Adventures in Star Wars – Episode 1: A New Version

So I’ve had Star Wars on the brain quite a bit lately (too much SWTOR probably), so I might as well do something about that.

Originally this first bit was going to be a video, but I’d rather not have my email inundated with content claims, and quite frankly Disney’s lawyers scare me.  So you’re getting an article instead.

We’re starting things off with the movie that got the whole ball rolling in the first place, Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope.  Specifically, we’re going to be taking a look at the changes made to the movie for the “Special Editions” that came out in the late ninties and early aughts.  I have watched both the Special Edition and the original Theatrical Release of Episode 4 (please don’t ask how I got the original version, let’s just say that it’s available if you know where to look.), with an eye towards seeing if the changes made by Lucas to the original alter the movie in any meaningful way.  And they do.  Sort of.

Fans of the franchise have claimed that the Special Editions are simply a blatant cash grab by Lucas and the changes made alter the movie beyond recognition.  I have my own theory as to why Lucas made the changes that he did, but we’ll get to that later.  But are the changes so bad that A New Hope actually becomes a mediocre, or even a bad movie?  Not really.

But before we dive into the changes and why they do or don’t work, a little background on my own history with the franchise.

I watched the movies when I was a kid, of course; Star Wars is an American cultural touchstone after all, but I was never as emotionally invested in them as I was in other things.   So I’m a bit of an outsider in terms of perspective, which means I’m going to be looking at things as objectively as possible.

Deep Background

Most of the changes made to A New Hope are simply background things. Animals added in the background of certain shots, the formerly rotoscoped blaster shots and lightsaber blades replaced with CGI versions, that sort of thing.  For the most part these are unobtrusive changes, they’re just there in the background to liven things up a bit.  However, they can be a bit distracting in some places, but those bits are brief and don’t really harm the flow of the film.  The biggest problem is that the CGI used to make them has not aged well.  Mind you, it was state of the art back in 1999, but film effects have moved forward by leaps and bounds since then (partially thanks to Lucas’ own ILM effects company) and a lot of older CGI just doesn’t hold up.

And this is where my theory about why Lucas made these changes in the first place comes in.  You see, ILM was doing some amazing stuff back in the late ninties, and I would be willing to bet that Lucas looked at all that and said to himself: “Wow!  Just look at all the things ILM can do now!  If I could remake Star Wars with all this new technology, it would be so much better!”  And that’s exactly what he did.

Now, this theory doesn’t excuse Lucas’ alterations, but it does explain why he decided to alter the film so dramatically.  Of course, not all the changes made were simply background stuff and cleaning up things that were a little muddy in the original.  There were two changes made that significantly alter one character in particular.

Han Shot First

Sometimes in the moviemaking process, sacrifices will have to be made.  Certain scenes will end up on the cutting room floor, either for budgetary reasons or time reasons, or simply because the scene just isn’t working.  In the case of A New Hope, the scene in question is one between Han and Jabba the Hutt.  Originally, a live actor played Jabba, but the scene didn’t work as Lucas wanted and it was cut.  In it’s place was put a scene between Han and a bounty hunter who worked for Jabba.  Fast forward to the Special Editions and two key changes were made.  One, the previously cut scene was added back in (with the addition of a CGI Jabba to replace the live actor) and the second was a slight alteration to the scene between Han and the bounty hunter.  We’ll deal with the latter first.

The scene in the Cantina gives us a lot of information about Han’s character without infodumping everything about him.  We learn that Han owes money to a local gangster after he had to dump some cargo when he got boarded by some Imperials.  We also learn that Han is not to be taken lightly, he is more than willing to kill in order to keep himself safe.  That last part is changed in the Special Editions when the bounty hunter shoots first thus giving Han a reason to kill him.  He didn’t need a reason before, why does he need one now?  Also, as a side note; Apparently Jabba puts his bounty hunters through the same marksmanship training that the Stormtroopers get.

As for the scene between Han and Jabba, it’s redundant.  There is no reason for it to be there since all it does is give us information that we heard not two minutes ago in the cantina.  It doesn’t really kill the pacing of the film, as the scene is rather brief, but it does slow it down unnecessarily.  I can only think that someone thought that the phrase “With Never Before Seen Footage!” would look good on the posters.

In Conclusion (or TL;DR)

Now then, to the question at hand.  Do the changes and additions to A New Hope significantly alter the film.  Not really, no.  With the exception of the two Han scenes previously mentioned, the changes made do not alter either the plot or our understanding of the characters and their motivations.  However, I can understand why longtime fans were upset by the changes.  When something you love is altered like this, at best you can walk out feeling disappointed; at worst you can walk out feeling betrayed and insulted.

All that said, I think that the movie still holds up quite well.  At it’s heart, Star Wars is a simple hero’s journey tale told well, and that’s what has kept the franchise alive after forty years.


Doctor Who: Hell Bent First Impressions

Ok, but seriously though, WHO WAS THE HYBRID?

  • A Random Diner Appears: Hmm, this seems familiar.
  • A Random Shed Appears: Speaking of familiar…
  • What’s He Doing?: I’m starting to wonder if even the writers know what he’s doing at this point.
  • Changing Faces: I see Rassilon has moved on from his Timothy Dalton phase to his Grumpy Old Man phase.  Not much of an improvement really.
  • “Get Off My Planet”: The Doctor is pissed.  I wouldn’t push him if I were you Rassilon.
  • Extraction Plan: Ah, so that’s what he was doing.  I think this may turn out to be a bad idea.
  • Back to Normal: And we’re one step closer to getting a female Doctor.  I, for one, am okay with that.
  • Into the Matrix: Good, creepy stuff.  That said, I really think the Time Lords need to clean up their database.
  • “Why Would You Do That?”: Put simply Clara, the Doctor in the new series seems to be a bit of a masochist.  He really does seem to like hurting himself.
  • Back to the Beginning: Nice to see the classic console room make a comeback.
  • Answerable to No One: Ah, I see The Time Lord Victorious has made a comeback as well.
  • At the End of Everything: And Me is there, just hanging out.
  • *Looks at the Top of the Article*: No but, was the Hybrid Me?  Was it Clara?  Was it the Doctor?  GIVE ME A CLEAR ANSWER SHOW!
  • Forgetting Again: Somewhere there’s a Donna Noble fan grumbling about “just desserts”.
  • Remembering Amy: Nice little callback there, I was wondering when he would notice.
  • The Diner at the End of the Universe: Oh, the fic that is going to come out of those two gadding about together.
  • Return of the Sonic Screwdriver: I was wondering how long those glasses would last.

And that’s it until the Christmas Special.  I have to say, I was very pleased to see the writing improve for this series.  It wasn’t always perfect, mind you, but it was much better than the writing for series 8.

And next time…the return of *heavy sigh* River Song.  Yay.

Doctor Who: Heaven Sent First Impressions

You’ve heard of Doctor Light episodes?  Get ready for a Doctor Only episode!

  • Carry That Load: I always knew that Capaldi was good; it’s just that last season, the writing didn’t come up to Capaldi’s level.  I’m glad to see that the writing for this season is considerably better.
  • Who’s Stalking Who?: Clearly the Doctor is the stalkee in this situation and not the stalker.
  • Be Nice to Doors: You can unlock a door by being nice to it?  Who knew!
  • Stealing the Doctor’s Nightmares: Considering some of the things that the Doctor has faced over the years, that might not be a good idea.
  • Nothing Without an Audience: I find it interesting that the Doctor keeps talking to Clara throughout this episode, I know the loss is still fresh for him, but it makes me wonder if he isn’t a bit scared to be alone.
  • “Must be Christmas”: Only the Doctor would find being trapped inside your own personal torture chamber intellectually stimulating.
  • Gold Score: If you listen carefully to the score for this episode, you’ll find that it not only echoes Classical works quite a bit, but also some of the show’s history as well.
  • Dig It: I don’t think that it’s coincidental that that hole looks quite a bit like a grave.
  • Confession Time: You know, to a thoughtful person; that might be a clue.
  • Lines in the Sand: At first I thought that might be referring to the raven that got Clara.  Boy was I wrong.
  • One Last Confession: Clearly the Doctor knows something about this “hybrid” thing.
  • “Get up off your arse”: Sometimes, all the Doctor needs is a little kick in the pants.
  • How Many Times?: Man, that was painful to watch.
  • Pecking at Mountains: I figured out what the Doctor was doing about half-way through that sequence.  What can I say?  I’m slow.
  • Homecoming: Well, he found Gallifrey.

Overall, this was an interesting episode.  There were some points that could’ve used a little clarification, but it was still a very interesting episode to watch.

Next week is the season finale so we’ll just have to wait and see just how the Doctor screws up Gallifrey this time.

Doctor Who: Face the Raven First Impressions

Who lives?  Who dies?  Who tells your story?  Sorry.

  • He Just Woke Up With It: That had to be one hell of a day there Rigsby.
  • Distracted by New Humans: So I’m guessing that the Doctor learned to speak Baby on purpose?
  • No Nice Way: Hmm, good point.
  • Trap Street: You know, given what happens in this episode, you could say that the term “Trap Street” has a double meaning…
  • Look Who’s Back: Huh, somehow I don’t think this is a good thing.
  • Guarantee of Safety: Not buying it.
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: Yeah, the Doctor doesn’t really make it as a “Good Cop”.
  • Passing It On: Clara, NO!  Dammit, she did it anyway.
  • Someone Call the Doctor: *Sigh* What’s Ashildr up to now?
  • Looking Back: I’m guessing that Anna did that to keep people from exploiting her daughter’s gift.  Like Mayor Me perhaps?
  • Just As Planned?: My guess is that Ashildr didn’t plan on Clara being that stupid (or brave depending on your point of view).
  • Bad at Being Alone: Noticed that.  I’m glad someone finally pointed it out to him though.
  • “Stay With Me”: You know, all season I’ve had the feeling that the Doctor loved Clara.  Not necessarily in a romantic way, but he certainly has feelings for her.  And boy howdy does it come out here.
  • “Let Me Be Brave”: Well, she was indeed brave at the end.

So Clara Oswald is gone.  Now all that remains is to see just how far the Doctor’s emotional fallout is going to spread.

Doctor Who: Sleep No More First Impressions

Shoutout to Mark Gatiss for giving me a totally new random thing to be afraid of.

  • Found Footage: You know, I actually kind of liked how they did this.  They managed to make the format add tension without resorting to the whole “shakey cam” method of hiding the monsters.
  • Stress Assessors: I would have thought that Gatiss would have gone all the way and made a joke at the end of the “stress assessors” thing.  Too on the nose maybe?
  • GRUNTS: Leave it to humans to find a way of actually genetically engineering a lower class of people.
  • Morpheus Machine: Crap, now I’ve got that song stuck in my head.
  • Pop Up Professor: Would that be the equivalent of hiding under the covers so the monsters won’t see you?
  • Even the Doctor Sleeps: This from the man who once said that sleep was for tortoises.
  • Mr. Sandman: You have to admit Doctor, Sandmen is a bit catchier than Dustmen.
  • Blind Man’s Bluff: It makes sense that the Sandmen are blind, that said, I don’t really like the design all that much.  I know they can’t all be winners, but I would like to think that they could have done a little better than “Clayface Melting”.
  • Where Are the Cameras?: I have to say, I didn’t like this particular plot twist.  It felt a little contrived to me.  I know that they had to explain how we could see things through Clara’s eyes, but really if they had dropped that necessity and left the whole thing as being filmed by the rescue team’s helmet cams, I think it would have made things a lot better.
  • Just As Planned: Now that’s how you end a creepy episode!

Aside from the design of the monsters and a little awkward plot-hole filling, this wasn’t a bad episode at all.  They seem to be going for the creep factor of late, and I (for one) like it.

Next week we get what seems to be a Doctor Who in Diagon Alley story, and was that Maisie Williams I heard in the preview?

Doctor Who: Inversion of the Zygons First Impressions

Talk about your wham episodes!

  • It Was All A Dream, Or Was It?: I have to say, I like that the show seems to be going back to what it always did best, scaring the crap out of the audience.
  • Camoflage: Somehow I don’t think that a Union Jack parachute is particularly subtle Doctor.
  • Taking Control, Piece by Piece: That’s the one thing I will say about Clara, she’s a fighter.
  • Alas, Poor Random Zygon: You know, I have to say that the whole “Make all the Zygons visible” plan seems kind of counterproductive.  It just feels like it would do more harm to her own people than it would help.
  • London…What a Dump: Better than New Jersey, amiright?
  • Personal Interrogation: This is interesting in terms of what it says about Clara, as much of a fighter as she is, she still knows that you can’t win if you’re dead.
  • Alas, Poor Random Zygon Part 2: Ok, so this brings up an interesting point.  It would seem that most of the Zygons on Earth just want to live in peace, it’s just this fringe group that’s causing the trouble, so again the whole plan seems kind of counterproductive if most of the people you’re trying to recruit end up resenting the control that you put them under for your own ends.
  • The Osgood Box: Ah-ha!  I have the feeling that this is all playing right into the Doctor’s hands.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Kate, you are your father’s daughter.  That’s a good thing by the way.
  • The Doctor’s Big Speech: Ok, so aside from the phenomenal performance that Capaldi turns in here; this makes so much sense character wise.  Think back to when this whole thing started, it was basically the worst day ever for the Doctor and he has to try and broker a peace while he’s busy mulling over killing off his entire race to stop a war, so what’s the one thing he’s going to do to make sure that these two races don’t go down the exact same path that he feels he’s being forced by circumstance to walk?  Well he certainly isn’t going to hand them the tools to ensure their own destruction for one thing, but he makes them think that he has, it’s the same idea that kept the Cold War from getting out of control; mutually assured destruction.  But he knows the truth, there’s nothing in those boxes, so they can’t really hurt each other; but hopefully just the knowledge that the boxes exist will bring them to the table to start talking; and if the Doctor hadn’t been able to persuade first Kate and then Bonnie to not push the buttons, the whole plan might have fallen apart and Bonnie probably would have killed all of them.  And then every other Human and Zygon on the planet.  It was a pretty big gamble, but it did pay off in the end.
  • What Does TARDIS Stand For?: He’s just making that up.  But for those of you who really don’t know, it stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.  And it was thought up by the First Doctor’s granddaughter (who was his first companion), Susan.
  • “Do You Want to Come?”: Dammit, so close to Osgood being a companion.
  • The Other Osgood: Hmm, I was wonder what was going to happen to Bonnie.

I think this might be the first satifying second part I’ve seen all season.  But so far, overall, this has been a very strong season.  And I’m grateful for that.

Next week is more scary stuff, which I approve of, this time with what looks to be a Found Footage twist.  Let’s hope they keep the camera steady for some of it.