Tosche Station Radio #144: Caf Talk with Pablo Hidalgo

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This week on Tosche Station Radio: The network launches a new podcast, Nanci’s busy writing books, Brian’s busy reading books, THIS IS MADNESS returns, Bob Iger confirms water is wet, and Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo joins us to talk about the finer points of coffee (and The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, a look back at sixteen years at Lucasfilm, and more).

You can find Pablo on Twitter and hear him on the all new podcast IT CAME FROM THE DEPTHS OF NETFLIX. Be sure to grab your copy of the excellent Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary.

Tosche Station Radio is the official podcast of Tosche-Station.net and a part of Majestic Giraffe Productions. If you like what you hear, please leave a review on the iTunes Music Store. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Nanci and Brian are the co-founders and writers of Tosche-Station.net. You can find Nanci on Twitter with the handle @Nancipants and you can find Brian with @LaneWinree.

This podcast has been brought to you in part by Her Universe and your support on Patreon!

Star Wars and the Lightsabers of Storytelling

kylo ren vs reyPerhaps better than any other Star Wars film so far, the lightsaber duels in The Force Awakens tell a story and establish who the characters are in that moment. Only the duel between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi even comes close to telling this sort of tale via clashing blades. At first glance, the duel between first Kylo Ren and Finn and then Kylo Ren and Rey is brutal and it doesn’t get any less brutal after repeat viewings. Gone is the elegance of the Prequel Trilogy and with good reason. Kylo Ren doesn’t have the benefit of training with a Jedi Order who has perfected the weapon over millennia and Finn and Rey have never even held a lightsaber before that day. Every swing of a saber has meaning and you don’t need to have seen a single other frame of the film to get what sort of people these three characters are.

Finn has the least training with these sorts of weapons and it shows. He gets in a few good blows but it comes off as more beginner’s luck combined with a Kylo who is far from being at his best. (More on that last part later.) With any sort of sword fighting, a raw beginning can sometimes have more luck than someone who has trained, as they do not react in a way that is expected. In other words, someone who has even basic training will be more likely to attack and block in a way that utilizes more standard stances and responses that will be easier for someone else with even more training to counter. Unfortunately, it’s just not quite enough to help Finn last more than a few minutes despite his determination to help his friend.

Kylo Ren’s responding actions speak louder than any words could. He doesn’t take Finn as a serious threat. A traitor? Sure but he’s clearly familiar enough with Hux’s training program to know that there’s no way FN-2187 knows enough to be more than a nuisance and it shows. He toys with Finn especially at the start, dodging some of Finn’s more wild swings with a distinctive ease and even knocking him to the ground and turning away instead of pressing his advantage and ending it. Turning your back to an enemy is an insult. It’s not until Finn lands a blow that actually hurts him that Kylo steps up his game and decides to end the fight now. This time, he’s not content with disarming Finn and follows it up with an injury that ensures the former stormtrooper will stay down.

Continue reading

Millicent the Cat Has a Secret

Millicent the Cat

Despite dozens of people saying otherwise, the theory that Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis continues to live on even though so many of us wish it would just die. Fear not! I come before you with a new theory… one far younger and more powerful. Per interviews with Andy Serkis, we know that Snoke is actually a brand new character for the Sequel Trilogy. Thus far, most of the Snoke Theories have ignored this.

Star Wars fans were recently alerted to the existence of a new character this weekend… Millicent the Cat. Millicent is a bit of an oddity. Not only does she belong to General Hux but she also has a litter box in Kylo Ren’s torture room. This is no mere kitty. She is Millicent, Daughter of… some other cat. You owe her your allegiance. Therefore, I feel that it is my obligation and my sworn duty to present to you a theory backed by what I consider to be irrefutable evidence: Snoke is actually Millicent the Cat.

Fact: No one has ever seen Millicent and Snoke in the same room.
This is indisputable. Throughout the entire film, Snoke and Millicent the Cat never appear in frame together. Now, of course, one might argue that Millicent never appears in The Force Awakens period but that certainly does not take away from the fact that you never see them together. There’s definitely a reason why.

Fact: We’ve only see Snoke as a hologram.
Millicent is one smart kitty. She knew that she’d never have a chance for galactic domination as herself so she found another plan of action. The giant Snoke hologram on a throne is merely a digital projection created entirely by computers that Millicent is clearly controlling. (Pay no attention to the cat behind the curtain.)

Fact: Cats are assholes. Just like Snoke.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a cat, when given the opportunity, must be in want of being an asshole. What could be more asshole-ish than corrupting a kid to the dark side and encouraging him to kill his father?

Fact: Kylo Ren puts his helmet in Millicent’s litterbox.
Do you think the Master of the Knights of Ren would put his helmet just anywhere? Of course not. Obviously Millicent is no mere cat and Kylo should feel lucky to temporarily place his helmet where Millicent’s *ahem* business also goes. And honestly, do you think that any mere cat, even one owned by General Hux, would have a litterbox in such an important place?  (Although I suppose there’s room for an argument that this is just another way for Millicent-Snoke to exert her dominance over Kylo.)

Fact: Neither Hux nor Kylo appear to have any cat hair on them.
As anyone who owns a pet or has spent any time around hairy mammals can tell you, this is impossible. I don’t care how many lint rollers you have or how religiously you use one, some hair will always escape your efforts. Millicent must have supernatural powers if she’s able to keep her two humans and their very dark clothing from perpetually having orange hair on it.

Fact: Snoke intends to complete Kylo Ren’s training.
This entire line is a bit of misdirection on Millicent’s part. She orders Hux to go collect Ren from the blood and snow heap because she wants her humans in one piece but she also tells them to come to her. She doesn’t want to let them on the secret just yet so this is her keeping up the charade. The hologram can still be used wherever Hux and Ren have to go. She’s clearly very serious about training Ren though. His temper tantrums keep destroying computer consoles and do you know what warm and lovely spots those are for sleeping? Especially in freezing cold space? He must be trained to stop such destruction. Plus, every credit redirected towards repairs is another credit that won’t be buying her treats or catnip which is just rude.

Fact: Supreme Leader is exactly the smug sort of title a cat would come up with.
“Emperor” is just so three decades ago. Also, Supreme Leader is gender neutral and Millicent is all about gender equality. Species equality will be at the top of her list once she achieves galactic domination.

You may laugh but prepare yourself to be astounded and amazed when this theory is revealed as fact in Episode VIII or Episode IX. Or perhaps Pablo’s Twitter. The ramifications of something like this may be too dangerous and blow theatregoers’ minds if seen on the big screen. Just wait.

Hail Supreme Leader Millicent!

Art by coattailsofdoom on tumblr. That is the face of a cat with an evil plan and a mission.

The Fan Awakens

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by our friend Shannon Donahue, who created our Tosche Station logo!

I’m hooked. I’m a fan. I’m a Star Wars fan. I am a science fiction fan. It’s a big deal you guys.

Confession… I hated science fiction.

Like, I really hated it. It only took one (kind of awful) person I knew as a child to ruin an entire genre for me. I was sure that I could never have anything in common with that person so I sure as hell wasn’t going to like “stupid space stuff”. Nope, not me.

To me, science fiction had nothing at all to do with my life. I couldn’t see how these people in weird costumes or freaky alien makeup had anything to do with me. How on earth could I have anything in common with these people/things? Not only that, but I failed all my science and math classes in school.  My brain just doesn’t think like that. I like music and art and historical costume dramas. I hung on to this as a part of my personality for a really, really long time. It was just a part of who I was. I didn’t like Sci Fi. I was NEVER going to like Sci Fi.

The problem with that was my best friend was a HUGE Star Wars fan. Growing up she had all the books, she had the posters, she had the 3 ft Darth Vader statue that she hand made. She made a fan video complete with costumes. I didn’t get it. I was never going to get it and I didn’t want to. But when you love someone, you pay attention to the things they love. As we grew up and changed I learned a few things along the way. I might not have seen any of the Star Wars movies, but I knew enough about them to understand and play along. I knew the characters. I had a basic understanding of the plots. Slowly I had more and more friends who were HUGE Star Wars fans. In my group of friends I was the weirdo that didn’t like this stuff. I slowly began to realize that maybe, just maybe I was holding on to hating something for no good reason. I found myself painting Star Wars art for friends all the time. It was beginning to feel like every day I was having another conversation about Star Wars.

So, before I attended my first DragonCon four years ago, I sat down and watched the original trilogy. Dude, I didn’t hate it. Okay, I didn’t love it either, but I didn’t hate it. This was groundbreaking psychological shit for me. I felt free somehow. I realized I didn’t have to know space or science stuff. This was mystical, not scientific. I could get on board with this. But I still wasn’t really a fan.

Then I saw the first trailer for The Force Awakens. I thought I was just excited for my friends. Then the second and the third trailer. Oh Boy! As each trailer was released and then finally the movie, I fell more and more in love and here’s why…

Rey

I am so in love with her. Rey is exactly what I want in a female character. She’s soft and she’s hard. She does what has to be done with strength and determination. It seems to me that she has every reason to trust no one, but she flies into a terrifying new direction with new people and places and she does it with such amazing grace. I am in love with the fact that I can turn to my nine year old niece watching the movie and know that she is seeing herself and seeing a woman full of strength and kindness.

Finn

There is so much to love!  He’s funny!  He’s interesting! I love that this movie made you rethink good and bad and black and white. Finn helps us do that. He is a stormtrooper; we are supposed to pull against this guy, but somehow from the very beginning we don’t. We want him to succeed. We want him to find himself away from The First Order. The moment that Poe renames him is brilliant to me. I love that Finn is scared and silly and that he has what seems to be a limitless kindness.

Kylo Ren

Adam Driver does something with his presence and his voice that is both completely and totally terrifying and also completely vulnerable and broken. We know nothing about his story except who his parents are. That revelation breaks us. It breaks us for Han and Leia, but also for Kylo. What sort of hurt, what sort of lies must he be holding on to for him to turn so dark when he came from such love? This doesn’t feel forced or contrived to me but very, very real. Our parents are a part of who we are, but more than that our perception of our parents is a part of who we are. I still find myself wondering about Kylo Ren and who he must think his parents are if he feels he must turn from them so violently.

Family

I was going to write about Han and Leia and what I loved about them. I was going to write about Luke. But what I loved about them and every character in this movie is this: it’s a movie about family, not just the family of your birth but the family of your choice. You can choose to walk away from the family of your birth. You can choose to find a new family with your friends. I felt this so strongly throughout the movie. Obviously the other movies have been about family, but that always felt like it was just the Skywalker family.

I connected so strongly with this movie because I felt the bonds of family in almost every scene. The family that is forged between lifelong friends like Han and Chewie. The family that can be instantly created between new friends as we see with Finn and Poe and then again with Finn and Rey. Our families, no matter how they are created, are our strength and our weakness.

The Look

I loved the look of the movie. I’m a visual person and this kind of stuff is important to me.  

  • BB8 is not only the most charming thing I’ve ever seen outside of a Pixar film, it’s also genius in its simplicity. It’s nothing but circles and a few rectangles and somehow it emotes better than most humans I know.
  • Maz Kanata’s Palace is another example of the look that I love. Flying into that land and walking up to the front doors felt real and magical. Then you find yourself in a dive bar! I loved it. Lupita Nyong’o was perfection as Maz. I want to sit and have shots with her, I want her to look into my eyes and see more than I see. I want her to teach classes at my local metaphysical book store.
  • The dreaded catwalk scene with Kylo and Han is pure lighting genius.
  • The last 5 minutes of the movie on Skellig Michael. Your heart is in your throat, your eyes are burning with hope and the unbelievable beauty of that place. Then your eyes are burning because of the unbelievable acting from Daisy Ridley and especially Mark Hamill.

I could never put my finger on what didn’t capture my interest in the original trilogy. It took this movie to show me. Just as a Jedi must not deal in absolutes, why must these movies? The Jedi and the Rebellion are good and everyone else is bad. The universe that has been expanded by The Force Awakens feels more real to me because there are no absolutes. A stormtrooper can be the hero. The villain can be a Skywalker/Solo. There is Darkness in the Light. There is light in the darkness. This movie perfectly captured that to me and I hope that it is indicative of how the rest of these movies will go.

What I learned about Star Wars and about science fiction is this: it isn’t necessarily about space. It isn’t necessarily about war. It isn’t about science and it doesn’t feel like fiction. These stories are about people dealing with life. Life with some crazy shit going down. Just like my life, minus the hyperdrive.

** edited to leave out the three pages of POE IS HOT! SNAP IS THE BEST! X-WINGS, YAY!

Review: The Force Awakens Novelization

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterA novelization can be a tricky thing. After all, it’s not creating its own story but adapting someone else’s (which is a whole ’nother battle than coming up with a plot.) The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster not only has to face that complicated task but also gets to follow in the wake of the best Star Wars novelization ever. Released in ebook on December 18th and in hardcover on January 5th, The Force Awakens is an enjoyable but not groundbreaking read.

First and foremost, the novel is definitely no substitute for watching the film and there are certainly aspects lost in translation. The charm of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac just doesn’t make it on to the page all of the time. In all fairness, capturing that much charisma would have been a near impossible task for almost any writer. Foster’s also not one of those writers who writes amazing starfighter battles and thus what were exhilarating moments on the screen come off as a bit dry on the page especially without a John Williams soundtrack to back them up.

What this book does do a good job of is help expand upon the new galactic status quo. It fills in some of the gaps that the movie did not, like giving us Lor San Tekka’s name for one along with some tantalizing hints about his past. Additionally, Foster gives us more Leia, something that’s always a positive. Perhaps most interestingly, the book shows readers how Poe escaped—something well suited for inclusion in the novel where it can’t impede the dramatic effect of the X-wings’ arrival.

Perhaps more than anyone, Kylo Ren benefits from the transition to the page. Not only are his speech patterns more elegant (think Vader’s slaughter on Mustafar in the Revenge of the Sith novel) but readers also get into his head at some of the key character moments, potentially shedding a brand new light on some of his actions and reactions. Han Solo and Rey are two other characters that readers really benefit from getting inside of their heads. The fast-formed bond was one of the highlights of the film and it’s almost sweet to see Han’s side of it before they go into Maz’s cantina. Follow that up with an incredibly sweet moment between Rey and Chewie at the end that mirrors a more bittersweet one from the start and you’ve got some great character bits in here. It’s in the character moments where the novelization does its best.

As a note, the hardcover does include eight pages of color photos from the film—a little bonus for those who waited for the hardcover that wasn’t printed until after the film was released.

Is The Force Awakens novelization an essential read for any Star Wars fan? No, but it is still fun and can provide fans with more of the galaxy far far away.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing us with a copy of the book for review purposes.

Looking? Found someone you have I would say, hmm?

thumbnail_21381“Where’s Luke?” That was the question on everyone’s lips during the lead up to The Force Awakens. We all wanted to know why Luke wasn’t on the poster or the trailers. What has he been up to the past 30 years?

A few seconds into the movie, during the first line of the opening crawl, we (sort of) got our answer. Not to mention a hell of a lot more questions.

We also got a new cast of characters who, for a couple of hours at least, made me forget about the search for Luke Skywalker.

(Spoilers under the cut.)

Continue reading

The Force Awakens Review Drinking Game

Star Wars: The Force AwakensPh: Film Frame©Lucasfilm 2015Look, folks. The honeymoon is over.  You are just not allowed to unabashedly enjoy The Force Awakens anymore.  Oh no.  Now you must analyze it to death and write your super hot takes about how it’s not really that great after all and title it with super clickbait-y titles.  For bonus points, you can point out several dozen plot holes that are easily explained if you actually watched the film.  If you didn’t like the film, that’s fine.  You’re entitled to your (wrong) opinion.  Different people like different things. 

That said, some of these reviews and think pieces have already gotten a little… stale.  In order to maintain your sanity and to stay entertained, I present to you… The Force Awakens Review/Think Piece Drinking Game.

Disclaimer: Tosche Station takes no responsibility for what happens to your liver after this.

  • Take a sip every time wookiee, Jedi, stormtrooper, or Lucasfilm is misspelled
  • Take a sip for every cheap shot at the Prequel Trilogy. (We’d tell you to take a shot but then you’d die)
  • Take a sip for every reference to how someone involved in making Star Wars supposedly hated it
  • Take a sip for every Jar Jar Binks crack
  • Take a sip for ever JJ Abrams lens flare joke
  • Take another sip for every time a snarky reference is made to JJ’s work on Star Trek
  • Take a sip for every snide George Lucas reference
  • Smirk and take a sip every time someone alludes to how totally Space Gay Poe and Finn are
  • Take a shot every time someone refers to Finn as a space janitor
  • Take a shot every time a snide remark is made about Carrie, Mark, or Harrison’s ages or looks
  • Take a shot for every article where it’s clear the writer didn’t actually pay attention to the film
  • Take a shot for every article where the writer doesn’t understand the difference between a plot hole and something being left deliberately open-ended  (Suggested by Matt)
  • Take a shot for every article that claims critics are being too easy on the film
  • Take a shot for any article that spoils the film without giving a spoiler warning
  • Take a shot for any oh so cleverly disguised racist or sexist comment
  • Take a shot if the whole Legends thing gets mentioned.  Take two if they refer to it as the “Extended Universe”
  • Drink two shots every time someone goes on about how The Force Awakens is just an A New Hope remake
  • Finish your drink every time Rey is referred to as Mary Sue

Have any suggestions for what else is drink worthy?  Let us know in the comments and we just might add it in!

Boys with Big Hearts

Easily the best thing about this new Star Wars trilogy is our new hero, Rey, and the praise for both her and Daisy Ridley is flooding in. While not the straight-up leads of the film, the rest of the new trio, Finn and Poe, are almost just as great. (Almost.) The Force Awakens is headed by three amazing newbies, each of which a character for young kids to look up to and want to emulate.

Sure, Rey is a hero for all genders, but let’s not kid ourselves: children aren’t stupid. Little girls notice the distinct lack of leading ladies in cool roles, and Rey is someone that they can finally pretend to be in the playground without having to be “Ara, daughter of Aragorn”. She is finally theirs. 

Everyone can love her and look up to her, but she is most of all for all those little girls who have been needing a girl leading Star Wars since forever ago. That, of course, is a post for another time.

Finn and Poe, similarly, are heroes for everyone of any gender, but they are also wonderful examples for young boys to emulate. Where Poe could have been a Han or Anakin-esque cocky pilot with a little too much arrogance, he is instead a genuinely, confidently sweet guy. Finn, raised as a Stormtrooper in the First Order, is similarly sweet, with a big heart and an overflow of empathy. Continue reading

The First Order Would Like a Word

Ever since the first trailer dropped back in November 2014, certain factions of Star Wars fans have been quite insistent with their thoughts on precisely who can and cannot be stormtroopers and even who could even be in the various militaries that we have seen.  Now that The Force Awakens is out, the First Order would like to have a few words with those loud voices.  Let’s take a look at their very eloquent letters.

Dear Everyone Insisting That Stormtroopers Must Be Clones,

Suck it.

Signed,
General Hux whose army of stolen, indoctrinated children is way better than clones


Dear Everyone Insisting That Stormtroopers Can’t Be Black,

Suck it.

Signed,
FN-2187, AKA Finn


Dear Everyone Insisting that Stormtroopers Can’t Be Female,

Suck it.

Signed,
Captain Phasma and the Trooper with a Distinctly Female Voice


Dear Literally Anyone Insisting that the Bad Guys Must Be All White Guys,

No seriously.  Suck it.

Signed,
The First Order

Review: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka

Before the Awakening is a successor to the young reader Journey to the Force Awakens trilogy of books. Illustrated by Phil Noto (who also illustrated The Weapon of a Jedi, Moving Target, and Smuggler’s Run) and written by Greg Rucka (who also wrote Smuggler’s Run and Shattered Empire), the novel explains what Finn, Rey, and Poe were up to prior to the events of The Force Awakens. It’s divided into three sections, one for each character, and elaborates on their backstories and provides some insight into where each of them are at the start of the film.

(Slight spoilers for The Force Awakens ahead.)

Continue reading