Xim Week: The Despotica: The Pirate Prince
*Yeah, so we’re some 600 years on from The Fourth Precept. I see no reason to talk about what was happening on earth at this particular moment. Back in the tens of thousands of years ago, 600 years was essentially the blink of an eye as far as societal and planetary evolution went. Things were basically the same 25,200 years ago as they were 25,783 years ago, right? That’s my impression.
*So, way back when I started this project, the first story I reviewed was The Golden Age of the Sith. And I sort of made fun of the fact that it was 5,000 years before the movies. I thought that was kind of silly, that they would think we would necessarily be interested in something so far out of the main story.
*So, one of the first sentences I wrote in this huge project was, “Was this trip really necessary?”
*Well, that was 5,000 years before the movies. This is over five times farther back than that. From 5,000 years before A New Hope to well over 25,000 years before it. Oy.
*So, this one doesn’t appear on Rob Mullin’s timeline. So, I’m slipping it in here at the place where it appears according to Dino Jim’s timeline. This is also, I think it’s worth mentioning, still Pre-Republic. The Old Republic hasn’t yet been founded.
*Now about 11,000 years before this, the Force was canonized in a sort of Nicean Council on Tython. Then about 10,000 years after that, there was a massive war on Tython over the use of the Force and the establishment of the Jedi Order after that war was completed. I gather this from that Old Republic timeline, sadly no longer producing videos. I presume a lot of this is covered in Dawn of the Jedi?
*So, when this story was written, the Jedi Order had only been established for a little over 500 years. The Old Republic would be founded about 130 years after this story was written. Are we getting a picture of how far away we are from ‘modern times?’
*Anyway, this story is the second part of a four part series published on Hyperspace that attempts to deal with the legend of Xim the Despot, who you may remember from Han Solo & the Lost Legacy, in which Han and company were seeking Xim’s hidden treasure trove and had to deal with his, oddly still functional, war-droids. The Despotica purports to collect various works written about Xim the Despot. This is the oldest one.
*So, The Pirate Prince, written by Lyechusas of Argai is an epic play in the Greek Tragedy mold. It tells the story of Xim and his servant/friend, Oziaf, returning from a long campaign of conquering and pillaging. Years long, I mean.
*Xim returns home to find that his father, Xer, has taken a new consort, Indrexu. Xer also reveals that Xim is not, as he believed, an only child. It turns out he has several brothers. It also turns out that all these people were born during a Scrabble tournament and thus the letter X was overused to a criminal degree.
*Xim stalks off stage, murders them all, returns, kills his father and takes Indrexu as his consort. The end. Well, with his War Robots serving as a little Greek Chorus to put a tag on the play.
*So, let’s say a few things.
*I have long lamented the fact that the EU has lost some of its original fire. Even in the Bantam Era, I say a lot, the writers were allowed to experiment and just do some really crazy things. This led to a lot of failures, but also a lot of great successes.
*I think the establishment of all the letter grades of canon sucked some energy out. Star Wars Tales, I have said, was the last bastion of this kind of free-thinking, fascinating, epic failure. When Tales folded, I said we would probably never again see a failure on the level of a Melvin Fett or a Planet of Twilight.
*With the movie coming soon, big changes on this front of course. I basically don’t care, adhering to a strict idea of ‘personal canon.’ But, you know, all the letter grades are shot to ****. Maybe this’ll bring in some of the wackier stuff.
*The reason the lack of failures is a bad thing is that it means we would also never see a rousing success on the level of A Death Star is Born or Into the Great Unknown or George R. Binks or L. Neil Smith’s Lando trilogy. We were being protected from the undeniable specter of absolute failure. But at the cost of never trying for great, outside the box success.
*Well, I’m forced to revise my estimation of all this because it seems that Hyperspace, which not surprisingly, folded, was a bastion where this kind of extremely conceptual, loose limbed experimentation was allowed. Because I thought I’d never read a failure as dumb as Planet of Twilight again. And I haven’t. But this is pretty close.
*To understand why this story is so damned stupid, allow me to define what a ‘failure,’ really is. It’s actually a success, just a success founded on a totally wrong headed idea (or, perhaps, a series of them).
*For instance, Planet of Twilight, since I’m using that one . . . was that a failure? No, actually, I think it was exactly the book that Hambly wanted to write. The Hutt Jedi? She wanted that there. The mutated cockroach villain? That’s what she wanted. Daala revealing that she was in love with a goddamn FARMER on the last page of the book? Her idea.
*So, really, she succeeded. It’s just that I can’t fathom her reasons for wanting to succeed in this way and, I think, neither could anybody else.
*So, The Pirate Prince? What does it set out to do? Very simple high concept? “Greek Tragedy in Star Wars.” That was the entire pitch, I’d say. And it’s a serviceable pastiche on Greek Tragedy.
*It’s just that the idea of doing Greek Tragedy like this in Star Wars is so utterly dunderheaded as to defy explication.
*Well, okay, let’s attempt explication.
*First of all, Kogge attempts to make us buy that Greek Tragedy is an acceptable style of writing in a society in which people have interstellar space travel, efficient war droids and an early form of suspended animation. Okay: *BS ALARM*
*You see, I am loath to say this, given how perniciously I feel that CGI has affected the world of filmmaking, but it’s true. Art and technology develop in tandem. If the Ancient Greeks had been in possession of spaceships and robots and hibernation facilities, they wouldn’t have written that way.
*We are nowhere near the level of having interstellar travel of the type pictured here, nor of war machines like Xim’s droids, nor of suspended animation. And yet, already, in our culture, Greek Tragedy has become a stylistic throwback. It’s already aged out of relevance now so why does Kogge think a much more advanced society would still be practicing it?
*This is not to say that I don’t enjoy reading Greek Tragedy. The Oreisteia by Aeschylus stands as a profound achievement, particularly in the Fagles translation, and some of the Oedipus cycle too. But it’s not the way we write now, because our society’s technology, and therefore our aesthetics, has evolved.
*Secondly, it feels like Kogge and whoever else brainstormed this ‘idea,’ probably feel very proud of themselves for being so creative as to try to put Greek Tragedy’s stylistic flourishes in a Star Wars setting.
*But, to the degree that Revenge of the Sith attempted anything, it attempted a Greek Tragedy.
*Do you really think that it was only ratings considerations that led to the younglings being murdered off screen? Nah. That was a conscious reference on Lucas’ part to the style of Greek Tragedy, in which all or most really significant events occurred offstage. But did everyone speak in verse? No. This is how Greek Tragedy works now; we use it as a reference point, we update it, but we don’t write it straight. Which is how Lychusas of Argai would have done it too, if he’d actually existed, instead of being created by someone who clearly doesn’t know as much about Greek Tragedy as he thinks he does.
*Also, I can’t tell you how cute the bits with the War Droids acting as chorus read. You can almost feel Kogge smirking about that bit of brilliance, using droids as a chorus.
*NEWSFLASH: That is exactly how Lucas has been using droids SINCE 1977! He didn’t have Threepio and Artoo stand in a line and spout weird poetry; he had them act as a modern version of a traditional Greek Chorus.
*So this is neither as creative nor as well thought through as Kogge probably thinks it is. He’s essentially just doing exactly what Lucas has already done and doing it in a way that makes no sense.
*Hyperspace has closed down you say? Wonder why that is. I mean, with ‘exclusive’ stuff like this, you’d think it would go forever.
*None of this addresses the central failing of this story which is that I could care less about Xim the frigging Despot. I mean was anyone begging for this? I ask you. I don’t think so.
*So, it succeeds: it’s a solid pastiche of an old school Greek Tragedy starring Xim the Despot. But it fails since Greek Tragedy shouldn’t exist in the GFFA at this point and Xim the Despot isn’t interesting in the slightest.
*PERSONAL CANON: Xim the Despot certainly existed and he certainly commanded an army of war droids. The legends surrounding his murder of his brothers and father are most likely only that. Quite aside from the clunky, obviously staged formatting of this work, it is mostly likely textually inaccurate as well. This work is NOT RECOMMENDED as a historical resource.
* out of **** stars.
*Next time, we’ll jump another 10,000 years down the timeline to take a look at more of the story of Xim the Despot. Join me for Xim Week: The Despotica: Xim at Vontor!