Episode 102: “Droids in Distress”
[photos: Disney XD]
As is becoming an early running theme for the series, we start off with the Ghost being pursued by a Star Destroyer (the third time it’s happened in as many episodes/shorts). And true to form, they make it away with their skins intact, but they don’t make it away with the loot. So the rebels take a new job from Vizago (the black market smuggler introduced last episode) to make some cash, stealing weapons from the Galactic Empire (you know, just like they did last episode).
Our rebels head to a nearby spaceport to intercept an Imperial shuttle carrying an Aqualish arms dealer named Amda Wabo (for Aqualish, think Walrus Man/Ponda Baba from Episode IV) and his escort, Imperial minister Maketh Tua.
Also on the flight are two droids we’ve come to know and love, the Laurel and Hardy of the robotic set, the Shaggy and Scooby of cybernetics, C-3PO and R2-D2. Both have been sent on a mission to re-capture the weapons for their “master”, with C-3PO acting as interpreter for Amda Wabo. The rebels connive to have all the droids, including Chopper, put into the cargo hold. That creates the opportunity for one of the rebels to act as “interpreter” and misdirect the Imperial forces to the wrong hangar bay at Garell, the shuttle’s destination.
Turns out the weapons they are stealing are T-7 ion disruptors, the same weapons that were used to virtually annihilate Zeb’s race, the Lasat. The rebels fight their way off Garell with the weapons and the droids.
Shortly after the rebels flee, the theft draws Agent Kallus’ attention. Conveniently for Kallus, C-3PO’s staggering cowardice causes him to call for help, thus notifying the Empire of the rebels’ location. Back at “Tarkintown”, the weapons are too hot for Vizago to handle and he leaves them with the rebels as Imperial forces approach.
The rebels prepare to destroy the weapons, as Kallus and his forces move in. He calls out Zeb while wielding a Lasan bo-rifle, a blaster/bo-staff combo weapon used only by the now-defunct (possibly extinct) Lasan Honor Guard. Zeb also wields a bo-rifle, and the two have it.
Kallus gains the upper hand and prepares to deliver the killing blow, but Ezra uses the Force to throw Kallus out of range. Again, sans loot, the rebels flee (once more…with feeling!). They return C-3PO and R2-D2 to their master, Bail Organa, and are paid a finder’s fee for their trouble as Organa reviews the information about the rebels that R2-D2 recorded.
The focus this week is the history of Zeb and what happened to his people. While he is not the last Lasat, he is certainly one of the few still around. There isn’t a whole lot of depth or any great detail to his story. Given the show is only 23 minutes long (and it’s geared towards children), it’s hard to imagine we’re going to get more than that when it comes to any of the origin stories of our heroes.
Two episodes in, and the plot feels very derivative. In fact, it feels more like Firefly by the minute. The archetypes are there – Zeb is Jayne, Kanan is Mal, Hera is Zoe/Wash, etc. It could also be compared easily to shows like Cowboy Bebop, which also had a similar plot structure and format – the episodic “we’re broke so let’s go take a job” grind.
In addition to that, it all feels very safe. I hope that it moves beyond the “heist of the week” format and raises the stakes. That is one of the great things about its immediate predecessor, Star Wars: The Clone Wars – there were real stakes involved, and characters were in real peril. Clone troopers could die. Jedi could die. The Republic could lose, perhaps catastrophically. You never knew quite what you were going to get other than a few gimmes (i.e., Anakin would survive the Clone Wars because he needed to become Darth Vader, Palpatine becoming Emperor, and so forth).
I’m not saying we need more of the brooding “will he/won’t he go to the Dark Side?” narrative that has driven most of the previous Star Wars entries. Just something more substantial leading up to A New Hope than “hey, let’s go steal some more weapons, gang!”
And we have to suspend some disbelief here as the rebels, a visually memorable group of individuals, continue to fail to garner closer attention for their exploits. I mean, who forgets the girl in pink Mandalorian armor next to the big purple guy who are always around when weapons get stolen? Apparently, the Galactic Empire, that’s who.
Nitpick #3 (last one, I swear): the Aqualish have tusks, not flabby bags on their faces covering their mouths. Amda Wabo’s “tusks” appear to be pliable and inflatable, depending on his mood.
Regardless of feeling safe and slightly contrived, the show has energy. No one can deny it doesn’t get where it’s going at a high rate of speed, with well-staged action sequences. We also get an amusing fight between R2-D2 and the Anti-D2, Chopper. We also get the AT-DP walker in its first media appearance.
It’s all about reprising roles this week! Guest voices this episode obviously lead off with Anthony Daniels as C-3PO (who else?). Next, we have Phil Lamarr reprising his role as Bail Organa, which he previously voiced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Finally, Paul Reubens, better known as Pee Wee Herman, is here as shuttle droid RX-24, a role he is reprising from the Star Tours ride at various Disney parks (RX-24 is no longer the “pilot” on the revamped version of the Star Tours ride opened in 2011, having been replaced by C-3PO).
Another fun tidbit – Sienar Fleet Systems is the company that manufactures TIE fighters in the Stars Wars Universe. A static webpage has been created for them at www.sienarfleetsystems.com, and it’s tagged with Sabine’s graffiti.
And remember, the encore showing of “Spark of Rebellion” on ABC October 26th will feature an additional bonus scene that will include the vocal stylings of none other than James Earl Jones reprising his role as Darth Vader.
Woodchuck sez, “Check it out.”