Season One, Episode Seventeen — “Blue Shadow Virus”
By Jason Gibner. Sometimes as a Star Wars fan you have to get used to the superfluous. Enduring a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Often the this or that end up being an element that you may not be 100% down with (as Star Wars fans, our mileage definitely varies), but they’re always juxtaposed against something that you are all about.
This concept was especially true with fans during the prequel era. While some may have greatly enjoyed Jango Fett or Darth Maul, they may have had difficulties with some of the film’s odder, and very Lucasian choices. A contemporary example? There are those who completely loved Rey and the Falcon chase in The Force Awakens but were left cold by Starkiller Base. (These things happen.) Be it the prequels, the Original Trilogy, or sequels, the level at which you can enjoy the entire toy box of these films depends greatly on your tolerance of a balance between this and that.
Consider “Blue Shadow Virus”, the seventeenth episode of The Clone Wars. It’s an episode you can watch and be thoroughly entertained by it while instantaneously wondering if is actually any good at all. It’s an episode that makes choices so bizarre it almost feels like Lucas came up with it in a fever dream. (And maybe he did.) I’ve often wondered what George Lucas’ dreams are like, but that’s a subject for a whole other article. In the meantime, let’s recap “Blue Shadow Virus” and anticipate all the other crazy things that may come our way.
WHAT WORKED: As a loud and proud fan, advocate and supporter of the prequel saga, for me it’s great to see Naboo again. From the Skywalker Ranch-inspired grassy hills to Captain Typho laying down the law in Theed Hanger, a visit back to this classic planet is always a welcome sight. And I, for one (seriously, I might be the only one), was really happy to meet an all-new female Gungan named Peppy Bow. Yes — Peppy Bow.
For all this episode’s peculiarity, it moves along pretty briskly and actually has a nice momentum to it. There’s a epidemic found in the Naboo water, and it’s discovered that there’s an underground base creating poison bombs to kill all life on Naboo and eventually the Galaxy. Padme and Jar Jar get kidnapped and it’s up to Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka to save them. Sounds great, right? That’s because it is.
WHAT DIDN’T: The person creating this virus is possibly one of the the most over-the-top characters in the history of Star Wars villains, Dr. Nuvo Vindi. Voiced by Michael York doing a patently ridiculous German accent, Vindi is a play on every Nazi mad scientist from every movie and radio serial in all of existence. There’s also a weirdly narcissistic bent to his character, as he fully intends to martyr himself when he releases the virus on the entire population of Naboo. This creates an odd tonal balance next to the goofy Jar Jar antics.
And speaking of Jar Jar, this episode once again features the unsettling voice work of the enigmatic BJ Hughes as the Bombad General. This time, Hughes sounds like he hadn’t slept in a week and smoked an entire pack of Menthols before recording. It’s a poor performance, and a dark moment for Jar Jar fans everywhere.
This episode continues a Clone Wars trend that thankfully became much less common as the series progressed: every time Padme shows up she is quickly snatched up by some villain, and then is left to wait while Anakin comes to rescue her. In the films, it was Padme usually getting everyone out of jams, and sometimes with just as much (if not more) bravery than the Jedi. That is wrongly jettisoned with “Blue Shadow Virus”.
C-3PO: “I’m having a bad feeling about this. With your permission, Senator Padmé, I would like to shut down before I get sensory overload.” Padmé: “Permission denied.”
Dr. Nuvo Vindi: “What’s a life form like you doing in a swamp like this?” Padmé: “I was about to ask you the same thing.”
“A great leap forward often requires taking two steps back.” – Obi-Wan.
Anakin: “Ahsoka, are you there?” Ahsoka: “I’m here Master, the bomb has been deactivated. Did you find Vindi?” Anakin: “Deactivated as well. Have you seen Padmé?” Ahsoka: “She’s right next to me. I’m okay too. Thanks for asking.” – Ahsoka.
BEST MOMENT: For my part, watching the fearless Peppi Bow knock the snot out of dopey Dr. Vindi with her Gungan staff was the finest moment this episode had to offer. (Like Jar Jar said, “Wesa Warriors!”) Those Gungans will never go down without a fight, and my main lady Peppi proved that with aplomb.
EPISODE’S MVP: This week’s most valuable asset isn’t a person — it’s a place. A planet. Naboo. There’s only so much to see of the planet in the episode’s first half, but what there is to see perfectly evokes memories of May 1999, eager anticipation, and Taco Bell Boss Nass cup toppers. The love and respect Dave Filoni and the Lucasfilm story group has for Star Wars continues to be nothing short of admirable. With this level of attention to deal, The Clone Wars reminds us yet again that every nuance of this saga is essential in order to make it whole.
– Jedi Fortune Cookie: “Fear is a disease; hope is its only cure.”
– You gotta wonder when and how an underground laboratory was built on Naboo. Perhaps it was constructed during the first invasion on the planet, back when there was no relationship between the Gungans and the Naboo? These are the things that keep me up at night.
– The animation crew nicknamed the laboratory hallways “disco hallways” and were directly inspired by the hallway Luke enters on Bespin before his final confrontation with Vader in Empire Strikes Back.
– Supposedly in the original script, the captured tactical droid was going to be a medical droid. Which explains why C-3PO says to it, “We all want to hear your tale of medical heroics.”
6 out of 10
Next: “Mystery of a Thousand Moons”, soon.
Before: “The Hidden Enemy”, here.