In this ongoing series, Ian Blackout revisits Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, in a (roughly) chronological order of events and grouped (roughly) into story-arcs.
The Disappeared, Part 1 (2014)
Season 6, Episode 8. Written by Jonathan W. Rinzler, directed by Steward Lee.
“Without darkness there cannot be light.”
The peaceful people of Bardotta have so far managed to avoid being drawn into galactic conflict, but political stability becomes less viable now their spiritual leaders, The Dagoyan, are mysteriously vanishing. After a plea in the Galactic Senate by Queen Julia involving a very specific request, Representative Jar Jar Binks is despatched for an audience, accompanied by Mace Windu as his diplomatic escort and bodyguard…
An odd duology now, as there’s little within the story structure of ‘The Disappeared’ which anchors it to this late stage in the game. Penned by esteemed Star Wars biographer J.W. Rinzler, these episodes were advanced enough through the production process for completion in ‘The Lost Missions’ strand. While this shows that they were due to be aired during the cancelled season 6, ‘The Disappeared’ would be an adequate standalone adventure at any earlier point in the timeline.
Once the plot is clear of the familiar senate surroundings, the planet Bardotta (named by Lucasfilm after none other than Brigitte Bardot) is shown to be a stylistic melting pot, and the rest of the production design reflects this accordingly. The native Bardottan species appears to have some ties to the Gungans, and indeed Queen Julia’s fondness for Jar Jar indicates a social and personal background which has remained hidden until this point. Visually, the architecture of the Bardottan palace draws inspiration from European and Japanese history, while the Frangawl cult behind the disappearances wear masks resembling Polynesian artefacts.
Added to this mix is an array of Indian accents from the palace’s Dagoyan inhabitants (including Queen Julia), although this could be a tie-in to the episode’s main homage. Because truth be told, ‘The Disappeared, Part 1’ is more of an outright love letter to Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom, where the action leads to a vast underground lava chamber complete with prisoner cages suspended over boiling pits. The cult has been kidnapping the elders to harvest their rich life-force (or more properly, The Force), to transfer to one known only as ‘The Great Mother’. The only thing which would make this more Temple Of Doom would be a minecart chase, and the feeling certainly occurs that this has only been left out due to time constraints.
Most importantly though, this is Jar Jar’s adventure. Even with the fantastic Ahmed Best behind the voicework, viewers who struggle with the hapless Gungan will have to work hard. T.C. Carson returns voicing Mace Windu on particularly exasperated, irascible and deadpan form, and is a joy second only to Samuel L. Jackson himself.
Overall, ‘The Disappeared, Part 1’ is plenty of fun, even if the mish-mash of influences can feel distracting…
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The Disappeared, Part 2 (2014)
Season 6, Episode 9. Written by Jonathan W. Rinzler, directed by Bosco Ng.
“Wisdom is born in fools as well as wise men.”
With the ancient Frangawl cult exposed on Bardotta, Queen Julia has been taken off-world by her kidnappers. To add to the pressure, Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu are informed that if the monarch is not recovered within three rotations, a sinister prophecy will be fulfilled leading to dark times for the planet. Now the intrepid pair have to cut through the superstition and discover who, or what, is really responsible for the disappearances…
And so with no time to waste, the action moves to the moon Zardossa Stix. The cult are shown to be hoarding stolen Force essence in a single sphere at the behest of the one and only Mother Talzin. Of all the souls drained on Bardotta, the Dathomirian witch knows that the most valuable is that of Julia, and plans to perform the final ritual herself as she arrives to claim her prize.
What’s more interesting is Talzin’s on-camera description (because who’d be a baddie and resist the temptation to fiendishly explain their plot?) that she is not a Force-wielder in the style of the Jedi or Sith, but rather uses dark magic to harness its power instead. Series creator Dave Filoni had previously stated this in interviews, but here we have in-universe evidence that outright magic exists in the galaxy Far, Far Away.
Before all of this of course, we’re treated to kidnappers being chased through a market town in the middle of a desert, a nod this time to Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The action on Zardossa Stix takes place at night, all the more atmospheric for the final showdown. The downside of this is that even with a clear, starry sky, the whole episode feels claustrophobic – but on a technical level suggesting that the darkness is being used to save the work of rendering more detail into the backgrounds and landscapes.
The adventure culminates with a last-minute rescue at another altar of sacrifice, and the outstanding (albeit frustratingly short) duel between Mace Windu and Mother Talzin. Although Jar Jar Binks steps up to the plate and proves his worth, it still feels as if the episode ends by default, rather than any truly satisfying resolution.
‘The Disappeared’ has many points in its favour as a story arc, yet still feels cramped and unpolished in both writing and execution. And while it’s arguable that Jar Jar’s character can make do with filler material, the same can hardly be said of Mace.
Join us next time as longstanding questions are answered, even more are asked and the The Clone Wars come to an end. Well, sort of…