It’s disappointing that Rangers of the New Republic has been axed

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian and the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

I’ve made no secret here on the website over the past couple of years that I’m not exactly thrilled with the direction of the Star Wars franchise. In the aftermath of the total narrative failure of The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm has doubled down hard on overplaying the nostalgia card in practically all of its upcoming projects.

There’s some kind of series or miniseries focusing on R2D2 and C-3PO in development. There’s a prequel to Rogue One focusing on Cassian Andor. There’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, which will bring back the classic character to look at his life in between the prequels and the original films. There’s The Book of Boba Fett, in which Boba Fett is inexplicably back from the dead. There’s Ahsoka, a spin-off from The Mandalorian focusing on a character from the animated shows.

Boba Fett is one of several minor characters returning to Star Wars.

All of these projects indicate to me that the higher-ups at Disney and Lucasfilm don’t really know how to handle the Star Wars franchise. They’re intent on looking backwards at Star Wars’ past, seeming to think that what the franchise was is all it can ever be in the future. The result is spin-offs from spin-offs, prequels to prequels, unimportant chapters being thrown under the microscope, and characters of decreasing importance thrust into the spotlight.

Though it was purported to be a spin-off from The Mandalorian, one of the few announced projects that seemed to have any semblance of originality was Rangers of the New Republic. The series was to have looked at the New Republic – the galactic government which was created by the Rebel Alliance following the events of Return of the Jedi – in far more detail than ever before. However, Rangers of the New Republic has now been cancelled.

Logo for Rangers of the New Republic.

The New Republic hasn’t been explored in much detail in Star Wars’ main canon, instead being relegated to a background role in both The Mandalorian and the sequel trilogy. In The Force Awakens, we see Starkiller Base deployed against the New Republic’s capital system, destroying its government institutions and much of its military. By the time of The Last Jedi, the First Order is said to be in control of much of the galaxy, and the New Republic isn’t mentioned thereafter.

The Mandalorian showed us a glimpse of the New Republic, including how it tries to police outlying star systems and enforce its laws – and how it’s relatively ineffective at doing so. There was potential to expand on this depiction, showing both the governmental side of the New Republic, hampered by legislative inefficiencies, as well as the actual Rangers themselves.

A New Republic pilot seen in The Mandalorian.

A lot of Star Wars projects currently in production look at morally ambiguous characters. The Mandalorian focuses on a bounty hunter – someone who primarily operates outside of the law, albeit that he has a heart of gold underneath his armour. The Book of Boba Fett will focus on another Mandalorian bounty hunter, and if it stays true to its premise will show us Star Wars’ seedy underworld in more detail.

Andor will follow Cassian Andor – a character whose moral ambiguity was on full display in Rogue One, and who will do anything to advance the Rebels’ cause. Ahsoka is going to follow the titular Ahsoka Tano, an ex-Jedi who appears to be off doing her own thing rather than helping Luke Skywalker and the Rebels. The only series following an out-and-out hero – or one of the unambiguously “good guys” – is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Cassian Andor will be the focus of a new Disney+ series.

Rangers of the New Republic had the potential to show us a different side of Star Wars – arguably one closer thematically to the original films, yet still distinct and independent of them. While other shows would look at the underworld of the galaxy, at criminals, or at spies who’ll do anything for their cause, Rangers of the New Republic could’ve been a breath of fresh air. The series could’ve presented an optimistic cast of characters who were genuinely trying to help the new government succeed.

Characters who are too pure and excessively virtuous can be boring, and that would’ve been a pitfall that Rangers of the New Republic would’ve needed to avoid. But had the show managed to walk that line, we might’ve seen something a bit different from Star Wars’ other current and upcoming offerings: a show that would’ve happily looked at the “good guys” as they tried to shore up the New Republic and tackled everything from criminals to ex-Imperial officers.

Emblem of the New Republic.

In part, the decision to cancel Rangers of the New Republic is probably tied to the situation with Cara Dune actress Gina Carano. Though it was never officially stated that the show would star Carano, many fans and commentators assumed that she would have a significant role to play, so following her dismissal from Lucasfilm in the aftermath of some very stupid social media posts, perhaps the show was always living on borrowed time.

We won’t get into the Gina Carano situation here. Suffice to say that anyone with any kind of profile needs to be incredibly careful what they say on social media, and she wasn’t. She upset a lot of people, doubled down on some of her controversial remarks, and that ended up costing her a potential recurring gig with Lucasfilm. She only has herself to blame.

Gina Carano as Cara Dune in The Mandalorian Season 1.

I would argue, though, that Rangers of the New Republic didn’t need to be all about Cara Dune. We met a couple of New Republic characters in The Mandalorian, and they could’ve served as a gateway into the show, keeping it connected to The Mandalorian and potentially building up to a crossover event with one or more of the other shows that were in production at the same time.

There was potential in Rangers of the New Republic. Not only was it a series that could’ve been something different from the likes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett by looking at the post-Return of the Jedi government, but it was also a series that could’ve left familiar characters behind to strike out on its own. All of the other Star Wars projects currently in production have this kind of backwards-looking, nostalgia-heavy focus, and Rangers of the New Republic was one of the few offerings that had the potential to be something a little different. As Star Wars continues to double down on nostalgic throwbacks, I fear we’ll come to regret the cancellation of Rangers of the New Republic.

The Star Wars franchise – including all films and series mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Book of Boba Fett: Thoughts, hopes, and expectations

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars franchise, including The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2 and Return of the Jedi.

“Mixed feelings” might be the best phrase to describe my attitude toward the upcoming Disney+ Star Wars series The Book of Boba Fett. I have no doubt that the series will do a lot of things well, from visual effects to exciting action sequences. But if you recall my criticisms from 2020 when it was first rumoured that Boba Fett might be included in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the bare premise of the series is enough to leave me underwhelmed.

Let’s be blunt for a moment. Boba Fett was a dull character whose entire popularity in the early 1980s came from his unique-looking armour. This led to sales of action figures, models, and dolls – and an oversized, undue gravitas given to a minor, one-dimensional foil for Han Solo. Boba Fett does have a unique, cool look, I won’t deny that. But his role in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was minor, and his death in the latter film was a fittingly unspectacular end for an unspectacular character.

Boba Fett’s popularity stems from toys and action figures. By the way, does anyone else really dislike Pop Vinyl/Funko Pop? I just can’t get on board with the design of practically any of their figures…

However, Boba Fett’s popularity endured over the years, helped in no small part by his character being fleshed out in a fan-fictiony way by writers of the old Expanded Universe books and comics. So by the time of the prequels, George Lucas and others involved in the production of those films clearly felt an obligation to include backstory for him as well.

I don’t hate Boba Fett, but when I watched the Star Wars trilogy for the first time I just didn’t get the hype. Why was this character so remarkable considering he did one thing – captured Han Solo – then died in a pretty stupid way when his jetpack misfired? And he didn’t even capture Han Solo himself, he had to enlist the help of Darth Vader and a whole legion of Stormtroopers. In short: cool-looking armour, but that’s about as much as I can say about Boba Fett in his original incarnation.

Boba Fett’s first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back.

However, The Book of Boba Fett isn’t following the character as he appeared in the original films. As I noted in my review of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the character introduced to us as “Boba Fett” feels a long, long way removed from the bounty hunter we met in The Empire Strikes Back. His entire demeanour was so radically different that I said in my review that the two characters feel entirely separate. The plot of The Mandalorian Season 2 wouldn’t have been any different had that character been given a different name and Boba Fett never been mentioned.

One thing I will credit The Mandalorian’s Boba Fett with is that I felt the character got a more nuanced portrayal than he ever did in the films. There was a sense that this man was a weary veteran, ready to hang up the armour and live a quiet life somewhere. He’d fought all the battles he wanted to fight and was ready to try something new – at least until we saw him in the final moments of the season seemingly intent on seizing control of Tatooine’s underworld.

Boba Fett as he initially appeared in The Mandalorian Season 2.

Just like The Rise of Skywalker had done before it with Palpatine, The Mandalorian Season 2 completely ignored what has to be the most important point about Boba Fett: how on earth is he still alive? If the new series can find a way to pull an answer to that question out of its backside that even makes a degree of sense, it’ll have made progress. And I think that’s my biggest single request when it comes to the storyline of The Book of Boba Fett: find some way to give us a plausible explanation for the main character’s survival.

Remember that Boba Fett fell into the gaping mouth of a giant monster in the Tatooine desert. The Sarlaac monster in the Pit of Carkoon was presented as a truly awful torturous death, supposedly taking a long time in its inescapable digestive tract. Jabba the Hutt was said to favour this method of execution, and planned to execute Luke Skywalker and Han Solo there in Return of the Jedi. Boba Fett fell into the monster’s mouth, and that seemed to be a very definitive end for him!

How did Boba Fett survive? Finding a plausible answer is key to the show’s success.

One aspect of the story of The Mandalorian Season 2 has potentially complicated any story of Boba’s escape. The fact that his armour had been lost on Tatooine, recovered by Jawas and later sold to Cobb Vanth clearly indicates that Boba didn’t simply blast his way out of the creature as soon as the battle on Jabba’s barge was over. Because he fell into the pit wearing his armour – and thus carrying at least some of his weapons – the show might’ve been able to argue that he didn’t die and simply shot his way out. But if so, he’d have kept his armour.

So the question of his survival remains, and in the aftermath of just how poorly the awful line “somehow Palpatine returned” went down in The Rise of Skywalker, I can’t imagine that The Book of Boba Fett would try to ignore this point. Even if all we get are a few lines of dialogue saying that he climbed out and was saved by roaming scavengers or Chewbacca’s great-aunt, I think we need some kind of closure before we can take seriously the fact that Boba Fett is back.

Boba Fett, moments before dying like a chump.

Then we come to the premise of the series itself, and this is perhaps what I’m most interested in. One of my biggest disappointments when it came to The Mandalorian was that the show’s basic premise remains unfulfilled despite sounding incredibly promising. I wanted to see “the adventures of a gunslinger away from the reach of the New Republic,” but instead the show brought Baby Yoda, the Force, the Empire, and even Luke Skywalker into play in a story that increasingly felt like Return of the Jedi II as Season 2 wore on.

The Book of Boba Fett promises us the following: “Legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand navigating the galaxy’s underworld when they return to the sands of Tatooine to stake their claim on the territory once ruled by Jabba the Hutt and his crime syndicate.”

Though I stand by my criticisms of the Star Wars franchise making desperate nostalgia plays for characters and settings from the original films, that premise doesn’t sound half bad. Though I don’t want to get my hopes up too high after being burned by The Mandalorian, maybe we can finally get a look at the Star Wars galaxy away from the Force and the Skywalker family.

Hopefully The Book of Boba Fett won’t be repeating scenes like this one…

Boba’s survival after falling into the Pit of Carkoon risks coming across as cheap, fan-servicey, and just plain dumb. But if the show can find some way to navigate that sizeable pitfall (pun intended), then Boba Fett could actually prove to be an interesting point-of-view character for exploring the darker side of the Star Wars galaxy.

As an ex-bounty hunter, Boba Fett used to inhabit this seedy underworld that the show’s official description is teasing us with. But as someone who’s been out of action for almost a decade at this point, things have moved on in his absence. The biggest change, most likely, is the fall of the Empire. Without the Empire to crack down on criminals, and with the New Republic taking a different approach, it’s possible that the criminal underworld has grown since Return of the Jedi.

What will the criminal underworld be like after the fall of the Empire?

Boba Fett will have to navigate a changed world, and that offers up a lot of potential for exposition and explanation to be dropped into the series in a way that makes sense. There’s a high probability of learning more about the Star Wars galaxy – and particularly its criminal side – than we ever have before. That idea is definitely an interesting one, and though I wouldn’t personally have chosen to bring Boba Fett back from the dead in order to tell this kind of story, as a concept it’s hard to fault.

As a character, Boba Fett is perhaps open to further exploration. As I noted above, in his original appearances he was fairly one-dimensional, and his role in The Mandalorian Season 2 came with a degree of mystery to it. There’s scope to learn more about Boba Fett the man: who is the person underneath the armour? What drives him? What are his ambitions now that he’s got his armour back and taken over Jabba’s former throne? All of these things could potentially lead to interesting moments of characterisation, and as a concept the idea of an anti-hero or a villain with a heart and understandable motivations can work exceptionally well.

Din Djarin with Boba Fett in The Mandalorian Season 2.

All of this could come to pass if the show stays true to its premise! And this is where my concerns kick in. As Boba Fett’s return proves in and of itself, the Star Wars franchise is completely and utterly dependant on its original films and the characters and concepts that were present there. The Mandalorian brought us Baby Yoda, the Force, Ahsoka, the Empire, and Luke Skywalker in its first two seasons – along with dozens of other throwbacks to Star Wars’ past. Some of these elements came close to working, but overall they drowned out any originality the series could’ve had. I fear that The Book of Boba Fett will meet a similar fate.

There are all manner of ways this could happen. Off the top of my head, here are a few: Boba Fett comes into conflict with Luke Skywalker and his new Jedi Order somehow, perhaps even seeking revenge for his encounter with the Sarlacc. Maybe Han Solo will be a target of Boba Fett’s over the course of the show, again looking for revenge. Some other Jedi could emerge, perhaps a character from the prequels or one of the kids’ shows. Boba Fett could encounter Jedi or Sith artefacts, which would bring the Force into the series. And so on. There are many ways that we could see the show fall back on these nostalgia plays and fail to live up to its potential.

Promotional poster for The Book of Boba Fett.

I’d love for The Book of Boba Fett to have more to offer than nostalgic throwbacks, good visual effects, and well-constructed moments of action and excitement. Whether it will or not… well, the jury’s still out. I’m hopeful, but cautious.

The Book of Boba Fett exists in a strange space for me. I should feel more excitement for what is only the second ever live-action Star Wars television series, especially considering the huge budget afforded to shows made for Disney+ and the platform’s excellent track record with visual effects. Star Wars has literally never looked better in terms of visuals and special effects, and with the franchise taking a different turn to perhaps visit the seedier underworld in depth for the first time, there are things that pique my interest. I’m just having a hard time jumping on the hype train.

Despite that, I will do my utmost to give The Book of Boba Fett a fair shake. It will premiere on the 29th of December – right in the middle of Star Trek: Discovery’s imminent fourth season. I can’t promise I’ll have time to review every individual episode with so much else happening in December, but I’ll certainly share my thoughts on the series at some point, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for that. I’d love to be able to come back after the show’s first season and say that my fears and doubts were unfounded.

The Book of Boba Fett will premiere on Disney+ on the 29th of December 2021. The Star Wars franchise – including The Book of Boba Fett and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The Mandalorian – Season 2 review

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2, including the Season 2 finale and post-credits scene.

As Season 2 of The Mandalorian approached, I debated whether or not to review each episode as they were broadcast. However, with Star Trek: Discovery’s third season running at the same time I concluded that two large reviews every week would probably be too much to manage. So this is what you’re getting instead – the full season reviewed all at once… seven months later.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Mandalorian Season 1. Though the series did some things very well, there were – in my subjective opinion, of course – a number of missteps. The worst problem I felt the show had in its first season was the protagonist himself – who was without even a name until the season finale. A combination of factors left me unimpressed with Mandy: sparse dialogue, a monotone, unemotional delivery of the scant lines he did have, the full face helmet making it hard to read any emotion or get any sense of how the character was feeling, and a lack of clarity on his aims and motivations. Mandy felt as though he was doing things because a room full of television writers decided that’s what he was going to do, and when it came to massive life-altering decisions such as betraying his client and the bounty hunters’ guild to save Baby Yoda, there was practically nothing from the man himself to inform that decision. Crucial backstory that should have been communicated sooner was included in the season finale, but by then it was too late. Some stories work well that way – but for a number of reasons this one didn’t.

Oh, Mandy. You came and you gave without taking…
If you got that Barry Manilow reference then congratulations, you’re as old as I am!

The first season also left me underwhelmed by its short runtime. Eight episodes in total, most of which averaged around 30-35 minutes was not a lot to get stuck into; there are children’s shows that run longer than that. Several episodes felt poorly-paced as a result; rushed stories that would have benefitted enormously from simply a few extra minutes to allow events to unfold and better depict the passage of time.

Finally, I felt that Season 1 massively overused elements from Star Wars’ original trilogy to the point that it was drowning in nostalgia. The Rise of Skywalker fell into a similar trap, though that film had a far weaker story under the nostalgic veneer. Elements like the freezing in carbonite of Mandy’s bounties – something which had been presented in The Empire Strikes Back as a terrifyingly unique punishment for Han Solo – or the large amount of time spent with a Jawa sandcrawler all felt cheap and fan-servicey. And that’s before we get to Baby Yoda and the inclusion of the Force in a series billed as “the adventures of a gunslinger far from the reaches of the New Republic.” I hoped The Mandalorian could have left much of this behind and instead told a new, original story in the Star Wars universe, expanding that setting rather than overtreading the same ground.

Bounties frozen in carbonite.

So by the time the first season of The Mandalorian drew to a close I was, at best, underwhelmed. While I appreciated that the series had succeeded in bringing many fans back into the franchise after they’d been left disappointed by the sequel trilogy, on a personal level I was unimpressed with what the show had offered. In between Seasons 1 and 2 came the announcement that Boba Fett would be joining the show in its second season, and as I wrote at the time that news was breaking, I felt it was another backwards step for the show and for Star Wars in general.

Though I did consider reviewing each episode for the website, when I ruled that out for practical reasons I then very seriously debated whether or not to watch Season 2 at all. I don’t like to seek out things I don’t think I’ll enjoy, and having had a disappointing experience with Season 1, and been put off by some of the announcements in the run-up to Season 2, I gave consideration to skipping the show altogether. There are plenty of other things to watch, after all! But curiosity got the better of me, and even though I knew I wouldn’t be reviewing each episode one by one, I thought there was the possibility to talk about the season as a whole, or elements from it, here on the website. And as you can tell by the fact this article exists, I did eventually settle in to watch Season 2.

Baby Yoda.

Runtime was once again problematic. In a short season which consisted of only eight episodes, five were less than forty minutes long, with two of those barely reaching the thirty-minute mark. For a flagship programme on a streaming platform, I find that incredibly difficult to excuse. Though the season premiere approached fifty minutes, none of the other episodes felt sufficiently long, and just as happened last season there were issues which arose from that. The entire runtime of The Mandalorian thus far – including titles and credits – stands at less than ten-and-a-half hours, which is simply not enough for two “full” seasons. It’s actually shorter than a single season of Star Trek: Discovery, and I can’t shake the feeling that Disney has stretched out a single season’s worth of plot over two seasons.

On the other hand, I do appreciate that Disney+ streams The Mandalorian in 4K resolution. It’s also available with HDR (high dynamic range) so there’s no denying that the show is visually beautiful. In addition, Disney+ has reached a far greater worldwide market than it had when the first season was rushed out the door in 2019, meaning that Star Wars’ considerable international fanbase was able to watch the series together. Both of these points are worth other companies taking note of – the Star Trek franchise in particular could learn from that!

Ah yes, the old “you thought he was dead” cliché…

The story of Season 2 is quite odd. Season 1 was, for the most part, a single story with a relatively clear line from point to point. Season 2 feels far more episodic; Mandy takes off on a variety of what can best be described as side-missions, with the long-term aim of reuniting Baby Yoda with his people. The Season 1 finale gave us crucial information about why Mandy wants to do this, and at least from that point of view the story doesn’t feel arbitrary in the way it did for much of last season. But it does certainly jump around a lot! Personally I like episodic television; I think it can be done very well. But The Mandalorian is a show with one overarching story, and several of these episode-long side-quests left the overall show feeling rather rudderless.

If these side-missions had felt important to the story, or perhaps if there had been fewer of them, I don’t think it would have become such a problem. But almost every episode felt like Mandy’s mission had slowed to a crawl as he got sidetracked by job after job. Instead of feeling like integral parts of a greater story, these side-missions became annoying – they got in the way of the main story. Though several of them were interesting enough in their own right, it was the way in which they were set up that caused the problem. It would have been possible to write the season in such a way as to make each of these stories feel like they were part of Mandy’s overall quest; instead they felt like obstacles to his mission and thus they came across as obstacles to the story the show wanted to tell.

Mandy with Bo-Katan on one of his many side-missions.

Modern Star Wars appears to find it impossible to step out of the shadow of its original films, and the greatest evidence of this in Season 2 of The Mandalorian came with the inclusion of Boba Fett. Just like Palpatine’s ham-fisted return dragged down the story of The Rise of Skywalker, Boba Fett inexplicably coming back from the dead likewise harms the story of The Mandalorian, and I don’t see a way around that. His role in the show was so different from the Boba Fett we met in The Empire Strikes Back that he may as well have been a different character, and the story of The Mandalorian Season 2 would have been absolutely no different if this character had been called Dennis or Engelbert Humperdinck.

But if I thought Boba Fett’s return was striking the wrong tone for the series, the season finale brought an even worse and far more desperate nostalgia play: the return of Luke Skywalker. There was, for a moment, something visually cool about seeing a Jedi cut through a squad of troopers with ease, but when this character was revealed to be Luke, whatever semblance of originality remained in The Mandalorian evaporated.

The Mandalorian was supposed to be a chance for Star Wars to step away from the Skywalker family.

Does every Star Wars project have to be about Luke Skywalker and the Jedi? Or maybe, one day, can Star Wars be more than that? A big part of the reason why both seasons of The Mandalorian have been so disappointing is that they took a premise that sounded genuinely appealing – “the adventures of a gunslinger far from the reaches of the New Republic” – and turned it into Return of the Jedi II. There is scope to see more of Luke’s adventures in between Return of the Jedi and the sequel trilogy… but I didn’t want that here.

At the risk of repeating myself, Star Wars feels stuck. It’s a franchise trapped by its original incarnation with producers, writers, and corporate leadership unwilling to step away from that and genuinely try something even slightly different. The return of Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett in Season 2 are symptomatic of this, but this problem doesn’t stop there. It extends to the sequel trilogy and to practically all of the recently-announced upcoming projects.

For the second time since 2019, the Star Wars franchise revived a dead character with no explanation.

At least Luke Skywalker, unlike Boba Fett and Palpatine, hadn’t been killed off. His appearance, while irritating, does make a certain kind of sense for the sake of the story, and it’s not a complete non-sequitur in the way those other two characters’ returns were in their respective stories. Even with those caveats, though, I felt it was pretty weak for The Mandalorian to already be relying on Luke Skywalker as a story crutch.

The Star Wars galaxy is one of the best fantasy settings ever brought to life in the entertainment realm. It’s a setting that feels vast and genuinely lived-in in a way that many franchises can only dream of, yet the producers at Lucasfilm and their corporate masters in the Disney boardroom seem dead set on only ever letting us see the same tiny sliver of this potentially wonderful setting over and over and over and over again. The Mandalorian had a chance to do something different, to take Star Wars to new places both literally and thematically. Its retreat to the safe ground of the original trilogy and the warm embrace of Luke Skywalker feels utterly regressive.

Though I freely admit this was a well-staged, action-packed sequence, I maintain that the story didn’t need Luke Skywalker.

There were a couple of visual misses in Season 2, despite the production as a whole being pretty good in terms of CGI and special effects. A few of the practical models and puppets didn’t look quite as good as they had done in Season 1. I’m thinking of the newborn alien-lizard in episode 3 in particular, but there were several other examples of practical effects that didn’t make the cut. Perhaps that’s a consequence of shooting in 4K HDR and viewers having better screens!

The second visual miss is the character of Ahsoka Tano. Though I haven’t seen the animated children’s shows The Clone Wars and Rebels in which Ahsoka Tano was a main character, when she made her live-action debut there was something off about the way she looked, and it took me a moment to figure out what it was. Ahsoka is a Togruta, a species with head-tentacles. Others of this species, and other tentacle-headed species, have been seen in other Star Wars projects since the prequel era. In The Mandalorian, Ahsoka is depicted with her tentacles being a different colour to her face, and not only that but a weird kind of leather-tiara right at the point where the two skin tones meet. The effect of this made it look like she was wearing a weird hat instead of being an alien with a tentacle head, and it was pretty distracting at points!

See what I mean? It looks like she’s wearing a hat!

Now that we’ve talked about the bad, how about some good points? There must be some, right?

Although the numerous disconnected side-missions were distracting, I appreciated the fact that, unlike in the first season, I knew what Mandy’s overall objective was and why he was doing the things he did. Mandy himself showed a little more emotion than in Season 1, and combined with seeing him without his helmet a little more often, that made him start to feel like an actual person for the first time – not just a walking, heavily-armoured plot device.

The dark troopers were neat; I liked their vaguely Vader-inspired aesthetic combined with the fact that they’re droids – something which we could argue ties in thematically with the droid armies of the prequel era. They managed to feel genuinely threatening in a way that many Star Wars villains don’t, and perhaps something about their inhuman nature and red eyes contributed to that. Though the dark troopers didn’t get much screen time, I’m hopeful we’ll see more of them in future.

The dark troopers were intimidating adversaries that I hope we see more of in future Star Wars productions.

The Mandalorian has enjoyed well-designed sets and a wide variety of filming locations that made most of its planets and locales feel different from one another. The only planet which definitely felt like southern California was Tython – the planet with the Jedi “seeing stone.” Compared to the likes of Star Trek: Picard – which relied far too heavily on outdoor filming locations in southern California that all looked alike – this was a success, and shows what’s possible when a big streaming show has a suitably high budget.

Season 2 gave us the briefest of glimpses at the New Republic – the faction which aimed to replace the Empire in the years prior to the rise of the First Order. I would’ve liked to have seen more of the New Republic, but with Rangers of the New Republic in early production, and other spin-offs like The Book of Boba Fett also in the works, perhaps that’s something we’ll get more of in future.

Season 2 gave us a brief glimpse of the New Republic.

Perhaps the most interesting story reveal came in the form of how Moff Gideon wanted to use Baby Yoda. Baby Yoda’s blood or DNA was being used to create Force-sensitive clones, and some of those clones looked an awful lot like the sequel trilogy’s Supreme Leader Snoke. Though this remains officially unconfirmed, my theory is that the clones seen in the fourth episode are supposed to be Snoke.

Snoke, as we learned in one of the worst moments in The Rise of Skywalker, was a clone and a puppet of Palpatine, and The Mandalorian appeared to drop a hint as to how Snoke came into being. Despite that particular storyline going down like a lead balloon in the final act of the so-called Skywalker Saga, it was nevertheless interesting to see it expanded upon here, and it finally provided Moff Gideon with a logical motive for his Baby Yoda obsession.

Is this clone in a tank supposed to be Snoke? It looks that way to me!

Speaking of Moff Gideon, like Star Trek: Picard’s Narek before him, he appears to have vanished in the season finale. Captured by Mandy and his squad when they attacked his ship, Gideon eagerly awaited his liberation by the dark troopers before being knocked unconscious as Luke Skywalker was making his way to the bridge. And then… he dropped out of the story. Did he remain in captivity with Mandy? Did Bo-Katan and the other Mandalorians take him? Was he turned over to Cara and by extension the New Republic for interrogation? Did he escape in the chaos surrounding Luke’s arrival? We just don’t know, and his absence from the season’s closing moments was noteworthy for a story that otherwise did a reasonable job at wrapping things up.

Overall, I’d say that The Mandalorian Season 2 feels like it should’ve been the second half of Season 1. It completed the story that was left unfinished last time, and the short runtime of both seasons makes it feel like fans didn’t really get two full seasons’ worth of action and adventure for their money. There were some solid character moments – Mayfeld coming to terms with his Imperial past being one of the better ones. The season saw Mandy develop as a character – or rather, develop into a character for the first time, and having a protagonist to root for instead of an unemotional helmet-wearing slab of nothing was a transformation the series desperately needed.

Season 2 saw the show’s protagonist grow into a character with understandable motivations.

Despite some decent growth and a main story that was worth pursuing, the disjointed nature of the side-missions meant that the season as a whole seemed to drift. There was direction to its main story, but at the same time that took up basically two of the eight episodes, with the other six comprised largely of fluff; obstacles in Mandy’s way as he attempted to complete his quest.

Season 2 was better than Season 1, but had the two halves of the story been united in a single season instead of being split up like this, perhaps I would’ve come away from the show with a better overall impression. I’m still disappointed that the basic premise of The Mandalorian, which seemed so appealing in 2018-19, hasn’t been fulfilled, and that the show has been overwhelmed by a tidal wave of nostalgia plays.

To me, The Mandalorian will always represent the Star Wars franchise missing an open goal. There was a chance to step away from the Force, the Jedi, and the Skywalker family for the first time, to open up the vast, unexplored Star Wars galaxy and tell some genuinely different and interesting stories. Instead, the show retreated to the same comfortable, overtrodden ground as the films that spawned it, and as a result it’s so much less than it could have been.

The Mandalorian Season 2 is available to stream now on Disney+. The Star Wars franchise – including The Mandalorian and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of LucasFilm and the Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A willingness to change is the key difference between Star Trek and Star Wars in 2021

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following: The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2, The Rise of Skywalker, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard. Minor spoilers may be present for other iterations of both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises.

I’ve been working on my review of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, which was shown on Disney+ at the end of last year, and I found myself saying the same thing several times. I will (eventually) finish that review, but for now I wanted to take a step back and look at two of the biggest sci-fi/space fantasy franchises, and one crucial difference between them.

Whether it’s the prequel trilogy, sequel trilogy, spin-offs, or even the recently announced slate of upcoming projects, Star Wars is intent on sticking close to its roots. I’ve made this point before, but Star Wars as a whole has only ever told one real story – that of Palpatine, Anakin, Luke, and Rey. Every film and television series in Star Wars’ main canon either directly tells part of that story or is inextricably tied to it. The inclusion of Luke Skywalker and other legacy characters in The Mandalorian doubles down on this.

Luke Skywalker recently appeared in The Mandalorian.

In contrast, Star Trek has continually tried new and different things. The Next Generation took its timeline 80+ years into the future and left much of the franchise’s first incarnation behind. Deep Space Nine took the action away from starships to a space station. Enterprise was a prequel, but not one which told the early lives of any classic characters. The Kelvin films attempted to reboot Star Trek as a big screen popcorn blockbuster. Discovery took a serialised approach to its storytelling, and Picard picked up that format but used it to tell a very different type of story. Lower Decks is perhaps the biggest departure to date, branching out beyond sci-fi into the realm of animated comedy. Though there are common threads binding the franchise together, each project is one piece of a much larger whole, and the Star Trek galaxy feels – to me, at least – much more vast as a result.

Where Star Wars has told one overarching story, Star Trek has told hundreds, many of which are totally separate and distinct from one another. And that concept shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, both franchises are doubling down on what they do best: Star Wars is focusing on classic characters and looking inwards, Star Trek is expanding and trying new things.

Captain Burnham will take Star Trek: Discovery to new places.

That willingness to change, to explore totally different and unrelated aspects of its setting, is what sets Star Trek apart from Star Wars right now – and arguably is one of the big points of divergence going all the way back to the mid-1980s. It may also explain why so many fans are excited about The Mandalorian and even the dire Rise of Skywalker, while some Star Trek fans have never been interested in Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks.

Nostalgia is a big deal in entertainment, and while I would argue Star Wars has overplayed that particular card far too often, there’s no denying it has seen success with that formula. That’s why we’re seeing the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, the Ahsoka series, the Lando series, and even the Cassian Andor series all getting ready to debut on Disney+ in the next few years.

Star Wars continues to bring back characters, themes, and designs from its past.

Someone far cleverer than I am said something a while ago that really got me thinking. If a franchise – like Star Wars, in this case – relies so heavily on nostalgia to the point of never trying anything new, it won’t survive beyond its current generation of fans. Because bringing in new fans – the lifeblood of any franchise – is increasingly difficult when every project is designed exclusively with existing fans in mind. How can Star Wars survive when its current fanbase moves on if everything it does is fan service? What kind of appeal does the Obi-Wan Kenobi show have to someone new to Star Wars? Basically none.

With the exception of Star Trek: Picard, which did rely on the strength of its returning character, I think any Star Trek project has the potential to bring in new fans. Some shows and films are definitely enhanced by knowing more about Star Trek and its setting, but even in Discovery, where main character Michael Burnham is related to classic character Spock, there really wasn’t anything that required a lot of background knowledge.

Spock in Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek is not only trying new things, but the people in charge are conscious to allow each project to stand on its own two feet. They are parts of a greater whole – and while I have argued many times here on the website that Star Trek could do more to bind its ongoing series together, it’s still possible to watch one show and not the others without feeling like you’ve missed something important.

What we see are two very different approaches to storytelling. Both Star Trek and Star Wars were reborn in the mid-2010s out of a desire on the part of their parent companies to use nostalgia as a hook to bring in audiences. That should not be in dispute, and I don’t want to say that Star Trek somehow avoids the nostalgia trap. But where Star Wars really only has nostalgia going for it, Star Trek continues to branch out, using nostalgia as a base but not allowing it to overwhelm any project.

“Baby Yoda” is symbolic of Star Wars’ reliance on nostalgia in many ways.

Neither approach is “right” or “wrong;” such things are subjective. I don’t want to sound overly critical of Star Wars either, because despite my personal feelings, there’s no denying many of the creative decisions made are popular – even The Rise of Skywalker, which was eviscerated by critics, was well-received in some areas of the fandom. It just strikes me as interesting and noteworthy that these two major franchises are taking very different approaches to the way they construct their narratives.

Whether it’s the inclusion of Luke Skywalker himself, the aesthetic of practically everything in the show, or a storyline which returns the franchise to the Jedi and the Force, The Mandalorian oozes nostalgia from every orifice – and if that’s what fans want and will lap up, then that’s okay. It was too much for me, and I stand by what I said last year during the show’s first season: I was expecting to see “the adventures of a gunslinger far from the reaches of the New Republic;” a show which would take Star Wars away from some of those themes to new places. That was my preference – a personal preference, to be sure, and judging by the positive reaction not only to The Mandalorian but to spin-off announcements like the Obi-Wan Kenobi series (and the return of Darth Vader to that series) I’m in the minority.

Mandalorian armour (i.e. Boba Fett’s armour) seen in The Mandalorian.

Star Trek takes a different approach. Both Picard and Discovery in their most recent seasons moved the timeline forward, brought in new characters, and dealt with contemporary themes. There were touches of classic Star Trek in both shows, including in aesthetic elements like set design and costuming, but in both cases the franchise feels like it’s moving forward.

Costuming is an interesting point to consider, as it’s representative of where both franchises find themselves. As early as 2015’s The Force Awakens, Star Wars was stepping back, relying on Stormtrooper armour, First Order uniforms, and especially the costumes worn by Rey that were practically identical to those seen in the original films. This was continued in The Mandalorian, not only with the main character’s Boba Fett armour, but with the use of Original Trilogy Stormtrooper armour and costumes for many villains. In contrast, Star Trek took its main characters out of uniform entirely in Picard, and Discovery has introduced a whole new set of uniforms and a new combadge for the 32nd Century. Where Star Wars looks back to its heyday, Star Trek looks forward, incorporating some of its classic designs into wholly new variants.

Discovery’s new combadges (as seen in the opening titles).

What we see in these costuming choices is a reflection of where both franchises are narratively. Star Wars continues to look back at the only truly successful films the franchise has ever made: the Original Trilogy. Frightened of trying anything truly new and unwilling to leave that comfortable ground, it’s stuck. As I wrote once, the Original Trilogy has become a weight around the neck of modern Star Wars, as projects not only become constrained by those films, but continue to fail to live up to them.

Star Trek looks forward, tries new things, and embraces change. Not every new project will win huge support and be successful, but some will, and every project has the possibility to be a launchpad for others, taking the evolving franchise to completely different places.

The Original Trilogy is – in my opinion at least – holding Star Wars back.

It’s clear which approach I prefer, and that I’d like to see more innovation and change from Star Wars. Though I was certainly underwhelmed by some of the recent announcements made by Disney and LucasFilm, I’m hopeful that, despite being held back in many ways by an overreliance on nostalgia, some decent films and series may stumble out the door.

Each franchise could learn something from the other, though. Star Trek’s projects are split up, and while Discovery’s third season made an admirable effort to connect to Picard, that was not reciprocated. Lower Decks had many callbacks and references to ’90s Star Trek, but otherwise stands alone. The franchise could work harder to bind its different projects together, reminding audiences that they’re watching one piece of a greater whole.

The Qowat Milat, who debuted in Picard, later appeared in Discovery. But the franchise could do more to bring its projects together.

Star Wars could see how a successful sci-fi franchise doesn’t need to be constrained by its original incarnation, and that shaking things up can work. The Mandalorian felt to me as though it was retreating to Star Wars’ comfort zone, and while that move may be popular right now with the fandom, it doesn’t really provide a solid foundation for expansion in the way Star Trek’s shows and films have done.

At the end of the day, both franchises are testament to the power of nostalgia to bring fans back. But they undeniably take very different approaches to that. Star Wars is conscious to try to make everything feel like its first couple of films – to the point that it can be overwhelming. Star Trek certainly doesn’t overwhelm anyone with nostalgia – to the point that some recent projects have been criticised for feeling like they aren’t part of the franchise at all.

Whichever approach you ultimately feel works best, one thing is clear: neither franchise is disappearing any time soon! The first half of the 2020s -and hopefully beyond – will see several different projects from both Star Trek and Star Wars, and as a fan of both and of sci-fi and fantasy in general, that’s great news. Long may it continue!

The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. The Star Wars franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of LucasFilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

I really hope the Boba Fett rumour isn’t true…

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Season 1 of The Mandalorian, as well as minor spoilers for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.

The Disney+ series The Mandalorian was the first subject I wrote about here on the website after I founded it last year. Suffice to say I found the show disappointing and boring, and a lot of that disappointment stemmed from the fact that the show seemingly promised a new and different look at the Star Wars galaxy, but ended up bringing back overused tropes and sending the characters over already-trodden ground. I wanted something new, a look at the Star Wars galaxy away from the Force and familiar characters, but The Mandalorian’s producers at Disney didn’t have the confidence to make a series that stood on its own.

I spotted a rumour earlier today, which has apparently been doing the rounds over the last 24 hours or so, that Boba Fett will be included in The Mandalorian’s second season. And when I saw that I sighed with disappointment and said “really?”

Boba Fett, mere moments before his death in Return of the Jedi.

While it is unconfirmed at this stage and should be taken with a pinch of salt, this rumour has been picked up by a number of reputable news outlets and is at least credible. While I generally avoid rumours here, this is one that I wanted to tackle. The Mandalorian was disappointing to me personally, for the reasons I’ve already laid out. I also found Pedro Pascal’s protagonist impossible to get behind, as he was a blank slate – a helmet-wearing, seldom-speaking, monotone bag of nothing. With no personality came no motivation – why did he do any of the things he did, like turn on his client to save the child? The answer seemed to be “because a room full of TV show writers decided that’s what he was going to do.” There was also The Mandalorian’s runtime – for a flagship series, thirty-minute episodes is pretty pathetic. And when practically all of those episodes would have benefited greatly from a few extra scenes providing background, explanation, or even just to show the passage of time from one moment to the next, the show felt poorly-edited or that corners had been cut.

But the worst part was the introduction of the child – nicknamed “baby Yoda” by the internet. The revelation that the Mandalorian’s target was a child is not in itself an issue. In fact it’s a major driving force for the rest of the season’s plot. Nor is my issue with the idea that the child is a member of Yoda’s species. That’s a little unoriginal, but there were always going to be little callbacks to other aspects of the franchise present in The Mandalorian. What bugged me was that, inside of two episodes, the Force comes back into play. The Force. In a show that promised to take a look at the Star Wars galaxy away from the Jedi and Sith. The Mandalorian told us it was a show about a lone gunslinger far beyond the reach of the Republic, and that premise sounded amazing. The Jedi and Sith are a tiny minority of the denizens of the Star Wars galaxy, and seeing how the 99% live, far away from the Force, is something that appealed to me. That concept still does – but it isn’t what The Mandalorian delivered.

Recent Star Wars projects – practically all of them, in fact – have overplayed the nostalgia card. The Force Awakens and of course The Rise of Skywalker may seem the most egregious, but there’s also Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Darth Vader sequences in Rogue One. I named the latter my favourite film of the last decade, but those sequences detracted from it, at least for me.

I would have preferred to see Rogue One stand on its own without Darth Vader – the story was good enough.

The Mandalorian has the same issue. At a number of points in its short runtime it strayed across that invisible line which divides a nod and a wink to returning fans from boring unoriginality. The overuse of nostalgia, such as in the sequences with the Jawas and their sandcrawler and epitomised by the child being a Force-user, went a long way to spoiling the series for me. The return of Boba Fett would just be another example of how the show’s producers don’t trust any Star Wars story to succeed without the crutch of nostalgia.

I really do find that to be disappointing – and it’s apparent, too, that Disney has learnt nothing from the overwhelmingly negative response fans had to the overuse of nostalgia in The Rise of Skywalker if it really is their intention to bring Boba Fett into this series. The only reason why The Mandalorian Season 2 was something I was even considering watching was because I hoped that we might finally get to see some character development and to see Pedro Pascal shine, finally bringing the nameless, bland protagonist to life and giving him some colour. But the Mandalorian is, at best, a pale clone of Boba Fett – even down to the identical armour design – and standing him up alongside the original would not make for a good comparison.

The Mandalorian’s unnamed and boring protagonist.

Boba Fett was himself an uninteresting character in Star Wars – his expanded role, such as his cameo in the prequels, was due simply to the popularity of action figures and merchandise. But despite that, he’s an established character now, someone we’ve seen as a child and as an adult, and while fortunately his role in the franchise’s awful Expanded Universe has been erased, he will still stand up next to the nameless protagonist of The Mandalorian and draw positive comparisons.

The Star Wars franchise has never been able to successfully move on from its first three films. The prequels told the backstory of some of the characters in the originals. The sequels (two of them, anyway) just remade those same films. And of the two spin-offs, one was a prequel focusing solely on one of the main characters, and the other was also a prequel which led directly to the plot of the first film. There is scope within Star Wars to move away from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. But so far, no one has tried. Every major Star Wars project has relied excessively on its first three films. The characters, themes, and storylines have been rehashed so many times that at this point they really are flogging a dead horse. I long for some genuine originality in the Star Wars universe, and to see a project which finally steps out of the shadow of those three films. As wonderful as the original trilogy is, Star Wars should be able to be more than that.

The Knights of the Old Republic video games told a story that didn’t rely on the original Star Was films.

Knights of the Old Republic was a duology of Star Wars video games from 2003-04. These games are among my favourites, and are also among my favourite stories told in the Star Wars galaxy. Why? Because they’re original. They take an original premise and an original setting, ignoring the first three films entirely, and tell an exciting and engaging pair of related stories. Knights of the Old Republic is basically the only property from the old Expanded Universe worth reviving, largely because of its uniqueness and originality.

Why can’t The Mandalorian be as bold as that? Why do they feel the need to rely so heavily on what we’ve already seen, bringing the Force and Boba Fett into the show? The premise sounded so interesting and genuinely different, yet what we got was bland and dripping in cheap nostalgia. The return of Boba Fett – setting aside the dumb story point of reviving yet another dead character, which is a whole issue in itself – just stinks. It’s yet another example of the higher-ups at Disney not understanding Star Wars. There’s a whole galaxy to explore with trillions of inhabitants and perhaps thousands of years of history to dig into. Yet time and again, they drag the franchise back to the same handful of characters and the same overtrodden ground. I really hope this Boba Fett rumour turns out to be untrue.

The Star Wars franchise – including The Mandalorian – is the copyright of Disney and Lucasfilm. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A “Mandalorian” Hot Take

I can’t be the only one feeling underwhelmed by The Mandalorian now that we’re four episodes in, can I? All I see everywhere online is how great it is, but honestly I’ve been disappointed, frustrated, and outright bored by parts of this series so far.

Part of the problem is that when a show (or any entertainment product for that matter) disappoints or seems to have problems, other smaller problems become more apparent because I start looking at it with a more critical eye. This is the “snowball” or “piling on” phenomenon, and you see it frequently across media criticism, especially when something under-performs. It’s easy for further criticism to creep out of the woodwork, including of comparatively minor points that would not – on their own or in a better product – be worth noticing. Such is the point I have reached with The Mandalorian.

First, I’d like to step back to my biggest and most fundamental issue. The Mandalorian was advertised as “the story of a gunslinger far from the reaches of the New Republic”. To me, that setting sounded amazing. And it still does, because it suggests a strong break from everything we’ve seen before in the Star Wars galaxy. I was attracted to this series not because I wanted to see a Mandalorian/Boba Fett copycat, but because I was genuinely interested to see what the Star Wars galaxy looks like away from the Jedi, the Sith and the Force, and without the galaxy-ending threats of the Empire and Death Stars and Starkiller Base. And while we’ve got some glimpses of that, what happens two episodes in? We get the Force back in play.

Clearly the producers behind Star Wars don’t trust the franchise to survive without it, but that’s just so disappointing to me and I feel like it strays away from what the series promised. It takes the show away from being a Firefly-esque “space western”, and dumps it firmly back in the already-trodden ground of previous iterations of Star Wars.

The Mandalorian.

So that, for me at least, is the biggest problem with The Mandalorian and the fault upon which all others are built. But while a disappointing premise can undermine a series, it’s not the show’s only problem. I mentioned in the intro that at times I find the show to be boring. Any show lacking in dialogue can fall victim to this, but The Mandalorian faces a somewhat unique challenge in that its protagonist is in full armour and wearing a full face helmet at all times. Pedro Pascal is a great actor, but thus far he hasn’t been able to show that. With a combination of his face being concealed, the minimal dialogue, and the unemotional, monotone delivery of the scant lines he’s had, his character thus far is a complete bag of nothing. He could be literally anyone, his motivations are not understandable, and because of these things he’s become a protagonist in name only, a protagonist I can’t get behind and get invested in. Right now I’m honestly not bothered if he succeeds or fails, lives or dies. And four episodes into a ten-episode series, I need that as a viewer. We’ve elapsed almost half of the show’s runtime, and I don’t give a damn about the main man. In a show so centred around one character, this is a serious failing.

Not being able to see or hear the protagonist – heck, he doesn’t even have a name (and no it isn’t “Mando”) – is holding the show back narratively, too. Aside from the brief scene in the spacecraft (itself unnamed until episode four) there was no bonding between the protagonist and the child. He may have felt he owed the child a debt of sorts for aiding him against the CGI monster, but again, how are we supposed to tell that with no dialogue and no facial expressions? So when we get to episode three and the protagonist makes the monumental decision to turn on his client, there’s no buildup to that, no emotional investment; it’s like he makes the decision from nowhere and for no reason other than the writers deemed that that’s what he was going to do.

The best characters in fiction are the ones who feel like real people, and a big part of that is ensuring that a character’s core values, personality, and motivations are communicated to the audience. The Mandalorian has failed comprehensively in this regard. And that failure makes important story points and character decisions seem to come from nowhere – the decision to turn on his guild by helping the child being the most notable. Star Wars has a great variety of characters just in the eight Saga films and two spin-offs. Jyn Erso makes an amazing protagonist in Rogue One, and Luke, Han, and Leia also all feel like real people with real motivations and depth to them. So Star Wars can do great characters – its what the franchise was built upon. But here, there’s no characterisation, no depth, no exploration, no emotion, no nothing. Just actions and decisions dictated entirely by a writers’ room, and it shows.

Recent Star Wars projects have been beset by an overuse of nostalgia. Darth Vader’s appearance in Rogue One, while an exciting sequence, was pure fanservice and really didn’t do much to further the film or improve upon its story. The story could have – and I would argue should have – stood on its own without bringing him and his lightsaber into it. Much of The Force Awakens was, as has been pointed out so many times before by others, an homage to the original 1977 Star Wars to such an extent that it came very close to being a copy in places. And of course Solo was 100% a nostalgia play – an otherwise decent film that was hampered by being a prequel involving Original Trilogy characters. I get it though, nostalgia sells and after all, nostalgia is what convinced Disney to buy Lucasfilm and bring back Star Wars in the first place. And it’s far from the only franchise to be reborn in the 2010s as a safer bet for audiences. But there is a line somewhere, a line which divides an “easter egg” or reference for returning fans from a lack of original ideas. The Mandalorian has, on occasions, crossed that line for me. The Jawas and the Sandcrawler are one example, as is the freezing (presumably in carbonite) of the protagonist’s bounties. Little things like OT Stormtrooper armour are great, the protagonist being kitted out like a shinier Boba Fett is less so. Little winks here and there, like the eyeball droid when the protagonist visits the home of the warlord are nice, subtle nods to what came before but leaving room for the series to carve its own path. But too many pieces from the OT have made their way into the first two hours, and while I can’t exactly pinpoint where this metaphorical line is, some of these nostalgia plays definitely stray onto the wrong side.

“Baby Yoda.”

Since I mentioned the runtime there, let’s talk about that. Half-hour episodes for such a heavily-marketed flagship series? There are kids’ cartoons with longer runtimes than that. One of the great advantages of streaming over “traditional” television channels is that you don’t have a time constraint. Need an extra episode or two? No problem, chuck them in there! Star Trek: Discovery did that for both of its first two seasons. Need an extra ten or fifteen minutes this episode? No problem, we have all the time in the world. There’s no need to cut down an episode to fit an arbitrary time-slot any more, and yet The Mandalorian has the shortest episode runtime of any flagship, “prime time” television series that I think I’ve ever seen. And it’s not the better for it. The most recent episode at time of writing (episode four) would’ve benefited greatly from some extra scenes and sequences. The training montage where the villagers are taught to fight lasted barely a minute, and there was just no indication of the passage of time save for one line of exposition which was clumsily dumped in toward the end of the episode. From the way it was shot, it looked like the protagonist and child arrived, then travelled overnight to the village where in one day they met everyone, trained the villagers, came up with a plan, and drove away the raiders by that same evening. A few extra scenes, totalling no more than a couple of minutes, would have gone a long way to alleviating this problem. So why the unnecessarily short runtime? With the budget Disney has, there’s no sensible explanation for it. And it certainly hasn’t improved the story or made things clearer. Streaming shows can adapt their episodes to be as long or short as needed to advance the story. I just don’t understand why The Mandalorian needed to be so cut-down.

No critique of The Mandalorian would be complete without discussing Disney+. The release in November 2019 just shows how little value Disney places on its overseas (i.e. non-American) customers. In the UK, Disney+ won’t launch until the end of March 2020 – four-and-a-half months after its United States premiere. And I gather in other countries and territories it’s set to be even later still. For a massive release on this scale – the first ever live-action television series in the Star Wars franchise – fans deserved better than a release that’s split up by geography. In decades past, it wouldn’t have mattered. But in the age of the internet, fan communities are a big deal, and spoilers are everywhere. “Baby Yoda” has literally been all over the internet to such an extent that friends and family who have no interest in Star Wars have seen the pictures and the memes. Any Star Wars fan has had The Mandalorian spoiled for them if they don’t live in the United States, and that’s unfair to them. The even more stupid thing is that here in the UK, Disney already has a streaming service called Disney Life. I have a subscription to it. With a minimum of effort it would’ve been possible to add a parental controls setting to Disney Life, gating off The Mandalorian so kids couldn’t access it inadvertently, and allowing fans over here (and in any other territories with a similar service) access to the show. It could even have been delayed to ensure that as many fans as possible around the world would’ve been able to watch at the same time, either by delaying the launch of the app or just the launch of the series. It’s just disappointing to see how little value Disney places on people like me. Game of Thrones did this right – releasing new episodes simultaneously with their US release even though it was the middle of the night here. And Star Trek releases its new episodes within hours of their US premiere on Netflix (and soon to be on Amazon Prime), so why couldn’t Disney have gone down that route? As it stands, the only way to watch The Mandalorian outside of the US is to pirate it. And that’s a massive own goal from Disney.

What I think has been valuable about The Mandalorian is that it has brought back into the fold a lot of fans of the franchise who felt let down by the most recent films, especially The Last Jedi. Introducing some positivity into those fan communities, which had descended into anti-Disney hate groups for the most part, is a good thing. And I respect that a lot of those fans are excited for The Mandalorian and have genuinely enjoyed it thus far.

For me, the two biggest failures are the decision to bring in Force powers in a series that should’ve tried to move away from that side of Star Wars storytelling, and the fact that the main character is, thus far, a blank slate about whom the audience knows and understands very little. The other points where I’ve felt disappointed or underwhelmed would have scarcely been noticed if I’d been more invested in the story and protagonist.

It’s hard to say what I’d like to see going forward that would improve the show, aside from more development of the protagonist. The less we see of the Force the better, that’s for sure, and I hope to God that there isn’t going to be some convoluted time travel or cloning storyline to say the child is actually Yoda from the Original Trilogy. That would be the nail in the coffin and probably the moment I’d stop watching. The old Expanded Universe of Star Wars novels, comics, games, etc. never really appealed to me because, aside from being massively complicated, much of it was essentially low-quality fan fiction made “canon” by Lucasfilm’s bizarre policy of seemingly allowing anyone to write anything. That’s how the EU ended up with fifty clones of Emperor Palpatine, and Darth Maul surviving being literally chopped in half. A time travelling Yoda or a clone of Yoda would really be too much, dragging what should’ve been a standalone series too far backwards, and as I said earlier, not letting it stand on its own two feet carving its own niche within the greater Star Wars galaxy. I really hope that doesn’t end up being the case.

As things stand right now, I’ll keep tuning in to see whether the story picks up. But there are definitely issues that should be addressed going forward to make the show more interesting and draw the audience in. I can tolerate the nostalgic throwbacks, the copying, the unorigiality of too much of the aesthetic, but I can’t really take a whole lot of a boring main character with no personality who just seems to drift from episode to episode at the whim of the plot. Nor can I really be all that bothered to tune into yet another look at how the Force works in Star Wars or how Force users can use their magical powers to show off and save the day. We’ve seen so much of that side of the galaxy already in the “Skywalker Saga”. I really hoped that The Mandalorian would be something genuinely different and original. But instead we’ve got a less interesting, shinier version of Boba Fett who’s inexplicably teamed up with a baby version of Yoda. Some originality, please. Until then, I daresay The Mandalorian will remain a show which is, at best, underwhelming.

The Mandalorian is available for streaming on Disney+ in the United States. The Mandalorian is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. Edited 15.12.20 for formatting. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.