Ten shows to watch instead of Star Trek: Discovery Season 4

Spoiler Warning: There may be minor spoilers for some of the shows on this list.

The person who coined the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” evidently never met the marketing team at ViacomCBS. The Star Trek: Discovery clusterfuck continues to damage the company, the Star Trek brand, Paramount+, and everything else it touches, with Discovery’s fourth season now being soiled, stinking of shit even for those fans in North America who’ve been able to sit down and watch it.

Whether you’re pirating Discovery Season 4 or not – and honestly, you’re 100% morally justified in doing so if you choose to – I thought that today we should consider some alternatives. Maybe you’ve decided not to pirate the series, or to wait and see how things go. Or maybe you’re still so darn mad at Discovery that watching it wouldn’t feel appropriate right now. So let’s take a brief look at ten television shows that you could watch instead. I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum!

Oh, and if you’ve tuned in looking for my weekly Discovery Season 4 reviews or theories, I’ve made the reluctant decision to put those on hold for the time being due to what’s happened.

Number 1: The Wheel of Time

Promotional image for The Wheel of Time.

The Wheel of Time premieres today, so I can’t claim to have watched it for myself at time of writing! But Amazon has invested heavily in this fantasy epic, one which is based on a long-running series of novels by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. It’s been a long time since I read any of the books (and I didn’t come close to finishing the set) but from what I remember, The Wheel of Time has a complex story full of magic, wonder, and nuanced characters.

Several big-budget fantasy shows were commissioned in the aftermath of the success of Game of Thrones, and initial reviews of The Wheel of Time sound promising. I’ve been looking forward to watching the show all year, and it’s finally here! The first three episodes are being made available at the same time as a kind of extended premiere, with the remainder of Season 1 following on a weekly basis. This could be a great replacement for Discovery between now and Christmas.

Number 2: Foundation

Jared Harris and Lou Llobel star in Foundation.

One of Apple TV+’s first big-budget shows, Foundation has been interesting to follow across its first season. Is it perfect? No, but for an adaptation of a very dense series of books that I would’ve considered borderline unfilmable, I think the series makes a creditable effort to bring the story to screen.

Foundation stars Jared Harris in a key role, and he’s an absolutely fantastic actor who brings a lot to the series. At time of writing there’s one episode left in Season 1, and a second season has already been confirmed for next year.

Number 3: The Expanse

Several of The Expanse’s main cast aboard the Rocinante.

The Expanse is one of the finest science fiction TV shows I’ve ever seen outside of the Star Trek franchise. Its world-building is absolutely fantastic, showing us a look at a near-future where Mars and parts of the asteroid belt have been colonised, but where faster-than-light travel and many other common sci-fi technologies don’t yet exist.

Originally debuting on the SyFy network, The Expanse was later picked up by Amazon following a fan campaign. There are five seasons already, with a sixth and final season scheduled to premiere next month – so you’ve got time to binge the show and get caught up!

Number 4: Firefly (and Serenity)

The main cast of Firefly.

The big caveat with Firefly has to be that the show was never given a chance to live up to its full potential, being cancelled after just one season. But the feature film Serenity brought the cast back and provided the story with closure (of a sort) so it’s absolutely worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.

Firefly brought to screen a uniquely western-themed sci-fi universe that felt truly real and lived-in in a way few franchises manage to do. It’s positively criminal that one season and one film are all we ever got – but what a fantastic season it was!

Number 5: Fortitude

Several members of the Fortitude Season 1 cast.

We’re returning to Earth for this entry on the list! I thought I knew what to expect from Fortitude when I sat down to watch the show. It’s set in a small town in the Norwegian arctic, and I was expecting it to be a fairly standard crime drama. But the show took a series of turns, going from crime to mystery to thriller and even touching on horror and science fiction.

It’s hard to explain Fortitude without spoiling it – and I would say that some of its storylines go a bit wild toward the end. But if you get stuck into it, as I did, you’ll have an amazing time.

Number 6: Star Trek: Picard

Sir Patrick Stewart reprised his famous role last year.

Chances are if you’re reading this you’re a Trekkie and you’ve already seen Picard Season 1. And I would absolutely understand if the Discovery debacle has soured you on Star Trek at the moment. But whether you missed Season 1 or just haven’t seen it since it was broadcast in early 2020, it’s a fine drama series worth going back to.

Remembrance, the season premiere, is one of the finest episodes of Star Trek – and one of the finest episodes of television in general – that I’ve ever seen. The season’s story builds slowly to a conclusion that was, unfortunately, more than a little rushed, but if you can look past the imperfections present at the story’s end, Picard Season 1 is a fun Star Trek adventure.

Number 7: The Mandalorian

Mandy the Mandalorian.

I have to confess that I’m not wild about The Mandalorian. It’s okay – and it contains some great action set-pieces and moments of drama. But my disappointment stems from the fact that the show’s promised “different look” at the Star Wars galaxy kind of fell by the wayside due to the inclusion of too many elements from the films.

Despite that, The Mandalorian has some great moments, and is well worth watching for any Star Wars fan. Two seasons have been put to screen thus far, though I’d argue that their short runtime and serialised story means you only really get one full season’s worth of content. Two spin-offs and a third season are coming next year, so if you’re not caught up on Star Wars yet, now could be a good moment!

Number 8: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The titular duo.

I’m not the world’s biggest Marvel fan, but this miniseries on Disney+ was less about superheroes and was more of an action-adventure romp with the titular characters. There were callbacks to a lot of previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even as someone who doesn’t follow the MCU religiously I found the series approachable.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tells a largely self-contained story, and it was one that aimed to be uplifting as well as entertaining. I published a review of the miniseries a few months ago, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here – but beware of spoilers!

Number 9: Chernobyl

“Not great, not terrible” would be a bad way to describe 2019’s Chernobyl.

Chernobyl was a sensation when it was first broadcast in 2019, and for good reason. The miniseries, which documents the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, is one of the finest ever put to screen. This is a story you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with, but Chernobyl goes into detail, looking at the disaster from all angles.

I find it hard to say anything negative about Chernobyl at all; as both a work of drama and a serious historical piece it’s perfect. It even contains a great scene explaining the basics of how a nuclear reactor works!

Number 10: The Center Seat

Logo for The Center Seat.

The History Channel is currently a couple of episodes into its documentary all about the Star Trek franchise. There will be eight more episodes over the coming weeks, documenting the history of Star Trek from the production side going all the way back to Gene Roddenberry’s initial pitch for the series in the early 1960s.

I love a good documentary, and as the Star Trek franchise celebrates its fifty-fifth year, why not take a look back? As Trekkies we should aim to be knowledgeable about the production of the franchise we love, and The Center Seat aims to present its history in an easily understood form.

So that’s it. Ten shows to watch instead of Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.

I think a lot of Trekkies feel the way Book’s feeling right now.

Those are words that I never thought I’d have to write. Discovery’s fourth season had been my most-anticipated television show of 2021, and even now that we’re a couple of days out from the news that we wouldn’t be getting the series, the sense of disappointment and anger with the corporate morons in charge of ViacomCBS remains. But I hope, after a couple of days of outright negativity, this list has been a bit of a break.

Each of the shows above are absolutely fantastic in their own ways, and while it’s true that nothing can fully replace Star Trek: Discovery for a big fan of the series, hopefully you’ve found a few ideas to at least take your mind off things. Social media has been reflecting the outrage directed at ViacomCBS over the past couple of days, and while there’s nothing wrong at all with registering your disgust with the way that the corporation has behaved, please keep in mind that the actors, directors, and other behind-the-camera crew had nothing to do with this decision. In many ways, it harms them too because it’s tainted their hard work and left even North American Trekkies feeling upset and angry. Negativity and division within the Star Trek fandom is never a good thing. It’s such a shame ViacomCBS chose to inflict it upon us on this occasion.

All television series mentioned above are the copyright of their respective owner, network, broadcaster, streaming platform, etc. 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 theory – Baby Yoda

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2. Further spoilers are present for Jedi: Fallen Order, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, the prequel trilogy, and the original trilogy.

Let’s get a couple of things straight right off the bat: I don’t think The Mandalorian is an especially good show, and I don’t want either of these theories to turn out to be true. In both cases the reason is pretty much the same: the Star Wars franchise as a whole, and The Mandalorian in particular, greatly overplays the nostalgia card, and were either theory I’m about to discuss prove to be true, it would represent yet another example of the show’s writers and producers being unwilling to let it stand on its own two feet.

With that caveat out of the way, I’ve got a couple of theories regarding The Mandalorian that I’ve finally decided to write down. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s come up with these concepts; it seems like it would be a pretty easy way of joining up some of the dots present in the franchise. But regardless, we’re going to talk a little about Baby Yoda – or to give him his proper name, Grogu.

Today we’re looking at the cutest little critter in Star Wars – Baby Yoda!

In Star Wars’ main canon – not including anything from the now-overwritten Expanded Universe – there have only been three members of Yoda’s species shown on screen. Yoda himself of course debuted in The Empire Strikes Back, then in The Phantom Menace we briefly met Yaddle, another Jedi Master who served on the Jedi Council. Finally we have Grogu himself, and that’s it. Of all the races and species in Star Wars, few are as mysterious and under-explored as Yoda’s species – it doesn’t even have a name.

This is odd, actually. Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe delved into the backstories of countless minor characters and background races, and while much of that has been overwritten, some elements have made their way back into canon. But even in old Expanded Universe projects that did feature members of Yoda’s species, like Knights of the Old Republic for example, we still didn’t learn anything about them – not even a name. When you consider that the Expanded Universe dived deeply into the backgrounds of races like the Quarren or the Rodians, neither of which had major characters in any of the films, for Yoda’s species to be left alone is certainly unusual. You’d think it would’ve been ripe for an Expanded Universe author to have explored at some point.

Yoda’s species has never been explored – not even in the old Expanded Universe.

The rarity of Yoda’s species also raises interesting points, one of which is connected to the two theories we’re discussing today. Every member of Yoda’s species that we meet in canon is Force-sensitive, which is already a point of interest. But the fact that the race seems to be so uncommon, and doesn’t have a known homeworld suggests that there is something strange going on. Is Yoda one of the sole survivors of his species, perhaps?

If so, perhaps Yoda – and possibly Yaddle – are the parents of Grogu. Though Yoda explained in Revenge of the Sith that for a Jedi, attachments and romantic entanglements are off-limits due to their opening up a path to the Dark Side, if he’s a member of a dead or dying species, the needs of his people may have overcome this. It would make sense that we had never met Grogu before the events of The Mandalorian, as Yoda would not have played any role in his upbringing – merely delegating that role to the Jedi Order once the infant had been conceived. This theory could also account for Yaddle’s absence after The Phantom Menace, as she may have been more involved with Grogu or even left the Jedi Order to raise him.

Yaddle was a Jedi Master during the events of The Phantom Menace.

This theory relies on Yoda – at well over 800 years old – becoming physically intimate with another member of his species. Sorry for giving you that particular mental image! But as we learned in The Mandalorian Season 2, Grogu’s M-count – assumed to be short for his midichlorian count – was said to be exceptionally high. This could be natural for Yoda’s species, as Yoda was said to have a high midichlorian count himself, but it could also be a genetic trait passed from parent to child. If Grogu’s parents were two Jedi Masters, that could explain his abnormally high level of midichlorians.

It could also explain Luke Skywalker’s interest in Grogu. Though it seems as though Luke would’ve been interested in recruiting any Force-sensitive child for his nascent Jedi Academy in the years after the Battle of Endor, if he knew Grogu’s true identity after conversing with the ghost of Yoda that may have given him an extra incentive to rescue the youngling. It could also explain how Ahsoka knew Grogu’s name – he didn’t communicate it to her, as she implied when she spoke with Din Djarin, but she’d already met him during her time as a Jedi apprentice.

Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian Season 2.

With cloning technology featuring prominently in both The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker, another possibility is that Grogu is in fact a direct clone of Yoda. As above, this would account for his unusually high level of midichlorians, but would avoid the need for Yoda to have had any role in conceiving an offspring. Though we do know that Grogu spent some time prior to Order 66 at the Jedi Temple, if he were a clone of Yoda that doesn’t mean that the Jedi played any role in his creation.

It would be possible for some nefarious faction – perhaps even the Sith themselves – to have attempted to create a clone of Yoda, hoping to turn Grogu into a powerful Dark Side user. The prequels showed us Yoda’s capabilities in much more detail; suffice to say that a Dark Side clone of Yoda would be an incredibly useful weapon for the Sith – or anyone else. Perhaps such a scheme was uncovered by the Jedi during the years prior to Order 66, and Grogu came to reside at the Jedi Temple after being rescued.

The Jedi Temple on Coruscant was Grogu’s home prior to the downfall of the Jedi Order.

Cloning would tie in thematically to points already present in The Mandalorian, as well as in the broader Star Wars franchise, so I could certainly see the story going in this direction. It would require a bit of backstory to explain who created Grogu and how he came to be rescued, but it wouldn’t be impossible to pull off from a narrative point of view. With cloning having already been introduced into the series and prominently featured, it could even be argued to make sense.

There is one more dimension to this theory, though, and it’s one that I’ve been wary of since Baby Yoda first appeared in the show in late 2019. Rather than being a child or clone of Yoda, could it be that The Mandalorian is setting up a story where Grogu is, in fact, Yoda himself?

Could Grogu actually be Yoda?

This might sound preposterous, and if it weren’t for Star Wars’ overreliance on characters and storylines from the original trilogy I probably wouldn’t consider it a realistic possibility. But given that the franchise is intent on looking backwards, and that The Mandalorian has already brought two major characters from the original films into its narrative, nothing would surprise me any more!

So here’s another caveat: I’m not familiar with everything that happened in the animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels. But as I understand it, time travel is possible and has been depicted in those shows. Ahsoka Tano, who appeared in Season 2 of The Mandalorian, had her life saved thanks to the intervention of a time traveller who used something referred to as the “World Between Worlds” to rescue her from certain death at the hands of Darth Vader. The World Between Worlds also showed up in last year’s Lego Star Wars Holiday Special – but I’m pretty sure that appearance is non-canon!

Could Grogu travel back in time through a portal like this one?

The point is that time travel in some form does exist within Star Wars. Not only that, but at least one character present in The Mandalorian has some experience with the World Between Worlds. Suddenly it doesn’t seem to be impossible to think that Grogu might be sent back in time – either intentionally or accidentally.

One of the tragedies of The Mandalorian – as things sit right now, anyway – is that Grogu isn’t safe with Luke Skywalker. The events of The Mandalorian occur years before the sequel trilogy, before Luke’s Jedi Order was destroyed by Kylo Ren. According to what we learned in The Last Jedi from Luke himself, the only students who survived went on to serve the Dark Side as the Knights of Ren. Grogu seems to have been too young to have joined the Dark Side, so the logical conclusion is that he was killed along with Luke’s other students.

Luke’s new Jedi Order was destroyed by Kylo Ren. All of his apprentices were killed. But was Grogu among them?

Star Wars has certainly told stories with unhappy endings before. Heck, the entire prequel trilogy was a story that led to a very dark place, with characters like Padmé ultimately dying at the end. Rogue One likewise ended with the deaths of Jyn, Cassian, and everyone else involved in the mission to steal the Death Star plans. So it wouldn’t be out of character for the franchise to go to all of this trouble to set up a story in which Grogu ultimately dies and never gets to train and become a Jedi.

However, something about the way the story has been told – particularly in the final few episodes of Season 2 that really tried hard to ramp up the emotional connection between Din Djarin and Grogu – seems to be telling me that it might not end the way we currently think. It’s certainly true that there are ways Grogu could survive the attack on Luke’s Jedi Order that don’t involve time travel, and in many ways such a story would be much easier to construct. But there are possible points in its favour – by which I mean points that seem to make this storyline at least a possibility, not points that would make it a good story!

Grogu aboard the Razor Crest.

We know that Yoda’s species are very rare in the Star Wars galaxy. It’s not impossible to think that the race could have gone extinct with the passing of Yoda and Yaddle; they may have been two of the last survivors. We also have the presence of Ahsoka Tano, whose life was saved by time travel. And finally, we know that Grogu has a way of instinctively using the Force at key moments; it’s a power that’s beyond his control in some respects, yet one he has used repeatedly to save himself and others. He’s also potentially very powerful in the Force – perhaps as powerful as Yoda.

It’s not impossible to think that, before or during the attack on Luke’s new Jedi Order, Grogu would call on the Force to help him escape Kylo and the Knights of Ren. We’ve seen a couple of different ways to open a portal to the World Between Worlds, and Grogu could summon one himself – or someone already inside the World Between Worlds might open a portal and arrive to rescue him.

Might Grogu use the Force – intentionally or accidentally – to escape from Kylo Ren?

Once in the World Between Worlds, Grogu might be sent back in time, either intentionally or accidentally, emerging 900+ years in the past. From there, it’s a short hop to joining the Jedi Order, which would still exist in this time period. Without adding anything new to Star Wars, it’s possible, based on what we already know, for Grogu to “become” Yoda.

From the moment I saw Baby Yoda in the first couple of episodes of The Mandalorian, I began to worry that this would be the character’s ultimate destination. I mentioned at the beginning that I don’t think this theory would make for an enjoyable or satisfying story, and I stand by that. The Mandalorian has been a let-down for me because of its overuse of elements from Star Wars’ past, and if its entire story were ultimately revealed to involve yet another classic character, well I just don’t think that would be to the show’s overall benefit.

From the moment “Baby Yoda” appeared I began to wonder if the show would ultimately go down this route.

This kind of time travel story also happens to be one of my least-favourite tropes of the genre: the time-loop. Grogu was saved by Luke because Luke was trained as a Jedi by Yoda, who was saved as a baby by Luke. The whole thing becomes circular, and while Star Wars has often tried to tell stories that were symmetrical or that used comparable settings and character concepts, this would be a step beyond that. It would become a paradox; how could Yoda train Luke without Luke first saving him? And how could Luke save Grogu if he hadn’t first been trained as a Jedi? There’s no solution to such a storyline, and I personally find this type of time travel narrative annoying.

Time travel, as I find myself saying all too often, is exceptionally difficult to get right. It’s far too easy for a story to trip over itself and get all tied up in knots trying to explain away inconsistencies and paradoxes. For me, the idea that Grogu might be sent back in time to become Yoda is a classic example of such a story. Even if Luke hadn’t been involved in saving his life from the Dark Troopers at the end of Season 2, I still wouldn’t want the story to go down this road – nor for Grogu to be revealed to be Yoda’s clone or offspring.

Luke Skywalker with Grogu.

The Mandalorian teased a concept that I still find genuinely interesting: “the adventures of a gunslinger far from the reach of the New Republic.” But by bringing the Force, Boba Fett, and the Skywalker family into its storyline in significant ways, that premise hasn’t really been fulfilled – at least not yet.

Grogu’s departure at the end of Season 2 could be the soft reboot The Mandalorian needs. It could offer the series a fresh start, with Din and his companions setting off for new adventures away from the Jedi and the Skywalker family. For Star Wars this would be huge – it’s impossible to overstate how big of a deal finally breaking away from the Skywalkers and the Force would actually be. Season 3 or 4 bringing Grogu back and setting up this kind of time travel or cloning storyline would feel regressive in a series which, for me, already relies far too heavily on nostalgia for the franchise’s past.

Saying goodbye to Grogu could set the stage for new stories in Season 3 and beyond.

Shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett can carry the torch for classic characters. Perhaps The Mandalorian can continue to chase down Moff Gideon, the Dark Troopers, and the cloning facility that I swear was creating Snoke. Tying the series into the sequel trilogy, not the original trilogy, would be a bold move, and might even go some way to rescuing some of the sequels’ less successful story elements.

Anyway! Those are all fantasies that may yet play out in future seasons and future stories. For now, I’ll bring this piece to a close by summarising my theories: Grogu is either a clone of Yoda, a child of Yoda, or will be sent back in time somehow in order to become Yoda himself. Even though I don’t necessarily want to see any of these theories make it to the screen, I will be very curious to see if any of the upcoming Star Wars projects give us more information about Grogu, Luke’s recreated Jedi Order, or anything else we’ve talked about today. Something tells me that Grogu’s story isn’t complete and that he won’t meet the ignominious end of being killed by Kylo and the Knights of Ren. Stay tuned, because if it turns out I’m right I’ll be sure to have something to say about that!

The Mandalorian Seasons 1 and 2 are 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.

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 Engelbert Humperdinck or Crazy Uncle Dennis.

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.

If Star Trek had behaved like Star Wars…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars franchise – including recent projects such as The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian. There are also minor spoilers for the Star Trek franchise too.

Let’s step through the looking-glass, across the divide between universes, into a strange new world. This world is very much like our own, but with one major difference: Star Trek behaved like Star Wars. The Original Series ran from 1966 to 1969, just as it did in our reality, but then… things started to change.

Join me on a weird and wonderful journey through what Star Trek might have been… if it had acted like Star Wars. Don’t worry, I promise we’ll make it home safe and sound.

Are you ready to go through the looking-glass?

We begin our journey in the 1970s. Star Trek is being rebroadcast in syndication, and its fanbase is growing. Some of these fans begin to organise and ask for more Star Trek on their screens, and the company that owns Star Trek in this alternate reality – let’s call them CiacomVBS – thinks long and hard about what to do. They have a popular series on their hands… what should they do with it?

Eventually the people in charge of Star Trek hit upon a brilliant idea: a Star Trek prequel, looking at Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and other familiar characters in their Starfleet Academy days and before their five-year mission. The main roles were re-cast, and the first new Star Trek project in almost twenty years was finally greenlit in 1988. Called the “Kelvin films” for the involvement of a starship called the USS Kelvin, this prequel trilogy was popular with some Trekkies, but wildly disliked by others. When the third film finished its theatrical run, CiacomVBS decided to shelve Star Trek and proclaimed that the franchise was complete.

Fans were split on Star Trek by this point. Some proclaimed that The Original Series was the only good part, whereas other (primarily younger) fans were thrilled with the Kelvin films. As time passed, Star Trek appeared to be complete. Its stars moved on to other projects, or faded into obscurity. But the fanbase remained, and with the passage of time those younger fans grew up, leading to a minor resurgence in the popularity of the Kelvin films.

In the 1990s, a massive media empire called the Dalt Wisney Company approached CiacomVBS about a buyout. When the multi-billion dollar deal went through, Wisney announced a plan to bring Star Trek back – this time for a sequel. Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered a few years later, and starred a younger cast of characters – alongside the return of The Original Series’ crew. Their first adventure was to find Captain Kirk, who had gone missing.

Kirk eventually agreed to train the new crew of Starfleet officers, along with help from Spock, Dr McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu. The returning characters took up a lot of the new show’s screen time, leaving many Trekkies to say that the new crew were undeveloped and underused. To make matters worse, a lack of overall direction by the Dalt Wisney Company meant that each of the three seasons of The Next Generation was helmed by a totally different team of writers. The consequence of this was a jarring change in tone between each of the three seasons.

The Next Generation’s third and final season was its worst by far, with a confused mess of a story that seemed to be trying to overwrite much of what happened in Season 2 – including the backstory of Captain Picard, the major character introduced in Season 1. By far its most egregious fault, though, was bringing back Khan as a villain – Khan had been killed off decades earlier, and his return was called “the worst kind of deus ex machina” by critics.

There were also two “standalone” projects produced during this time. The first saw a team of renegade Starfleet officers go on a secret mission to steal the plans to the Klingon D7 battle cruiser, and ended with them transmitting the plans to Kirk aboard the Enterprise. The second was titled Chekov: A Star Trek Story, and it told the tale of the young Pavel Chekov before he joined Starfleet.

Despite the lacklustre response to The Next Generation and Chekov, Wisney had invested a lot of money into Star Trek, and putting their expensive acquisition on hiatus was not possible. They announced another spin-off: Deep Space Nine. This promised to finally take a look at the Star Trek galaxy away from Captain Kirk and Starfleet for the first time, being set on a space station in a new region that had never been seen before.

Fans seemed to respond well to Deep Space Nine at first, but its short runtime, bland main character, and overreliance on the aesthetic of The Original Series were all points of criticism of the show. By Season 2 it seemed to be doing better and was beginning to stand on its own two feet – but for some inexplicable reason Season 2 of Deep Space Nine brought back the character of Sulu – who had been killed off in The Next Generation. Fans were confused as to how he had survived being eaten by an alien monster, but this was never addressed.

The Season 2 finale was perhaps the most egregious example of Wisney forcing fan-service into Deep Space Nine, though. As Sisko and his crew were cornered, staring down a seemingly-unstoppable villain, the shuttlecraft Galileo was spotted approaching DS9. The shuttle door opened, and there, in all his glory, stood Captain Kirk. Kirk dispatched the villain’s henchmen with ease, and gave Sisko – and the show’s stunned audience – a nod and a wink.

In the aftermath of Deep Space Nine Season 2, the Dalt Wisney Company put together a presentation where they announced what’s coming next for Star Trek – and to no one’s surprise, it was more of the same. Nostalgia, throwbacks, and not much else.

The actor who played Scotty in the Kelvin series was given his own spin-off. Next was Star Trek: Nurse Chapel, which promised a look at the franchise’s second-most famous medical officer. Then there was The Harry Mudd Show, looking at lovable rogue Harry Mudd, and Star Trek: Balok, which promised a deep dive into the backstory of the character fans first met in The Corbomite Maneuver. There was a miniseries looking at Kor, the Klingon captain, and finally there was Star Trek: That Guy Who Flew The Shuttle In That One Episode – which was immediately given a three-season order. Some fans were thrilled with these offerings… but a lone voice spoke out.

On the website Crazy Auntie Denise, an independent critic wrote that it was time for Star Trek to move on. The Original Series had become a weight around the neck of the franchise, holding it back and stopping it from properly moving on to new adventures. The Star Trek galaxy offered such an interesting and exciting setting, she wrote, that it was positively criminal to only look at such a tiny sliver of it over and over and over again. Star Trek can be better than this.

Apparently this website is incredibly popular in the alternate reality.

So that, my friends, is where we end our journey through this strange mirror universe. We step back across the divide, and find ourselves firmly back in our own reality. I promised I’d get you home safe and sound!

What was the point of our little interdimensional sojurn? As I’ve said many times already, Star Wars is stuck. It has never been able to move beyond its original trilogy, and it’s gotten to a point where those films are now holding it back from making any meaningful progress.

You might look at some of the Star Trek projects that exist in the alternate reality we visited and say that they sound like fun – but they represent an incredibly narrow vision of what Star Trek could be. If Star Trek had behaved like Star Wars, with a total and unshakable reliance on The Original Series and its characters, we’d never have got to see some absolutely incredible characters and stories. We’d have missed out on Picard’s transformation into Locutus of Borg in The Best of Both Worlds, or on Sisko’s painful decision in In The Pale Moonlight. We’d never have met Captain Janeway and her crew at all, nor Captain Archer and his.

Avery Brooks put in one of his best performances as Sisko in the Season 6 episode In The Pale Moonlight.

There is a place for prequels, for looking back, and for nostalgia. The very reason franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars were revived is because the companies behind them see nostalgia as a way to attract audiences. But in my opinion – my subjective opinion – Star Wars goes too far and overplays the nostalgia card. The Star Wars galaxy is a sandbox of almost infinite proportions, with not only trillions of inhabitants, countless alien races, and millions of planets to explore, but also tens of thousands of years of history. We could look at events and characters that are entirely disconnected from Luke, Han, and Leia – but Star Wars has never even tried to do that.

The Mandalorian brought back Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker in what was pure fan-service. Fans lapped it up, and I’m happy for the people who enjoyed the way that story went. But for my money I think Star Wars can do better. I think it can be broader and deeper, and can step away from relying on those old characters. Star Wars is a fantastic franchise, and its setting is so vast and interesting that it doesn’t need the crutch of those old characters… but for some reason Disney can’t see it.

Luke Skywalker returned in The Mandalorian.

Star Trek moved away from its original incarnation decades ago, and in the years since we’ve had a heck of a lot of exciting, memorable shows and films that have become iconic parts of the franchise in their own right. And that innovation and willingness to try new things continues today, with Star Trek recently branching out into animated comedy and with a kids’ show on the horizon. Star Wars could do that too.

Star Trek realised a long time ago that the galaxy Gene Roddenberry and others had created was crying out to be explored. New characters and new ships came along and have had some incredible adventures. Star Wars hasn’t been brave enough to try anything genuinely different yet. I hope one day that will change.

Some names, titles, and properties above have been used in a satirical manner for the sake of parody and criticism. The Star Wars franchise and all related properties are the copyright of the Walt Disney Company and LucasFilm. The Star Trek franchise and all related properties are the copyright of ViacomCBS. Stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. 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.

Star Wars doubles down HARD

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars franchise, including The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian, and announcements for upcoming productions.

A few months ago I wrote an article titled “Star Wars needs to move on.” In that piece I looked at how the Star Wars franchise has only ever told one real story since it debuted in 1977. Prequels, sequels, and spin-offs all played into or expanded the only real story the franchise has ever told – that of Palpatine and minor characters like Anakin, Luke, and Rey who apparently don’t get to act of their own volition. I argued that, just like Star Trek had done with The Next Generation in 1987, Star Wars needed to put the Skywalker Saga behind it and genuinely move on, telling new stories with new characters.

The Mandalorian should have done this, but hasn’t. The inclusion of Baby Yoda, the Force, Boba Fett, and so many elements copied from the Original Trilogy overwhelmed that series and left me disappointed. I was desperately hoping that, after the reaction to The Rise of Skywalker, the team at Disney and Lucasfilm would think hard about what to do next.

The inclusion of Palpatine ruined The Rise of Skywalker.

Instead they’ve once again retreated back to the Original Trilogy, its spin-offs, and familiar characters. I would have hoped that the failure of Palpatine’s ham-fisted insertion into The Rise of Skywalker would have served as a warning, and that with the only story the franchise has ever told now at a seemingly-final end, the franchise could genuinely move on.

The Star Wars galaxy is up there with Tolkien’s Middle-earth as one of the finest fantasy worlds ever brought to life, yet the creative team at Disney and Lucasfilm seem intent on never exploring the wonderful sandbox they paid $4 billion for. They’re instead going to show us the same tiny sliver over and over again, bringing to life ever more ridiculous spin-offs looking at characters of decreasing importance. What a disappointment.

Star Wars: Andor is a spin-off from a spin-off and a prequel to a prequel.

Let’s look at these disappointing announcements. A Droid Story will focus on R2-D2 and C-3PO. The Bad Batch is a spin-off to The Clone Wars, which was itself a spin-off to Attack of the Clones. Andor is the previously-announced series based around Rogue One’s Cassian Andor. Lando is bringing back Donald Glover, who took on the role of the smuggler in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Rangers of the New Republic is a spin-off from The Mandalorian. Ahsoka is another spin-off from The Mandalorian. And in the previously-announced Obi-Wan Kenobi series, we have the return of Darth Vader.

The only announcements which seem to have any potential to tell new stories are 2023’s Rogue Squadron, a project called Acolyte about which no information was revealed, and an as-yet-untitled film helmed by Taika Waititi. Everything else falls into the same trap that the franchise has fallen into repeatedly since the prequel era: overtreading the same ground, forcing fans to look back, and overplaying the nostalgia card. There’s nothing bold or innovative in any of these announcements. They represent a backwards-looking cowardly corporation, desperate to rekindle the magic of the Original Trilogy but without any clue of how to do so.

Do we really need a Star Wars film about these two droids?

Spin-offs to spin-offs and the increasingly minor characters given starring roles is indicative of a franchise out of ideas. There’s absolutely no creativity in any of these projects that I can see. At a fundamental level they’re all trying to do the same thing – use nostalgia as a hook to bring fans back. If the Star Wars galaxy looked bland and uninteresting, perhaps that would be a necessity. But it’s always been presented as such a vast, interesting setting that it’s positively criminal to only ever look at a tiny portion of it. There are tens of thousands of years of galactic history to dive into, as well as an uncertain future in the years after the war against the First Order. Could we see some of that, maybe?

And how about new characters? The idea of a show based on the two droids is patently ridiculous, as are those focusing on minor characters from spin-off projects. Donald Glover’s portrayal of Lando was certainly one of the better elements of Solo, but does that mean he needs an entire project of his own? What will Disney and Lucasfilm do when these projects run their course? Are we going to see Star Wars: Snowtrooper #7 and Star Wars: That Two-Headed Podrace Announcer? At this rate that’s what’ll happen.

Is this guy getting his own spin-off too?

The sequel trilogy got two things wrong when considering the fundamentals of its storytelling. Firstly was the inexplicable decision to split up the writing, leaving it with no direction and no overarching story. But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, was the decision to re-tell the Original Trilogy, drag Star Wars full-circle back to where it started, and spend too much time looking backwards. The sequel trilogy was an opportunity for Star Wars to lay the groundwork for future success, but instead it’s dragged the franchise backwards.

The Original Trilogy is a weight around Star Wars’ neck. The popularity of those three films compared to any others means that cowards in a corporate boardroom can’t see beyond it. Instead of looking at ways to take Star Wars forward to new adventures, all they know how to do is look backwards at the only successful films the entire franchise has ever produced.

Star Wars is being run by a corporate boardroom that clearly has no idea what to do with the franchise.

The end of the Skywalker Saga saw Luke, Han, and Leia killed off. It saw the final demise of Palpatine. And despite the story of Star Wars having been dragged through the mud, there was an opportunity that hasn’t really existed before – an opportunity to move on to greener pastures. With the only story Star Wars has ever told brought to a conclusion, it was hardly an unrealistic expectation to think we might get something new.

I’m disappointed, as you can tell. The lack of vision and the lack of boldness on the part of Disney and Lucasfilm means that we’re once again looking at the same miniscule fraction of the Star Wars galaxy that we’ve always been shown. There’s nothing interesting about that, and even though I have no doubt that, on an individual level, many of these projects will be at least decent and watchable, I just feel Star Wars could do better. These shows and films are a franchise aiming for a grade C. They’re middle-of-the-road attempts to scrape by, coasting on past success.

If the franchise ever wants to do more than get a basic pass, they’ll have to be bold and aim higher. Do something genuinely different. Step out of the ever-growing shadow of the Original Trilogy and do what Star Trek has been doing for thirty years – tell new stories.

The Star Wars franchise, including all films, series, and upcoming projects listed above, 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.

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.