Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trekking Through Games: Away Missions - Star Trek: The Clone Wars?

At this point I can easily say I’ve been through just about all the Star Trek series at least 3 times on Netflix over the past year and half. Now days when it's on it’s mainly as background noise, and a kind of mental comfort food in the late evenings before bed, with revisits to Enterprise and Voyager. More or less I’ve reached the point where I need to take a break from it so as to not loose my appreciation of this great franchise. It hasn’t been easy finding something else to watch though, especially when this has been my go to programming for a while.

Among one of my favorite newer TV shows is Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels an animated series following the exploits of a small cell of rebels in the early stages of the rebellion against the Empire. It’s an interesting series that takes place within the 19 year period between Revenge of the Sith, and Rogue One/A New Hope, and often pulls from the character pools of both the original and prequel trilogies. Even though the show is only in its third season I haven’t been able to see every episode, but I’m happy every time I get to sit down and watch one. The one issue I have encountered is that occasionally characters are thrown in who I’ve never seen before, yet it seems like I’m expected to know their backstory. I mentioned this to my oldest son one day and told me that these are often characters introduced within the seven seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series that preceded both Rebels and Disney’s Lucasfilm buyout, and that appeared on Cartoon Network. To say the least it peaked my attention in the old series, and later several podcasts I listen too including Star Wars Stacks mentioned the importance of the series to Star Wars canon, so I decided I had to begin watching through the old series on Netflix. To be honest I’m not exactly a stranger to the show, and had caught different episodes of it with my oldest son when it was on the air, as well as buying him the pilot movie on DVD years ago. I had also watched through the first season with him over the course of a few Saturday mornings back in the summer, but he went on to finish the series on his own. So when I set off to explore the series on my own recently I pretty much cherry picked through the first season for episodes I didn’t see or needed to be refreshed on, and then pushed into season two.

In case you don’t know here are a few things you need to know about the Star Wars animated series that are out there. First of all both shows are considered canonical, so whatever happens in them happens in the universe. Secondly, Clone Wars takes place in the three year period between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith (i.e parts II and III). Lastly, both animated series occasionally draw from the non-canonical extended universe (i.e. books and video games), making some EU characters and events part of the actual canon.

Ok, with that said your probably saying to yourself, “WTF does any of that have to do with Star Trek?”. Well I can put it this way, once you begin watching The Clone Wars certain concepts are introduced into the Star Wars universe that most fans never even thought of. In Attack of the Clones we are briefly introduced to the cloning process, but it’s left morally ambiguous since it’s actually a plot point to introduce Jango and Bobo Fett, as well as the concept of a shadowy hand working against the Jedi Council. As the series itself continues on though, the moral questions of the process of cloning are introduced, as is the questionable ability to just continue to churn out clones like manufactured other military equipment. So, what does that have to do with Star Trek?

To be honest it took watching The Clone Wars to make the connection between Star Wars clones and the Jem’Hadar clones of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine. To be honest I feel like DS9 already had to take a ration of crap over the whole Babylon 5 thing, so I’m not about to question whether DS9 ripped of Star Wars or vice-versa. After all it would be 2002 a full two years after DS9 went off, before Attack of the Clones first appeared in movies theaters, and 2008 before The Clone Wars series first appeared on TV. Not to mention the Jem’Hadar were introduced as far back as 1995, but of course one could argue a “Clone War” concept was introduced as far back as 1977 with A New Hope, although it was all of a 10 second blurb in the movies dialog.

Of course it’s not so much that both franchises have clones that I’m writing about, clones have been a normal part of science fiction for decades, but rather the use of these clones by the factions that possess them. If I describe it from a 40,000 foot view here’s what it looks like for both franchises, “A group of quasi-supernatural beings use clone soldiers to capture planets from their enemies so that they may impose their form of order on their home galaxy”. So yes when you look at it from that point of view it's utterly the same description for both franchise’s.

From the DS9 point of view the clones troopers known as the Jem’Hadar are controlled by the Dominion, a shadowy group of liquid like shape shifters who control the Milky Way Galaxy's “Gamma Sector”, with nearly an iron fist. The Jem’Hadar themselves are a reptilian like humanoid species, known for their aggression and violence in battle, an aggression which must be kept under control via the use of the drug Ketracel-White. Ketracel-White not only allows the Jem’Hadar to be controllable by their masters, but helps sustain all life functions of the Jem’Hadar.
Acting as a go between with the Dominion and Jem’Hadar are another clone species known as the Vorta, a cowardly group of “yes men”, who literally worship the Founders, i.e. the Dominion. As you can no doubt guess, with such aggressive soldiers the Dominion is hardly a force for peace Milky Way’'s “Gamma Sector”, let alone once they enter into the Federation controlled Alpha/Beta sectors.

From the Star Wars point of view the clones trooper are simply known as clone troopers. In this universe these troopers, although still treated as less than human at times especially in their ultimate fate once the Empire rises, are still at least given names once they reach a certain age. In the case of the clone troopers they are controlled by the Republic, a United States like interstellar society that wants to maintain its democratic principles of freedom throughout the part of the galaxy (a galaxy far, far away? Andromeda? Triangulum?) it resides in. The troopers are themselves human in appearance, although their maturation process is speed up. Most troopers also look alike having all been cloned from Jengo Fett, the father/brother(?) of Bobo Fett, although some seem to have different personalities, hair color, and varying degrees of intelligence. The clones are mentally conditioned to show loyalty to the Republic, part of the reason they carry out Order 66, despite their close working relationships with the Jedi. Some troopers do occasionally turn away from this mental conditioning, to go AWOL, and even start lives of their own although its a rarity.

Unlike the Jem’Hadar with the Vorta, the Clones have the Jedi as their go betweens with the Republic. The Jedi tend to respect the clone troopers, and despite Kaminion insistence to destroy less than perfect troopers during or after maturation, the Jedi’s respect for life has prevented this on a few occasions. Unlike the Jem’Hadar the Clones are designed to be soldiers and not over-aggressive killing machines, meaning at times they have been known to show compassion, especially to many of the civilians caught on worn-torn planets. Despite doing good for the Republic during the wars with the Separatist, as we find out by the end of Revenge of the Sith the clones were the Emperor’s checkmate to the Jedi.

Ultimately, in either respective franchises clones are used as a type of military leverage, even though those using them have powers beyond that of a normal mortal being. In Star Wars and Star Trek with either side, the initial use of these clones may be different but in the end the goals of each are generally the same, being a quest for ultimate power. The question of a sci-fi fan is, did one inspire and even copy from the other? The overall direction things appear in, is that there is no connection between the clone soldiers of either franchise. For instance Star Wars had a claim to use a clone army in it’s plot line dating back to the previously mentioned blurb in A New Hope between Obi-Wan and Luke, meaning once prequels were made the “Clone Wars” had to be included. As for DS9 the use of clone soldiers by the Dominion was meant to be a statement on the Founders disdain for all other living beings besides themselves. Clones represented cheap life the Founders could use to expand their empire, with an “easy come, easy go” form of life that was created for one purpose only, to kill or be killed. The Jem’Hader clones were meant to be a sharp contrast against the Federations dogma of all life having value, in a highly dramatic way.

Of course between 1977 and 2002, or the first appearance of the Jem’Hadar in 1995, a lot of Star Wars fan fiction was written and even published. In the SWEU or Star Wars Extended Universe which I will call the EU from now on, books on “The Clone Wars” were written, some of which would form the basis of 2002’s Attack of the Clones and its ensuing saga. Is it possible that DS9 writers may have drawn some inspiration from the EU? It’s possible of course since even as this article proves, a sci-fi fan can cross franchise boundaries easily, especially with the beloved nature and cultural significance of both franchises, however there is very little to believe it may go any deeper than that. In an article about the Jem’Hadar on the Star Trek fan database known as Memory-Alpha it was noted that the writers of DS9, wanted a fierce warrior race for the series protagonists to come up against, but was afraid of it having too many similarities to the Klingons. So as to differentiate them, the clone element as well as a few others differing traits where chosen, and obviously that worked since there is no confusing the Jem’Hadar with the Klingons.

On the flip side the question also needs to be asked about a whether Star Wars Clones Troopers may have had some inspiration from DS9’s Jem’Hadar. To be honest there isn’t much out there on what inspired the final on-film iteration of the Clone Troopers. Obviously, George Lucas had some concept behind them in his head long before A New Hope, let alone the prequels. The fact that the Stormtroopers combat armor seems to have evolved from the Clones armor proves this. Of course just as it was possible a DS9 writer picked up an EU book before developing the Jem’Hadar, it’s also possible George Lucas watched a few episodes of DS9 while writing Attack of the Clones.

Overall, in my opinion one didn’t sway the other as to the use of clone armies as part of the overall plot line. It is interesting to take a step back though and just see how both these franchises used the concept of a clone army in advancing the ongoing plot, even if each was used differently. So what do you think? Do you think one inspired the other in any way? Do you think it's simple coincidence and the use of a standard sci-fi meme? Let me know.

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