Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Revelations (spoilers abound)

Written: 1999.05.28
Last Revised: 1999.10.06

So what does TPM tell us about the Star Wars universe? Does it change anything? Does it add anything? The following is a list of items gleaned from my first two viewings of TPM, as well as my reading of the novelization. Eventually, this material will be incorporated into my Empire page. But right now, it constitutes spoiler material so it will stay exclusively on this page.

Trade Federation | Darth Sidious | Sublight Propulsion | Hyperdrive
Light Sabres | The Force | Shields | War Droids | The Sith | Cloaking Devices
Repulsorlifts | Weapons Systems

Trade Federation

Cowardly Neimoidians

Very little is known about the Trade Federation. Is it a corporation? Is it a species? Is it the government of a planet? What are the motives of its leaders, and what is their grievance with Naboo or the Republic? We know only a handful of things:

What conclusions can we draw from this sketchy evidence? Well, it would seem that the Trade Federation is indeed controlled by a single species: the Neimoidians. This would explain the fact that they are represented by an actual senator (unlike real-life corporations which cannot have senators, unless you count bribery). However, why would they be called the Trade Federation in the Senate, rather than the Neimoidians? Every other senator is known as the "senator from Malastare" (for example), using the name of their respective homeworlds. The answer may lie in the scope and size of the Star Wars universe. The Trade Federation is probably some sort of large corporation which originated within the Neimoidian species and which is still Neimoidian-dominated due to racism or other factors, but whose grasp extends far beyond the homeworld of its species.

Although a corporation cannot have a senator in real life, suppose corporations could purchase cities or states? If Microsoft somehow made a deal with the American federal government to have local control of Washington State without seceding, would it not merit senate representation? Similarly, the Trade Federation must have acquired some territories above and beyond its originating homeworld, to warrant representation as a distinct body in the Senate as opposed to being a mere special interest indirectly represented by the Neimoidian senator. This would explain the "trade franchise". It is highly unlikely that a species or planetary government would require a license to conduct trade- that sort of thing is generally considered a sovereign right. California does not need a license to trade with Nevada. However, it is likely that corporations would need licenses- in fact, real life corporations need various types of licenses to do business. We can therefore confidently conclude that the Trade Federation must be a corporation, but one which is so large that it completely controls enough territory to be regarded as a separate entity, worthy of direct representation in the Galactic Senate.

What about the trade-route taxation dispute? The name "Trade Federation" seems to suggest that trade is the principal business of this corporation. Furthermore, its "warships" are converted transports, so it seems reasonable to believe that it may be a shipping company. This type of company would suffer greatly from the taxation of trade routes, perhaps to the point where they may wish to apply pressure on the Senate by committing an overt action like the blockade of Naboo. This is hardly unprecedented in our experience: does the word "strike" sound familiar? Workers routinely refuse to work in order to financially injure their employers in the hopes that they can pressure them into accepting demands, even though they inflict hardships on themselves in the process. In the province of Ontario, Canadian truckers blocked highways during the early 1990's and hopelessly snarled traffic for miles around the major cities, in an attempt to pressure the government to ease heavy taxes and regulations. This is almost precisely analogous to the Trade Federation's actions in TPM.

A TradeFed battleship

However, the real-life truckers did not maintain their protest for long, because they knew that the government would eventually have no choice but to resolve such an outrageously disruptive action with force. Why would the Trade Federation expect to get away with their illegal actions for so long? Like the truckers and their government counterparts, the Trade Federation may have weapons but cannot possibly hope to fight the government's forces. One might argue that with hundreds of two mile wide starships (as seen by the density of ships around Naboo early in the film), they have a strong military. However, the government's military dwarfs a puny force like this- a few hundred two mile wide battleships would be obliterated in a direct confrontation with the Republic's forces. Evidence for the TradeFed's inability to directly oppose the government can be found in the fact that they need the permission of the government, in the form of a legal trade franchise, to continue operating. Furthermore, they fear the legitimate Republic military enough that they expend great efforts to make their acts appear legal. And of course, we know that the Empire built two Death Stars and tens of thousands of Star Destroyers during its brief reign, so we can get some grasp of the sheer magnitude of the forces that would have come down on the Trade Federation, had they been found in clear violation of Republic law. Clearly, they hope that the Senate will refuse to commit itself to military action to resolve this dispute, no doubt due to Darth Sidious' assurances.

What did they hope to gain through invasion? This was actually done at the urging of Darth Sidious, who was clearly manipulating them (why else would they choose an otherwise odd target such as Naboo for their blockade?). They obviously were not sure what they would gain by occupying Naboo (as seen by the uncertainty displayed by the Viceroy's aide), but at this point they were so fearful of Sidious and Maul that they were essentially nothing more than pawns in Sidious' game, in over their heads and unwilling to oppose the man who appeared to be their only ally.

How immoral are they? It is difficult to say. They are obviously driven by greed, as are most corporations. However, although they repeatedly threatened to kill members of the Naboo government, and even forged a holographic message from Sio Bibble in which the normally defiant governer pleaded for permission to surrender while bemoaning the "catastrophic" death toll, there is no evidence that they committed any atrocities whatsoever. They occupied Naboo's cities, but we never saw them killing any defenseless civilians. In fact, we hear the battle droids being ordered to take Queen Amidala to one of the "camps", indicating that the Naboo population is being herded into concentration camps rather than simply being exterminated. Starvation and suffering are repeatedly mentioned, but never seen. Considering the corporate, non-violent background of the Trade Federation, it is most likely that they are deceiving her when they claim that her people are enduring great suffering: they are doing this for political gain, and mass slaughter of helpless civilians would not help them. They did not even kill military personnel unless they had to: the pilots of the Naboo royal starfighters were captured and held in the hangar bay, but not killed. And even when Darth Sidious instructed them to wipe out all opposition, their droids did battle with the Gungans but chose to capture them after battle rather than exterminating them.

Conclusion: the Trade Federation is a shipping corporation which controls at least one star system other than the Neimoidian home system, thus meriting separate representation in the Senate. They have some military forces, but they are clearly insignificant compared to the military forces of the Republic government. They are being heavily taxed by the government, and are blockading the militarily and economically unimportant planet Naboo for symbolic reasons, to apply political pressure to the Senate. They claim to be causing great suffering to the people of Naboo, but we have no evidence whatsoever that this is actually taking place, as opposed to being a mere ruse designed to pressure Amidala into acquiescing to their demands.

Darth Sidious

Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side!

First and foremost, we know that Darth Sidious is Senator Palpatine, the official representative of Naboo in the Galactic Senate. I would hope that the readers realize this, but one cannot always count on people to recognize the obvious. Long-standing underestimates of Imperial fleet size, in obvious contradiction to the sheer size of the Death Star (as large as 24 million Star Destroyers), demonstrate that people can indeed be capable of not seeing something that is right in front of their noses. It has been pointed out that perhaps the obvious connection between Palpatine and Sidious is actually too obvious, and there might be some sort of "twist" in Episode II. That's always possible, but at this point, we can only go on what we know, and not assume that something must not be true just because it's too obvious. So, assuming that everyone understands who Sidious is, what does he want? We know the following:

So what has Sidious done? From all appearances, it seems as if he has convinced the TradeFed leaders that he would be able to revoke the disputed taxes, provided they followed his instructions. This would be the "bargain" of which the Neimoidians spoke. Clearly, he instructed them to blockade Naboo to apply pressure to the Senate. We saw him instruct them to invade Naboo, and he assured them that he would be able to make the invasion legal, so he probably instructed them to draw up a treaty legalizing the invasion, and then he instructed them to force Queen Amidala to sign it.

But at this point, his plan clearly went awry. Queen Amidala escaped Naboo at the urging of Qui-Gon Jinn, who used his Force-enhanced intuition to advise her that "they will kill you if you stay". We can assume that Palpatine did not want this to happen, so what was his original plan, before Queen Amidala's disappearance forced him to improvise? One theory is that Palpatine intended to kill Queen Amidala. Consider:

Therefore, if Amidala had not escaped Naboo, he probably would have assassinated her (thus explaining Qui-Gon's intuition). A crucial fact about TPM which was unseen in the film but clearly described in the official literature is the fact that Darth Maul had a cloak-capable starship constructed for himself (see the Episode I Cross-Sections book). He never used his cloaking device, because as events unfolded, it turned out that he had no need of it. But in Palpatine's original plan (assuming that the above theory is correct), it would have allowed Maul to land on Naboo without detection, and his Sith skills would have allowed him to easily assassinate Queen Amidala and escape without leaving a trace.

Consider the ramifications: if Palpatine had assassinated Queen Amidala while in TradeFed custody, he would have killed two birds with one stone:

  1. With the Queen dead, it would be impossible for the Trade Federation to legalize the invasion of Naboo. This would eliminate the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

  2. Since Chancellor Valorum is surrounded by bureacrats and advisors who are "on the payroll of the Trade Federation", her death in TradeFed hands would make him and them look bad in the eyes of the Senate. Valorum would be easily deposed, along with many of his allies. Palpatine would then be able to command the Republic's military forces to eliminate the TradeFed forces at Naboo, probably killing the Viceroy and his aides in the process.

If this was truly Palpatine's original plan, it was a masterwork. He would have accomplished his goal of becoming Supreme Chancellor while simultaneously having the Republic's military forces eliminate the only people who could possibly tie him to his Darth Sidious persona.

Of course, we know that Qui-Gon interfered with this plan. Queen Amidala escaped, and he improvised by urging her to personally call for Valorum's ouster in the Senate. This worked out to his advantage because of the emotional impact of her presence and testimony, and indeed, Valorum was ousted, and Palpatine was voted into power. The only remaining loose end was the Trade Federation Viceroy and his aides, who he would have had to assassinate before their testimony could be used to trace him to his Darth Sidious persona in any way.

This assassination would be suspicious and more difficult to execute than his original plan (if the above theory is correct), but assuming that he could pull it off, the events of TPM still unfolded in such a manner that he achieved his primary goal of being elected to the position of Supreme Chancellor. It is commonly believed that the Naboo people were the victors of TPM, but the true victor of TPM was former Senator Palpatine, now Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

Sublight Propulsion

The speed of ascent from a planetary surface to orbit has always been seemingly very quick in the Star Wars films. In every Star Wars film, without exception, it appears to take mere seconds to ascend from planetary surface to orbit, as seen in ANH when the Falcon lifts off or in TESB when the Rebel transports and X-wing escorts flee to interplanetary space past the Imperial blockade (with ground-based fire support). However, TPM provides evidence that this is not the product of deceptive scene-change time delays.

When Qui-Gon boarded Queen Amidala's ship during its escape from Naboo, he quickly moved to the cockpit and stood beside the pilot. By the time he did so, the ship had already left the atmosphere and the TradeFed blockade ships were visible. Furthermore, the novelization contains the following passage on page 90: "The Nubian shot through the hangar doors, ripping past battle droids and laser fire, lifting away from the city of Theed into the blue, sunlit sky. The planet of Naboo was left behind in seconds, the ship rising into the darkness of space, arcing toward a suddenly visible cluster of Trade Federation battleships blocking its way." Clearly, ascent from planetary surface to orbit takes mere seconds. This is not very precise, but it does allow us to get some ideas of acceleration limits. The Earth's atmosphere thins out at an altitude of roughly 100 kilometres, and Naboo appeared to have Earth-like gravity (and therefore Earthlike atmosphere) so Queen Amidala's ship covered roughly 100 kilometres upwards (not including any horizontal movement) in "a few seconds". If we assume that "a few seconds" is 5 seconds (for example), then the ship accelerated upwards at no less than 8,000 m/s² (800 g's). If we are super-conservative and assume that "a few seconds" means 60 seconds (any more and it would be described as minutes rather than seconds), then the ship accelerated upwards at no less than 55 m/s² (5.5 g's). In either case, inertial dampers must have been activated, since people were walking about and standing in spite of acceleration which would normally throw them off their feet or worse yet, kill them.


The speed of hyperdrive is further established in TPM, with the following chain of events:

What does all of this mean? It means that Darth Maul travelled from Coruscant to Tatooine in the time between noon and nightfall (between 6 and 12 hours). If we assume a very short distance between Tatooine and Coruscant (say, 30,000 light years, which is very conservative considering Tatooine is supposed to be on the edge of the galaxy and Coruscant is near the core), then this implies average speeds in excess of twenty million times the speed of light. Keep in mind that this estimate is based on the assumption that Darth Maul left immediately, with no time allotment for preparing his starship for travel, or assembling the necessary gear.

It should be noted that the film and the novelization differ on this chain of events. According to the novel, this chain of events takes place over a period of two days rather than one day. In the novelization, Anakin Skywalker actually says "the day after tomorrow" rather than "tomorrow." However, the film, its novelization, and any radio plays are canon in that order, so the film overrides the novelization in the event of a conflict. The chain of events described above takes place over a period of one day, not two. The speed of Darth Maul's hyperdrive is in excess of twenty million times the speed of light.

This fact seems to contradict the speed chart from BTM, which indicates that it takes more than three weeks to make the journey from Coruscant to Tatooine. However, upon further inspection of the BTM speed chart it can be seen that the trip from Coruscant to Tatooine could be accomplished in 8 hours by jumping to Corellia (a 4 hour trip) and then jumping from Corellia to Tatooine (another 4 hour trip). Unusual conditions or obstacles between Tatooine and Coruscant must contribute to the anomalously long travel time between those two systems- the characteristic "straight-line" speed of hyperdrive is clearly in excess of 20 million c under normal conditions.

Another interesting aspect of Darth Maul's trip from Coruscant to Tatooine is the fact that according to the Episode 1 ICS, Maul's Sith Infiltrator had a Class 3 hyperdrive- many times slower than the hyperdrive of the Millenium Falcon or even the hyperdrive of a typical Imperial Star Destroyer!

Light Sabres

Remember the Living Force, young PadawanThere are no stunning revelations in TPM regarding light sabres. We already knew that they seemed to be capable of cutting through virtually any material without significant resistance, but there has always been some debate as to whether their effect was thermal in nature. The melting of the blast doors aboard the TradeFed battleship clearly indicate that the effect is indeed thermal in nature. We still don't know what the actual operating mechanism is, but there is no question that the blade heated the blast doors in the TradeFed battleship.

One potentially interesting revelation relates to the ability of a Jedi Knight to accurately direct angled reflections from his light sabre, so that he can control the direction of ricochet like a billiards player angling for the next shot. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both use this technique to great effect in TPM, by deflecting blaster bolts in such a manner that they hit enemy droids.

The Force

We learn three principal things about the Force in TPM:

  1. Jedi Knights have much finer telekinetic control than was previously suspected. Although it had long been known that a Jedi Knight could easily lift and throw large, heavy objects such as starfighters or machinery components (as seen in TESB), it is a revelation that a Jedi Knight's control over the Force is fine enough that he could potentially clean out Las Vegas. The manipulation of Watto's chance cube may not seem stupendous compared to lifting starfighters or large boulders, but try to imagine waiting for a rolling, bouncing chance cube. Even if we assume that you are invisible (so no one will detect your movements) and already crouched down in position, you will have a lot of trouble making that cube look like it is naturally bouncing into the desired orientation.

  2. Jedi Knights do not need a clear line of sight to the object they are manipulating. The droids knocked down by Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon weren't merely knocked down- they were actually disabled, as described in the novelization and as seen in the film by the fact that they never got back up. Since their outer casings were undamaged, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon must have destroyed inner mechanisms without being able to see them through their casings.

  3. The strength of a prospective Jedi Knight's abilities can be measured by his "midi-chlorian count."

It is the third revelation which has caused the most controversy. The first two revelations are only interesting if you have no familiarity with the novels, or if you don't accept them. But the midi-chlorians are a subject of intense speculation and in many cases, derision and outrage among Star Wars fans. Qui-Gon had the following to say about the midi-chlorians: "Midi-chlorians are microscopic life forms that reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force."


"Symbiants. Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force." Midi-chlorians are not, as some have suggested, something that can give anyone Force skills. You cannot "inject someone with midi-chlorians and turn him into a Jedi" as some illogical thinkers have claimed. Why do I say this? Two reasons:

  1. Qui-Gon clearly states that midi-chlorians are already in the cells of all living things- not just Jedi Knights.

  2. If they exist inside your cells rather than as foreign cells in your bloodstream, then you would have to inject them into every single cell in your body, assuming that they can be isolated at all.

Could the existence of midi-chlorians be a mere religious belief? Unlikely, since they are able to measure it. But what do they do? This is the part where one must question the validity of Qui-Gon's explanation. How does he know this is what they do? It seems to be a quasi-religious belief structure, couched in the language of religion with phrases like "if you quiet your mind, you can hear them speaking to you."

The Jedi Temple on Coruscant

In the end analysis, we know that there is a correlation between midi-chlorian counts and Force skills. But is a correlation the same thing as a cause? If you answered "yes", then you should slap yourself on the side of the head and go back to school for lessons in elementary logic. High midi-chlorian counts may cause Force attunement, or they may be caused by it. They may not be directly related at all- perhaps it is indirect. Perhaps they have something to do with the so-called "life energy" of a person, and it is the strength of a person's "life force" that determines his ability to use the Force (remember that Yoda created unexpectedly massive life-form readings on Luke's scanners as he plunged toward Dagobah in TESB, and a swamp cannot be such an unusual phenomenon in the SW galaxy that Luke is surprised by life-form readings from indigenous life). In any case, I reiterate: the only meaningful conclusion from the film is that there is some sort of correlation. Anything else is unfounded supposition, or worse.

The similarity between "midichlorians" and real-life mitichondria is too great to ignore. Midichlorians are described as microscopic life forms which exist inside our cells in a symbiant relationship with us. Mitichondria are microscopic life forms which exist inside our cells in a symbiant relationship with us. Without midichlorians, Qui-Gon said that life could not exist. Without mitichondria, humans and most other multi-cellular organisms could not survive in real life. Midichlorians may be a measure of Force ability, or perhaps simply the strength of a being's "life energy." Mitichondria help our bodies generate the bio-chemical energy that we need to function. If midichlorians are indeed the Republic term for mitichondria, then the theory about midichlorians being a measure of "life energy" rather than a direct measurement of Force abilities may have some weight. In any case, as previously stated, the similarities are far too strong to ignore.


The Otoh Gunga underwater city-spheres, with their bubble shields

We see several types of shields in TPM:

  1. The Gungan underwater selective particle shield. This shield appears to stop water, and is used to form the outer shell of their underwater city spheres. However, it is permeable to humanoid life forms, so that Jar-Jar, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan could all walk through easily. This selectivity is analogous to the atmospheric containment fields which permit starships to enter and leave a docking bay while retaining atmosphere. However, it differs from the atmospheric containment field in that the objects it permits to pass actually exert much less force than the matter it retains in place- the water pressure at that depth is greatly in excess of the entry force which is apparently required on the part of Jar-Jar, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan.

  2. The Gungan watercraft bubble shield. This shield is formed in lieu of a physical cockpit, to keep water out of the watercraft even at extreme depths. It is possible that it is a selective shield like the underwater city-sphere shields, but there would be no reason for such selectivity, and its appearance when activated was dissimilar to the fluid appearance of the Gungan underwater city-sphere shields. It seems to be a variable-geometry particle shield which is impermeable to all forms of matter.

  3. The Gungan surface selective particle/energy shield. This shield was unusual in that we actually saw the shield projection equipment: a turbine-shaped device which was apparently fed by a second device which looked almost like an energy weapon. We also saw its projection method- a stream of energy flew upward to a predetermined height, whereupon it spontaneously stopped and formed a hemispherical bubble around the Gungan armies. This shield was quite interesting in nature- it seemed to stop energy weapons of various kinds, and it apparently also stopped matter which did not match a particular set of mass and velocity criteria: tanks, shells, blaster bolts, and missiles could not enter (shells exploded against its surface, causing ripples, but could not penetrate), but humanoid battle droids could enter (although if you watch carefully, you will see that they shift their orientation as they pass through the shield, as if they need to sidestep to get through). The novelization describes this selectivity, but not in enough detail to determine what the exact criteria are.

  4. The Naboo starfighter energy shield. This shield did not merely stop energy blasts- it actually reflected them. You could see the battle droids' blaster bolts ricocheting off Anakin Skywalker's starfighter energy shield as it hovered inside the TradeFed battleship near the end of the film. It is unknown whether this shield was also capable of stopping bulk matter. The shield extended a fraction of a metre away from the hull of the ship, and was contoured to closely follow the surfaces of the vessel rather than forming an overly large bubble like the Gungan surface shield. It is noteworthy that although the shield created a visible flickering effect when it was activated in the atmosphere of the TradeFed battleship, it became invisible in seconds.

  5. The TradeFed battleship shields. These shields were, for all intents and purposes, invisible. Although we could never see a trace of a shield bubble or envelope, we could hear frustrated pilots reporting that they were unable to penetrate the shields, and we saw that they had been unable to cause any damage in spite of having attacked the ship for several minutes (and undoubtedly, firing huge numbers of energy beams and torpedoes at it). The shields stop both matter and energy, as demonstrated when we saw one of the Naboo fighters fire a torpedo at the dish-like structure over the main spherical centre-section, and the torpedo exploded with a huge fireball against the shields, but could not penetrate to damage the underlying dish (which was perfectly intact afterwards). However, these shields were apparently not designed to permit objects to leave the hangar bay without being dropped around the hangar bay doors. Anakin Skywalker, either through luck, Force-driven intuition, or skill, flew his fighter into the ship's hangar bay at the precise moment that droid fighters were being launched, so that he entered the ship during one of those fighter launch-necessitated hangar bay shield disruptions. The TradeFed crew should have been more careful about the timing of their fighter launch and retrieval operations, but we must remember that they are businessmen rather than soldiers, and obviously unaccustomed to military action. They had already demonstrated their tactical incompetence before the battle, when they elected to remove the entire blockade fleet except for the lone droid control ship, confident that they no longer needed strong forces in orbit and undoubtedly eager to use those ships for profitable shipping operations elsewhere.

  6. The Destroyer droid shields. These shields were roughly spherical in shape, and they were strong enough to deflect small arms fire (and ricochets from their own weapons) but not starfighter energy weapons, as Anakin Skywalker demonstrated. Presumably, a large enough bombardment of small arms fire would eventually overcome the shields of a Destroyer droid, but their rapid-fire weaponry is typically used to lay down withering suppression fire, making it difficult to return fire in sufficient volumes. It should be noted that the shield generators must be been very small, enough so that Obi-Wan Kenobi did not notice that these particular destroyer droids were thusly equipped until the shields were activated.

War Droids

Against normal humans, these armed battle droids would spell quick death. Against Jedi Knights, it's a different story.

There are three classes of war droid shown in TPM:

  1. Common infantry droids. These droids are roughly humanoid in shape, with spindly bodies that are designed to fold up into compact, backpack-sized forms for storage and transport. Their combat skills and agility are somewhat inferior to that of a well-trained human soldier, but they are fearless, implacable, and most importantly, inexpensive. They can be deployed quickly, easily, and without the need for conscription, housing, feeding, or any of the other expensive upkeep requirements of human soldiers. However, according to the ICS book they apparently have only minimal autonomous controller functions, being essentially slaved to an orbiting "droid control ship" which controls all of the droids on the surface with real-time two-way transmissions that must undoubtedly require an enormous amount of bandwidth.

  2. Destroyer droids. These droids are the heavy hitters of the droid army ground forces, sporting heavy automatic double-barrelled blaster weapons in lieu of arms, and portable shield generators that protect them from small arms fire (but not the weapons of a starfighter, as Anakin demonstrated). They deploy by folding up into a wheel-like shape and literally rolling to their destinations, whereupon they unfurl themselves into their full combat-ready forms, standing on three legs, and attack. It is noteworthy that for some reason, they don't always activate shields. It is possible that they consume so much energy that they deliberately refrain from using them unless the droid control ship decides that it is worthwhile, or perhaps not all destroyer droids have shield generators built in. Like the infantry droids, the ICS book describes them as being directly controlled by the orbiting droid control ship and probably contain very little onboard intelligence.

  3. Fighter droids. These droids are highly unusual constructions. They actually have two modesL a "walker mode", which we see onboard the TradeFed battleship, and a "fighter mode", which we see when the TradeFed droid control ship comes under attack. According to the ICS book, these droids share the centralized intelligence model of the infantry and destroyer droids.

The events of TPM showed us a few strengths and weaknesses in the TradeFed war droids:

Against Jedi Knights, this is a stand-off. Against normal humans, this is mechanized Death.Why would the droid army exhibit so many characteristics of independent, sentient robots when they were supposedly mere "dumb terminals" controlled by a distant intelligence? This is a very difficult question to answer. If they are "dumb terminals", then why would they have ranks? Why would they exhibit characteristics of humour? Why would they react independently to environmental stimuli, or need to individually process visual information before reacting to it? Why would they talk to one another? Why would one droid know something that another droid doesn't? All of the above characteristics tend to strongly suggest that the droids do have local intelligence. In fact, it is virtually inconceivable that war droids would exhibit such characteristics if they are indeed mere "dumb terminals". The selfless actions of the droids in combat may seem to refute this conclusion, but it is always possible that their droid brains were hardwired not to consider personal risk, and/or to obey orders without objection.

Another fact which conclusively disproves the "dumb terminal" idea is the fact that they continued to operate for a few seconds without orbital control signals. A few seconds may not sound like a lot, but it is still impossible under the "dumb terminal" model.

So if we have established that they must have autonomous intelligence, why would they shut down with the destruction of the droid control ship? Why would they need a control ship at all? These paradoxes are difficult to resolve, but not impossible to resolve. There are a few possibilities:

  1. The droids are actually receiving a carrier signal from the control ship, which merely instructs them to continue operating. This may have been designed as a safety measure for the Neimoidians, who would otherwise be hopelessly outnumbered by their opponents in the unlikely event of a droid revolt. A droid revolt seems unlikely, but it is always possible that if the droids are sentient, they might object to their treatment. Another possibility is that the Neimoidians may fear that a competitor might have somehow maliciously reprogrammed the droids to revolt, hence a central point of control. This is a rather poor design decision from many aspects (there must be some better way to deal with the possibility of droid revolt or malicious re-programming), but we should remember that the Neimoidians are businessmen rather than soldiers or engineers. This signal would have a "keepalive" period which would explain the fact that the droids continued to operate for a short period of time, and there might actually been a self-destruct command built into the droids in the event that the keepalive signal was lost, thus explaining the fact that the droids actually fell apart after the loss of the signal.

  2. The droid central control computer was programmed to mimic independent sentience (including aspects such as rank structues and humour) on the part of the individual droids, even to the extent that significant potential tactical advantages of centralized control are lost (such as the theoretical ability for droids to attack targets without having to visually identify them first, based on visual data from other droids). This seems rather implausible, to say the least. There is also no obvious reason why they would go to such great lengths to mimic sentience when it actually costs them in battle rather than helping them.

  3. The droids had certain autonomous functions but no decision-making abilities, thus giving them partial sentience. They would therefore perform functions like firing and aiming weapons based on local intelligence, as well as certain interactions with the populace (such as the droid commander's conversation with Qui-Gon). However, they would periodically take orders from the control ship, and they would be designed to shut down in the absence of those orders. This model is somewhat difficult to rationalize, since it is difficult to imagine how one would produce an artificial intelligence that could mimic so many of the characteristics of sentient human beings without being able to make even the smallest decisions.

  4. The army assembled to fight the Gungans was substantially different from the droids on the TradeFed battleships or the units in Theed. Those droids might have been low-end units, as opposed to the higher-end units in Theed which had substantial local intelligence (like normal droids, such as R2 units and interpreter droids). The droids who fought the Gungans certainly seemed to exhibit a lower level of individual initiative. However, this would suggest that some of the droids on the planet (particularly the commander units in Theed) would have continued to function after the destruction of the control ship. According to the novelization, this didn't happen.

  5. The droids were powered by the droid control ship, which had some technology for directly transmitting power to the droids in some manner that is difficult to intercept. This would explain the rapid shutdown after the destruction of the control ship while also explaining the apparent presence of autonomous intelligence.

In conclusion, explanation #1 and #5 are the best candidates. The official SW1 cross-sections book explicitly disagrees with both interpretations but its interpretation is flagrantly inconsistent with the behaviour of the infantry droids in the film.

The Sith

You will fear me. And then you will die.The TPM film novelization explicitly contradicts the official literature regarding the Sith, with the following passage on page 134-135:

"The Sith had come into being almost two thousand years ago. They were a cult given over to the dark side of the Force, embracing fully the concept that power denied was power wasted. A rogue Jedi Knight had founded the Sith, a singular dissident in an order of harmonious followers, a rebel who understood from the beginning that the real power of the Force lay not in the light, but in the dark. Failing to gain approval for his beliefs from the Council, he had broken with the order, departing with his knowledge and his skills, swearing in secret that he could bring down those who had dismissed him."

In the past, stories about the Sith described them as a race, and Sith Lords as their masters. They also described massive Sith wars taking place 4,000 years and 25,000 years before the events of ANH. The TPM novelization seems to refute all of these claims: the Sith Lords are renegade Jedi, and the rumoured Sith wars supposedly took place millenia before the Sith order was ever founded. However, it is always possible that the rogue Jedi described in the TPM novelization was corrupted by contact with a long-dead Sith spirit left over from an ancient Sith war dating back to the indistinct haze of prehistory. Sidious did not recall any such prehistory, but that does not necessarily mean it never happened.

The term "Sith" is still not precisely described in the TPM novelization, and it may be a general term for all Dark Jedi. It might even be a general term for a certain philosophy, in the same manner that the term "conservative" is often used to describe anyone who adheres to a certain political mindset rather than a particular race or species of being, or even a member of a particular organization. The rogue Jedi who founded the current Sith Order could not possibly have been the very first Jedi in tens of thousands of years to consider embracing the Dark Side. In any case, the quote continues:

"Their war with the Jedi was vengeful and furious and ultimately doomed. The rogue Jedi who had founded the Sith order was its nominal leader, but his ambition excluded any sharing of power. His disciples began to conspire against him and each other almost from the beginning, so that the war they instigated was as much with each other as with the Jedi."

This explains why Sith lords are not numerous. When it was believed that all of the Sith were destroyed, he emerged from his concealment. At first he worked alone, but he was growing old and he was the last of his kind. Eventually, he went out in search of an apprentice. Finding one, he trained him to be a Master in his turn, then to find his own apprentice, and so to carry on their work. But there would only be two at any one time. There would be no repetition of the mistakes of the old order, no struggle between Siths warring for power within the cult. Their common enemy was the Jedi, not each other. It was for their war with the Jedi they must save themselves.

The Sith who reinvented the order called himself Darth Bane. This explains why there are always two Sith Lords. A thousand years had passed since the Sith were believed destroyed, and the time they had waited for had come at last." This indicates that the Sith war lasted for a thousand years, since the order was founded two thousand years before TPM and the order was believed destroyed only one thousand years before TPM. The novelization's description of the Sith war compresses the perceived length of the conflict.

Cloaking devices

TPM marks the second time cloaking devices have been mentioned in a canon film or film novelization. The first time was in TESB, when an Imperial officer remarked that "no ship that small has a cloaking device", in response to the apparent disappearance of the Millenium Falcon. The second time is in the TPM novelization, with the following quote from page 93: "Stay on course", the Jedi Master ordered calmly. He glanced down at the controls. "Do you have a cloaking device?"

"This is not a warship" Captain Panaka snapped, looking angry and betrayed. "We have no weapons, Ambassador! We're a nonviolent people, which is why the Trade Federation was brave enough to attack us in the first place!" Qui-Gon's first instinct was to see if they could use a cloaking device to sneak past the blockade of Naboo. This indicates that he thought a cloaking device would not be unusual on a vessel of that class. Captain Panaka's retort also gives some insight as to why Naboo did not have an operational planetary shield like some of the more heavily defended planets in the Republic.

The SW1 cross-sections book indicates that Darth Maul's ship had a cloaking device, but it was never used in the film or described in the novelization. However, as noted in the Darth Sidious section above, it would have been potentially been useful if the events of TPM had unfolded differently, as per Senator Palpatine's original plan.


It has long been thought that the act of suspending an object far above a planet's surface with repulsorlift technology would require great amounts of energy and large equipment. However, in TPM we see a landing platform suspended far above the surface of Coruscant which is almost flat, with no discernible mechanisms or equipment of any kind. Furthermore, its position is so stable that there is no noticeable shift or disturbance when a large starship lands on the platform. People standing on the platform are not disturbed at all, nor do they feel any loss of balance, even though the starship has just significantly altered the platform's centre of gravity. Indeed, the stability of the platform appears to be identical to that of a platform which is physically sitting on the ground.

This platform demonstrates that little or no energy is required for station-keeping with Republic repulsorlifts, and that the repulsorlifts can be miniaturized to a heretofore unanticipated degree. This is not surprising, given that Lando Calrissian's Bespin Cloud City tibanna gas mining facility was able to maintain a stable position in the atmosphere of Bespin without any visible engines, in spite of its undoubtedly enormous mass. However, the remarkable stability of the small platform, even after taking on a large load well away from its centre of gravity, was unexpected.

Keep in mind that this does not violate any scientific laws. Energy is only exchanged between a gravitational field and an object when it moves up or down in that gravitational field. If it is not moving toward or away from the system's centre, then its gravitational potential energy is not changing and there is technically no requirement for energy expenditure whatsoever. An object suspended high over a planet's surface technically requires no more energy to maintain its position than an object sitting on the ground, provided that some method can be found to produce the necessary force to keep it from falling. I have received an incredible number of ignorant flames on this statement (also found in the Myths pages), but rest assured that it is verified, correct, and completely consistent with our knowledge of physics. Those who angrily dispute this statement (and there are a lot of them, unfortunately) are invariably laypeople who are too arrogant to listen to what I have to say and too ignorant to understand the basic concepts of force and energy on their own.

Weapons Systems

TPM did not contain that much new information on weapons systems, but we did learn some thing about Trade Federation weaponry. During Queen Amidala's escape aboard her personal starship, the nearest Trade Federation battleship opened fire on her vessel from at least 20 km away (based on an admittedly haphazard scaling estimate based on a subtended angle of 10 degrees- more accurate estimates will have to await the availability of screenshots). It seemed to be firing at a rate of roughly 10 shots per second (although this estimate is also somewhat haphazard, and may be improved once the movie is available on DVD).

Even at this range, the ship was able to accurately bracket the vessel on all sides without scoring a direct hit (indicating that the gunners identified the Queen's personal vessel and were shooting to disable rather than destroy). Furthermore, when repair droids appeared on its surface, the ship was able to accurately target and destroy the droids, still in an attempt to disable the Queen's ship. It would not be surprising if Federation cultists were to claim that the TradeFed gunners were merely lucky, but it would be an odd stroke of luck indeed, if they were to repeatedly hit tiny droids while failing to hit the starship itself, in spite of the enormous difference in size.

It should be further noted that this was not a true warship. The TradeFed battleships are converted transports. A true warship would probably possess superior firepower and targeting capabilities.