Before we begin this look into what the Star Wars Expanded Universe had to offer with species, technology and The Force, I’ll first explain a common term used to describe […]
Before we begin this look into what the Star Wars Expanded Universe had to offer with species, technology and The Force, I’ll first explain a common term used to describe many of the different beings in the galaxy: Near Human. The easiest way to describe what the term means is the phrase: “They’re human but…” for example, the Zabrak (Darth Maul) are human but they have horns. The Cerean are human but they have two brains and cone heads. The Chiss are human but they have blue skin and red eyes. If it’s not near human but is still bipedal and more or less shaped in a human form, it’s Humanoid. Then there’s the rest, like the Hutts.
Speaking of the owners of the greatest Cartel in the galaxy and with hands in every dirty deed, the Expanded Universe gave us what is perhaps the weirdest piece of lore: Hutt Physiology. What you might not know if you’ve never seen or read Star Wars Expanded Universe media is that Hutts are hermaphrodites, they can literally swing both ways depending on the mood. When they pick a partner—and I’ll let the image of two Hutts getting together hang in your mind for a second—they choose what they’ll be, much like frogs. Hutts sometimes adopted a female sexual identity when giving birth, though others kept their ‘original’ regardless. Finally, when giving birth and much like marsupials, they carried their young in pouches.
Hutts could see ultraviolet light and had a regenerative ability that slowly restored them even from the gravest of injuries. A certain Hutt lost half his head, an eye and some brain matter and other members of the species nonchalantly explained that he’d be back to normal in about a hundred years or so. And to a Hutt that was a very short time as they tended to live upwards to a thousand years and just kept growing, becoming immobile monstrosities in their old age. Not all of them grew to such proportions but it wasn’t unusual either.
As for their society, they were scumbags, the lot of them, though there were two particular cases worthy of note: A Hutt Jedi and a respected Old Republic era scientist. The Jedi one didn’t stay good for long and eventually became the dictator of a world he found during a Jedi missions. The Doctor on the other hand was a brilliant scientist, a pioneer in the field of robotic and five times winner of one of the most prestigious galactic science awards.
So there are always exceptions to the rule, even for Hutts.
I mentioned the Chiss up there and yes, they’re Near Human and blue skinned, but that’s not what made them interesting. The truly fascinating thing about them was they developed their technology completely separate from the rest of the galaxy. They didn’t adapt the Rakata hyperdrives like the Humans and Duro did but instead found their own ways to space travel. Their hyperdrives were so advanced that it was sometimes hard for passenger to know if the jump had happened or not and they are the only species with such precise systems they could integrate hyper-jumps into combat maneuvers.
The Chiss were logical. They had emotions of course, but they approached every situation with cool detachment. They were infinitely curious and always sought out knowledge, but they did so clinically. Every time they met a new species, they would use them to gain as much information as they could on their new allies, to develop the correct strategies should they ever become enemies. It was very hard for Chiss to see other species as equals or even friends, as their society was quite xenophobic and saw others as inferior. Their government’s name echoes this: The Chiss Ascendancy.
But while this might make them sound very Sith-like, or warring even, it’s the complete opposite and that’s what makes the Chiss so fascinating in the Expanded Universe. Yes, they saw everything coldly and analysed everyone else’s weaknesses, but they never started wars. They never went looking for fights, and they didn’t believe in pre-emptive strikes. Their military was one of counterattacks. They did expand their Ascendancy when it first formed, but it was to gather resources for their population.
The Chiss valued order and structure above all and as such any conflict they instigated in the systems within the Ascendancy space were not for greed, or lust for power, but to bring order to what they thought were chaotic systems.
The most famous Chiss (and the first to show in Star Wars media) was Admiral Thrawn from the novel Heir to the Empire, but I will always remember that deadpan Chiss bartender I met in Jedi Knight 2 on Nar Shaddaa.
I’ve mentioned the Yuuzhan Vong quite often in these articles. The Vong were extra-galactic, meaning they came from way out in the Unknown Regions, the parts of space beyond any known trade route. The Vong’s world, the progenitor of Zonama Sekot, was a sentient world that during a war with a droid army gave the Yuuzhan Vong the knowledge on creating biotech. All their technology is alive. Take the Amphistaff, their primary weapon. It’s snake, a giant snake, that bonds with a Vong warrior and by his command hardens to such a degree it serves as a staff or spear. With another gesture it becomes pliable again and functions as a whip.
Because of that war with droids, the Yuuzhan Vong hated mechanical technology, considering it heretical. And much like their weapons bonded with their users, so too did the Vong have a symbiotic relationship with their planet. It was because of this that when Yuuzhan’tar, their home world, exploded, the Vong lost their connection to the Force. As a species, they were outside it, making them undetectable to Jedi and other Force users.
The death of Yuuzhan’tar hurt the Vong deeply, both spiritually and physically. Because of their devotion to their planet, they saw this pain they felt as the true medium of reconnecting with their deity. And so the Yuuzhan Vong became zealots of pain, racially masochistic, into extremes of body modification and genetic alterations, all to feel as much pain as possible. For them pain wasn’t a means to an end, to connect with their old world or the new gods they created to replace it, but a way of life.
Think of the Yuuzhan Vong as the Star Wars equivalent of Clive Barker’s Cenobites.
If you ever saw a Force user wearing a bandana or covering their eyes in any other form, including sunglasses, they were either a very foolish Jedi trying to expand their senses or a Miraluka. The near human Miraluka had no eyes and they didn’t need them. Instead, they saw through the Force. They could see things in ways we couldn’t even imagine or put into words. They saw life at their purest form and saw darkness at its worst.
The Miraluka are special because they didn’t see each other separate, they didn’t distinguish between families and those from one city or another region. All Miraluka were part of a great family, and it wasn’t unusual to hear them refer to one another as brothers or sisters. Perhaps their sight of the Force let them understand something that the rest of the galaxy couldn’t, or wouldn’t. The Miraluka saw no skin, no physical differences. They saw someone’s soul, their spirit and essence in The Force.
Yesterday I mentioned the Valley of the Jedi, and the Dark Inquisitor Jerec. He was a Miraluka, and just on statistics alone, it’s quite possible that he helped the Empire hunt down his own people. The Miraluka suffered massive losses during the Rise of the Empire, as the never-ending purge targeted them, even if they weren’t Jedi.
Now let’s talk technology. One of the usual complaints you hear is that in the prequels the technology seems much more advanced in the Episode IV era, and that’s actually not true. What the Clone War era technology had was better visual design. Things were sleeker, better in appearance and form but not function. Most fighters, the ones used by soldiers and Jedi, needed auxiliary systems or to dock with a bigger ship in order to travel at hyperspeed, while those in the Imperial era had hyperdrives built into them. In general their technology looked very ugly and ancient, but it was functionally superior. As a militaristic organisation, they valued function over form.
Armours on soldiers on the other hand were worse in the Imperial Era. The Katarn armours of the Clones, particularly the Clone Commandos, were several times as durable as the ones worn by the Stormtroopers, but that was pure economics. By the time the Clone Wars ended, Palpatine had almost bankrupted the Republic and in the rise of his Empire, they needed to cut costs and the Stormtroopers suffered for it.
We’ve believed, over the course of several films and TV series that Lightsabers are without match in the galaxy, that nothing can withstand them. This isn’t true. The Mandalorian Iron, Beskar, is Lightsaber resistant, meaning you can try to do to it what Qui Gon Jinn did to the Trade Federation blast doors, and after hours you’d only manage to heat it up a little. Cortosis on the other hand took that to a new level.
Cortosis was a rare ore, one that in its natural state wasn’t only energy resistant but also charged with it. Touching it with your bare hands would kill you on the spot, and during its refinement, if you didn’t have the proper containment procedures, simple exposure to it could cause a terrible sickness that eventually killed you.
In its refined state however, armours and weapons forged from it weren’t only Lightsaber and blaster resistant, but because of its unusual properties, any lightsaber that hit a Cortosis surface stopped working for a while. With enough hits, a Lightsaber could cut through it, but it was going to take a while with the blade shutting off every time.
One of Desann’s (I’ve mentioned him a couple of times) little projects were the Shadow Troopers, Stormtroopers infused with the energies of the Valley of the Jedi and wearing Cortosis armours. They only appear in Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, and they’re tough to kill, the armour giving them loads of health. It’s worth noting that in the game, striking them doesn’t shut the saber down, but it deals minimal damage.
The Jedi Civil War, the time of Revan and Malak (and the game Knights of the Old Republic), saw a return to pure melee combat, with regular swords and vibroblades as the main weapons. The reason for this was that everyone had Personal Shields. These created a translucent energy barrier around the user, protecting them from energy blasts and even lightsabers to some degree. While the shields were active, blasters were of little use and so people had to go medieval on each other.
Over time, experts discovered that prolonged use of personal shielding had negative effects due to the severe magnetic fields they created. By the time of the Empire, barely anyone used them, as they were also exorbitantly pricy. Some did, however, such as Kyle Katarn who once said that the secret of his perceived immortality by the Empire was just having a constant supply of power cell for his shields.
I mentioned the Chiss earlier and they had a little bit of tech that made them very special, their Charric energy blasters. These intriguing weapons not only delivered a thermal projectile like other blasters, but the shot also had tremendous kinetic energy as well. While Jedi could endlessly deflect regular blaster bolts, deflecting Charric blasts was like taking a punch from a boxer with each shot, to the point where the saber would fall off their numb hands.
To end this section, let’s talk about the Lightsaber. I’ve mentioned “Lightsaber resistant” a couple of times and you might be confused about it. The Lightsaber is a tremendously powerful weapon, as it is a constant blade of pure raw energy. It can cut through materials that would make blaster shots bounce off. Imagine a plasma sword, that amount of heat, condensed into a thin shaft of your favourite colour. Lightsaber resistance was one of the highest levels of durability in the universe.
Lightsabers housed two crystals. The first one was aesthetic, changing the colour of the beam saber. The second one was functional, an amplification crystal that took the charge from the saber’s power cell and made it powerful enough to create the blade. There were hundreds of different crystals in the galaxy, each with unique properties that altered the function of the lightsaber. There was even one very special crystal that neutralised the effects of Cortosis.
Now, let’s talk about the field that connects us all, no matter how far away we are in the world or the cosmos: The Force.
Disclaimer: I will not or will I ever mention the Midichlorians, as I think it is the dumbest thing to come out of George Lucas’ mind since Ewoks: Battle for Endor.
In the usual Star Wars media we’ve only seen the Jedi, the Sith and more recently the Nightsisters of Dathomir. But they aren’t the only Force Traditions, the organisations that delved into the mysteries of the Force nor were the powers of the Jedi limited just to pushing, pulling, affecting minds or throwing bright lightning.
The Miraluka had their own Tradition, to which they brought those of their species with the most Force potential. With them, they learnt how to expand their already powerful senses. Luka Sene was their name and they guided the Miraluka to practical uses of the Force while keeping to the Light. Unlike the Jedi, while they guided their members, they didn’t interfere with their personal lives, so no issues with personal relationships.
The Kel Dor (the species of Jedi Master Plo Koon) had the Baran Do Sages, a Force Tradition that acted as counselors for the Kel Dor leaders, using their meditative trances to sense disturbances in the environment, predicting storms and seeing dangers that might come to them. Eventually though, they realised that in their deep meditations they could see the future.
In terms of powers, most Force Users could enter trances, where they slowed their bodies’ functions and allowed them to commune with the Force without the need for bathroom breaks. But beyond that was the Morichro technique. This special trance took the body to its limits, slowing it all down to borderline stasis. While in a Morichro trance, the user could pass an entire year without food or water and only the barest amounts of oxygen. There was always the danger of never making it back though, that they couldn’t wake up from it, trapped in the trance.
People seem to think that the Sith had all the offensive powers, the big displays of lightning and the ability to kill with a thought. In part they’re right, and the rare power Force Destruction was ample proof. This ability allowed the Dark Force user to channel his powers and his hatred into a giant ball of fire that exploded on impact, but using it drained them completely.
The Jedi on the other hand had a much more powerful and terrible ability at their disposal. It was a punishment so severe that very few used it. They called it Sever Force. This power created a barrier of pure light energy that removed the individual from the Force, disconnecting them from it. Imagine the Force as another sense, one that lets you feel the universe around you, always moving and always changing, with new life in every second. Then imagine that feeling shut off forever. That’s how terrible a punishment Sever Force was.
Force Users could heal others but none had the gift like Clone Wars era Jedi Bardan Jusik, whose skill with the healing trances was so advanced he could repair brain damage and even help people deal with psychological trauma.
Finally, let’s talk about one of the most intriguing powers for Force Users in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Battle Meditation. This power put the Jedi into a deep trance and while it was active, it affected all allies and enemies fighting alongside them. The power sent great doubts and fears into the enemy, making them poorer fighters while it did the opposite to allies, filling them with bravery, with confidence and strength. Bastila Shan is still the most powerful user of the technique, as she could extend it to entire sectors and change the course of space battles with millions of ships flying and darting around.
While it may end tomorrow, if any of you would like me to expand on any of these subjects, on certain species, worlds, technologies or Force related topics, do let me know and I’ll prepare new articles on the subjects!
Until then, may the Force (and the Schwartz) be with you.
- Wookiepedia (For when I don’t remember all the details…and source of all images)