have never enjoyed the animated series, which I believe ventures way too far off the path of established events. However, for those of you who do not get hung up on things like established time lines, established events, and can handle the world you enjoy being turned upside down by random character introductions and origin changes at the drop of a hat, then tune into Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Fridays at 8:30PM (ET) on Cartoon Network, myself I will not be.
Star Wars Insider, Issue 122 (January 2010), pgs 6-9.
Star Wars Republic, Issue 60 (November 2003), Dark Horse Comics