The remnants of the Empire in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are kind of like a multi-headed dragon… you cut off one head, but then another angry one pops up in its place, and you have to go slaying all over again. A lot of collateral damage occurs in the process.
In other words, it was a mistake to let Admiral Daala out of the Maw Installation. Not that anyone really had a choice in that matter. It was also probably a mistake to set up a Jedi Academy on a planet where the spirit of a Sith Lord has been chilling out for centuries….
There is something undeniably awesome about the idea of placing the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, though. The choice to give that former Rebel base a continued presence in the history of the Star Wars galaxy is a fantastic idea, especially when we know the location was not created by CGI effects—you can travel to these temples, climb their steps, they exist in the world. In addition, it says a lot about Luke, about how his Jedi are going to be different from the order that came before them; particularly impressive since this happened before the prequels and everything we knew about the government-regulated knights. What we are given is the impression that Luke wants to keep his trainees away from government, away from distractions and the buzz of urban locales. He offers his students simple accommodations, a jungle, plenty of life to observe and commune with. It is, in fact, a less swampy version of his own training landscape on Dagobah. It’s really no wonder he favors it.
Only problem is, it turns out that these lovely temples were erected as monuments to a Sith Lord. This poses more speculation about how much knowledge was erased following the Empire’s rise, and how damaging that lack will be to future generations. Would Luke have settled the school there if he’d known the extent of Exar Kun’s history? Thankfully, he at least has one student who has spent her life collecting Jedi lore….
Which brings me to the fascinating cadre of initiates Luke collects. The group is a diverse one—different worlds, different understanding of the power they wield, different levels of strength. There is Gantoris, who fears how Luke’s teachings might change him, Streen, who wants to control his empathy and live among people again, Tionne, the historian and musician, Cilghal, adept at healing techniques, Corran Horn and Mara Jade (whose stories here are filled out in I, Jedi), who cannot stay for long, Kam Solusar, who had some training from his Jedi father as a boy, Dorsk 81, a clone from a long line of clones who somehow managed to come out unique, and Kyp Durron, whose family and childhood were destroyed by the Empire. No kids in this group, just an odd array of personalities at varying levels of maturity, creating a bond that can only be formed by jumping into the fire together.
They should have had their own TV show. That sounds way more interesting than anything The Clone Wars cooked up.
While the new padawans are getting cozy, the New Republic is trying to figure out what the hell they’re gonna do with the Sun Crusher weapon that Han, Kyp and Qwi Xux nabbed out from under Daala’s nose. I’ll admit, there’s a problem when the big bad weapon from the initial Star Wars films is a station that can destroy a planet—what could possibly be worse? A weapon that can blow up a star, of course! At which point you’re forced to ask… why would the Empire need this? They have the A-bomb, why do they need a kitchen-sink-bomb? It’s important to remember that the Maw was Grand Moff Tarkin’s pet project, one that even the Emperor didn’t know about, so clearly this was his baby. Apparently, Tarkin had some real power issues he needed to work through. The problem with the Sun Crusher is kind of similar to the problem Stargate: SG-1 had with the Goa’uld: if you get rid of them, you suddenly need a scarier villain to replace them, which in turn makes the original enemy look like small beans. So the Sun Crusher = the Ori. If that metaphor plays for you.
As far as what they choose to do with it, we can roundly chastise the New Republic for a mighty, mighty failure there.
After all, the idea that it’s even remotely good planning to place the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy right next to a planet of Force-sensitive newbies is… idle thinking at best. But that’s nothing compared to the influence Exar Kun’s ghost is exerting over poor Gantoris. It turns out that his fear that Luke would destroy him was misdirected, and all because the Jedi Master wears black. That hardly seems fair. Exar Kun does kill Gantoris, but not before he teaches him to construct a lightsaber, which if I’m not mistaken, is the first purple one we had ever heard about in the Star Wars universe. It’s also got an awesome length-changing blade.
The question that everyone wants to ask is, after Gantoris’ near-fall and subsequent death, how could Luke allow the same thing to happen all over again with Kyp Durron? And that is a good question, isn’t it? Is he too distracted with the other students, does he really fail to notice the fragility of Kyp’s mind after all he had endured, or does he simply make one of the biggest training gaffs in Jedi history? In some ways, I think it’s apt—he essentially makes the same error that Obi-Wan does with Anakin, and it has a similarly devastating price. Being a teacher of Jedi comes with its own set of difficulties, something that I don’t think is focused on quite often enough in the Star Wars universe. How easy is it to make mistakes when you are responsible for teaching how to fairly and justly use unimaginable power?
I did notice that some fans seem to take issue with Leia and Admiral Ackbar’s B-plot, but I always enjoyed getting to see more of his character, seeing as he was just barely used in ROTJ. Allowing the alien characters to become more dimensional makes Star Wars feel like another galaxy, like true science fiction. I will say, however, in response to Ryan Britt’s assertion that the Heir to the Empire trilogy made Star Wars more science fictional, the Jedi Academy trilogy perhaps lingers more on the fantasy end of the spectrum—the main antagonist is a ghost, after all. It’s still fascinating to watch Star Wars effortlessly vacillate between the two.