This is a transitional page gathering and sorting initial thoughts about several technical topics arising from The Phantom Menace. The topics covered here may eventually be divided and integrated with other pages dealing with more general subjects. However the temporary organisation may turn out to be semi-permanent.
This particular page is dedicated to issues of continuity raised by The Phantom Menace and its spin-off literature. Many of the new additions to the STAR WARS canon have confounded commonly-held but simplistic interpretations of important or peripheral aspects of the STAR WARS universe, its inhabitants and phenomena. These false discontinuities are a major target of this page. Some fans may wince or revel in supposed contradictions created by The Phantom Menace, but my commentaries are constructed to demonstrate that it is not hard to find rationalisations that preserve continuity. I am not interested in "discontinuities", except for the purpose of resolving them.
I will not tackle all of the perceived contradictions arising from The Phantom Menace. Some common questions (eg. "why are some Gran called Malastarians?") have trivial answers that do not deserve extensive commentary (eg. "because some Gran people have settled on Malastare in addition to their native world"). I try to select issues that have at least one or two subtle points, or else important issues that appear to be the subject of grievous and near-universal misunderstanding.
According to the spin-off literature predating The Phantom Menace, the Quarren and the Mon Calamari shared the same homeworld, which was called Mon Calamari in the second generation books and more specificially named Dac for Return of the Jedi. They supposedly formed a primitive early-interstellar civilisation that discovered the greater galactic civilisation during Emperor Palpatine's rule. This poses a continuity problem, because Quarren turn out to be abundant on the streets of Mos Espa and at the Boonta Eve podrace. There was even a Quarren named Senator Tikkes visible in the Galactic Senate, and he supposedly represented the sector containing Mon Calamari.
The Insider's Guide shows a picture of a Mon Calamari mask that appears to have been made for the movie, and a similar mask is seen hanging on a peg in a photograph in The Making of The Phantom Menace. However no Mon Calamari were seen in the film, so that part of the problem is relieved for the time being.
The most important problem is to determine how the Quarren could be found in great numbers throughout civilised parts of the galaxy while the Mon Calamari remain isolated and ignorant of galactic civilisation for at least another decade. The Quarren might have a longer experience of interstellar space travel, which has been kept secret from the Mon Calamari or else was forgotten in prehistory. Perhaps they came from a different system altogether, leaving lost colonies on Dac and elsewhere.
It is also possible that the cosmopolitain Quarren are deliberate or accidental exiles. Criminal or religious outcasts and their progeny might be sent into interstellar space without the means or knowledge to return home. (Their civilisation was spacefaring for "decades", according to Requium for a Rogue.) Any interstellar colonies established by the mainline Mon Calamari and Quarren without supralight interstellar communications could also be a source of Quarren entering the galactic civilisation without contacting the homeworld. Once they found themselves in the Galactic Republic, any unwanted criminal exiles might be attracted to the lifestyle on gangster-dominated worlds; similarly any innocent exiles would be vulnerable to exploitation by criminal organisations like those that control Tatooine.
Perhaps the Mon Calamari and Quarren were known to the government and environmental/anthropological conservationists of the Old Republic, but were left alone in a reserved "sanctuary" until they achieved interstellar travel for themselves. Unscrupulous freighter captains and underworld operatives might have violated the quarantine by taking Quarren offworld, without leaving enough evidence for the native government to prove the extraterrestrials' existence. Some of these forlorn offworld Quarren might later escape and go on the loose in large starports.
Whether they are former abductees, exiles or citizens of less backward colonies, free Quarren might gain employment and the means to find passage from one system to another, spreading throughout the surrounding sector and further abroad. Senator Tikkes may have come from one of those places. Tikkes' delegation is described in terms of its single species, "Quarren", rather than planet of origin; there appear to be no Mon Calamari involved [Inside the Worlds of Star Wars Episode I]. Tikkes might represent the sector containing the Mon Calamari sanctuary, without actually having any contact with the isolated primitives.
The second major question is why there should be so many Quarren on Tatooine, if there are any of them away from their homeworld. Surely they should prefer moister environments? They may be followers of podracing who are only visiting for the Boonta Classic. Alternatively, their presence may be a sign of Hutt organisation and influence, if the Hutts have activities on any other worlds where Quarren live in appreciable numbers. If the Hutts prefer to keep their living quarters humid then Quarren may be ideal household employees and slaves. Perhaps their presence is not willful; they may be a sign of Mos Espa's endemic slavery, with many Quarren having been secretly captured and removed from their native planet or colonies ("abducted by aliens" from their compatriots' point of view).
Perhaps the large population of Quarren at Mos Espa is accidental. We do not know enough about their life cycle to guess how they may breed and propagate from world to world. If microscopic Quarren fry were picked up in the bilge water (or a space-age equivalent) of a visiting starship, they might easily end up in the sewers of Mos Espa or other disreputable spaceports. Enormous schools of Quarren might grow up as street urchins, knowing nothing about their original homeworld.
A Quarren on the streets of Mos Espa.
Some reviewers have complained about the fact that R2-D2 and C-3PO knew characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace yet seemed unfamiliar with them in the classic trilogy. This is an unfair criticism, based on a needlessly narrow interpretation of the older movies. The most simplistic commentators speculate that the droids' minds were wiped between the wars, but this is a drastic, excessive and unnecessary theory.
Firstly, it is impossible for audiences to understand what R2-D2 says, unless another character like C-3PO interprets or responds to his remarks. There were numerous instances when R2-D2 made lengthy comments that may actually recall events from the prequels era. For instance, he spoke rapidly when he met General Kenobi again in the Jundland Wastes. Kenobi may not have recognised this particular blue/white/silver astromech among the billions of others that look outwardly the same. Perhaps it's significant that Obi-Wan did address R2 as "my little friend", but he had sufficient reasons to conceal their previous acquaintance. Later, in the safety of Kenobi's hovel, Artoo burst out with excitement (and perhaps recognition) upon sighting Anakin's lightsabre.
C-3PO is a protocol droid, a sort of valet, and is programmed for keeping confidential information. In his early conversations with Luke Skywalker, he evaded discussion of Princess Leia until late after key facts were told in Kenobi's presence. When Obi-Wan began to tell Luke a tale about Anakin and the Jedi, Threepio requested to be shut down, likely to avoid discussion and facing awkward memories about his Maker's tragic fate. Nevertheless the supposedly inert droid was only pretending unconsciousness; as he eavesdropped on the conversation he swayed slightly but visibly. This evasive behaviour was prompted by Threepio's recognition of Anakin's lightsabre. [ITW:SWT, ANH]. At the time of the Battle of Hoth [TESB Radio Drama, p.103], Princess Leia observed that the droids regarded her and Luke protectively, but she did not guess the actual relationship. Ultimately on Endor [Return of the Jedi: Radio Drama, p.181-182], C-3PO joined Luke Skywalker at his father's funeral pyre, and there he openly acknowledged Luke's father.
It should be unsurprising that neither of the droids recognised Kenobi when they met in A New Hope. C-3PO rarely met Kenobi before: never at all before Attack of the Clones; only (apparently) briefly during the Clone Wars [Labyrinth of Evil]. They probably didn't meet again until Tatooine [ANH]. As a young man, Kenobi generally overlooked R2-D2, and they were only present together during a few brief scenes when other people or crises were the focus of attention. For their part, neither droid could be expected to recognise Kenobi (or Owen Lars) in the Tatooine desert after 19 years of aging. Kenobi may have eventually recognised Artoo, but astromech droids of every colour combination are common. His remark about never "owning a droid" could be wry misdirection, since his Order forbade knights from accumulating individual possessions*. Artoo's recollection of the younger Kenobi may have added to his zeal to find the desert hermit, though this may never be provable.
If the droids knew any of Anakin's secrets, they weren't promted to reveal or act upon their knowledge in the late episodes. Neither droid came close to Lord Vader. A closing door shut R2-D2 out of the Skywalkers' confrontation on Bespin. During the same affair, C-3PO was Chewbacca's self-centred, but disintegrated ward, facing backwards when he was in Vader's presence in the carbonite facility.
On the other hand, it is possible that the droids didn't know all of the vital secrets. Artoo was Naboo royal property, and mainly stayed with Queen Amidala. Both droids were deposited in the royal court of Alderaan with Anakin's secret daughter. The droids might not have witnessed the scenes of Anakin's transformation: although Lord Vader surely knows the droids, the droids need not necessarily recognise Anakin wearing a mask. Vader didn't meet R2-D2 on Bespin, and he might not have cared enough to address C-3PO there. However the fact that he sent C-3PO's parts to Chewbacca's cell for repair could be interpreted as an act of mercy.
C-3PO ought to have remembered his earlier experiences on Tatooine when he returned in A New Hope, yet he seemed unfamiliar with the Dune Sea. Perhaps he had spent most of his early existence in the comfort of the towns and the Lars farm, avoiding the most desolate areas. Perhaps he genuinely was unsure of his location. The galaxy contains many binary systems with habitable desert worlds that look alike at ground level. The Alderaanian crew of Tantive 4 were unlikely to tell their destination to lowly droids. C-3PO told Luke Skywalker that he wasn't "sure which planet" he was on, but that might have been more evasive talk, like his exagerrated uncertainty about the identity of Princess Leia. At this time Threepio had several reasons for discretion regarding his creator's family: in addition to the expected creator/owner confidentiality, Captain Antilles had issued a hard command to protect the Princess' identity and presence [ANH Radio Drama, pp.71-72]. No matter what else they do, the droids are responsible for passively or actively protecting the security of Anakin's daughter.
At the start of Return of the Jedi, C-3PO remarked to his partner about the fearsome stories he'd heard about Jabba the Hutt (which Artoo apparently hadn't been in a position to hear). Threepio probably accumulated the gossip during his long stay in the low society of Tatooine before Anakin's return. Jabba's influence and notoriety were concentrated on this remote desert planet, whereas Threepio's later service at royal courts and among rebels would have deprived him of access to underworld lore. If Threepio has experience in Jabba's sphere of influence, it seems that his memory extends at least as far back as his reconstruction [The Phantom Menace].
In A New Hope there is a corollary to C-3PO's knowledge of the underworld. He told Owen Lars that his "first job was programming binary load lifters, [which are] very similar to your vaporators." Working with heavy machinery is inconsistent with the diplomatic work of protocol droids in the Royal House of Alderaan, but it may fit with the Mos Espa slums and Lars farm environment before AOTC, or Threepio's harsher history before his reconstruction.
Soon after marrying, Princess Leia and Han Solo visited the former Lars farm [Tatooine Ghost, p.170]. Luke and Leia were unaware that C-3PO had been their grandmother's property, dwelling at the Lars farm before they were born. Silya Darklighter (the farm's new mistress) observed C-3PO's eerie familiarity with the homestead, but she and the Princess dismissed the matter. They self-deceptively attributed Threepio's familiarity to his time on the farm with Luke. However when Luke owned them, the droids only saw the garage. Threepio must have remembered his way around the larger homestead from the years of Shmi's residence. The Princess misled herself with a false assumption, and thus C-3PO was left to keep his secrets unquestioned.
Later evidence conclusively disproves the "mind-wipe" theories, at least with regard to C-3PO. During preparations for Luke Skywalker's wedding [Union #1], C-3PO declares that "I first met the groom, Master Luke Skywalker, on Tatooine, the planet of my birth." Therefore he does recall his origins with Anakin and Shmi Skywalker. If he rarely speaks of those times, it is because of indifference, absent-mindedness or strict confidentiality.
In the Connections documentaries [on Attack of the Clones videotapes], C-3PO narrates a brief history of the Skywalker family from the days of The Phantom Menace until the Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker has ordered his droid to tell the tale, at an unknown time after the Battle of Endor (possibly years or decades later). C-3PO has an apparently full memory of events up to the Clone Wars, including events in which he is the only surviving participant. He does not describe the downfall of Anakin Skywalker [Revenge of the Sith] in any detail, which may suggest that either he didn't witness the key turning points, or he's still partially under a suppression order or duty of confidentiality.
C-3PO is tactful and secretive, and a bit self-centred. R2-D2 is unintelligible to almost everyone except C-3PO. Both droids are common models, and the human characters they dealt with in the prequel era had been wounded or aged beyond recognition by the time Luke Skywalker's adventures began. These two facts explain all of the would-be discontinuities. There is no need to suppose that either droid has ever suffered a memory-wipe anytime within the span of the movies, as some of the most naïve commentators suggested. Conversely, there is sufficient evidence that C-3PO (at least) retained his mental integrity since the Clone Wars. If any malicious faction (e.g. the threat by Alderaanians [ROTS novel p.415]) did attempt to mind-wipe Threepio — effectively murdering him as a continuous person — then the post-Endor evidence shows that this attempt failed or the droid escaped before the dirty deed.
- * As an example of the Jedi non-attachment, the droid R4-P17 was the Temple's collective property [AOTC:ICS]. According to Anakin Skywalker, "attachment is forbidden; possession is forbidden."
- There is one awkward point in the continuity surrounding C-3PO. Books and the C-3PO CCG game card published before The Phantom Menace stated that he was manufactured 112 years before A New Hope. Since The Phantom Menace occurs only 32 years before ANH, we must infer that some of C-3PO's components were built 80 years earlier. Anakin's contribution was an act of restoration rather than outright creation. Perhaps Skywalker found a dismembered chassis and the droid's hub of sapience, then restored them using other droids' parts. The Episode I: Visual Dictionary states that the framework was 80 years old during The Phantom Menace. (The fact that this particular model of protocol droid has been continuously manufactured for more than a century demonstrates the extreme durability and long-term stasis of technology in the Galactic Republic.)
- Some commentators jump to the simplistic and extreme conclusion that at least one of the droids had a memory wipe, which would explain what is interpreted as their unfamiliarity with Tatooine and Kenobi. However, as explained above, the evidence of the movies doesn't necessarily support this interpretation. While one or both of the droids might have been wiped between the movies, this grim prospect seems unlikely in storytelling terms because were it true then the former droid personalities would have ceased to exist. Without continuity of character the presence of the bodies of C-3PO and R2-D2 in the prequels would be redundant. They would have no importance in the STAR WARS continuity and little importance in extrinsic audience sympathies. (Conversely, we should remember how often it is said that the saga is presented from the droids' perspective.)
The ending of The Phantom Menace leaves several important questions unanswered.
Thanks are due to, in alphabetic order:
This page was constructed and is maintained by
This page is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Lucasfilm Ltd.
Images included in or linked from this page are copyright Lucasfilm Ltd. and are used here under Fair Usage terms of copyright law.
This site is kindly hosted by TheForce.net.