It’s Andrew again with the next issue of The Star Wars Dissection. Today, and for the next few posts, I’d like to take a look at certain battles in Star Wars. Specifically, I noticed just how many sources describe the same battle or incident, sometimes in slightly different ways. These differences sometimes provide new insight into the battle, or are sometimes just a function of game mechanics. Sometimes the new details are consistent – or at least compatible – with the films, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes a battle is described so many times that readers/game players lose interest; the Battle of Hoth isn’t quite as interesting after the 15th play-through.
I’m going to look at a number of battles that cover the entire film saga, starting today with the Battle of Naboo. A few weeks from now, instead of looking at the same battle portrayed in different ways, I’m going to look at planets that have experienced more than their fair share of battles. Certain planets, like Kamino or Felucia, experience so many different battles that it seems excessive, counterbalanced by the fact that they may be legitimate, strategic targets. I’ll look at these places, see how many battles they’ve experienced over time, and see if it’s reasonable or not.
First, I’d like to note how I plan to handle my data here. In The Star Wars Dissection’s Special Edition, the Book Club Edition, I looked at no less than six separate adaptations of Episode II: Attack of the Clones (novel, film, young reader book, video game, photocomic, and comic). Most of these described the Battle of Geonosis in fairly consistent ways, but slight differences add up. Factor in other adaptations in video games and similar sources, and you get a wide variety of battle descriptions.
So, we begin with the Battle of Naboo.
For clarity, I’m referring here to four separate, concurrent events that take place under the umbrella of “The Battle of Naboo.” First, we have the Battle of the Grassy Plains, where the Gungan Grand Army faced off against the Trade Federation. The second is the Naboo Space Battle, where Naboo fighters attacked the Droid Control Ship. The third is the Second Battle of Theed (often shorted in this column to just Battle of Theed), where Queen Amidala and a small guerilla team attacked the Theed Palace, and the Duel in Theed, with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting Darth Maul.
The Battle of Naboo was depicted in no less than 17 sources:
I will operate under the assumption that everyone reading this column has seen Episode I: The Phantom Menace (seems reasonable, since EUCantina.net is a Star Wars fan site).
The novel, young reader, comic, manga, and PhotoComic do not show the battles any differently from in the film, with the possible exception of scale. Precise visual correlation between the film and these other media is difficult, so it’s possible that the novel, young reader, comic, manga, or PhotoComic show the battles as being larger or smaller than in the film. In those cases, the film is the highest canon (though it is worth noting the precedent of the Battle of Endor, where the number of Rebel ships shown in battle is simply too small to be right). It is also worth noting that the young reader books The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader and The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi touch upon these battles too, but only skim them lightly, and seem to reflect the film depiction almost perfectly.
The video game of Episode I, however, shows a somewhat different depiction. First, the Space Battle and the Battle of the Grassy Plains are both completely ignored. During the Battle of Theed, you play as Queen Amidala and/or Captain Panaka, and your goal is to force your way into the Theed Palace and capture Viceroy Nute Gunray. This differs from the film in a few ways. First, in the film, Amidala and Panaka take very little time getting into the Palace, via the Hangar, and only separate from the Jedi upon getting in. But the game depicts a long adventure around the city shooting Battle Droids (which includes several moments where you need to mount a turret to defeat a droideka.) During the duel with Maul, Obi-Wan gets separated from Qui-Gon rather early. As Obi-Wan, your goal is to catch up to your Master fighting the Sith, and then (upon withnessing Qui-Gon’s death), you must kill Maul, just like in the movie. But Obi-Wan must jump across numerous platforms to catch up, like any traditional platformer game. Also, game mechanics allow you to kill Maul in any number of ways, including defeat with a lightsaber, shoot with blasters or rockets, and Force-push into the Bottomless Pit. Note that Obi-Wan getting knocked into the pit, recovering, and bisecting Maul, as in the film, is not an option.
The game Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is a real-time strategy game for the PC where, in different campaigns, you could control the armies of the Trade Federation, the Gungans, the Empire, the Rebellion, and the Wookiees (and the Naboo in multiplayer or skirmish mode). This game featured two distinct depictions of the Battle of Naboo. First, I shall note that both of these adaptations are explicitly non-canon. They are shown as an alternate history, what-if, battle simulation. The first is the Battle of the Grassy Plains. As the Trade Federation, using a force significantly larger and more diverse than that shown in the film (including starfighters and heavy artillery), the game mission depicts the Trade Federation winning the Battle of the Grassy Plains and completely destroying the Gungan Grand Army (whereas in the film, the Gungans surrendered, but the destruction of the Droid Control Ship in orbit deactivated the battle droids, granting the Gungans a de facto win.) The other variant battle is the Battle of Theed. As the Gungans, the simulation assumes that the Gungans won the Battle of the Grassy Plains (by completely defeating the Trade Federation army, with minimal casualties). As a result of that non-canonical victory, the Gungans regroup and attack Theed, thereby liberating it from Gunray. The Gungans give Theed back to the Naboo (it is presumed that, during this battle, Amidala still captured Gunray). Again, both of these missions were non-canon.
In the game Star Wars: Battle for Naboo (for the PC and the Nintendo 64), you control Lt. Gavyn Sykes, a Royal Naboo Security Forces officer, as he pilots various vehicles in defence of his homeworld. Most of the game focusses on his time as part of the Naboo resistance during the Trade Federation’s occuptation of the planet, but the last two are depictions of the Battle of Naboo. First, flying a Gian Speeder, you create a diversion in Theed that allows Queen Amidala and Captain Panaka to infiltrate the Theed Palace. This part of the Battle is inconsistent with what we see in the film, where the Queen and co. quietly get as close to the Theed Palace Hangar as they can, and only then destroy the guards and tanks with heavy weaponry. After the diversion, you take control of a Naboo Fighter and participate in the Naboo Space Battle. This is the final mission of the game; the culmination of all the work you did earlier. But it, too, seems to be incompatible with the film. First, you must destroy as many Vulture Droids as you can. Then you attack certain weak points on the Droid Control Ship, including the tractor beam generator and shield generator. Just as you finish, Anakin Skywalker flies out of the hangar, and the ship is destroyed. The film never shows the destruction of the shields or the tractor beam, but otherwise this depiction fits reasonably well within the film’s canon.
The Lego Star Wars game (for the Playstation 2, Gamecube, PC, Mac, XBox, and Gameboy Advance) depicts the Battle of Naboo in a slightly different way still. In this game, the Battle of Theed is more or less the same as in the film. The Battle of the Grassy Plains is depicted only as a cutscene, and it’s also fairly close to the film. The duel, however, is quite different. First, it is noteworthy that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon never get separated. Player 1 controls Qui-Gon while Player 2 controls Obi-Wan (or, if playing by yourself, you can alternate). In different parts of the Hangar and the generator room, you have to fight battle droids or defeat Maul in some minor way. For example, after leaving the Hangar, Maul jumps on the other side of a chasm and throws equipment at you. Using the Force, you have to catch it, and throw it back. The end of the duel is depicted as a cutscene. The Naboo Space Battle is entirely omitted in the original game, even though it was essentially complete. However, the game developers decided to insert it into Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (for the PC, Wii, DS, XBox 360, and Playstation 3) as a bonus mission. In this level, you play as Anakin flying a Naboo Fighter. Essentially, after fighting outside the Droid Control Ship, you fly into the hangar and work your way into the reactor core, where you have to destroy certain pieces of it to cause it to overload (as opposed to the film, where Anakin crashes into the hangar, accidentally fires a pair of torpedoes, which in turn destroy the reactor.)
The first Battlefront (for the PC) game also depicts the Battle of Naboo, but in a slightly different way. These depictions don’t technically go against the canon, as long as you keep an open mind. The game is divided into multiple campaigns, beginning with a Trade Federation/Confederacy of Independent Systems campaign. In the first two levels, you play as B1 Battle Droids to defeat the Gungans and the Naboo. The first level is the Battle of the Grassy Plains, where you must destroy the Gungan shield generators and decimate their army. The second level is the Battle of Theed, where you must kill all of the Naboo Royal Security Forces (or take over all of the command points on the map.) While indeed the Gungans and the Naboo canonically won the Battle of the Grassy Plains and the Battle in Theed, this game need not depict the entire battle. One can easily say that the level ends with a Trade Federation victory against the Gungans, but that the destruction of the Droid Control Ship and the Gungan victory happen after the gameplay is done. Same applies to the next level; the droid army kills all of the Royal Security Forces personnel, but Amidala and Panaka got away and still were able to capture Nute Gunray off-camera.
The game Episode I: Jedi Power Battles (for the Playstation, Dreamcast, and Game Boy Advance) depicted a slightly different version of events, but most of it is based on game mechanics and thus non-canon. First, since Mace Windu, Plo Koon, and Adi Gallia are all playable characters (along with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan), it gives the impression that these characters are present during most of the events of Episode I, even though they spent the entire story on Coruscant in the films. Note that this is not the first time a game has had character problems like that. The much later game, The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance, has Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka as playable characters for one specific level that they could not have been present for. I understand this was retconned that those events canonically were performed by other Jedi, like Ki-Adi-Mundi and Luminara Unduli (who are playable characters in the game, but not in those specific levels). Also, only one Jedi (the player) duels Maul, and the Theed generator room must be navigated like a platformer game (including several puzzles, where one must destroy consoles to cause fans to stop spinning, to drop to other platforms) before Maul can be reached. There are other differences too, including a level where the Jedi must fight their way through the Gungan Army to reach Boss Nass (not a good way to win his favour when you want him to distract the Droid Army), a level where the Jedi must destroy as many droids as possible from a STAP, and a level where you must rescue Naboo pilots, who are held prisoner on the cliffs near the Theed Palace. These interpretations cannot really be integrated into the film, and so should probably be disregarded.
The last two levels of the game Star Wars: Starfighter (for the PC, Playstation 2, and XBox) contributed to the canon of the Battle of Naboo. In the few levels leading up to the end, the various playable characters participate in the insurgency against the Trade Federation force occupying Naboo. In the penultimate level, as the pirate Nym, you must defend the Naboo Resistance Base from a Trade Federation attack. This takes place concurrently with the Battle of the Grassy Plains, and therefore also contributes to the Battle of Theed (keeping the bulk of the Droid Army out of Theed and on the plains instead). The last level is the Naboo Space Battle. As Rhys Dallows, a Royal Security Forces pilot, you must destroy the emitters around the Droid Control Ship, thus helping disrupt the battle droids’ control signal and destroy the force of Vulture Droids. When the shields surrounding the hangar doors drop, Dallows follows a mercenary starfighter into the Droid Control Ship, and notices that the Trade Federation is launching more droids to reinforce the surface of Naboo. Dallows defeats the mercenary, cripples the ability for the Trade Federation to launch more forces, and escapes, just as Anakin Skywalker simultaneously escapes the ship’s other hangar, and the Droid Control Ship is destroyed. Even though we never see the Naboo Fighters concentrate their fire on specific targets, these two depictions fit neatly with the canon in the film.
So there you have it. There have been no less than 17 sources depicting the Battle of Naboo and, barring game mechanics or platforming levels, there aren’t too many irreconcilable differences between the film its 16 tie-ins. And the few instances where the differences are irreconciable are clearly outside of canon (LEGO Star Wars and the simulations from Galactic Battlegrounds).
The next discussion (which I’m aiming to have ready in late July) will discuss the Battle of Geonosis, with a focus on the one featured in Episode II, but accounting for other battles on Geonosis (including the one from The Clone Wars and the one from Empire at War, among others.)
See you next time!