By Christian Blauvelt, Hollywood.com Staff
For a geek who's down in the dumps, there are two words that are guaranteed to be a pick-me-up: David Tennant. The British actor has an unimpeachable record with crazed fans across multiple franchises: Harry Potter, because of his turn as Barty Crouch, Jr. in Goblet of Fire, and, especially, Doctor Who, where he served as the series' second Time Lord following its 2005 relaunch. So the news that Tennant would be taking a trip to that Galaxy Far, Far Away and voicing a droid was geek catnip. Better yet, he'd be an ancient lightsaber-building droid in the employ of the Jedi Order. And if that wasn't cool enough, his droid even does his own Monty Python and the Holy Grail-style severed limb routine!
Okay, calm down. Clone Wars' installment this weekend, "A Test of Strength," was a polished, engaging follow-up to last week's "The Gathering," and a promising indication of where the "Young Jedi" arc is heading. "The Gathering" set up our sextet of Force-sensitive younglings extremely well, so it was fun now to see them in action unfettered by loads of exposition. All that said, "A Test of Strength" also made very little sense, particularly as far as the motivations of one Hondo Ohnaka were concerned.
After gathering their lightsaber crystals in the ice caves of Ilum, younglings Petro, Katooni, Genodi, Zatt, Byph, and Gungi reconvened aboard a Jedi training ship to build their weapons. The thing is these weren't just any ordinary crystals. These were kaiburr crystals, capable of magnifying the Force around a Jedi, making the lightsaber and its wielder one. Not all lightsabers are built with kaiburr crystals, so these younglings are extremely lucky. It's fascinating to see this mentioned in The Clone Wars, because kaiburr crystals have long been a part of Star Wars lore, if an obscure one. They were first mentioned in George Lucas's third draft for Episode IV way back in 1975, then titled The Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller. At that time, Lucas's concept was that the kaiburr crystals represented a Jedi's connection to the Forcethat they couldn't access the energy field which surrounds all things without them. He quickly abandoned that idea because he felt that the ability to tap into the Force should be latent. But the concept of the kaiburr crystal survived and popped up in the very first Star Wars spin-off novel, Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Taking place shortly after A New Hope, an untrained Luke Skywalker fights a lightsaber duel against Darth Vader when the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi takes possession of his body via a kaiburr crystal that Luke found. From that point on, they've barely been mentioned. Until The Clone Wars, that is!
The person who would help the younglings construct their lightsabers wasn't a Jedi at all, but rather a droid named Huyang. The most badass droids of all always get proper namesnone of this C-3PO and R2-D2 stuff. (IG-88 excluded.) Little Rodian Genodi scoffed at the idea of learning lightsaber construction from a droid. I half expected Huyang to fire right back with Anakin Skywalker's trademark line from Phantom Menace, "My name is Huyang, and I'm a person!" But he's voiced by David Tennant, so he's way too cool for that. Yes, I know last week I not only declared but titled my recap "No Mr. Ollivander for the Jedi."" Now you'll probably say that Huyang is the Jedi's Ollivander and that I must have been high on glitterstim. Far from it! Though, like Ollivander, he's helping the younglings choose a weapon that's simpatico with them, the fact that he actually has to help them build it and the fact that these are blades that can cut off people's limbs makes him have much more in common, rather, with Kill Bill's swordmaster, Hattori Hanzo. I'll repeat what I said before about Huyang: badass.
NEXT: Pirates attack the Jedi training ship before the younglings even have a chance to finish their lightsabers. Pirates! [PAGEBREAK]Each lightsaber would be tailored to the personality of the person who wields it. Gungi, a rare Wookiee Jedi apprentice, wanted the handle of his blade to be made out of wood, so as to remind him of the tall, shady forests of his Kashyyyk home. By my reckoning Gungi is only the second Wookiee Jedi we've ever seen, following Chewbacca's nephew Lowbacca from the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force series.
Of course, Petro was doing everything he could to be an ass. At least he's no longer abandoning his classmates in frozen caves, but his grandstanding antics while squaring off with a lightsaber training remotea move he dubbed "The Whirlwind of Destiny"may have been more nausea-inducing than a Gungan's grub-based diet. After the obnoxious lad finished hastilyand carelesslyconstructing his lightsaber, he declared he would challenge Obi-Wan Kenobi to a duel and kill General Grievous with it. Yeah, good luck with that, Petro. Especially, since you inverted your lightsaber's emitter matrix, which will cause the blade to backfire.
So, into the midst of all this happy, happy juvenilia, sinister forces emerged. Weequay pirate Hondo Ohnaka decided that, once and for all, he wanted to make enemies of absolutely everyone. He made an enemy of Dooku, when he kidnapped him way back in season one. He betrayed Darth Maul and Savage Opress. And now, after seemingly becoming the good guy and helping the Jedi send arms to the Onderon rebels, he's decided that he wants to piss off the Jedi as well. His poorly conceived plan? Hondo wants to raid a Jedi training vesselof course, the one with Ahsoka and the younglingssteal the legendary kaiburr crystals, then sell them for a quick profit. The only problem is, it doesn't seem like these crystals are worth much to anyone but Force users: the Jedi, the Sith, and Darth Maul's would-be Sith. In short, all the people he's already alienated are the only ones who could be his customers. There's no way he could sell these crystals to anybody! So much for his silly declaration, "I smell profit! Nice, juicy, fat, warm profit." I suppose we shouldn't expect much in the way of logic from a space pirate who commands a flying saucer for a ship. (The continued presence of that flying saucer really highlights Star Wars' connection to an earlier era of sci-fi. This franchise still has a lot more in common with, say, Forbidden Planet than much of the sci-fi being produced today.)
So Hondo's ship snuck up on the Jedi cruiser and snagged it with its "grappling harpoons," an awesomely low-tech substitute for a tractor beam. Realizing that they're under attack, Ahsoka and the Younglings (the name of the next Star Wars parody band) pulled a Han Solo and sought refuge in their ship's air ducts as the pirates boarded. Then they'd plan a Home Alone-style defense, turning apparently innocuous objects against the invaders. Okay, well, that's what ultimately happened, but maybe it wasn't the original plan. Ahsoka wanted the rest of the younglings to remain hidden, while she went back to Engineering to redirect power to the engines, allowing them to forcibly break away from Hondo's saucer and vent the pirates into space. To do that, though, Zatt and Genodi would need to make their way to the cockpit to gas the engines when required. It turns out just R2 was at the helm, because I guess Ahsoka and the Younglings were the only organics onboard the ship.
NEXT: Luckily, for the younglings, Hondo's pirates prove to be about as competent as the Wet Bandits. [PAGEBREAK]I found what happened next to be a little disturbing, because, unlike last week's episode, it seemed that Petro's arrogance actually paid off for him. After the pirates dropped the galactic equivalent of teargas into the vents, forcing the younglings out, Petro immediately handed over his incorrectly assembled lightsaber to one of Hondo's men, knowing that he wouldn't be able to resist activating it. Of course, it exploded in the Weequay's hand, allowing the younglings to escape. The Home Alone tactics begin! Petro insisted that they ignore everything Ahsoka told them and bring the fight to the pirates. The others needed little persuading. Even the more placid Katooni said, "Petro's right! It's our only choice: fight or be killed." So Katooni and Gungi set up a pile of training remotes (just like the kind Luke Skywalker used in A New Hope) and activated them just at the moment a pack of Hondo's men were on top of them. They soared around the room and fired their pesky little zappy lasers at the pirates, who, luckily, were such poor shots that they never had a chance to bring down even one of the remotes. This reminds me of the great 2002 game Star Wars: Jedi Knight IIJedi Outcast, in which you can randomly activate a swarm of training remotes to attack you at Luke's Yavin IV Jedi academy if you so choose. I so choose.
R2, who single-handedly took on the Confederacy's droid army at the start of Revenge of the Sith, used his built-in cattle prod to electrocute another pirate. But his fight skills couldn't compare to those of Huyang, who did battle against several pirates all at once even after having his head shot off. Then an arm. Then another arm. The limbless wonder proved deadlier than anybody! All this gave Ahsoka enough time to reroute power to the engines and blast away from the saucer. Which she did! One unlucky Weequay got sucked out into space to meet a horrible, horrible death by decompression. But Hondo and the others were at least sucked in to the docking tube of their own shipand so was Ahsoka, who evidently miscalculated how forceful the decompression on her part of the ship would be. The younglings made the jump to hyperspace but no Ahsoka. You know what that means? Next week, the Younglings will have to mount a rescue of Miss Tano, and the circle will then be complete. When she left them, the younglings were but the learners. Now they will be the masters!
Okay, that's not what's going to happen, but I'm still puzzled by how poorly Ahsoka planned to get the pirates off her ship. Were you surprised by that as well? Will Gungi share Chewbacca's affinity for droid-repair and put Huyang back together again? Is it racist of me to just assume that's a Wookiee skill? Like me, did you also find Hondo's decision to double-down on cartoonish villainy surprising? Or, like Wreck-It Ralph, is Hondo a bad guy but not necessarily a bad guy?
See you next week!
[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]
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