An A-Z of Star Wars
DAVID WAKEFIELD The Star Wars saga comes to a close as Episode III: The Revenge Of The Sith, which arrives on big screens across the UK on Thursday. May 19. George Lucas’ stories contain many weird and wonderful characters, some of whom have become household names, but others are not so familiar. Here David Wakefield, with the assistance of his Star Wars fan son Matthew, unravels a few of the personalities.
The Star Wars saga comes to a close as Episode III: The Revenge Of The Sith, which arrives on big screens across the UK on Thursday. May 19. George Lucas' stories contain many weird and wonderful characters, some of whom have become household names, but others are not so familiar. Here David Wakefield, with the assistance of his Star Wars fan son Matthew, unravels a few of the personalities:
t A is for: Anakin Skywalker and Amidala - two of the central characters in the whole Star Wars scenario. Anakin (played by Hayden Christensen) the young Jedi pupil and companion of Obi-Wan Kenobi, is seduced by the dark side of The Force, via the evil Emperor Palpatine, to become the supreme villain Darth Vader. His romantic encounter with Amidala, Queen of Naboo (Natalie Portman) produced the twin children Luke and Leia.
t B is for: Bib Fortuna - the Twi'lek who was major-domo to the grotesque Jabba The Hutt. Despite his various considerable powers he was tricked by Luke Skywalker when the young Jedi managed to get into Jabba's court in a bid to rescue Leia and the entombed Han Solo from the gangster's slimy clutches. Like his master, Bib Fortuna perished in the Great Pit of Carkoon.
t C is for: C-3PO - an over-fussy protocol droid first constructed by the young Anakin Skywalker, and who found his way, along with his close pal R2D2, into Luke's employ. Has survived numerous escapades and his ability to speak just about any language in the Galaxy has kept him in one piece. English actor Anthony Daniels supplied his distinctive voice. Also for Chewbacca, the giant Wookiee (who appeared in Episodes IV, V and VI, but makes his debut in Episode III). “Chewy” is played by the 7ft 3in tall Peter Mayhew.
t D is for: Darth Vader - for many the overriding image of the whole Star Wars saga with his giant, black-clad sinister presence and deep voice. Vader is the result of Anakin Skywalker's seduction by the dark side of The Force by Emperor Palpatine. Vader's giant form in the first three movies was that of former bodybuilder Dave Prowse (although Prowse does not appear in the new film). His distinctive voice belonged to veteran American actor James Earl Jones.
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t E is for: Emperor Palpatine, who rose to power by opportunism to create the New Order, a Galactic Empire that ruled by tyranny. The Jedi Knights were his biggest threat, but these were all but extinguished by his pupil Anakin Skywalker, who had become Darth Vader. Ruling with an iron fist, Palpatine disbanded the Imperial Senate and used The Force to foresee the future. His attempts to use Vader to convert Luke Skywalker (Vader's son) to the dark side resulted in his own destruction when the dying Vader hurled him into the Death Star's reactor core, killing him. E is also for Ewoks, the cuddly denizens of the planet Endor.
t F is for: Fett, Jango and Boba. Father and son, they were the supreme bounty hunters. Jango became the “template” for the clone army, and part of the deal is that he was supplied by a clone of himself - which became Boba. Jango was killed in a duel with Jedi master Mace Windu; Boba, with the help of Darth Vader, captured Han Solo, had him entombed, still alive, in carbonite, and delivered to Jabba the Hutt. Also F is for The Force - the mystical power that binds the Galaxy together. And for Ford (Harrison) who made the character of Han Solo very much his own and, as a consequence, went on to play a similar adventurer, Indiana Jones, in another saga.
t G is for: Grand Moff Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing) who was the Imperial governor of the Outland Regions, and the mastermind of the project. A brilliant and ruthless tactician, Tarkin was a loyal adherent to Emperor's vision of the New Order. He saw the Death Star as the ultimate weapon to ensure absolute rule over the galaxy. Some questioned whether Tarkin's methods were merely bids to boost his own status, but the truth will never be known, for Tarkin perished aboard his creation. Also for Guinness (Sir Alec) who played Obi-Wan Kenobi as an old man with those distinctive patrician tones. The canny Guinness is also said to have opted for a percentage of the films' takings instead of a fee
t H is for: Han Solo. Dashing adventurer Han and his close friend Chewbacca, the Wookiee, were on the run from the henchmen of Jabba The Hutt when they accepted a charter to take Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and their droids C-3PO and R2D2 to safety out of Tatooine where they were being hunted by Darth Vader. Han's adventures were just beginning - he fell in love with Princess Leia and became a general in the Alliance forces fighting The Empire. Owner and captain of the spaceship Millennium Falcon, one of the most popular models in the collectable Star Wars range. Han made a star out of the then practically unknown young actor Harrison Ford.
t I is for: Ian McDiarmid, who plays Emperor Palpatine. A distinguished British actor and director, he has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been joint artistic director of the Almeida Theatre in Islington. Although in Star Wars V and VI he appears as a gnarled and embittered old man, McDiarmid has brought the necessary gravitas to what was to be a pivotal role in the whole Star Wars story. And his finest hour comes in The Revenge Of The Sith.
t J is for: Jabba The Hutt, an immense slug-like gangster operating out of Tatooine who surrounded himself with the dregs of Galactic society. Jabba - who was oblivious to the powers of the Jedi - had his pudgy fingers in a multitude of illegal pies, but kept himself entertained by torture and murder - those who displeased him found themselves fed to the awesome Rancor monster who lived beneath his court. Not nice to know - although we saw more of Jabba in the director's cut versions of Episodes IV and VI.
t K is for: Kenobi (Obi-Wan) - a Jedi master who was himself trained in the mysterious arts by Yoda. He survived the onslaught of the Sith to live an almost hermit-like existence on Tatooine until his help was sought by Luke in Episode IV: A New Hope. Kenobi then guided the young Skywalker to seek help from Yoda to become a Jedi himself. Originally played, with great distinction, by Sir Alec Guinness, one of many fine British actors who became involved in the Star Wars project; and in later episodes by Ewan McGregor.
t L is for: Luke/Leia - the twins born to Anakin Skywalker and Amidala, and thus endowed with similar powers. They were spirited away by their father from the clutches of The Emperor, and Luke was brought up by his guardians Owen and Beru Lars as a farmboy on Tatooine, but was unwittingly dragged into the quest to become a Jedi when Owen bought R2D2 - who was carrying the secret plans for the Empire's Death Star, placed in him by Leia, together with a plea for help. She had become a leader in the Alliance's fight against the Empire, and a Princess of the Royal Family of the planet Alderaan, and was on the run from Vader. Also for Lucas (George), without whose vision the whole thing wouldn't have been possible. And for lightsaber, the weapon of the Jedi.
t M is for: Mace Windu - a respected Jedi on a par with Yoda, Windu was a senior member of the Jedi High Council, and his wisdom and experience were legendary. He knew of the ancient prophecy of the Chosen One who would return balance to The Force, and when the young Anakin Skywalker was presented to the council as a prospective candidate to fulfil the prophecy Windu was one of those with suspicions - although agreeing that the child could be tested for Jedi potential. His suspicions turned out to be justified. Windu is played by Samuel L Jackson.
t N is for: Nute Gunray - a Neimoidian who first appears in Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Unscrupulous and totally cutthroat, Gunray ascended to the position of Viceroy of the Trade Federation and led the blockade and subsequent invasion of Naboo - urged on by the shadowy Sith benefactor Darth Sidious, creator of the New Order. But this plot was scuppered by Naboo freedom fighters, led by Jedi Knights, and Gunray showed his true cowardly colours by cowering behind his battle droids.
t O is for: Owen Lars, guardian to Luke Skywalker whose father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, spirited him to the lonely planet of Tatooine to escape the clutches of The Emperor - who foresaw the potential threat of the young Jedi-to-be. Lars, who had always kept Luke's true family background from him, unwittingly sets Luke off on his mission to discover his destiny when he buys the droids C-3PO and R2D2 to work on his farm. Also for Oz (Frank) who made the quantum leap from voicing Miss Piggy in The Muppets to creating the unique vocalese that is Yoda.
t P is for: Piett (Admiral) who we first met in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, as a loyal Imperial officer aboard Darth Vader's flagship, The Executor, during the campaign to find the rebels on the ice planet Hoth. Piett was promoted to commander rather dramatically when his predecessor, Admiral Ozzel (played by Grange Hill's Michael Sheard, aka Mr Bronson) committed a fatal mistake during the hunt for the rebels, and was disposed of by Vader. Piett managed to survive the wrath of his master, but was killed in the Battle of Endor when a rebel starfighter crashed into the flagship's bridge.
t Q is for: Qui-Gonn Jinn, a maverick, if respected Jedi Master, who is the tutor to the young Obi-Wan Kenobi. His instincts sometimes got him into trouble, and his unruly views prevented him from being a member of the Jedi Council. With Obi-Wan he was responsible for thwarting the bid by Nute Gunray to impose a blockade on Naboo; but he perished when taking on the Sith assassin Darth Maul in a memorable fight in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Played by Liam Neeson.
t R is for: R2D2, one of the great characters of the Star Wars saga. A resourceful, brave and adventurous little astromech droid, R2 carries a great range of tool-tipped appendages and abilities that have made him invaluable to his various masters. He carried the plans of the Empire's dreaded Death Star to safety, and was constantly on hand to plug into computers, or repair ailing space ships when needed. Great friends with C-3PO, to whom he is a constant source of worry.
t S is for: Sy Snootles. Remember the scene in the Mos Eisley café in Episode IV: A New Hope? A band was playing in the background - this was the Max Rebo Band and Sy Snootles (maybe the original Honky Tonk Woman?) was the lead singer. Some may feel that Sy, with her ruby lips on the end of a protruding mouth-stalk, bears an uncanny resemblance to Mick Jagger, although it is doubtful whether the Rolling Stones veteran ever covered any of Sy's hits, like “Lapti Nek”.
t T is for: Tusken Raider, fearsome desert savages inhabiting the Jundland Wastes on Tatooine. Covered head to foot in tattered rags and robes, the Tusken Raiders - or Sand People - use a deadly bladed club known as a gaderffii, and, for transportation, use the bantha, a long-haired, spiral-horned Yak-like creature. Their attack on Luke Skywalker was thwarted by the veteran Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, then living as a hermit in the desert.
t U is for: Ugnaught. These are a species of humanoid-porcines who live and work in the mining colony of Bespin's Cloud City, to which Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids flee after their escape from Vader's forces on Hoth. They are generally found in the Tibanna gas-processing plants or as general labourers. They are barely a metre in height, have pink skin, hog-like snouts and long hair. Ugnaughts were used to entomb Han in carbonite ready for bounty hunter Boba Fett to transport him to Jabba The Hutt.
t V is for: Veers (General). The quintessential Imperial soldier, (played by Julian Glover) is a stern and polished military man completely loyal to the Empire. He commanded the ground forces attached to Darth Vader's elite Imperial Death Squadron and, when Vader discovered the Alliance base on Hoth, Veers prepared an invasion army to knock out the rebel shield protecting the base. He led the raid from his fearsome AT-AT walker. Unlike his colleagues, Admirals Ozzel and Piett, he did not “fail” his ruthless leader, and so survived.
t W is for: Wicket W Warrick, a loyal and adventurous young Ewok scout who discovered an unconscious Princess Leia in the forests of the planet Endor's moon. He led Leia to the Ewok village in the trees, and their friendship resulted in the cuddly Ewoks joining the Rebel Alliance in their fight against the Empire. The Ewoks helped the rebels locate and destroy the vital Imperial shield generator on Endor - thus the Alliance Fleet was able to penetrate the new Death Star's defences and destroy it. Also for Williams (John) master of the modern musical film score who penned not only the Star Wars music but that for the Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter series as well as ET. And for Watto, the curious wheeler/dealer with hovering wings who ran the junk shop at Mos Espa on Tatooine, and for whom the young Anakin worked as a slave.
t X is for: X-wing Fighter - one of the fighting symbols of the Rebel Alliance. It was the X-Wing that carried out the decisive raid on the first Death Star, with Luke Skywalker leading a posse of pilots that included a certain Wedge Antilles (played by Denis Lawson, uncle of Ewan McGregor who was to go on to play Obi-Wan Kenobi). Other pilots included Jeremy (son of Sir Donald) Sinden. Luke's X-Wing also carried him to the Dagobah system for his meeting with Yoda.
t Y is for: Yoda, the ancient and revered 900-year-old Jedi Master, who had trained Jedi for eight centuries and was very powerful, despite his diminutive figure, in The Force. His wisdom told him that he should train the reckless young Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Jedi; he knew that Luke (and twin sister Leia) were the only hopes left for the Jedi order in the face of the growing power of the Emperor and the Dark Side. Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz, of The Muppets fame, and was noticeable for his unusual back-to-front phraseology - using terms such as “Help you I can” and “Reckless is he.”
t Z is for: Zam Wesell, a Clawdite changeling who was able to keep her true visage hidden. She often appeared as a beautiful human female, but was in truth able to alter her appearance - something that served her well as a bounty hunter. Zam was tasked by fellow bounty hunter Jango Fett to assassinate Amidala, then Senator of Naboo, and almost succeeded. A second attempt was foiled by Anakin and Obi-Wan and an epic chase ensued, at the end of which Zam was wounded by the Jedi and then, before she could reveal who had tasked her for the raid, was killed by Fett.