|:: An ongoing episodic story of fan-fic set after Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and inspired by George Lucas' historical draft concepts ::
|Nat reviews The Mandalorian
31st January 2021
Over the last 5 weeks or so I've been able to watch Seasons One and Two of The Mandalorian. Overall, I'd say that it's been exciting and engaging, and quite successful in 'tapping into' the slippery and nebulous entity known as 'Star Wars' ! The apparent teamwork of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni has been rewarding, with Favreau writing not only the overall arcs, but also most of the episodes, as well as, personally, coming from a creative background of writing-directing-producing such fantastically imaginative projects as 'The Lion King' and 'The Jungle Book'. I think that the tone and feel of The Mandalorian, the locales, the 'hardware', the characters, have mostly retained a 'Star Wars' identity more successfully that the Sequel Trilogy - particularly The Last Jedi, and, say, the second half of Rise of Skywalker - and one does wonder what factors might have been in play to result in this.
Of the TV show, it goes without saying that I'd not be uncritical of it ! Perhaps it's because of spending the last fifteen years or so writing the VE stories that I've discovered the 'need' for following a certain amount of cause-and-effect logic in the plotting, even if the plot resides in a fantastical world or galaxy. Once 'ground rules' have been imposed (in this case, by Lucas), a subsequent author ought to follow them. It may result in certain challenges narratively, but rather than seeking 'the easy way out', it forces the writer(s) to resolve such tasks creatively.... which shouldn't be impossible, and might actually end up being far better !
In addition, personally, I feel that if there is something, anything, that pulls me out of the immersive quality of the viewing experience, even briefly, then I am distracted and the flow of the story is disrupted. Examples would be :
When Grogu is lifted up, the puppet is too stiff - there should be a certain amount of head-lolling and body floppiness associated with this action, and the absence immediately causes me to see Grogu as a puppet and not a living breathing character.
As mentioned in the December 2020 editorial, the CG Luke Skywalker was a courageous move on the part of the film-makers. It is very good, considering, and much better than the two CG characters of Tarkin and Leia in 'Rogue One'. But I noticed that the lip sync was a little off, and, perhaps through necessity, the stand-in actor was quite motionless in the delivery of his lines.
The starfields are blurred - no doubt because of the curvature of the cockpit canopy - and sometimes don't move when the ship is moving. The Falcon's cocpkit was curved, and, as far as I recall, the stellar backdrops were relatively sharp.
There seemed to be many scenes set in space... but if the characters are in-transit, then they would be in hyperspace : I have always looked on hyper travel between planetary star systems like a motorway network, where you join them relatively soon after launch, you travel fast and cover great distances, and you arrive at your destination. The only times, as shown by Lucas' evidence, where a ship would opt to not fly at lightspeed is if there was damage or malfunction to the engine drive system, or where the characters do not yet have a destination.
The hero ship, the Razor Crest, required fairly major repairs, but these seemed to take place very quickly, and often without a fully equipped workshop !
The narrative conceit of a Mandalore's armour is all its hidden trick weaponary, which is fine, but the blacksmith character even says that the jetpack control needs to be learnt, and, I believe, is directed through thought processes with the impllication in tandem with the helmet.... but we see a native Mandalorian using her jetpack without her helmet on ! Likewise, are the suit weapons activated by hand, or by mind control via the helmet ? Similarly, the Tatooine marshall, Cob Vanth, is able to activate and control his jetpack.
Why run around shooting at stormtroopers when you've temporarily removed your jetpack, and could easily re-attach it ?
There seemed to be a hidden cabal of Mandalorians, and a rule that said only one individual could appear above ground at any one time.... yet they all wear customised armour so anyone would realise there is more than one, and the rule implies that the others are stuck below at the behest of the one lucky Mandalorian free to gallivant about !
How does the bounty tracker actually work ? What signal does it attach to, and how does a chain code work ? And once you start asking if it's associated with some sort of beacon inside the target's body.... then it implies everyone must have a beacon or some sort of internalised ID code.... which is unlikely, since the bounty is not going to have a premeditated tracker conveniently installed in them.
I was aware of a distinct lack of non-humanoid aliens (and the same was true for the Sequel Trilogy), and really feel that creatures like Hutts, Dugs, and Toydarians, for example, really help sell the idea that the Galaxy is a big place and populated with exotic denizens.
Giving the modified TIE fighter (with moving wings) to more pilots than just Moff Gideon takes away the uniqueness and 'leader' status of the Moff.
The mining town on Tatooine seemed too shiny and new.
Why would the resurrrected Boba Fett be interested in and ultimately tailing the Mandalorian ?
It seemed highly convenient that many diverse species had heard tales of the Mandalorians.
It seemed odd to have an access door to a hidden Imperial base sited next to a lava flow, to the extent that the door controls had fused !
It wasn't clear how long Ahsoka Tano had been on the decimated world of Corvus, to what extent she had built a rapport with the locals, and why the Magistrate would have known about Admiral Thrawn. Also, how is Ahsoka aware there aren't many Jedi left (rather than none) if she is in exile, and if she is aware of Luke Skywalker, why can't she direct Mando to the Jedi Master ? Furthermore, her description of the Seeing Stone on Tython seemed to be too conveniently specific to the requirements of the plot of the next episode, rather than, say, describing the archaic use of the Stone, which, as a by-product, could also help Grogu increase the chance of communicating to other Jedi.
There seemed, especially in the first season, a handful of 'filler' episodes, where there didn't seem to be a subsequent pay-off for the slower paced story.
Although I appreciate the Mandalorian TV show is probably aimed at a higher audience age range, one of the attractions of Star Wars as a whole is that it is appropriate for mid to old children and upwards, and I noticed that some fight scenes were particularly gratuitous and visceral, and I would question if they were necessary in their explicitness, and would recall the "less is more" motif. As an adult I'm not too concerned, but as a parent I'm aware that much of today's entertainment could be emulated by children. In addition, we see many bare fists and elbows punch into armour with no apparent injury, which also begins to break 'believability' - if the fighter was wearing armoured gloves or elbow pads, then that would make more sense ; if they're not, then the fighter ought to 'feel' the brawl more.
Once again, a Star Wars production pushes the technological boundaries. The 'Volume' stageworks is astounding, and even across the two seasons, you can see it continue to be implemented more creatively and utilised more successfully. This allows the backdrops to be photo-realistic, computer created or enhanced, rendered in real-time (using 'gaming engine' technology for immediate playback), and anchored to the perspective of the shooting camera.
The show feels smaller in scope and production than, say, a feature film. But it shows great potential, is improving each time, and is helmed by people who seem to have really tuned in to what makes Star Wars 'Star Wars'. I look forward to Season 3, and I look forward to the other upcoming shows, 'Andor' and 'Obi Wan Kenobi'.
The illustrated virtual edition of Episode VII : Plague of Doom continues, and as the droids flee on the barge, Luke, Oxus, and Alana appear through a service door at the base of the cliff ! Hiding behind piles of scrap junk, they spot a squad of stormtroopers hurrying across to the mine entrance.
|You can see the VE artwork in the 'Kessel' art gallery as well as in the online illustrated story, and you can discuss this in the forum here !
My prose writing for virtual edition Episode X 'The Riddle of the Pirates' has continued, and here I present Han and Harker escaping the High Stakes casino-station......
|Nathaniel Reed, 31st January 2021
Han, Harker, and Artoo had made their way down through the High Stakes without any untoward encounter. The elevator door had opened onto bay 14, and they could see the Falcon parked across the way. The two private yachts had gone, and a dart-like ship supported by curved slender landing gear and sporting several gun emplacements had arrived to replace them ; it looked insectile and vicious.
“Nice ship,” muttered Harker, nodding her chin and raising her eyebrows.
Han waved his hand dismissively. He’d heard it all before.
“Nah, it’s the saucer-shaped one,” he gestured, ”with the two mandibles out front.”
“Yeah,” replied the girl, a little confused by Han’s answer,”that’s the one I meant ??!”
“Nice,” he grinned. “Artoo, as soon as you’re buckled in, power up the lifters, and route as much power into the rear thru---”
“One moment, please,” came the clipped mechanised voice of a Pyke concierge. The tall robed figure was striding towards them, and another, a few paces behind, was carrying an anti-riot electro-stave, and a stun-baton at his waist. The dumpy box droid from earlier trotted obediently behind.
The lead Pyke lifted his datapad, and began to type onto its surface.
“You will need authorisation to depart,” explained the concierge. His companion planted his feet and held the two metre long stave tightly.
Han immediately went into bluffer’s mode. He opened his arms expansively.
“Well, of course, guys... but I was speaking to one of your Proprietaires upstairs only just this minute, and he said he was pre-authorising us to...”
The Pyke shook his head sharply. “No-one leaves without a concierge docket, and besides, we have an anomaly on one of our customers that we’re checking...”
“Well, I can’t help th---“, began Han.
At that moment, Artoo suddenly darted forward on his tiny wheels, beeping loudly. From the top of his blue dome, a small panel popped open, and a tubular device began to rise. At the same time, a narrow vertical panel on his barrel torso opened revealing a similar cylindrical feature on a mechanical arm. The one being ejected from his head gave a pop and a snap and the tube was sent flying up into the air. Everyone’s attention was caught by the obvious malfunction and their eyes followed what remained of the device as it sailed high into the air. The second cylinder remained attached to its extension arm and gave a distinctive snap-hiss sound, and a blue glowing energy blade of about half a metre in length was projected forward. Its tip nicked the concierge in the side of the leg, and he cried out in pain, clutching his thigh and collapsing to the floor.
The guard was quick to react, activating the stave and flicking it downward against the droid’s blade-emitting cylinder. The crackling purple energy apex reserved for rioters smashed into the cylinder, slicing it in half in a shower of sparks. Artoo’s beeps of bravado quickly switched to a wailing squeal of alarm.
But Han saw his opportunity too. He stepped forward and threw an uppercut punch to the Pyke’s shoulder, who was still bent over the downward stave, which spun the guard around. Han kicked out at the Pyke’s back, and he was sent sprawling.
As the concierge tried to get to his feet, Han glanced around, saw a stack of containers nearby, and grabbed one by the handle. He swung with his spinning momentum, and smacked the concierge in the rebreather helmet, flooring him. He noted that the guard was also getting to his feet, so he stepped over to the Pyke, swinging the container in his outstretched arm. The resulting clonk on the guard’s helmet was loud and satisfying, as was the thud of the body hitting the deck.
“Come on !” snapped Han to Harker and Artoo. “Time to go !”
The Millennium Falcon blasted out of the Stakes’ hangar bay, rotated, and rocketed off as fast as her captain and droid co-pilot could take her.
Inside the cockpit, Harker sat in one of the rear seats, gripping the end of the arm-rests tightly. Artoo was to her right, behind the other rear seat and plugged into the back wall.
The young woman leaned forward and spoke tensely to Han in front of her.
“Try and avoid those asteroids.”
Han nodded. He didn’t need to hear her justification.
The Falcon banked slightly on to a new vector. Surrounding the casino station were about a dozen medium-sized asteroids. Only the Pykes knew if the dark interstellar rocks had locked themselves in a singular self-spiralling orbit, or if the giant boulders had been transported here. But all of them held launch stations for small multi-pronged one-man fighter craft, one of the defence mechanisms employed by the Pykes to protect their gambling interests.
Suddenly, three lines of blue tracer fire converged across the Falcon’s hull, followed by a salvo of red laser bolts.
Han dipped the Falcon and swerved away from the line of fire.
“Pyke pursuit enforcers ! They’re coming in from all directions !” he shouted. He shot a quick glance over his shoulder at the woman in the seat behind him. “Are you any good with guns ?”
Harker looked blankly at him. “No !” came the brutally honest answer.
“Okay, I can dodge ‘em and outrun ‘em, but the odds are fast disappearing !”
The Pyke fighter craft bore a likeness to a small wedge shape, a squared pyramid on its side, with four cannons at each tip and a single thruster engine at its rear. The ball-cockpit was nestled just ahead of the centre point where the apex of the pyramid would have closed the shape. Inside, wrapped in a fog of pale yellow-green mist, sat an unmasked Pyke, its angular head and large black eyes following its quarry intently.
The Falcon dived and turned sharply on itself, but the Pyke pursuit craft were equally nimble. Staying in tight trio formations, the fighters looped and cut across one another. Several shots glanced across the Falcon’s hull.
Inside the cockpit, alarms were blaring, and a red hue lit the interior. As his hands flicked across the controls, Han barked orders to Artoo.
“Increase the rear deflector shields, re-route the power from the cannons !”
Artoo squealed, and his words scrolled across the small readout screen on the Falcon’s dashboard. Han shot a quick glance at it.
“Well stabilise the lateral dampeners, then ! I don’t know, you’re the astro-mech !”
The two humans lurched to one side as Han put the ship into a corkscrew roll, and then Harker found herself being thrown back into her seat as Han pulled the Falcon into a steep climb. The glare from an explosion below them briefly illuminated the cockpit as two Pyke craft misjudged a triangulation and crashed into each other.
As the ship continued its climb, a flash of light in the mid distance, followed by another, caught Han’s attention, and then disappeared.
“What was that ?” he muttered.
He pulled sharply on the flying yoke, and the Falcon broke its climb to loop back around towards the High Stakes. As the ship levelled out, still with its pursuers on its tail, Han threw a glance towards the casino in the distance. He saw the flicker of green pulse lights marking out admittance to a hangar bay and two white dots on approach, and a little further out to the right, the brief blue glow of a hyperdrive engaging. A volley of red cannon fire from behind scattered above the cockpit.
Han sharply braked with the mini reverse thrusters positioned around the midsection ‘wall’ of the Falcon’s circumference, and the closest Pyke craft overshot.
Han’s fingers flashed over the console before him, and the ship began to rotate.
“What’s going on ??” cried Harker, bewildered.
“Artoo, set the Falcon’s rotation about a relative point fifty metres from us. And then track the vectors of those new arrivals and departures ! Tell me when you’ve got ‘em !”
He clambered out of the pilot’s seat, and roughly pushed past the girl. As he cleared the stubby droid he added, “And power up the top cannon again !”
Artoo squealed indignantly at the tasks he had been set, but then settled into a series of beeps that would pass as contentment for a labour of love.
Han ran down the cockpit access tunnel and crossed the ring corridor, hand outstretched for the first rung of the gunwell ladder. He raced up the tube, ignoring the offset centrifugal force of Artoo’s new rotation displacement. Slipping into the gunner’s padded chair, he wrestled the headset around his ears, and flicked the targeting computer on. It whirred and glowed as it powered up.... and then faded. He thumped the edge of it, and it spluttered back into life.
Han shook his head. “Not now, baby,” he pleaded.
He dismissed the casino station repeatedly flashing into view as the ship rotated, and focused on spotting the Pyke fighters as they darted about. His thumbs depressed the yoke triggers and the dorsal quad cannon roared into life, angry orange-red laser bolts chasing a trio of craft. The trailing fighter was caught, and it was engulfed in a billowing explosion.
He flicked the comms switch on the yoke.
“Keep the shields at maximum, Artoo,” he instructed. “Where’s Chewie when I need him,” he muttered.
The shrill of the targeting computer took his attention, and his chair swung around to follow another Pyke fighter craft. The gun emplacement above him gave another double-whump and the enemy ship was sent spinning.
The Falcon shook as a repeated salvo of blaster fire rained down on the hull.
As the Falcon continued on its spin, Han swung about in his chair, his eyes peeled for more pursuers. One zipped past above him, but then another trio rolled into view on an attack run, and he swung the gun yoke around to face them, the targeting computer rapidly compensating the closing distance. Han squinted against the glare of the red cannon fire splintering towards him, and depressed the trigger. As the three Pyke enforcers banked to roll past, the Falcon’s return fire caught two of them, and a huge fireball billowed across the hull.
Han’s targeting computer display shrank by a quarter, and a message from Artoo scrolled across the lower section : Shield strength dropping, but the rotations are balancing the fail.
Han nodded, and pressed the comm button on his microphone. “That’s what I hoped. But we don’t have long. As soon as you have those vectors, get us on to the closest as fast as you can !“
The ship shuddered from below, and two Pyke craft rolled into view.
“Not so fast...” spat Han, and he tagged one of them with his cannon before they went out of range.
Han heard Artoo’s high-pitched squeal from the cockpit, and again a message scrolled across his targeting screen : Vector calculated, will fire main thrusters in 3 – 2 – 1.
Han was already whipping the headset off, and clambering out of the gunner’s seat.
The ship lurched as the main engines fired, and Han was momentarily thrown against the padding of the gunwell.
The Falcon raced away from the circling Pyke fighters, the boost to its main engines leaving a white afterglow. It arced around to line up with one of the hyperlane approach vectors.
Han ran through the tunnel and back into the cockpit. A quick glance at Harker’s pale face told him she hadn’t coped well with the rotations.
“Prepare for a micro-jump, Artoo,” he called out as he climbed over the central console and into his pilot’s seat. He reached forward, flicking switches, and grasped the four levers that would facilitate their escape.
Harker gasped. Eyes wide, she leaned forward, and grabbed Han’s shoulder. “Wait ! You can’t do that ?! Even I know you can’t just go blindly jumping around at lightspeed !”
Han had time to shoot her a quick grin, and remark drily, “That’s why we call it a micro-jump, sweetheart !”
Just then, by sheer serendipity, a large cruiser popped into view ahead of them ! Having just arrived from hyperspace it was now rapidly decelerating, but it was still looming large and filling the cockpit view. Harker gave out a strangled cry of alarm, but Han, undetered, focused straight ahead at a patch of inky black space just below the lower hull of the incoming vessel.
“Clear skies,” he muttered to himself, and, wincing, pushed the hyperdrive actuators forward.
As the remaining Pyke pursuers peeled away to avoid the cruiser, the Falcon’s engines glowed with the boost of lightspeed, and it burst forward, narrowly missing the ventral hull.
In the Falcon, Han immediately leaned back on the levers, and the brief swirl of blue marbling dissolved to star streaks which reformed to pin points.
Han leaned on the yoke, and swung the ship around to face the ingress point, in case any of the Pyke ships had been sneaky enough to try and repeat what he had done. Although it would have been highly unlikely that a pursuer would have remained in hyperspace for the same amount of time as him and therefore re-appear in the exact same quadrant of deep space, Han still didn’t want to trust those odds. He looked over his shoulder, winked at Harker, and addressed the droid at the back of the cabin.
“Artoo ! Get the navi-computer to calculate the fastest route back to Coruscant ! Let’s get outta here !”