Life, Death and the Force – The Cyclical Universe of Star Wars

“It’s like poetry, sort of, they rhyme. Every stanza kinda rhymes with the last one. Hopefully it’ll work.”

Since George Lucas first uttered that infamous phrase in the behind-the-scenes documentary of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it has been met by a keen combination of derision and fascination from Star Wars fans. Some see this is prove of Lucas’ lazy writing, whilst others see it as the purest presentation of the creator’s intent for the universe he created.

The moment the infamous quote was uttered

The narrative of Star Wars has included elements of repetition and mirror-images since its inception, so if we dig a little deeper into what George meant by this, however, we might discover a new way to interpret how the Star Wars story is told, or at the very least learn a little more about how George wanted Star Wars to be remembered in the future.

Let’s start at the beginning – sort of. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope is not where the Star Wars story starts, but it is where the story started for many fans of the series, as it was the first film to be released. Already this tells us a lot about how George wanted Star Wars to be consumed as a medium, as he apparently had the basics of the entire saga planned from the beginning and yet chose to start with what would later become ‘Episode 4’ because he believed it was the most interesting part of the story.

Bear in mind that this has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as George has also claimed at various points over the years that ‘The Star Wars’ was originally going to be 12-parts long, or that he deliberately skipped making Episodes I-III in the 1970s because the technology to actualize them hadn’t been invented yet. Nonetheless, if we take George’s word for it, the saga was planned out to some degree before Episode IV even started production, and despite the fact that Episodes IV-VI are regarded by many as the perfect trilogy to rival The Lord of the Rings, it seems it was always George’s intention to have these three films be the middle trilogy of a much larger saga.

Things start to get interesting when you start to consider the manner in which George Lucas went about created the prequel trilogy. Either by long-planned design or spur-of-the-moment inspiration, George chose to deliberately echo the events of the original films in the prequels, to the extent that the parallels are so overt that they barely classify as subtext. The infamous ‘poetry’ quote from the start of this article was first uttered in reference to the fact that Anakin blowing up the Trade Federation ship at the end of Episode I is strikingly similar to Luke blowing up the Death Star at the end of Episode IV, but this similarity isn’t the result of lazy writing on Lucas’ part, it was intentional – apparently.

Upon realising this, one can find these sorts of similarities everywhere in Star Wars, most notably the Luke vs Vader fight in Episode V mirroring the Anakin vs Obi-Wan fight in Episode III. Delving into the Expanded Universe gives fans even more poetry to rhyme with, as we discover that the ‘New Republic’ established at the end of Episode VI only lasts for about a quarter of a decade before the Galaxy descends into chaos again. Even when Disney bought the franchise and rendered the entire Expanded Universe non-canon, they stuck with the basic story of a Skywalker child turning evil and bringing back the Empire.

The question is – why? Surely this cyclical narrative structure devalues everything that made the original trilogy so good? Surely watching Return of the Jedi will now leave a sour taste in your mouth as you know that within thirty years the entire galaxy is at war again?

Well… not really. The ending of Return of the Jedi has lost none of its impact, in the same way that the heavy-hitting ending of Revenge of the Sith is in no way impacted by the fact that the next film is called ‘A New Hope’. The reason for this is that we are already used to cyclical storytelling as humans, because that’s basically the narrative structure of our own history. One of the beautiful things about Star Wars is that it tells two important stories – the huge, diverse galactic conflict spanning dozens of planets, and the smaller introspective story of a small family and how the choices of individuals impact the wider universe.

And whilst this is as much due to a happy accident and the incredible work of thousands of talented people as it is to the scrawlings of an idealistic filmmaker in the 1970s, the end result is the same. Star Wars is a series that reflects one of the fundamental truths of life, in that whilst there are happy endings to stories, there is rarely such things as a ‘happily ever after’.

Revan, a powerful ancient Sith Lord

This is made especially clear when one delves even further into the now non-canon Expanded Universe. Did you know that 4000 years before the events of A New Hope, there was another Old Republic that had previously stood for a thousand generations, that was betrayed by a fallen Jedi, and was then transformed into an Empire only to be reformed back into a Republic by a band of Rebels? Did you also know that 120 years after A New Hope, another Sith Empire rises and has to be battled by Luke’s great-grandchildren? This is perhaps the clearest illustration of Lucas’ vision – the idea that heroes and villains rise and fall, dark and light are locked in eternal struggle, and the entire Galaxy is a stage to the cyclical ouroboros of the Force itself.

So what does this tell us about Star Wars as a whole? Have fans been barking up the wrong tree by complaining about its cyclical story structure? Is Star Wars actually a subtley veiled allegory to the vicious cycle of boom and bust in the capitalist economic system, or perhaps an illustration of the futility of warfare on a global scale? The real answer is… maybe. It is difficult to tell whether that is the intention of the filmmakers or simply coincidence that the story structure of Star Wars ended up this way, but it makes for interestng analysis. One thing that is certain is that, like all good science fiction stories, Star Wars is a parable. Deciphering its meaning is a whole different behemoth, as it can be interpreted in so many different ways – perhaps that is part of the reason why the franchise endures to this day, as its constant reinvention and enigmatic morality keep it fresh for each new generation that experiences it.

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Star Wars – Top 10 Jedi Council Members (Clone Wars Era)

In the waning days of the Galactic Republic, some extremely powerful Jedi took seats on the Jedi Council, particularly as the war began to take its toll on the Jedi Order. At the height of its power, the Jedi Council counted several of the most powerful force users to ever live among their number,  and even Darth Sidious himself would think twice about taking on the entire Council at once – hence the need for Order 66. However, there was also a distinct power hierarchy among the Council, and several members had specific duties that gave them particular importance among the Jedi. As such, this list will rank the Top 10 Jedi Council Members from the Clone Wars era.

10 – Anakin Skywalker

anakin.jpgAlthough possibly the most powerful Force user to sit on the Council, Anakin’s low rank on this list is due to how little time he actually served on the Council, and justified by the fact that he would inevitably betray them and play a key role in the destruction of the Jedi Order. However, Anakin’s raw power does make him a formidable Council Member in his own right, and although he was not granted the rank of Master, chances are had he not betrayed the Jedi he would have gone on to be one of the Council’s most powerful leading members.

9 – Yarael Poof

yaraelA prominent member of the Council before the Clone Wars, Yarael sacrificed his life to save Coruscant from a dangerous terrorist group just before the conflict started, but was still considered among the Council’s greatest members even afterwards. A master of the Affect Mind ability, Poof was known to occasionally use the force in ways that other Jedi would frown upon – such as influencing the minds of bullies to make them flee in terror from their harmless victims – but was overall a great addition to the Council and a far better choice than his successor, Coleman Trebor.

8 – Saesee Tiin

tiin.jpgA powerful Jedi who would often assist Mace Windu throughout the Clone Wars, Saesee Tiin was a renowned pilot who played a pivotal role in the Space Battle above Coruscant, during which he captured a Separatist capital ship with help from a battalion of EVA troopers. However, Saesee’s downfall came at the hands of Darth Sidious, and he became one of the first victims of the Great Jedi Purge when he was struck down by the Sith Lord during their duel.

7 – Kit Fisto

fisto.jpegAppointed to the Jedi Council during the Clone Wars, Kit Fisto was a renowned duellist and his amphibious nature made him an ideal choice for defending water-based worlds such as Mon Calamari. Often deployed on dangerous missions, Fisto was one of the few Jedi to survive and encounter with General Grievous, and his lightsaber was fitted with a second crystal to refine the blade to allow it to work underwater, making him one of the key Jedi in the Clone Wars. Like Saesee Tiin, Fisto would meet his death at the hands of Darth Sidious, but of the three Jedi Masters Mace Windu brought with him to fight Sidious, Fisto survived the longest in the duel, proving his skill in combat.

6 – Plo Koon

plo.jpgA Kel Dor from Dorin, Plo Koon was known to be among the most compassionate of the Jedi in the Order, and was responsible for the induction of Ashoka Tano into the ranks of the Jedi as well as saving the lives of many Clones during the War, believing them to be people with rights rather than expendable infantry. His key achievements during the Clone Wars include the discovery of the Separatist flagship the Malevolence and the retrieval of the long-lost Council Members Sifo-Dyas’ lightsaber.

5 – Ki-Adi Mundi

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A famous Cerean who was among the few Jedi allowed to take wives due to the rarity of his species, Ki-Adi Mundi was certainly one of the most powerful force users of the era and was a skilled duellist, able to hold his own against the most effective Jedi Hunter of the era, General Grievous. Although he supported the Cerean policy of isolationism, Mundi himself was happy to play a key role in Galactic affairs, provided that his people be left alone, and he would tragically die at the hands of his own Clone Troopers following the execution of Order 66.

4 – Shaak Ti

shaak-ti.jpegAmong the few Jedi to survive Order 66, Shaak Ti often played a defensive role during the Clone Wars, assigned to protect the vital cloning facilities on Kamino and then later reassigned to protect the Jedi Temple in the waning days of the war. Surviving several encounters with General Grievous as well as being among the few survivors of the catastrophic Battle of Hypori, Shaak Ti was clearly among the most powerful of the Jedi, and her activities on Felucia following the Rise of the Empire were pervasive enough to mobilise the force-sensitive natives of the planet against the Sith.

3 – Mace Windu

mace-windu_b35242e5.jpegServing as Grand Master of the Order for a time, Mace Windu was considered the most powerful Jedi by many, and used his unique lightsaber style as well as rare abilities that he could channel from the dark side to further the aims of the Light. Although Windu was certainly unique among the Jedi, he made no secret of this, even fashioning a purple lightsaber to distinguish himself from his comrades. Despite utilising several dark side abilities, Windu was seemingly immune to temptation, although his instinctive mistrust of Anakin would eventually lead to the Jedi’s undoing.

2 – Obi-Wan Kenobi

obi.jpgFamous for being the Master of not only Anakin but also Luke Skywalker, and a former pupil of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan was an ideal choice to sit on the Council following the onset of the Clone Wars as his skills as a diplomat were legendary, leading him to be given the nickname ‘the Negotiator’, a name he would later bestow upon his flagship in the War. During the Clone Wars, Kenobi proved a key asset to the Council and participated in many battles on planets as important as Geonosis, Naboo, Coruscant and Kamino, as well as being the only Jedi who was able to defeat his former pupil, Anakin Skywalker. One of the few Jedi to survive the Purge, Obi-Wan played a key role in inducting Luke Skywalker into the frail remains of the Jedi Order, thus ensuring that the Empire would one day be defeated.

1 – Yoda

yodaThe last of the Jedi Council to perish following the collapse of the Order, Yoda was among the Jedi’s oldest members and served as Grand Master of the Order for years before the Clone Wars. Wise and powerful, Yoda was skilled in almost every aspect of the Force, from meditation and premonition to lightsaber skills. He duelled many of the most powerful Sith during the Clone Wars, including Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress and even Darth Sidious himself, and was a key strategist during the conflict. Showing a particular interest in protecting the native wildlife of worlds caught up in the war, Yoda used his friendship with native peoples like the Wookiees to ensure that the limited numbers of Clones assigned to defend Kashyyyk were reinforced against Separatist attacks. Following the war, Yoda went into exile on Dagobah and continued the training of Luke Skywalker after the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Once he had passed on all the knowledge and training that he could to Luke, Yoda promptly died, becoming one with the force and, as the Jedi Council’s last surviving Member, effectively ending the institution. However, Yoda’s teachings proved instrumental in allowing Luke to turn Anakin Skywalker back to the light, destroy the Sith and save the Jedi.

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Star Wars: Clone Wars – Making the Best of the Worst of Star Wars

“Like fire across the Galaxy, the Clone Wars spread…”

In the wake of the announcement that Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be getting another season before the decade is out, it seems only fitting to look back at the progenitor of all ‘Clone Wars’ TV media – the original Star Wars: Clone Wars show which aired on Cartoon Network in 2003 and was directed, produced and co-written by Genndy Tartakovsky. This series is well-known among the fanbase for famously bridging the gap between Episodes II and III before Episode III itself had even been released. It’s distinctive style and impressive scope makes this series a must-watch for any Star Wars fan, particularly those interested in the prequel era.

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The Battles

Firstly and most obviously, this series is renowned for its depiction of some of the most epic and large-scale battles of the Clone Wars. The battles on Muunilinst, Dantooine, Hypori, Yavin, Mon Calamari and numerous others were brilliantly depicted in this series, with some battles taking up entire episodes and others spanning several episodes in a sequence of mini-arcs spanning the first series. Each of these depicts a totally unique Star Wars battle in enviroments that were not explored in the main films, such as the mass-fighter space battle above Muunilinst in the first few episodes or the uniquely fought battle of the dust fields featuring Mace ‘Keyhole’ Windu and his impressive jumping and punching techniques.

A particular highlight of the series is the Battle of Mon Calamari, a plot thread that takes up only one episode yet depicts several unique scenarios in Star Wars lore – notably, the appearance of a lightsaber working underwater, how factions in Star Wars battle underwater in the first place, and more insight into how the Mon Calamari and Quarren races fight in their native habitat. The inclusion of Kit Fisto as the star of his own individual episode was a nice touch too, seeing as how he is brutally murdered in the next movie.

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The Clones

Oddly enough, one of this series’ major strengths is how it uses dialogue-less sequences with the Clones to depict plot development. A perfect example of this is the entire ARC troopers sequence, which spans several episodes, many of which are totally dialogue-free as the ARC troopers wordlessly delegate commands to each other through the visual hierarchy of the Red Sergeant and his Blue and White subordinates, all of whom work together to form a deadly and efficient squad who recur throughout the series, taking on a threats ranging from a giant cannon to General Grievous himself. Aside from the ARC troopers, the depiction of regular Clones in the Republic Army is effective in demonstrating both their tactical importance and their disposibility.

Whilst the series emphasises the true nature of the Clone Wars, the lack of respect for its Clone characters compared to its successor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is a major disadvantage to the series. However, whilst the Clones are not used for emotional impact, they are effective in their role as the show’s cannon fodder – in fact, the Clone death toll in this series is probably higher than any other piece of Star Wars TV media.

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The Characters

Star Wars: Clone Wars introduced several interesting characters to the Star Wars on-screen canon, particularly fan-favourites like Durge and Asajj Ventress. Both of these new characters get special focus throughout the show, but what is perhaps more important is how Star Wars: Clone Wars depicts its returning characters – and the answer is, it is spot-on. Characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine, Amidala and Mace Windu seem by all accounts to be accurate depictions of their appearances in the movies, and although this show focuses primarily on combat and less on dialogue, there are still some great character moments, particularly the scenes involving Anakin and Obi-Wan.

Like the later Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the 2003 series does a great job of showing the friendship that existed between Anakin and Obi-Wan before the tragic events of Revenge of the Sith – but unlike its successor, Star Wars: Clone Wars actually shows the evolution of the rivalry between Master and Apprentice that was apparent in Attack of the Clones to a genuine friendship over the course of the series.

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The Villains

Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Wars without the villains, and Star Wars: Clone Wars features the return of many iconic villains from the prequels as well as the debut of even more fan-favourite villains from the prequel era like Asajj Ventress, Durge and General Grievous. An interesting trend in the Star Wars prequel-era TV shows is that they use their villains a lot better than the prequel movies themselves did, and the same is definitely true of this show. A perfect example of this is General Grievous – he makes his debut in this series in one of the most epic lightsaber duels in the show, makes mincemeat of half a dozen Jedi, and then comes back for more later in the series leading up to its cliffhanger – yet his appearance in Episode III makes him seem as though in the meantime he had half of his brain removed. The show even acknowledges this by having Mace Windu crush Grievous’ chest in the finale, causing his signature cough. The character of Durge, a fascinating antagonist to Obi-Wan’s first story arc, is another example of a really interesting villain idea – without giving too much away, he finds some interesting ways to fight toe-to-toe with a Jedi despite not owning a lightsaber, and his terrifying physiology makes him a memorable character in the series.

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The Duels

Needless to say, there are some epic duels in this series. From the more literal interpretation of a Star Wars ‘duel’ involving lightsabers, such as Grievous vs Ki-Adi Mundi or Ventress vs Anakin, to the less conventional such as Durge vs Obi-Wan or Ventress vs Dooku, each and every duel in this series is truly fantastic. This is particularly evident thanks to the wide variety of locations in this series, and the duel between Anakin and Asajj Ventress that involves a lot of jumping between trees in the jungles of Yavin, for example, become immediately memorable. The previously mentioned duel between Grievous and the Jedi on Hypori is a rare example of a Star Wars duel that involves multiple combatants fighting one immensely powerful duelist, and Grievous doesn’t even make use of his four arms and yet he is still able to wipe the floor with many of the Jedi in various brutal ways. Of all the factors that contribute to what makes this series so good, the quality of the lightsaber duels is definitely one of the stand outs.

Overall, even after all this time, Star Wars: Clone Wars is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of Star Wars media and, whilst it is certainly no Empire Strikes Back, it works wonders to redeem many of the elements of the first two prequels and paved the way for the fantastic pseudo-sequel Star Wars: The Clone Wars years later.

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Star Wars – Top 5 Best Rebel Starfighters

The Rebel Alliance was able to scrounge together a ragtag fleet of starfighters that would later evolve into a diverse and highly adaptable fighting force that proved more than a match for the capital-ship focused Galactic Empire. Almost every Rebel starfighter is better or at the very least technically superior to its Imperial counterpart, and although the Empire mass-produced thousands of variants of the TIE class of starfighter, the numerically outnumbered but well put-together Rebel ships eventually prevailed. However, how do these ships rank against each other? There are several factors to take into account here, not least the fact that many Rebel ships are specialised to fulfil particular roles, as well as the speed, weaponry and defensive capability of each fighter. With that in mind, we begin with:

#5 – Z-95 Headhunter

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As snub fighters go, the Z-95 Headhunter was already considered outdated by the time of the Galactic Civil War, even by the Rebels who were renowned for making good use of otherwise outdated ships like the Y-Wing. However, facing a shortage of effective starfighters in its early years, the Rebellion did turn to Z-95s for fleet defence and occasionally as a mainline starfighter, but as the war went on and the Rebels became better equipped they would later mostly rely on the X-Wing as a mainline fighter. Nonetheless, the Z-95 is a good ship in its own right, and its light weaponry and shields coupled with its nimble manoeuvrability made it a favourite for force-sensitives in the New Republic, particularly Jedi.

#4 – Y-Wing

Y-wing.pngAs previously mentioned, the Y-Wing was considered an outdated bomber by the time of the Galactic Civil War, although it did see extensive use by the Galactic Republic during the Clone Wars. The Y-Wing was perhaps best known as the bomber that was used by the Republic to take down the Malevolence, and its practicality led to leftover craft being taken up by the Rebel Alliance to use as a mainline bomber for much of its existence, with Y-Wings taking part in many of the most critical battles of the era, including the Battle of Yavin and the Battle of Endor. The Y-Wing was capable of carrying a heavy payload of ion and proton torpedoes, and some models even featured a manned turret position, but its role as a bomber means that it is not the most nimble of craft. By the end of the Galactic Civil War, many Rebel pilots preferred other ships over the ageing Y-Wings, and their use in later battles was largely due to necessity and the shortage of prototype replacement bombers like the B-Wing. Talking of which…

#3 – B-Wing

BwingThe B-Wing was designed to fill the niche of heavy bomber for the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War, and became infamous in the Empire due to the fact that B-Wings proved to be capable of taking down Imperial Star Destroyers, and their effectiveness at that task led to many such Imperial craft meeting their demise at the Battle of Endor. Known to be fiendishly difficult to fly, the B-Wing was not common for Rebel fleets during the Galactic Civil War but when it did come into play later in the conflict it proved a valuable asset for the Rebellion that helped to solidify them as a very real threat to the Empire and not a simple ragtag band of dissidents as had previously been believed. Capable of carrying a sizeable amount of ordnance yet still retaining its agility, the B-Wing is definitely a formidable addition to the Rebel fleet.

#2 – A-Wing

A-WingHowever, as nimble goes, nothing beats an A-Wing. Known to be among the Rebel Alliance’s fastest fighters, the A-Wings filled the niche of interceptor and proved far more effective than its Imperial counterpart, the aptly named TIE Interceptor. Like the B-Wing, these fighters proved invaluable during the Battle of Endor and one was even instrumental in the destruction of the Darth Vader’s flagship, the Executor, as the pilot used the fighter’s wedge-shaped design to plow his damaged fighter into the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer, damaging enough key systems to send the ship plunging towards the Second Death Star. As far as durability goes, the A-Wing is lightly armoured and many models featured a shield generator, and its weapons are focused mainly on ship-to-ship dogfights between starfighters. Still, when coupled with other Rebel ship models, the A-Wing forms a crucial part of the Rebel fleet.

Honourable Mention – U-Wing

U-wing_SWB.pngBoth a starfighter and a gunship, the U-Wing is used primarily as a troop transport by the Alliance and proved pivotal in the ground portion of the Battle of Scarif. Though it is the slowest starfighter on this list, it does feature some heavy armaments including side-mounted weapons for in-atmosphere troop deployment and can hold a small but well-armed Rebel taskforce. Working best with other starfighters as escort in space, the U-Wing is usually sent straight to the ground to offload its troops and provide covering fire, a task which it excels in. However, the U-Wing is only an honourable mention as its use in space combat is limited, as space combat gunships were usually much larger fleet vessels.

#1 – X-Wing

RedFive_X-wing_SWB.pngRealistically, only one Rebel ship was going to take the top spot. The X-Wing was a critical addition to the Rebel Alliance’s starfighter force that became their go-to starfighter for most situations, from dogfights to fleet defence. The X-Wing is the favoured starfighter of prominent pilots like Luke Skywalker, Wedge Antilles and Poe Dameron and has seen use through the Galactic Civil War and well into the post-Galactic Civil War conflicts with minimal changes. Incorporating elements from successful Clone Wars era starfighters like the ARC-170, the X-Wing draws on the best elements previously seen designs and is perhaps best known for its role in the destruction of Imperial powerhouses like the First Death Star, the Second Death Star and Starkiller Base.

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Sacred Icon – What’s New for 2019

Here’s a few hints of what to expect from this site in 2019:

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Big Finish Reviews

With more and more Big Finish audios being announced every week, it can be hard to keep up – and reviewers try their best to cover as much as possible on a regular basis without bankrupting themselves in the process. Nonetheless, Big Finish’s extensive back-catalogue of Doctor Who audios that were released monthly from late 1999, there’s plenty that can be picked up cheap on the Big Finish website.

This means plenty to review, and the Best of Big Finish series will continue in 2019 with more audio reviews, some branching out into the spinoff series like I, Davros and New Series sets like Classic Doctors, New Monsters.

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Doctor Who Reviews

Starting with a review of the New Year’s Special, for now titled Resolution (hopefully short for Resolution of the Daleks) we will be delving back into reviews of Series 11, starting with an overview of the series discussing what it did right and how the production team could build on it to make Series 12 even better.

We will be ranking the episodes in Series 11 and also ruminating on what changes we could see in Series 12 and the future of Doctor Who in general. Although there will be no Doctor Who series in 2019, expect a variety of Doctor Who content surrounding the show, including a review of the newly animated The Macra Terror, a Second Doctor story that has been missing for decades.

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Asylum of the Daleks Diorama

In celebration of the 55th Anniversary of the second serial of Doctor Who and the first episode of the show to feature the Daleks, a serial aptly titled The Daleks, Sacred Icon will be showcasing a diorama of custom-made Dalek Asylum inmates. As a melting pot of all different Daleks throughout their history, the Asylum brings together Dalek designs from all different eras of Doctor Who and is a perfect celebration of the iconic monsters.

The first episode of The Daleks, titled ‘The Dead Planet’, involves the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her teachers Ian and Barbara landing on Skaro and encountering the show’s first alien menace – the Daleks. The first episode ends with the infamous cliffhanger involving and unknown threat menacing Barbara and she wanders around the empty city, and ends with her chilling scream and the thing reaches out to her. As such, the actual Daleks themselves are not shown until the next episode, ‘The Survivors’, which aired on the 28th of December 1963.

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More Halo Content

Although we do not yet know the release date for Halo: Infinite, it seems certain that the game will release in late 2019 or early 2020. 343 Industries will be releasing teaser material soon and so expect discussion posts about these, as well as reviews of any trailers or preview material.

Also coming in 2019 on Sacred Icon will be more pieces to do with the Master Chief Collection, including reviews of the new updates and how the multiplayer has changed by 2019.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Review

As a follow up to Star Trek – First Impressions of Deep Space 9, we will be reviewing the highlights of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine up until and including Season 5, as well as more Star Trek related content. Expect reviews relating to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, as well as a possible review of a ‘classic’ Star Trek game called Star Trek: Shattered Universe.

And finally…

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The Picard TV Show?

Another potential release for 2019 is the Picard TV show, set to star Patrick Stewart and continue the story of Jean-Luc Picard in the Prime Star Trek timeline, following the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Nemesis. Star Trek fans hope that the iconic captain will be back on our screens in 2019.

If the show does release next year, then expect an episode-by-episode review from Sacred Icon. For more content, check out more from Sacred Icon:

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Star Wars: Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy

As Star Wars games evolved and adapted throughout the late 20th century it was inevitable that eventually the games would take on a life of their own and become almost totally independent of the film series, and nothing is more telling of this than the success of the Jedi Knight series that focused almost entirely on characters that were never even mentioned in the original trilogy. Yet characters like Kyle Katarn, Jan Ors and Tavion have become just as synonymous with Star Wars for many fans as the likes of Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are for fans of the movies.

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The Story

Both Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have fantastic storylines set deep within the now ‘Legends’ canon – both games follow the story of Rebel Agent-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn and his fight against the Reborn faction, led by Desann and later Tavion. The development of Katarn’s character is one of ‘Legends’ canon’s greatest achievements, and makes these games all the more interesting as we follow the adventures of one of the Galaxy’s most legendary heroes. The main antagonists of both games are the various Dark Jedi associated with the Reborn faction, notably Desann, Tavion and Alora, and games are also filled with various minor antagonists, obstacles and puzzles to overcome as the player explores the world of Star Wars post-Return of the Jedi. An interesting feature in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allows the player to create their own Jedi, who trains under Kyle Katarn in Luke’s new Jedi Temple on Yavin IV. Whilst Outcast‘s story is more linear, Academy allows players to choose their own missions whilst unravelling the game’s story and decide whether Kyle’s apprentice should stay on the path of the light or embrace the dark side, which gives Academy’s story two very different endings.

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The Multiplayer

By far one of the most memorable aspects of these games was the multiplayer, with maps like Death Star, Nar Shaddaa Streets, Vjun Sentinel, Taspir, Yavin Hilltops, and Coruscant Streets being among the more enduring and iconic maps in the series. Players have been able to use the game’s well-designed lightsaber combat system to create some quite interesting moves and strategies, which was further enhanced by Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy’s improved engine that allowed for double-bladed lightsabers and more advanced gymnastic Force abilities. Every map has a vertical element that can be used in conjunction with the almost limitless freedom that the hilariously overpowered Force Jump provides to take unsuspecting players completely by surprise, which is particularly rewarding in open maps with lots of ledges and platforms. As for the multiplayer setup, there are many different game modes to try, from Free for All to Capture the Flag, as well as modes designed around Star Wars battles in the movies like Power Duel and Siege. Even when playing solo, the game’s bots are challenging enough that it is still great fun.

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The Characters

A notable aspect of the campaign and multiplayer of the Jedi Knight series is the vast array of characters – particularly in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, in which an entire team can be made up of the various types of Stormtrooper in the game – and there are a fair few familiar faces from the Original Trilogy like Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and Mon Mothma. Like all good contributions to the Star Wars lore, however, the Jedi Knight series also has its own large cast of recognisable characters and this, coupled with Jedi Academy‘s character customisation option, means that players are never short of choice in multiplayer when it comes to characters. The voice acting in this game ranges from genuinely good to downright hilarious, particularly in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast that has some funny dialogue but even funnier combat dialogue for the enemies.

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The Combat

It has to be said that one of the greatest assets of the Jedi Knight series is its combat mechanics, and even later Star Wars games like The Force Unleashed were never able to capture the simple-yet-effective approach that the Jedi Knight series took with its combat system. Lightsaber battles flow well and feel authentic – rather than having the player and the AI simply bashing sticks at each other until one of them drops dead, the combatants will lock blades and scoring direct body hits requires skill and precision. This means that each combat encounter feels like a mini-duel in itself, making the Jedi Knight games one of the quintessential Star Wars experiences for lightsaber combat.

There are other forms of combat present in the game too, however, and in some levels weapons other than the lightsaber are useful or even necessary. Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy feature a diverse sandbox of weapons and each has a specific function – a Star Wars equivalent of a shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher are all present to make the games accessible to fans of the first-person shooter genre. Like all good FPS games, gunfights in the Jedi Knight series are dependant on movement and good aim, but many of the guns are useless against lightsaber wielders. The game’s weapon sandbox truly shines in the campaign mode, particularly since players can either mince through legions of Stormtroopers with their lightsaber, use the various Force powers to easily sweep through encounters, or choose to play more fairly and switch to gunplay for a more challenging (but ultimately more rewarding) combat experience.

Many who played the Jedi Knight games regard them as among the best of the Star Wars video games, and for good reason. Whilst it may no longer be part of the Star Wars canon, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy remains an essential Star Wars experience.

 

Star Wars: Obi-Wan – Original Xbox Game Review

Star Wars games are like Star Trek movies – they’re either really good or monumentally bad. Occasionally, though, you get something like Star Trek: First Contact, an exception among the norm of polarising quality that is good in some ways and terrible in others. For Star Wars, undoubtedly that distinction goes to Star Wars: Obi-Wan. Released in 2001, this game has been brushed under the rug for the most part in the wake of the release of later Star Wars games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: Battlefront and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy that far outstripped it in terms of quality and fan reception. Nonetheless, there are still aspects of this game that are unique and it is perhaps not entirely deserved of its status as a really bad Star Wars game. But before elaborating on the aspects of this game that are good, the elephant in the room must first be addressed.

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The Controls and Mechanics

This game suffers from terrible controls and mechanics that, if corrected, would increase this game’s fun factor and replay-ability immensely. Some of the major issues include the fact that Obi-Wan himself injures far too easily, health is often hard to come by, many encounters leave the player overwhelmed and out of options, the lightsaber controls are awful (and were thankfully never repeated in any other Star Wars game on consoles), and the camera controls were prehistoric. Of these, one of the most important is the lightsaber controls – the idea of using a thumbstick to swing a lightsaber is interesting, and given more time and better execution the idea could have made the game something truly special. Unfortunately, the mechanic is implemented into this game without any real thought or care, and it often makes encounters far harder as that extra layer of precision needed to effectively block and swing often cause unnecessary damage to the player. Speaking of which, the health system in the game required the implementation of a ‘Force Heal’ ability – many levels are made far too difficult with the lack of flexibility and overly harsh punishment of bad strategy.

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The Level Design

Moving on from the obvious Achilles Heel that this game suffers from, the level design throughout is actually quite good. Aside from a few clunkers around the Naboo sections in which it can be difficult to easily see which is the correct path, often the levels are large and expansive enough that exploration is rewarded, something that is often valued in action-adventure games. The is also some great variation in the location and style of the various levels – one is set on a skyscraper and involves a lot of vertical gameplay, another is an expansive exploration of a sinister swamp, and of course the iconic locations of Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant make an appearance. There are several instances of the level design showing considerable neglect, however, such as the the missions in the Trade Federation Control Ship that essentially amount to repeating corridors and the dozens of times you are catapulted back to Coruscant to face several functionally identical Jedi Masters in the same bland arena.

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The Story

Interestingly, Star Wars: Obi-Wan tries to expand on the story of The Phantom Menace, to the extent that it is several levels in before we reach the opening of the first Star Wars prequel. The game adds in a few interesting plot developments, such as how the Black Heth and the Jin’ha are in secret cohorts with both each other and the Trade Federation, how Queen Amidala was briefly kidnapped by Tusken Raiders whilst Qui-Gon first encountered Anakin, and how Obi-Wan and the others managed to sneak back into the Naboo city so easily. The game also adds other tantalising mouthfuls of pre-prequel lore in the form of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s conflict with the Black Heth and later the Jin’ha. An odd quirk with this game is the voice acting – Obi-Wan has a Scottish accent and talks like he has a blocked nose for some reason, and many of the game’s NPCs sound as thought they are delivering their lines at gunpoint. Then again, it is that easy to accidentally kill NPCs that maybe they are right to be scared of this poorly-rendered Obi-Wan imposter.

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The Enemies

Star Wars: Obi-Wan has a vast variety of enemies spread across its various levels, from Battle Droids to Tusken Raiders. If this game does anything well, it’s keeping the encounters varied and interesting. The earlier levels see Obi-Wan go up against simple thugs, which later evolves into a conflict with the more advanced Jin’ha soldiers. By the time the player encounters the Trade Federation, they will already be veterans with the game’s unique combat system, and even after the game intersects with the story of The Phantom Menace it finds ways of introducing new enemy varieties – the Tatooine section that pits Obi-Wan against Tusken Raiders is a notable example of the game throwing a curve-ball at the player with its unique variety.

To Conclude

Maybe Star Wars: Obi-Wan isn’t as bad as everyone remembers. Whilst it does definitely suffer from poor mechanics, the game is enjoyable if it’s flaws can be overlooked. Although it is not among the best of the Star Wars games, it is still among the more interesting side of the Star Wars game pantheon.

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