This week on The Clone Wars: Get surreal with "A Sunny Day in the Void." If you liked last week's episode, this is pretty much on par in terms of quality. Surreal, bleak environments are at the forefront of an episode that manages to reference a wide variety of sci-fi and fantasy projects in under 30 minutes without a single shot being fired or sword being drawn. More after the break.
I honestly cannot believe that we're getting episodes that are this much fun to watch. Like last week's "Secret Weapons," "A Sunny Day in the Void" follows Colonel Meebur Gascon along with R2-D2, QT-KT, M5-BZ, U9-C4, and WAC-47 except this time they're forced through a crash landing on the most alien world we've probably seen in a Star Wars story. (At least on TV or the movies.) If you aren't enjoying these, you aren't my audience. Go rewatch ALIEN and The Fifth Element a few times, maybe we'll get along next year.
The Clone Wars took a big risk by transplanting this group of characters from a familiar context and dropped them on the freakish planet Abafar. It's hot and sunny, but there's no sun. The sky is bright and orange, and the sandy ground doesn't collect tracks as our six heroes trek across its barren wastelands. Drawing inspiration from the works of Moebuis, as well as Jurassic Park and a little bit of Doctor Who if I'm not mistaken, the episode breaks new ground for the series. How? By having the key antagonist be something other than a ideology-driven robot with a gun. Instead Colonel Gascon gets to struggle in a darkly funny conflict with his own mortality with some highly subversive undertones regarding his value as a man and the possibility that his life may not be one destined for great importance, sprinkled with olde tyme Warner Bros.-style humor. We see his balloon slowly deflated over the course of the episode, and his droid companions coldly treat his tenuous grasp on his own sanity by doing things like commenting that it might not be a terrible thing if he took a long fall off a found ship wreckage.
You see, Gascon insists that he and the droids stay at the ship after the wreck to wait for safety. And the wreckage they found shows that the crew who did that rotted away years (if not centuries) ago. Grim. WAC-47 gets to struggle with his role, giving the goofy comic sidekick a chance to matter, or at least pretend to matter. "I am more than just a pilot!" echoes off in the distance with a sort of impotent rage, in the same way as the last few screams in the song "Call of the West" by Wall of Voodoo. Great song. And who doesn't love a good tangent?
...and Gascon sees a mirage of a city off in the distance. It may as well be imagining WAC as a sandwich or R2-D2 as a giant Twinkie. Classic.
As always, the droids provide comic relief except this time it's peppered with a twinge of malice as it becomes evident that the droids are pretty aware that their leader is potentially expendable. R2-D2 takes control of the encryption chip they picked up in last week's episode, and it turns out the impeccable sense of direction for Astromechs ("go straight") works out pretty well when it comes time to find a settlement on a fairly creepy and potentially abandoned planet. Gascon and the Pit Droid WAC-47 bond a little while Team R2 abandons them to look for a way to complete their mission. Sure, the Astromechs are a bunch of jerks, but that's why I like them.
I should also note that the composition and cinematography of this episode were way better than anything I've noticed in the series so far. Meebur's toppling mental state got a few special angles, and the entire notion of following shorter characters around completely changes the series' feel. We're literally getting a different perspective on the Star Wars universe with this arc.
If I had the chance, I'd jump at a spin-off series based on this kind of an episode. It's weird, it's shockingly non-violent for a show called "Clone Wars", and it feels more like what I perceived Star Wars to be as a kid than nearly anything else. It's delightfully weird and has the sci-fi feel that Lucasfilm has all but dropped as the franchise became a space opera. Episodes like this prove that there are still new frontiers in the void, and I hope Disney and the new masters of our universe consider more experimental forays into a larger universe.
Takeaway from this week:
Comets! A reference to the original Captain Rex. We miss you, Pee-wee.
R2-D2 can sure be a pain in the neck, can't he?
Droids snuggling with birds? Weeeeeeird.
Only 2 voice actors this week. And 4 of the 6 characters don't speak English.
Did you recognize the corpse in the space ship? If you're a fan of the early Marvel Star Wars stories, you might.
I still want action figures of these droids and Colonel Gascon!
Five stars ***** because I had wall-to-wall fun again. I'm thrilled that we got another episode where I don't have to shrug and say "It was OK, I guess" and instead have something I can yell at people who call themselves fans who skipped it. You really ought to be watching these now. I'm still dragging my feet on the season 4 Blu-Ray as I'm hoping to get it for $30 or less... but I'll buy season 5 when it hits because I really am digging these episodes and the previous Young Jedi arc.
Next time: More robot revolution and a new Clone Commando friend in "Missing in Action." There's no preview video online yet. See you in January for this, the 100th episode of the show! (For this episode. We'll cover other stuff next week.)
See you then!